Monday, August 23, 2010


I just got back from Lowlands, which is the big three day music festival that Kris and I went to with Dirk from work and a bunch of his friends.  The weekend was both really awesome and pretty terrible all at the same time, I will explain:

Thursday after work, Kris and I headed out to Lowlands.  Thursday night was basically just to get your tent setup and hang out, there was not music that day.  When we got there, Dirk let me barrow a tent since I did not have one and I put it together.  After that, we all just sat around outside, had some drinks and talked in Dutch.  I of course could not really follow everything but was doing okay at listening.  It was actually kind of fun at first to practice.  The only bad part was I really could not respond to anything because by the time I would think of something to say, the opportunity was lost.  No big deal though, I would just reply in English.  Pretty much the only English spoke to me that night was people asking if they could have some of the wine I brought.  I brought it for everyone so of course I said yes.  I thought it was a little shitty though to just keep taking my wine and not even talking to me, but whatever, first night, and I didn't really know these people.  We called it and early night that night to get a good start on the concerts the next day.  It is very hard to sleep there though because there are tents of people very close together (as you can see from the picture above) and everyone wants to party.  I heard people talking later outside of my tent, but I did not feel like dealing with the Dutch so I just tried to go back to sleep, very frustrated.

Friday was the first day of concerts, but first more all Dutch conversation at camp...
When we walked into the actual festival grounds, it was really cool.  There were about 10 or so different venues each having an hour long show every other hour from 11:30 AM until 5:00 AM every day.  In between all of the concerts there were stores, food places, and other random stuff.  The whole setup was really cool.  For the most part that day, we just went to concerts and relaxed at the campground.  Also, that night we saw blink-182 which was really the only band I knew.
Later that night, after going to bed, the same thing happened were I was not tired in my tent, but really could not join the conversation outside so I just stayed in and tried to go to sleep.

Saturday was more concerts and campground.  By this time, I was starting to get really frustrated with the people not including me in anything.  I would literally just sit there starring into space, like I was sitting there by myself.  Every once in a while, someone would ask me a question, I would answer, and then would just continue on with the conversation in Dutch like I was never involved.  It thought by this point, I was around these people enough that they would at least want to talk to me a little.  I totally did not expect (or want) them to switch to an entirely English conversation for me (this is their country and there language, I am the outsider,) but including me just a little bit would have been nice.

(to be fair, I have to note that there were two people out of the group of about 15 who made the effort to speak slowly to me in Dutch or speak with me in English.  I really appreciated that and it would have made all the difference if the others would have done the same.)

By Saturday evening, I had enough, I did not want to be around people that had no interest in me.  I spent a lot of money to go to this festival and I wanted to enjoy myself so I just got up and left (I'm sure no one even noticed.)  I saw a couple shows on my own and actually had a pretty good time.  Later on, Kris called me and I met up with him to see some more shows.

Today was the last day at Lowlands.  The day started off by everyone excluding me again.  I think Kris started to realize this as well and asked me what was going on.  I told him basically how much I loved the festival and the concerts but was having the worst time ever with this group of people because I was totally bored and felt like I was pretty much by myself the whole time I was with them.  So pretty much for the entire day today Kris and I just went concert hooping on our own with out really hanging out at the campsite, and today was by far the best day I had.  We had a pretty awesome time seeing a lot of shows and I actually felt like my company was appreciated.  I hope that I did not ruin Kris's last day for him, but he definitely made mine.  I really owe him for sparing me today from having to be in a pretty terrible situation.

All and all, I had a good time at Lowlands and am glad I got to experience it but, I would never go again with all Dutch speaking people (until I can speak Dutch, but lest be honest, that's not going to be for a long time, if ever.)  I got to hear a lot of bands that I never heard before and discovered a lot of music that I really liked (and some I did not!)

The one lesson I think I learned from this is that I have not be practicing speaking enough.  I think after returning from holiday that I will make a point to have at least two or three conversations in Dutch each day and have the person I am speaking with help me with want I don't know.

I also just want to point out that for those of you who have never been in a situation like this, it is really difficult to explain what it feels like, so it may just sound like I'm being a bitch, but I'm really not.  I tried really hard to fit in and pay really close attention to what was happening, but you can only go so far without talking (actually coming up with something to say it much harder than just listening) for three days before you start to go crazy.  I also now truly know how it feels to be an outsider.  If I ever come across someone who is trying to learn English, (or Dutch if I ever get to be good enough,) I know exactly how I will not treat them.  I wish I would have had this experience before going to CMU and I would not have joked around so much (it was all in fun never mean) about some of the foreigner's English.  Their English was phenomenal compared to my Dutch.

Sorry this post turned into another Dutch language post, but that was really what was on my mind tonight.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two more Days!!

Only two more days until my holiday is finally here!  Yesterday, Kris and I setup his tent in the playground to make sure it was ready for Lowlands since it was broken before.  We figured it out and it should be ready to go.

Thursday we are leaving work, dropping our work stuff off at home and heading straight to Lowlands.  Lowlands is the biggest music festival in the Netherlands and lasts for three days.  Apparently it is somewhat like Woodstock.  There is going to be about 60,000 people there staying in tents listening to music from 11:30 AM until 5:00 AM every day.  It is going to be crazy and I am looking forward to it.  After Lowlands, we get home (very) early Monday morning, try to sleep for a while and then meet up with Erik to go catch out plane to Tenerife in the afternoon.

We will be in Tenerife (the largest of the Canary Islands) for about two weeks.  While there, I will get certified as a PADI open water scuba diver, that should be really cool.  I also am going to go surfing for the first time.  I hope Kris is a good teacher, but I know either way I am going to make an ass of myself.  The rest of the time will consist of relaxing on the beach, going out, sightseeing, and doing nothing.  It is going to be a nice change of pace for sure!

There has been a slight change of plans with Oktoberfest, we waited too long to book so it was too expensive.  Instead we are going to Kraków, Poland.

It is going to be an exciting next couple of months, here is what's planned (so far):

  • Lowlands
  • Tenerife
  • Paris Pub Crawl / Weekend in Paris
  • Probably Paris again for work
  • Belgium Weekend / Pub crawl
  • Kraców
Did I mention that I love Europe?  ;-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Blog!

Hey everyone, I have a new blog that you can find at this link:

Don't worry, I am still keeping this blog, but my new one will be all in Dutch to help practice my writing.  Obviously the posts are going to be very short and wrong at first, but I hope with practice it will get better.  Comments from Dutch speakers are welcome for the (many) mistakes that I will make.  If you don't speak Dutch, you can always translate what I am saying with Google Translate.

To Notebook or not to Notebook

Last night I decided to read through my entire Dutch-->English notebook that I've been keeping since 20 July.  I do review the notebook in part most nights and sometimes read through the whole thing.  Last night when I read through it, I realized I am not really learning the words/phrases in it as good as I thought I was.  Yes I remember some, but most I do not.  So now I am wandering is it worth it to still carry this thing around with me everywhere I go?  Maybe I am using it wrong?  Any ideas?  I like the idea of the notebook and I feel like in the beginning it was a big help, but now with almost a months worth of information in it, it is a bit overwhelming...

Some of you told me you use notebooks.  How exactly do you use them and then, how do you review the information in?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thinking, Thinking, Thinking

For some reason today at work, I cannot think of anything else but languages (I'm sure you are not surprised!)  It is a bit of a slow day, so I've been looking at different language resources online.

I am at an interesting point in my Dutch now.  I would say that I am now "barely functional."  This is a good thing though!  By barely functional, I mean that I can pretty much get though the day without having to ask for too much English on the very basic every day tasks, nothing major or out of the ordinary though (yet.)  I feel like it is such a strange feeling to be at this stage.  At some points I feel like I don't know anything, but at other times, I can't believe that I understood something.  There are just so many extremes.  For example, I got an introductory pamphlet from the library when I joined and I was for the most part able to browse through it and actually obtain information about the library without having to translate anything!  I was pretty happy and impressed with myself at the same time.  But then there are also times, like for example today, where I found a word list online with some pretty common words on it, and I only knew maybe about 20% of them.  It seams as if there really is no linear progression to learning a language, but really just a bunch of randomness and things either click or they don't.  And, there is really no way to "force the click."  But let me tell you, it is a great feeling every now and again when you do experience "the click."

At this point also, I am still wandering if I am approaching learning Dutch correctly.  There are so many contradictory viewpoints out there that I'm just not sure what to think.  I guess since I am making progress it is a good thing and I am doing something right, but there is always a thought in the back of my mind that is asking, "What if there is a better way that I could be doing this?"  I now have so many different things that I am doing each night, reading kids books | 10 words per day iPhone app | reviewing Rosetta Stone | watching online Dutch videos | reading the website | Dutch Word of the Day in my RSS reader | and whatever else that I can think of doing, it's pretty crazy.  Recently I'm starting to wander now if I am getting enough speaking practice.  Even though I try to speak Dutch when I can, I am not really forcing myself to, I only do it when I am relatively comfortable with what I am going to say.  I think I need to start challenging myself more in that area next.  Yes, conversations are nowhere near as colorful when I am using Dutch because of my limited vocabulary, but still, it must be done.

Also, now that I have some French friends, I decided to quiz myself to see what I remembered from high school French today online.  I was pretty amazed at some of the stuff I did remember.

One other thing that's been bugging me (and I am not happy with myself that I let it get to me) is that I am damn jealous of Kris who is a native English speaker but also speaks perfect Dutch and near perfect French.  I am always thinking "Why can't I do that?"  Never mind the fact that he's been speaking French since he was in high school and Dutch for the last 10 years, that part always seams to slip my mind.  I try my best to turn the feeling around into a positive one and make myself think...look it is possible if Kris was able to do it so keep trying.  It really gives me something to strive for.  [Kris, do not let this get your your head!]

Well, this was what has been on my mind today so I thought I'd write about it as an update about what's been going on with me lately.  No, I am not obsessing today about not knowing Dutch, but am more just thinking about it in both good and bad ways.  Like I said, I am at an interesting point right now with this whole process.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Learning to Read all over Again!

Today I finally joined the library in Haarlem.  And so continues my quest to learn Dutch.  The strange thing about the libraries in the Netherlands is you have to pay!  It is cheap, but still strange.  I am used to the Carnegie Library which has been "Free to the People since 1895."  Haha.  Anyways, the lady was nice and ended up giving me a €10 discount since they were having a membership shortage and it only cost me €21 for a whole year, and if it ends up really helping me to learn Dutch then it will be worth every "penny" (Euro cent!) Hahaha!  On a good note, I filled out the entire form (it was pretty short) that was all in Dutch on my own.

I ended up getting a bunch of children's books because that is pretty much what my level is right now.  I'm really hoping that I will be able to progress through these ones pretty fast.  It should be interesting though, I got Dr. Seuss, Donald Duck, and some other random one.  I also got a comic about the Netherlands that is not for children.

Today I also came up with a:
New Goal
Get a haircut (and talk to the person cutting my hair) without using English.

Yes, this is a pretty ambitious goal, and I realize that I will not be getting there any time soon, but I think it will be a good test and it something to strive for.  Until then, I though it would be good to come up with a list of lesser goals so that I can at least see that I am making progress because (as you all know) I never think that I am making any progress.  Please check out my Dutch Goals List and let me know if you have any other milestones that would be good to add and I will add them.  These are just a few I came up with right now.

So, here is hoping this library membership is going to be a step in the right direction.  I want to try to read at lest one children's book per day until that becomes too easy and then I will take it to the next step from there.  As always, thanks for your support and comments, it really does make a difference when I see that you all are behind me in this.  And Aunt Chris, I'm still trying for the Prince Charles suggestion that you gave me, that would definitely be the best learning solution I think!  ;-)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On a Better Note

So after going to bed early on Friday night, I felt much better again on Saturday.  I even started (attempting) to speak Dutch again!

This weekend was also Gay Pride weekend in Amsterdam.  No I am not gay, but this is one of the biggest events in Amsterdam.  Everyone goes, gay and straight.  It is basically a big party with lots of drinking like Queen's Day.  It was a shame though because it was raining a lot.  We stopped and saw the parade (in the canals) for about 2 minutes then it started to rain.  We ended up just going to a café and drinking beer all day.  The Frenchies brought their friend from PPG Amsterdam who was Dutch and he told me that he was impressed with the amount that I know already.  It is nice to hear when others (especially Dutch people) say that I am doing good and making progress.  I just wish I could see it more myself.  But a complement is a complement so I was happy.  That night Kris and I watch a really stupid movie in Cantonese called "The Killer."  They movie was basically about killing people, but there were always these crazy Asian guys in totally white jumpsuits busting out of cars all over the place.  Really funny!

Today, I didn't do too much, helped Kris with his house and played Snooker at Level 1tonight.

I am happy to be feeling better and am glad the weekend came when it did.  But for right now I need to go study some Dutch to make up for my boycott on Friday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Here we go again...

Caution: Negative Post

The last three weeks have been great with Dutch.  I have been feeling really good about myself and have had pretty much nothing but optimism towards learning.  I really though all of the depression was over.

Then, it all went away last night.  Kris had to stop at the garage on the way home to get his car fixed.  We ended up being there for a little over a hour and a half.  When I am in situations like that, where everyone speaks Dutch and I have to speak English, it is really quite embarrassing.  I can't really explain the feeling, but embarrassing I think is what describes it best.  I test to not say anything in these situations because I don't want people looking at me like I'm an idiot.  For the most part I've learned to get over this, but I think since yesterday I was in the situation for so long that it just built up and slowly got rid of all the optimism that I've built up.  I think the work part was when the auto mechanic turned to me at the end and spoke to me in English even for the very simple things like "goodbye."  Wow, it just really hurts.  So I was kinda down last night but was trying my best to bring myself out of it and I did a little bit.

This morning I still did not feel totally up to par and by the time we got to work I decided I was boycotting Dutch for the day (I know not a good choice...)  So I used English the whole day and by doing that I think just made things worse.  Towards the end of the day I realized how stupid the whole thing was so little by little I started to feel a bit better.  Then at the very end of the day, someone came into are room and carried on an entire conversation in Dutch not even acknowledging that fact that I was in the room.  I've learn to get over this as well by listening really hard and trying to figure out was was going on and chiming in when possible.  But today, that was just not going to happen, this was the final straw that made the bad mood stick for the rest of the day.  Man does that make me feel stupid, unimportant, dumb, and unwanted.  Like "no need to include Nick, he has nothing of value to add anyway."

No I know that's not the reason that people do this and like I've said before I don't want people to change for me, but today being in the state that I was in, it was just too much and I could not handle it so I just got out my phone and started playing a game and totally tuned everyone out.

I'm starting to feel a bit better now that I've gotten everything off my chest on here (thanks again for listening.)  Now I need to concentrate on getting my optimism back, one so I can have a good weekend, and two so I do not lose all of the progress I've made so far.

So sorry to disappoint everyone with this news, but hopefully it is only a minor setback.  I look forward to hopefully sharing some better news next time.


Is it okay to drink coffee and energy drink at the same time?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ik heb van het Werk Gefietst Thuis!

[I biked home from work]
{translation could be wrong! :-)}

Today, Kris had to stay after work to do some server room stuff and I really didn't feel like staying this week so I through my bike in his van on the way to work.  While at work, I mapped out my route on Google Maps and set it to walking (biking directions are not available in Holland yet.)  The route looked easy enough, just basically take the N201 pretty much the whole way.  The total ride was going to be 25k exactly and according to Google Maps take 5 hours and 9 minutes if I were to walk.

So the end of the day came and everyone thought I was crazy riding from Uithoorn to Haarlem, but whatever, it's been something that I've been wanting to do.  They all though I was going to get rained on too, I was optimistically thinking that I would not.  The ride for the most part was good.  I only got mixed up for about 5 minutes when there was one little section of the N201 that did not have a bike lane so I had to go on some back roads for about .5k for so.  While passing Skipole I realized how loud those planes are directly overhead when you are not in a car.  When I got to Hoofddorp I got off the N201 and cut through the center of Hoofddorp and then got back on the N201.  When I finally made to to Haarlem I was I was starving.  The trip took about 1 hour and 25 minutes.  There was a lot of start and stop due to red lights, but I though the time was not too bad.  Better than if I would have taken the bus that is for sure.

I thought I was going to have so much time tonight because the bike ride was going to be my workout for the day so I was not going to go to clubsportive later.  But wow, I was so tired I didn't feel like doing much at home anyway.  I finally "woke up" after I took a shower much later.

Would I do it again?
Yes and no.  I would for sure ride home from work again pending that I had nothing I really wanted to get done that night, but I don't think I would ever ride into work.  All I wanted to do when I got home tonight was relax and that is not a good feeling to have when you are at work.  But glad I did it and I felt good about myself.  I definitely earned the cookie that I scarfed down immediately after getting into my apartment!

Ben je geil of wil je een koekji?  Ik wil een koekje alstjeblieft!!  Tenminste dat is wat ik wilde toen! :-)