Things are good out here in the Netherlands! This was not the same case two months ago. Or three months ago. It was pure hell, in all honesty.
So I was in Wales for most of May to take exams and finish out the school year strong, and then I came back to the Netherlands at the end of May, around the 26th or 27th. Immediately after getting back, one of my best friends from Texas, Beth, came out to visit for two weeks. That was really good! I miss her all the time. The only difficult thing was I have a really small room, so it was a tight fit having the both of us in! We visited Amsterdam, spent time with our good friend, Cate, and went to Cologne, Germany with Cate as well. I was doing a lot of working during the week, so we weren't able to do as much exploring (and I was flat broke). It was a really good time, though.
Don't worry, I'll get to the traveling bits of the past few months as soon as I discuss the horrible, hellish bits of the past few months. It's always darkest before the dawn, right? Same in my blog. Always.
Inappropriate use of meme, but I use it anyway.
Right! So what made these past few months horrible? I had no money. That always makes things horrible. You can talk about how money isn't everything, but when you have no transportation, shoes with holes, and a hairdo like Yoko Ono, money becomes vastly important.
The bus, without an OV chipcard, costs me 7 euros to work and another 7 euros back home from work. My parents were helping me pay for groceries, but I really didn't want to ask more for that. Thus, the bus was not an option unless I felt like begging money off friends, but I hate borrowing money. My bicycle had been stolen back in April, so I couldn't bike to work. I had to walk. It took an hour and 20 minutes each way. One hour. Twenty minutes. 80 minutes. The same amount of time it takes to watch a movie. 80 minutes. At least I was healthy, right?
So that was one cost. Groceries were ok. Other things happened though. My shoes had holes in them. I could take a pebble out of my shoe without removing my shoe. All I had to do was bend the bottom of my shoe back. It came about halfway off. My hairdryer had attempted to catch on fire back in January, so I haven't had a hairdryer since. I kept telling myself I would buy one when I got paid... but when would I be paid?! Thus, as a result, I looked like Yoko Ono. My hair was unruly and poofy.
I wish I had been this cute as a poofy creature.
Despite the walking, holey sneakers, lack of hairdryer, and rather puny wardrobe, I kept faith because I had headphones and a functional iPod. Haaaaa. The day after I noted that, my headphones broke. I was truly distraught. I felt like everything had been taken away. My transportation, my ability to look well groomed, my shoes (I only have 4 pairs, and two of those pairs are for church)... but you know, reading this, I don't feel like I had it all that bad. I think I was just frustrated because I needed to pay my rent as well, but I had no means to do that. Luckily, my landlord was lovely about the whole situation and was ok with me paying once I had been paid. It was so frustrating though. I was constantly stressed. Luckily, I finally got paid half of my wage (to be explained shortly) at the end of June. Mind you, I started working in April. It took that long to get bank details sorted and be paid. I was questioning if I would ever get paid. But why did I only get half of my paycheck? Because of the lovely Dutch bureaucracy. I had to get a BSN, a Dutch social security number. I couldn't even open a Dutch bank account without it. Before I went back to Wales for exams, I had a meeting to get my BSN. Long story short, I had to have a residence permit (which no one had told me about) before I could get my BSN. I was told they wouldn't give me a BSN until I had a residence permit. The residence permit wouldn't be granted until Philips (the company this internship is with) did the paperwork. I was told I would have to come back to get my BSN in June. So! When I was back in June, after Beth left, I had an appointment to get my BSN. I went in, talked to the lady my appointment was with, and she kindly informs me that my BSN had been granted... in April. FLIPPIN APRIL. They bloody lied to me! I could have been paid my full wage in May! But noooo!
Frustrated doesn't even cover it.
Anyway, Philips has a cut off for when you can hand in bank details, etc. for payday, and I "got" my BSN too late for my June salary. I got paid a nice fat amount for July, though!
Things got better, though. My family came to visit for my graduation from July 11th to July 22nd. My mom loves me and gave me a hairdryer (NO MORE YOKO ONO) as well as headphones. My supervisor gave me this truly horrendous bicycle to borrow. Haha, I really don't think anyone will steal this one! Its seat is falling apart, it makes a quiet screaming noise when I cycle, the brakes fail sometimes, and you can't pedal backwards or else the chain will fall off. Plus it has two mighty locks. Not worth the effort to steal. I love this bicycle. (Let me just mention how distracting it is typing with Michael Scott telling me he is going to kill me).
This is my beautiful bicycle. Note the seat. It's gotten worse.
But! Don't think I'm being pessimistic now! I am truly grateful for everything, and I do genuinely love this bicycle. It has so much character. I'm also forever grateful for my friends and family who helped me out during that time. Things are better now. Side note: this update is going to be scattered and unorganized.
So! My family came to visit! It was really good. We started in Liverpool, flew to Amsterdam and spent a day there, then went to Cologne, Germany for a couple of days, then Ballymoney, NI for a couple of days, to Bangor for graduation, and then to London to finish off the trip. I did love the whole experience even though I was grouchy and rude to my family sometimes *I'm sorry*. We were in Cologne for the World Cup, so that was awesome. The Germans were going absolutely mental! In Amsterdam we went to the Rijks, did the Amsterdam Dungeons, and wandered around. I like Amsterdam, but not the billions of people aspect *to be discussed shortly*. In Cologne we saw the Cologne Cathedral, absolutely gorgeous. When I had gone with Beth and Cate I went up to the top. Picture time.
These are pictures from the top. Here is one looking directly at it:
Pictures never do the beauty of things [and people] justice. It's a gorgeous cathedral.
So in Cologne all the museums are closed on Mondays (unfortunate for us as we were there Sunday and Monday), and instead we took a trip on a cable car and went to the zoo. I really liked the zoo. My brother was even lucky enough to see some naked old women swimming in a pool below us in the cable car! My mom and dad saw it too. Poor, poor me. I missed out. *PLEASE NOTE THE SARCASM*
In Liverpool we went to The Beatles Story and just walked around Albert Dock/city centre. I've been to Liverpool, so it wasn't really anything new for me.
Ballymoney was my favorite part of the trip. I was a member of Benbrook Sister Cities while I was in high school (it's been shut down by city council, don't get me started on that). Benbrook was sister cities with Ballymoney, Northern Ireland and Bled, Slovenia. I never did Slovenia, but I did the program with Ballymoney. I've made so many good friends through that. I didn't get to see one of my host sisters, Sara-Anne, but we did get to see my other host sister, Rebekah, and her family. I love Northern Ireland. I fell in love with it my first time there as a 16 year old. I'll be going there for Christmas this year, something I am well excited about! While there we did the typical touristy stuff: Giant's Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede bridge, White Rocks beach... oh yeah, went to visit Carrickfergus Castle, outside of Belfast. This was new for me. I hadn't seen this castle before. Umm... I think that's all? Here's a few pictures that I took:
A view of the ocean from Carrickfergus Castle.
White Rocks Beach.
I TOOK THIS WITH MY PHONE. SO PROUD.
Aiden, my brother, on Carrick-A-Rede Bridge.
It's not blurry... it's artistic...
Can you not see why I have fallen madly head over heels in love with this place?!
Funny story about Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. So, Aiden really wanted to go on it, but we weren't sure if we had enough time before our flight to Liverpool that evening. My dad hates heights, especially from a rope bridge, and no one else really cared if they went because we'd all done it before. I went ahead and took Aiden. It's about 1.5 miles to walk to the bridge. We did some speed walking, went across the bridge, and then Aiden goes, "Ok, I'm done."
Let me explain. Once you cross this bridge, you're on top of a grassy cliff, that is quite a good size. You walk up to the top, see a marvelous, incredible, gorgeous view, and then you can leave. Aiden doesn't want to go up.
"Are you sure, Aiden? It's really pretty up at the top!"
"No," he responds. "I'm good. I just wanted to cross the bridge. It wasn't scary."
What the flip, child.
Since I'd already been there twice, I was like, "Ok, we'll head back." So we proceed across the bridge.
I have to agree with him, though... the bridge isn't scary. The scariest part is the stairs. They've made the bridge too safe. Here's a better view than the ones I've given you:
It's so beautiful. If you're an avid reader of my blog, I'm sure you've heard about Northern Ireland and everything before. I just can't get over how incredible it is. It's a place I will always recommend people to visit. Always.
What else? Umm... graduation was good! I learned that British ceremonies are 10000000x better than American ones. My high school graduation took ages. So many speeches. So much clapping. So much... grandeur. This one was simple. We walked in, sat down, crossed the stage one by one, congratulations, DONE. It was over in an hour. No long speeches. Fantastic. Here's a shot of me and my friends celebrating.
It felt so good to finally graduate! I graduated with a first as well! That's the British version of a 4.0. Next step for me: masters. I start in September.
Ok! Last stop on the Cook adventure: London. I'm not a huge fan of London. Apparently my dad is not a huge fan either. Oh! Right! By the way, this was Aiden and my dad's first time out of the US. Yay them!
Ok, anyway, London! I had never been during hardcore tourist season before. It was absolutely miserable. Go during the non-tourist season, ladies and gents, boys and girls. Or rather, anytime other than May through... mid-September. Yes. I think that would do it. It was so crowded! We had a good time though. We saw Big Ben, Parliament, the Eye, Thames River, blah blah blah. We also went to Ripley's Believe It or Not (better than I thought it would be) and did a Jack the Ripper tour, as I've done with my mom before. It was good. But all those people! We were stuffed like sardines on the tube. It was hot and miserable down there. It's always crowded, but so much worse during the summer.
Man, this blog doesn't even begin to cover everything. I feel like I do a poor job conveying everything. New goal: become better at blogging. The thing is, if I were to go into detail about everything, it would take you centuries to read it all.
Anyway, after London we went to Manchester since that where we were flying out of. My parents and brother went back to Washington and I came back to Eindhoven. I miss them already!
Now, onto that topic about crowds and how much I hate them. I have learned that I definitely do not want to live in a city during the majority of my life. London and Amsterdam were the worst... but Eindhoven can be just as bad. The Netherlands is small geographically, but they have a really big population. As a result, there is always someone around. Always.
Not gonna lie, I'm enjoying throwing this in.
That's part of why I love Bangor so much. It's small, ruralish, and easy to get away from people, easy to get away from noise. There are parks here in Eindhoven, but you feel so confined in them. They're designated squares of forest. It's like a false sense of escape, a false sense of wilderness. I love being around people, yeah, but for small amounts of time. That's why I could never permanently live in the Netherlands. It is too populated for my liking.
I have learned a lot about Dutch culture. Not everything, no, but a lot. I've learned that the Dutch are very direct. They don't faff. They don't have a superficial liking for you. They say it how it is. I like it. They love licorice (some of which made me make faces I never knew possible; absolutely vile versions of licorice), they cycle everywhere, and sandwiches are the go-to meal. I fit in well with that. I live off of sandwiches. They eat this meat paste on their sandwich though. I've tried the tuna kind. It is good. I haven't tried the others though. The Dutch love dairy products. Chocomel (chocolate milk) is absolutely amazing here. The cheese here is awesome too. Haha, in Amsterdam, there are cheese shops everywhere! While I was there with my family, Aiden spotted a cheese museum and had us go there. It was basically a cheese shop with free samples. There was this one sample, truffle cheese. I picked up a piece, but then I got really scared at the last minute. I went, "Dad! I got you a free sample!" He ate it. And he gagged. And I think he swore. I'm pretty sure he said it tasted like sh*t [I'm making my blog Mormon-friendly, guys, for mah peeps]. He was not happy with me. Haha.
Oh! Also, this nationality is more forefront in... compliments? I've had more guys whistle at me and tell me I'm hot here than anywhere else. I feel so popular. Jokes. I secretly love the attention, though. Especially since I don't get attention from Mormon guys too often, and when I do it is short lived. Enough about that though.
We have an ongoing joke about these pigeons and them taking over the world. Anyway, yesterday I noticed that Rob has pigeons in a cage in his back garden. What, is he planning on taking over the world? Nee. (Nee = No in Dutch). I talked to him yesterday. He races them. I've been told this is a typical Dutch thing. Why pigeons?! I hate birds. And flies.
Ohhh maaaaan... anything else to say?
Oh! American friends! You know how we typically eat dinner between 6 and 7? Well, the British and the Dutch do it too, but this is not a worldly norm. A lot of other countries eat way later. It makes sense, but it had never crossed my mind before that people would eat dinner after 9pm...
I guess that really is it for now. I'm currently working on my masters thesis (early bird gets the worm... and a free summer next year). Since my masters program is a one year program, I'm trying to figure out where to go for my PhD. I'm looking at Virginia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and New Zealand. I'm kind of rooting for New Zealand at the moment... but knowing me, I'll do a 180 during the upcoming year. Who knows where I'll end up? I refuse to take the GRE, so my options in the US are limited. Reasons to not take the GRE: I already have my bachelors, I will have my masters, I've done plenty of extracurricular research in labs, I refuse to pay the money, and it only tests my ability to take a test. The GRE test, specifically. Why the hell should I need it to get my PhD?! The money spent on the test, traveling to Manchester to take the test, accommodation in Manchester, and study materials for the test can very wisely be used in a much more rewarding fashion. The American education system already gets enough of my flippin money. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to take this test. I can get my education elsewhere, thank you very much.
Ok, before I start ranting on things, I'm going to end there. Adios muchachos! Vaarwel!