Life is good. I found it by bike the other day, a place called Zuiderpark. Itâ€™s beautiful, complete with bike paths, running paths, soccer fields, a botanical garden, and a petting zoo. Although Holland is notorious for rain, yesterday was a perfect day. On my way back from the park I got to use the little Dutch that I can speak to ask directions. Thankfully I was enjoying my bike ride, anticipating the challenge of finding my way around this new city. Den Haag is like a mini-Amsterdam, but with an even chiller atmosphere (if you can believe it), friendly neighbors in replace of stumbling tourists, and a great place to call home for the next three and a half months.
I have discovered downtown Den Haag, what is known as the Centrum. I still have much to see in this city. The beach is beautiful as well, and everyone here is exceptionally nice. My apartment is located about 25-30 minutes walking from the school. I suppose you could say we live in a residential area of sorts. Most students are living in a place called Astraat or in the Centrum. At first, I was not sure about being so far away, but after a week or so, I realized this is the perfect place to be. In the bottom of my building, my friend Claus from Egypt runs a local store and always gives me great deals on pineappleâ€¦yummy. Three doors down is a bicycle shop, a man from Holland named Peter sold me my bike as well as some fresh fish from the sea this past weekend. I got the most beautiful fresh salmon for about a fourth of the price just by having a desire to get to know the people around meâ€¦to say the least, I felt pretty proud about it! I go running most days, enjoying the fact that down the block to either direction are parks, soccer fields, and wildlife.
School is an entirely new experience. I have never seen anything quite like The Hague University. The first week was very uncommon. They sell beer here on tap right outside the front door. On Wednesday of my first week, I watched a break-dance show on a stage set up in the main hall of the school. Each day I ride to school I am even more curious about what I will see next. Classes are very interesting as well. In my EBC course we (4 of us) are creating our own business, complete with a business plan, registration with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, marketing plans, projected financial statements, and a real sense of what entrepreneurs must go through. In my Global Development Policy class I am learning more about African countries living in immense poverty, the role (or lack there of) of organizations such as the WTO, WHO, the World Bank, and learning the complex and political nature of the European Union. It is pretty interesting, as the only American in the classroom, to see how people my age feel about the U.S., as well as China and the EU.
I most definitely miss my family. I miss UofL, my friends, USF and my friends in Tampa, the city of Louisville, and my mentors on campus. I know I am missed back home as well, but I will return soon enough as a more polished, educated, and mature me. I canâ€™t put into words how intense it is to be so far away from everything I know, yet so close to everything I need. Iâ€™m learning even more about who I am, learning how easy it is to take things one day at a time, and showing myself that negative circumstances are only that way out of reaction, using the positive in life to look past cracks in the road.
I donâ€™t have any pictures yet of my new city (trying not to feel like a tourist here), but I will sooner or later. What I do know is that Europe is unlike anything I could have imagined. I think it is important to come here not with expectations, but with possibilities. Of course things have rough at times, but this is hands down the greatest journey I have ever taken.
As a side note, I am listening right now to the melodious tones of Alexi Murdoch. Those who know me well will understand this to be an important yet equally random fact. Music connects our lives.
Until next time,