Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tilburg Tour of Portland

Over a week ago, I went to Tilburg for a day to go on the Tilburg Tour of Portland, a tour of Portland that actually takes place in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

I thought the best way to show you all the experience would be by posting several pictures with captions, but I'll leave a few comments at the bottom as well.

On the banks of the Willamette River, you can see the Burnside Bridge down thataways.

Saturday Market

Food Cart Row

The Big Pink of Tilburg, and Broadway... rather different than the Portland versions!

The Benson fountains, Tilburg-style

Here are all the strip clubs! That's Mary's on the right!


Probably my favorite Portland place: Powell's City of Books!

This is the Virginia Cafe, in its new location

The Fox building, which definitely has some similar qualities

If I told you this was really Pioneer Place, you might believe me. But it isn't, not really!

Our guide shows off the watermark from Portland floods

A few remarks:
It was definitely a fun tour. I was the only American on the trip, and the only person who had ever been to Portland, besides the guide. It was a lot of fun, though. HE thought he even remembered seeing my parents/grandparents on the Portland Tour of Tilburg. "I remember some people saying, 'oh, yeah, we should tell her to go...' but I assumed that wouldn't happen," he said.

I was pretty surprised to see how similar the two cities were. Even though there were some drastic differences, it was interesting to see how you could pick out the similarities. Once or twice, I didn't know what building he was talking about, but it definitely looked like a building you might see in Portland. And I loved the trash can as a water fountain and all of the bikes parked at the central station as the zoobomb bike pile by Powell's.

After the tour, which I can really only say was fun and interesting and a little bit surreal, I was interviewed by a couple of people who were excited to find out that I was a real true Portlander. This is one of the articles - in Dutch, though, sorry!

When the group broke up, I stopped for coffee at a place thrillingly similar to a Portland cafe. Order at the counter, have a chocolate muffin, spread out at a table, read and write a bit... they even had a couch. I think that is the first time I have seen a couch in a cafe in the Netherlands.

I went back to Middelburg just a little sad to go back to reality - wishing we had a cafe like that one where I could study, missing some parts of Portland, and thinking about a good wander through Powell's. But also, the tour made me pretty happy to be here in the Netherlands right now. I was even nicely resigned to traveling alone - because the truth is, no matter how much complain, I am a bit selfish and it's always nice to be able to do exactly what I want, no compromises.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

BoSox Birthday

Last night I set my alarm for 5, planning to get up and watch most of the Sox game on the archive option. Yeah, well, try getting a 21-year old university student out of bed at 5. I slept until 7, rudely awakened by the snooze every so often. I got up with enough time to spare to "skim" yesterday's games (which had ended only a few hours before).

A heartbreaking loss, let me say. Still no berth! It's getting a little worrisome. Nevertheless, I was into it enough that I could not consider wearing anything that did not have some BoSox representation (I went with the shirt I'm wearing enthusiastically in the photo above). With my Boston shirt AND commuter mug (Thanks Mom!) it wasn't too hard to accept the loss and go to Dutch class.

Sitting at the table, I got out a pen and paper. "Dutch, Week 5(a)," I wrote. Let's see... yesterday was... the 22nd? So: "Tuesday 23 September 2008".

An uncontrollable grin spread across my face. It figures that today began so baseball-y. It's been 9 years since I first went to Fenway Park and fell in love with the Boston Red Sox.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Walk

Just a note to let you all know that the Tilburg Tour of Portland post is coming!

The main reason it is not already up on the screen for you to read is because on my way home from the train station, I was intercepted by some friends on their way to Vlissingen to see the film War Child. One of my best friends was the organizer of the event and was holding a discussion with the director and a representative of War Child Netherlands after the film. Anyway, it wasn't that hard for me to convince me.

The film is very good and I think worth seeing, if you are interested.

The Tilburg Tour of Portland was also very interesting and worth doing. But more on that later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Tomorrow I'll be going to Tilburg to take the Tilburg Tour of Portland, alone.


All of my attempts at friend (and even very slight acquaintances) convincing failed miserably. The two people who seemed like they might actually be interested had class and other school-related things, so I'm on my own. Again.

I'm getting sick of it, to be honest.

I'm just hoping this is no Harlemse Honkbalweek Repeat. I don't think it will be though; the tour itself will probably be a pretty small intimate affair and I'm sure I will talk to some of my fellow guidees. I hope.

Then I can report back to you guys - where have you gone? At least my family used to read this blog, but now I'm wondering who does...

The Sox beat the Rays and are finally back in the lead in the AL East - although the Rays are also in that spot. I guess we can share for 24 hours or so, but we'll want it to ourselves soon.

That's a happy thought for while I'm wandering around Tilburg ALONE post-tour.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I'm not much of a dreamer.

Well, I am a dreamer, but of the day variety more than the nighttime kind.

I very rarely have dreams that I remember the next day. Not when I was homeschooled, not during my gap year, not when I was exchange in France, and not here, in the Netherlands. I don't know that I have ever actually dreamed in a foreign language, at least not until well after I spoke it. And everyone says that that is when you realize you speak the language.

So when my creative writing instructor told us that we would have to buy three different notebooks - the aforementioned jotter, and a field journal to take out and make observations - I was a little worried about the dream journal we were supposed to keep.

He assured us that he would not read our dreams. I almost wish he would, because I won't have many and I know that when he flips through the journal to see that there is some content, he will find that there is very little.

But the first few mornings after that class, I woke up every morning having had dreams.

Mostly about cookies.

Also, very vague, and the descriptions very short and boring. "People came to work and discussed how the cookies at the ijsvogel are so much better than the individual packaged cookies you get other places". Who cares? Not much of a story embedded there, if you ask me.

But since that first week, the dreams have died. I can't remember them. I try to give myself time in the morning - hit snooze, and let the dream come back to you... wake up by writing about your dream... what's the first thing that pops into your mind...

And I have nothing.

I fear my instructor will skim through my dream journal at the midterm checkup and see only two pages and maybe glimpses of words like "Christmas", "licorice", and "fleece and fleece zippers workshop". (The latter would work into a story quite well, but I've reserved it for my novel.) My participation grade might be quite low on this count.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Making Marks

Today in Creative Writing, we got off-topic. Let's just say my instructor can get caught up in a discussion/argument as easily as any of us, and thought it important to try to convince us to write in our books.

Most of us were shocked; I was unsure. Some books I do mark in, without feeling. I avoid highlighting textbooks, do so when it is just too hard to follow without highlighting, which makes me pay more attention, or when it is too interesting to read without getting distracted, in which case I highlight so that I will come back and find it again later.

I suppose the latter is why my instructor wants us to do the same. "You will never be great writers if you don't mark up your books!" he says, enthusiastically, while my neighbors shudder with horror. "I know why you don't want to mark them, it's because you want to SELL it later on!" he barks, but good-humoredly.

"No! It's the principle of the thing," says one. "It's sacrilege!" says another. "I might as well burn my books!" "Don't you think it's distracting when you want to re-read it?!"

"NO! No, no, no, no, no, no no no no no no no no NO!" he says.

I'm not sure why I feel so uncomfortable. I am, after all, the one who wrote in the school paper: "My sister and I shared a copy of Harry Potter 7 this summer, and instead of calmly taking turns, my sister ripped each chapter from the book as she finished it and passed it directly to me, so that I was only one chapter behind."

But Dad always said, never leave a book on the ground! Take care of your books! Treat them with respect! Books are important! Never harm a book!

I'm not sure, but I think "Don't write/draw in your books" was included with those as well.

I don't really see the connection between great writers and making marks in books, I must confess. Usually, when a sentence or phrase or passage is especially interesting or moving or affects me in some way, I set down the book for a moment, and think. Sometimes all I think is "wow", over and over in my head. Other times I actually say the "wow" out loud. And other times I reflect on the words, or the metaphor or the personification or the unusual use of anaphora.

If I'm really touched, I jot it down in the little notebook I carry with me at all times - or the 'jotter', as my instructor calls it. (We are all required to have one and I was thrilled when he announced this, because I have carried a 'jotter' around with me for pretty much ever.)

Surely that is nearly as effective as marking? It won't be there when I reread the book, years later, but I don't think that's the part that he thinks is valuable to a budding writer - rather, the part where you stop and think and reflect.

So I am still undecided on the marking bit. (Oof, all of this British I'm reading is getting to my English. I write like an Englishman and speak like a Canadian. What is happening to me?) Part of me thinks my European classmates just take greater care with their books because they are so expensive here; another part thinks, for some reason, that I should not write in the margins of great published works. It's very tricky.

Kind of like writing three startling opening sentences. When I try for startling, I end up with strange. Like, "The night that Elizabeth Arrow saw a ghost was the night that she quit eating ice cream after dinner."

Is it strange? Yes. Does it draw the reader in? Perhaps. But is it startling? Meh... Not really.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rained in

It is raining. Outside, the sky is drippy and gray and the cobblestones are glistening and the cars are beady. The light is kind of pretty, on the other hand... but I still don't want to leave my room.

Nice contrast to the picture above, right?

Often, when it rains, I think of other places I've lived. I think about Portland, and I think about the Dominican Republic, and I think about what the weather is like in those places. Then my thoughts stretch and I remember other things from these homes.

Today, I'm thinking about Portland and how incredible it is, the same way I have been thinking about Portland over the past few weeks. I've come across a few quotes that especially bring this home. For example, Anthony Bourdain, who says in the introduction of the Pacific Northwest episode of his show, "No Reservations": "I know what the Pacific Northwest is about. It’s about… OBSESSION."

When I heard that, I thought... Ah. Yes. I then told my friend Joy, who looked at me and ticked off her fingers as she listed, "food, coffee, baseball, books, languages... yes."

Which links in nicely with what my friend Anand said about some Portlanders he has met at his new school, Full Sail, in Florida. According to him, we Portlanders are all the same, and all we think/talk about is "Coffee... food... coffee... tea.... food... Bob Schneider... food..."

Rain is, of course, a well-known Portland characteristic. I should be more used to it. I am more used to it, I think then some of the other people I know here... like the ones from Florida and Kenya and such. But I deal with it.

Although lately, it reminds me of Haarlemse Honkbalweek, and a thought I had during one of the numerous rainouts.

I was watching the pathetically small grounds crew attempting to prepare the field after a 5 minute shower led to a 40-minute postponement because the field was so thoroughly soaked, and remembering the way I had once become quiet interested in the job baseball groundskeepers do. I think it started in Seattle, where the grounds crew dropped their rakes and hoses halfway through tidying up the field in-between innings and performed an entire, elaborate dance routine for the entertainment of the crowd.

That's when I realized that actually, a career in baseball groundskeeping might not be such a bad way to go. I could work at Fenway Park, and see every home game for free. I could probably even get to know a lot of the players. I was looking for a career option that could in some way include baseball.

And so, when it came time to begin looking at colleges, I adapted a baseball strategy. I began by looking through a college book at every college in the state of Massachusetts. I highlighted the schools that had a wide range of majors including cultural studies, particularly of the Latin American or Slavic varieties, literature and comparative literature, linguistics, French, Spanish, Czech, or Creative Writing and English.

I went a step further and also earmarked the schools that offered programs in soil technology and agriculture.

Unsurprisingly, few schools actually had some combination of the Humanities courses I listed first and the science courses I mentioned second. So I shed the grounds keeping dream (which wasn't too hard to part with) and ended up studying literature and linguistics at the Roosevelt Academy in the Netherlands (with a detour through the Dominican Republic).

Surprisingly, this has only furthered my baseball education. I've seen baseball all over the world: in the U.S., I've seen everything from A-ball to the big leagues in California, the Midwest, Boston, and the Pacific Northwest (I've seen the only major and most minor league teams from my home region). In the Dominican Republic, I saw pick-up games, warm-ups at the Chicago White Sox Dominican facility (pictured), and watched the Dominican team from the Dominican Republic in the inaugural baseball classic. I saw Las Grandes Ligas from an entirely different perspective - teams favored due to the number of Dominicans on the roster rather than any geographical affiliation. And now, in Nederland, I've seen a bit of honkbal.

Which brings me back to Honkbalweek.

To be a groundskeeper in the Netherlands! The awful weather of Honkbalweek 2008 brought back those groundskeeping aspirations. What a challenge to "keep ground" here! Imagine attempting to shorten rain postponements in a country as wet as this one. Here, where baseball is so obscure compared to other major sports, where fields don't have tarps that cover the entire infield, but only the basepaths... what room for improvement!

I am definitely re-adding "groundskeeper" to an ongoing list I have, entitled "Jobs & Activities & Callings that I Am Interested In."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tea Time

School has started, and I have many more important things to do than write a blog entry.

But with school comes procrastination, and blogs are the perfect tool for that.

I am sitting here with a pot of lapsang tea to help me through this possibly late night. I love tea. My parents, especially my father, practically force fed it to me once I was in high school. When I was up late doing homework (whether it was a history essay I had waited until the last minute to start or the regular, unmerited punishment that was daily chemistry homework), Dad brought me a cup of tea. When I got up in the morning, Dad set a cup of tea at my place at the breakfast table. When the family watched a movie on a weekend, Dad brought out the teapot and cups for everyone.

Often, he would ask, "Grace, do you want a cup of tea?" I would usually say no, because I didn't like to drink a lot of liquid before the 45-minute bus ride to school. But, 5 minutes later, a cup of tea inevitably appeared in front of my place at the table.

In the morning, Dad put the tea on to boil first thing when he got up. He puttered around a bit, before the water came to a boil, then poured it into the teapot to steep. He usually set the timer, but not always, before he got in the shower.

Which usually meant I had to come running downstairs or Mom had to jump up and get to the teapot, unless we wanted overbrewed tea that morning.

Another funny tea habit of my fathers: boiling water appears to be his comfort habit. As soon as one pot's boiled and poured into the pot, he refills the kettle and starts another pot boiling.