Sunday, April 26, 2009

I know it's been awhile, and although I have TONS of positive things to talk about (Barcelona, tulip fields, the beach, days of starting to drink at 10am and lounging at the park and watching dozens of people race while wearing orange barrels...), I don't really feel like detailing all of the reasons I can't believe I'll be leaving my favorite city in the world in a little over a month. Instead, in light of the fact that I am writing a final paper on the prospects of Ukraine's membership in the EU (aka stretching "not happening" into 5000-6000 words), I would like to discuss one reason I am very excited to return to Penn State:

Never again having to learn about the European Union. It was obvious that I had no idea what I would be getting myself into when I chose a class titled "Theorizing European Integration." Talk about combing two concepts that have very little bearing on how things actually turn out in the real world: political science theories, and the European Union. Good thing I will be done the Political Science major when I get back to State (and even if I wasn't, I'm pretty sure there are no classes offered on the EU, and rightly so), and will be finishing my much more practical major...PHILOSOPHY! At least it doesn't pretend.

I promise that my next entry will be much more exciting...because I'll tell you about QUEEN'S DAY!! It is this Thursday, with Queen's Night on Wednesday night. It is a day to celebrate Queen Beatrix's birthday, and basically involves day long drinking, wearing orange, children selling their belongings on the street, and outdoor music performances. I've already purchased an orange shirt, orange boa, and orange sunglasses. Apparently, the city will look somethign like this:

And I, will look something like this:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Visitors and Sun

Two things that light up my life!! hahah so its been awhile so I thought I should start off as corny (cornily?) as possible. Lots has been happening, March literally flew by and I can't believe its almost April. The highlights, as the title of this post clearly states, have been my visitors who just left today and the sun. I'll start with the visitors.

So Eurofest 09 (we decided that if there are at least 3 of us in a place that involves getting fucked up...may have made up that second part...but anyway if there are 3 of us it can be called a fest) finally happened. Funny to think that I was informed that Avery and Zhanna would be arriving in Amsterdam on March 27th before I even got here. But it came and went faster than I cant believe. Friday we went to the Heineken Experience, which I had heard bad things about but it was actually pretty fun. Especially the room where you sit and watch Heineken commercials that surround you!!! Haha just kidding that part was useless...but the rest was pretty cool. Then I took the group (9 Pitt people total) to the Red Light District, and then Barneys, one of the few places where you can drink and smoke in the same place. However, milkshakes seemed more appetizing than beer to everyone at the moment. The next day we went to the Anne Frank house, pancake bakery, and Van Gogh (my second time, but obviously I can't get enough of the guy. I have even started saying his name the proper Dutch way.. Van Ho-HHGGHHH. Thats a throaty H sound in case you were wondering). Saturday night they all wanted to watch the Pitt game (ouch), and to my surprise they were actually playing it a sports cafe in Leidesplein. It was showing after the Scotland-Holland soccer game, so the entire bar was filled with people in kilts (as was the rest of the city) singing various traditional Scottish songs, intermixed with Sweet Caroline and Mr. Brightside. It was quite a scene. Sunday we went on a boat tour, where we saw another boat named the "Anne Frank" and said LOVERS on the front. Whoeever thought of that one has lots of taste...

Oh and we also partook in Amsterdam's favorite pastime pretty much nonstop throughout the weekend. Best quote I've ever heard: "My favorite part of being high is that no one really listens to anyone, everyone just talks to themselves"

Besides for visitors, my other favorite part of this month has been the sun. I don't think I saw it for more than 15 minutes at a time all of February, so it has been quite a change to see it for hours, even days, at a time. Its funny how much of a difference the weather affects moods, but I have been constantly happy the days that the sun is shining. Riding my bike around is so much more fun, and I'm much more motivated to get outside and explore the city. I'm really going to miss living in a place where I can always discover an area I have never seen before, but still know how to get home.

This weekend my mom and sister come, and on Tuesday we are going to Barcelona!! April may fly by even faster than March...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I'm back! It's been a crazy two weeks with Prague and Paris two weekends in a row, but I had the most amazing time. The entire time I kept thinking about how lucky I am to be spending my semester like this, and I was grateful for every minute. ANYWAY... I will tell you some highlights of my travels!

Prague: I can probably just cut to the chase and say that I finally got to see MAGGIEEEEE and it was so great to see a familiar face. And what a face!!! hahahaha love you. As soon as she met me at the metro stop, the first thing on our mind was obviously food...even though it was around 10 we went to a restaurant. Typical. The next day Maggie had class so I wandered around "Nova Mesto" or something like that...which I only remember because it's almost like Russian and means "New Place" literally in Russian, but maybe in Czech it means something more like New Town. Anyway, I got lost of course, and had my notions of Czechs in public being unfriendly one would make eye contact with me for me to ask where I am. Until I spotted a smiling American man who automatically knew that I was also an American who happened to be lost. So he helped me get back...somehow I was like a 40 minute walk away from where I needed to be. Again, typical.

That night we went to Radost, where Rihanna filmed "Please don't stop the music." It was great, especially the Usher-wannabee that tried to hog the attention from the rapper that was supposed to be performing, only to be outdone by a couple making out, also in the middle of the stage. Maybe you just had to see it.

The next day we saw all of the sights, Prague castle and such. It was all beautiful, like a fairy tale. You can check out the pictures because I can't do it justice with words. Or you should probably just go. That night, if I remember correctly, we went to Cross Club, which is where the drug dealers and shadiest people in Prague (or the world?) hang out! Perfect. It was so cool on the inside, dark with moving lit up car parts hanging from the ceiling. We had an unwelcome guest, somewhere between 30 and 70 years old, who invited himself to our table and bought us drinks which we were too scared to drink. Maybe because his first topic of conversation was "Did you know someone was murdered here last month?" Oh, by you? And we're next? Another shot please!!

The next day we mostly rested and of course ate a lot, and then went to THE LARGEST CLUB IN CENTRAL EUROPE!!! Five stories, different music on every floor, very cool club. Besides for the fact that everyone was about 16 and I felt like I was at a Bar Mitzvah and someone was going to start a game of coke and pepsi at any moment. Or maybe I was just hoping that they would... It was an experience at the least. Oh and at some point that night I lost my phone. Once again, typical.

Overall, it was an amazingggggggg time! Cant wait for Italy, Maggie :)

Paris: Woke up at 4:45 to catch the 6:26 train. Walked to the train station (40 mins away) in the RAIN (of course). Four hour train ride, slept for maybe two hours? Actually a good ride, I'm glad we left that early because we got A LOT done on Friday. When we stepped out of the train station were basically blinded by the sunlight because we are not used to it in Amsterdam. It was a beautiful day. First we went to the Champs Elysees, which has the Arc de Triumph at the end of it. We went to the top, amazing view. Then we went to Notre Dame, saw a line, and assumed we should be in it to get inside. Turns out it was a line to go the to top of Notre Dame, and going inside is just free with no line. Its ok though, worth the 5 euros, because we got another great view. Oh, and ate banana nutella crepes in line. AMAZING. Thennnn we went to the Louvre, I was exhausted by this point, but the Louvre is pretty much breathtaking. And I saw Taylor there!!!!! What are the odds? Oh and the Mona Lisa...slightly dissapointing.

This is getting really basically Saturday we went to the catacombs (creepy), Musee d'Orsay (amazing) and the top of the eiffel tower at night (pretty much as great as you would imagine, but better). At night we were going to go to an Irish pub with some of Dan's friends who are studying in Paris, but it was really full and there were like 10 of us so, of course, we each bought a bottle of wine and drank it on the canal. There was also some Camembert cheese, so the perfect French experience. Then we were going to go to the hookah lounge, so I had to finish my bottle on the metro. Or maybe I purposely saved some so I could act homeless and drink it on the metro...who knows. It was great nonetheless. And I love/really missed hookah.

Sunday we went to Versailles, which was SO beautiful. Too bad it was raining though so the gardens were kind of lame. But it was ok because it gave us an excuse to not spend so much time in them a Tex Mex restaurant!!! Haha the only real restaurant I ate in in Paris was a poor attempt at Mexican food. But we all missed it so much, we had to at least try. At least my Mango Mojito was delicious. Then we got on the train and came back to the Dam!

Phew this is an intense entry. Closing thoughts: I really loved both of these cities, my first impressions of both were, "wow, these buildings are so much more grand and amazing than in Amsterdam." But then after a few days in both I realized how happy I am I chose to study here. It is beautiful in a more quaint way, and the best part is that it is small enough that I almost never use public transportation, I can just ride my bike! I HATE the metro, I got a little more used to it when I had to take it everywhere in Paris and Prague, but I am still so happy I never have to deal with that here. Also I think the people here are much more friendly and accepting of foreigners, so its just a really nice atmosphere to live in.

Thats all for now, next exciting things to look forward to: Girl Talk at Paradiso March 19, and AVERY AND ZHANNA ARE VISITING MARCH 27TH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can't wait :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Finally I have homework. Not that its a good thing or anything, but it is the middle of February and I have completely forgotten what it means to do work, and that is probably not good. It is still "study" abroad, as my mom said about 15 times before I left, each time acting as if it was as clever as the first time. Actually, it was never really clever, but I love you anyway, mom. But now that I actually have some work to do, I thought it would be an appropriate time to update the blog.

Bike update: Had to get a new back tire today. After the mandatory plagiarism lecture (do not copy and paste from wikipedia was the main message that came across to me) I attempted to ride home and realized my bike was making a strange noise...and barely moving. I got off, and realized the back tire was completely flat. I had to walk it all the way home, it was raining, of course, to complete the emo-feel really bad for the girl who has to walk her bike 20 minutes home-scene. I was really upset, mostly because it meant that I probably would not be able to attend the weekly Tuesday night "borrel" or party that is held for ISN students at a bar called Heffer (fun name, right?). You might not understand why not having a bike would prevent me from going, but I live about a 40 minute walk from there and the busses stop running around 1230, so I would have had to walk home alone, since obviously everyone else would be riding their bikes. This is Holland, remember. But my roomate Robina was nice enough to let me take her bike out, which I was nervous to do given my track record borrowing people's things. Especially other roomates...ahem Maggie and the 58403549 things of yours I have lost. At least I brought back the Halloween dress!! ;)

I'm really glad I got to go out because it was so much fun. After Heffer we went to a bar Doos? or something...I'm not sure...but it was a lot less touristy (and LESS EXPENSIVE THANK GOD FINALLY) than a lot of the other places I had been going. It was cozy, and despite the prevailing scent of cigarettes, I really enjoyed myself. AND, more importantly, I did not crash or lose or damage Robina's bike! And it didn't get stolen! Did you know that the average Amsterdam citizen gets thier bike stolen once every 1.4 years? And most of these stolen bikes end up being thrown in the canals? Fun facts.

Creepy Man update: I have probably told most of you the creepy taxi driver story. And the other creepy man story. Yea, the one who stopped me on the street as I was riding my bike to ask if I was Brazilian, and then tell me that because I looked like I had such a positive attitude (dammit subconscious smiling...not my fault, it was the first sunny day in a LONG time) he has an extra ticket to Paris that he would like me to have. Hopefully I will have no more of these kind of updates, as I am learning to not make eye contact in the street, and to look more depressed all of the time.

Speaking of people who don't really smile...I AM GOING TO PRAGUE IN ONE WEEK!!!!!! AHHHH can't wait to laugh obnoxiously and get stared down by angry Czechs with my foreign twin :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's like riding a bike

It's true, in case you had any doubts, that you really never forget. Now that I kind of know how to get some places, sometimes, I absolutely LOVE riding my bike. Even when freezing, even if its kind of raining, it is just so liberating to get on my bike and get somewhere fast. I would add that I love my bike itself, but to tell you the truth it is kind of a piece of crap. When I bought it, I was still unsure about how much I would ride it, so I got a cheap one. And apparently it is too small for me, as I was told today. It doesn't go very fast at all, which is ok except when men with tiny babies riding on the back of thier bikes pass me on very narrow paths. One wrong swerve and I could potentially kill a baby! Not ok. Also, the back lock and key are rusty and bent, and I can only lock the back wheel half the time. So I went to the market where a man sells bike parts and fixes them, for free I was told, to try to replace the lock. My encounter went something like this:

"I can't get the key out to lock the back wheel. Do you sell replacement ones?"
The man leans down, pushes down the lever, and easily removes the key that I had been slaving over for 10 minutes the night before.
"There is nothing wrong with this bike," he says sternly in his Dutch accent
"Oh...well...the key is kind of bent and rusty and hard for me to deal with so I think I still want a new one"
"There is nothing wrong with this bike. Except that it is too small for you. Children's bike"

*To be clear,it does not look like any children's bike I've ever seen, if you are imagining me riding around Amsterdam on a pink Barbie bike with training wheels. It looks pretty adult sized to me...

He then pulls out a wrench and lifts up my seat.
"Um...thank you...I guess you are right..."
A woman rides up, says something in Dutch, and he pumps up her tire. No money is exchanged, and she rides away. I am still standing there, not really sure what to do. He looks at me and says:
"Nothing wrong with your bike. Come back when you have real problem."

I think I made a new best friend.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I'm Here!

It's been almost a week since I've arrived in Amsterdam, and I finally feel more or less settled enough to tell you all about it. Now that I have finally acquired a phone, pillow, blanket, and know where my classes seems like a good time to update.

Amsterdam is beautiful. It makes getting lost not so bad, which is lucky since I am lost A LOT. Fortunately, I have learned that once you're wandering somewhere in the city and don't know where you are or where to go, it is really easy to take a tram to Centraal Station, and then I know where I am!

I had my first class today, I am one of only 2 American students in a class of 16. It's in English though, which I first thought would be an advantage when writing papers and such, but everyone else speaks perfect English, of course. I came to class completely paper or pen. I was hoping to buy them on my way to class, but apparently nothing is open at 9am on Mondays. Luckily, the nice Dutch girl next to me let me borrow a paper and pen. I had heard right, the Dutch are all SO nice...and tall. I have never felt so normal sized in my life.

This weekend was really fun, we went out to bars, clubs, coffeeshops, even the red light district (awkward, I was the only girl not in a window in the entire area...). I also love that I basically turned 21 six months early...I purchased my first bottle of wine on Saturday! It was called Fat Bastard, and I drank the whole thing except for 2 small glasses that I gave away. That was kind of a mistake...but it was my first legally purchased alcohol? And I'm in it's ok? Karlee, you understand... :)

Sidenote...Abby, no spacecake stories yet...but you will be the first to know.

Today I'm going to look for a bike. I'm kind of nervous, biking is so intense here. There are special lanes, rules, and since I don't know where I'm going most of the time, I don't think its going to be easy for me. Also, biking home drunk will be an adventure to say the least...But I'm so excited to get used to biking around the city because it will make everything so much easier (and less expensive) it looks really fun!

I haven't had time to be online much, and now my internet in my room doesnt work, so that sucks. But hopefully it will be fixed soon so I can talk to some of you...and SKYPE! Miss you allll :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Five Days!

I guess it is finally starting to hit me that I'm leaving the country for 4 months in a matter of days since I just now acknowledged the fact that I know no Dutch. Not even how to say hello. So I bought a Dutch phrasebook today at Barnes and Noble and guess what? "Hallo" means "Hello" in Dutch. Obviously I'll be fine. Also, "hoeveel kost het?" means "how much is it?" That's basically the same, right?

Luckily, "everyone in Amsterdam speaks English," or so I'm told. Apparently they are also friendly and tall, so we will see.

I never really thought I'd make a blog, but studying abroad seems like a good a time as any to make one. Why wouldn't I want my trip to Amsterdam be immortalized on the internet? Hopefully it will be epic and worthy of a blog. Also, I just got my schedule of classes, and looks like I'm going to have plenty of free time...

M: 10:00-12:45
T: 9:00-11:45
Th: 12:00-3:45 (or 15:45, European time)

Oh, and within two weeks I have to drop one of those so that I only have 3 classes, so most likely Friday's gonna go. I haven't had to take a 9am since freshman year, and most of my classes have started after 12, so this should be interesting. On the bright side, I will usually be done class before my normal time waking up, so yea, tons of free time.

If you are reading this, and have gotten this far, it most likely means that I am going to miss you (or already do) A LOT. So download skype, because I just got a webcam and can't wait to use it! Also, everytime you are not really doing anything, add six hours to the time so you know what time it is for me, and think to yourself, "is it a reasonable time for Tanya to be online right now?" If so, go online and talk to me :)

My address, in case you are a REAL friend and want to send me something! (haha jk...but really...) is going to be:

Funenpark 10
Flat 52A
1018 AK Amsterdam

Give me your address and I promise to send you a postcard! Maybe even a really inappropriate one from the red light district!

I'll leave you with a pick up line straight from my Dutch phrase book:
"Die kleding zou geweldig staan op een hoopje naast mijn bed"
You got it, it's everyone's favorite, "Those clothes would look great in a pile next to my bed."
Gets 'em everytime.

That's all for now :)