Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Blues

Standard

The current state of mind in my apartment is one of sadness and depression – my roommates and I are saying goodbye this week, as are all the other international students that are only here for one semester. The first of us four has left Monday morning, and my own departure is looming on the near horizon too – next Sunday to be exact.

So we say goodbye, we cry a little, we cry a little more, and we thank each other for having been the most important people in our lives for about half a year. We’ve had fights, tensions that ran high, laughter, break-downs, stress, parties and all-nighters, shared food, stories, emotions and worries. In the end, what it came down to, is that we were each other’s family, getting to know each other in ways you normally don’t get to know other people.

It is with this that we say goodbye, thankful for the amazing semester and experiences. And it is not over yet. I still have an entire month ahead of me here in the USA – I am actually seeing quite some people I said goodbye to again – my journey shall take me from DC to NYC over Christmas, to New Orleans for New Year’s, to San Francisco, to Los Angeles, to Las Vegas, to the Grand Canyon, to Chicago, back to DC. I hope I will survive the crazy travel plans my friend and I made – and if I do, you will hear from me last more time in January.

Final exam stress – or not

Standard

The midterms had only just disappeared from our minds, when the finals presented themselves. That’s right – this week is super busy and it is hard to set my priorities straight – do I deny the fact that I have to study in order to enjoy the last two weeks of this semester to the fullest? Or do I try and cram in studying in between parties, dinners, ice skating events, and planning my post-semester travel itinerary?

I see no other option but to do the latter, meaning that I should not expect very high results on my finals – but right now I cannot make myself care too much. I already care too much for other things: for my family and friends who I am going to see in a little more than a month; my friends here, who have truly become my family here in D.C., and for GW and D.C. themselves. I am experiencing a whirlwind of emotions at the moment and don’t recognize myself. This derives entirely from the fact that I long to go home, while also abhorring the fact that I will have to leave my life here behind in its entirety – a cruel dilemma. This is just a warning to future exchange students: be prepared to say goodbye. Many times.

This attitude is not the attitude I want to leave this place behind with. It is not the way I want to deal with things. Therefore, I have set myself up to count my blessings. And there are many of them. I have integrated into American college life and feel at home in the capital of the United States. I have studied at an American university (finding out that the academics are the same, if not easier, than in Maastricht). I have seen more of this beautiful country and campaigned for the current President. I was there when the President was chosen for another four years. I have met the most amazing people, who continue to make my stay here unforgettable and invaluable.

I do not want to make this entry into a goodbye entry just yet. I have another two weeks to spend here, and I am slowly starting to accept the fact I will have to leave Foggy Bottom and return home (I was in denial for about 4 weeks). However, these last two weeks are going to be special, and cherished. The teary photos will not be published – instead I hope I can provide you with stories about saying goodbye and how this contributes to the beauty of the entire experience. Until then.

A Dutch tradition among foreigners

Standard

Dear readers,

Every year, in the run-up to December fifth,

Sinterklaas and Piet visit the Netherlands to make the holiday season into true myth;

Sint arrives in his steamer all the way from Spain,

To reward the good children and punish the ones that have been a pain;

Sinterklaas and his servants arrive each year in early November by steamer

Sinterklaas and his servants arrive each year in early November by steamer

The Zwarte Pieten [‘black Petes’] throw gifts down the chimney into childrens’ shoes,

Sing songs, scatter candy, assist Sint, and take away children’s woos;

Children ‘set their shoes’ – the carrots are for Sinterklaas’ horse, and the papers are wishlists or drawings for Sinterklaas

Children ‘set their shoes’ – the carrots are for Sinterklaas’ horse, and the papers are wishlists or drawings for Sinterklaas

 

Sint and Piet travel the roofs to deliver gifts through the chimneys into children’s shoes

Sint and Piet travel the roofs to deliver gifts through the chimneys into children’s shoes

To top all the festivities before the Sint starts his journey back to his castle,

People trying to make December 5th a success go through a lot of hassle;

During the evening there’s a knock on the door – children get excited – is it Zwarte Piet?

Alas, a no-show, but instead jute bags on the porch full of presents – Sint is very discreet.

To assist Sinterklaas in his generous work,

The adults write mocking poems for each other and smirk;

While children unwrap gifts, sing songs to thank Sinterklaas and his happy aides,

And promise better behavior until next year’s return of these cheerful brigades;

Sinterklaas on his horse with Zwarte Pieten walking next to him

Sinterklaas on his horse with Zwarte Pieten walking next to him

So, that is the tradition the Dutch celebrate each year,

And get a lot of foreign criticism for it to bear[1];

Is it racist? Or is it something innocent the Dutch just can’t let go of?

I can see both sides, but I have to say I still feel a lot of love,

For the cheery Zwarte Pieten, Sinterklaas, their serious chief,

The songs, the celebrations and the nation’s collective trust and belief.

The poem is reaching its end and hopefully made you see the magic of this tradition,

Don’t forget to check out the footnotes for more fun and knowledge about this magical superstition!

All the best from,

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

(and Witje[2])

Caption: Typical Sinterklaas song – children sing this before they put their shoes under the chimney to reach Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten to let them know their ‘shoes are set’. Sint and his Pieten are travelling by the roofs throwing presents through the chimneys.