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Student Blogged

Biking Days 1 and 2 (Pictures Forthcoming)

by gregbigelow on 6 September 2010

Jenny and I decided to bike from Amsterdam to Maastricht, a total distance of around 270 kilometers. We were equipped with 3-speed Amsterdam bikes. They were rough and weary but tough and full of heart. Several days before leaving, my gear shifting device broke, reducing my trusty bike to a single gear. Fortunately, the Netherlands is a very flat place.

Day 1: The Day of the Hard Start

1. Hastily printed off some directions to Maastricht about 10 minutes before setting off on our journey. After 2 hours of biking, we had failed to get out of Amsterdam. Lost and confused and behind schedule. We decide to take a train to Utrecht, cutting out 45 kilometers of our 90 kilometer journey for the day. After about 30 minutes biking through Utrecht, we pick up the trail and are off. The sweet taste of belated success.

2. Realize that the rest of the Netherlands is completely different from Amsterdam. The wisdom of the bike-journey is reaffirmed, as it allows us a richer view of the country we had just spent the last month in. We see lots of farms and ride on two ferries. There are cute houses with baby-goats in the yard. They are adorable.

3. I don’t like riding on roads next to cars. They are too fast and loud. Nevertheless, this is the best bicycle infrastructure I have ever experienced. There are almost always large, dedicated bike lanes. Navigation is made extremely easy with lots of signposts. It will nevertheless take us another day or two to fully understand how to read these signs. This was our fault and the result of a lack of preparation.

4. Life on the road is good. We make it to the city of Tiel about 2 hours behind schedule. The former art teacher whose bed and breakfast we stay at says that he grew up on a tiny farm way out in the country. To him, Tiel was the “big city.” This is a fairly generous characterization, though the town centrum was quite active and there was a large HEMA located there. A big small city.

DAY 2: The Strange Day

1. We are out in the farm lands now. At points things get a bit creepy. We half-joke about Children of the Corn. We bike and bike and there is no one else there. Occasionally, we pass by a cluster of 3 or so farm-houses. They have massive gym equipment in the enormous front yards for children that are not seen. There is a person with a pitchfork standing on the side of the road. The clouds are too low in the sky for comfort. We get lost. Bike in circles. How do we escape this land of corn and dairy products?

2. In the groove of biking, begin meditating on agricultural in the Netherlands. Who owns and controls the farms? What percentage of GDP is accounted for by agricultural? Make note to consult wikipedia and learn more about the Dutch farming industry. I have since abandoned these plans.

3. We eventually leave the farmlands. Previously, we had the road to ourselves. We are now surrounded by what we believe to be elderly biking German couples on holiday. They are everywhere. Understandably so. We pass through beautiful woods, breaking out into meadows where we real-live sheep dogs at work. The sunlight bursts through the forest canopy – the world is new and clean. We are happy to have escaped the confusing and creepy farmlands.

4. But the weirdness of the farmlands was soon outdone. The first sign of a disturbance in normalcy was the sight of a family of Gingers dressed in green neon biking across a field. Are these people real, we ask ourselves? Upon closer inspection, their hair was painted red. Probably off to a local football game, we think. But as we travel onwards, there are more of these characters. Some are biking while others are loitering around in the woods. They don’t seem to be doing anything… Nor do they seem particularly happy. And unlike their comrades, they aren’t going anywhere. I think they are wearing capes. Most likely wizards.

Only 15 minutes after passing the last group of these flamboyant, somber magicians (saw perhaps 30 – 40 in total, but can’t really be sure…) we encountered The Suits. As I approached them, I first noticed their bright purple suits and top-hats. They look like a fun group, I think to myself. But as I get ready to crack a smile in their direction, I get second thoughts, worried that perhaps they were part of a funeral procession, or something similar. As they come into detail, the reality seems even more horrific. There are at least ten of them. Their dress is best described as similar to that of Johnny Depp in the role of Willy Wonka. They have canes as well. As we pass, one of them shoots us a maniacal grin. I look straight ahead, eager to distance myself and what I can only assume is some kind of diabolical croquet league or fox-hunting organization.

At the next town, I asked the bartenders of some kind of punk pub who these people might be. They had no clue but their best guess was a mumbled reply about camping Scots. The Netherlands can be a quirky place.


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A Few Words at Last

by gregbigelow on 3 September 2010

Currently sitting in a cafe in Haarlem. This is my last full day in Europe. I have not blogged for quite a while, not the least because I really don’t enjoy typing on computers inside internet cafes. In croatia, the “z” and “y” keys are switched, leading to lots of zou’s and zesterday’s.

But… a series of 4 posts detailing the bike trip from Amsterdam to Maastricht and the following adventures will soon be here. It has been quite a journey through the Netherlands, Italy, and Croatia. Hope everyone is doing swell.

Cheers,

Greg


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Belated Daily Diary: Monday, August 16th

by benj2919 on 27 August 2010

Like the city felt sad we were leaving it, the weather was rainy – a light mist really – during the early morning hours of our last official day in Amsterdam. Accustomed to running in the rain, like any good Seattleite, I still took to the streets for one last final run before the final presentation ceremony!

Everyone gathered in the courtyard punctually at 9 a.m. However, as any day with important presentations scheduled, we had a run-in with Murphy’s Law. Waiting for the bus to take us to the VKS with a combination of nervousness and excitement, we neglected to flag down the bus driver. It sped right past us. Standing in the cloud of exhaust, everyone was a little dazed and confused, but as the expert travelers and navigators we have come to be during our stay here, we regrouped and started on foot to our destination. On the bright side, walking is a much more gezellig form of transportation than public buses.

After a combination of walking and hopping on an alternative bus, everyone arrived at the VKS with a spring in their step, alert, awake, and ready to present his or her research. Some final remarks of wisdom from our professors led right into the student research presentations. The next several hours were a grand academic and intellectual adventure through the city of Amsterdam.  The journey began with a deep analysis of the Indische Buurt neighborhood, continued with a plunge into the inner workings of the Aya Sofya mosque, and then took a whirl through the streets of Amsterdam on a bicycle. We discovered that ferries can be gezellig. Although in the case of buses and trams – not so much. Next was a jaunt through the illicit, licit, and tolerated activities in Vondelpark, and finally, we were left with visions of urban screens playing in our heads.

A fantastic success everyone! Congrats! Celebrations began with a lively reception in the VKS lobby.  A portion of the group carried them on at the brewery underneath the windmill just a short walk from the VKS. It was my first visit, and I would highly recommend it – a fine establishment. Although being in the company of good friends and having the burden of presentations, research, and deadlines alleviated contributed much more to the convivial atmosphere.

This evening, we held the final group dinner at a wonderful Iranian restaurant. Traveling to the restaurant, Clifford led one last procession through the streets of Amsterdam by bike. Once there we relaxed in a small inner courtyard as the food was being prepared. Dinner was fantastic, and soon it came time for some final words from Rob and Clifford. After which each of us had the honor of receiving a certificate of completion.

Rob put in words perfectly what I feel created the best experiences of this program: entrepreneurial learning opportunities.  Getting out of your comfort zone, taking chances, and putting yourself in new situations helps us grow, keeps our minds sharp, and enriches life. Thanks to everyone for making this program a fantastic experience!

(P.S. More photos and videos are on their way when I’m at a decent internet connection back in civilization)


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Belated Daily Diary: Monday, August 16th

by benj2919 on 27 August 2010

Like the city felt sad we were leaving it, the weather was rainy – a light mist really – during the early morning hours of our last official day in Amsterdam. Accustomed to running in the rain, like any good Seattleite, I still took to the streets for one last final run before the final presentation ceremony!

Everyone gathered in the courtyard punctually at 9 a.m. However, as any day with important presentations scheduled, we had a run-in with Murphy’s Law. Waiting for the bus to take us to the VKS with a combination of nervousness and excitement, we neglected to flag down the bus driver. It sped right past us. Standing in the cloud of exhaust, everyone was a little dazed and confused, but as the expert travelers and navigators we have come to be during our stay here, we regrouped and started on foot to our destination. On the bright side, walking is a much more gezellig form of transportation than public buses.

After a combination of walking and hopping on an alternative bus, everyone arrived at the VKS with a spring in their step, alert, awake, and ready to present his or her research. Some final remarks of wisdom from our professors led right into the student research presentations. The next several hours were a grand academic and intellectual adventure through the city of Amsterdam.  The journey began with a deep analysis of the Indische Buurt neighborhood, continued with a plunge into the inner workings of the Aya Sofya mosque, and then took a whirl through the streets of Amsterdam on a bicycle. We discovered that ferries can be gezellig. Although in the case of buses and trams – not so much. Next was a jaunt through the illicit, licit, and tolerated activities in Vondelpark, and finally, we were left with visions of urban screens playing in our heads.

A fantastic success everyone! Congrats! Celebrations began with a lively reception in the VKS lobby.  A portion of the group carried them on at the brewery underneath the windmill just a short walk from the VKS. It was my first visit, and I would highly recommend it – a fine establishment. Although being in the company of good friends and having the burden of presentations, research, and deadlines alleviated contributed much more to the convivial atmosphere.

This evening, we held the final group dinner at a wonderful Iranian restaurant. Traveling to the restaurant, Clifford led one last procession through the streets of Amsterdam by bike. Once there we relaxed in a small inner courtyard as the food was being prepared. Dinner was fantastic, and soon it came time for some final words from Rob and Clifford. After which each of us had the honor of receiving a certificate of completion.

Rob put in words perfectly what I feel created the best experiences of this program: entrepreneurial learning opportunities.  Getting out of your comfort zone, taking chances, and putting yourself in new situations helps us grow, keeps our minds sharp, and enriches life. Thanks to everyone for making this program a fantastic experience!

(P.S. More photos and videos are on their way when I’m at a decent internet connection back in civilization)


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Athens and a crazy little Greek island

by dreinelt on 24 August 2010

I can’t believe it, but it has already been a week since I left Amsterdam with Andrew, and damn life is good. While I loved the city, the culture, the people, pretty much everything, the last week of the program … Continue reading

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The end.

August 19, 2010

The time has come, as I sit in my hotel room half-watching Dutch TV (Fraiser, ironically…) with my sister, to write a final post to wrap up this part of my trip. The ending of the program came in a bittersweet … Continue reading

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The end.

August 19, 2010

The time has come, as I sit in my hotel room half-watching Dutch TV (Fraiser, ironically…) with my sister, to write a final post to wrap up this part of my trip. The ending of the program came in a bittersweet fashion. Although I was  becoming quite ready to finish up and say goodbye to my project, [...]

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Homestretch Project Motivation

August 15, 2010

As we churn out our projects, I thought that now would be the best time to pass on a bit of wisdom from one of my favorite professors, Phillip Thurtle: Take the call of the bird. To explain the bird … Continue reading

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Daily Diary: Utrecht

August 14, 2010

Dear Blog, It’s finally my turn to write the Daily Diary. And I’ve had the good fortune to be assigned the day we went to Utrecht, our last scheduled day of adventuring. Hoorah! We began with the familiar 8:30 meet up and scenic route to Amsterdam Centraal, which is always a brilliant way to start […]

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Some quick thoughts from a miserably infrequent blogger…

August 14, 2010

Learning by doing… an abstract ideal that I’ve never understood more clearly than now. My time in Amsterdam has been the most entrepreneurial educational experience I’ve ever had. There is a wonderful immediacy to cold-calling professionals and experts,  biking through … Continue reading

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Aug. 11th Daily Diary: Utrecht

August 14, 2010

Meeting in the courtyard at 8:30 this morning, we prepared for our final “excursion”, that to the city of Utrecht. A few lost and mostly recovered souls later (one was not yet destined to cross paths with the rest of … Continue reading →

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Human Subjects: New Video on Bicycling

August 13, 2010

Here is a video of selected clips from interviews that I recorded. I took the advice from the professors and edited the material to make it easier to understand and visually appealing. I plan to use this in our presentation and in our wiki to help portray our analysis of the interviews. If you watch […]

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Daily Diary: Monday, August 9, 2010

August 11, 2010

Today, our activities and discussion focused on Bijlmermeer, a former ghetto in the south-east of Amsterdam.  We began our morning meeting at 8:30, as per usual, but as it had been a few days since our last scheduled early morning activity, I and many of my comrades seemed a bit out-of-sorts.  Nonetheless, we listened attentively … Read more

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Post: Project Update

August 10, 2010

Our project took huge leaps and bounds this weekend which involved several interviews, working on the Google map tagging, and a discussion about our project. On Friday, we met with our professors and illuminated a whole new area in our research project. Ever since the beginning, we were focused on the materialistic values of our […]

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Da Daily Diary

August 9, 2010

I woke up a little before my alarm, my feet stinging slightly from the cold. Some nights, my feet slide from the cozy confines of the duvet cover and sniff the twilit air. A shower would warm them up. I did my 450 sit-ups and fried a couple eggs. I thought for a moment about […]

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In the words of Daniel Powter: I had a bad day

August 9, 2010

Let this be quick, as my Monday blues don’t need to be relived in length. Let me also say, Jenny, I am doing this for you, as something in this blogging process helps me articulate what I am unable to … Continue reading

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In the words of Daniel Powter: I had a bad day

August 9, 2010

Let this be quick, as my Monday blues don’t need to be relived in length. Let me also say, Jenny, I am doing this for you, as something in this blogging process helps me articulate what I am unable to while you patiently sit through my mumbles. Cross your fingers some wiki-worthy jargon will be [...]

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Daily Dairy: Den Haag — VIDEO, part 1

August 8, 2010

The “making of” process for this video is actually much more interesting than the video itself, but, nevertheless, I’ll give you the video first: Now, the more interesting and painful details for why it’s taking me so long to get these videos out there. 1: The Beginning “Booms” In taking everyone’s picture, I had envisioned [...]

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My tipping point?

August 7, 2010

I think I hit it. I would hope it I hit it, it is almost my fourth week here… There was a point, sitting in French 103 during winter quarter of freshman year at UW, while Jillian was expressively chattering in … Continue reading

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My tipping point?

August 7, 2010

I think I hit it. I would hope it I hit it, it is almost my fourth week here… There was a point, sitting in French 103 during winter quarter of freshman year at UW, while Jillian was expressively chattering in French that a lightbulb literally could have illuminated above my head. I was understanding spoken [...]

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