Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I AMsterdam

This weekend has been one wild ride in a wonderful way! I may have to split this up. Friday I had an actual school day, including two hours of gym class. We ran again, and this time I knew where I was going, which is a very precious sensation for an exchange student! Then we played hockey. PE here is not coed, which I initially thought was silly, but now I love it. Girls can actually play a game, hockey for instance, without getting run over or standing on the sidelines the entire time. And you don’t feel as slow when the boys aren’t blasting past you all the time.
Julia was feeling better so we went on a shopping expedition to the mall, via the bus(I checked that she had pushed the button about 50 times on the way home). Then we found out that we were going to a birthday party that night. It was nice, and I tried a Spanish type of light alcohol called Spagria or something like that (wine, fruit juice, and some specific type of fruit that I didn’t understand in French). We didn’t get home until midnight.
 After 4 hours of sleep, we got up to get ready to catch the train with AFS to Amsterdam. (!!!) We joined another group of AFSers in Brussels for a total of about 20 students and volunteers. We had a great time swapping host family and first-day-of-school stories. Our first activity in Amsterdam was a boat ride through the city’s canals. I spent the first half of the ride on the outer deck taking photos before I realized that there was a tour (in English too!) going on inside the boat. So I was able to recognize Anne Frank’s house and some historic churches that we passed, and I have photos of the rest!
After that we walked to the main square and split up for lunch. We walked through the tourist traps and eyeballed all the marijuana tshirts and wooden shoes. We passed a Vodka museum and a Sex museum. I guess Amsterdam is the pot and sex capital of Europe.
I absolutely refused to eat McDonald’s while in Amsterdam, so I went with another American girl to a Friterie and enjoyed some European fast food.  My first actual friterie fries with fritesaus were definitely impressive. I am spoiled for life.
We regrouped to take a tour through Madame Toussaud’s. I had never been to a wax museum before, so I was impressed by the level of detail in all the figures. We had a lot of fun mugging for the camera with Van Gogh, Johnny Depp, Charlie Chaplin, Ghandi, and lots of other notables. Obama was the newest attraction, but you had to pay to have your picture taken with him, so I skipped that one.  There were several fake tourists set up at strategic points, and I apologized to one for bumping into him before I realized he was wax. There was also a sort of haunted-house section. I got caught between groups and ended up all alone. Yeek. I spent the entire time in cautious, frozen silence, trying to anticipate the next spook. Some of the other girls lost their voice.
  Next I chose to go to the Van Gogh Museum with several other students. SO AMAZING. We saw the ACTUAL Bedroom, Crows in a Cornfield, Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, and so many others!!! Van Gogh is my favorite artist because his work is so full of movement, color, and feeling. In person, the effect was even stronger, and you could actually see the globs of paint and brushstrokes he used. The security for the museum was very strict; no cameras, coatcheck, no backpacks, and a full body scan, but the paintings are definitely worth it!
On the way back from the museum, in between dodging bicycles (there were more bicycles than cars), we stopped for dinner. I had a ‘hot dog’ which was much too good to be a real hotdog, and tried a Dutch dessert: Stroopwafel. It’s basically a waffle-wafer with honey and caramel. Quite tasty.  
We laughed at the menus in English, their sizes were: Small or Big. There was a lot of English everywhere. I kept speaking French and then realizing that no one knew what I was saying. Sometimes I would explain that I was American in French when they adressed me in English. It was very befuddling. I have started speaking French involuntarily when I’m speaking English with Julia. I am starting to understand more in school too, thank heavens!
 After dinner we took photos with the I amsterdam statue and headed back to catch the train. After several late trains, we finally got home around 1:30. Luckily I had decided not to try to go to church the next day, and I slept like a rock. I managed to drag myself out of bed before lunch, when Pépé, Cecile, Sabine and her son, and Catherine’s family came over.  After Poulet en Peau (roast chicken) and Madame Blanche (vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream) we headed out to the Tournai fair. The fair had a lot of ‘American’ booths; I laughed at their depictions of hamburgers with pasta and how exotic American stuff is. We went on several small rides and watched Catherine’s 5 year old daughter  enjoy pony rides. Before leaving we tried Croustillons, basically doughnuts with powdered sugar. Really good, like all deep-fat fried food. The sweet stand also had 5 kg (10 lbs ish) jars of Nutella sitting on the counter. Julia and I took pictures of them.
Whew. I think that's all. Good weekend.

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