Delicious Dutch Dinner

Today was by far one of my favorite days. Eric, our teacher, planned almost an entire day for us. At noon him and his wife picked Liza and I up from school and brought us back to their home for lunch. Both Eric and his wife have Mondays off, so today they decided to give us a true, authentic Dutch experience. For lunch we were given scrumptious croissants. For the contents of our dutch sandwiches we were given the option of butter, four different flavors of sprinkles, some sort of sandwich spread, peanut butter, chocolate, and/or cheese. With two croissants on my plate staring back at me, I decided to add cheese and the mysterious spread to my first sandwich. For dessert, I grabbed the second croissant and lathered peanut butter between the two slices. I then topped it off with chocolate sprinkles. Delish!

After lunch we headed to Eric’s wife’s school right around the corner from their quaint home. I cannot remember her name at the moment, so for stories sake, lets call her Lisa. Anyway, Lisa works at a school for students with special needs, and as most of you know, I will be a special ed. teacher very very soon. Seeing what they do here in the Netherlands regarding Special Education was great. Her classroom was very organized, neat, and useful for her students. She had many different posters and signs hanging around the room that she translated for us that I really enjoyed. Their curriculum is very interesting as well. Every 5 or 6 weeks they start a new topic/lesson. A lot of what they are learning involves social skills and problem solving. They also have many science and history lessons which I love. I feel like science and history are becoming less and less important in our schools and it is terrifying. We are so concerned with our students getting good scores on their L.A. and math tests/exams that we tend to push aside science and social studies. Its a shame.

After getting a tour of Lisa’s school, the four of us headed to the pier. I was thrilled to find out that there is a much bigger and more popular pier just up the shore from our Roompot pier. As we strolled down the pier admiring the views, the restaurants, and little shops, Eric and Lisa informed us all about the town of Scheveningse and the history behind it. Once again, the history behind the places where we visit amazes me. As we peered down the coast, we could see WW2 bunkers that the Germans occupied. Hearing Lisa and Eric talk about the history is truly astonishing. Hearing the words come from them seems to be a little more authentic. Many of their close ancestors/relatives lived through and within some of the most historic times.

Post pier we were given a tour of some important places in the Hague. I was beyond thrilled when they told us they would take us to a German bunker a short distance from the Sea. Seeing these incredible artifacts in person was unbelievable. It is an indescribable experience to stand in the same spot as German soldiers once did over 70 years ago. I am lucky to say that I feel like I have had many of these “indescribable” moments thus far.

After our fantastic, informational excursion we headed back to Eric and Lisa’s home. There we met their two children, discussed traveling and life, and feasted on a heavenly classic dutch meal. The salad was topped with fresh veggies and a delectable orange dressing. For our main course Lisa had roasted potatoes, garlic, and sausage in the oven. The mouth-watering smell filled the air. The meal was marvelous. After politely stuffing my face with the amazing home-cooked meal, we were given a Dutch dessert. Two types of pudding: chocolate and/or caramel.

Getting the privilege of having dinner with Eric and Lisa’s family is something I will never forget. Giving us a tour of the Hague, making us lunch AND dinner, and opening up their home  is an experience that I can never thank them enough for. They were both so open and willing to tell us stories, inform us on different topics, and share their thoughts and beliefs. I am truly grateful.

This last picture is a picture of a house that was built on top of a WW2 German bunker. The family wanted to preserve the historical landmark and decided to make it apart of their home. Once a year the city has a day in which all of the historical landmarks are open to the public for free. Along with the rest of the historical landmarks, the family that owns this property opens up their home for people to experience.

Weekend Two: Prague

Praha!

Weekend two was spent in the majestic city called Prague, otherwise known as Praha. We arrived Friday morning around 11 and headed directly to our hostel. My second experience with a hostel was much more enjoyable. The ten of us had a private room with 5 bunkbeds. The ceiling was high and there was much more room to move about. Not claustrophobic like the first hostel. And to be honest, the bed was comfier and cleaner than my bed back at Roompot where I am currently sitting typing this post…

Our first day was filled with exploration and food. My favorite adventure of the day was climbing to the top of a tower located in the center of Old Town Prague. The view was outstanding. The climb up was much easier than the church tower in Delft, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to mess with Perri and freak her out as much as I did the first time. Another one of my favorite experiences from that day was eating my first Trdelnik. For those of you who do not know of the Trdelnik, it is a magical dessert found in Prague. Essentially, it is a cinnamon roll/churro thingy that is hollow. Many people, including myself, choose to put Nutella on the inside. It was fantastic.

Saturday morning we got up, ate breakfast at the hostel, and headed out in search of the castle, John Lennon wall, and the famous Prague bridge. We succeeded in finding all three. First, we located the Charles bridge. Filled with street vendors and history, the bridge proved to be one of my favorite treasures in Prague. Its crazy to think that I crossed a bridge that was built in the beginning of the 15th century. As we walked over I imaged all of the people that have trudged across those same stones. After the bridge, we found ourselves admiring the renowned John Lennon wall. I am unaware of the history behind the wall, but I absolutely loved seeing it and signing my name on it. A man played his guitar and sang some popular Beetles songs as tourists admired the colorful tribute. It was peaceful, idyllic atmosphere. After taking about 100 pictures as a group, we set out for the castle. Before seeing the castle, I pictures an abandoned, mysterious, giant acropolis. That is definitely not what we discovered. Instead, the castle is much more spread out and actually functioning. The cathedral in the center of the castle matched my visions much more. It was a giant, historical-looking masterpiece. Magnificent stained glass windows filled the inside. The detail within the walls and artwork is impeccable. After exploring and thoroughly enjoying all three must-see landmarks we headed to dinner. On our there we wandered through the picturesque streets and stopped in a couple stores. We found the most adorable boat restaurant on the river. The food was amazing of course, and the scenery could not have been better. It was another wonderful day.

Sunday morning we all got up and headed to brunch. Once again, the food did not disappoint. Because we had to head to the airport around two-thiry, we only had time to stroll down a couple streets before we had to head back to the hostel to get our things. Overall, it was another unbelievable weekend. The food, company, scenery, and adventures were top notch. Not to mention Prague is a relatively cheap place, so not spending a bunch of money was a nice bonus. So glad I was able to Czech Prague off the bucket list! 🙂

 

I’m Famous

Today I got a small taste of what it must be like to be famous. Once again, Liza and I found ourselves in a new classroom with a new teacher today. It turned out to be one of my favorite teaching days so far, and the teacher we shadowed was marvelous. She was more than thrilled to have us in her classroom and welcomed us with a darling note on her morning powerpoint. The students were ecstatic as well. I feel like a unicorn here. Liza and I presented an “About Us” powerpoint and gave the students a short lesson on common verbs in english, and after we were finished, about 20 of the 29 students rushed over to us and asked for our autograph. It was hilarious. After walking away with our less than average signatures on a piece of paper, the students would gather around each other in small groups and giggle as they gazed at the “autographs”. It was a sight to see.

When the school day ended today (half day woohoo!), Shannon, Perri, and I decided to head back to Amsterdam to check out the Van Gogh Museum. As one would expect, it was incredible. Once again, being in the presence of a piece of history is breathtaking. Another “famous” moment happened while at the museum…There is one spot in the museum where you are allowed to take pictures. This small corner of an area is in front of a giant copy of one of Van Gogh’s paintings. To remember our delightful adventure, we decided to stop and ask a kind old lady to snap a picture of us. While she was capturing the moment, I peered over to the left of her and noticed a couple people taking a picture of us as well…with their own cameras…Not sure their reasoning behind this, but it made for another “famous-feeling” moment. Thinking back on it, the three of us came to the conclusion that it could be Perri’s red hair…Seeing red hair might have been a first for them. I’ll keep you posted.

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Heres the famous photo. If you print it out and bring it to me I will sign it.

New Day New Classroom

Eric, our original lead teacher, made a schedule, or as he called it, a “scheme” the second day we were at school. According to the schedule, each day we would be in a new classroom, and occasionally Liza and I would return to Eric’s class. Despite the fact that he gave us the “scheme,” each day we walk in and have absolutely no idea what we will be doing or where we will be going. Today, I was pleasantly surprised to be back with a teacher we have worked with before. Instead of going to her original classroom, though, we spent the day in a different 4-6 year old classroom. Not sure why, and the idea to ask her why slipped my mind…

The students of Montessorischool Valkenbos continue to amaze me. Witnessing their drive and concentration is astonishing. Tiny 4 and 5 year olds will choose a task, sit down, and complete it all on their own without prompting or guidance. It is truly unbelievable. Once again, I feel as though the Montessori style mixed with the Netherland Educational philosophy produces the most independent, self-sufficient students. Just in one day I observe a multitude of different accomplishments made by  teeny humans. These 4 and 5 year olds are able to fold their own clothes, put their jackets on and zip them up on their own, use scissors to cut out intricate objects, use their imaginations to create outstanding projects, and clean up after themselves. All without a complaint on top of it! Don’t get me wrong, though, there are times when the child in them comes out and they need help with something. But overall, they appear to be much better problem solvers than American children.

One of my favorite things about being with the 4,5, and 6 year olds is that many of them do not understand that Liza and I do not speak a lick of Dutch and have absolutely no idea what they are saying. On multiple occasions students come up to me and start chatting away in Dutch. I just listen and smile and occasionally throw in the, “Oh yeah?” or, “Uh-huh.” I am getting pretty good at reading the tone they use when speaking so I know when to use an “Oh yeah” versus an “Uh-huh.” I am also picking up on a lot more Dutch! The students try to teach us as we teach them, so as of now I am pretty fluent on my colors, a couple common greetings, thank you, and the days of the week. Oh and bonus! I have also gotten pretty good at the bus stop names. “Next stop” = “Volgende halte.”

One more thing- Today in gym class the students went through a series of stations. Station one was working on somersaults, station two was playing a type of dutch tag, station three was a balance beam, and station four was some sort of gymnastics looking contraption. Station four was mind blowing. The students would climb on top of this tall stool, walk across a thin balance beam that was about 5 feet off the ground, traverse these wooden bars, then walk down a thin ramp. There was a single, small matt placed under a section of the balance beam, but other than that, the gym floor would be the unfortunate terrain of those who would fall to an untimely fate. You would never ever ever ever see this type of activity in an American school. Just based on how I described this experience proves that we are much more cautious and doubting of our small pupils. And unfortunately, I believe our cautiousness and doubt is a disservice to our children. We hold them back from exploration, problem solving, and independence.

Half-day tomorrow! Gotta love Wednesdays!

And yes, the Jonathon Lipnicki look-alike is so incredibly adorable that he is featured twice in this blog…

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Weekend One: Amsterdam

I have returned! Finally back in “my” bed from a long weekend in Amsterdam. Where to begin…We arrived by train on Thursday night and immediately began our adventures. It was a non-stop weekend. The meals were fantastic. The scenery was exquisite. We stayed in a hostel for the first night in the heart of the city. That was an experience…It was my first time staying in a hostel and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily, it was too bad. Besides the fact that there were 8 beds (4 bunk beds) crammed in a 10×20 foot room, it was a pleasant experience. I definitely did not crawl under the covers, though. My winter coat made a lovely blanket. The first day and night was filled with lively adventures and interesting experiences. On the second day, we headed outside of the city to our home for the next two nights: The Holiday Inn Express. In our minds, this average and ordinary hotel was a 5-star, top-of-the-line, deluxe resort. We never wanted to leave. Each one of us crammed in as many showers as possible just because they were so amazing. I’ve never been so thrilled to stay at a Holiday Inn in my life.

During the day on Friday we visited the Anne Frank House. What an experience. Physically being in the house she once hid in for two years is an indescribable feeling. With a tornado of thoughts, feelings and emotions swirling through my mind, the ten of us made our way through one of the most impactful, profound homes on this earth. Being surrounded by so much history is remarkable. That was an experience I definitely will not forget and am excited to share with my students, family, and friends back in the US.

On a completely different note, on Friday night we attended the Disclosure concert which was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel. It was amazing to say the least. A group of us ended up in the front row for the last two songs. Going to a concert in another country is a wonderful experience. No matter where you are in the world, music brings people together. I have noticed that American music is extremely popular here and many of my students here are constantly singing or humming along to the same exact songs I currently am singing/humming along to.

On the last day of our Amsterdam adventure, we went to the Heineken Factory. My brother-in-law John works for Heineken back in the US and got us all tickets to the museum. Shout out to Johnny! 🙂 The museum is beautiful and we had a wonderful time! It was great to hear about the history and learn all about Heineken. I love that it was and continues to be a family owned company!

Overall, Amsterdam amazed me. With so much culture, history, and beautiful architecture, this city will definitely go down as one of my favorite cities I’ve been to.

Side note- The amount of walking that we have done is incredible. My body is so sore. I have zero regrets from eating Nutella crepes two nights in a row…

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Den Haag -> Delft

Today was yet another wonderful day at Montessorischool Valkenbos. Bonus- Wednesdays are half days! Wednesdays are also the days when the class social worker comes in to work with our students. Eric told us that the teacher that taught his class last year was not supportive and let the students do whatever they wanted. Because of this, the class atmosphere and vibe has been off. The students’ behavior has not been up to par (even though their behavior seems impeccable to me…) and they have hired this social worker to help teach the students about respecting themselves and others. Experiencing the teacher interact with the students was incredible. They are all so willing and eager to answer questions and give their input. One of the main differences I have realized between the students here and in the US is confidence. The children here are given a lot more freedom and are much more independent. They are free to say what they are feeling and don’t hold back from giving their two cents. I hope to create this type of environment when I have my own class back in the States. If there is one thing that I have learned through this experience thus far is that problem solving cannot be taught. It is something that needs to be instilled in children from a young age by giving them the freedom to explore on their own, make mistakes, and letting them fail. The Netherlands seems to understand this idea!

For our afternoon off we decided to all meet up at the train station in the Hague and travel to Delft. It was a blast! From taste testing at their finest cheese shop to climbing more than 400 steps up to the top of a church tower, Delft proved to be one of my favorite excursions thus far. Once again, the pictures do not do it justice.

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MG Finally Made It To The Sea

Top Moments of the day:

Moment One- Learning dutch from our students

This afternoon, Lars, the class clown (but secretly a major sweetheart), walked up to Eric, the teacher, and started asking him a question in dutch. He seemed very excited yet nervous while asking this mysterious question. As the question asking continued, his face turned the color of a tomato. Typically, when students come up to Eric and I and ask questions in a choppy, shaky voice I know it must have something to do with Liza or me. After a short conversation, Eric then translated their discussion and had Lars ask me if I wanted a lesson in dutch. Instantly, I accepted the offer. We began with a lesson on the days of the week. Slowly but surely more and more students gathered around, laughing hysterically at my ghastly attempt at speaking their difficult language. Surprisingly, I loved this moment!

Later in the day two of our other students asked Liza and I to help them with their english and in return they would teach us more dutch. Their creativity, independence and ability to get the ball rolling amazes me. They decided to create dutch vocabulary books. The contents of the book included cut outs of different objects found in a magazine paired with their dutch vocabulary word. Liza and I would then do the same except in english. My dutch vocabulary book will be a great memento to bring back to the states to show my students! Loved this moment!

Moment Two- Seeing this whimsical bicycle operated by a mother. Yes, there are three children in that carriage in the front of the bike. Loved this moment!bike

Moment Three- THE SEA!!

After school let out, Liza and I hoped back on bus 24 and headed back to the “resort”. Instead of getting off at our normal spot, we decided to get off at the pier (one stop before ours). The pier was absolutely delightful. So so charming. But even more charming and exciting was my first glance at the North Sea. I never thought I could enjoy a windy, freezing walk on the beach so much. Not to mention the shells! Love those. The pictures can’t do it justice! Loved this moment!beach.jpg

Yes! Those are insane wind surfers! There were about 10 of them. Not sure how they didn’t get blown to the UK…

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Yes! That is a Dutch dog!

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Me finally at the sea!

Moment Four- This pasta of course. Loved this moment!

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“Do you have guns?”

To add a little context to the title of this post, when my teacher introduced Liza and I to our class, he shared with the students that we come from Texas. One little boy immediately raised his had and asked, “Do you have guns?”. It was definitely a comical start to the day.

The first day in Montessorischool Valkenbos was amazing! The dutch children are absolutely adorable and the teachers are extremely nice and welcoming. When Liza and I first walked in we were immediately shown to our classroom. The class has three levels in it (6,7,8), which essentially translates to 9, 10, 11, and 12 year olds. It is a very interesting concept that I find completely logical. The older students in the class can help the younger students and learn to work together. Not only does the fact that it is a Dutch school make it different from the US schools, but the fact that it is a Montessori school as well. The children are treated as adults here and are given a lot of responsibilities. They are in charge of their own learning. I love this idea.

Anyway, When we first walked into our classroom the children went bonkers. They were all talking over each other and making what I will describe as “excitement squeals”. It is completely understandable. If I had a student teacher come to my classroom from abroad in 4th grade I would act the same way. Most of the students speak english, some better that others, and they were more than thrilled to hear that we would help them learn our language. It is a very interesting feeling to have 28 children staring at you chattering back and forth amongst themselves in a more than unfamiliar language for an entire day.

After our first interaction with the class, one of our teachers gave us a tour of the building while the students were on their 45 minute lunch break. The building is just a couple years old and is beautiful. There are 11 classes in total; 4 1’s and 2’s classes, 4 3’s 4’s and 5’s, and 3 6, 7, 8’s. As we walked around the school my favorite moment was seeing the youngest of the school’s clan walking to “gymnastics” as they call it. Each student walked shoeless in their undies and tank tops. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen, yet it was a normal, routine thing for them. One of our students informed us that the older students have a locker room to change into gym clothes when they have gymnastics. Relived to hear they don’t have 12 year olds walking around in their undergarments. The rest of the day consisted of a tour of the school yet again from two of our students, observing the unusual but fascinating teaching styles, and conversations with students.

After school Liza and I met up with Jackie and Gayle in the Hague’s city center. What an adventure! Walking around and exploring the city was unbelievable. The small alleys and charming buildings are stunning. We simply walked around aimlessly, awestruck by the charismatic city. After a while of shopping, we decided to venture to a restaurant. We sat outside enjoying the views as we discussed adventures form our first day at the schools. In order to get home we had to find the bus stop, locate the correct bus, and figure out which stop we get off at. This was a far from easy task. After asking a kind lady on the street, I was convinced she told us to head in one direction. Turns out I was wrong…After about 4 stops on the bus, I then asked another kind lad next to me if we were on the right bus. Of course we were not. We immediately hopped off and closed the street to head in the opposite direction. Alas, we found our way home. The walk from the bus to the resort was far from easy as well, though. It felt as though the wind was going 100 mph. Eventually, we made it home. Its all about the experience! Overall, it was a fun, amusing, fantastic day. Back to school at 8am tomorrow morning! Time for beddy!montessorischool_valkenbos_haac_3haag

DFW->PHL->AMS

01/30/16

First flight complete. Despite the fact that the temperature reached about 110 degrees for the first hour of the flight, it was an enjoyable journey. I am writing my first post as we sit at the gate waiting for the final fleet. In a mere 6 and a half hours the ten of us will be exploring the breathtaking city of Amsterdam/The Hague. When we arrived in Philly we decided to stop at the airport pub in our terminal. Regrettably, most of us ordered chicken tenders and fries. With each letter I type I feel the heartburn creeping in. Time to rip out the Tums. This just in…Flight delayed 15 minutes according to Perri. Hope we get out soon! Bye bye for now. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0005.