Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I've been "home" in this country for 98 days.  Christ.

I didn't expect a big culture shock experience. Sure I've heard about it, but I was quasi European going into this whole thing, and I started mourning my Amsterdam even before I left, which definitely prepared me some.

But no one and no thing prepared me for the deep depression I fell into coming home. But if I analyze it, all within the span of barely over a week I left Europe and traveled to America (twice stuck in stress and snowstorms, mind you, on a plane FILLED TO THE BRIM with babies) unpacked, repacked for school, dealt with my boyfriend peeing in my bed and ON me, got to DC, broke up with my boyfriend of 3.5 years, my constant love and lover, on that Monday, first day of classes, and found out he was cheating on me for years. I've found myself, and he's still a child. In Amsterdam I realized I needed a man if I'm going to be in a relationship. But I have to heal first before I even start looking into all that crazy shit.

So within 12 days, my world was completely destroyed and life directed its anus above me, and relieved itself.

No fucking wonder I became so depressed. I was hurt more than I've ever been, I was back in DC and everyone seemed so young and dumb all of a sudden. I didn't have a bike or organic food to make my body feel good, either.

Even so, this depression was the best thing to happen to me. I haven't really been able to write about it before now, but I'm finally out of its scary-ass clutches. Sure, that doesn't mean I don't have sad days. But it's not every day anymore, and the anxiety attacks and panic attacks are over. I can start to feel again. I was eating only spicy food because I couldn't taste. I was drinking a lot of boxed wine and doing a lot of other things which I don't care to mumble about. School didn't matter, class didn't matter. I hadn't been in a "University" setting in 9 months prior to this semester, and it was jarring to put me back in this school.

But out of this constant sadness and constant anger, I've been creating. I composed countless new songs, sang every day and play at least 2 or 3 instruments every day. I've also set up an "art station" in my dining room, and I've been painting a lot. It's fucking fun and fucking soothing and therapeutic and I love that I finally realized how it feels to be an artist. Before I was crafting my art. I was storing up knowledge, I was adding and adding and now I'm finally doing math. And my poetry is the best thing I think out of this breakup/move home. My impossible to get an A in his class poetry professor gave me an A, and said my portfolio was the best he'd read. It was the ego boost I needed. I really fucking needed it. He said that I have natural talent, and that I need to be published and people need to be reading my work.

And it feels great to be able to create like this in my brain's anger factory. You need to be angry; you need that fire to heat the pan and cook delicious art. I was dressing crazy, I was feeling crazy. In January lots of the songs I was writing were "fuck you Russ" songs, and lots of the poetry I was writing were "fuck you Russ" poems, but I'm past that now. Now I can control my anger and mold it better. I'm writing great poems, I'm painting real paintings, I'm writing and singing my own real songs.

And my grades will go down a lot. But it didn't bother me. Because I had to do this, and depression is a real fucking mental health problem. It doesn't just go away. Being a depressed person, and taking the psychology classes that I've been taking, I'm doing my best to treat this "disease" by continuing to make my art, by journaling everything I'm feeling (but you'd have to cut out my tongue and chop off my fingers to stop me from writing every day), I'm starting to use the exercise bike until I find a European style cruiser of my own to ride again. I'm buying foods that I ate in Amsterdam, drinking constant cappuccinos to recreate my experience here.

Anhedonia sucks balls, but I'm starting to feel again. For a while I would go outside in the cold or rain just so I could feel something. I'd pour curry over everything so I could taste something. I'd sing as loud as I could, just to know I still had a throat.

But it's getting better. I'm living in a house for my senior year (finally, a place I can stay for an entire year? without moving? Christ!) in a gorgeous area of DC right by the Cathedral.
I've made the best friends I've ever made in college, and they've helped me heal with constant laughter and constant companionship. Without my flatmates Saba and Cory and Sam, I'd have gone mad.

It's time to do the shit that matters, and right now, it's to learn about what I feel like learning about. If I'm not having a sad day, I'm reading nonfiction, watching documentaries and ted talks, and practicing music for hours. School is on the back burner, because I don't care.

I'm going to take Human Sexuality next semester, as well as Psychology of Music which should both be difficult and so fucking fascinating. I'm looking at grad schools for sex therapy or human sexuality degrees. I'm trying to work at a bike place in DC, and work for some place that doesn't eat my soul.

I'm trying. I did my first open mic, and it felt so amazing to perform for people again. I hadn't felt that stomach bubble of butterfly blooming in my gullet, hadn't felt that nervous release of sympathetic and parasympathetic since I'd performed in high school. And I felt alive again.

If I don't end up being a professional musician, I'll be a sex therapist and help people. Or a sex educator and help people learn about themselves, and about being safe.

Feels good to feel again, kids. Feels really fucking good. I've been raw for so long, my skin callused with hurt. Callused by strings and keys and plucking and singing my heart into pulp. As the saying goes, what hasn't killed me made me stronger. I am made of muscle, I am made of art. I'm creating, because it's all I can do to keep from going mad.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Home is kind of a weird word for me lately. I feel like now I have three: my birthplace, my current residence and college city (and more specifically, new adorable apartment in northwest DC) and my Amsterdam.

But, for right now, I can say I've been "home" for a while. And that I did not realize how much I truly learned and the life lessons I gleaned in my time abroad. My perspective is completely different, and I didn't even notice it changing.

I also thought I wasn't dressing any differently that I did in Amsterdam, and here on campus I look like an eccentric young professor who has too much time in the morning. Everyone else is in some form of "sweat pant" ensemble. Whatever. But even the classroom setting, the people I hear talking and the stupid shit they say- it all just feels strange. Campus has changed a bit, and I recognize far fewer people than I used to. But I've been meeting new people, making friends. It's weird, though- Sitting for a while somewhere, and watching the people that feel comfortable and safe in this environment. That comfort is too comfortable and it's getting uncomfortable.

I suppose the absolute best thing about my new life here is my apartment. It's big, I cleaned it one room at a time so now it's almost clean enough for my standards. I can do whatever I want in my room without parents or host parents or RAs or roommates bothering me, and a bunch of my friends live in the same building. My flatmate has a very similar lifestyle to mine, and I can already tell we'll get along really well. But if I want to burn insense, make a pot of tea, and mend my clothes at the kitchen table, I can. And if I want to play guitar at 2 am and drink some wine and write angry songs, I can.

Otherwise, people are idiots. Students are idiots. And life here kind of bores me. I feel really bummed out, and I'm missing the beauty and grandeur of my third home. Also, the adventure of being lost, of not understanding cultural ques and signs and language, is missing. At least I'm not taking any gender studies classes, or I would go insane. I can busy myself with my tough classes that I'm taking, and perfect my music in my free time. I plan on buying some canvases and paint, spending as little money as possible, and making this semester a powerful one. I'm alone, I'm on my own. But I'll survive like the rest of you already have. We'll see how it goes- it's only the first week.

Frankly, it can only get better.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowstorm Bullplop

I'm finishing up packing and mentally accepting my departure from Amsterdam, and there's a blizzard blowing past my window.

I had only a few last goals:

1. Koffie en appelgebak met een goede vriend, Tab
2. Return my bike and get my deposit (but they closed. airports and buses also not working today)
3. Visit the Oudekerk and light candles for various people. It's the oldest church/building in Amsterdam, and I have always wanted to go inside. BUT snow prevents me
4. Last lunch with Irina and Courtney. nomnomnom
5. SIT farewell party

6.  Get up early, go to Noordermarkt with Irina. Buy a new scarf, since I lost mine. But it's supposed to snow all day today and tomorrow, so we'll see.
7. Then meet up with Lilly and go to Vondelpark and then a museum.
8. See Gloria or Ioana one last time.


Irina says I have to check and see if my train is delayed from Amsterdam Centraal to Frankfurt. So, I hope not. So my last 48 hours, Amsterdam weather has ruined. :(

Bullplop, indeed.

Just got back from the prettiest winter walk of my life. Went to the Oudekerk and walked around de Dam and along the Rozengracht home. Gorgeous, and not too cold. Time for hot chocolate with chili!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tot Ziens

This afternoon, I handed in a bound, 51 page ISP entitled "Sugar and Spice, and Everything Nice: A study deconstructing how parents, child-care workers, and primary school teachers contribute to the gendering and gender socialization of young children in the Netherlands."

I'm done! I'm finished writing and editing and it's almost all over. Tomorrow, I have to give a 20 minute presentation at 10 am, which I'll be honest- I haven't even started preparing for it yet. My brain has been trying to relax after spending days of writing and staring at computers and organizing thoughts. The strangest part of this entire experience is I only once felt overwhelmed, and it was over a month ago. Since that point, I made sure I was relaxed whenever I was writing. I set deadlines (like, write 7 pages today, and 3 tomorrow, blah) and followed all of them, but in a relaxed and calm way. And I finished writing my paper yesterday, when I had planned to be finished. Yesterday I edited it all day. I woke up this morning and read the whole thing out loud to find awkward sentences and little misspellings. Then I printed and bound and haven't looked at again because then I'll find problems and we won't even go there.

But, I'm done. And I was relaxed and stress free writing the largest paper I've ever had to write, which makes absolutely no sense because I used to stress over 10 page papers and this one was five times as long. Since I was so calm about the whole thing, I don't feel that "paper's done I can breathe again" post-paper high, either. I'm just finished.

Tonight I'm going with my IDFA friend Ioana to hear Mahler and Dvořák at the Concertgebouw, a gorgeous building I've always wanted to be inside of.
And I biked today in the "sneeuw" to hand in all my books and borrowed ISPs and my paper and everything. It feels so weird to be almost finished... After 10:20 tomorrow, I will be able to concentrate on everything else that I have to do.... 

1. Say goodbye to my favorite and darling Amsterdam, a city I feel really alive and at home. I've never felt more at home here than the past few weeks, so I feel like they're tearing me away from this city right as I get to know and understand it really well.
2. Pack.... ugh. This will be interesting, fitting all my Morocco stuff in my suitcase. I'll probably leave clothes here that don't fit anymore, since I lost 6 pounds here.
3. Return my bike and get my deposit
4. See two more museums, visit the Oudekerk, get coffee at this fabulous little place by the Albert Cuyp markt.
5. Say goodbye to Amsterdam.

I feel like everyone else in this program is really excited to go back. And I so am not ready. I'm not ready to leave my new friends, Gloria and the IDFA kids. I'm not ready to part with Irina's amazing south african/indian/organic cooking, with my bike, with the architecture and canals and omnipresent cafés and coffeeshops. I haven't felt more like staying than the past 3 weeks, and it's really unsettling. I also don't feel the "holiday spirit," since I'm out of my usual element of Advent and everything. None of that seems to really matter to me right now. 

I do look forward to seeing my cousin Theresa for a week. And eventually, to going home to Russ and my beautiful Cinnaminson friends. I can't wait to have conversations that actually involve TALKING and TOUCHING and LAUGHTER! 

All that being said- (I can't believe I'm saying this) 

I don't want to go home yet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Since I was studying abroad for four months, I decided I had to travel at least ONE other place on my own (because I really don't have much more money or time for anything else). Since I was torn between studying in Berlin or in Amsterdam, I had to get thoughts of Berlin out of my system. It seemed like the most logical place to go for 4 days- cheap, close enough, could take a night bus ride (I prefer them over night trains, if you were wondering!) I could meet up there with my older brother Liam, and I could pretend to practice my ever dwindling German-skilz.

SIT technically paid for my vacation, too. I used the first €50 we were given for lunch money to pay for the ticket and the last €65 as my spending money there. I literally boarded my bus back home with less than 2 euros, so it all worked out perfectly.

Anyone who's ever traveled knows busses are an especially fun choice. Not. But I sleep and work well in moving vehicles, so I really can't complain. Besides, why trouble yourself with flying when you can just sleep two nights on a bus and not deal with all that crap?

And the second I was in Berlin I started missing Amsterdam. I started missing what felt like home. I was quite shocked at how fervently I missed Amsterdam, and how immediate the feelings of loss were felt. Maybe it was because I wasn't quite in the travel mood. I'd just made so many friends in IDFA and wasn't ready to leave them yet. Maybe it was the extreme cold the two days before traveling that made me just want to stay in my bed and work on my ISP and feel like I’d accomplished some major headway.

Even so, I was so happy to be in Germany, to see Liam, to couchsurf again, and to eat Currywurst and drink Glühwein. We went to several Weinachtmarkten, which Liam explained to me are crucial for survival in bitter cold and dark Germany. Without all the lights and celebration and color and Glühwein, seasonal depression would most certainly effect people more.

Our couchsurfer host took us to an amazing bar called Madame Claude. I did some wiki-ing, and found out it was once a brothel and a French threesome turned it into an amazing bar and concert place. The coolest thing about Madame Claude is everything is upside down and on the ceiling. Tables, chairs, even the clock and security cameras were upside down. And since we went on Sunday night there was an open mic concert downstairs. Everyone was amazing, and I had a really good time. It’s hard to have a bad time after drinking a liter of delicious wheat beer, but that didn’t change the fact that all the musicians were really fun to listen to. I thought about adding my name to the list and performing, but I really wasn’t warmed up or anything.  I’m getting to the point, performance-wise, that I feel comfortable that people will enjoy my music. But I don’t know if I’m at the point yet where signing up for open mics seems like a wise idea : ).

During my time there, Liam and I basically walked around Berlin during the few hours of light we had. My feet were always wet, but other than that I was really warm and snuggly and dressed in a million layers- Mama would be proud. I saw a bit of the wall, which I wanted to see. I saw a giant amazing squat (Tacheles, look it up!) which I wanted to see. I saw 3 Christmas markets, which I wanted to see. So yes, it was a really nice four days with Liam in Berlin.

BUT. That being said, I am SO happy I didn’t end up studying there.  Amsterdam just suits me better. I love Dutch culture, I love Dutch, I love Amsterdam. I love the canals, the buildings, the squats and art and museums and cafes. I love the ability to bike everywhere, the IDFA internship I had. I love the closeness of everything. I love the friends I made. And I am so happy to be back, where I know the trams and the culture and where things are and where I should be. Whoever would have thought I’d feel more comfortable in the Netherlands than in Germany?

Plus my German is so bad right now, because I haven’t been hearing it or practicing it. And my Dutch pronunciation of things is stuck in there, too. But I got my Dutch grade back, and apparently I scored intermediate low on the ACTFL which is some global language scale. Not bad for 2 months of Dutch class! (I got an A in my midterm, final, and for the class).

The other day I didn't feel so positive about things... I was so emotionally stressed, overwhelmed, and frozen (literally) after biking around for 2 hours looking for an interview that I couldn't find. When I got home, I peeled off sweaty layers of woolen clothing and, exhausted, fell into bed. My interview was scheduled for 8:30 that morning, so I had been up early with little sleep. I played all the  Socalled albums I had on loop and napped for five hours, and when I awoke my entire body ached. It's amazing how connected body and mind are- how stress literally hurt every muscle and I felt like a giant connected doll made of aching tendons. It didn't help that the three days before that I had spent with a new friend who left for Mexico, and I was also overwhelmed that it would be probably a long time before I ever saw him again.

But I've just been thinking positively now, and I feel so much better. My body feels healthy and relaxed. I got to bike again here, as the snow melted while I was gone. I'm getting myself excited to finish writing this paper, and I'm already excited to love all over the 2 weeks I have left here. So now it's crunch time- I have to finish my ISP because it's due December 13th. Then, on the 14th, I'm the first presentation on the first day of presentations. And after that? Freedom. I'll probably call up my IDFA friends and see some squat punk shows and drink ten million cappuccinos and keep on keepin' on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do people even read this thing, anyway?

I actually feel like bloggin' today, so here it goessss.

Today I started volunteering at my praktikum, or internship with IDFA (international documentary film festival Amsterdam). Winterwonderland and IDFA have overtaken Rembrandtplein- it doesn't look like a square anymore, now it's covered in santas and sinterklaas and an iceskating rink and IDFA box office and touristy food stands. Crazy.

For IDFA, I'm part of the poster team... basically we just hang up posters of the next day's films where they'll be showing... but it's like a giant puzzle between all the theaters partaking in IDFA, and posters need to be switched every day. But I get a free shirt, crew pass, lunches, and viewings of documentaries. So that's pretty cool. Saw "Waiting for Superman" today, and it's about how shitty American school education is. Definitely worth seeing!

On Monday morning I didn't have class, since classes have ended and the next 4 weeks we'll be doing research and writing 40 page ISPs on our own. But I took the free morning and biked over to the Noorderkerk in NW Amsterdam. Not far from me, you just take Hugo de Groot to Bloemgracht to Prinsengracht and it's right there. Monday and Saturday mornings there's the Noordermarkt, where you can get all kinds of food type things Saturday and more so used clothing on Monday. But there's also music, antiques, cheeses, and other wonderful things. It's my favorite market of the ones I've been to here. I love me some Eastern Market in DC, but this is just as lovely :D

I spent a long time in the market, wandering around, sifting through giant piles of "bargain" €5 clothing. Bargain my ass... I can't afford clothing here at all, when I'm so used to buying all my clothes at the Village Thrift in Pennsauken NJ for under a dollar :) I just love free clothes the best. I did find an awesome sweater that I really wanted in someone's trash, but it was all wet. I may be the world's biggest trash-picker, but wet sweaters are super gross. Anyway, I loved just taking my time to enjoy the whole market and the morning to myself. My host sister came with me, but left much earlier. She got bored, I think. I had to explain to her that I practically grew up in flea-markets and antique stores, and I like to take my time and hunt for bargains and look at old things that I wish I could fill a place of my own with. It's really an under-appreciated art, bargain hunting. I found a beautiful red dress and crazy green, bright sweater for pretty cheap, as well as a free scarf.

I'll really miss that, I think. Being able to bike around to markets and find what I need or what I'm looking for. My very own medina. After living in DC, visiting Philly well enough over the past 20 years to "know it" pretty well, and living in Amsterdam, I have to admit that I'm a city girl. I just love the cafés and bikes and people and bustle and art and music and history... I don't think I could live anywhere but a city later. I mean, I can go to a jazz bar on Sundays with my host mom and have some wine and cappuccinos. And if I need green,  I can bike to various parks and see green and birds and flowers. And I have water around me, since canals are ubiquitous. Or I can go to any museum or old church or concert hall- it's there for the taking!

I always felt overwhelmed and scared in NYC. But not here. Here I feel a sense of history, belonging, and culture differences all at the same time. It's a safe place here. As far as differences between the states and Nederland, I do miss knowing where to buy things, and how cheap clothing everything is in the States. And the toilets. I really don't like toilets here very much. Whoever invented the shit shelf is a total douchewad. I much perfered the turkish toilets in Morocco, even.

Well I can't end this on toilets, so let's just say I'm beginning to paint for the first time in my life, and I find it really soothing and inspiring. Even if it's crappy finger painting paper and HEMA watercolors (all I can afford) I look forward to buying real painting supplies in the states, and trying my hand at being artistic. Cause why the hell not?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You're going to reap just what you sow.

Today was one of the more perfect days of life.

My first thought this morning was "I woke up today with a poem in my teeth". And then I wrote a poem and said to myself, "make your own happiness today".

And I had some shits to do. So I got up early, biked to HEMA on the Kinkerstraat to buy batteries for my recorder, and then I google mapped where my interview was and biked over. It was Cassie's host mom, and I watched a program showing Sinterklaas come from Spanje to Nederland, with his 6 to 8 black men.

Definitely helped my Dutch to watch the program for an hour. And then I interviewed my interviewee, and ate some pepernoten, little round gingerbread-type cookies, and got some good information from her. After I left, I biked around the Museumplein, thinking I felt like visiting a museum. And I decided I didn't feel like a museum after all, I wanted to do something outside.

Instead, I  biked through Vondelpark, the largest park in Amsterdam. So I had some xxx and cheese, and biked the entire park while I listened to my ipod loudly. It was a totally gorgeous fall day, not too chilly and it wasn't raining. At some point I really had to pee, though, so I peed in some bushes. Hopefully no one noticed but if they did, whatever.

And when I came out of the bushes, a friend had decided to join me. The tiniest of snails was slowly snailing on my iPod. Seriously, this snail was so small and fragile and adorable. Smaller than my pinky nail. Awww. But I took it as a sign- since snails are my favorite. And I placed him on a mossy tree because iPods are no place for snails.

When I'd biked the entire park through a few times, I decided to bike my way back towards SIT to Rembrandtplein and maybe grab a coffee or something. On my way I got to hear a punk band performing on a moving stage surrounded by bikes and paraders. I took some video.

When I got to the plein I heard a fantastic street musician. He was older, with long grey hair, and definitely no amateur. I sat next to a tree, and just became a part of his music. I can't really describe his sound... it was riffy, electric guitar, but with electronic and eastern influences. I listened to him until he ended his set, and then threw some money in his guitar case.

As someone who has also busked, you can tell from your crowd what type of people they are: Some dudes sitting at the cafe a few feet away clapped after his songs, and some people listened to one or two and shuffled off to go get smashed in bars or fill up the coffeeshops, or whatever touristy things they wanted to do. Only two of us listened to his entire set- me and an old man leaning on a trashcan, drumming with his fingers and smiling.

I sat and freely fed off his music. I wasn't inspired to write or paint like I usually am. Instead, I was just happy to be there and make the choice to sit and listen in the corner.

When I went to thank him and throw a euro in his case, he asked me if I was a musician. I said, yes, what makes you say that? and he "you look like a musician. That, and it's the energy." He's totally right. Musicians can totally feel each other's energy. He knew I loved and appreciated his music just by the fact that I listened to him like I would listen to a performer. (So many people, however, see a busker as a homeless person or as a poor person who has nothing else to do. Even if the music is as good as the music people pay for, they won't listen because they haven't paid.) He knew, and if I was him, I would have known. I was always good at that, seeing myself from a third person perspective, or switching bodies for a moment and looking from above at the scene. Maybe I SHOULD have become a Director of Photography like the "find out what job you should do" Test told me in high school.

But anyway, I told him I appreciated his set and his conversation, and we parted ways. I wish I'd asked his name or where I could hear him again, because his guitar was THAT good.

The experience reminded me of the Joni Mitchell song "for free". I always love things more when they're free... something that has always been rewarded in my upbringing. A good bargain, a steal. I'm the bandit. I know, I'm such a fucking Freegan- but I love it! And when music is free, it's sweeter, cleaner. I'll pull the Wilde card and say Art for Art's Sake here. But as much as I love art that has meaning and reason, that says something and makes you feel a point- I really love art for art's sake. I don't care how many times Russ has called me bougy for it, but when someone sits on a corner and plays music, and I get to stop what I'm doing to listen as the sun sets and the lights flicker on, slowly, I just love it! Winter Wonderland Amsterdam, flash the signs. Rembrandtplein becomes a skating rink, as well as the IDFA (documentary film festival where I'm volunteering) center, for a few weeks.

A great thing about having the day all oneself is you can do whatever you want. Such beauty in that simplicity. You can actually sit and listen to the free concert. You can actually bike all over the park. Take the day and make the day.

Really, quite lovely.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I know I haven't blogged in a while, but I suppose I thought there were fewer people reading it than there actually are. So here it goes.

It's a monday. I have waken up at 9 am and gotten breakfast, dressed in my freezing cold room, and went into the kitchen. I've made made myself yogurt and "cruesli" (crunchy müsli) for breakfast. I cycle with Courtney to school on the Heregracht. I arrive to school early, and I make a pot of tea. Students one by one ring the buzzer and we let them in. People help themselves to fruit and tea and coffee. Then there's some sort of lecture, or I have oral history workshops. At 12:30 is lunch, and then we cycle 5 blocks to Dutch class at 1:30.  I've finished dutch class by 4 and a friend of mine (Tab) and I might bike to Rookie's, our favorite coffeeshop in touristy/bar filled Leidseplein. I love it here for several reasons, but mainly for their free internet, cheap apple pie, and delicious fresh mint tea. I've finished my Dutch 'huiswerk', and now I begin to work on my ISP (or independent research project, aka the reason I'm here). Then I'll cycle home down the Marnixtraat with my new bike saddle bag, and I'll relax in my room and read some more of The English Patient. But most likely I will paint and listen to my Velvet Underground albums loud, on repeat. I'll most likely play piano while Irina cooks, inspiring her. She'll be clanking about in the kitchen, her sleek heeled books clacking on the floor as she sprinkles coriander into a pot of curry. During dinner Courntey, Irina and I will share food, light candles, and talk about anything from god to space to neuroscience to homeopathy to Marx to education politics to Taoism to synesthesia... For 2 hours. Then Irina asks me to make "one of your beautiful little teas" and then I'll have tea with her and go to bed and try really hard to get internet before I sleep.

So there's an ordinary day, I suppose. although I mix it up so often... Weekends I go to markets or museums, or I just walk or bike around the beautiful city. I eat all healthy foods, and eat dinner and breakfast every day at Irina's (except Friday). So I treat myself to fries or cake or falafel when I have to fend for myself for eating. But I feel like I've lost maybe 7 pounds or so. Even my bras are getting too big.

I think every day about how lucky and happy I am to be here.

Two nights ago I went out with Irina (host mom) to a bar to hear live flamenco music and to see her niece dance flamenco. It was very fun, and I had a long talk with the guitarist. I was surprised he came over and talked to me. He seemed to be in his late 20s, but anyway he was one of the BEST musicians I have EVER heard live. Including famous professionals.

Even though most of these girls and I don't get along, I'm happy to be on my own, or go out with Irina and her friends and previous students, and make contacts of my own. There is no reason to dislike a single day here, since it's almost half over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rabat. (written Oct 3)

I’m currently sitting in my tiny windowsill overlooking Rabat, Morocco. Cars are constantly honking and whooshing past, as there are apparently no traffic lights or lanes or forms of safety. Hmm. People are very active right now; they’re greeting friends and selling souvenirs and living their lives. For them this is normal. I’m four floors above the street, overlooking the city. Even though this is  probably a window sill more than a balcony, I’ve made it my own back-lit nook. I feel very exposed, enthralled, and alive. I’m in Africa. I’m in Africa.

We’re staying here for 6 more days, and I want to stay here forever. After 16 hours of traveling, we listened to one lecture and ate one of the best meals of my life. I’m still in shock that I’m here in Morocco. My feet have treaded on African soil. Beautiful magical red rock soil. It’s bliss. I wish we could have spent two weeks here rather than that rainy week in Croatia…

Well, I better start at the beginning. I was feeling a bit homesick and tired of spending all my waking moments with my fellow 24 SIT students, so I skyped my parents and felt a little better. I ended up going out dancing and drinking some wine before that. I got back to the hostel around 3ish, and found out that we were leaving at 4 am rather than 6 am, because there was some sort of border patrol strike in Slovenia and part of our tour was bussing through there. So I never slept, and I was still in my “going out” attire of Anthropologie skirt, a new punk band t shirt that I cut and pinned into a cuter better one (I bought it at this amazing Monday night punk show in Zagreb. Definitely a highlight of my experience there) black stockings and boots.

I slept most of the bus ride, and we drove from Krk Croatia (spent two days there without lectures, which was lovely) through Slovenia, and then to Italy. All I saw of Italy was a reststop called “Ristop” and the Venice airport. We flew 3 and half hours to Morocco (pain free thanks to a Sudafed and my ear plugs) and then took an hour and a half bus ride from Casablanca to Rabat.

And I’m in love. Men and men hold hands here, so do women and women. The clothing is a mixture of western and traditional attire. The streets are lit with yellow light, the children do flips and cartwheels for our claps and cheers. I never want to leave, and I’ve barely been here 5 hours.

I’m exhausted, though, and I’m skipping out on exploring and taking the “going to bed early” route. I feel like I’ve been sleeping all day, but on buses, trains, and airplanes, and none of which were very comfortable. It’s been hot here in the day, and cool at night. My belly is stuffed with Moroccan soup, tajin chicken, and yogurt. My body is stuffed with exotic breaths of air, cinnamon and bread smells, with pungent trash littering the street, with 7:30 rooftop calls to prayer (I happened to be on the second tallest building in this part of the city, with a panoramic view, when the chanting happened. One of the most beautiful things I have ever heard). I feel comfortable in my respectful hippie skirts and gutatemalen tops, with anklets and Birkenstocks and headwraps. They’re going to have to pry me away come Saturday afternoon when we fly back to Amsterdam and arrive at Schripol at 3 am. Fun stuff. 

Friday, September 17, 2010


I have always loved rain. Always. The way it sounds when it gently taps your window panes, the smell of it, the taste of it...

But that was before Amsterdam. This place has a serious rain culture. The people here have this heightened awareness of the weather and always have umbrellas with them. Apparently, it rains only 7% of the time in Amsterdam, but it seems hard to believe. They say it rarely rains all day. Instead, it'll rain a few hours. or minutes. Or all the time. It's crazy. But the true mystery is how the dutch people handle it.

They stay dry, they stay gorgeous. They ride their bikes while holding umbrellas and cellphones and still manage to have perfect hair. I can barely ride my bike without crashing into cobblestones, cars, mopeds, other bikes, pedestrians, tourists, and the odd irregularly-placed tree, let alone hold two things and manage to look beautiful in a grey, pressed suit. But I digress.

I'm learning a little bit more every day about traffic laws and bike rituals. I've biked in the rain, alone, from school to home, and made it just fine but I looked like a cat that was thrown into the canal.

Even today, I found out something new about the route I always take to school and made it in under 15 minutes. You also have to add 5 to 10 minutes to your travel time for locking up your bike. I've already (thankfully) gotten much better at managing my two bike locks, and my rented bike hasn't been stolen or towed or destroyed yet, which is always a plus in my day.

I've been "living" here in Amsterdam a week now. I feel like I'll never get it right, but at the same time I do feel a gentle kinship to this biking, hectic, crowded, canal of a city. So different from Philly, so different from DC.

The Netherlands is so teeny tiny, yet  people think of Amsterdam AS the Netherlands. And trust me, Amsterdam is not this crazy opium den that Russ's mother has in her head. Children ride in little boxes on the front of bikes, or other times two or three kids in special seats on mommy's bike. People here really try to save the environment. They have picnics in parks. And they don't overdose on drugs half as much as they do in the States. Because soft drugs and alcohol are easily available for teens, it's not this "dangerous, enticing" thing that teens in the states grow up with.

I won't even start on the amazing sex positive sex education these kids are getting in schools and museums and from their parents....

Just some things to think about.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I suppose it's time for a blog post, since I'm finally settled in my host house. I've been here two days now, and my room is really perfect for me. Indian patterned bedspread, view of canal 4 floors below, wind when it's stormy, white walls and moroccan boxes. I love this place, but it's SUPER clean. Quite different than living with a girl and two boys who barely cleaned our shared bathroom. Irina (my artistic, short, fit, vegetarian, round glasses-wearing, aged, brown-haired host mother) is possibly cleaner than my Oma. Which is saying something. Even the floors in this apartment seem to be afraid of dust.

Which works for me! I have no problem keeping tidy when there's inspiration, and Nicole won't be here to keep me in check. But my housemate Courtney is silly and polite and we get along well. Tomorrow I have dutch class, I get my bike, and I sign up for UvA to use their computer lab and take classes. I already have an official ID (oooh la la).

But, I should recap. I spent my second week in europe with Liam, first in Freiburg and then in Amsterdam couchsurfing (where I think I got terribly welt looking bug bites, and they STILL itch me. On my hands, face, and legs.) We also visited Basel, which is so gorgeous... But after leaving Liam at Schripol Airport on Sep 6th, (he was so sweet my entire holiday!) I've been with 24 other students of the SIT (or School of International Training), a very large and successful field based global study abroad program. Three of the 25 students are named Sarah, four students are from AU, four are boys, and 24 are my friends. I seriously love everyone here- they're so happy to be studying sex in Amsterdam for four months, with week long trips to Croatia and Morocco. Really fantastic group of people.

I should go to sleep, it's very late and I have to figure out a bike rental and go to my first real Dutch class tomorrow.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Yesterday Liam and I (tried to wake up early and) went to Basel. We took a 55 minute train from Freiburg to Basel, Switzerland (or die Schweiz) which is the closest swiss city from here. Even though Liam explained that it's smaller than Freiburg,  it seemed larger and much more urban. And it was DEFINITELY more expensive, (5,40 CHF for a cappuchino? you kidding me?) but they can afford that price of living, so go them. The fashion I saw? meh. Kind of trashy, kind of borning. And they stared at me like no other. Even worse than the Germans. But that was the only negative thing I could see, because Basel is GORGEOUS.

We went to an Apotheke Museum and saw crazy animals in oil jars, lots of old powders and pestles and even old perfume vials which of course I loved. And I signed the guestbook in English to give them something to read for fun. Liam and I also ate our sandwiches that we packed earlier, right by the river, and I had some Holunder Saft which is my new favorite thing (Elderberry flower extract) and some chocolate, of course. We basically walked around and enjoyed the sunshine, and eventually found ourselves sitting on the Rhine looking at beautiful Basel and we decided to watercolor (using Rhine water). Liam also bought me a mouth harp (or Jew's harp, look it up on wiki) and we played around with those as well as his bubble pipe. The Swiss 30 somethings didn't like the bubbles so much, but their loss :) It was a good way to end our Basel trip.

Afterwards we came back home to Freiburg and ate thai at a really sweet restaurant (Reisgarten). The owner's baby was crawling adorably on the floor. We vicariously kissed her cheeks. Liam's friend Danielle called, so we went to a couch surfer's house and had a few beers and then went home. Tonight we'll bike to the Opfinger See and make a campfire and make smores. Pretty excited. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First Post

I'm sitting in my brother's apartment in Freiburg, Germany.  I've been in Germany for 8 days now, and I love it so much. I still haven't really registered that I'm here in Europe for another four months of crazy adventuring and difficult classes. That it's already this incredibly frigid and that August is over.

I've made this blog to keep tabs on my travel experiences, as I'm now a tourist in a tourist capital city. (sound familiar?) I will be living with a family in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for four months, as well as going on week long excursions to Morocco and Croatia (WARMTH!) with my classmates.

As far as Germany goes, the biggest differences are the silly toilet buttons, ordering in restaurants, the beauty of old houses (none of that awful goddamn siding) the stares I constantly receive, the expensiveness of everything, and the deliciousness of the food. I've discovered Flammkuchen, which is an Alsacian pizza basically with créme fraiche, leeks chopped finely, bacon specks, and cheese. It's nomtastic. It tastes like these rollups my mom used to make at parties, actually.

But you should see the way these people stare. They look you up and down, and they don't say "danke" when you open the door for them. Also you don't have to smile or be nice if you're, let's say, a cashier at a supermarket. I'd be fired in five minutes from BRU if I looked half as unpleasant as some cashiers that I've come across.... but I digress.

I've already gone to some second hand shops in Heilbronn, and found a kick ass faux leather brown jacket and a mustardy 30s hat. But even second hand and fleamarkets are more expensive than DC.

A part of me wishes I could stay and study in Germany, but there's plenty of time for that later in life. A few more days here with my brother in this beautiful city, and then it's off to Amsterdam with me!