Saturday, July 24, 2010

Missing the Exotic Vibes of Asia in the Disturbingly Normal Netherlands

Regarding the title to this blog post:
Asia is a different world. No where else that I've been can you just see something absolutely ridiculous happening (elephant walking down a street, street sign preventing bringing Durians into a subway system, bullet holes in bus windows, etc.) and just dismiss it nonchalantly as "well, that's Asia". Everything is abnormal, and your senses simply get overrun by the pandemonium that is everyday life going on in the world's largest continent. After awhile it becomes a bit of a nuisance, but overall it's a pretty beautiful way to live your life, as far as just having absolutely perfectly structured anarchy going on all around you. Europe, as I knew beforehand, is extremely different. It's just normal. Yeah, you'll see some weird things in Amsterdam, but overall, the Netherlands is just incredibly normal. Everyone bikes, which is odd for an American, but that's not shocking or offensive, its just different. Also, pace of life is very much slower than ANYWHERE in Asia. This could be a result of the time of year (Europe goes on holiday in late July-early August. Yes, the continent of Europe. All of it), but in my other experiences in Europe its been much the same. What I'm trying to say here, is that I'm sort of missing the absolute sensory overload and pandemonium that was, and still certainly is, Asia. We'll see how this goes in the next 6 months once I'm back in the states. ANYWAY:

So I've got about three weeks left in the Netherlands. All things considered, it's been a pretty crazy year so far. As both regular readers know, I'm heading to Colombia after this for about 9-ish days, much to the general chagrin of my family, but in fairness, I'm graduating college pretty soon and have few opportunities left to travel recreationally. Plus, cheap airfare is a powerful motivator. This last week here has been pretty good:

Friday of last week, Hunter and I went to a friend's house and hung out for a bit before heading out into The Hague for a night out. Not a bad time at all, except for one of our friends who fell off his bike on the ride into The Hague and was bleeding profusely for the next 3 hours or so. Rookie error, as they say, but eh, pretty hilarious nonetheless.

Saturday we headed to Amsterdam to play tourist. We started the day at the Heineken Brewery around 1:30pm or so. It was a pretty awesome place, for 15 euros you got a tour, 3 free Heinekens, and a wristband similar to the LiveStrong ones, except instead of endorsing cancer research, they endorse alcoholism. Welcome to Holland. After a 2-2.5 hr tour, we headed from there over to Leidseplein (probably misspelled). This was just sort of a square with some restaurants, touristy shops, etc. From there we had dinner at the Hard Rock before going to a pub crawl organized by some company in Amsterdam, and, for 20 euros, offered a free t-shirt, entry+1 drink at 6 clubs, and some "vodka" between bars. The quotations there indicate that it was basically 95% fruit juice and 5% vodka in 2L bottle that they just poured into your mouth. The alcohol content was so pitiful that it could have easily passed in a Madrasah without anyone blinking an eye. The bar crawl was rather disappointing, and the night ended with us jumping into the canals of Amsterdam with some Serbians. Yes, you read that correctly. To my knowledge I do not have any intestinal parasites as a result of said actions, but I'm no doctor...

Sunday we went to Zaanse Schans with Samer and Laura. Basically, imagine the most incredibly stereotypical Dutch town you can think of, and multiply it's Dutchness by about 7. The place was shocking. Just tons of picturesque windmills caressed by canals which extended into fields of tulips and other such things. Cottages where they showed you how Dutch cheese is made, a place where you can see how they've mechanized the creation of Dutch wooden clogs, just really really touristy Dutch. Overall it was a great time, I got some good photos and bought a pair of wooden clogs (which I intend on wearing with disturbingly decent regularity upon my return to the States). We also got some magnificent weather during the day at Zaanse Schans, which made the day all the more excellent. One problem was the fact that the entire town had a whopping one ATM, which was conveniently out of order (those Dutch, can't take them anywhere), so I had to borrow a bit of money from Hunter for about 6 hours.

The work week was interesting. Henning, Simon, and Mr. Sprague were all out of the office, so I had no one to report to. Consequently, Monday consisted of me just putting random variables into graph format to see if I could discover anything meaningful among our European customers. Tuesday I did a fair bit of editing on my final project, as advised by Henning via phone. Wednesday and Thursday I did some editing that was suggested by Regina. Sidenote on Regina: she works in Market Development (I think?). Her comments on my paper were extraordinary. The sharpness (for want of a more existent word) of her critique was literally unbelievable. Absolutely incredible how valuable the critique was. Anyway, Friday Mr. Sprague returned from Singapore. The flight was 13 hours, he arrived at the house at like 7:45am, and was in the office before 9:00am. The phrase "Is THAT all?" got thrown around a lot in Hong Kong, but I feel like that's about the only thing to say here. Hunter's work week was a bit hilarious. Thursday and Friday his 3 immediate bosses were all gone on various excursions, and at one point I went down to his desk to say hello. On his side of the floor there's about 12 desks, and 11 of them were empty. He was literally the only person on his side of the floor. Absolutely hilarious.

This weekend should be pretty quiet, it's been a good, long while since I've just had a day to relax, which will likely be tomorrow. As I'm typing this, Hunter has just woken up, and I think the plan for today is to go to some other town in NL, either Utrecht (home of the Peace of Utrecht in 17?? which ended the War of Spanish Succession, if AP Euro serves me right), Nijmegen (home of Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678? which ended something?), Rotterdam (Europe's largest port), or Delft. We'll see.

As I said at the beginning of this blog post, I've got three weeks left here. It's incredible that I've been here 2 months already, and that I've been away for about 7 months or so. It should be interesting to re-immerse myself in American culture after this whole world tour. Not a whole lot more to say at this point, I'm beginning to get a bit road-weary, if you will, for the fact that I have not seen my closest friends from home since before Christmas (with the exception of Dan, who I obviously saw during the entire trip to Japan in January). Turns out I've travelled to 11 countries on this trip not including Dubai (where I only had a layover). I've flown about 33,000 miles, and I have a fair few more to go in the coming month. And I wonder why I've spend about 60% of my money during the past 7 months...

Missing the exotic vibes of Asia a fair bit in the terribly normal Netherlands

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