Top Five Things I Miss About Utrecht
1. My beautiful bike.
I miss you, bike! I miss the sensible bike lanes, the sensible bike locks, the sensible bike rules. I don’t bike in America because I WOULD DIE. Nothing is sensible here, y’all. We have drive-through Subways. NOTHING IS SENSIBLE.
2. Albert Heijn
The song doesn’t lie — but I do kind of miss biking with groceries on my back, trying to get my bike in the rack (IMPOSSIBLE), the surly cashiers, the idiot shelf-stackers, and cinnamon ice cream.
3. The Domtoren bein’ real loud at inconvenient times.
Once, in a controversial blog post, I talked about my extreme dislike of kroketten. I came around, and now I actually miss them. Bizarre.
5. Intercultural learning
((hanging out with my Swiss family)
I MISS IT, Y’ALL.
Night Kayaking with Kate ‘N’ Sash
9:21: Where is everyone? Oh, this isn’t Oudegracht 4. Dagnabit, Google maps!
9:28: SASSSSHHHHH I MISSED YOU
Hey, Marleen is sick, so you get to be my buddy tonight!
I’m not your buddy every night? Hurtful!
You know what I mean, Kate.
9:30:Kate, these aren’t canoes. These are kayaks.
So they are, my friend. So they are.
9:32: LET’S GO KAYAKING, SASH!
LET’S GO KAYAKING, KATE!
9:45: Why aren’t we in the kayaks? This is a joooooke.
9:47: WE IS IN A KAYAK SASSSSHHHHH
KAYAKING FUN TIMES
9:50: So, when I said I was going to be good at navigating…
9:51: PADDLE RIGHT PADDLE RIGHT
9:52: PADDLE RIGHT NO SERIOUSLY KATE
Hahahahahah we hit a walllllll hahahaha
Well, at least you’re not going to yell at me like my brother does…
9:54: Super fun adventure times! We’re off!
What did you say?
9:57: We’re going to be the best kayakers here, right?
Right! We are awesome kayakers! We are already the best! Hey, that’s a wall YEP HEY STUCK BETWEEN A WALL AND A KAYAK WHAT’S UP
10:00: Excuse me, guide lady? Do you have any suggestions for paddling?
Or any suggestions so that I will stop getting my legs wet? Oh, I have the paddle upside down and backward? Right.
10:02: PADDLE RIGHT PADDLE RIGHT PADDLE RIGHT
WALL WALL WALL WALL
10:10: Hey, why does it smell like weed over here?
10:12: Probably because those guys kayaking next to us are smoking weed.
10:13: HAH! Did you hear the guide??? “What are you smoking?! Put that out! You can’t smoke that here! And no drinking, either!”
That does probably mean they don’t support your plan of kayaking while drinking Breezers next time you go, anyway.
Ugh. That was a good plan. Except for the parts of it that were, you know, bad.
You would die. Even if you weren’t drunk.
Which I wouldn’t be!
You’re struggling now. Don’t put this on your blog.
10:25: Brosef Stalin, did you see those lights Tour Guide Lady was talking about?
No, broski. No, I did not.
What a liar. Lights. Hah.
10:45: Look, Sash! This is the road from my house to yours!
It’s getting kind of cold. Do you think anyone would notice if we hauled the kayak out and just walked to your place?
How would we get to the bank?
Um, swim, obviously.
10:50: Look, Sash! This is where I always get lost when I bike to your house!
Seriously? At the movie theater?
10:54: What fountain is she TALKING about?
Why is she paddling back?
10:56: RASA GOT THE SMURF SONG STUCK IN MY HEAD.
10:57: UGH IT’S STILL STUCK IN MY HEAD.
10:58:Where is our guide?
That way, probably OH MY GOD PADDLE RIGHT PADDLE RIGHT THERE ARE DUCKS AND BABY DUCKLINGS AND WE ARE GOING TO HIT THEM
OH MY GOD DUCKLINGS PADDLE RIGHT!!!!!!
PADDLE HARDER WE ARE GOING TO HIT THEM!!!
I AM SO SORRY, DUCKS!
DID YOU HIT ONE?!?!
11:00: I mean, that’s why ducks have lots of babies. They’re like quails…
Wait, quails are a thing? I thought they were just something rednecks hunted…
Anyway, quails have lots of babies because their babies die. So it’s not really a huge deal that I killed a duck. They have lots of other babies.
YOU ARE BEING SO MORBID.
I don’t actually know that I killed a duck. I’m just pretty sure.
Hey, where did the guide lady go?
11:15: This isn’t our guide lady…
There’s a boat coming down the canal.
Duh, I know that, Sash. We’re on a KAYAK TOUR. There’s lots of boats.
Nah, bro, like a party boat.
We’re going to die.
11:20: Do you know any campfire songs? Cause I don’t really care about medieval history.
What about songs everyone knows?
We could sing This Land Is Your Land!
11:21: Seriously, Canada has different lyrics to that? That’s SUCH A JOKE. It was our song first!
Let’s just make up new verses to Call Me Maybe
11:22: HEY I JUST MET YOU
AND THIS IS CRAZY
BUT HERE’S MY PADDLE
SO SPLASH ME MAYBE
HEY I JUST MET YOU
AND THIS IS UTRECHT
SO DISEASES MAYBE
11:23: I’m out of ideas now.
Let’s sing Don’t Stop Believing! Everyone knows those words.
11:24: Sash, you pretty clearly don’t know the words to that.
What’s that Fleetwood Mac song everyone knows all the words to?
Go Your Own Way?
11:25: Wow. You really don’t know the words to that.
You know any Beatles songs?
11:26:WE ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE
I’m pretty sure that Dutch guy is laughing at us.
I think I know all the words to Hey Jude.
11:27: No. You don’t.
11:28: You don’t know the words to We Are The Champions?!? Are you a communist?!
11:29: You don’t know Schoolhouse Rock?!?! Are you a communist?!?!
11:30: You don’t know ANYTHING?!?! Are you a communist?!?!
11:31:Let’s just sing Call Me Maybe again.
Good plan, my friend.
11:33: We literally know four lines of that song.
We should probably pick a different song.
11:35: WE KNOW ALL THE WORDS TO SOUND OF MUSIC.
YES YES YES DO A DEER A FEMALE DEER!!
11:37: How do you solve a problem like Mariaaaaaaaaa?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it downnnnnnn?
I think that Dutch guy is laughing at us again.
11:38: I FORGOT THE WORDS TO ALL OF THESE SONGS.
Let’s just sing Edelweiss.
11:43: Do you know any other musicals?
HEY I JUST MET YOU AND THIS IS CRAAAAZY
11:44:AH AH I’LL FOLLOW I’LL FOLLOW YOU DEEP SEA BABY
11:48: Can we just sing Bagagedrager?
Do you know the words?
No. Do you?
No. Doesn’t matter.
Bada bada bad bum bum, bada bum bum FIETS.
Dunna dun dun dunna dun dun dun dun dunna dun FIETS.
11:49:Why are we so talented?
What does that have to do with anything?
11:50: IK NEEM JE MEEEEEEEE dun dun dun dun dun ROMA OR PARIJS
You are crazy.
11:53: We really need to get off this water.
At least that Dutch guy who was laughing at us taught us how to say bagagedrager.
11:59: LAST ONES OUT WOOO!
WOOO I AM FREEZING
See you tomorrow at the bus stop?
12:20: Man, I am SO COLD. I JUST NEED A SHOWER. Oh, hey, Sam!
Hey, Kate, how’s it—hey, what happened to you?
Oh, my legs? I went kayaking. It turns out I’m not very good.
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.
That One Time I Stole A Bottle Of Wine From An Oscar Winner
I just want to start this blog post by saying what I said all night last night: is this seriously my life? It’s a small world after all.
Keep that in mind while you’re reading.
So, last month, I got this email from my mom that said something along the lines of, “Keep an eye out for an email from your grandmother about an email from Girl Harris about an email from her brother.”
This is pretty standard McPherson communication, by the way.
I did keep an eye out and eventually received all of those emails. It turns out that Girl Harris, a close family friend, had realized that her brother, Bo, would be in Utrecht in March. Bo’s a sound guy for Randy Newman, the awesome man who wrote the score for Toy Story, and Randy would be coming through on his European tour. Through several emails and the Harris/Jacob family’s incredible generosity, I ended up with two tickets and two backstage passes to see Randy perform in Utrecht.
So, yeah. How cool is that?
Flash forward three weeks: Sasha and I walked to Centraal Station to catch our bus to get to the concert hall. As we trekked, we discussed the demographic of the Randy Newman audience (old people? Middle-aged people? People who really liked Toy Story? EVERYONE?) as well as our favorite Randy Newman songs. Sasha is a big fan of You’ve Got A Friend In Me, and I’ve always been partial to Short People. My dad played it for my sister once, and it was extremely funny. She was very offended.
(Speaking of offending Emily, I accidentally referred to her as 5’1 in a previous blog post. She is actually 5’2 and was very hurt by my error. I was wrong, but let’s face it: she’s still a Short Person.)
Through a magnificent fluke of the universe, we ended up on the right bus toward the concert hall (a minor miracle) and the bus was free. Rockin’! We picked up our tickets at Will Call and joined the huge line to get in. It was pretty cool not to have to go through security, I have to say. Dutch people: you’re doing it right.
Once we got into the theater, I sat in the best seats I have ever been in for a concert. Ever. We were maybe six or seven rows back, right in the middle. We had great seats for watching Randy do his thing at the piano. We were pretty pumped.
All of a sudden, the woman sitting next to Sasha leans over and says, “Are you Kate?” It turns out that Bo’s wife, Willa, was able to fly to Amsterdam for a few days and came to the concert and sat next to us. We had a lot of fun talking how my mom used to babysit her nephew and how precious her great-niece is (she is so precious, people of the Internet).
It was lucky that Willa came to sit with us because Sasha and I have never been backstage at a concert before. I’m sure that shocks you. I know we definitely seem like the celebrity type, what with our backpacks and five coats and all. Willa led the way for us and was so sweet to us.
The concert itself was spectacular. Randy has the sort of Southern accent that I miss being here: not particularly strong, but just strong enough that I knew he was one of us, so listening to him sing was a great treat. He played all the hits, and he played a few sing-alongs.
There is nothing as much fun as singing along to Randy Newman with a bunch of middle-aged Dutch people. Guys, put this on your bucket list. I’m not joking.
After his encore, Sasha and I met Bo, and we waited a few minutes for everything to be ready for us to come backstage. We sang along to Carole King while we waited. I learned that years of watching Gilmore Girls have conditioned me to BELT IT OUT whenever I hear Where You Lead. I’m not ashamed.
We followed Bo and Willa backstage after a few minutes. After we went up a few flights of stairs, we ended up in the reception area. Willa introduced us to Randy’s wife, who is one of the nicest people ever. We talked about how their son is considering studying abroad next year until she had to chat with some of the other people who came backstage (there were about ten of us). Bo offered us some refreshments, so we each grabbed a Seven Up while we waited to meet Randy.
Bo introduced us to Randy, and we talked about Oklahoma and how grateful I am to be out of the Oklahoma wind. We also discussed my major, and he told me I should continue to stomp out ignorance. That was pretty cool.
We hung around a bit more and took a few photos:
When everyone started to head out, Sasha and I wandered into the hall, where we had a nice conversation with Randy’s wife and Willa about the safety of Utrecht buses. Americans—myself included—are convinced that all buses are super sketchy. They are in America. They aren’t in Utrecht. Then, Bo turned around and said, “Do you like red wine?” Sasha and I shrugged noncommittally. “Come take this bottle of wine. No, wait, I’ll grab it for you!” And he did, and Sasha stashed it in her backpack for future Parks and Recreation watching parties
I am now referring to this concert as That One Time I Stole A Bottle of Red Wine From The Dude Who Wrote Toy Story. Very little in that sentence is accurate, but whatever. You know the true story, so let me abbreviate a bit.
Thanks so much for this amazing experience, Girl Harris, Bo, and Willa! We had the time of a lifetime. Thanks for making it happen! It’s a small world after all!
(Um, guys, is this seriously my life?!)