Posted on Jan 02, 2018
Lieve Tumwater Rotary, 
Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! Happy New Year! Have you made your resolutions yet? 
Right now, I’m on winter break for two weeks, and I will go back to school on Monday, but for now I am enjoying the free time and making the most of it. In fact, I’m writing this update to you all while on the train to visit my other exchange friends in the neighboring province of Friesland. Fun Fact: the province of Friesland has its own official language, called Fries (pronounced like freeze) which is the closest language to English.
Anyway, I’ve now spent my first Christmas abroad! Actually, I’ve now spent two Christmas’s abroad, because here in the Netherlands, they celebrate Christmas for two days. The 25th, like normal, and then they have a second Christmas Day (Tweede Kerstdag) on the 26th. And on top of Sinterklaas, which I told you about last time, I think this country has more than it’s fair share of winter holidays. For the first Christmas Day, I spent it at home with my host family, and also my host mother’s relatives came. (Her father has the cutest little dog that he always brings with him, I love it.) In the morning, we had fancy cakes that my host mother spent all week baking, with warm tea. Then we spent the day together and I helped my host Mom prepare Christmas dinner, and I got to make some of my favorite holiday dishes from home to have with it. After dinner my host mother, her brother, and I went on a walk around the neighborhood with the dog. It was really a very nice day. Later in the night, my host sister and I met our friends and went out dancing. It was definitely not my typical Christmas. The next day, for Tweede Kerstdag, we all went to the city of Groningen to my host fathers parents house, along with all of his siblings and their children. We had cakes and tea again, then my host sister and I went on a walk through the city. Later we all had dinner together and then finished the day watching a movie. 
In between Christmas and New Years, I got a special visit from my best friend from America. It just so happens that she has an Aunt who married a Dutch man, and now lives in the outer area of Amsterdam. Her relatives took us together to Germany for two nights, where we stayed in a hotel In the city of Hannover, and spent the days visiting cuter, smaller, older villages with traditional German architecture. I got to see hills again for the first time in four months! It’s weird, although Germany and the Netherlands are so close to each other, there really is still quite a culture difference. But it was really nice to get to see her after all this time and get to introduce her to all the strange Dutch foods and culture. 
For New Years, my host parents and younger siblings went to their friends house in Groningen, and my host sister and I had a small party with a few friends at their house. We watched a movie and ordered takeout, and after we counted down to midnight, we ran outside to watch the city light up with fireworks from every direction. It was beautiful and amazing and at the moment there was really nowhere else I would have rather been in the entire world than with my amazing new friends in this amazing new country. 
When I haven’t been busy celebrating the holidays, I’ve been meeting with my friends, going to birthday parties, visiting my fellow exchange students in their cities, attending school. It’s been a little over 4 months now and I’m still doing my best to make new friends, get closer to the ones I have made, and keep myself busy with Dutch people and culture. It’s not always easy, that is for sure, but it is definitely worth it.
So here’s to 2018! To new adventures, new knowledge, new friends, new chances and new experiences. 2017 treated me well and I plan on making 2018 even better. 
Meghan Callender