tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
ARGH! I had this long entry and then the connection DIED on me. Grr. Took me an hour on this crazy keyboard.

We did so much this city. Amnesty Belgium was pretty interesting - they had a nice office, pretty big and spacious. They had a cartoon on their fridge which said "Think Globally Act Locally Panic Internally" - ha! describes us well.

Our CI for this week was Life Philosophies - a look into different religions of the world. We first went to a Holding Camp – like a Concentration Camp except they send people out to Germany after a while. Our guide acted as a SS guard and treated us almost like the prisoners – it was painful seeing what the actual prisoners had to go through. I can’t even begin to imagine why anyone could think of such a thing. Nina was in our group and she understood the German that the guide/guard was randomly yelling at us (she IS German) so it seemed a bit more painful for her.

There was a bouquet of flowers at the Execution area – almost made me break down. I really needed physical contact afterwards. That was just harrowing.

We then went to a Hare Krishna center – complete contrast! Chanting and prayer and talk about light and actual food. For some of us it was a bit bizarre (we were expecting only lunch) but they were really nice. After that, some of us went to a Muslim community center and talked to a young man from Othman – it was funny and frank, though we did get into some sort of battle-of-the-sexes thing, mwaha.

Next day we went to a Free Thinking Humanists group, with a workshop about issues like manipulation and freedom. It did get a bit tense (I felt at some point they were being manipulative) but it was an engaging discussion. (The rest of the group were happy to get free beer!) We then went to a synagogue; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and the closest I’ll ever get to understanding Judaism up close. Great experiences, all of them.

We all went to the Night Of The Proms – a major concert with both pop and classical music. Loads of big names were there – Belgian Idol Natalya, Ace of Base, Donna Summer, people from The Who, and of course various orchestras. SO MUCH FUN.

The Applied Education Dept planned Anti Discrimination week, and their main activity was providing different treatment to people based on what colour paper you got. Orange (which I got) was High Class, with special meals and random compliments during Morning Meetings (which was even funnier since I was coordinating Morning Meetings this week!) and candy and reserved seats. Pink was Middle Class, which got OK treatment. Yellow, the majority, was Lower Class, which were practically ignored. I figured out what was going on as soon as I got the paper – and when Bob shook my hand and gave me candy – and I just laughed my head off whenever the staff went all out to compliment us and pamper us. I wasn’t sure I particularly liked being “high class” since it was so lonely but it was really funny…

Celebration was MAD. And that was GOOD. I passed on the hat to Christie H and Brandy; and I got an award for my public speaking story thing in Utrecht, yay! Melissa’s parents are SO CUTE; Nina’s parents were really serious but I caught them sneaking a smile or two once in a while! Tom and Melissa (Melissa even more) had The Glow From Home ™ and now Nina will too. Awh!

I am a week behind on Nano and I am sure I have forgotten something in this entry, so feel free to ask me questions. And it’s 12:30 and I haven’t had anything to eat yet. HUNGRY!

Antwerp!

Nov. 7th, 2005 11:18 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
So right now I am in Antwerp, Belgium (hello [livejournal.com profile] eatmorewaffles). If my typing is really wonky, it's because I'm on the French Azerty keyboard and it takes some adjusting.

My host family's hosted tons of people before, including the next Tour Manager for Köln. This should be interesting. Their dog Meera is SO CUTE.

We went to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague (a town, not a building like I once thought) - quite an interesting talk about what exactly went on there and why the situation was so complicated. Definitely made me think about cultural differences.

They had a relly nice Peace Museum, but my stomach was aching so I didn't go. Aww man. Their Peace Flame was really nice though. Great idea.

Tomorrow - Amnesty International, with Melissa and some other people. Huzzah!

Also, if you are part of the crew and you're reading this, please say hello because I love readers. Thankee!
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
OK, a slightly fuller update on what's new in my adventure.

We took a bus from a university in Abiko to Narita airport. All the "Willy"s we freed kind of came back; they allowed check-ins of two bags both totalling 34kg. At least I didn't have to lug my carryon.

I was seated in the same row as Diana, Marina, and a Greek guy (I thought he was Indian) - the rest of the crew were around our section. Our group were split into 2 flights - one in the morning (20 people) and our flight with 30 people. We could definitely feel the difference.

None of us really stayed in the same seat through the flight - people kept changing about. Tom and Melissa as well as Jessica and Peder were snuggled up next to each other, aww. We kept leaning out of their windows to see Siberia (ooh!) and a perpetual sunrise - at one point Peder woke up and cursed us out for congregating around his chair.

I wore faerie wings and sprinkled faerie dust, which got a fair bit of stares.

Laura found herself her calling: hand massages. Apparently her grandmother is a masseuse (she also does reiki! nifty) and taught her a few things. She went around giving everyone in the crew hand massages - oh they were so good. She really does have a talent for them. I suspect she will be busy on every Travel Day from now on...

I wrote a short story on the flight about Danni, Chris, and Peder being lost in The Netherlands and having to cycle around. Just a random story, but it got good comments. Huzzah.

We arrived in Munich - welcome to Europe! - and it was 5 degrees Celsius. Brr. Well, not really; I was the least covered out of the group - I had long johns underneath a rather sheer top but that was it for me - but I didn't feel that cold, not even when we had to walk outside to get to the plane. Our plane was rather tiny; Peder still faced some difficulty fitting through the door! Everyone was knocked out on the plane, we were just so exhausted.

We arrived around 8 or 9 in Amsterdam - to my surprise, there was a casino in the airport. Funky. Nina and Christie greeted us; Christie has new hair, and Nina has new jacket! Way cool. It was really great to see them again.

They brought us to the Stayokay youth hostel by bus - we were all nearly rammed by cyclists (and I thought Japan was bad). The youth hostel was, to our surprise and delight, very nice; great colours, rooms were clean, seemed very cozy. After an introduction by our Event Coordinator, Nelleke (who was in both Up With People the tour and WorldSmart), and some general rules, we went off to our rooms. I was rooming with Cristy P, Noelle, Andrea, Marcelle, and Kara; there were 3 bunk beds and I had the top bunk of a bed (with Cristy P). Those bunk beds can be deadly; it took me a while to figure out how to use the unwieldly steps!

I was super exhausted and flopped to sleep at midnight (after cursing my alarm clock, which stuck firmly to Japan time). By one o`clock, though, I was super awake. I decided to spend the rest of the night writing my NaNoWriMo novel; by the time we left for breakfast (with a 2-hour nap in between), I had already written the first chapter. 2384 words. Some people were asking about the novel and was amazed that I had already done a chapter. Hey, inspiration strikes at night sometimes.

The next morning we had breakfast at the youth hostel - bread and meat and cheese and cereal. And HOT CHOCOLATE. My lifeblood. There were some random European cakes that I didn't quite like, ick. Me, Christie, Yoga, Atsushi, Bob, and Anke were at a table together, talking about Utrecht and how things got stolen sometimes - Bob's workbag with all his important possessions got stolen in Utrecht last year. Yikes! I had lost my PDA that morning and was worried that I left it at the shuttle bus in Munich; thankfully I found it in my room, hiding under my backpack.

After morning meeting, some of us took a walk. Laurence, Yoshimi, Hiroko, and I trekked down a road near the hostel (we were close to downtown), checking out the shops and the cafes. I found an English bookstore and we all went in to look at all the books - especially the tiny gift ones. I bought myself an incense set; that's going to be my Dutch lucky charm.

Laurence was enthralled by a group of people playing giant chess. We had to nearly pry him away.

That afternoon, we had a boad ride around Amsterdam, learning about its history and all its architecture. Amsterdam in autumn is GORGEOUS - the warm-coloured leaves floating on water, the multitudes of houseboats, the very interesting buildings (their port looks like a fish), even a near run in with President Putin. The people on deck kept yelling everytime they went under a tunnel; if this becomes some sort of good-luck ritual in the future, you know why! I fell in love with Amsterdam immediately.

We travelled by bus to Utrecht; I got to talk to Nelleke for a while. She is quite a fascinating person, and so sweet too. And she likes elephants. Heh.

We had a guest speaker coming in talking about freedom of expression in journalism, especially since it was the anniversary of Theo van Gogh's murder the next day. It definitely made me think of a few things, especially about absolute vs. relative freedom of expression, where to draw the line, and about perception. If I wasn't so exhausted I'd probably be able to phrase my thoughts better then!

My host family are a pair of IT experts - one is a consultant, another is a programmer. The programmer (my host mum) also does event photography. They have 3 children - their youngest is a psycho, heh. My schedule said they had a pet chipmunk; what they really had were a pair of guinea pigs, Winky and Coco. It's odd that I remember the guinea pigs' names but not that of the kids. Oops.

They had heard about needing to set rules for us but couldn't really think of anything. "Rules for the bathroom...sometimes it can be occupied."

Today for Personal Day I wanted to go ice skating - 4 of us had signed up for free ice skating at Vestebachen (I am so spelling that wrong). After a bit of a briefing from my host mum, I took the bus - yay free bus passes! - to the area. That particular area had street names named after different parts of the world - Amazondreef, Bogotadreef, Colombiadreef, Nevadadreef, Californiadreef...it was insane! Apparently nearby that area the names include Africa (Ghanadreef, Gambiadreef) and Asia (Maniladreef, Singaporedreef - I am not kidding). And then there is Lombok, near where I live, where all the streets have something to do with Malaysia or Indonesia. Mad.

Anyway, I made my way to the ice skating rink and managed to get in free. However, the other 3 people weren't there. There also seemed to be a bit of miscommunication; we were told that we could get free ice skates, but the ice skate people hadn't heard of such a plan. I had no one there who could back me up, and I have never ice skated before, so I just waited...after two hours I gave up and went back to the Central station.

I walked to Hoog Catherina, a shopping mall...I was wandering around a bit and ran into Sammy and Rie. They too were wandering; no one really had any plans. What a nice surprise. I bought myself a sandwich (tandoori - didn't really taste like it) and went to another cafe, where I sat down and wrote the second chapter of my NaNo novel, with hot chocolate. A guy sitting near me talked to me for a while; quite interesting. People are nice here.

I got back home around two or three - two of the kids were back, nut that's all. I finished up the second chapter; it sounds so depressing! ack. I wish I knew what else was there to do in Utrecht, just so my Personal Day doesn't feel like so much of a waste. Perhaps I should have gone to Amsterdam.

Our schedule is really random this week. Tomorrow, Thursday - Project Time and Regional Learning. Friday? Regional Learning and Celebration. Saturday? Community Impact. It's all backwards, like Nina said.

I miss Nanu. Her father passed away a couple of weeks ago; maybe we'll never see her again in the tour. I wish she was back. Irina's also missing; due to visa problems, she can only show up in Antwerpen onwards. Gah. Our group really is a Survivor group. Even my novel has a bit of a Lost feel to it.

Europe is intriguing.

EUROPA!

Nov. 1st, 2005 08:42 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
I am really sleepy right now but just to let you know:

I am in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

We reached here safely and without incident.

We spent the first night all together in a youth hostel in Amsterdam. Quite nice actually.

There is a section in Utrecht named Lombok with streets named after Indonesian islands (Bali, Java, Riau, Batam) - and also Melaka.

My host parents both work in IT related issues.

I have a loft bed.

Yeah I think that's all.

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