The Return to UCU

Five weeks of holiday and one still to go. On Monday evening I returned to the Netherlands. I am very pleased with this long break as I can finally rub my holiday in people’s faces back home. UK Christmas holiday is only 3/4 weeks and most people have exams when they return in January. However UCU started in August whilst the UK starts in the last week of September, so it felt like a bit of karma to be having fun whilst others were working.

I arrived at Amsterdam Schipol from Manchester where Myrte was there to join me for the trip back to campus. Luckily I had taken my big suitcases back a few weeks before so I only had a weekend bag to deal with. We were excited to see what campus would be like as some of our year had become “Mums” and “Dads” for the new people arriving. It is the winter Introweek, though, and half way through the academic year, which means it will be much smaller, not to mention that a coach load of UCUers would be on the ski trip and so they definitely wouldn’t be on campus.

It was quiet as expected, but almost a little too quiet. It was the evening and so the families should’ve been busy getting ready for their first party, but we couldn’t hear them. I had missed the dinner slot for dining hall and so had grabbed a salad at Utrecht station. We went to my room where I ate and introduced Myrte to Desperate Housewives.

When you start watching one of these American dramas with someone who hasn’t you realise how ridiculous the storyline actually is. Someone had killed a man because he was harassing his wife, but then all the 5 witnesses decided to keep it a secret and bury him in the forest. Surely you could go to the police, plus as he was trespassing in your home, it would only be a crime of passion and not murder. This one isn’t actually too bad, but last season the ending was that a plane crash-landed in the street!

We then checked out the bar even though we were both tired. We learned there were only 60 new people and 6 families, which is a lot less than the 23 families of our Introweek. Myrte thought this made the bar empty, but I thought it was an OK amount. The bigger problem was it was meant to be a “getting to know you” party but the music was too loud to talk to people properly. I was introduced to another English girl and her friends. We all had to do the awkward thing of shaking their hands and pretending to hear what their names were even though there was no way possible you could. We went through the usual “What are you studying?”, “Where are you from?” etc. but any deeper conversation wasn’t going to happen.

We then decided to leave, I headed to Myrte’s for a bit, where we could see a family had had their pre-party in the living room and eventually went to bed.

The next day I was alone as everyone was deciding to come on Wednesday for some strange reason and Myrte had to go home to dog sit. Klementina had a reasonable excuse as only a few flights fly out of Sofia every week, but the Dutch don’t. If you hadn’t seen your friends in five weeks, there were parties happening every night, and there is no work to do – so you can have good social time and go on trips, why would you only choose to come back on Wednesday? So I used this time to sort out my room a bit and finish off the Macedonia blog below.

Sofie arrived late in the evening so it wasn’t so lonely at the end. We watched some shows including introducing Tru Calling, which she liked the plot line of and said we would watch more tomorrow. We made plans for early brunch at 10.30 as Klementina’s flight was getting in at 8.30am to Eindhoven so hopefully her and Myrte would’ve arrived by then.

It turned out they wouldn’t be here so we went ahead to brunch as we were hungry. They got there 15 minutes later and we had a fun reunion. The rest of the day was spent waiting for others to arrive and planning what we would do over the next few days. Lots of ideas were thrown around such as going to Maastricht or Antwerp, but in the end we decided we would go to Groningen. It was expensive, as Dutch trains are, and would cost €30 for us non-OV people. However we found a deal to go for €21 which included going to the museum!

That night I suggested having a chill night in the bar and playing some darts, pool and perhaps beer pong. It was the Introweek off-campus party that day, so if the bar was open it would be quiet. Alas it wasn’t, but luckily Klementina had a friend who was having a CD promotion for his band in town. We were going outside the bubble! We found the place, Ekko, quite easily and when we entered we were very glad we had. It was a very cute, small place with a room for the acts and then another with a bar and some tables for chatting. The band was surprisingly good and actually were my perfect genre for live music. If only it was in a field and sunny it would have been perfect. It was so good Myrte even bought their CD. The venue also brought back memories of festivals as the beer they were serving was Jupiler, the kind a group next to us was handing out to us at Pukkelpop. We rode back happy and agreeing it was a great start to the term and we should defiantly do it again. We set our alarms and went to bed awaiting Groningen tomorrow.

But it was not to happen. I woke Klementina up at 8am like she requested, but she said she was too tried to go and that we should go have fun. I encouraged her to wait for the others to come at 8.30, but 20 minutes later she was in bed again. It’s just as well as at 8.40 Myrte arrived and as for Linda we had to ring her. At which point we discovered she was still in bed. Myrte was also tired and fell asleep on the floor. At this stage I didn’t think Groningen was happening so I started searching for somewhere closer to go. Here I discovered Bourtange a beautiful star-shaped fortress but it was in Groningen province near the German border so we couldn’t go there. I also found Muiderslot, a medieval castle near Amsterdam, but unfortunately it was only open at the weekends in winter. So I said we should go there on Saturday or Sunday. After some debate we decided to go to Leiden and Myrte’s house for a sleepover as was proposed earlier.

Bourtange

At brunch we received remarks about “how comes we weren’t in Groningen?” We asked if they wanted to join us at Myrte’s, but most had other plans or just didn’t want to go at all. Klementina had a tutor meeting at 12 so we decided to leave at two so people could sleep, Linda could write her essay and Klementina could get her courses sorted. When two came Klementina had to wait for her tutor to leave a meeting and then have another chat, but said she would catch us up later.

The closest to Gronigen I got

In the rain, Linda, Myrte and I biked to the station where we decided Leiden was not a good idea in the rain and that we would go straight to Myrte’s instead and do some baking. A trip to the supermarket and we had ingredients for brownies and chicken stir-fry. Myrte and Linda were excited, as UCU is catered, they don’t cook for themselves that often. It was good even though the noodles were a little stuck together and the stir-fry a little dry. When you don’t get much home cooking your friends you are easily impressed.

Linda had forgotten her phone and so had to return to UCU that evening, but I was determined to stay over even if no one else was. Klementina in the end hadn’t arrived, even though Myrte had gone to collect her from the station in the rain and had to return empty-handed. We watched the rest of Crazy, Stupid, Love and I explained the concept of a midnight feast, which apparently they don’t have here.

We awoke at one and had to return to Utrecht, as Myrte had to pick up her driving licence from the Municipality and was then going to drive home with her dad. When I got back to campus I strangely couldn’t find anyone in the unit, but later I found out Klementina was in her room just sleeping and I had neglected to check the bed. We had planned to go to the bar that night as it was Fairytale theme and I had two pairs of wings in my dress up box (another thing students here don’t acquire during university).

Thankfully this plan succeeded and after Klementina and I went on a Beer run. Something I had to also explain meant no running and only meant going to buy some beer from a shop. Here we were surprisingly ID’d for our beer and we couldn’t buy Kreik in the liquor store as Klementina had forgotten hers. This was quite odd as we hadn’t ever been ID’d last term and hence I thought the Dutch were pretty lax. However in Albert Heijn I was ID’d again and so decided the government must have started this scheme over the holidays. We were a little bit offended as the drinking age is 16 here so we look under 16?! Later I saw a poster that said ID if they look under 20, so yay we look under 20, one year less!

Klementina was shocked by this ID thing whereas it is completely normal in the UK for this to happen. She was especially annoyed that we didn’t get served when I only had the ID. “They should trust that you’re old enough”. Then I explained how it was even stricter at home and that in Albert Heijn when I had bought the beer and waited for her outside a security guard would’ve been watching us in the shop and then come outside and taken it off us. I also said that they would never have accepted my university card as ID as it was made of paper and so could be easily faked. So be thankful it isn’t up to that standard yet.

Some beers and shots later we were in the bar and having a great time. Even though I was the only one of the three girls, Me, Linda and Klementina dressed up I didn’t mind. Klementina had in the end not wanted to wear wings and Linda was being Pocahontas, which in reality means she looked like a person. We danced and chatted, the bar had gone up in our estimations, though the music could’ve been better.

Saturday I decided not to push Muiderslot as Linda said she might need to go home that day and we also wanted to go see Zeynep in her new apartment in town. Unfortunately we couldn’t get in touch with her so instead we decided to make dinner. A very exciting prospect for those who think Dining Hall food is terrible and who then order in food all the time. I showed Klementina through the recipes on the Sainsbury’s website – a supermarket at home where I go to when I’m at university. They do recipe cards and things like £20 for five family meals for a week, which is really good. As Klementina is vegetarian meat dishes were off the menu so we decide to adapt a potato bake.

We bought broccoli, carrots, leeks, parsley, dill, and mushrooms for the base which we would also make a cheese sauce for. Then we made mashed potato to go on top so it was also like a Shepherds Pie. Linda, Melanie and Elena came to join, who brought pudding of profiteroles and ice-cream with them. It was really tasty, with the mashed potato being especially good. Seconds went quickly and the bowl was also scrapped clean. “Even without meat it was delicious”.

Zeynep then came round, as we had managed to contact her, who told us her stories of living alone and of her up-coming exams including a 350 word essay English exam! We chatted away and too soon she had to leave again. Linda and I had said that I would teach her darts in the bar that night, but Klementina didn’t want to go as she was tired. We went ahead anyway. We played Round The World (where you have to hit 1 then 2 then 3 etc. on the board and then finish with the centre) and 301 (where you have to get from 301 to 0 exactly by finishing on a double e.g. if you have 15 left you could finish by hitting 5 then double 5). Linda confessed her hand-eye co-ordination wasn’t that good, but she improved a lot and I was pleased. She also enjoyed the game which was good. Happy we returned home.

Muiderslot was not to happen and I am disappointed in everyone. Linda still had her essay to do and Klementina said it was too expensive and that she still wanted to sort her room and other things out. People need to learn it’s all well and good saying you are going to do things and that going X, Y and Z with you would be really fun, but when push comes to shove we should actually go to these places. I feel that people don’t understand that this week we had no class so we could all of gone on some super outings as we don’t have work to worry about. Yet really the only day we could’ve all gone and done something was Thursday as on the Wednesday people were arriving and on the Friday the Dutchies were off home again.

A big list has been made of things we can do and I really hope that we get them done, but in term time it’s going to be so much harder to do. Plus it’s likely to be expensive as we need to travel with a Dutch person who has OV in order to make the trains a reasonable price (40% off). A good thing is that Myrte will now have a car, but as she’s only just passed I don’t think her parents would be keen for her to jump straight into big road trips. In essence I feel there has been a lot of missed opportunity this week.

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2 thoughts on “The Return to UCU

  1. “People are a problem” – as Douglas Adams said (series 1, ep 6, just before we meet the Man in the Shack… I guess radio comedy may be a step too far for anyone just yet?).

    Anyway I think you have to put up with the fact that you are far more organised than most people, and that the world as a whole tends to fail to take the long view when offered the alternative attractions of another hour in a nice warm bed. You may have noticed this before, I think, but perhaps has mistakenly put this down to them being male.

  2. Pingback: “Glowing Embers Lie Across The Sky” « 354 miles from home

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