The Travels Commence

Two weeks since I wrote this! Last weekend we didn’t end up going to Sofie’s house as Klementina had too much work to do so instead on Saturday I went on a canal cruise with Alizee and Carol. It was lovely as the sun was shining. This did mean that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what the tour guide was saying but it didn’t matter. Utrecht is very nice and I learned little things, like underneath each lamppost is a different carving.

The weekend before, on the Sunday, I went to Rotterdam with Klementina which was largely disappointing and very expensive, €20 return! We had a tour of the docks, but it was a bit dull as it was mostly about the different cargo that was being brought in. Plus Rotterdam, being an industrial city, it wasn’t very pretty.

However we went to see the cube houses which were really cool, but I would quite like to know how much one would cost. Rotterdam does have amazing architecture, but it’s still not somewhere I would like to live. The pouring rain didn’t help its cause much either. We did find some cute jumpers knitted for lampposts and trees, so perhaps it is nice if you know what to look for. In hindsight if you plan a spontaneous visit to a city it’s probably worthwhile taking someone who knows their way around.

The train home was a nightmare as it terminated in Worden, for some unknown reason, and as we didn’t understand the Dutch announcement we sat on the train for a while till someone said there was a bus outside. So we ran, but got there just in time to see the bus pull away and the next one wasn’t for an hour. This meant we would miss dinner. So I thought if we have to stand in the car park for an hour we might as well try to hitch a lift. Luckily this pulled off and we even beat the bus back to Utrecht station. I was learning the Dutch seem much keener to pick up strangers than in the UK. Overall if we did get the tickets for Den Hague, like we were supposed to – in order to see the European courts, then the day would’ve been much better.

Unfortunately the Wednesday after that I had to go fetch my bike so I could buy some ingredients to make cakes for our family dinner. However it was stolen!* Joy. So I had a kerfuffle with the police and insurance to maybe get some money for it rather than venturing to the supermarket. This was doubly disappointing as I had just had my first presentation, so baking was going to be a celebration. Instead it was a disaster.

The presentation I think went well though. I am not sure as I don’t really know what is expected from a presentation, no one really gives you any guidelines for anything. It was a poster presentation for psychology and I at least think ours was better than some as theirs was more like a power point and ours was definitely a poster. We’ll see how it goes; I don’t need to think about it anymore.

I did manage to borrow Sofie’s bike and got the ingredients for the cakes. They turned out to be a big success. I made butterfly cakes with chocolate sponge and instead of the normal wings, I used cookies. Even “Auntie” Veerle (who wasn’t at the party) told me she’d heard much about them from my “mum”. They couldn’t stop talking about it. It was nice to have a reunion as I know some families fall apart the day after intro week. But it did feel a bit distant as if our family had a split, but I guess that is to be expected if you just throw thirteen people together in a group. I guess they can’t all be the best of friends. I wonder if we will have another again as I expected it to turn into a party after and for us all to go to the bar. However everyone pretty much left and we helped clear up.

That night was also the meeting for the hitchhike in the break. Myrte, Klementina and I went and it was pretty crowded. It sounded really fun. The day after exams everyone meets on the quad and a picture is taken. Then we are off. We are allowed to take public transport within Utrecht in order to get to the motorway, but after that it is not allowed. At set times you send a text back to the organisers who then send a reply saying which place everyone is in. The winners get a trophy and on the Monday evening everyone has a meal together. San Sebastian is the destination, which didn’t thrill me to start with as Spain isn’t that interesting. However I looked it up and it turns out to be a surfing haven. So this changed my views a little. Klementina and I teamed up and with two hitchhikes under our belts this term; we feel we can do well.

Some things in here are different to the hitchhike in Exeter which I also participated in. It was from Exeter to Amsterdam. Here we had to go in boy-girl teams or boy-boy teams only. Whereas in UCU this is not the case. You can go in groups of two or three and made up of any amount of sexes you wish. I understand why Exeter does this as there is of course a danger in Hitchhiking, which is greater if you’re a girl. However I guess this rule is not enforced as the ratio of boys to girls in UCU is quite high so it would not work and lots of people would not be able to go.

Another thing that UCU could do easily, joined with HumanitarianCo, is do it for charity. With Exeter you pay so much to go – which is donated to charity – and then if you raise that amount of money back then you get to go for free. This has two benefits. One, if you can do something for charity why not, especially when it makes you feel better. Second, if you’re wearing a charity hitchhike t-shirt then I’m pretty sure more people will pick you up. Especially as en-route people would be able to recognise you all as a collective. Hence, as we learn in social psychology, familiarity creates likability, so more lifts. A downside for Exeter, though, is the initial payment is over £100 which is quite hard to pay, so if they met somewhere in the middle, this would be the best hitchhike.

Following the former entry the “Exeter Social” is going ahead tonight which should be fun. Ali has Pimms and I’m going to try to get rid of my bag of wine left over from Pukkelpop. We hope to introduce some Exeter games such as “Fives” and “Ride the Bus”. We also hope to change this trend of calling “Ring of Fire” “King’s cup”, i.e. the American version. Myrte is coming too so I look forward to it.

I can’t think of much else that happened except the joys of studying. I had two exams today maths and linguistics and I think they went okay. I’ve also bought all my tickets for fall break now so I reckon overall it’ll cost €500. It’s expensive – but exciting and so probably worthwhile. San Sebastian – England – Budapest!

*The bike was to turn up again a week later outside the dining hall. It had not been stolen after all – I had forgotten where I had parked it one evening!

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The Legendary Bartenders’ Weekend

It seems you should expect bigger distances in time between these posts..

So last weekend was Bartenders Weekend (BTW), which was pretty awesome! Except for the funny fact that only one beer was pulled by any new bartender and we weren’t even allowed behind the bar! Funny as this was supposed to be a weekend for the new bartenders in BarCo so you think a little bit more training would have been involved.

The weekend was based around team events such as team downing a pitcher (or chugging in campus talk), musical chairs, boat race and dancing on Friday night; smoothie, cocktail making and Fox Hunt on Saturday. Each event earned you points and if you got the most then your drink – as each team had a different drink as their name – was put in the bar. We were “a long comfortable slow screw up against the wall”. Both nights were heavy with the first giving me a bit of a headache in the morning (normally I am blessed with little signs of drinking).

However BarCo knew a way to cure this which was to play Roxanne at 10.30am before breakfast. Roxanne is a song by the Police and at the beginning of the song you squat on the floor with your drink and then every time the song says Roxanne you stand and take a drink. Take a listen of the song to see how terrible this is and not what you want to play the morning after. Even worse afterwards my thighs were agony, which lasted until Wednesday. Any use of stairs was hell, luckily I’m on the ground floor so there was minimal stair usage.

All the Exeter Streatham campus people were there which was good for some bonding. We talked a lot about how we miss cider and how the current glorious weather would have been the perfect opportunity to have one. Unfortunately Holland doesn’t do cider, and especially not the Kopperberg fruit ones I like. The bar does have cider, which apparently is rare, however it’s not the best and is most likely Strongbow.

My team in the anything but clothes challenge

 

On the Saturday night the free beer stopped at midnight (during the weekend all people doing BTW are allowed as much beer as they like, not bad for €10). Hence everyone stocked up both by ingesting and making towers of beer around the bar. I over did this a little though so went home even though there was still beers sitting on the table. My inability to resist free things had betrayed me.

However beforehand we played beer pong and I was unashamedly awesome – just as good as the American, Sam, for whom beer pong is a national sport. This included me getting the winning shot, which was a definite highlight.

Also a crazy storm happened during the Saturday (as if I hadn’t had enough of those having been at Pukkelpop this year). It had constant lightning which blew a tree down outside dining hall. Apparently the bar had to shut early at 3am, as in student style, people were trying to take the fallen tree into dining hall. Unfortunately their plan was faltered by security who came along and said everyone was too drunk, so the party was ended. True party poopers!

On Sunday we helped clean the bar at 4pm, which for me involved cleaning the brass rail around the bottom of the bar and the chairlift. This wasn’t so bad as after we had a chat in the bar as we waited for our free WHOLE pizza, which unfortunately took forever. Plus we enjoyed a few more free beers. Afterwards, full from pizza, we went to dining hall to get some fruit (if you choose not to have dinner you can still go and get four fruit instead). However I put my Xcess key to the scanner too quickly (which is how you pay). This meant that the light that shows your allowed to take the food didn’t go off between me and the person before me. Result: I wasn’t allowed any food. Good thing I did have a pizza earlier!

BTW is another instance of “there is no way any University would ever allow this in the UK” – i.e. students being allowed and basically encouraged to drink beer for two days. In  Exeter, when we’re on a committee/board we have to sign something that says were not allowed to encourage others to drink – this defiantly wouldn’t pass!

This isn’t allowed (in Exeter anyway)

But the BarCo is pretty awesome. It is set up and run entirely by students so that everyone who works a shift does it for free. Although you are allowed to have a free beer, cider or soft drink every half hour, which isn’t bad (drinking whilst bartending would also definitely be a no-no). This means that pretty much everyone can get involved and the student bar is actually fully theirs! It also allows them to make a good profit and so it is basically a small business. In essence, yeah you don’t get paid, but it’s worth it as you get a great weekend and if nothing else something to put on your CV.

Tuesday there was meant to be a party in the Kromhout (another hall) bike shed. This would’ve been great as it seems Dutch but apparently it isn’t really that Dutch but we can pretend. However the scary House Master, Marteen Diederix, got word of it and it had to be moved to a flat in G instead. It was very impressive how they could turn a normal unit into a dance club. Plus the amount of free drink provided by Primus (one of the fraternities on campus). I’m getting quite used to this free beer thing.

Wednesday the unit girls and Linda had a chill night in Klementina and Zeynep’s room, which included some African dancing round a table.

Thursday was meant to be HumCo’s Jungle party but we didn’t go and instead watched two films, I am Legend and She’s the Man. Again I was impressed I didn’t fall asleep, but I definitely nearly did many times.

Today we had to go to the municipality to register with the city, which took a good portion of the day. However now this is done I am officially a resident of Utrecht and the Netherlands! It was also Rosana’s first ride into town as she couldn’t ride a bike before coming to Holland – which is a nice thing to say you have learnt while in the land of the bicycles.

This week there was also the best rainbow I’d ever seen!

Now for Monday I have two assessments and five chapters to read and another for Tuesday. I also have to write part of the social poster for a presentation which needs to be done at 13.30, in order to meet my group and is actually due on Wednesday. Plus the obvious maths test Thursday, two chapters of social and last Tuesday’s linguistics reading, as I don’t have the book. So tomorrow and the rest of the week will be fun – don’t envy me too much! Saturday will be especially joyous, and on Sunday we are going to The Hague, so all work for next Monday has to be done by then!

On an actually more fun note a family pot luck dinner has been proposed for Thursday night and Sofie is taking me and Klementina home next weekend. Also an Exeter pre-drinks has been proposed to show the Dutch how it’s done – apparently we play a lot more drinking games then they do. For them they mostly consist of King’s Cup (Ring of Fire) and I Have Never, with no mention of such beauties such as Fives, Ride the Bus, and the Horse Racing game – to name a few. I made a Facebook group for it today. So there’s good and bad to come.

A Rainy Nightmare

Tuesday was a very annoying day, it rained literally all day. However I was planning on going to town to sort my hard drive and things. I went to the computer guy Jacky, who turns out to be a student, on Monday. He couldn’t fix either the ethernet port or the hard drive. In true form of my NEW computer it was having the third problem of its life, which is less than a year. The ethernet port, where you plug the internet in, doesn’t work. Luckily it is under warranty. Unfortunately PC World doesn’t exist in the Netherlands so now I have to wait till Christmas to get it sorted. Hence now I’m using my old PC, thankfully I brought it with me, having learnt from previous new computer malfunctions. Not ideal though as the hard drive is full. I can solve that though by using my external hard drive. But no, that had to break as well. Not fun.

It’s pretty, but has its problems

I went to the computer shop and they switched the adapter on the hard drive. Nothing. Then they changed the case and a light turned on! However when they plugged it into a PC it couldn’t read the drive and therefore it was dead, with no hope. So I had to buy a new one. 1TB for €50 (that’s quite a lot of memory, 1024 gb if that’s more helpful. Check your iPod for an idea on size). Jacky had recommended it as a good price and he must know. Yet I had no cash, so I went to Albert Hijn to get some. However I had no bank card. I had gone to town with no way of paying for things! So I cycled back to campus and to town again in the rain. I bought the hard drive.

I then had some ironic retail therapy in order to cope with having spent €50. I went to H&M and bought things from the sale so it was justifiable. I needed a white t-shirt for Bartenders’  Weekend (BTW) but they were ridiculously see through so I didn’t bother, as I thought I had one at Uni. But I don’t, luckily Klementina bought me one today so it’s fine. However I had other things to buy for BTW and these other things I had written on my hand, which had washed off in the rain!

It was okay in the end I remembered some things and also got some food at the supermarket.

One of the things on the odd list of items for BTW

Later Myrte came round and we did some studying for the math test (that’s math – with no s, which is how the rest of the world says it apparently, why do we put the “s” there anyway? Or rather why don’t they?).

I also went to the ComCo (community committee – think society) meeting, but it was a little disappointing as they didn’t have the “Read to children in English group” any more, which is what I wanted to do.

Yesterday we had the dreaded maths test and it was horrible. There was too much emphasis on graphs and it threw me, but everyone else felt similar, so I think it’ll be OK. We’ll get a bad grade but he’ll see that we’re not at the same level he thinks we are. I also love the linguistics teacher’s ramblings, it’s so fun and interesting.

Klementina and I watched The Duchess, last night and stayed up till 1.30 chatting about travelling. Speaking of which fall break is sorted! First half the hitchhike, second, in the last weekend, Budapest with Alizee! €59 for two nights in 4* hotel. First stay in a proper hotel! Just have to work out how to get there cheaply now..

 

What to do if you buy too much stuff from Ikea

I’ve started classes now and the workload is daunting! I have to choose my presentation topic by tomorrow – luckily someone already paired up with me in class (thanks Eline!). It’s still scary though, I haven’t ever done a presentation before – my English education really prepared me well there! Plus there is so much reading, which is especially hard when you don’t have the books yet! To make matters worse the books are also very expensive – a hidden extra cost! The content looks good and interesting though.

I had the biggest adventure yesterday. Me and Klementina, my unit mate, we’re going to go to Ikea by bus. Ikea is obviously the student furniture store of choice. The Dutch do up their rooms a lot more than we do. We, I think, are happy with just a few posters and perhaps a nice rug if we’re pushing it. Here they make their rooms really cozy and as my room is ridiculous in size it is calling out to have some other things put in it. Plus I’m here a year so the investment would be worthwhile.

(Below pictures of Sofie my neighbour’s room)

    

The trip was fun in itself as we didn’t know where we were going. We ended up walking over the tram tracks and climbing up the platform in order to get to the tram stop! After spending many hours in Ikea, we only realised we couldn’t carry everything we had bought when we got to the collect your furniture floor. Here we realised all the flat pack stuff was a little bit too heavy. I mean we defiantly could’ve carried two chests of draws, a chair, a big rug, two lots of bedding, candles, a clothes airer and two desk lamps between the two of us! Luckily a man said they could deliver, but this turned out to be €30. We couldn’t afford that after the shopping spree we’d just been on.

It wasn’t dissimilar to this

We decide to chance it and ask people in the car park if they would give us a lift. They turned out to be very nice. The first had a huge trailer, but unfortunately they said they were going in the wrong direction, but otherwise they would’ve taken us. Then a guy asked if we could look after his stuff while he got his car. As the selfless people we are, and defiantly not wanting anything from him, we did. He ended up being a UU student (Utrecht University – of which UCU is a part) and he gave us a lift! It was a bit of a crazy ride back as we hardly knew the way, which meant we ended up driving in the bus lane. However we made it back fine – and even in time to catch the end of dinner. So all in all it was very successful.

On Monday we also played Settlers of Catan with Sofie (my neighbour) and some others which was fun. I think a “BoardGameCo” might be possible…