January 5, 2007

Friday, January 05, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today was a free day, so we didnít have classes.  Many people went into Amsterdam for the day.  I also went to downtown Amsterdam, and using the museum card given to us for the course, visited the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and a modern art museum for free of charge.  Tomorrow we are going to separate into 2 groups of students and travel to different cities to stay with host families for the weekend.  A chance to get good homemade food!  But the weekend, Iím sure, will be a terrific opportunity to learn more about life in the Netherlands.

January 4, 2007

Thursday, January 04, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Today was our first official day of class.  We got up bright and early in the morning, and had the morning portion of lecture here at home.  We discussed a fair amount of the history of geography and land reclamation efforts in the Netherlands, and we also received a brief lesson on the Dutch language.

After lunch we went into Amsterdam via the public bus system.  Once at central station, we went up to the 11th floor of a building to a restaurant and looked at the city from that level.  As a group, we then to a walk through a small portion of town, paying attention to the canals and waterways set up.  The downtown is completely different than any city of its size in America.  Most streets are just one narrow lane, and everyone walks in the streets as there is not much traffic.  Bicycles have their own lanes on the road, and there are many busses and trams driving around.  The buildings for the most part are not higher than 4 or 5 stories, and all are very narrow and tightly packed. 

After touring a while with the group, we then ended class for the day and were able to do as we wanted in downtown.  Several small groups formed as we all explored the city some more.  The group that I was in went over to the Anne Frank House and toured through the museum.  After sightseeing, we took the bus back home and relaxed for the rest of the evening. 

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The group in front of a “Botel”, a hotel on water downtown Amsterdam


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A view of the city from an 11th floor Restaurant


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Houses line the canals.


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Biking is a very popular mode of transportation

January 3, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

By Nate Wybenga

Wow! We are finally here in Amsterdam!  Our trip began yesterday when we boarded our plane at 1:50 pm in Grand Rapids.  There was a lot of rushing going on at the airport, as our plane took off early to depart before the airport was shut down for the arrival of President Fordís funeral procession.  From Grand Rapids we connected through Atlanta for our flight to Amsterdam.  The flight took off without any delay, and we set out through the night.  The flight was about 8 hours long, but the time passed by fairly quick.

Upon arrival in Amsterdam we picked up the rental vans and headed toward our home in Broek in Waterland.  Broek (for short) is 10-15 minutes north of downtown Amsterdam, and is a quaint historic town.  It is exactly my mental image of the Netherlands; sheep graze just across the street from our residence next to a small windmill, and the roads of the town are paved in brick with canals all around.  Most of the 700 houses in the town are in perfect condition, and all appear to have not changed at all in many many years.

Our residence for the month is a sailing school.  The facilities are beautiful and spacious.  The house is meant to hold around 30 people, and we have just 18, so we have plenty of room to spread out.

After dropping our bags off at our residence, we proceeded to a shopping center in North Amsterdam to pick up groceries.  It was interesting purchasing products with labels completely in Dutch and deciding what to get based on the picture of the product and attempts to translate the label.  However, I think we all got some good (and different) food to eat.

By this time it was early afternoon, and the owner of the sailing school gave us a great foot tour of the town.  He provided a lot of historical information about Broek in Waterland.  One of his friends in the town graciously let us through her house, and we were able to see many of the traditions for designing and decorating a house that was built in the 1800ís.  The town is interesting in that over the course of time, all of the farms in Old Broek (the old section of town) have been turned into homes, and some of the homes even have grocery stores or restaurants in the front.  The houses are packed in tight, there is not much room even for the roads, and I even saw a couple of house boats in the canals.  It is truly a unique town.

When we got back to our home, many of us were so tired from the jetlag that we decided to go to sleep at around 5 pm. 

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