Kannen & Kruiken

Beer! Wine! Country music! Poffertjes!

While I spent most of the weekend in the library, making up for any study time lost last week, I did manage to go to the city’s wine and beer festival on Saturday night. Called Kannen & Kruiken, this outside festival was located in stadtspark and was a perfect way to spend a warm fall evening.

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Picture taken from groen-maastricht.com/plannen/stadtspark.html

The festival ran straight through Thursday-Sunday. It was a fun time, with lots of food, drinks and entertainment. I tasted different types of wine and ate poffertjes, which are my favourite!

It seemed as though the entire city of Maastricht was there, and while the drinks weren’t cheap, there was no cover charge and we got to keep the fun (branded) glasses. There was also a lot of country/bluegrass music played, changing to Michael Jackson and club hits later in the night. Eclectic, but something for everyone!

For pictures, check out their instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/kannenkruiken/, and website here: http://kannenkruiken.nl/maastricht/

Berlin

My class schedule changes week-by-week, and at 3:30 last Thursday I was faced with a four day weekend. Because my exams are still a little ways off, I knew I wanted to use my time to go on an adventure. A friend lives (relatively) close to Berlin and so with that in mind I booked train tickets and was off via Hanover – see the next blog post!

Berlin was somewhere I had always wanted to go. While I did do a lot, two days were definitely not enough to really understand the city. However I did visit the main tourist and historical sites, particularly relating to WW2 and the Cold War.

I managed to see so much because of a walking tour. These are something I do almost every time I solo travel, mainly because they’re free or donation based. I also get travel advice and meet a lot of other people. For instance, this time I met a guy who had lived in Torquay, and his buddy who was thinking about moving to Eagle Rock. What are the odds!

The guide was a British girl who had moved to Berlin after getting a degree in German history. This meant we got a ton of interesting information while on our 3 hour walk. Here are some more pictures, captioned with the snippets of information we received.

There are still many reminders of Berlin’s dark period of history. As someone born after the Wall came down, I often forget just how recent this was, and how many people walking around would have lived through this extended divided time.

Speaking of divided periods – there were also many posters for an upcoming election, and while I cannot read German, it was clear that some addressed the topic of refugees and asylum seekers. East Germany in particular is currently a hotspot for anti-migrant sentiment, and even as I was on the train to Hanover I read about an attack that had just occurred in Bautzen.


After walking all day I went to find my youth hostel. It was a large place meant for families and school trips. So while it was not in the most lively part of town, everything was clean and cheap. I actually only spent 12 euros on what ended up being a double room! My only criticism was that whoever had previously stayed in my bunk wrote on it with glow-in-the-dark marker. It gave me such a fright when I turned off the lights.

The next morning was for exploring. Dodging the rain, I visited the East Side Gallery and the museum “Topography of Terror.” According to Wikipedia:

The Topography of Terror (German: Topographie des Terrors) is an outdoor and indoor history museum in Berlin, Germany. It is located on Niederkirchnerstrasse, formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era.

You can find out more about this moving museum at: http://www.topographie.de/en/

The East Side Gallery was really cool, and as I walked down I recognized some of its very famous murals. It’s empowering to see the reclaiming of the wall, and graffiti being used in a political and ever-relevant way. There was even a section dedicated to the Syrian crisis.

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PAS+ Festival

Last weekend was the PAS+ Festival (Parcours of Art and Science), celebrating the 40th anniversary of Maastricht University. Here’s a link to the program:  http://english.pasmaastricht.nl/

I had a lot of fun, mainly listening to music. This included a swing band, bluegrass group and even some Balkan beats. I also watched a sitar performance, listened to a brass band play Lady Gaga covers in the street and watched some political art movies projected on a medieval wall.

It was a great way to get to know the city and its vibrant social/arts scene for freeand I had fun dancing the night away with some of my classmates!

Here are some videos (taken from YouTube) of the acts I saw.

Orientation

The week of orientation was full of new people, activities and places. Not only did I meet most of my classmates, I also got to explore the campus(es) of Maastricht University and discover the PBL system.

My Group

While some Dutch students did attend, this week was only for those of us who didn’t complete our Bachelors in Maastricht. Therefore it was a very international crowd. In my small group there were people from Germany, Turkey, Lebanon, Indonesia, India, Montenegro and the US. As international students we all were new to the city/country, and so everyone has been hanging out, sharing information and making the extra effort to get to know each other. This has included going to “Bruis,” a music festival/carnival that they opened one night just for psychology students.

Unlike Occidental, my classmates are anywhere from 21 to 31 years old. This means that people have had interesting careers (working at hospitals, as substance abuse counselors and even in architecture!) and life trajectories (there’s one woman who has a four year old). While half of the people taking this course are Dutch and (mostly) straight out of their undergraduate degrees here, I think that this age-diversity will make for interesting insights and classes.

Academic information/PBL

Speaking of classes, the main reason for this week was to get to know the PBL system. PBL stands for Problem Based Learning, and it is the main educational method used at Maastricht. Similar to the liberal arts approach with small discussion classes etc, so far I really like this method because I’ve gotten to know (already!) the professors and really feel like I’m involved with the learning.

I’m a little worried because I’ve heard that about 50% of students actually fail out each year. That’s the difference between the Dutch and US/UK systems though, getting in is very easy but people get (extensively) weeded out as the course continues. While I like this approach because it seems more egalitarian – no one is denied a college education, I am a little terrified about what’s to come. We only have one test at the end of each course, and on the whole it’s just a very different experience than the one I had at Oxy!

Moving in/Maastricht

With regards to the practical, I finally got a bike! I love the city, it’s been very sunny and so I’ve just been walking/riding my bike around, getting to know the adorable cobble streets and medieval architecture. My Dutch lessons have also started (second one today!), but right now all I can say is thank you/hello/this is delicious and a few other (necessary) basics. Literally everyone here speaks perfect English, but I’m going to make an attempt at learning at least some of the language!

My room is also nice, and while it’s very pink (courtesy of the previous tenant), I have my own little kitchenette and everything. I also like my roommates, and we’ve had a bonding dinner already to get to know each other. So far we’ve only had one major housing issue, which was the shower refusing to turn off, but our upstairs neighbours were nice enough to help. Turns out the “emergency hotline” for the housing company only works from 9-5! So next time we’ll make sure to only have housing emergencies during working hours.

And that’s it! Time to start classes!

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Two Weeks At Home

After saying my last goodbyes in Torquay, I packed up my apartment and went home. It had been a year and a half since I last visited Japan, and so it was high time to finally go back, see my dog and sleep in my old room.

Even though I was only home for two weeks, wow, I did a lot. Not only did I hang out in my town, go to the beach and visit my old high school, I also traveled to Hakone and Nagano to do some sight seeing.

Hakone

The last time I was in Hakone was in 2014 when I taught at a high school summer camp. It was nice to come back and visit this town as a tourist. Apart from the iconic lake and tori, we of course had to go up to the volcano (which was only recently re-opened) and eat Kuro tamago! We also went to the open-air museum, which is one of my favorites.

 

Nagano

My second “vacation within a vacation” was in Nagano, where I visited a friend from Occidental. She is doing the JET program there (link to her super awesome blog here!). An exciting part of this trip was that I got to take a shinkansen to Nagoya!

This was so much fun. Achi is really cute, and famous for its star tour. It’s also very mountainous, which sheltered us from the typhoon that was hitting the rest of Japan (including Kamakura). Here we visited an old post town and a jam factory, took many pictures in a sunflower field, had a picnic at the river and went to many onsen. I also got to visit her schools and met some of the other Nagano JETs at a hanabi taikai. I never knew the program was that big! And of course, what kind of trip would it be without a quick stop at the local Karaoke place and a Brazilian barbecue, both courtesy of Megan’s eikaiwa students.

 

And that’s it! Two weeks went very quickly, and as soon as I arrived, it was time to go. Of course, that involved taking three trains and two planes before I finally got to Maastricht. Phew!