Hello Tumwater Rotary!
How are things back in Washington? 
Today marks two weeks since I left the SeaTac airport and started this wonderful year here in the beautiful Netherlands. Already, I can confidently say it is one of the best decisions I have made in my life. My host family has been amazingly kind to me, and they have done a great job of introducing me into the Dutch culture. I feel so at home here that I don't even have time to feel homesick. I have my own room here, and my own bathroom. The bathroom is very beautiful, and my room has two large windows so that I can look out at the canal. My house is only a short bike ride from a sort of free petting zoo, with bunnies, chickens, peacocks, goats, deer, and a big, lazy pig, and I like to go their to make up for the pets I left behind.  The Dutch houses are strange to me, everything has its own room and door, even the kitchen and living room! But they are all small and adorable, made completely out of brick, with lots of colorful decorations, and the neighborhoods here look much different than the neighborhoods in America.
 
My first weeks here have flown by, and I already have done a lot. One of the first things I did was ride on the German Autobahn in my host father's Porsche. He also took me to see the shipyard where they build giant cruise ships, and I got to see them moving out their most newly finished cruise ship, it was huge, and they were moving it to sea through a tiny canal. Also, since coming here, I have become a tennis fan! I've watched a lot of matches, as my host brother, Bas, competes in Tennis tournaments, so I have learned the rules and enjoy going to watch him. It's also very fun because he wins very often, and it's always fun to be cheering on the winning team. I also went to see a symphony. It was an outdoor concert, and we watched from a boat next to shore, as the Symphony covered Queen songs all night long. This Sunday, my current host family threw a party and invited all of my other host families, so I was able to meet them all. Everyone was so amazing and I know they will make my time here special. Later that day, one of my future host mothers took two of my future host siblings and I to the Bloemencorso flower parade, where there was lots of huge, themed floats made completely out of flowers, it was so beautiful. I also attended the Rotary club meeting here, it was much different than the meetings with Tumwater Rotary, but even all the way in The Netherlands I found a familiar kindness in the members that I always find in Tumwater. 
 
School started this Monday! Here I am taking History, Math, English, German, Art, Gym and Geography. I will also spend some time with the bilingual classes helping teach English, since I am a native speaker. School here is very different. I have different classes everyday, and I start at different times every day, end at different times, and some days have long breaks in between classes. For example, Wednesday's I don't start until noon, and on Tuesday's I don't end until 4:45 pm, and my schedule will switch many more times throughout the year. I appreciate the variety here that is not available in school back home. It is obvious that students here are placed with a much larger portion of trust and independence that I am not used to, but I like. I'm doing my best to learn Dutch, and I have improved, but it is hard, and all of my teachers teach in Dutch. I am still getting used to biking 10 km to school everyday and another 10 km home, especially with all the wind pushing against me here, but as my host father likes to say, "it's good for your character"! Other than that, I am making friends, and school is exciting for me. 
 
As for Dutch food... I've found my likes and dislikes. I'd thought I'd eaten potatoes in every way you could possible cook them, until I got here and realized I was very wrong. Along with that, I think since being here I have eaten more bread in two weeks than I've ever eaten in my entire life. For breakfast, bread with hagelslag (delicious breakfast sprinkles), for lunch, bread with meat and cheese, for dinner, if not bread, then probably some sort of potato. It's a lot of bread. They also have this amazing food called Gehaktbal. It looks like a giant meatball, but it does not taste like any ordinary American meatball, it is much, much better. It's very popular here and I think I've already had it three times. On the other end of the scale, there is croquet. It looks like a long fried cylinder, but I really could not tell you what is inside of it. Some sort of brown, gravy, meat substance. Also popular Dutch food, but not my favorite. One thing I have noticed with food here is that when I look at it and think I know what it will taste like, I am usually very wrong. It's kind of a game almost. Another thing, the grocery stores here are all very small, with items packed in very small portions. Every time someone takes me into a new store they say, "this place has everything", but it usually doesn't. At least, not like Costco has everything, I really wish I could show them Costco. 
 
All in all, I am having an amazing time. I'm meeting new people everyday, learning things I never knew, and trying things I've never heard of before. Everyday I am learning more and more about myself. I am noticing things I don't normally notice, and I find myself thinking about things differently, with a new, more open outlook. Here, everything is an opportunity. There's something about being thousands of miles away from my normal comforts (and my parents) that really makes a difference in how I look at everyday. I can't wait to see what the rest of this year has in store for me, and to keep all of you updated as I continue on! 
 
Tot ziens!