Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last week in Holland

As I finish up stuffing the last few things into my suitcase in preparations for my flight home tomorrow, there is so much going on in my head! First, I'm running through my packing list to make sure I have everything! It's crazy how many things you can accumulate in just a few short months! Next, I made sure everything is set back home- I have a ride from the airport and even a plan for the weekend already! (It is my Mom's birthday after all!) Finally, I sit down and it all sinks in that I am actually going home!

I have done a lot of reflecting in the past week on my experiences here in Holland. Although I can't wait to go home, see my family and friends, eat familiar foods, and get back to old routines, there are so many things I have learned from and enjoyed while being here. I have gotten to travel around Holland quite a bit and see some pretty cool places. I have gotten to experience the life and culture first hand by not just living here, but by living with a family. I have eaten dutch foods. I learned how to use public transportation. I have learned how to navigate in another language. I learned to make my bicycle my best friend. But the absolute best thing about being here has been all the amazing people I have met. They are what have made my time here and my experiences so enjoyable. I know I will miss them when I am back at home, but I also know I will see them again in a few short months.

One of the biggest things I have learned though is to appreciate everything I have. It's not that I didn't appreciate it before, but being here gave me a whole new perspective on my family, friends, and opportunities I have been given. I appreciate them that much more. Even little things that are often taken for granted, such as being able to just hop in the car and go somewhere, or call a friend on the phone just to chat. If I want to go somewhere, or get into contact with someone at home, it takes a lot more effort: more planning and more time. In the end, it is worth the effort, but it will be nice to be home with all of these privileges again.

So whatever you are doing, wherever you are this holiday season, I hope you enjoy it and appreciate every moment you have with loved ones, family and friends!

That's all for now. I hope all my luggage makes it! Ready or not.. USA here I come!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


This weekend was finally Sinterklaas! As I explained before, it is similar to Christmas. Not only did I get to learn more about the holiday and celebrate with my teammates, but I also got to celebrate with the family!

It is tradition that the children get presents from Sinterklaas (but it is not like Christmas because everyone else in the family does not exchange gifts). As you get older, instead, you exchange poems(and maybe a small gift). So for our team Sinterklaas party, we did it Secret Santa style. (For those of you that don't know, everyone randomly gets someone else so no one knows who has who!) Anyways, we had to write a poem and get a little gift. I had heard many stories about these poems in past few weeks and how they are often geared toward roasting (making fun) of the person the poem is about. Now, I have never done this before, obviously, so I did not want to start my experience with hard feelings, so I just made mine a nice poem!! I also wrote about 20 lines, which I thought was pretty good, until I found out most had written a whole page, or even more.... whoops!! Everyone was understanding though that the foreigner didn't know any better!

As we went around reading the poems, some were funny, some were nice, but all of them rhymed just right! There was a rule that they had to be all in English, so most of them were, which was nice so the few foreigners could all understand and enjoy them too! It was funny when people got called out for things throughout the season; even our coach wasn't excluded! A few did not take the criticism too well, but I got roasted a bit too and laughed the whole way through! All in all, it was great fun and we had a wonderful meal that everyone contributed to! I definitely would love to bring the poem part of the holiday back to the states. It makes everyone be a bit more creative and reminds you of some good times from throughout the year.

I wrote a little poem since I was in the mood to rhyme:

It's that time of year
When Sint comes to bring holiday cheer
He comes along with his Piets
Who bring lots of great treats
Decorated with ribbons and curls
For all the good little boys and girls.

Finally on Sunday, I had a Sinterklaas celebration with the family. A few of their friends and their children came over as well. Sinterklaas and his Piet actually came to the house!! Sinterklaas talked to each child and asked them what they most wanted. He also knew all about them! ;) It was really cute to see how excited the children were. At the end, Sint gave them their presents, and told them to be good all year. It reminded me a bit of Christmas, with the children telling Santa what they want, etc. It was a nice little celebration and fun to experience first hand!

This weekend definitely got me in the holiday spirit, and I can't wait to go home and celebrate with my family!!! I head home in just 8 days!! It's almost like I get two Christmases this year! :)

All the presents and poems at the team Sinterklaas party

Sinterklaas cake!

Sinterklaas at the house

All the kids love Zwarte Piet

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8 to 12

Today was a very busy day!! I had to be up at 8 to help get the kids ready for school. Today was no ordinary day though! It was Lilysky's birthday!!! She turned 6! The table was already set with Hannah Montana decor, balloons were blown up, and streamers were hanging from the walls. In the Netherlands, it is a tradition on your birthday that you bring in the cake for everyone else. So Lilysky had to bring in cake a little gifts for all the kids in her class! A bit different than how we do it in the States!

As Lilysky and Declan left for school, I had to keep a close watch on Quinn to make sure all the decorations stayed in place. Both Sharon and Kees (the parents) were running around town making sure all the last minute details were in place, including picking up the Hannah Montana cake! Wednesdays the children get out of school early, so by noon, all of the kids were at the house. Along with the 15 guests came 15 presents! Lilysky had a blast opening all of them! (I don't think I've seen more presents for a 6 year old in one place!!) When it was time to sing Happy Birthday, I was nicely surprised when everyone sang in both Dutch and English!

After some cake, all the kids were off to BubbleGym (a large playground) and Glow-in-the-Dark Miniature Golf... except for Quinn and Dex. (Dex is 3 years old, but his mother was helping with the party so I offered to watch him as well for the afternoon). Thankfully, he was really easy (even though he didn't speak any English like the kids in the family I help with). I know enough Dutch now though that I could understand what he was saying most of the time. Also, we watched Dora the Explorer and Shrek, and for both he asked me to put them in English! It was definitely nice for me to be able watch them! It ended up being a relaxing afternoon.... until the party arrived back at the house...!!

Imagine all of the children (15) plus all of their parents (another 15), plus some siblings, a few family friends and the grandparents. The house was full of people!! It was a bit hectic and chaotic to say the least. But by the time everyone left... I was just leaving for practice!!

No, the field was not playable. We actually went and played indoor! Indoor sticks, courts, and all. I was laughing as I showed up tonight because the last time I played indoor was about 6 years ago in high school. I haven't even touched an indoor stick since then! Now, I did play all of high school, so for 4 years, so I know the rules and tactics. But the touch on the ball is quite a bit different than outdoor (not to mention I had to borrow a stick because I didn't bring an indoor stick with me!). We just played 6v6 games, and my team ended up winning all but one! And I actually played surprisingly well! Indoor is so much faster, so you have to react a lot quicker and anticipate where the ball is going. It was so much fun though!! I forgot just how much fun it is!! I sure hope we get to play again before I come home... :)

Anyways, so after I finally got home, showered, checked my email and wrote all this... I have been up from 8am and will be going to bed at 12am. What a long day!! Good thing I have some time off tomorrow!!

Happy 6th Birthday Lilysky!!

Hockey game and practice cancelled...

Sunday morning I woke up ready to play. We were scheduled to play Hurley, a team from Amsterdam, which includes Lauren Powley and my roommate/teammate from college Minou Gimbrere. With only 2 games left in season, I was definitely ready to get a few more points before we leave for break. As I biked to the club, I couldn't help but notice the snow that was still blanketing the field. The playing conditions were by no means optimal, but I was still optimistic that by gametime within a few hours, the shining sun would melt the snow away. The officials showed up and announced that we would continue with the game, but not on the main field. The practice sand field was in a more playable condition. Dressed and ready, we attentively listened to our coach, Peter Taylor, give us the game plan for the day. But mid-meeting, we were interrupted. A decision had been made to cancel the game. What a shame! So for the first time since I arrived in the Netherlands, I had no game on Sunday! We all didn't know what to do with ourselves! I can't imagine that we will be able to play next week, or the weekend after (when our Hurley game is rescheduled for) because it is only getting colder, and snowing more!! In fact, practice was cancelled yesterday, and we are playing indoors tonight. I guess we just have to wait and see! But with below freezing temperatures, you won't find me outside unless I have to be!! (Or maybe if I'm making a snowman or snow angels with the kids!!)

Amsterdam and Thanksgiving x2

Friday's weather was not much better than Wednesday's. It was so cold that the field was beginning to freeze. The men's team was generous enough to end their practice a bit early so that we could still get some time on the field. We only got in about an hour and a bit of scrimmaging. It was nice to be done a bit early though because I headed off to Amsterdam with a few of my teammates post-practice. I stayed with Lauren Powley Friday night and it was nice to do a little catching up and story-swapping of our Dutch encounters! Saturday morning, Powley showed me around the markets which I love because you can always find cheap things! We stopped to get freshly squeezed juice, delicious ham sandwiches, and even better warm poffertjes! We were going to bike around the canal streets, but it was just so darn cold, so we just stopped in a café and got hot chocolates instead!

Later in the afternoon I got a chance to meet up with Kim and 2 of our former teammates at Wake Forest! Liza, who is currently a senior, was visiting Kim for her Thanksgiving break and Hilary was Kim’s year, and is currently au pairing and playing hockey as well in Belgium. I hadn’t seen either of them since earlier in the year (in March I believe it was) so it was great to catch up and explore a bit of Amsterdam together. I ended up leaving a bit early though because I had to catch a train back to Den Haag for a belated Thanksgiving dinner celebration!!


Although I did not get to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving on Thursday, I did get to have a celebration on Saturday. One of my teammates graciously invited me to her neighbor’s house for dinner. The mother of the family is from America and they have a huge Thanksgiving dinner every year. They always do it on a Saturday because it is too difficult to get everything prepared on a Thursday here in Holland when everyone still has to work since they don't celebrate the holiday here. As all 20+ people gathered around the 20 pound turkey, we had lots of nationalities represented; not only Americans, but Dutch, Canadians, and Kiwis all joined the party. As the turkey was being cut, the cranberries, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn bread, and pies were all being placed around the table. The meal was set, and of course I had to try a little bit of everything! The spread was delicious and included all the dishes I enjoy at home! It was a great way to give thanks with some great people. It was also fun to introduce Thanksgiving and its traditions to a few of the new people attending. The best part though had to be the pie!! There were multiple apple pies, pecan pie, and of course pumpkin pie!!! You can't find pumpkin pie here in the Netherlands, so a lot of people got their first taste! It was delicious!

Fortunately, I live 2 blocks from their house because I could barely move after dinner! (As it should be on Thanksgiving!!!) I cannot be grateful enough for this family opening up their home to me and the many others to celebrate the holiday with them. They put a lot of work into hosting such a wonderful meal and made Thanksgiving fabulous for a lot of people. The whole night, the people and the food (and a little college football on ESPNAmerica!), was just what I needed. I was starting to miss home as the holiday season approaches, but I know I have met some amazing people here and will miss them as well once I do get back to the States.

So, for the last 2 weeks that I am here, I am going to enjoy it! I know it will go by so quickly and I'm going to make the most of it!

The Thanksgiving spread!

My plate :)

A bunch of us at Thanksgiving dinner