Tuesday, 27 October 2015

What do you say to spiders at 7 o' clock?

     Now that I had to take an hour off my clocks, these past few days I feel like I have been time travelling. It took me a while to understand why I feel I'm always running late or why I am hungry at 11. Either way, time has become a rather elusive friend lately, since finals are right across the corner, and every second counts. I have no idea who came up with the marvellous concept of pressure-maybe the engineer that invented sardines cans- but I think it should only apply for processed food. If you really think about it, the problem per se is not pushing the limits, but pressuring yourself because of the fear of failure ...that's heaven on Earth right there. Of course as students most of you know what I mean, because no matter how many books I read, inspirational quotes I write down, or how many hours I spent talking about it, it's always there at this time of the year. 
     What are we (if you are not, please contact me) so afraid of? Maybe those little (and sometimes big) brownish spiders that hang in their webs, but I honestly believe they can actually harm you more than a not-so great exam. I am not implying that you shouldn't care (or that you poke every spider), but is it really necessary to live exams has a dreadful and horrific experience? Failure is a relative word, and can mean different things for all of us, but its connotation is so negative it literally has the same effect as a red traffic light, and makes you stop from everything you are accomplishing. I propose eradicating this word for being too loose on its definition, and ‘ failing’ is nothing more than giving it another go. Take it as a challenge, go all karate- kid and kick it on the face. We survived the end of the world in 2000 and 2012, we are unstoppable.
     On a similar note, I suffer from a great anxiety problem. It does not only apply to school, but in life in general. Like when I'm watching a futbol match and for some reason no one seems to do what I am politely screaming them to do. Anyway, I find that in stressful anxiety prone situations the best remedy is what Taylor Swift so eloquently said: Give me my money Spotify. No, that' s not it, I mean the song: Shake it off. I go outside and walk around for 15 minutes or more, and now that I'm in the Netherlands ,I just grab my good old bike and go for a ride. This also works when you have a hard time concentrating on something, I hate the feeling of being stuck that I just take myself out and physically move. Do not take a lot of time, because that's just procrastinating. Don't escape, just find inspiration or get some fresh autumn wind on your face. And get back to it.
      Now, I have found myself in a dilemma. As you might imagine it is probably not a big deal, but it does have something to do with living and adapting to this country. I call it The Red Thin Line.. of goedemiddag/goedenavond. In my view of the world, goedemiddag sounds like good midday, so I have no problem of saying it at 12, maybe push it till 1. But what to do at 4? The day definitely moved on, but people still wish you good midday without a blink of an eye. And when the clock hits 7… the real fun begins. Is it avond already? I sometimes hear hesitation on the conductors of the train when they announce the next stop and greet the dames and heren, so why shouldn't I hesitate? See? Anxiety again. But I'll just embrace it and move on.
       I hope you find some comfort in this blog, and don't be afraid, everything will turn out fine. If you can manage to remember where you parked your bike after a long study day, you are certainly a winner for me. Blogger out.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Discovering your boundries: Fried eggs and glass doors.

Last week I was heading to the Library (Drift), thinking I had to get my paper done, so I might as well grab a computer and start writing. After walking up and down and then turn to the sides and back again I realised there weren't any free computers at sight. But I knew better. The library site said there was free space available, and I was determined to find it. After asking for directions, I discovered (?) a whole new wing of the library and I was in awe. So much, in fact, that I could not believe my eyes when I saw a free spot. My eyes were set on the empty chair. As I opened the glass door that separates the sectors, something held me back. My finger was still set on the door, that closed silently on it. Even though I knew the possibilities of someone understanding what I wanted to say in my native language were indeed scarce, I kept my cool. No one seemed to notice me. I just love the effect that library has on students.

I believe I haven't mentioned this before, but I work in Amsterdam on the weekends. That is why the capital city has been my very first impression of Netherlands. I took a train from Haarlem, and a friend of mine told me: ‘ Get off in Amsterdam’. And so I did. Of course it was Amsterdam Sloterdijk. No one told me there are a lot of Amsterdams. After 10 minutes, I corrected my path and I finally got to Centraal. I thought that I had already mastered the technique of knowing my right hand from the left, until I tried to cross a street in this city. The bicycles didn't strike me as calm and peaceful, I was scared. They come out of nowhere, and when you think you dodged them all...you hear this strange bell… you should probably move because there is a tram coming.

I know a lot of people is going to resent what I'm about to say, but I think Amsterdam has nothing on Utrectht. There is something magical about this streets, maybe its student stress building up in the air, or the lack of non-particularly hurried tourists, but it does give you some peace of mind. I'm not implying you can't achieve inner peace in Amsterdam, but, let's just say it might take a bit longer.

There was one object that drew my attention when I had my first breakfast in this country...It's not like I have never had cheese before, but I never really had a cheese cutter. I was so used to the image of badly cut, (ugly-shaped cheese) that when I came to Netherlands and saw this device my jaw dropped a few centimeters. It might seem to be easy to use, since even my 3 year old nephew uses it, but it does take some skill. Our life changed so much after this that the first request from my family was to send a cheese cutter to Argentina. It sounds strange I know, but this is what it is all about. Trying new things, and slowly taking in this culture. I'm not saying we will become dutch, (although I wouldn't mind growing up a few centimeters), but it is important to find your way in this country, stop being a foreigner and be part of it. Luckily, that is something our University helps us with: Schedules, teachers, and classmates...they are all part of our days, and slowly shape and fit into your life.

Time for my tip of the week: Always carry a bag (tasje) with you. Not only because you never know when you will go to the supermarket, but also you never really know (Apps are not THAT smart) when lovely rain can strike. Since we are students, you always have important papers,the computer, etc. So cover your bag with a bag, and continue your journey.

An interesting thing about moving away is learning things about yourself, like ‘ I didn't know I could cook more than a fried egg’, or ‘ I can fry an egg’. There is also the realisation that you are stronger than you thought,and that finals are almost here. Finals are almost here? I should really go, tot laters uu and non uu students .

Monday, 12 October 2015

Between dragons and tea

          Month 2 has already begun, and I am very proud of myself for managing to deal with Black Board, Osiris and the library page, and not mix up my student id. I'm not saying it is a difficult system to cope with, but personally I had never used  anything like this before. So a lot to read and cold weather to make you stay indoors. Cold will never leave you, especially in the coming months. I promised myself I wasn't going to say this but, technically, and no-tv show-related-reference, winter is, in fact coming. So, since we do not have dragons and realms to rule, what can we, in fact do about this?

Let's try a positive approach. Things could be worse, I mean, we could be under tropical weather and then, how will we ever get things done? How come I have never seen a movie about a master student in the caribbean?What's the hidden message here? When the sun is shining we are inclined to go out, so the cold at least will keep us at one secure location. The last few days I have found myself shocked by the few amount of clothing the dutch use when they are outside. Whereas I am completely stiff with 5 layers (and still cold), I see a guy wearing merely a t-shirt. A T-SHIRT! And girls with dresses and skirts. By the way, I think I could write a book on dutch women wearing heels while biking. It would be called "I'm so not carrying an extra pair of shoes just to pedal my way to the club, long title but a definite best seller.

I have always found that a way to fight the cold is food. I mean, tea is great, coffee too bu still, you need something else. We can all rest assured we are bound to find just the right thing to eat here in Holland, since we lack the guilt of calories, because we will surely "bike it off" later. Have you tried poffertjes? Those little round, full of butter and sugar and happiness pancakes? They are just like watching cat videos on youtube. Once you feel you've had enough, somehow you find yourself having more than a normal person should EVER have. Go ahead and get some, if you find recently baked ones you will see how easy it is to be happy.

Even though my arrival to Holland was 6 months ago, I'm just now starting to realize how far away from home I am. Mixed feelings cross your heart,  because this is just a new and exciting adventure, but you find yourself longing for the flavours, the sights and the people that you grew up with. Being far is not easy, but I guess you can find comfort in the thought that time invested in education is no time lost at all. All that you are doing now is going to improve your life in the future. I know this sounds like fixed phrases but I have found them to be true. Always remember you are not alone in this process, and if sometimes it gets hard just think that everything happens for a reason. If it's happening to you, it's because you can make it.

So put your socks up and keep that kettle boiling. Unless you are making coffee. Then you don't boil the water. And if it does, you can always make some soup. Or not. Whatever works for you. This could go on forever. I will stop blogging now. Till next time.

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Dutch are not likely to forget your birthday

Captain's blog. It's been  159 days since I have arrived to this strange land.
    I can't drive. I don't have a driver's license and as long as I'm living in Holland I suspect I won't be needing one in the near future. Either way I have never really grasped  the concept of 'not finding a parking place' , it was never among of my daily problems. Until now. Of course it is a very present and current issue ever since I'm here. As far as I am concerned there are only two kinds of people in this world. The PRP (Proper Responsible Parkers) and the non-pancake related- IHOPP (I Have Other Priorities Parkers). The latter are far too easily recognized due to their typical behaviour of leaving bikes in the middle of the street, sideways,barely hanging by a lock,or on top of another bike. Even when I'm running late I take 3 seconds to contemplate their modern art-like parked bikes..you just have to love them.
      On a more academic note , lately, I have tried to divide myself into different characters. As Napoleon said Divide and conquer. I decided I will do the same with university. I am currently enrolled in two subjects of the Master Programme and since I have quite some reading to do, organizing time is vital. One of my first steps in organizing academic times is getting an agenda. There are some important dates you would not want to miss: special lectures, guest speakers, deadlines, thesis workshops, open karaoke nights, etc. Another piece of advice I can give you is: carefully write down WHERE you have the lectures... you wouldn't want to end up second guessing if you are at the correct place at the correct time. Why would I bring this up? Well, because as we are imperfect humans beings, we are subjects of doubt and mistakes. In other words, I was once at the correct building but one hour early.
Another particularly interesting device is the calendar. An actual physical paper calendar. I do not have the habit of looking into the cellphone planner, because everytime  I want to look at it something diverts my attention and Isomehow end up in a social network. How odd is that?
          Speaking of calendars. have you had the pleasure of visiting an actual dutch house. If the answer is yes, have you stayed long enough to go to the bathroom of such houses? Chances are, if you visited a young dutch, the probability of seeing what I'm about to tell you are scarce. One of the most striking cultural aspects of the dutch is the 'verjaardagskalender'. Yes, it Is only one word and it means “birthday calendar”. Many houses in the Netherlands hang in such calendars in the bathroom to remember the birthdays of loved ones. When I first learned this, there a lot of questions emerged in my mind. Why the bathroom? What is the protocol to write on it? How much do I have to know the owner of the house in order to write down my name on it? and of course, why the bathroom? This and many other questions have crossed my mind but, cultural differences are not meant to be questioned. Just embrace it. Live it. Hang a calendar in the bathroom. Be happy.

          Are you all aware that it has  already been a month since we became Utrecht students? I don't really know if I feel different, but surely I have a lot more things in my mind. Learning new things is always a tricky and hard subject. Just like going to the gym after years, exercising yourself into university requires time and commitment. I don't know if there is a formula to it, and I know sometimes you are bound to feel frustrated and stressed, but we all are.Just bear in mind this is something that will inexorably add something to your life. I'm pretty sure by now you have made acquaintances with your classmates (and even if you are the shy type, you probably know who you will hang out with later on), and don't feel as lost as you once were. Talking out insecurities and owing to your mistakes is what I recommend. Just think if you weren't capable of this, you' d probably be doing something else.
         Until next time, this blogger needs to do some reading.