Markets and Mazes

First of all, I would like to say that time here moves entirely too quickly. Days slip by before I can realize so much has happened that it’s difficult to recall what’s actually been going on. Thus, sitting down to reflect becomes even more important–when I can find a few minutes to do so! I’m getting swept away by the endless charm and canals, in the best way.

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On Saturday a group of us went to check out the Noordermarkt, a popular outdoor market in the (unsurprisingly) north part of central Amsterdam. There was everything from flowers to food to fashion (of the contemporary variety and of the intriguing-though-sometimes-hideous vintage), with every booth selling something uniquely delightful. I sampled cheese, admired the thrifted threads, and mingled with dozens of other tourists and locals through the crowded area. Amsterdam is a rather relaxed city but the market showed me some true Dutch life as the vendors spoke with each other and customers; everyone was a good mood and the sun was shining–a bit of a rare occurrence during these last two weeks. I ended up buying a teal fake leather jacket, as I didn’t pack any kind of moderately cute coat, and the leather look is more than “in” at the moment here. I couldn’t bear to buy yet another black item of clothing and didn’t really want to blend in with the masses of other folks roaming around in one single shade.

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On Sunday I made my way out to Museumplein, the square located between the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, the famous location of the IAmsterdam sign. I’ve already been to both museums but made the trip back for two reasons: the Rijksmuseum is having an exhibit about the beginnings of fashion magazines that I didn’t get to see last time, and the Van Gogh Museum is about to open a new entrance hall and constructed an entire labyrinth of sunflowers to commemorate this. Who could say no to a sunflower maze?! Certainly not I, a Certified Flower Lover. Due to the rain much of the bark dust ground covering and surrounding graze near the maze was soaked, squishy, and smelly–slightly too reminiscent of corn mazes around Halloween in October that were always so muddy. It was great to see so many people of all ages coming out for the sunflower maze, as there was a secret section where a live musician was playing, a row of Van Gogh fan art displayed on boards, and various fun facts and questions pertaining to the man himself placed throughout. I heard that they later handed out all the sunflowers to anyone who wanted one, but I sadly had to leave before that time. What a nice way to deconstruct the maze while also making someone’s day a little more sunny!

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We have a week and a half left of this exploration seminar and it’s still baffling to me how little time three and a half weeks (the length of this program) really is. You try to study (you know, what you’re actually there to do) and get the most out of your topic, you try to absorb local culture as much as possible in the off time, you try to establish yourself as a student in a foreign land, and you try to have fun/ go out/ make new friends  while somehow still getting enough sleep to survive and do it all again the next day. This is my second study abroad program and I am once again grappling with the difficulty of the fact that you simply can’t do it all at once. But, you’re only you once, so do it however you want in the way that feels the best.

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