Posted by Meghan Callender on May 03, 2018
Hallo Rotary Club Tumwater!
May already! I guess that means I have missed my first Prom opportunity, but I can't say I'm too beat up over the fact, I've still got next year anyway. 
It has only been a month since I have last written, but I feel I have been very busy, so I will do my best to recall everything that has gone on. 
For one, I have moved to my final host family of the year, which is crazy. I never imagined being so far along in my exchange, yet here I am. As of today I have eighty four (84!) days left here in The Netherlands, not that I'm counting or anything. But my new host family is great. As I said before, they have two beagles, Doordje and Monty, who are brother and sister. Doordje has a very special interest in any and everything edible, so I've got to be careful where I leave my food, unless I want her to steal my bread off my plate (again)! They are so cute, it's so fun to be around dogs again, especially ones as cute as them. My host parents are such nice people, funny and warm, and to make things even better, they are amazing cooks. I think I'm a bit spoiled to be honest, but I'm not complaining. My host sister and I get along well, She takes me out to parties with her, and out dancing too. I have had older brothers this year, younger brothers, younger sisters, and now I'm finally experiencing what it's like having an older sister, and I think I got a bit lucky with her. We live in a nice Dutch house in the village of Beerta, about 7.5 km by bike from my school. I have my own room and we all share a large bathroom upstairs. 
As for what I have been doing, it's been a lot. My host dad took me to Nij Stoatenzeil (I think it's better if you skip trying to pronounce that name), which was a nice area on the northern coast of The Netherlands. We walked along a dyke a short distance, until we were in Germany. There was a big yellow rectangle set there from National Geographic, so I made sure to take a picture with it. My host parents also took me to visit an old castle in our province, which was a former vacation home for the royal family, but is now a museum. The castle was beautiful and old, with large carefully trimmed gardens, even with a garden maze that my host father and I had to get lost in for a little bit. After, they took me to another part of the coast, and we had drinks and apple tart. Later that day, I met my former host sister for dinner, and it also happened to be Kings Night. King Night and Kings Day are days dedicated to celebrating the birthday of the King of the Netherlands, William of Orange. The whole country spends the night drinking and partying and listening to music, fully adorned in orange, and the next day, the royal family parades through whichever city has been chosen that year (this year it was Groningen!), and the country continues to spend the whole day in celebration, orange and music and drinks everywhere. So that night, my host sister and I ate dinner in Winschoten, and stayed to see part of the night time celebration, although not very late, because we were both planning to celebrate the next day. On the actual Kings Day, I went to Groningen with my host sister, and met with some other exchange students, and we attended the Kingsland Festival, where some of the most popular Dutch artists preformed, and it was full of young people wearing, of course, orange. I, not one to miss out on a chance for a themed outfit, wore a bright orange t-shirt which said "Long Live the King", orange shoelaces, orange crown sunglasses, and dutch flags painted across my face. It was so fun, almost like the Fourth of July celebrations, but for The Netherlands. Another very Dutch thing I participated in this month was Wadloopen, which the Dutch describe as "walking on the sea". You wait for the tide to go out, and then you walk all along the area of land that it leaves uncovered, although sometimes I found myself waist deep in seawater as we marched along. There was points when I was thigh deep in mud, and boy did it smell. It took three hours, and it was exhausting. I can't say I quite understand this strange Dutch activity, but it was an experience none the less. But the Dutch activities don't stop there. I also took time this month to visit the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens. An amazingly gorgeous adventure, Keukenhof is an annual event, with a huge mass of tulip gardens and fields. Everywhere you look, beautifully manicured tulips. This years theme was Love, so they made lots of beautiful patterns to go with the theme. I even got to see the very special tulip dedicated specially to Rotary's efforts to eradicate polio, named "End Polio Now", a gorgeously vibrant pink tulip with a great message. I didn't know there was so many different kinds of tulips! It was amazing. In the meantime, I have been spending time with school friends of course, going to parties, having sleepovers and all that good stuff. We took one day to have an outdoor barbecue together, and sat on the water and watched the sun go down, it was really lovely. 
All good things, and even better things coming! This Saturday is May 5th, the sort of Independence day of The Netherlands, so I am looking forward to seeing how the Dutch people celebrate. Also, June 2nd, all of the inbound students have our graduation event, and the next day we all leave on the Europe Tour! We will be going to Poland (seeing Auschwitz), Vienna, Switzerland, France, and Berlin, over the course of two weeks. I am absolutely so excited, and know it will be amazing. 
So yes, everything has been great, is great, and I know will continue to go great. I'm looking forward to what's to come, and making the most of my last three months here (but come on, three months is still a long time). 
Best wishes to everyone back in Tumwater! 
Meghan Callender