The following is a open letter from Elizabeth, our outbound Exchange Student. I am suggesting that she feel free to send us pictures that we can input into a photo journal as with "inbound" Karen.

Dear Friends!

            I know it has been a while since I last updated you, sorry about that, as you can imagine i have been very busy and preoccupied.  Since I last emailed you all I have started school and have made lots of friends there. I am having a hard time learning how to speak dutch but I am able to understand when it is spoken (most of the time. unless it is hard like math or history or something). I have gone to a sweet 16 which was really  important to me, doing so made me connect more with  the kids from my class, so instead of seeing me just as the new Canadian girl, if I go out with them they see me as more of a person who they can actually go out with and be friends with. A girl I am becoming good friends with invited me to her sweet 16 next weekend, but I am going to be away for the weekend at a Rotex-organized weekend so she invited me to come over to her house for her actual birthday celebration with a few close friends and family members, then I slept over! 

             A couple from the rotary club took me last weekend to a traditional village called Volendam. see I and had my picture taken in the traditional (from the 1800's I think) clothing. I went to a dinner with the director of youth exchanges along with the other kids in my province (there were 7 of us), so it was really nice to talk to people who understand what I'm going through and the experiences. 

          My family is really great, they are very different from my family in Canada. They are very relaxed and family oriented, they are very close and no subject is to touchy to talk about, which is different from in North America, the people here are very open about their opinions or their problems, I find it great! I love the feeling that I can say exactly what i mean and nobody will look at me twice.

           Biking has gotten easier, I am biking faster now, 15km in about 50 minutes each way. but that doesn't really matter if it starts to rain. Last week I walked into school looking like I had come out of the shower, but so did a lot of other kids so it didn't really matter. It is really really beautiful here, everything has character. In north America all the buildings are so boxy and plain, it's almost as though the architects are just building what is fastest and cheapest without thinking about the building's aesthetic perspective. All the streets in the villages are cobblestones, and the roofs are orange or black tiles (not that tar roofing stuff we have. like actual clay tiles). Everywhere I bike is cows, horses or sheep. It is actually really beautiful biking to school, the landscape is very picturesque. And if you know anything or have heard anything about Holland you will know that there are dykes everywhere, a dyke is a small canal- it looks like a stream, about 1 meter across of water in a ditch. On either side of all the streets there is a ditch and around most of the rural houses. or around the block in the actual village. Every weekend I have been somewhere new, seeing new things, meeting new people, having new experiences! This is really such an amazing time for me, it is such an adventure!

           One thing I don't like though is how much bread they eat here!  2 pieces for breakfast, and then multiple sandwiches during the day, usually with margarine and cheese- I try to only have one sandwhich at lunch. They eat much differently because they don't have a lunch period, they just stand in the hall and scarf down their food during a 20 minute break. I can't think of anything else to tell you about so send me feedback!

            My Rotary club has a schedule to make sure that i am kept very busy, every 3 weeks a different rotary member is taking me out somewhere for the entire year. Next week is my next outing, I am going on a walking tour or Amsterdam! I am so excited, although I have been before, it is so beautiful and unique! I hope to go to Den Haag (the haag) to see the parliament (and I have heard there are some very nice museums) at some point during the year.

               School is very challenging, I don't find the actual work very hard... except math, because I am in a higher level, but having most of my subjects in Dutch is what is hard. The hard part is not that I cannot understand the teacher,  I don't know how to write or give an answer! But I am trying to learn, I expected it to be like this, sometimes it is a little frustrating to be so incompetent in my studies. I did not know any dutch before I came, but I had heard it when my mom spoke it to my Oma and Opa, so i already had abilities to understand spoken dutch.

         I haven't been homesick at all yet, and I am not guilty about it either. I see some of the other kids who have been crying about missing home, and i think to myself, "What a damper they are putting on all these amazing experiences!" 

         I have received my august allowance, i am not sure if i received my september yet, i haven't checked, my counsellor is on vacation till tomorrow in Austria, but he is going to call me wednesday so i can ask him about that. I am going with him to get my residence permit on thursday. He is a very nice man, and he is very organized which helps me out alot. I am being reimbursed for all my transportation expenses so i have been saving my receipts from my trains. I am not sure whether or not my emergency fund has been set up yet, but again I can ask Jan tomorrow about that. I have been to 4 rotary meetings since i have been here, I am expected to come once a month. 

  Doei! I hope to here you reaction to this soon :)

Elizabeth Bratton