Posted by Meghan Callender on Apr 01, 2018
Hallo Tumwater Rotary!
 
Happy Easter! Fijne Paasdagen! I hope you are all doing well. By the way, another double holiday, just like Christmas, the Dutch have two days of Easter. 
My life in The Netherlands is ever progressing. Already I am seven (seven!!!) months here, and I prefer not to think or speak about the amount of time that means I have left (I guess I'm in a sort of denial that I'll actually have to leave at some point, those pesky residency permits). 
 
Things are going well. It's spring in The Netherlands, which means tulips, tulips, and more tulips, not that I'm complaining. This upcoming Saturday I am scheduled to move into my final host family. I'm very excited to get a chance to live with them and get to know them all, as they have a daughter near me in age, and two adorable beagles, and how I have missed living with dogs. I have to admit, a large part of me is also sad to be moving. For one, it is sad to think that I am already at my last host family, but mostly, I hate to think about having to leave my current family. I have found in them my own place as a real part of their family. I love them so much. I can never thank them enough for all the love and kindness they have shown me. I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to call them my home. 
 
As usual, I have been busy.  Around mid-March, I had another friend from the US come to visit me. During the nine days she was here, I showed her as much of The Netherlands and my life here as possible. The first day she was here, I woke up extremely early, and traveled the two and a half hours by train down to Amsterdam, to pick her up from Schipol Airport at 8;30 am. We stayed in Amsterdam for the most of the day, meeting with two of my exchange friends, visiting a few museums and taking in the Dutch culture. The next two days, I took her to school with me, which meant making her bike the eight miles there and another eight back, and I think it's safe to say that was not her favorite part of the trip. But hey, cultural education at its finest right? That Friday, I took her into my favorite city (maybe I am a bit biased), Groningen. We went to the Groningen Museum, The Martini Tower, and in the evening we met my host family for dinner at a very nice restaurant, where the king and queen visit when they are in Groningen. Saturday, we visited a Jewish concentration camp, which was very interesting for both of us to see. At night I took her to the dance clubs in Winschoten with my friends from school. We also took one of the days to visit Maastrict, a city in the very south of The Netherlands, and from my city, in the complete north, it was a five hour train ride. But Maastrict was beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. The architecture was lovely, the people were all dressed in high fashion, and the weather was perfect. We met with another exchange student living there, and he showed us all of the best places, and in the afternoon he took us on a bike ride through the country side. It  easily became one of my favorite cities, and it was definitely one of my favorite days while on exchange. To wrap up her visit, I took her to The Hague, another large and beautiful city, where we visited some of the most popular places. That evening was her last night, and since she had an early flight, we rented a hotel room near Amsterdam, where we did a little more sight-seeing and went for a nice dinner. I was so glad I got to see her again after so long, and show her a bit of my past year living away from home. 
 
I also got the opportunity to visit Giethoorn, Venice of the North, a village with no roads, only canals, with the group of exchange students. It was such a cute little village, with lots of little walking pathways and wooden bridges over the canals. We first visited the small museum in the village, and then we were taken on a boat ride to tour the whole city. In the evening we all had dinner together, which as a surprise, was ribs, which made one of the students living with a vegetarian host family just ecstatic (it was very funny to see his excitement over the meat). Recently, there was also a District Conference for my rotary district, and all of the exchange students in my area attended to help out, and show the new rotary presidents what Rotary Youth Exchange is all about. After the event, I spent the night with two other exchange students, and we went out in the city of Leeuwarden, the 2018 cultural capital of Europe. I also gave a presentation to my rotary club here about my life back home, completely in Dutch I may add. I was impressed with myself, and it was nice to be able to introduce them all to a bit of my American culture and habits,
 
Other than that, everything is as it has been. School, friends, host families, and the usual excitements of exchange life. Seven months. My host mother calls me "a real European girl", and I guess she's right. My clothes, the language, the mannerisms. As the powerpoints all said before I left, I am becoming "bi-cultural". I can't say I'm missing home (sorry mom and dad), because I am also home here.
 
My regards to everyone back in Tumwater, 
 
Meghan Callender