I’m surprised at how un-jet-lagged I was. I woke up around 9 feeling ready to take on the world. By 10 I was out the door with an agenda. Get breakfast, roam the city on foot, visit Vondelpark, get ice cream, go to Bicycle Hotel by 6. Unfortunately, it seems this part of Amsterdam on Sunday sleeps in a bit later because the only places that looked open were cafes, and I didn’t think they served anything but coffee. Fun fact – I don’t drink coffee, especially in 80-90 degree weather.
So I skipped to step 2. I stopped by a big open lawn with a cool sculpture. Not having any real time crunch, I decided to post up for a while and read a chapter of Pollyanna, while observing the strange not-quite-crows. Eventually I found myself in Vondelpark and let me say, it’s big and awesome. It’s the kind of park you can get lost in, and it’s full of trails, creeks, playgrounds, and people. There was a fountain/water park that caught my eye that was full of families and little kids in a scene that seemed very Seattle Center to me.
By noon, it still seemed like nothing was open so I decided I would go back to Bart’s house and eat some of his cereal (he told me to help myself in his note). It did the trick and I was surprised at how un-hungry I was considering I had barely eaten since the plane ride. I felt a little lame killing the early afternoon at Bart’s, so I assured myself that after meeting up with everyone I’d be a bit more active.
In researching how to get to the Bicycle Hotel (walking with all my stuff would be horrid), it took me about 30 minutes to realize Google Maps probably does public transit in the Netherlands. Take notes Bing. I headed to the bus stop with plenty of time to spare, which I used to get some ice cream. Getting to the front of the line I politely asked, “Do you speak English?” to which the server responded with a smile and a laugh, “Of course!” I started to wonder if it was impolite to ask. My instinct tells me it’s impolite to walk up to someone and assume they speak a foreign language, but Trent informed me later that while asking was not necessarily impolite, it is sort of similar to asking someone if they dropped out of high school or not.
On the way out, I had my backpack on, duffle on one shoulder, and ice cream cone in the other hand. Needless to say, I was a bit clumsy and I tapped a parked bike with my bag. It went right down and took another bike with it. Only having one free hand, I struggled to put them up, which would have been hard without the help of a nice bystander.
Getting on the bus, I realized I did not have exact fare. I sheepishly asked if I could just pay 3 Euros for the 2.70 fare. I was surprised when the driver not only let me, but handed back change! Take notes King County Metro.
One thing I learned today is that you should never rely on buildings being organized in blocks. Contrary, there are many wide roads that have long rows of tightly packed buildings with no alleyways. I suspect they can pack a lot more into less space, but if you find yourself one “block” away from your destination, you may have to traverse one long row, then traverse back on the next. This is a fun thing to learn while carrying all your stuff for a four week trip on your back and shoulders.
I was initially locked out of the Bicycle Hotel and didn’t know what to do until a group of Americans walked right past me before one turned around and asked if I was looking for the Bicycle. Ah some of the grad students! I thought they looked familiar. It turned out that the door is always locked and you need a code.
We mingled for a bit before Trent began the orientation, which helped me feel less like a clueless child. Nobody seemed more with it than me, and the textbook I didn’t bring started sounding mighty optional. I’m sure I can borrow from others. We then took a short walking tour of the area that ended at a cafe where we mingled over drinks and a local snack called bitter ballen (it’s like deep fried gravy). We played “something interesting about yourself,” which I usually kind of hate. I never like playing the fencing card because maybe I don’t feel it makes me that interesting anymore. Ultimately, I doubled my interesting fact with a word of caution, explaining that I can have a bizarre sense of humor, sometimes thriving too much on awkward situations. Not sure how a fact like that comes off, but it’s here to stay. All-in-all it felt good to have met up with everyone. I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed a similar trip by myself.
Tomorrow is the first day of class at 10:00am and we also have a guest lecturer talking about Wikipedia. Not sure there will be much in the way of afternoon adventures, but we may have some fun in the evening. I’m looking forward to it! On a less “bright” note, while writing out today’s journal entry by hand, my reading light burned out and I brought no spare bulbs. Hopefully I work around this, because if I don’t, the 5 lbs of books I brought is wasted space.