Saturday, November 29, 2014

Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving!

Hello There!

Even though I'm currently in a country where Thanksgiving isn't such a big deal as it is in the U.S., I still managed to celebrate and I can still be thankful for things.  I'll talk about my thanksgiving experiences in a different post, but right now, I want to type up my annual list of things that I'm thankful for (in no particular order).

1. Ovens.  I didn't realize my appreciation of ovens until this semester when I found out that I have no access to an oven.  I had access to a confection oven once which was the size of an over-sized microwave, but it's just not the same.  You can't fit four cookie sheets in that.  You can't fit many loafs of bread in that.  So I can't wait to get back to the U.S. so that I can start baking up a storm again.  But I can wait five more weeks.  In the mean time, I've been able to up my savory dishes game and experiment with dinner-type meals rather than desserts.

2. The Fact that my Family was Able to Come and Visit me in the Netherlands.  My family came to the Netherlands/France/Belgium for two weeks and I was able to spend most of that time with them.  It was something I was looking forward to and that I'd talk obsessively about with my friends.  It was really important to me that my family come to visit me sometime while living abroad and they did and it was extra special because they came over Thanksgiving.  You'll here more about this in the other post that I mentioned.

3. Bravery.  This semester, this has been extra important for me and I'm very happy that bravery and I have gotten to rub elbows a few times.  I've talked to complete strangers, tried out languages I've either never spoken or haven't spoken for a while, gotten comfortable with asking questions without having to work up the courage for a long time, and traveled outside of the Netherlands on my own.  I couldn't have done those things without working up the courage to do them.  Hurray for bravery!

4. The Ability to travel.  I recognize that I'm incredibly fortunate to be of able body and to have enough money to go to a number of places this semester.  I've seen some really amazing things.  Some things, such as Platform 9 3/4, I've been looking forward to visiting for years and other things, such as Marrakesh, Morocco in one week, I never imagined I'd see this semester.  I'm thankful that I have the resources to go and see these places.  Not everyone does.

5. Potatoes, Pasta, and Rice.  Without these things, I probably wouldn't eat most of the time.

6. Skype (as well as Email and Social Media).  I'm over 4,000 miles away from Minnesota, where my life is.  So it's nice to have an easy way to get in contact with my family when they're not here, Jack (significant other), and anyone else who wants to talk to me who isn't here.  It's a beautiful thing.  My great grandmother used to have a Chinese (?) exchange student before the internet existed.  I think I was discussing this with my mom before... we still wonder what it would be like to be so far away from home and not be able to get in easy contact with your family.  This student would have either needed to make a really expensive phone call on the landline or they would have needed to send a letter, to which he would get a reply a minimum of two weeks later.  That would be really hard.  I don't think I could do it.  So really, I have it easy right now.

7. Always Having Something New To Explore (and Never Being Bored).  I'm thankful that I currently live in a small country where something new is always around the corner.  There's always something new that I can explore.  Also, even though I live in a relatively small town, I still haven't explored everything, even after living here for over three months.  It's really hard to be bored here.  You'd have to specifically set out out to be bored in order to be bored, and even then, you'd still probably fail.

I think that's a good list for this year.  It's kind of a full year.  I have a lot more to be thankful for, but I share those things with you as they happen, pretty much.

Thanks for Reading!  I have tons more to share, so look for a post about France and Thanksgiving for sure in the coming days.

Tot Ziens!


Monday, November 24, 2014

A Review of 'How To Be A Woman' by Caitlin Moran

"Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women.  They are best by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians?  Why do bras hurt?  Why the incessant talk about babies?  And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own life, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.  With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth-- whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children-- to jump-start a new conversation about feminism.  With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be A Woman lays bare the reasons female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for woman today but also for society itself."

There was a lot of talk surrounding this book on and among BookTubers on YouTube, so of course I had to get my hands on this book and see what it was all about for myself!

It was much funnier than I ever thought it would be.  I didn't expect a 100% serious conversation about womanhood and feminism, but I was still pleasantly surprised by what I did read and how Caitlin Moran wrote (writes?).

I really like that Caitlin Moran creates an atmosphere for and about women.  It felt good to be included, however indirectly.  There's just one thing though.  I do wish that the conversation included men more.  Caitlin (yeah, we're on a first name basis now) has some really excellent points.  Not every chapter should involve men (like, the chapters on childbirth maybe.  Or periods), but there are some conversations in this book that are for all genders.  Feminism isn't just about women.  It's about the equality of all genders.  So when Caitlin said something along the lines of "Do you have a vagina?  Do you want to control it?" in an attempt to define what feminism is and when one is a feminist, I felt that her definition needed to be more inclusive.  Yes, I want to control my body by making my own decisions about when and how often I give birth, how much I want to have sex per week, whether or not I'm on birth control, etc.  I want the same amount of pay a man gets for holding the same job as I do.  Likewise, I want it to be perfectly normal and okay for a man to be sensitive (as opposed to our society's ideal of a macho tough guy), I want men to be able to take on roles that a woman has traditionally played in the past, I want men to be able to get proper help and to be taken seriously if they're sexually assaulted (because sexual assault isn't solely a crime against women... it shouldn't be a crime against anyone).  I don't want those who don't identify as either male or female to be completely defined by their body parts.

So feminism isn't just for women.  In order to find ourselves in a truly post-feminist world, we need everyone's help and input.  One gender can't do it alone.  There won't be equality if there isn't a group effort.

It would be kind of cool if there was some discussion in the comments,

This was an excellent read.  I laughed, I felt for Caitlin in certain situations, and it really got me thinking.

I give 'How To Be A Woman':
Thanks for Reading!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: Short Trip to Belgium

It's like I never stay home, right?

Any way, from Wednesday to Friday, I was in Belgium with my Central College group and Steef.


We hopped on the train around noon in Leiden, took a train to the Den Haag HS station, and got on a train to Brussels.  Since we got on at the beginning of the line, basically, we all got a set of seats to ourselves, which was nice.  After arriving in Brussels, we left the train station and walked to our hostel where we'd stay for the next two nights.  We had to cut through the center of Brussels to get there, so we had a little time to take in the city as we went.  I liked Brussels right away.  It was a bustling city and everywhere I went, I could see and hear French and Dutch.  German is another official language of Belgium, but since the country is sandwiched between the Netherlands and France, naturally those languages are dominant.  I think this was the first time I've heard French spoken ubiquitously since I was in France in 2012.  I was incredibly happy!  It's been a while since I heard French, but I was happy to be able to pick out more words than I thought I could, despite not having a lot of practice since leaving high school.

Since we arrived in Brussels in the afternoon, we went out and walked around Brussels for a while.  Meanwhile, I took pictures:

A church close to where we were staying in Brussels.

City hall.
This is a shopping street.  It's technically outdoor, just covered.  It was covered so that when people who owned carriages wanted to go shopping, they wouldn't have to be exposed the weather.  This isn't the only one of these streets in Brussels.

The opera house.  This is also where someone (I wish I could remember who) got the idea to make Belgium its own country (before, Belgium was part of the Netherlands).
A memorial celebrating those who gave their lives to make Belgium a country.

Lots of walking makes a person thirsty.  So we stopped and got different flavors of beer before hunting down a place to eat.  I had apple beer.  The fruit beers are a dangerous type to get because they don't even taste like beer-- mine tasted like I was drinking sparkling apple juice.  So good!

Dinner that night was at the drug opera.  It's not what it sounds like.
Day two of walking around Brussels.  We went a lot farther into the city than we did the day before.  It does help that we got an early start.

Belgian government building.  Parliament maybe?  This is the problem with waiting too long after you travel to write your blog post...
The park opposite the government building above.

Marika walking on the rounded edge of the pond (that's why Abby's helping)

It looks like fall has really set in in Belgium, but in truth, Belgium was very, very green still.  It felt like the beginning of fall.  Some of the trees hadn't even started to change colors when we were there.

We crossed this street and then we noticed that other people were crossing the street and stopping in the middle to put on a juggling show while the light was red.  Good way to get attention, I guess!
Plants growing on the wall.

Part of the Berlin Wall in front of the EU Parliament.

One of the biggest things we did on our second day in Belgium was go and visit the EU Parliament.  I don't think you can actually go into Parliament itself, but there's a museum you can go in.  The museum is about why the EU was created, remembers stories from around Europe, and teaches you about Parliament itself (how it works, etc.).

Found the Netherlands!
Below are some of my favorite stories that are being remembered about Europe through the years in the EU Museum:

The Beatles craze reaches Denmark
The feminist movement begins in Italy
First same-sex marriages in the Netherlands!  2001!!
There were these sensors on the floor that you wheeled over parts of Europe on the floor and you could learn more about that place.

There were games you could play to learn more about how the EU works.  This was a really frustrating game where you had to seat everyone in the right place.  The little people wouldn't listen to you and if they bumped into something or someone, they forgot where they needed to go.  Stupid people...
We continued our walk around Brussels.

The palace in Belgium

A church on a hill that reminded me of Notre Dame in Paris (which I'll get to see soon!).
Abby had a friend that studied abroad in Belgium and we were told that we needed to try the cookie beer from Delirium.  So we went to the Delirium village and we got some.  Delirium is famous for having 2,004 beers on tap at once at one point in time.  

Cookie beer is disgusting.


The next morning, we woke up, got our stuff together, had breakfast, and then went and caught the train to Bruges.  We had a one hour train ride from Brussels.  I met a nice lady on the train whom I absolutely admired.  She knows so many languages and she's looking to learn more.  She also wants to travel more.  She was an older lady too, so to have that drive to travel for long periods of time (she was talking about spending a month in Portugal, since she's learning Portuguese, and she expressed a desire to see more of the U.S., although finding a place to stay for a month or more has proven to be expensive and a little hard for her to find.  I hope she makes it to the U.S. again.  I know she'll make it to Portugal.

Swans loving each other.

Bruges city hall.
We went into this church.  It claimed to have a sample of the blood of Jesus Christ from the crucifixion.  I did go up to see.

The sample was on a piece of cloth in a tube for protection.  It's dry, of course, but there are stories that if the blood turns to liquid again, it's a very bad omen.  It is said that the blood turned liquid again before World War I and World War II began.

We ate some really good food and I took a lot of pictures of this fairy tale-like town.  Bruges, I hope to see you again some day.  I'll have to return to see Gent and Antwerp as well.

Thanks for Reading!  Next week, I'll do my best to make a post about Paris.

Tot Ziens!