Sasha and I decided last week that, hey, it’s the end of the block, we’re stressed, let’s go see The Hunger Games. Our thought processes are remarkable like that.
The truly beautiful thing about study abroad is that I can construe just about anything as a cultural experience. Grocery shopping? Cultural experience. Falling asleep on my patio at noon? Cultural experience.
Going to the movies, then, is definitely a cultural experience. We headed to the cinema inside the mall to see The Hunger Games. We figured it was a great time to see it since it came out two days earlier here (bwhaha).
The movie theater (bioscoop) is sort of hidden and off to the side in the mall, unlike movie theaters in malls back home. We had to walk down a pretty seedy hallway and up a flight of stairs to get into the box office. Once we were there, however, it looked exactly the same. Same guy in the box office saying things I don’t understand, same disaffected youth behind the concession stand, same outdated movie cutouts lounging around. It was pretty comforting.
Sasha and I decided to split a coke (not a Coke, it was lucky that Sasha was the one ordering the Sprite) and some popcorn. The medium sized popcorn was HUGE—definitely the size of a large back home—and when we ordered it, the disaffected youth asked if we wanted salty or sweet.
We stayed on the safe side and ordered salty, but I’m very curious as to what sweet popcorn is. Is it the same thing as kettle corn? Is it like putting M&Ms in your popcorn? What would it even taste like if you put M&Ms in your sweet popcorn? I’ve got so many questions, you guys.
Once we entered the theater, we were delighted to find the most comfortable looking chairs in the universe. They were red and made of something like velour, and right as I was about to fall asleep, some manager-looking guy stood up in the back of the theater and yelled something in Dutch.
Naturally, I had to go exploring, and I came back with a booklet that appears to be the summary of The Hunger Games in Dutch. We tried to translate it while we were sitting there (“I’ve got this! Something something blue something something I something tasty!”) because we were bored silly—there was no movie trivia! What is that all about? I love me some movie trivia. Don’t even get me started on the terrible radio station that plays during movie trivia.
The lights went down, but instead of the previews starting up, we saw a series of silent advertisements. They moved super quickly (each was maybe ten seconds long) and they were completely in Dutch. Which makes sense, actually, now that I’m thinking about it…
The movie started, and I was quickly engrossed. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the movie, as I didn’t think I would. I REFUSED to read The Hunger Games after my creative writing teacher senior year made us read them out loud in class. There is little I hate more than class readings, except in-class readings of books well below the class’s reading level, so I kept my bitterness and refused, even after my sister and my mom got all freaky-obsessed with them and started yelling at people for being on Team Gale or Team Peeta.
That’s why my dad and I are on Team Haymitch.
Anyway, the movie was completely in English, with Dutch subtitles. It was incredibly easy to forget the subtitles were there and get into the movie, and get into the movie we did. Sasha and I were tensing up at every scene, positively freaking out when Katniss started climbing that tree…
and then the movie stopped.
Right smack-dab in the middle of the action, the movie stopped, the lights went on, and people starting filing out of the theater. Apparently, Dutch movies have an intermission in them. It’s kind of cool because no one gets up to go to the restroom or get more candy while the movie is going on, but it’s also rather jarring to just stop right in the middle of the action. It took me a few minutes to recover.
Once the movie started back up, I got into it easily enough. I freaked out when it was over, and okay, whatever, Mom, you were right, I bought the books for my Kindle with that gift card you sent me.
I’m definitely looking forward to the next movie we see in theaters! Dutch movie theaters are similar enough to American ones that going to see movies is still fun, but they’re different enough that I think this TOTALLY counts as a cultural experience.
I Want To Ride My Bicycle
I hope everything is going well in your lives. Here in Utrecht, I am rapidly approaching the end of my first block. I know that term is confusing, and I fully plan to write an extensive blog post explaining school here, but here’s what you need to know: my classes end this week, and I have a final, two 1500-word papers, one 6500-word paper, and an oral presentation to finish.
In other words, my brain is mush. However, I miss blogging, so here is a piece of fluff to tide you over until I can form coherent sentences again (true story, I just wrote that sentence as “I can conform herent sentences,” thus proving my point.)
The Best Music To Bike To, As Written By Ms. Katherine A. McPherson, Whose Brain Is Mush But Who Has A Bike And An iPod
Ruby Tuesday, Rolling Stones.
I love this song, and not just because it makes me think of the chain restaurant with burgers (isn’t it kind of ironic that a chain restaurant is named Ruby Tuesday? I call that restaurant The Ruby Tuesday’s because I am Texan and that is how we refer to proper nouns, not that we have The Ruby Tuesday’s in Texas). This is the perfect song to sing loudly while you’re biking through town. I mean, listen to that chorus. “GOOOOOODBYEEEEE, RUUUUUUUUUBY TUUUUUUESDAY!” When I’m at home, I like to roll down all the windows on my car and yell-sing this song, and it is equally effective on bike.
Except that Dutch people don’t really do the whole “singing-in-public” thing, and so I’ve gotten some weird looks, but that’s very unimportant in the general scheme of things and does not stop me at all.
Shame, The Avett Brothers.
Most Avett Brothers songs are too quiet or too weird to listen to when you’re biking, but this one works pretty nicely. I have the version from their live album, which is a lovely singalong. Plus, I like listening to somewhat bitter songs when biking because physical exertion of any kind tends make me bitter.
Carryin’ The Banner, Newsies.
This is the best song ever to bike to. It has its quiet moments, which are not ideal, but I feel so AWESOME biking to this song. I feel that it is appropriate to The Netherlands because it mentions the word Harlem (which I hear as Haarlem), and it has the perfect beat to pedal to. I have not done any choreography while biking…yet.
Also, Christian Bale is super hot.
Love You Much Better, The Hush Sound.
When they make a movie of me living in Utrecht, this will be the song playing over the biking montage. Doesn’t it just feel like something you’d listen to while watching Zooey Deschanel pedal through Brooklyn? This song is super peppy. It’s a great distraction from the fact that I get lost almost every time I take the bike out, especially if I’ve been to the place I’m going to several times.
Red Solo Cup, Toby Keith.
This song has bad words in it…sorry…
I hate this song so much. I hate Toby Keith so much (team Dixie Chicks!). But I cannot stop listening to this song. It makes me think of living in Oklahoma—Toby Keith is from the next town over; I babysit near his mom’s house (which is the ugliest house ever)—and I kind of miss Oklahoma.
And because this song is so stinking catchy, it is good to bike to. It’s also a good song to bike to because it’s so inane and because I can be fueled by my hatred of it. I mean, honestly, Toby? Yucky?
Do you have any biking songs you can’t stop listening to? Give me a good distraction as I try to survive this week and leave your suggestions in the comments.
I’m a star! I’m on top! Somebody bring me some ham!
A week or so ago, I posted the most embarrassing picture of me ever taken.
(I feel like I ought to clarify for my family members: that is not a challenge; do not go searching for the embarrassing pictures.)
I promised to explain later what that crazy picture was all about. It hurts my pride, but here goes:
Some students at the Utrecht journalism school (and long-time readers of this blog) contacted me a few weeks back because they were in desperate need of an American for a video project. They specifically needed an American with no dignity whatsoever and figured I’d fit the bill. I can’t imagine why.
(This is why:
I’ve still got the scars from that first one.)
Aaaanyway, since I have no shame, I was a perfect fit for Axel and Lynn’s journalism project. We met up at the train station to take the train to Amsterdam, where we’d catch a bus to Volendam.
Volendam is this little city north of Amsterdam that’s famous for being
a gigantic tourist trap an interesting place to learn about Dutch cultural history. It’s full of food carts that sell traditional Dutch foods, gift stores, hotels, and photo places. You remember when you were little and you went to the boardwalk/Six Flags/tourist trap to take pictures like this:
You know, the old-timey Civil War or Old West-type photos? You do know them, I promise. Someone in your life has one of these pictures somewhere. Dutch people have a similar thing where they take pictures in klederdracht, traditional clothing.
So that’s what I did. I went to Volendam and wore klederdracht and let people film me doing it. Voldendam is apparently also famous for being “extremely right-wing,” according to Lynn and Axel, so Lynn interviewed me about the similarities between a famous Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, and the current US Republican frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
While wearing klederdracht.
We also enjoyed some of Volendam’s Dutch food. I had the most amazing poffertjes—small pancakes that you dip in butter and powdered sugar; they taste more like funnel cake than breakfast. I tried fried fish, which was surprisingly good. And then, I re-tried haring.
Guys, I don’t know what’s wrong with me that I keep eating haring. In The Netherlands, you eat it raw, covered in onions, and by holding its tail. It’s disgusting, yet I keep trying it. I continue not to like it.
Lynn and Axel captured all this on tape and made an excellent three-minute package for their broadcast class. I was so impressed by their video. I’d give them a 10 on it.
I’ve cut the video down to some highlights, mainly because you don’t need to listen to me discuss the political landscape of the United States. I think I’ve preserved some of the best parts of their work: me looking awkward, me awkwardly discussing my career plans, me wearing klederdracht and looking awkward, me awkwardly trying to get around saying Geert Wilders because I know my Dutch accent is atrocious, and me gagging on haring.
Have a lovely day, guys.
In one of my wiser moments, I signed up for a Dutch Present-day Society class here at UU. This was a genius idea on many levels (ask me about my English), but perhaps the best reason to take this class is to get to go to The Hague with a professor/tour guide. My professor lectures in Dutch Studies and basically knows everything there is to know about Dutch society. Here are some of the things I learned on my day trip.
The Hague, about 45 minutes by train from Utrecht, is generally well-regarded as an international center of justice. The UN chillaxes there:
Actually, the UN chillaxes there in several different locations. More on that later.
The Dutch parliament meets there:
We got to see the Dutch parliament in action. They use a very formal way of debating: they only speak in third person. So, for example, you’d never say, “Mr. Obama, you are absolutely right. You are so spot-on!” Instead, you’d say, “Honorable Chairwoman, Mr. Obama is absolutely right. Mr. Obama is so spot-on.”
It was just a little bit different from the US Senate.
The Netherlands is actually a parliamentary monarchy. Did you know that? I didn’t know that before coming here. Oops. Here’s where Queen Beatrix opens parliament every September:
She just hops in her little golden carriage and drives into this courtyard and runs into this hall, where she speaks for precisely 20 minutes.
It’s not that far of a commute for her. Here’s (one of) her palace(s).
And here’s what’s right next door to her palace:
Normal houses and businesses. No barrier between them. There’s a Subway sandwich shop five minutes walking from here, which has got to be pretty sweet. If you’re the queen, are all your footlong subs 5 euro footlongs, or do you have to stick to the approved menu? Because I think it’s pretty ridiculous that turkey subs are more expensive than meatball subs, and I bet Queen Beatrix would throw down about that.
These are the things I wonder about in my spare time.
Anyway, after her midnight Subway runs (no judgment, we’ve all been there), the queen can also walk to the Peace Palace:
This UN building was donated by Andrew Carnegie, and it features donations from many nations globally. Many of these donations are no longer PC, like the rainforest wood the US donated or the elephant ivory statues Thailand donated.
The Peace Palace is where nations settle disputes with each other. Apparently, the US and Iran are here constantly—who knew? The Peace Palace is NOT where war criminals get tried, which may or may not be what I loudly guessed it was. The War Tribunal is also in The Hague, though.
There’s a rock garden of peace outside the Peace Palace:
Every nation donated a rock.
Someone stole the US’s rock. Typical. That’s not very peaceful, INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.
Here’s a picture of my professor singing a children’s song outside of Parliament. There were movements involved—right here, she’s touching this dude’s feather. I hope it cheers you up about the rock thievery much as it cheered me up.
Now that we’re all properly enchanted with The Hague, let’s look at the best part of the city.
The ocean! Isn’t the ocean just gorgeous?
Okay, I’m maybe being a little snarky, but it actually was very pretty in person.
Side note: I was told by someone (who was clearly jealous) that hot pink gloves are extremely American. Rude! I bought those here!
Our professor told us that The Hague is all about cosmopolitan beaches, and since I am a very cosmopolitan person, I decided to head up the pier to see what was happening.
I was told later than The Hague is the beach you go to when you want to be seen. It’s not particularly family friendly, as evidenced by the myriad casinos along the Boardwalk. It’s sort of the Atlantic City of beaches (this is what I gathered from Google; I’ve never actually been to Atlantic City, though I have a very nice aunt from there). If you’re looking for a place to take the kids, or if, like me, you’re looking for a place to break out the old Lands End one-piece, Zandvoort (near Haarlem and Amsterdam) is apparently a better place to go.
That’s The Hague in a nutshell. From Parliament to the beaches, it’s a pretty lovely city, fog and all.
What’s your favorite city in The Netherlands?
Surprise! Things I Didn’t Know, Pt. 2
The education edition!
1. Homeschooling is not a thing here. It actually might be illegal.
2. Dutch university is CHEAP. Universities cost around 2,000 euro a year, and students get subsidies to help with housing and transportation. My university is on the cheap side and costs $13,000 a semester.
3. If I went to school here, I would not be majoring in journalism—or I would have not gone to the “best” school. Secondary education is tracked here. You either go to trade school, professional school, or college prep school. If you want to major in something with a practical purpose (like journalism), you go to professional school for high school and university at a hogeschool. If you want to study something theoretical (like media studies), you go to university at a universiteit.
4. Dutch parents can send their kids wherever the heck they want. In America, you go to the public school that’s in your neighborhood unless you get a transfer. If you want to go to a private school, you pay extra. In The Netherlands, parents choose where they want their kids to go—neighborhood, private, religious, wherever!
5. Private schools are more popular than public schools. More elementary- and secondary-aged kids attend religious or otherwise private (Montessori) schools than attend public schools.