Where to start? I’ve been absent a long time again. And breaking my promise to myself to post once a week. It’s been surprisingly hectic since I flew back from Toronto two weeks ago (excuses, excuses), but not in a way that would encourage picture taking. Nevertheless, I’m here and I’m documenting recent events!
1. I officially graduated and have my Master of Arts!
Many days of nervous pre-defence sweating and stomach churning were involved (not to mention the day itself) but I did it. It still doesn’t seem quite real. In typical Dutch fashion, my thesis advisor appeared to be seriously underwhelmed by my efforts throughout the defence and spent longer than the allocated time asking me difficult – verging on philosophical – questions. He and my second reader then sent me out of the room and spoke in raised Dutch voices for what was surely an eternity before finally summoning me back in and awarding me with a much higher grade than I had dared hope for. Typical. I could have hugged them but I restrained myself. Fortunately Pieter was waiting for me outside!
As a side note, I swear this is a trick all Dutch people learn before they get to interact with us over-eager Canadian folk. I’ve been the recipient of similar sweat-inducing treatment from bankers, university secretaries, immigration workers … Two weeks before I made the move over here, there was a particularly stressful incident where an agent from the Dutch consulate informed me that one of the 73862 documents I had brought for my visa application was in fact two days too old to be acceptable. Yes, two days. ‘I’ll send it, but it’ll be up to my colleagues in DC to decide and they’re usually really strict with these things.’ His expression was very grim indeed. Thus followed, predictably, a week of extreme anxiety.
What happened when I (very very timidly) returned to the office a week later, fully prepared to hear the crushing, plan-destroying news?
The man nonchalantly handed me my new visa and then gave an incredulous laugh when I let out a sigh of relief! ‘Why were you nervous? Of course you got it, it’s just a Working Holiday visa after all, it’s nothing serious.’
2. It was my birthday! I am officially 24.
It’s been the birthday that just keeps on giving this year. First of all, even though my family and a lot of my friends are across the ocean, I’ve been showered with cards and messages and gifts, and I’m so thankful. I’m so happy to live in this day and age, where everyone is just a Skype or a What’s App away and where mail gets delivered ridiculously fast and, while I’m at it, where human beings can fly! For crying out loud!
On Friday I took the train up to Groningen, where my wonderful, beautiful, hilarious friends had planned a little surprise to celebrate my birthday and my graduation. As I was led up the stairs into the house, I was welcomed with a flurry of balloons and sternly instructed to sit in ‘my’ seat: a kitchen chair wrapped in pink paper and adorned with ribbon and more balloons. There was singing and clapping, followed by a delicious strawberry cake and fizzy pink cocktails – complete with drink umbrellas, obviously.
Long story short, it was the perfect night: all balloons and cocktails and sushi (yes, sushi! I was treated like a veritable princess!) aside, it was just great to be with my friends, laughing, talking, groaning in pain as we devoured way too much food …
(I didn’t take any pictures, but I’ve stolen a couple from the gorgeous Dawn to break up this giant block of text!)
When I returned to Leiden late Saturday night, Pieter joined me and counted down the seconds until the clock struck twelve before singing me a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday and toasting me with some chilled bubbly. The festivities continued the next day and well into the evening as we had dinner at a fun, multicoloured Mexican place we’ve both been wanting to try for months. The verdict: well worth the wait. The restaurant has an unpronounceable name, Popocatepetl, and extremely delicious dishes. They also bring you chips & salsa while you make your agonizing choices, which is always a major plus in my books!
This is already getting to be quite the novel, and yet I feel I haven’t even started gushing! To be extremely short and cheesy: I’m truly thankful to all of my friends and family for making me feel so loved all week. Even just yesterday, a fellow Canadian friend handed me a bottle of maple syrup! Oh, sweet elixir … (She also handed me her cat, but considering the length of this post that’ll be for another day.)
3. Pieter and I are moving in together!
We’ve been looking around for over a month and we spent last week running around Leiden and Den Haag doing viewings. It’s been stressful and discouraging at times, but we’ve found a place and we’ll be moving in within the month. I was pretty much sold as soon as I saw the kitchen: an oven AND a stove AND a fridge AND cupboards? These are definitely things I used to take for granted. In my 15+ months here, I have seen kitchens that continue to haunt me to this day.
Rationally, I know that there are far worse fates than living in an oven-less apartment, but there’s something about living in a foreign country that makes you crave a real home. I’m so happy that we managed to find such a great place, and with only minimal amounts of sweat and tears involved!
4. I got my job contract extended!
All of the fighting I did with the job agency and the work permit agency was worth it. I’m hired until 1 December, which greatly reduces the stress and pressure of finding a job immediately.
I’ve now officially written roughly one twentieth of my thesis in a half hour, so I think I’ll leave things here. They’re promising us 31 degrees on Saturday (!!) so I hereby promise to take pictures and to bring back the more Holland-focused content shortly. Until then, have a wonderful weekend!