Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Oh happy day - by first A of the semester came on Monday, followed by another on Tuesday! The first was for a sociolinguistics quiz, and the second, for a geography presentation. It is really lucky that the presentation was so good, seeing as Nikky and I worked on it from 730 on Monday evening until 3 in the morning. We presented for the entire class, a combination of powerpoint presenting, a video, and discussion with the class. The best part, though, is that the teacher said in her assessment "presentation skills were excellent!" Especially since Nikky and I both count presentations as our weakest points, scholastically.

Monday I also had my Dutch mid-term. I think I got an A- or a B+. I hope... One girl said she talked to the teacher after class, and that she had said "I just flipped through them and I think a lot of people failed already." how do you fail that? In one exercise, you had to fill in the correct conjugated form of the given verb; in another you had to write in the correct possessive pronoun; then there were ten questions with short phrases and sentence parts to be arranged in the correct order, and finally a short essay on "a day in your life", of 140-150 words.

And let's not forget: we had dictionaries and grammar and vocabulary lists.

The only thing I'm even slightly worried about is my essay part, I probably put wrote some sentences in the wrong order.

Yesterday was the psycholinguistics mid-term. I think it went okay. For each question, I knew something about what he was talking about; there were only two of the 12 which I mostly guessed about. What got me was the essay question, concerning the "psychological process, physiological means and physical mechanisms" involved in language. Hmm... where does one of those start and the other begin? And which parts of language production are which? Creation of a message is subconscious... is it psychological? The only thing I knew for sure was that the motor control strip and auditory area are responsible for the physical aspects of language production and comprehension. Seriously, too many "ph-" and "ps-" words for me in that sentence.

Just what is physiology, anyway? I'll have to consult my dictionary.

Tomorrow I have a sociolinguistics exam at 4, then I have to cook dinner... I don't know what yet! At 830 there's a stupid yearbook meeting; our wonderful board hasn't been very organized and nothing has been done. So this meeting is absolutely necessary. As soon as it's done, though, Jeanine and I are watching the BBS version of Pride and Prejudice to celebrate the arrival of spring break! Because on Friday, all I have is one half-hour meeting concerning an essay outline which probably will not even exist by then anyway!

My other plans for Friday include lunch with Anne - we're thinking pancakes, but I'm also going to introduce her to Dr. Pepper and possibly fried green plantains (interesting combo, I know - and spending a good chunk of time at the library, getting my sociolinguistics essay started. Siigghh. That's going to be a tricky one!

Right now, though, I'm about to go out for coffee with Anne, and then study study study study study study!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Here come midterms, here come midterms, right down Midterm Lane...

Fun times. Only... not so much!

Tomorrow I have my Dutch midterm, for which I have not studied at all. This is because we are allowed to take a dictionary and grammar sheets with us into the exam, which gives little reason for studying.

Also that the things I really need to study are the things I hate the most: directions and telling time.

Ah well. Tonight I will conjugate some irregular verbs. I should be fine.

Mostly I worry about Tuesday. On Tuesday morning, at 845, I have to give a presentation with Nikky. This presentation was supposedto be on Friday, but the teacher was sick once and pushed everything back a class. So now Nikky and I have to present in the midst of midterms. It is an interesting topic, but I can't focus, because when I settle down to work on the presentation, I start thinking about the other things I have to do and comparing percentages: the presentation is worth less than 10% of the grade, but my psycholinguistics exam, to be taken at 1345 on Tuesday, is worth 20% of the final grade. That's a hefty chunk.

I think I will be pretty well prepared for that. I've studied about ten hours for it already; I just need to learn types of Aphasias and brain imaging. Then it's just reviewing, making sure I really know everything.

Though I'm sure I don't know when I'll do that, besides right before class on Tuesday.

And then on Thursday, I have the sociolinguistics midterm. For which I have not begun to study. And we have a review session tomorrow. For the psycholinguistics review on Friday, I had already studied most of the material, and thus felt very good and confident, especially next to my friends who had not yet begun.

But sociolinguistics... well, sociolinguistics will be easier because half of it will be multiple choice questions, of all things! I never expected that here. Most teachers/professors scoff the idea, so who knew?

And then Friday morning, I have an essay outline due in geography. An interesting topic: migration and Diasporas. But still, yet another thing to do. I might skip it all together... terrible idea, I know, but quite likely. And when that's done, and it's finally spring break, I have to get to work on my sociolinguistics midterm paper. That will also be very interesting, but very, very complicated and difficult.

Anne invited me to her place this weekend. It would be so much fun but I still find myself searching for excuses... mostly I'd just feel guilty if I didn't get a good start on this socio essay this weekend. Perhaps I will spend Wednesday at the library doing research for the two papers instead of studying for sociolinguistics...

It all comes down to the balance of the percentage worth of the final grade...

Five days to go!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Last night, while I waited for Anne to finish something so we could start our movie, I saw part of a documentary about September 11th. Each time it said a time at which something had happened, I thought about what I had been doing. "10:15 am." hmm... that was when I was catching the bus to go to school.

Why did I go to school that day?
There are so many things about that day that seem strange now when I look back. First of all, in a way, I am surprised that I even went to school that day. It seems strange that I didn't stay home to watch the news - I've missed a million days of school for baseball.

And why weren't Mom and Dad and I listening to the radio? Was the TV on in their bedroom? Were we just checking internet updates? I remember Dad coming downstairs and saying what had happened, but I just thought it was an accident, you know, a plane hit a building, that's sad. I guess we were less wired then than now, but it still seems strange.

But the weirdest of all is what happened at school. Why did we go to French class and study French? Why did I then go to Composition/Literature and do comp/lit? Why did we only listen to the radio and talk about what was happening in global studies, and then once I moved on to biology, we did biology? As if, in global studies, we were studying something that had happened on the other side of the world, or some war that took place a hundred years ago. Not a major event, happening at that very moment.

Doesn't it seem strange that everything didn't just freeze, and all eyes turned to the news, the radio? Shouldn't it have been, in some way, like a snow day, including the sort of muffled quiet?

You hear about other big occurrences in history, and how everybody just listened to the radio, wide-eyed, scared, maybe...

It just got me thinking.

And now I have to start thinking about the difference between so-called 1st and 3rd world cities.

Oh - and another thing I wonder about: Why wasn't the commentary of the final out of the 2004 World Series much more exciting? I'm thinking the Shot Heard 'Round the World. I'm thinking immortal, prototypical fame... Instead of "And the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions. For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball's World Championship. Can you believe it?" and barely a shred of excitement in the guys' voice. Pathetic. How about "THE RED SOX WIN! THE RED SOX WIN! For the first time in EIGHTY-SIX YEARS, the RED SOX WIN THE WORLD SERIES!" Any fan would have done better.

17 days till the Sox play again, and only 16 till the season officially opens...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I hadn't realized just how much work I have to do... but now it's getting real. Three exams, a presentation, an essay outline, all due next week.

And the weather is gorgeous! I shut myself in the library for almost four hours today... I've had enough. I'm about to go for a walk. I'm considering changing into a skirt... that would be so nice... a spring breeze, sunshine, etc...

And I'm supposed to study in this? The only way I can imagine studying is grabbing a blanket and my books and notes and lying on the grass next to the canal. But I don't know if I'd get enough done.

So now, instead, I think I'm just going to go for a walk, and maybe stop at the store and buy some... cookies. ice cream. cold drink. Something refreshing and tasty.

I'm considering quitting house dinners. But that's a completely different story, not one for a fine day like this one!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Some nice/funny things about the Netherlands

There are a few things about the Netherlands that I really appreciate and like. There are a few things about the Netherlands that I also really dislike, but let's focus on the nice things.

I love the cheap price of (most) groceries. People here complain about the Albert Heijn monopoly and their insane high pricing, but I love that I can go to the store and buy yogurt, applesauce, cereal, milk, pasta, canned tomatoes, chocolate, cookies, etc., etc., and still spend only ten euros.

Today, for example I went to the Albert Heijn and bought a big bar of dark chocolate (it's really nice to let it melt in your mouth as you drink hot tea through it), two different kinds of cookies, and a bag of salted peanuts, for LESS THAN TWO EUROS.

Makes my day! Less than the price of a cappuccino at de Vriendschap! I love it!

Another thing I love about the Netherlands is a very funny one: The doors on the bathrooms stalls open OUTWARDS. You know how in the U.S, the doors all open inwards? And you have your purse (or if you're at the airport, two overstuffed carry-on bags) and you have to try to squeeze in the door without brushing up against the toilet or anything.

But in the Netherlands, everywhere I've been, you casually open the door, walk in, and shut it. no problems. No tricky maneuvering. Nothing.

But then again, we have hot running water in just about every bathroom that isn't a rest stop.

And another funny thing about the Netherlands is that here all of my friends have the same birthdays as friends at home. Laura has the same birthday as Julia, Yael has the same birthday as Koko (and Dilyana is only the day before), and Jeanine has the same birthday as Devin. Besides that, my friend Charlotte's birthday is the same as mine. I have never met anyone with my birthday before! And Charlotte and I aren't even the only ones; there's another first year who also has the same birthday.

Isn't that... weird? Freaky? Strange?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Okay, so I just got and imported Justin Timberlake's new CD.
So sue me.
Some of the tracks are really very... relaxing.

But okay, okay, not high quality stuff. It's kind of cool, though, because it's not really like a whole bunch of songs, but kind of an endless flow of sorta changing music... it wouldn't work very well on shuffle.

Last night I went out in earnest. I've gone to the RA club Divine on Tuesdays only once or twice this semester, and each time it was just a "go for an hour, say hello to people, leave and get some sleep" thing.

This time though, it was the whole thing: spend hours primping and running from house to house for wardrobe consultations, arranging walking buddies, "who are you going with", etc, high heels, not just tennis shoes, etc. etc. etc.

Anne, Dilyana and I went around 12:30 or 1, and no one was dancing until later. But it was definitely fun, even though the DJ will always put on lame Dutch-style techno in the middle of a fast, upbeat song to kill a perfect groove and make everyone stop mid-dance to figure out what the heck he's playing this time and how we're supposed to dance to it.

It ended at only 2:45 - that's when they turned the lights back on. Pathetic.
Luckily, though, just as Dilyana and I reached Bagijnhof, she said, "Grace, I have a beer in the fridge." So I was up until four with Dilyana, sitting in her common room and talking over a beer that was not Heineken. :)

This afternoon, it's out to the HEMA cafe for ice cream with Joy and Lia and whoever else might come/show up. Lia wanted McDonald's and I said NO. They were surprised because apparently Natasha (American) also says no to McDonald's, and the other two are all into it. Or at least "just the ice cream".

For me, though, it isn't just that I don't want to eat the food. I don't want to support the business. I saw "Supersize Me", and that was crazy stuff. I don't like that business. It ties in with Starbucks too - Starbucks is a much better company, they support workers, they give benefits, they use (relatively) good products, etc. They're still nasty and stand for things I don't like.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Little to report....

Since my trip to Rotterdam on Wednesday, not very much has happened that seems especially noteworthy.

On the other hand, anybody who likes to write should be able to describe the smallest, most unimportant occurence or thing in an entertaining matter, right?

Not that I can think of a certain one of these occurences or things to write about.

Dutch class is back on, which means we're back in the grind, which means I'm back to being annoyed about having to take a beginning language class. I won't bore you with what you already know, but I just have to once again open up the subject of the way languages are taught.

It seems so strange to me that there is a "normal, given" way of teaching languages, at least in "the West" (that term is incredibly useful in Human geography, but I never understand why, when every other term must have it's definition defined and redefined, but this one passes as an easy way to separate people and cultures and societies and all those other words which are picked to death - but I'm getting off topic), and that that way is this one. It must be obvious to anyone who has ever spent time around babies that people do not naturally learn languages by memorizing phrases and the fill in the blank answers that go with them. (In this case, that would be "Hoe heet je?" "Ik heet _____.") Surely this is not something that only people who study linguistics and/or learn a language by immersion realize.

When I learned Spanish in the Dominican Republic, I had a whole week after I arrived before I started working at the politecnico. I spent a bit of time each morning studying Spanish, and the things I chose to study were the things that seemed most important to know. I studied irregular verbs, but the first words I learned were not "household chores" or "how to ask for directions" (which is an absolutely ridiculous notion, I think. Everyone knows that if you are lost and don't speak the language, you just ask people and follow the directions their fingers point in, and keep asking until you arrive). In fact, I think the first two words I learned in the Dominican Republic were colmado, which is the name for the little corner stores in the DR, and subir, which means to go up. That's because my bedroom was upstairs, and each night when I was going to bed, my host mom asked if I was going up, as in going to sleep. Voy a subir came to mean I'm going to bed, not just I'm going upstairs.

The first thing I learned in France, similarly, was not gas station terminology (something I distinctly remember the French 5-6 class learning the year after my exchange). I finished breakfast my first morning, and in an attempt to say "I'm finished," I said je fin. I doubted this was the correct tense, but I knew that je means "I" and that fin is what they say instead of "The End" in the movies.

But when I said "Je fin," my host mom laughed and explained that I had just said je faim, meaning "I hunger".

Not that this proves anything I am saying.

This is why I hate prescribed sentences: If, in Dutch, someone says "Hoe heet je" or "wie ben je", it means essentially the same thing. But if you reply to the first "Ik ben Grace" or the second "Ik heet Grace", you are answering incorrectly. If you are left to simply understand the general meaning of the sentence, you can answer correctly: "Grace, en jij?" If you learn the building blocks of the language, you will know which verb to choose because you can distinguish between their meanings. If you learn simply that one means "What is your name" and the other means "who are you", the meanings will become mixed in your mind and you don't care which is being asked because they mean the same thing.


I also hate learning how to ask for directions. That is not useful information to me. I live in Middelburg and have for over 5 months now; it is unlikely that I will get lost here. What I do want to know is how to ask "how late are you open?" and, more important, how to understand the answer!

In psycholinguistics right now, we are learning about lemmas and traces and deep structures and complicated things like that. It is all very interesting and not quite too scientific for me; the subject (and teacher) are interesting enough for me to follow. But it adds to my frustration with ACC 099 Beginner Dutch. Obviously this is not how my brain picks things up.

Maybe I should become a ground-breaking, innovative, foreign language curriculum and textbook writer.

That actually doesn't sound too boring. (Well, maybe the textbook part.)

I am 30 pages away from finishing Northanger Abbey, and I can't remember the last time I read a book this quickly. I've decided that next will be "Long Ago in France", but maybe it would be better to put that off until April and focus on studying for midterms, which are two weeks away.

However, I need something to read before sleep each night. Although I suppose reviewing psycho- and sociolinguistic notes might do...

Saturday, March 3, 2007


On Wednesday, I went to Rotterdam with Eva and Dilyana. We caught the train at arount 930 and arrived in Rotter-dam at noon, with no plan or itinerary except to somehow make our way over to the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, eventually, in the course of the day.

The main point was simply to get out of Middelburg for a minute and spend a whole day without the subject of "school" or "work" crossing our minds or weaseling into conversation.

We left the station and were on a windy street with lots and lots of people and big tall skyscrapers. I felt silly but I immiediately took pictures of the buildings. Not that I've never seen tall buildings before; it's just been so long! (Okay, only a month or two... it's still nice and surprising.)
We got orange juice at an Orange Cafe (Orange as in the cellular telephone company) and started walking. It was very, very windy. This is a hard part about the Netherlands: I can deal with the greyness and the raininess as well as I deal with it at home, except that the wind can make it impossible to use an umbrella, and drives the rain sideways so an umbrella wouldn't do much good anyway.

Luckily, it wasn't raining. In fact, we had very good weather the entire day: it rained for a few minutes in the morning but at that point we were already in the Free Record Shop.

What is it about traveling that turns otherwise unreasonable and thoughtless purchases into a completely necessary object that you absolutely couldn't live without? At any rate, Dilyana and I left with two DVDs each. (Mine were "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sense and Sensibility", so they weren't really thoughtless because I had been thinking about them for a long time.)

We passed an ice cream stand, and Eva looked desirous, so I immediately justified the stop and in we went. (I am very good at justifying the consumption of ice cream at any time of day and in any season or weather condition.)
Inside, we were served by a very friendly, funny young man, who spoke excellent English, advised on flavors and introduced Dilyana to passion fruit. What is even stranger than the fact that she had never heard of passion fruit is that she didn't like it when she tasted it.
"It's too sweet," she said.
"Sweet?!?" said the man, surprised. "You mean sour."
"No, too sweet," she said.

Eva and I had the same flavors, and the man teased us about copying each other. He asked where we were from, and got very diverse answers! He reminded me of me when I worked at Mio Gelato. Man I would love to work again.

We sat and enjoyed our ice cream. First really good ice cream I have had since coming to the Netherlands for this semester, and quite probably only the second or third time since I came here in August.

And only the first of the delicious taste of the day...

We walked some more, went to more shops. We had the idea that we were slowly working our way towards the museum, which Anne was very enthusiastic about and sounded very interesting.

We considered buying matching underwear, but it turned out not to be on sale. Eva bought a dress. She had no idea when she would wear it, but it looked very nice on her: grey with silver sequins around the hips and a low keyhole back. We went to a giant H&M, which makes the Middelburg branch look sadly pathetic.

We wandered around and looked for a place to get lunch.

Eva wanted french fries. I ate part of one of my sandwiches. It's not that I'm healthy or much of a planner, mostly it's just that I'm stingy. But when we passed a poffertjessalon, I insisted that we return after we found a lunch for the others. I was not passing up on real poffertjes, which I have only had once or twice since moving to Middelburg.

We wandered further in search of French fries and ended up at the big, funky library. It was at this point that we realized we were not walking towards the museum, and it was even later, as we were eating poffertjes, that we realized were walking in quite a different direction.

But no matter. We gave up on the French fries, turned around and walked back to the poffertjessalon. We were waited on by a surly, big, tall, young-ish man, who gave us a lot of information about the menu while we all smiled up at the him. At the end, Dilyana said, "English?" in a pleading voice.

"Please," I added, and he said, "Oh," and said a lot less in English.

I must admit that I am more and more pleased with my ordering skills. On Friday I went to the Coffe House St. John with Anne and not only ordered the coffee I wanted in near-perfect Dutch but even asked to replace the plain whipped cream with the Mocha kind. The real problem comes afterward, when they say something in return and I have to admit that actually, I don't really speak it - or rather, that I can say certain sentences involving food and cafes, but have very small chance of understanding!

We had tea and coffee, and Dilyana and I each ordered poffertjes. I think I'll let my pictures do the talking...


Dilyana and I, happy with our poffertjes:

Dilyana and I, eating poffertjes:

Ah, good times.

We walked back towards the central station the way we came, and from there, towards the museum. Only really towards it this time.

Of course, we arrived there after three, which didn't leave us much time for wandering. By the time we had gotten to the more recent pieces, which is what I am really interested in, the guards were kicking us out. We couldn't even buy postcards. Luckily, though, most museums are free on Wednesdays, so we got in for free instead of having to pay 7 euros, and therefore we were not too disappointed about the time shortage.

We went for a walk in the garden, and then looked in a few more shop windows.

We went for a walk in the garden of the museum, and afterwards, we looked into some more shops.
We spent some time in a nice bookshop which made me especially happy because there was a black cat sitting on the stairs near the counter. Almost completely black; just a little bit of white on a few of its paws. I am always thinking about how nice it would be to have a cat her ein Middelburg. It could sit and sleep on your lap while you were up late studying and curl up on the carpet under the window on sunny afternoons. And I, who has my own door, could let it in and out of doors.

Unfortunately, students at the Roosevelt Academy are not allowed to keep pets, except a select few who get special permission and those who have small caged creatures and can therefore sneak around the rules. However, I have no interest in anything that forces me to clean up after it.

We passed another nice window with the best T-shirts ever:

And silly me, I forgot to write down the name of the store! How much I would love to have a T-shirt that says "spinach" on it in Dutch! For all I know, though, it was only a promotion or ad campaign... but I long for that shirt!

For dinner we went for Chinese food at a place that seemed pretty fast food-y to me. Originally, though, they had wanted to go to KFC, but luckily the line was too long. I wasn't hungry so I just bought a soda and nibbled on their food. Eva was disappointed with the quality, said it wasn't really like this, usually it was much better... I could have told her that, before we went in! But she says she has had pretty good Chinese food in similar places before, and I suppose she would know.

After this, we worked our way back to the train station. It was cold and very windy, and it was starting to rain a little, just enough to make it somewhat miserable. Our last bit of excitement came on the train platform, when an old couple approached us and the man said, "Well, see you tomorrow, in Middelburg!"

We all looked at him with very confused expressions on our faces, and he explained that he had seen us this morning in Middelburg and now he saw us again, getting the train back home.

We played a Bulgarian game, very similar to M.A.S.H., on the ride home, and said good evening to the man and his wife as we crossed the bridge over the first canal and into Middelburg.

Another nice thing about leaving Middelburg is that when you come back, it feels more like home.

Please forgive any awful and/or inexcusable typos; I had a hard enough getting the picture layout right and no patience remains for capitalizations, punctuation, spelling, or grammar, so please excuse me.