Monday, June 28, 2010

Exploring The City Different

I've been in Santa Fe for just over a week now. It's interesting to be in a place that's so sunny, but not anywhere near as hot as Texas. Every morning starts out in the sixties and then it will heat up to the seventies. Sometime in the afternoon there will be a bit of rain and then it cools down again for the night.

Am I really talking about the weather? It's such a characteristically dull thing to talk about. In fact, when I'm speaking with people who I find dull or who I have nothing to say to, I deliberately talk about the weather. Does this mean I'm becoming dull? Efffff.

While I find some way to become interesting again (Kermit the Frog jacket? Carry around a vuvuzela?), enjoy these photos from around Santa Fe.

Front of part of the house

The river that runs through the backyard. Only, it's all dried up right now. 

This is where they filmed the opening of Timeline. Except not.

We invaded St. John's. I almost applied here. Kinda surreal to be on the campus.

Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O'Keefe used to spend her summers. She spent the rest of every year in New York. She was born in the Midwest, but lived in Texas for a while. Clearly, these geographic similarities make me the new Georgia O'Keefe.

This sign was near Abiquiu Lake. I don't get it.

Looking a bit froggy at Abiquiu Lake. It was cloudy most of the day, but I still managed a sunburn. That's talent there. Pure talent.


If you haven't seen the new Deathly Hallows trailer yet, WATCH. IT. NOW. It's giving me slight hope that they've finally got it right and made the film as interesting and awesome as the book. I guess I'll find out in 143 days.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

20 New Things: Over(view)!

FINALLY I am finishing 20 New Things. Only two months late, which is about typical for me.

1. Try Indonesian cuisine - I wish I had tried it more than once to get a better grasp of the cuisine, but I did it once so it made the list!

Buy and learn to use a dip pen - Well, the "learn to use" part didn't pan out because I couldn't find any ink... but at least I now have a dip pen without a fake feather attached to it so I can learn calligraphy without looking like a nerd. Did I just put "calligraphy" and "not... a nerd" in the same sentence? This altitude must be getting to me.

3. Attend a concert in Glasgow, Scotland -
No go. As it was going to take so much time, money and effort to nip up to Scotland during my six day trip to England, I told myself I would only go if a really awesome band had a show on the exact night I could be there. It turned out that the Dropkick Murphys would be playing! I was beyond stoked. Then, a few weeks later, they changed the date of the Glasgow show. In keeping with the rule I set for myself, I scrapped the trip to Scotland and replaced it with a trip to Stonehenge, which worked out rather well for the header, no?

Spend time at a café in Montmartre, France - Admittedly, this wasn't as cool as I thought it would be. Most of my trip to France was kind of a bust (lack of time, company of strangers, etc. etc.). However, now I at least have a mental map of the location of various arrondisements in Paris, which makes visualizing the city easier when I read stories set in Paris.

5. Go to Electric Ladyland - AGH! I am SO upset I did not do this. About four different times, I invited people to go with me and they bailed. I meant to go during my last week in Amsterdam, but completing my final papers took longer than expected and, before I knew it, I was back in Texas. So not ok. I was really looking forward to it.

6. Create a model of an Amsterdam neighborhood using food - So, after buying my first loaf of bread in Amsterdam, I realized that the loaves were more narrow than typical American loaves and it reminded me of the narrow houses that line the canals. I had this elaborate plan laid out that included making bridges out of stroopwafels and canals out of beer. Then I realized my grocery budget hardly allowed me to eat three meals a day, let alone construct edible versions of the city. 

7. Climb to the top of Dom Tower in Utrecht - Why are all of the things I didn't do lumped together in this list? It's making me feel like such a fetusfailcake. Even though this would have been completely plausible to accomplish, I axed it after climbing the Belfry Tower, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. That was more than enough climbing for me, thank you very much.

8. Eat at the Sea Palace Floating Restaurant - I kind of didn't foresee how expensive this place would be. Until I'm earning an income, I refuse to eat anywhere with fixed meals.

9. See the cages at St. Lambert’s Church in Münster, Germany - this is tied with Electric Ladyland for how upset I am I didn't do this. I didn't even make it out to Germany! Further reason I need to go back to Europe and soon.

Too many words.... Here's me with a pirate ship!

10. Ride my bike through the Dutch countryside - technically this isn't my fault. The program I was studying with had planned an excursion of epic proportions in which we were going to ride our bikes all day, stopping off for a traditional Dutch lunch and some swimming in the ocean. I was looking forward to it all semester and then it was cancelled due to weather. I tried to rally support for a reschedule, but no one else was as enthused as me.

11. Go to a football (soccer) game - FINALLY! Something I actually did! I went to the US v. Netherlands game and have been a soccer fan ever since. I completely have World Cup fever and spend my time in between matches playing FIFA10 on my iPhone. 

Eat only gluten-free foods for a day - I ended up giving up gluten for a full forty eight hours and miraculously lost weight during that short period of time! Prior to that weekend, I was a total breadhead. I averaged four pieces of toast for breakfast, one or two sandwiches a day and maybe some more toast with dinner. Since taking the Gluten-Free Challenge, I haven't had a single sandwich or piece of toast. I even cut back on crackers. I don't recommend a gluten-free diet for everyone, but it makes my body much happier.

13. Have an extended conversation with a local - Alright, technically I did do this. Plenty of times, in fact. The only problem is that when I wrote this goal, I intended for those conversations to be in Dutch and they totally weren't. I had countless conversations in English with locals, but my Dutch exchanges were limited to alstublieft and dankuwel.

14. Read the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians series - I didn't feel this one really needed a full blog entry devoted to it. I also thought it was actually going to be a difficult task to accomplish. Little did I know that I would spend my first two weeks in Amsterdam powering through the entire five-book series. Ok, yeah, it's a kid's book, but I didn't expect it to be so intriguing!

15. Send a postcard to no one in particular - Logistically, I wasn't sure how to do this. I thought about generating a random address number and random zip code, but I couldn't figure out how to not make it creepy. So, yeah, I didn't do this.

Attend a film festival - I inadvertently accomplished this one. See the link for the full story.

17. Spend a day only speaking Dutch (or else not speaking) - HAHAHA! Yeah right. Maybe if any of the Dutch had let me actually speak in Dutch this could've happened. Otherwise that whole day would've been spent asking for coffees and refusing plastic bags. 

Eat a true croissant in France - Success! I never liked croissants until this past semester, but being in Europe totally turned me into a croissant maniac. I didn't experience TOO much of a difference between Dutch and French croissants (the French will murder me for that statement), but I had a croissant in a cafe here in Santa Fe the other day and immediately remembered why I've never liked them. I guess Americans just haven't figured out the mystery of the croissant yet.

19. Have a no-tech day (with the exception of keeping my required emergency phone on) - Totally disappointed in myself for not doing this one. It's being rolled over to my 21 New Things list. Ideally, I'd like to go tech-free once a month, but I'll see if I can even manage it once a year first.

 Leave behind some sort of time capsule for the future inhabitants of my apartment - Ah, I'm so glad I get to end this list with an accomplishment. Almost makes me feel successful.

STATS: 8.5/20

Not so hot. But, if you think about it, I began the project eight months late. So, taking into account I only had a third of the time to achieve all of the goals, I actually did pretty well. 

That's what I'm telling myself anyways.

I think the moral of my failures is to not put things off until the end of the semester, especially if you're studying abroad. My friends and I kept saying "when the weather is better, when the weather is better." But the weather wasn't better until mid-May when we were frantically writing research papers, our bikes had broken down and no one had any money left to travel or do anything besides scope out free food.

Despite how this may look like a failed project, some of the things I accomplished ended up being mildly life-changing. I never would've had the motivation to go a whole weekend without gluten if it hadn't been for the Gluten-Free Challenge and then I never would've realized how amazing I feel when my body is cleared of gluten. I also highly doubt I would've gone to that soccer game and now I can't believe I've lived without soccer since 2000 (I spent ages three to ten as left defender for the Sharks and the Scorpions, total baller). 

I'm determined to beat my 8.5 in the coming year! I've almost finished my list for 21 New Things and it's my hope that with an entire year to complete them, I'll be a bit more successful. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

20 New Things: Leave behind a time capsule for the future inhabitants of my apartment

This is probably the last 20 New Thing I did that I will actually blog about. I just never got around to writing about some of the other ones I did and now, frankly, I don't feel like it. I will post an overview of what I ended up accomplishing (not much), but this will be the last full post (and too right it should be since I've been 20 for almost two months now).

The apartment building I stayed at in Amsterdam was specifically made for international university students. It was really much more like a dorm. We had one giant room that included beds and a kitchen plus a bathroom and walk-in closet.

The tenants each semester leave behind whatever dish ware they bought so that they next tenants have a few things to start off with (being international students, most don't pack a full set of utensils in their suitcase). Given that, I decided the best place to leave a little note for the next tenant would be inside a piece of dish ware. I'm not sure how well the places get cleaned before new students move in (if the state of our place when we arrived is any indication, not much). So, hiding the note inside the dishes seemed like the best way to avoid the note getting thrown away.

I scribbled (actually scribbled. Look at the state of my handwriting. My first grade teacher would be so ashamed.) a note on the back of a photo of clouds that had previously hung above my bed and stuffed it into an old jar of olives.

I really don't know why we had a jar of olives. When my roommate and I moved in, it soon became apparent that we had significantly less kitchen supplies than anyone else in the building. We had one butter knife, one bread knife, three spoons, two sporks (yes, sporks) and a peeling cast-iron pan. Other rooms had coffee-makers, full sets of utensils, microwaves, multiple pots and even sushi mats. One thing we had that they didn't, however, was an entire shelf of empty jars.

Why? I'll never know. I can only assume our room was previously occupied by Maureen Johnson.

At any rate, I hope someone finds this note eventually. I never took the time to look inside the random collection of jars, but if someone does, I hope it brightens their day. Especially if they are beginning their time abroad in the winter because, honestly, Holland just sucks in the winter.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Freakin it, Sweatin it, Bustin the mic

I've been in Texas for the past eight days trying to stuff in a summer's worth of hanging out with friends and a month's worth of packing. Said packing consists of going through practically everything I have owned since age nine. It's quite the task. On the bright side, I've found plenty of cash stuffed away in strange places (including an entire jar of Euros and Pounds, why did I not find those before I left for Europe??) and some hilarious journal entries/school assignments. I'll include some of the gems in this post.

I wouldn't have it any other way. Stars, noodles and chillaxing on the roof remain some of my favorite things.

On Saturday morning, I move to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Apparently, I went camping in New Mexico a lot as a child. I vaguely remember seeing a woman making pottery. That's about it. So, this move is very much my "Great Perhaps." I anticipate a rejuvenating summer of hiking, reading and finally having an excuse to wear sun hats and bandanas (that desert/mountain sun is no joke!).

Hopefully that rejuvenation will pan out, but in my typical fashion, I've already over booked myself with too many goals. I'm applying for an internship at the public radio station, I've just taken on a few responsibilities with the Harry Potter Alliance (see the bottom of the post!), I'm going to start training for a 5K, I hope to spend 20 hours/week applying for scholarships and another 20 hours/week reading. Not to mention yoga/pilates three times a week, having to do dishes and laundry by hand, getting started on 21 New Things, keeping up with this blog and getting ready to move to New York.

...Yeah. Rejuvenating, isn't it?

Blogs will probably continue to be scarce for the next two weeks as I move and get settled in. Expect a ton of photos of the new place and then some left over blogs from Amsterdam. Wish me luck!

A Note on the Harry Potter Alliance:
The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a nonprofit charity organization. Inspired by Dumbledore's Army in the Harry Potter books, HPA works to alert the public about global warming, poverty and genocide as well as fighting for equal rights regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or gender. Its projects range from large scale successes in raising funding to aid civilians in Darfur and Haiti to small scale book drives within local chapters across the world. Right now, HPA is in second place to win $250,000 in the Chase Community Giving contest. This money would make a huge difference in HPA's ability to mobilize support and continue its fight against real evils in the Muggle World.

To vote and help push HPA into first place, go here and click on the green "Get started to vote" button. After following the instructions, click on the green "Vote now" button. Even your one vote will help, but if you'd really like to help out HPA, share the link with friends via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Thanks so much for your help!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

One Day Left!

Since my last post, I've been working tirelessly on completing two research papers. Then, as soon as I finished, it was time to do every single thing I had been putting off doing all semester. Fun things, mind you. Like going to the science museum and buying souvenirs. Still, it takes up a lot of time. So, as I try to get everything done before leaving Tuesday morning, I haven't had much time for blogging.

There is so incredibly much that needs to be said about my time here. I still have several half-written blogs about Amsterdam that won't get posted until I leave Amsterdam... oops. Most likely I'll be feeling more eloquent and nostalgic once I get back to the underwhelming dead grass and superhighways of Texas. I'll write something nice then.

For now, I'm going to make some lists.

5. Wind. It is a very windy city and it makes biking extra strenuous.
4. Conversion rate. I've been fortunate that the conversion rate has gone down since I got here, but it's still frustrating that everything is priced with the same numbers as it would be in the US, except it's really 1.25 as expensive. For example, a top at H&M might be $12 in the US and 12 Euros here, but that that really means it costs $15. Trickery!
3. Streets. The streets are organized in a semi-circle, at best, and change names in completely random patterns. I still get lost anytime I go to a new place. Also, biking on cobblestone bricks = no bueno.
2. Espresso. They only drink espresso. Even if you ask for filter coffee, they will inevitably give you espresso.*
1. Water. Most places in Europe charge you for ordering water at a restaurant, but Holland takes it one step further. There are no water fountains anywhere here.

5. Being so close to water all the time. Biking along canals is wonderful.
4. Biking. And the fact that so many forms of transportation other than cars exist.
3. Pannenkoeken and stroopwafels.
2. Drinking in parks. Actually, being legal to drink in general. One more year before I'm allowed to order a glass of wine with dinner. A WHOLE YEAR.
1. Climate. Fifty degrees in May. Amazing.

5. Have access to my Netflix account.
4. Return to my full wardrobe.
3. Listen to 104.9 Salaam Namaste.
2. Eat Chick-Fil-A and Bedford Snoballs.
1. Have epic adventures with my friends.

My friends Rose, Rosemary and I on the roof of the NEMO science center overlooking Amsterdam.

* If anyone reading happens to be in Amsterdam or going in the next few months, check out the Stumptown Coffee in Albert Cuyp Markt. They're my favorite Portland-based coffee roaster (on my trip to the Pacific Northwest last summer I tasted and compared as many different coffees as possible) and they've sent a crew of baristas to Amsterdam for three months to show Europeans that coffee is still cool and often better than espresso. Check out the baristas' tumblrs here and here.