I arrived in Holland 3 weeks before the start of the semester and I’ve been participating in some sort of orientation program since that first Monday. (tomorrow will be my third leiden monday). I think I was anxious to get the kinks worked out. To get on the plane, to get off the plane, to find the station and get on the right southbound train. To exchange money and set up a bank account, to buy a cell phone and buy a bike. To meet with the Town Hall, meet with the Humanities Faculty, meet with secretaries and mentors. To understand my relation in this new culture, feel out my place in this new language. It’s a taxing process, and not one you can ever plan to a T. There are (still) a lot of bumps in the road that I didn’t/don’t see coming – couldn’t/can’t see coming. This, I’m know, is nothing new to people who have ventured to a new country on their own before. So maybe you understand. With a shaky foot forward, you have to believe that the bumps are good for you, trust that all kinds of people will be all kinds of help, stop for a second and recognize the fun and heart of it all.
For as blunt and no-nonsense as the Dutch are, they don’t seem to compromise on laughter. The energy here isn’t passive, if this makes sense. People are aware of life, and spin lighthearted vibes up and down the narrow streets. I really do feel it in the air – this pull for a hard kidding, a good laugh. People are upfront, like the icebreakers are built-in. So, to sit on the boat of a canalside pub at night with Dutch and international friends alike is to not only be in that air, but to be an active part in making more of it.
I hope you can make out the lights and water in this photo. Pub Crawls in a sixteenth century city have a magic unlike anything else. Last Friday, we were a group of 75 international students. We split up into 3 groups and took different routes to our final destination, Einstein’s on the Nieuwe Rijn. The first stop was Cafe de Bonte Koe, the oldest pub in Leiden (120+ yrs!). Inside, there was a warmth that only Time can grant a place. The beer is good, cold, and respected – an art form. Regulars, old men with hankerchiefs and eccentric eyeglasses, sat in the back around a serious game of cards. But even they carried a young liveliness. Hand-painted tiles cover the walls (and reminded me of a special someone) and the ceiling hangs charmingly low. Around every table, lining the bar, and spilling out onto the cobblestone alley, laughter was loud, as was clapping and rounds of “Proost!” (Cheers!).
Street lamps spewing caramel-colored light lined our twists and turns, in and out of lively little pubs. There are little gems in everything.
I can’t resist sharing these 2 photos as well. Different night, same fun. Beer Pong becomes a whole new game again with 60+ international twenty-somethings… most had never heard of the game, and were so intent on getting the rules right.