Bike love story

As my life has been a stand-up (fall down) tragicomedy lately, mainly because, well, I don’t know, the stars were standing in a middle finger position the night I was born or I’m simply the clumsiest person in the whole universe and someone (God/Buddha/Vladimir Putin) mixed up my soul placement and I should have actually be born as a sloth, the weirdest and most stupid situations always happen to me, so I have plenty of little incidents to write about.

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Some sad bike stories for now.

After the first time my bike got stolen FROM THE BASEMENT OF MY UNIVERSITY, WHERE IT WAS DOUBLE – LOCKED (sorry for the CAPS LOCK it still hurts) I told myself not to get so attached in the future and keep everything simple with my next boyfr, I mean, bicycle. So after the first break-up, I bought my next new, ok, old vintage – antique – extra vintage bike from a mysterious, homeless man on the street ( I still like to believe that it was actually Elvis Presley, who has been secretly hiding in The Hague, selling bikes for the last thirty years) for 30 euros. We got together well and spent many reckless nights riding around (with the bike not Elvis) until it got stolen again. On the New Years Eve. So I entered the 2014 with no wheels, but this time I was mentally prepared and after passing by the usual place, where the bike was locked and seeing it wasn’t there, I just smiled, nodded my head, applauded, hugged some random people around me and kept on walking (and preparing a plan of stealing my next bike).

You see, bikes are very, very special here. They are the “holy cows” of The Netherlands. Respected on the street traffic, but still being so many that they are treated as just some weird, invisible dirt on the streets, mixed with cigarettes, leaves and trash. Sometimes these never-ending lines of the bicycle parking spots remind me of mysterious, urban landscapes. Bikes are everywhere in The Netherlands. Left here, forgotten there, being stolen, exchanged, and borrowed. You can see locked bikes that have been standing at the same place for years. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that in some places the bikes have grown into the nature and become bushes or modern villas for homeless cats. They are forgotten after wild nights like wallets, keys and memories. Thrown on the streets more often than chewing gums. I am almost sure that the bikes live some kind of underground magic life during the night, when all the country is asleep. Becoming alive and doing the stuff that bikes would do if they could, like, I don’t know, smoking weed?

Oh, and not to even mention the bike riding culture.I was quite shocked to see these big wooden boxes in front or back of the bike wheels, where people put their groceries, bags and other everyday stuff, like, CHILDREN in, while riding around the streets. And tornados, rain storms, cunami – nothing can stop Dutch people from taking their everyday root on their beloved horses. I guess if the circus world will ever run out of these clowns riding around on unicycles, no worries, you can pick any of the Dutch people and they will be able to perform flawlessly.

Anyways, as now my need for a bike is not so urgent, I’ll just wait for my Bike Charming to come on a white horse and find me one day.

 

Fake it until you fake it

I should write more.

And not only because writers are allowed to drink Jack Daniels for breakfast. 

Because I love writing. And I miss writing. And I should practice writing. Not the academic English advertising bullshitting stuff I’m doing for the university, but just writing down everything that pops into my mind.  It’s kind of a mental workout for my brain, all the words I write down is like sweat/mud/trash that comes out of my mind and helps me to collect my thoughts, and make my dirty imagination laundry a bit cleaner. 

As my writing idol Neil Gaiman has said: 

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

But, damn, it’s hard. I think I make up at least three poems and short stories in my head every day, about penis-shaped cherry tomatoes in the shop, garbage fairy adventures in the ghetto and hipster Christian guys attacking me on the street, but I never, never write them down. Because I’m horribly lazy. My brain is fat and chubby, and even writing this post is like doing mental splits for my obese mind.

BUT!

No more. There is the silly saying  “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away” and I shall improve it to “a blog post a day, makes your writing more great/gay/lame/yey!/fake/” whatever, at least this kind of determination  would force me to write, write, write something. Collect these letters into a chain of sentences that maybe will make point and sense one day. Probably after I die.

So from now on – I will post something every day or at least every week. Anything. S0 just one letter counts as much as a whole novel.

And this will definitely mean much more useless posts, but that’s why the Internet was invented, right? 

Be prepared for “today I slipped on blood, I looove waitressing in a steak restaurant” etc. posts.

See you tomorrow, my secret, anonymous, non-existing readers and Mom!

Singing trees

Congratulations!

As my last LATVIA?WHAAAT post was quite popular, I hope that now the „ – I’m from Latvia – Oh, cool, I’ve been to Vilnius, do you speak Russian?” situation is going to change to “-I’m from Latvia – Oh, cool, I read in that one blog that you have so many trees, that you’re drinking them. Maybe you’re carrying any tree sap with you?”

And referring to my last sentence of that post, looks like I’ve promised to buy a beer in year 2043 for almost 20.000 people. Hope I’ll be a billionaire by then.

First goal achieved, now many more to go, because I can’t leave my „What is Latvia?” guide just hanging there in the forests, there’s obviously so much more to know and explore.

So in this part, as I mentioned before like billion years ago, I’m going to tell some interesting stories about Latvian music and for me it’s quite complicated. Imagine your favorite thing in the world – let’s say it’s bacon (I know that’s what you all thought of) and one day you win a lottery and get a possibility to spend days in a city made of bacon, sleep under bacon blankets, eat bacon from bacon plates, swim in the sea of bacon and catch a tan from the bacon sun. That’s more or less how I feel like, when I get the possibility to talk about music. I love it so much and get so excited that I don’t even know where to begin and want to tell everyone about everything at the same time. I’ll try not to be so chaotic this time, but still – brace yourselves, winter loads of music is coming and if you’re not sitting in a comfortable position, please do that now and make sure that both of your hands are ready and all warmed up to push play on some YouTube videos for next few minutes.  Oh, and if someone likes to use their feet to push play – I’m fine with that, no worries.

So – Latvian music.

First I want you to look at the picture below, where you can see few nice ladies, dressed up in our traditional costumes. These are “suitu sievas” – Latvian folklore singers that are well – known for having strong, loud voices and being able to hold their breath for a long time, while singing never-ending “eeeeeeeeeeeeee” “eeeeeeeeee” and sometimes they do “eeeeeee”, but mostly before “eeeeeeeee”.

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And now, when you had a glimpse of how they look like, you should definitely hear how they sing. Here’s one wonderful example of Latvian folk singing, used as a background of band’s Enigma song Beyond the Invisible. To be accurate – these are not exactly “suitu sievas” singing in this video, but one of Latvia’s folklore groups Rasa singing Latvian song “Sajāja Bramaņi” , but the sound is pretty similar and gives and overall impression, how magic and hypnotic our traditional music can be.

So, push play and wait for 0:51 to hear some Latvian music. And isn’t it ironic that the music video of this song is with people ice skating in tree costumes – can it get more Latvian? (Hockey is kind of our national sport and trees, well, you know about the trees already).

In most of the popular songs nowadays we have these deep, philosophical lyrics – such as “na na na” “hey yeeey yeah yeah” or just “yo”. Latvians are more creative and in many of our traditional songs, instead of chorus, we have different variations of “ram tai ram tai” (no connection with rum or thai food, unfortunately) “tral lal lā” and in very special occasions it goes even as far as “Ai rillasā, ai rassasā, Ai džimlai rūdi rallallā, Ai tir vir vir vir bum bum bum, Ai trrr rassasā, Ai rillasā, ai rassasā, Ai džimlai rūdi rallallā”.

Of course, it doesn’t mean anything, but you’re more than welcome to download this lovely quote poster and put it as your Facebook cover photo.

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(Spoiler alert: Emotional Boring Stuff in the next paragraph)

Music for Latvians can mean many things, but mostly it’s associated with Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration, which gathers Latvians from all over the world once in four years and is definitely the biggest cultural event in our country. It connects everything we love – music, dancing, traditions and history. I believe that this festival is one of the main things that keep our nation together and strengthens our identity, because nothing compares to the feeling, when you’re standing on the stage with 20 000 other people, singing your national songs and experiencing the strength and deep connection that you can feel only at that moment, forgetting all the political or economical issues and remembering why you are proud of being Latvian.

I couldn’t describe it better in English than it’s already done in this article so have a look at it to find out more – https://www.creativityjournal.net/index.php/contents/articles/item/175-the-latvian-song-and-dance-festival-a-strategic-role-for-culture

And some visual and audible example – here’s one fantastic video footage from The Song and Dance Festival this summer. It perfectly reflects everything – the nature, the music and the power.

http://http://vimeo.com/69821618

Now, enough with the traditional music, l don’t want you to fall asleep on your keyboards and accidently leave comments in the Icelandic or elf language.

Yes, we do have wonderful traditional music, but our popular music scene is not that bad either. OK, it is pretty bad with country music or “šlāgeri” (weird cowboy style umpa paa umpa paaa music)  still being in the top of the pops for many Latvians, but there  are some bands and events to be proud of.

Ask any Latvian, what’s the biggest event every summer – and you’re going to hear the word “POSTIVUUUUUUUUUS!” in different excited intonations, probably accompanied by singing, jumping with the orange Jagermeister flower necklaces and hand clapping. I believe Positivus Festival is definitely the best and biggest music festival in the Baltic States, and you could find a great deal of people (like me) telling that it’s one of the best in the world.

Though the festival always has a wonderful line-up (during the festival’s existence such bands as Muse,  Manic Street Preachers, Moby, The xx, Fatboy Slim, Peter Doherty, Keane, The Vaccines, Sigur Rós and many, many others have performed), but this time it’s not only about the music, it’s the atmosphere in the festival, which is absolutely unique, thanks to the:

  • Location – Positivus is held on the seaside of Salacgriva, you have some stages on the seashore, hammocks to rest on between the pine trees, main stages on green fields and the tent city in the middle of a meadow. Music and nature goes hand by hand in this case.
  • Audience – of course, as a two/three days long music festival it mainly gathers young people, but you can spot many families with children, elderly hippie couples, some  “Buddy plays in a rock band” style festival dogs walking around on their own (it’s allowed to bring animals!!) and even some foreign celebrities – this summer the Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves paid a visit
  • Many other activities besides music – like gymnastics in the morning, cinema, stand – up comedy shows etc.

Overall – it’s a great music festival and definitely an event we can be proud of. Long live Positivus!

 

Now the time has come for you to get introduced to some of the best Latvian bands. Let’s start with a band called Prāta Vētra or Brainstorm. This band is the most popular in our country, and could be well known for some foreigners as well.  Some of you may remember the lead singer Renārs Kaupers jumping around in white ABBA pants in the Eurovision Song Contest 2000. They are the first Latvian band to perform in the legendary Glastonbury Festival and everybody in Latvia loves them. No, really, everybody. I love them, my grandma loves them, our trees love them, I believe our president loves them and they love themselves. Doesn’t matter if you listen to hardcore rock music our Japanese Christian dubstep, if you’re Latvian, you love Brainstorm. Although, I would say that for me the Brainstorm magic works only in Latvian, I believe that they are still quite enjoyable in English too.

 

Another great band that should be mentioned is Instrumenti. With their unique, sophisticated music videos and live performances, they are definitely the finest contemporary musicians from Latvia. Ironically, I would say that  their best charateristic is the fact that they don’t sound Latvian, they just sound really good  and professional.In their live shows they cooperate with the best Latvian designers and artists, to create incredible and unforgettable live performances.

Some electronic story – ELVI/DUNIAN is probably the best (only) thing that has happened to Latvian electronical music scene which is pretty much non-existing. I’m still waiting for the moment, when they’ll be discovered by Kanye and will become the next TNGHT, but now I’m just proudly putting their songs on in all the international parties and yelling “HEY HEY THESE ARE LATVIANS, REALLY AWESOME, RIGHT, RIGHT????”

 

And to finally finish with,  if I had to pick people to represent Latvia in the worldwide Music Hunger Games, I would choose the vocal group Latvian Voices. These seven ladies with their flawless performances and amazing arrangements of the Latvian traditional folksongs is the best business card Latvia could wish for.

Just realized Hunger Games is probably a bad comparison. No killing just singing.

Now – THE END finally, not going to promise you anything if you got this far, because I have hangover.

(Oh, and the Latvian success in the classical music, with world famous pianists and opera singers is yet another story to tell someday.)

Bye!

Paula

The Dutch Nutella

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I like hair. Not that I eat them or collect them, but sliding fingers through recently washed,  clean hair is not a bad feeling.

And of course, as a little baby Paula, I spent many hours coloring and destroying the hair of my Barbie and Ken dolls, and all the animals around me in all the possible ways. And here’s the difference – while I spent time turning my doll’s or cat’s hair rainbowish Cyndy Lauper style, Dutch kids probably turned them into a miniature version of Tokio Hotel with a help of hair gel.

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HAIR GEL – the God and main beauty care object for all the Dutch men.

I first discovered this phenomenon, when I was in Maastricht about a year ago. All the men with all the possible hair colours and cuts – curly, blond, ginger, long ponytails, bold – were wearing glorious amounts of hair gel. So when I was standing on the bar counter and planning to go crowdsurfing, I realized it was a bad idea, cause I actually might get hurt while jumping in the sea of a rocky, hedgehog – Illuminati triangle style hair cuts. At that moment I just stood there and looked exactly like Dylan Moran in the sea:

 

So when I started to ask around “PEEEOPLE, WHY DO YOU HAVE SO MUCH HAIR GEL ON YOUR HEAD?SOMEONE DIED TODAY?”

No one didn’t understand what I was worrying about.

Since that moment – I considered it my mission to convince all the Dutch men that wearing hair gel is not appealing, nor it makes your hair look clean, fancy or good in any single way. Completely the opposite.You can wear hair gel if you’re George Clooney or James Bond, or a bit of it if you’re going to receive a Nobel Prize or an Oscar.Any other way – leave it for punks, please.

So far my Anti – Hair Gel Revolution has achieved as much as ordering carrots whit your BigMac, while you’re on a diet.It means – nothing. Telling gelish guys that touching their hair is like stroking a seal or an old and wet carpet didn’t help. Nor my compliments of, how lovely their head skin looks like, as I can perfectly see it through the forest of hair gel.  My next step is to start wearing hair gel myself and to see what’s their reaction.

Where does it comes from?

I bet most of the men would say that it’s windy here in The Netherlands and if they don’t put 3 kilos of a hair gel in their hair every morning, they might get messy while riding a bike.

No.

Or probably once upon a time, when the first Dutch baby was born, they had to take him home by bike and his parents were scared that his five baby hair will get messy, so –  HEEEEY, I HAVE AN IDEA – and that’s how it started – hair gel all the way.

Actually, I don’t care about this at all, I just wanted to post something about this on the Internet, for all the poor foreign ladies, who have been googling “I’m depressed, because I moved to The Netherlands and all the men are using so much hair gel here, I can’t take it!!” and tell them – you’re not alone.

And I have a plan of bringing this blog back to life – so be ready to read more, this was just a warming up nonsense post.

- I’m from Latvia. – Oh, cool, I’ve been to Vilnius, so you speak Russian? INTRO


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Since I’ve spent most of the last year abroad, first working in a bar in Brussels and now studying in The Hague, I’ve experienced the “Oh, Latvia, yes, I love it. What is that?” situation way too many times. And as now I’m reading and studying about different cultures and stereotypes that people have about various nationalities, I’ve understood that there’s actually no such concept as “a single story” that pops up, when people hear the word Latvia, while it’s quite easy and obvious with other countries.For example:

France – baguettes, Eiffel Tower, wine, Paris, art/US – burgers, baseball, TV shows, Obama, Hollywood / Iceland – Bjork, volcanoes and blond people/The Netherlands – weed, bikes, weed, tulips, weed, cheese, weed and weed/Russia – Putin, cold, vodka, bears/UK – Harry Potter, Landan, The Beatles, the Queen, red buses, tea/Belgium – chocolate, beer, waffles,statue of a little peeing boy etc.

And here’s what people know about Latvia: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110111084319AA9IgBo

And here’s what people know about potatoes in Latvia : http://poorlatvia.tumblr.com/

(And before you start thinking that things are that horrible, here’s an amazing example of what people SHOULD know about Latvia.I must admit that we have probably one of the best country image promoting Facebook pages ever- https://www.facebook.com/IfYouLikeLatviaLatviaLikesYou?fref=ts )

Turning back to stereotypes – well, actually it doesn’t matter what exactly each one of you imagine, when you hear about all the other places, but the point is that YOU DO have immediate associations about them, while Latvia is an absolute newborn and still don’t have an international image, that would be strong enough to stay in average world citizen’s mind. I’ve discussed this topic plenty of times with EU parliament people, who used to get drunk in my working place in Brussels and before falling asleep in their suits and revealing high class secrets to me (EU Gossip Girl  is still my secret identity) they’ve told me that – yes, they do know many Latvian people and they can show our location on a map, but they still don’t recognize anything specific or unique that would make our country special or memorable. That made me think – is there anything rare and individual that makes Latvia different from others or all we have is just a mix from other cultures and influence of our difficult history?

So, while I still can’t carry around a petite “What is Latvia?” guide book to give everyone, who has the lift – up eyebrow confused “TRY TO LOOK LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT IS SHE TALKING ABOUT” face, when they hear where I’m from, I decided to at least write about it here, step by step gathering everything that makes me feel proud about my country. So – here we go – few things and goods that make Latvia special. At least for us – Latvians.

***

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Let’s start with something short and basic for introduction – the NATURE. Latvia is as flat as a pancake. As a green, flat pancake to be accurate (why green? http://bnn-news.com/epi-latvia-greenest-country-world-47902 ) Some numbers – 45% of Latvia’s territory consists of forests, so if you wake up somewhere in Latvia and you don’t know, where you are, there is almost a 50:50 possibility that you’re in the forest. Yes, we don’t have mountains, we have lovely, little baby – hills, we don’t have tropic jungle, but we do have pine trees on the seaside and so many forests that we could celebrate Christmas by bringing a fresh Christmas tree home every day of the year.

But spending a lot of time in forest, if you don’t speak to animals, may not be that fun. We also have a beautiful sea that turns into a miniature Titanic ice – berg version in winter and gives a refreshing shelter in summer hotness. And a seashore, covered with white sand, romantic people, supersized sea gulls and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can also find some golden and differently sized ambers washed out on the shore, having a hangover from last night’s storm party with mermaids.

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And we actually DO have FOUR seasons – summers so hot, that you have to walk around naked and survive on ice-cream, winters so cold and full of snow that instead of snowmen we could build snowskyscrapers and leaving house would mean turning into a starfish shaped ice sculpture. And then the autumn, when all the trees turn into colors of traffic lights and spring that always comes too late to the party and brings flood as a present, so you can easily go to work by a boat or submarine, wearing a bikini.

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But nature is not just an environment for us, we see it as part of our culture and traditions. Nature is a part of who we are. In many Latvian folklore songs we sing about the Wind, Sun and Thunder, forests, rivers and fields. Men must be as strong as oaks and women as statuesque as lindens. Almost every one of us has a countryside place, where we can go and hide from the city, drink fresh milk, climb the trees, help our grandparents with gardening, pick – up blueberries in the forest, just breathe in the air and remember our childhood.

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Connection with nature is also physical – while celebrating Midsummer Feast (long story) all the girls wear flower crowns and look beautiful, and if you’re lucky enough to be called Jānis (the most popular male first name in Latvia), you must wear a crown made from oak leaves and look not so beautiful, but definitely interesting.

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We also drink and eat the nature.

Literally.

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I remember telling my American friends about the fact that we usually drink “birch sap” in springtime and they were shocked about that:

– Whaaat, you’re making holes into a tree and then drinking the liquid that comes out of it? That’s disgusting.

– What else are you doing, picking up forest mushrooms and then eating them for lunch, hahah?

YES, WE ARE.

It all ended with a situation of me asking for a shot and them giving me a chair and a screwdriver – if I’m so used to drinking liquid from wood, getting a shot out of a chair wouldn’t be a problem for me.

I think I’ve come to a point where there’s too much information for one post already, but I’ll keep on writing next time and turn to the musical part of Latvia – singing.

There’s a wonderful drinking quote by Charles Bukowski and if you replace all the “drink” parts with “sing” – you might understand what singing means to Latvians.

“If something bad happens you drink sing in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink sing in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink  sing to make something happen.”

Here’s a little teaser video:

 

And for conclusion, just some general interesting facts about Latvians:

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If you got this far – congratulations! I promise to buy you a beer on the 21st of October, year 2043, around 11pm.

See you then.

Paula Pētersone.

Any feedback, money  or love letters – ppetersone@gmail.com

My Twitter account (in Latvian) - https://twitter.com/paulaaars

Really boring complaint post nr.1

What’s happening lately?

Me being stupid.And young (ironic, cause I just turned 20,so I should be a year smarter,didn’t really work out).But more stupid.Though as young people usually are stupid,then I’m just being really,really young.(Everything I just wrote perfectly shows what’s happening in my head.Nothing that makes sense.)

Anyways, one thing that I wanted to write about was the big contrast between freedom and mysterious laws in The Netherlands.While it’s completely OK to smoke weed on every corner (there’s no such thing as “the air” here, only weed smoke) and to ride a bike while you’re drunk, suddenly you’re the world’s biggest criminal, if one of your friends doesn’t have an ID and you’re buying two beers.So, if you buy two beers and have 20 friends, five grandmas and two dogs with you, all of them must have an ID, otherwise you’ll have to give the beers back, when you’ve already bought them, make a big mess with shop’s security and managers, and block all the system for ten minutes or so, while all you really wanted was to buy the cheese croissant and you don’t really care about the beers.Good job, Netherlands!

And lately I’ve had a mess with the police as well, let’s not go into details, but the whole system is just weird.Maybe it’s because of the fact that Dutch policemen have to ride bikes and they don’t have these fancy police cars like in Hollywood movies or horses like in westerns, no shiny lights and WEUUUUOO WUUEEEO noises, all they have is a funny looking bike with a funny costume and they definitely seem like the most anti-dangerous and anti-serious policemen on this planet, so they may have a Napoleon’s syndrome, that’s why they are so annoying and desperate to seem like the “big boys” in front of everyone.Whatever, Karma is a lady dog, you know, I hope everything will come back to them.

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OK, returning to “me being stupid” part, now I must go and figure out, how to get my bike back if I’ve lost the key for a wheel blocking lock.Don’t have any saws or anything, only fingers and a puppy – eyed sad face.Let’s see.

Now, when I’ve written this far, the “WHOOO CARES ABOUT THIS OR YOUR PROBLEMS, WHOO CAAAARES, NOOBODYYY” voice in my head is starting to become too loud, so -

I’m off.

Going to write something when I’ll fix some of my 99 problems and a lady dog ain’t one.

 

Ik hou van katten

Dear creeps and midnight stalkers!

I’m here again, mainly because I can’t fall asleep, because of that shiny moony thingy outside that’s turning into a shape of a perfect vanilla ice cream ball (I probably should stop seeing food everywhere) and because of the fact that I have to study Dutch for tomorrow’s class and I’ve been succesfully procrastinating for almost five hours now – you know, watching the youtube videos with a cat in sharks costume cleaning up the kitchen on the weird robot cleaner, thinking bout what’s the purpose of life, googling “what to do if you can’t start studying” and stuff like that.And now I’m here.But that’s good, because I’ve always wanted to write more and become one of these “today there was sun outside, it was yellow, we went to the sea and the water was very wet and maths lesson wasn’t that bad, hehehe” bloggers, because now I wish I’d have written something more during the legendary Brussels era.

Pardon my French fries, but Dutch is one ugly language.If French is like chocolate, Dutch is as their own  traditional food – meatballs.Here’s one  illustration :

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For me the weird noises that the virtual people made on Sims computer games make more sense than all of the stuff they’re trying to teach us and my brain is resisting any kind of new words as the world’s most resistant trampoline.

BUT.

All the other classes are surprisingly interesting, so during past two weeks I’ve been sitting in lectures like a Sponge Bob in the sea, trying to absorb all the information I’m receiving and hoping that I’m gonna remember at least a tiny, little part from it.

OK, now I finally got tired, hopefully I’ll get struck by lightning during the night and I’ll wake up as a Dutch expert.

Probably not.

bb.