Sunday, August 30, 2015

Commercials, Cheese and Costco

So, today marks the first two weeks with the Kantors! I'm happy to say I still like them. For now.

This last week has been great! (again! Sorry I don't have something terrible to tell you, it would be much more exciting to read)
We went to the beach, which was great! It was a two hour drive, which is far more than I'm used to. I'm used to cycling to the beach in 10 minutes! This was an entire operation, involving a cabana, a cart, two beach chairs and, oh, four people. Luckily everything fit, and we had a great day at the beach!

Ah, Americans in their cabanas.

Poor Sam.

Oh, I haven't told you about Costco yet!! We went to Costco about a week ago, and it was great. Costco is a store that sells a lot of different things. But, instead of selling the cheapest, they sell really good brands. Most products have a little discount because Costco only sells one or two brands of that particular product, so the brands let them buy it for less. Anyways, they also sell BIG quantities of things. I'm talking like, 20 pounds (around 10 kilos) of flour. The store is so big that sometimes you'll encounter a taste station, where you can taste a particular product they sell. Karen told me that on some days there'll be so many stations you can practically have lunch there. They also have clothes, couches, vegetables, meat, snacks, bedsheets, chocolate chips, and giant huggable bears.

If only it would fit in my suitcase...Oh, and that's the shot of the backback for you!

On Monday, school started again back in Holland! My school doesn't start until the 8th of september, so I can spend these days quietly laughing at my friends. They've been very nice to let me stay in the groupchats, because basically all I do is read about their misery and make sarcastic remarks from time to time. It's great.

Now, I thought this was a good time to make a little list of things that I've noticed so far.
(these are not marked in order of how different or important they are, but this is just how my brain works. On that note, my brain tends to exaggerate things)

1. Commercials. American commercials are both more funny, and more annoying. The annoying part is mostly because you see the same commercial about 20 times a day. I am not kidding. Although the commercial blocks are a lot shorter than what I'm used to, there are a lot more of them. Result: loud sighs whenever the car insurance woman pops up for the 100th time that day. There are also a lot of food related commercials. Especially during sports games. And, there is an alarming amount of celebrities in commercials! Kinda makes you wonder what connection Mila Kunis has to Jim Beam whiskey.

2. Cheese. Now, as a Dutch person (land of water, tall people, stroopwafels, and cheese) I feel quite personally insulted whenever I walk into the 'cheese' section of an American supermarket. First of all, there are several stages of 'processed-ness': cheese, cheese food, and cheese product. See?! They admit most of their cheese isn't even real cheese! So, the 'cheese' you get when you buy this is pre-sliced into these perfectly square pieces of cheese, with the totally wrong texture, color, and taste. Ielgh. Luckily, you can also get Gouda cheese, so I'll survive.

3. The oreo section. There is an unofficial oreo section in every supermarket, and there are about a million different kinds of oreos. Andrew actually tried making a rainbow with the different colours of oreo, but we didn't get  blue and purple. We need blueberry and grape oreos! Other flavors are; mint, peanut butter and birthday cake. Also, Americans like stacking different oreos on eachother, so you get names like: double triple chocolate mint oreo. (google it, it's a real thing)

4. Americans are chatty! They will just start a conversation with you, and they're mostly super friendly and nice. I'm not used to that at all, but I think it's amazing!

So, that would be all! Next week, I'll start school. I don't think I've ever been this excited to go back to school! But first, I have one week left before I have to start learning again!

Greetings from my hammock!


Oh, and: thanks to Andrew for answering my ridiculous questions while blog-writing, like: "do you know a purple food?" and "what came before 'cheese-product'?" and "what commercial was Mila Kunis in again?" Also, he makes me laugh ("it's a touchscreen! I can use my toes!")

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Butterflies, School and Pets

Hiya! Nope, not dead!

Actually, I'm very much alive, and the Kantors are definitely feeding me well. So far, I'm having a great time here. The past four days have been a big blur of great times, so let me run you through some of the things we did.

On Monday, we kind of stayed at home. I organised my room a little further and generally got settled in a little more.
We went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. They had a guy, Juan the Guacamole Man (if you read it in a specific way it rhymes), who would make awesome guacamole right at your table. Seriously, Laura, this guy could give you a run for your money. Anyways, Andrew liked the food.

After dinner, we went to the mall. It would stay open until 9, so we had some time to get me a backpack and a new pair of shoes. And, may I just say I bought the most awesome backpack ever?! I haven't got a good picture now (at least, not one where I don't look like a complete dork), but I'm sure you'll see it plenty later. It is the American flag, very fancy and big, making up the entire backpack. It's amazing.

Then, on Tuesday, Karen, Sam and I went to the botanical garden, to look at the pretty butterflies. Because it wasn't that sunny, the butterfly-area was actually a pretty comfy temperature, so I got some nice butterfly shots.

Then we went outside to look at the garden, which was very pretty. Sam was also very amusing, since he had scratched open a musquito bite, and it had started bleeding. He was convinced he was bleeding to death. Yay siblings! In Holland, I didn't have any siblings (or pets that were bigger than rats, and yes I had two rats), so this is all very new! I'm liking it so far!

Yesterday, Wednesday, we had a nice day inside. It is incredibly hot and humid outside, so the airconditioning is always on and you're stupid if you go outside. It's a great opportunity to explore the American Netlfix in detail. Karen made chocolate chip cookies, and I helped her with the first batch, although I made the cookies way too big, and I ate about 3 spoonfuls of the dough. They were still super delicious. Long live homemade cookies!

Today, we went to my High School! I got enrolled, and I was able to choose my classes. Now, EF (the organisation I do my exchange year with) requires me to do English and American History, so those were already chosen. I could choose 5 other subjects, but I didn't have to decide right there so the counsellor gave me a paper with all the subjects I could choose, and a book with little descriptions of all of them. I think everyone who knows me understands how difficult I think this is. I wanna do ALL the things!!!
Anyways, I think I came up with a pretty good selection, though I won't tell you until it's all been figured out.

The school is BIG. There are about 1000 students there, and I only saw one hallway, but I'm thinking it's pretty big. There was no one there today though, but I'm sure that will change soon. When we go back to tell them which classes I'll take, we'll hopefully get a little tour. Knowing me and my great skills at remembering things, I'll probably still get lost all the time. We did see a bit of the marching band practice though! When we arrived, they weren't marching yet, because someone put the sprinklers on. After our appointment, they were marching though, and playing the Star Trek theme! Or at least, trying to play the Star Trek theme. I don't think I'll do marching band.

The rest of the day I spent playing the ukulele on my bed. Sam liked the music that was coming down the stairs, so he decided to join me by playing Farmville 2 on my bed. He was very helpful, because everytime I played something out of tune he would physically jump off the bed in fright, sometimes accompanied by a scream: "What was THAT?!" Which is quite funny if you're practicing some hard chords.

Now, the pets still love me. As I'm writing this, Lucy is taking up about 1/5 of my bed, and I don't think she'd like to move. She follows me around everywhere, and it's the cutest thing ever. Phred kinda hated me yesterday. That means he followed me around the  house, and whenever I sat somewhere he would kinda sit near me, watching me, and sometimes he scratched me a little. I ignored him though, and this morning I gave him a paper box to play with so we're best of friends again.

So, usually they don't look this scared, but these dogs are Lucy and Maggie. Lucy is the big one and Maggie is the fat, little one. Maggie generally likes me, but sometimes she forgets who I am and she just starts barking like STRANGER DANGER!!! And then she remembers I've been here for about 5 days now, and we're fine again.

Something that's still very weird, is my closet. I packed clothes for 10 days, to live through camp, but if you see all those clothes assembled in one closet it's just so...little. Well, I'll have to do something about that tomorrow.

Basically, everything's going just fine here! Tomorrow, I'm going to meet the other Exchange Student that will be at my high school. Together, we'll plunder the local Forever 21. And, I'm going to Skype with my dad for the first time since I've been in the States!

For now, goodbye from the Kantors and I!


p.s. I guess I just wanna say thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog so far! According to Blogger, my blog has been seen about 1600 times now! I'm assuming that's not just one person refreshing the page about 1500 times. So thanks for that huge huge number, and I'm glad that I'm entertaining enough to read!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I'm here!

Now, before I tell you what it's like here in Richmond (teaser: it's AWESOME), I'll write about yesterday. 

The last days of camp were great! We went to a baseball game on Thursday, which was lots of fun!

Then on Friday, we had a talent show, and I played the ukulele. We also 'graduated' from camp, and we had a nice barbeque outside! And then it was time for the dance, and time to say goodbye!

Saying goodbye was awful! There were lots of tears everywhere, and because everyone left in a different bus at a different time you were constantly saying goodbye. Eventually, it was time for my bus to leave, so around 4:30 am I arrived at JFK. There were 4 other EF exchange students on my flight, so we could all wait together! Now, my flight was supposed to leave at 9:05 am, but it kept getting delayed, and eventually we left at 2:25 pm. 

It was one of those little planes, with three seats on each row. I had the lonely window seat, and I was so excited! The people next to me must have wondered why that girl next to them was making such weird noises and pushing her face against the window. 

Anyways, we landed and walked to the baggage claim, and there I finally met my host family, the Kantors! For those of you who don't know, my host family consists of my host dad, Andrew, my host mom, Karen, and my host brother Sam. They had made me a nice sign, and after a couple of hugs and hello's we quickly moved to the baggage carousel, and literally within a minute my bag turned up! So we could move to the car, and drive home.

When we arrived home, I got greeted by two hyperactive dogs, Lucy and Maggie. The Kantors also have four cats, (Phred, Charlie, Peanut and Simon) but I didn't see them because they were hiding! We moved my bag to my room, they showed me around the house, and then they gave me time to just lie on the bed and unpack a little. 
But, it was impossible to sleep! Though I'd been awake for over 30 hours, I just couldn't fall asleep. So after half an hour I came downstairs, and Karen and I went to Target to get me some things. 

Target is a pretty cool store! They have lots of awesome stuff, and it was a lot of fun to walk through it with Karen. Then we drove home and had dinner, hamburgers and corn, and then everyone was so tired that at 9 pm we went to sleep!

I absolutely love my room! I'll post some more pictures later, but for now just assume it's really really cool. 
Lucy, the biggest dog, is pretty much in love with me so she follows me around everywhere. She slept on my bed last night, and there were at least two other animals in the room too. 

This morning we had bagels for breakfast (they were good), and then me, Andrew and Sam went biking. But, after about 10 minutes my tire exploded! Whoops. 
So, we had to walk back home, and Andrew and I went to the bike store to buy a new tire. 

And now, I'm sitting on the couch. Karen is entertaining the dogs by throwing random toys all over the room. Phred (big red cat) sometimes just comes over and licks my legs, which I'm guessing means he likes me. 
It's super hot outside, 32 Celsius, (though I should probably start saying 88 F) so today I'll probably unpack some more and explore the house! 

That's all for now! I'll post some more later this week, hopefully with some more pictures!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Camp Life and NYC

We're halfway through camp already! In 5 days, I'll fly to Richmond to finally meet the Kantors, I can't wait!

But, the past 5 days at camp have been amazing. I met lots of people from over the world, and I made a couple of really nice friends!

From left to right: Ammy from Norway, (the always charming) Beata/Caroline from Sweden, Frederikke from Norway and me from The Netherlands!

All of them are in my homeroom, so I see them about 50 hours a day, but I still haven't gotten sick of them!

The camp is divided into four high schools: the Madison Eagles, the Polk Penguins, the Washington Wolves and, my high school, the GRANT GATORS! Each evening, we have an activity with the entire camp, and usually it's a competition. There is an entire point system I won't get into now, but the bottom line is that the homeroom with the most points gets to go on a secret trip outside campus. The Gators won all of the activities so far! And tonight, we had a mock volleyball tournament, which we also won! The real one is tomorrow, and of course we're gonna win that too.

Here's a little footage of the volleyball tournament! Notice all the cheering, GO Gators!
Creds to Frederikke for filming!

So most days we have four classes, where we learn things like: a) how to not speak terrible English b) how to not be terrible to your host family c) how to do the wobble (google it!) and, finally, d) how to not set a microwave on fire (to learn that we watched YouTube videos of exploding microwaves).

Then we have two activites a day, and we can choose from an entire list of things to do! Think of stuff like softball, football, soccer, talent show, board games, etc. etc.  There is so much I can't even begin to describe all of them, so I'll just tell you my favorite one: Commando Hike. Commando Hike is like hide and seek for professionals in the park. There are a couple of rules: 1. the leader decides how many seconds you have to hide, usually somewhere between 3 and 8 2. you always stay behind the leader and on the path 3. when the leader yells GO you hide, and when he's done counting he turns around and if he sees you, you're out.
So all of this results in a group of 25 teenagers behind an adult, having 3 seconds to dive into the bushes. I think you can imagine how great it gets.

The college we're staying at is called Muhlenberg College. It's quite a big campus, and it's seriously like you stepped right into the movies. They have lots of sporting areas, and lots of grass, and a store, and dormrooms and everything! (except for an all-female acapella group I believe)

I think the highlight was yesterday, when everyone went to New York City. Well, it's way too much to write down here, because we spent 11 hours in NYC, so here are some pictures to summarize it:

Now, that last pic deserves some explanation. We were walking past Rockefeller Centre, and stopped to talk to a leader from a different group, when this woman suddenly comes up to us. She starts talking to us and soon she finds out we're from Europe, and this whole monologue starts about how she's been to all of our countries and she really liked it and it soon became clear she couldn't keep the countries apart at all, but I think we seriously spent 15 minutes just listening to her and nodding our heads whenever she stopped for breath.

We left for NYC at 6:45 am, and we got back around 10 pm so everyone was extremely tired. But then again, I think everyone here is constantly tired.
You're constantly busy and talking to new people, all in English, so I barely even have time to write this blog! Anyways, I can't imagine leaving this place to live with the Kantors in Virginia, but it's drawing closer every hour!


Thursday, August 6, 2015

And, we're off!

-Part One, 1:01 AM, somewhere above the Atlantic-

About 11 hours ago, around 2 pm, I closed my room’s door for the last time for the next 10 months. Saying goodbye to my family and friends these last two weeks was harder than I expected, and I’m going to miss all of their good company, jokes, laughs and all of the other stuff I love so much! During the drive to the airport, I said imaginary goodbye’s to things like cows, Dutch number plates, terrible Dutch music, and my favorite radio ads. (Dutchies: Proooofiel, de fietsspecialist *TRING TRING*)
On the airport, my lovely aunt, uncle and cousin came to say goodbye, which was a nice surpise! There were 9 other Dutch EF students going to New York, and before we left we took a group picture.

After everyone had said their goodbye’s, we moved through check-in, waved at the family and friends one last time, and moved through security! And before we knew it, we were in the plane to Heathrow. While the plane was taking off, I slowly started realizing that I was really going to be gone. It was the thought of meeting my host family, people I will live with for 10 months, that made me realize I was…am, actually doing it.

Anyways, I spent most of the first flight staring out of the window, listening to music and chatting to Sasja, another Exchange Student who sat behind me. Some of the things we found out: 1. Clouds are basically moving water 2. Windmills in the middle of the sea are weird 3. Seeing other airplanes when you’re in an airplane is very weird 4. Those small boats are probably huge but they just seem so tiny! 5. Flying with British Airways does not necessarily mean they have good tea, it was terrible 6. England is much less green than we expected.

On Heathrow, we had a stopover, and we were joined on the next plane by EF students from Denmark and Norway. Right now, I’m in the plane to New York. I’m in between two Danish exchange students, who are very nice! I showed the girl on my left how to make an origami dragon, and the guy on my right is laughing at the movies he’s watching and telling me all about Danish soccer. So here I am, typing this on my laptop which is way too bright, in the chair which is surprisingly small, behind a woman who decided her chair needs to be practically on my lap, my legs hurting because I can’t stretch them, and meanwhile eating questionable airplane food. And I’m loving every second of it.

The clock on my laptop says it’s 1:01 AM Dutch time, and I’ve decided to trust it blindly because my entire sense of time is gone. Even though I’ve been awake for 17 hours, I don’t feel very tired! Actually, no, that’s a lie. I’m dead tired.

-Part Two, 8:20 AM, Muhlenberg College-

Around 5 hours ago, we arrived at Muhlenberg College, where we’ll stay for the next 10 days. Our plane landed 22:45 local time, and after we’d gone through customs there were a couple of EF-staff members waiting for us, cheering because we made it. All of us were too tired to really react. We left the airport in a huge bus with other students around 1 AM. Luckily, our driver decided we could take the downtown Manhattan route, so we got to see Times Square and the Chrysler building. It was a LOT of fun to drive through Manhattan at midnight, and all of us managed to stay awake long enough.

At Muhlenberg, I got my room keys, and carried my luggage upstairs. I accidentally woke up my roommate, Justine from Switzerland, but she didn’t mind because it was only 2.5 more hours until she’d get up anyways. And yes, at 6:40 AM the alarm clock woke me up, and I took a quick shower before going to breakfast. After breakfast, me and a little group of students explored the campus a little, and now I’m waiting for homeroom at 9:00!

-Part Three, 11:04 AM, Muhlenberg College-

The past two hours, we had a pep rally, a parade of nations, a rule-explanation, and our first homeroom.

Parade of nations basically means that every country gets a flag and walks to the main building of the college, while making lots of noise. And the 10 Dutchies were pretty good at that, even compared to the 20 Danish people. After the parade of nations and the rule-explanation, we had homeroom. The 350 students on this camp are divided into four high schools, and the high schools are divided into north, south, east and west. In homeroom we did a little name game, so everyone could know eachother's names. A lot of people have to choose American nicknames, so people can pronounce their name. For example, I went for Marge, which is easy because everyone knows the Simpsons.

So now there's a siesta until 12:30, when there's lunch, and then more homeroom!

I'm loving camp so far, but I can't wait to meet my host family in Virginia next week!

Till next time!