Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Search For the Perfect Europe Book

Seeing as living in Europe for a year is probably up there on the “Opportunities of a Lifetime” list, I figured I should get some sort of book to help me make the most of it. So over the creek and through Union Landing to Border’s Books I go. First I browse the bargain section, which always seems to have a plethora of books about travel and I figure one of them has got to come in handy. NOTHING! All I found was a “501 must see sights around the world” (which doesn’t even begin to compare to “501 must drink cocktails”) and which means about 4/5 of the book is completely useless to me while I’m in Europe. I’ll save that one for when I decide to make a trip around the world. Oh and I also found a California facts book which had fairly ridiculous trivia – did you know Anaheim was founded by fifty German families and means “home by the river?” Interesting? Yes. Useful? Hell no.
So after surrendering to the fact that I would probably have to pay more than $10 for a useful book, I headed over to the travel section. First of all, Border’s needs to clean up and organize their little travel section and get a hold on their subdivisions. “Safari in Madascar” under U.S. travel? I don’t think so. I finally found the Europe section, but then I had to find “General Europe” – not France or Spain or London…just all over. You’d think with the amount of students and people that decide to do this every summer, there’d be a display or something. Granted it’s not summer really anymore…Anyway, there were two shelves worth of books, so I figured the best way to choose one would be grab a couple and hunker down in the nice window side sofa’s Border’s likes to provide it’s happy customers…couches = full. So instead I bend down and sit my bottom in the middle of the travel section to let passersby step over me as they please.
First couple books all have the same information…which I can understand because really all of these books are about the same places right? So I find a “Europe on a budget” book. Being an aupair doesn’t exactly rake in the big bucks, so I figure if I really want to travel a lot, it’s gotta cost a little less. Let me tell you, there’s something completely ironic as well as moronic about charging thirty freakin' dollars for a “budget” book. The book on living on a budget…is not in my budget. I doesn’t really matter though because I don’t necessarily want to do everything on a budget. I need to splurge every once and a while, and these books aren’t going to tell me how to do it.
So my dad decides to do his own amount of reading (he was able to snag a couch the lucky bastard) and I figure if I let him choose it, I can probably get him to pay for it as well…bwahaha. So I begin to browse the “Netherlands” section instead. The majority of the books are on Amsterdam alone, so choosing one to tell me about all of Holland was a little difficult. Finally I got it down to two, both of which seemed witty as well informative. And it had things to do for all budgets…I like when books don’t discriminate.
After about two hours of perusing, with a sore butt and kinked back, I decide to call it a day without buying anything. Because all of these books were fairly expensive, I instead decide to check our Amazon.com, which always has cheap used versions of most books. After I got home, I searched for the books I liked as well as some new ones. Now one of the reasons I love (and at the same despise) shopping on the internet, is that there’s always a little section entitled “You might also like…” And in this section were NOVELS…ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS! Well of course those were added into my cart.
So…after around four hours of research, (and one credit card courtesy of my mother) later, I have compiled the Complete Literary Package to spending a year in the Netherlands with travel trips to the rest of Europe. May I present…

Europe for Dummies – I mean let’s face it, I kind of am one. And when it comes to travel, not only can I be dumb, but na├»ve as well. And it divides each section up into great mini guides. I can go through it and just check off things I want to do…perfection.

Fodor’s Amsterdam and the Netherlands (with Day trips to Belgium) – I hadn’t even considered visiting Belgium! And it’s apparently right there! I love this book because it focuses on fun things to do “in the city” but that’s only one part of it. With this, I shall become the master of Holland!

UnDutchables – This book focuses on the customs and cultures of the Dutch people. I may not be as tall as them, by dammit, I can learn to be like them. There’s also a website inspired by the book with an apparent cult following - http://www.theundutchables.com/

My ‘Dam life, by Sean Condon – A humorous autobiography of an unemployed man and his unemployed wife and their decision to move to Amsterdam for three years.

Acid House, by Irvine Welsh – From the guy who brought you Trainspotting, comes a collection of stories, the majority of which take place in the infamous red light district…should be a good (if not slightly intimidating) read.

So there you go. I leave in less than three weeks, and by the time I get on that train, I will be ready for the culture clash of my lifetime!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Some Fun Facts!

Well as of Thursday morning, I have officially been offered an aupair position and I have accepted!!! I’ll be leaving in less than a month for an entire year! I am going to be working for a single mom and her three girls…that’s a lot of estrogen! There is an adorable little two-year-old as well as a ten and thirteen year old. I’m hoping I get to be an awesome role model. Oh, and THEY SPEAK ENGLISH! You don’t know how much of an added bonus that is! I will be going to the Netherlands in a little city just south of Amsterdam. I’m super excited! However, I figured I don’t know much about this little country I’ll be visiting and you might not either! So here are some fun little facts I’ve discovered on that wonderful thing called the intra-web.

-The Netherlands and Holland are the same country.
-The 'Netherlands' mean "Low Country" in Dutch. About half of its surface area is less than 1 meter above sea level. Its highest point is 321 meters (1,053 ft) above sea level
-Dutch people are on average the tallest people in Europe…great
-The Netherlands has the highest population/area ratio in Europe

-Orange-colored carrots appeared in the Netherlands in the 16th century. Before that carrots were white, yellow, black, purple or red. Orange carrots are said to have been bred in honor of the House of Orange, who led the Dutch Revolt against Spain and later became the Dutch Royal family. Orange is still the official color of the Netherlands and a sign of patriotism. The Dutch national football team wears a bright orange shirt.
-The Netherlands had many Dutch colonies including Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and New York City.
-Though the countries capital is Amsterdam, the government resides in The Hague
-There are twice as many bikes as there are cars

-After Scandanavians, Dutch people are the second biggest coffee drinkers…I’ll fit right in!
-Pot is legal, mushrooms are legal, abortion is legal, prostitution is legal, euthanasia is legal, and gay marriage is legal.
-Gin was invented in the Netherlands under the name of Jenever. It was first sold as a medicine in the late 16th century
-The country is home to the Heineken and Amstel brewing companies


-Tulip bulbs used to be a form of currency
-Some famous painters include VanGough and Rembrandt.
-The Dutch invented the microscope, the pendulum clock, the telescope, the audio tape, video tape, compact disk, and CD-ROM
- The IKEA headquarters are not in Sweden, but in Holland

Well there you have it. I’m sure there’s lots more to learn, but this is all I can tell you without visiting the country. Look for future installments where you actually get to hear REAL and personal facts!!!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

5 Reasons I've decided to go abroad

A lot of people have been asking me why I decided to go abroad. For a while I was constantly talking myself into and out of it. But after a while, all my excuses not to go became easier and easier to debate. So to everyone out there who has, is thinking about, or wondering why I am, here are the TOP 5 Reasons why you should go somewhere...anywhere...but here-
1. The passport
I got my first passport in May of 2009 – three months ago. I got it so that I could go on two cruises, one with my family and one with my best friend. Both were to Mexico. I have been to Mexico five times, Alaska once, the Bahamas for a day all on cruises. I’ve visited New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Utah, Nevada, Washington DC, and Florida. I have slept in a hotel by myself in Reno and Salt Lake City. I drove 1200 miles to Colorado with no one to keep me company but my cat. I lived in New York for a month with 30 of my fellow students and once I was in an airport in Canada. But I have NEVER been outside of North America. I don’t care where I have been, I want my passport to look just as impressive as the life I plan on living.
2. The economy
Alright, to be honest, I don’t follow the news and politics nearly as much as I should. A lot of the news I get is from Yahoo News headlines, the Daily Show and Colbert Report, or Weekend Update. I do subscribe to Time magazine and just finished the New Health Care issue (in which President Obama was on the cover for the TWELFTH time). So with that being said, I may not be able to hold a debate with you on the state of the economy, but I know enough to know that we are in a bit of trouble right now and it’s not going to be solved overnight. And who knows, while abroad, I might even become more interested in politics after seeing how a national health care system works. So, I’ll go take care of some adorable little kids for a year and let Papabama do his magic.
3. The best friend
When my best friend moved a half hour away to Pomona, I thought it would be hard. Then I moved seven hours away to the Bay Area and it’s been extremely difficult. When I told her I might move somewhere else she put her foot down and I relented. Right now she’s the number one person in my life and I need her in it.
My best friend just got married. She’s living in marital bliss with her high school sweetheart and right now, he is number one person in her life, and she is number one in his. I don’t say this fact with hate or remorse either, it’s just the truth and the way it should be. But that being said, I need to be the number one person in someone's life, and if it’s got to be my own…so be it.
4. The boy
When I say “the boy” I am not talking about a boyfriend, or a fling, or even a friend with benefits. I’m talking about that one guy that’s apparently out there for you. It could be someone who’s been around for a while or someone I have yet to meet. But if there is anything there that is meant to be, I’m sure fate won’t mind waiting a year to make it happen. I’m young and single…I’m fairly sure that's an amazing combination.
5. The family
When I graduated from college in June, I had no idea what my plans were. So, instead of wasting money on a down payment for an apartment only to potentially break the lease at the end of summer, I decided to try and save a couple bucks and move back home. It’s the first time in four years that my recent-high-school-graduate sister, my just-finished-his-first-year-of-college brother, and five-year-degree-quarter-life-crises I have lived under the same roof for more than a week. I love my siblings very much, but to be honest, my sister 's friends are drama queens and quite frankly, my brother’s a little shit. And I love my parents too, and it’s natural for them to still think of me as their baby and want to know where I’m going, what I’m doing, and what time I’m getting home, but after being on my own for five years, it just feels like a giant step back. But wherever I go, I know my room at home will always be waiting for me adorned with school awards, pictures, and an extremely large collection of Barbie Dolls.

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