Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hello Holland

Hey, well it's been a while. I've been in Holland for a week now. I meant to write earlier but it's been busy. So I will try to convey what I've been experiencing as accurately as possible.

The flight from India to Holland was uneventful. I watched some movies, slept and talked to my neighbor. Although I barely slept I wasn't tired at all. I was really excited to get off the plane and see Holland.

I'm staying with a guy named Freek. He was a foreign exchange student at my high school in junior year and we became friends. He was going to meet me at the airport with another friend, Chelsey Bowes, with whom we had both gone to school. Chelsey was going to be in Holland for 10 days. It was her spring break trip.

There was a mix up about where we were going to meet, so I ended up sitting by the train station for two hours, while they waited for me at my gate. I read a book and began to try to assimilate this new culture.

The first thing that I noticed about being in Holland was how nicely everyone was dressed. In India I had always felt well dressed, maybe even a little over dressed. Being in the Amsterdam airport showed me the reality of the situation. I looked like a hobo. I had filthy khaki shorts on, a ratty button-up t-shirt and flip flops.

The second thing that I noticed about Holland was how cold it is. When I had left India, at 1:35 am it had been 90 degrees. The temperature in Holland when I arrived was 50 degrees, and it was a warm day. Needless to say I didn't stay in flip-flops for long.

When I finally met up with Freek and Chelsey we had a nice little reunion and then we went out to catch the bus.

The bus was clean, quiet, safe and almost empty. I couldn't believe it. The roads we were driving on were wide, well marked, well maintained and all the vehicles were following the traffic rules. I really couldn't believe it.

The next couple of days are a blur. The whole time I felt like a ghost. I didn't really know where my place was in the culture. Freek had to study for a final exam so Chelsey and I spent a lot of time exploring different cities. We were staying at Freek's parent's house, which was small by American standards, but decadent by Indian standards. Occasionally while walking around I would switch back to my India vision, I would be mesmerized by a billboard or a garbage can, or something else that equally mundane in Holland, yet spectacular in India.

Chelsey left last Saturday. I'm now living in Sittard (Freek's parents live in Alphen de Rhine). Freek has an apartment here, which is where I currently call home.

It's interesting the Dutch culture doesn't hit me over the head the way India did. It's a lot more familiar. But it is still quite a bit different.

Here are a few of the differences I've observed:

1. smaller houses
2. smaller cars
3. smaller portions of food
4. cloths are expensive (I wanted to buy some jeans but I couldn't find anything under 50 euros)
5. food is cheaper than in the U.S.
6. Transportation is easy and efficient, but a little expensive
7. people bike everywhere

I learned yesterday that Holland is the second most crowded country in the world. It makes sense then that everything is smaller, they don't have room to build and build. They have to be creative with their space.

That reminds me of another thing that is different in Holland than in India and the United States. The cities and towns are all planned looking. Everything fits together. Freek's dad is an urban planner, this means his job is to make everything fit together. He explained some of the work he does and it sounds fascinating. Because there are so many old building in Holland there are a lot of rules stipulating how they should be protected. Leon's (Freek's dad) job is to (among other things) help design cities and town that are modern and convenient, but also blend in with the older buildings. You can't help but notice it. It's everywhere you go. I haven't seen any of the disease like urban sprawl that is beginning to characterize the Rathdrum Prairie.

Although I'm really enjoying being in Holland part of me misses India still. However, it's nice to be able to have a cup of coffee or a beer. It's also nice to be able to go out and walk around and not be harassed by twenty different people.

I'll be in Holland for about a month and a half. After that I'm going to Germany and France. I still don't know how I'm going to get there, I've heard about something called EuroBus, which sounds really cheap, so I might look into that. For now that is all!

1 comment:

hipychiky said...

hey Eli.....hey I'm really interested in how you budget your money on this long journey of yours, and how that has changed now that you are in "euro's" instead of rupees, and are you going to have to do side jobs to make it through? For me that would have been the biggest challenge, the money part, lol. just wondering. Glad you are having fun in Holland with friends!