Friday, December 31, 2010

Fun in the Snow

Jessica, Dad and I walked to a local park in Nijmegen, which was wonderfully transformed by the snow. We saw zebra walking in the snow, found a football (soccer) stadium, watched hundreds of kids and kids-at-heart sled and make snowmen, had snowball fights, helped move stuck cars, and met a cross-country skier.

Fortunately, I brought my DSLR and both my long and walk-around lenses, so all of the above were photographed.

Find the set here or the slideshow here.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Morning Photos

I think the title says it all in this case. I have uploaded photos of Dad, Jessica and I opening the presents Dad brought with him from the US. We each have also been given gifts from others that either have already been opened or are of a kind that is not opened, as in ripped out of wrapping paper A Christmas Story style. Those are not pictured here.

Find the set here, or the slideshow here.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dortmund Hostel Photos

Hey all!

Just a quick post to link anyone interested to a photo tour of the hostel we stayed at in Dortmund, while visiting the Christmas Market. I took these to share on hostel review sites, in an effort to contribute to the online community.

Find the set here, or view a slideshow here.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weihnachtsmarkt Photos!

Dad, Jessica and I made our second trip together, this time to Dortmund, Germany to visit one of the many famous German Weihnachtsmarkts, or Christmas Markets! Many German towns, really all of them of a reasonable size, host a Christmas Market during December each year. Our European friends have been excited about visiting them for months, and hearing them talking about the Weihnachtsmarkts so positively, we decided to visit one as well.

Well, it was everything they had hyped it up to be and more!

I did quite a bit of reading about camera care in very cold temperatures, and brought my DSLR along this time. That turned out to be a very good decision, as just about everything at the market was worth a photo, and many of those photos turned out quite nicely.

Find my largest set of photos so far here, or start viewing them as a slideshow here.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Utrecht Photos

Dad, Jessica and I traveled to the beautiful Dutch city of Utrecht. Utrecht is one of the more prominent cities in the Netherlands, and is especially known for its beautiful old city center. Canals rivaling the beauty of Amsterdam's seem to never be out of site, and the bells of the famous Dom tower are a regular reminder of the city's history.

You can start viewing our photos as a slideshow here, or find the set here.

These photos were taken with my pocket HD video camera instead of my nice DSLR because of the very cold weather. The quality of well lit pictures is fine, but indoor photos of the dark Dom church are not as nice as I normally post.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Whirlwind Holiday

Happy Holidays!

Well, today is the day after Christmas and although we were not able to celebrate with family at home, it still turned out to be enjoyable and particularly special, as we celebrated in the Netherlands. Not only were we able to celebrate with Farrell's dad, which was nice in and of itself, we also did a great deal of traveling visiting Utrecht, attending one of the famed German Christmas Markets in Dortmund, Germany, and participating in a candle-light Christmas Eve service in the 14th century church located in Nijmegen's city center. Of course, the fun is not over. Tomorrow we leave for the Hague, followed by a day in Amsterdam, then a flight to Manchester where we will stay the night, followed by a train ride to Edinburgh on the 30th (where we will celebrate the New Year and explore for six days), ending with a three day stay in Ireland, arriving back in Nijmegen on January 8. On the 9th we will be relaxing in Nijmegen and preparing for our veritable food journey at the restaurant De Hemel where we have reservations for 5:30. Then, wrapping up this whirlwind holiday, Frank leaves on the morning of the 10th, which is when I will begin studying for my first exam on the 13th -- yes, unfortunately it looks as if I may be studying instead of celebrating on my birthday this year (the 12th), but in light of all our travels, I am okay with that.

Stay tuned for pictures from our day trip to Utrecht, our visit to the Christmas Market, and a few pictures from Christmas morning and snowy Nijmegen.

Until Next Time,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dressed-up Flat Photos

As Jessica promised a few posts ago, I have finally found time to organize and upload some nice, seasonal photos of the flat. As we are obviously separated from our respective long-time Christmas traditions, all forms of decoration included, we thought it would be fun to create some decorations of our own from cheep materials poor collage students have laying around (notebook paper). Jessica, with trivial help from myself, did a great job, resulting in the decorations pictured here.

Note that these photos are grouped with others from around the flat in the same Flickr set, many of which have not been linked to from the blog before. As always, feel free to look around.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Snow Photos

As Jessica mentioned in the 's-Hertogenboscht post, we have been fortunate enough to have quite a bit of beautiful snowfall in the last few weeks. Especially with respect to the typical three to four light snow events eastern North Carolina experiences each winter, Dutch snow is noteworthy for two primary reasons.

First, snow events seem to 'stick around' much more gracefully than NC snow. Eastern NC snows seem to always be struggling against only slightly sub-freezing temperatures, which all two often (from a snow lover's perspective) destroy a beautiful snowfall in a matter of hours. There is also the 'rare-snow paradox' to deal with in NC, or any region that really looks forward to snowfall. If it is unusual to have good snow accumulation in an area, residents are more likely to get out and play in the snow. Playing in the snow, although loads of fun, accelerates the rate of snow destruction. For example, NC State's ~500 person snowball fight in the Court of North Carolina my Sophomore year, although one of my best snow memories, nearly cleared North campus' snow accumulation.

The second strikingly cool thing about Dutch snow is the temporal span over which snow actually falls. For example, it has been snowing here off-and-on for about two days, and our last 'snow event' was actually off-and-on snow over approximatively four days. This comparatively long snow-fall window gives snow lovers like Jessica and myself opportunity after opportunity to get outside and do things, even just routine tasks, in a crystalline water wonderland!

Although I am limited by DSLR camera recommended operating conditions, I have taken a dozen pictures of beautiful things my lenses can frame from the windows of our flat. This set of snow pictures, like some of my other photo sets, will continue expanding as I take additional snow photos. Find the set here, or start viewing a full size slideshow here.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Elfstedentocht

One of my professors is from Friesland, a region in the north of the Netherlands with tons of canals, but not particularly urban and with only eleven official cities. The region even has its own language, Frisian, which I only recently learned is the second official language of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. (And, for those who do not know, the country is still a monarchy with Queen Beatrix as the current head of state.) Anyway, Friesland is apparently a very beautiful area of the country of which the people there are very proud as evident by there enthusiasim for giving tours -- by foot, bike, bus, boat, and occasionally by ice! It does not happen often, but at least once every ten years or so the canals freeze over completely and the ice skating tour of the eleven FrieslChristmas, decorations, Dutch, Holland, Netherlands, picturesand cities begins...and the people go nuts! Dr. Slootjes says it has only happened three times in her life (she is probably somewhere in her thirties), but their are rumors it may happen this year. The 'Elfstedentocht' as it is called, is cerca 220 kilometers (about 150 miles) and can be done either as a race or just for fun. Feel free to check out this website to see the route, maps, and other information. 

Also, Prof. Slootjes sent out this video in an email (she thought it was funny and had told the class about it). The music is kind of weird, so just ignore it, but it gives you an idea of what Friesland looks like, the ice skating culture, and what Frisian sounds like. So, all around it is worth a look and/or listen. 

Truly, the 'Elfstedentocht' is a rare experience that seems like so much fun. Needless to say, if the canals freeze up, I will take my professor's advice -- skip class and head for the ice!

Until next time,

Friday, December 10, 2010


Fortunately, in spite of all the work (or perhaps thanks to), this week has managed to go by fairly quickly. Today is simply a study day for me, but Farrell has an exam later this afternoon and we both have one on Monday. So, my day should be comparatively relaxing: just studying, running a few errrands, and drinking peppermint tea and coffee.

Yesterday we got an unexpected fresh covering of snow. I am not sure what time it started but it was a good hour or so in the morning at least, which led to a beautiful and festive start to the day. No surprise snow today though, not yet anyway. I took a video yesterday of the snowfall because it was such an interesting and pretty snowfall, but we have not had a chance to look at it yet to see how I did or if it is worth putting up on the blog. However, our snow pictures and Christmas decorations will be posted over the weekend.

 For now, I leave you with these pictures from our trip to 'S-Hertogenbosch to pick up our visas. And, no, I cannot pronounce it properly. The few times I have said it, people usually just laugh and say something to the effect of "Oh, that was close!" or "Yes, something like that..." Although, it is always a little hard to tell if they are being sarcastic. And, of course, more than half the time the response is usually just a "No, not at all." (So, I guess that answers the sarcasm question.) Regardless, the Dutch always seem amused about it rather than annoyed, unless of course you happen across some crochety old man that believes everyone should speak Dutch, as does occasionally happen. Perhaps, I will write up that experience and post it this weekend as well. Anyway, enjoy the 'S-Hertogenbosch pictures -- it is a beautiful, old city with tons of canals, winding streets, and interesting canal-side statues.

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

♫ ♪ A Lot Like Christmas ♫

After our unintended month-long hiatus, we find we now have a great deal to talk about. We celebrated our first bizarro-Thanksgiving, met the Dutch winter a bit earlier with a week-long snow, and became official residents of the Netherlands -- with the i.d. to prove it! As per usual, we have plenty of pictures of all these events which we will put up in the next week along with any associated stories. This post, however, is dedicated to more recent and upcoming events. 

The semester is beginning to come to an end, though a bit differently than usual. Here, classes continue until December 17, when Christmas break commences, with exams held throughout the month of January, though usually at the end. At the moment we are supposed to be registering for courses next semester, although this is proving more difficult than at the beginning of the year...or, at least stranger. Experience would prove that perhaps not posting dates and times for classes, or not assigning fixed locations for classes/meetings is some sort of annoying, though otherwise benign, byproduct of some mysterious Dutch culural characteristic. Either way, experience has also proven that it will eventually be worked out. As for the next two weeks, we have some early exams and final papers, but nothing to unmanagable, though we will not be going on any day trips during this period.

It is perhaps all the more fittng that on the day I turn in my final paper and Farrell finishes his final exam (before break), Farrell's Dad (Frank) will arrive, as we intend to do a great deal of travelling. Plans before Chrstams are not final, but the goal is to explore the Netherlands more, visit a Christmas Market in Germany, and maybe a short trip to Paris. Of course, after Chrstmas we have concrete plans flying to Edinburgh for New Year's, explore Scotland, and then hop over to Ireland to explore for a few days. It's all very exciting! Yet, as you can see it has taken a great deal of time and planning -- one of the many activities diverting our attention from the blog, and one of the many reasons we are so appreciative. Though, I think we are most looking forward to simply showing off Nijmegen a bit, particularly our favorite places, which include two delicious restauraunts that I look forward to revisiting. 

Fortunately, for those nights that are simply too cold to go out, the flat is warm and inviting, expecially with the Christmas decorations up. As you can see, they aren't much,  but it was fun to do. What has really put us in the Christmas spirit is the Christmas tree lot in fron of the windmill behind the flat. Needless to say it is pretty awesome being able to look out your window and see such a sight, especially with the snow on the ground -- though it it not really as exciting to talk about snow now that it has snowed back in North Carolina as well. However, it is worth mentioning that this snow event was unlike any other in our experience, though it is thought to be typically Dutch -- it snowed constantly (but very lightly) for about a week, with high wind and temperatures in the teens and single digits. It was an interesting experience riding our bikes in the snow for the first time, but it is not too bad as long as you are careful. 

Returning to the topic of Christmas trees, we have been debating buying a small, "Charlie Brown" tree, but I haven't yet visited the lot to even confirm that they sell such trees. It does seem odd that they are only now beginning to sell trees though, especially since the Dutch just celebrated their SinterKlaas this past weekend. As far as Sinterklaas and the Dutch Christmas I could not possibly explain it better than David Sedaris -- American author and comedian -- so, please follow the link and learn a little about this interesting holiday tradition. 

Hopefully this post was both informative and entertaining. In the next week look for uploads of new pictures and updates.

Until Next Time,
Jessica (and Farrell)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Beautiful, Dutch Fall

Jessica and I have been given quite a special treat by the Netherlands over the last few weeks. The trees lining Nijmegen's roads and filling its well incorporated green spaces are bursting with bright, vivid fall colors. The last week and a half or so has been among the busiest times in my academic career, with our completion of the first period, or half, of the semester and the associated spike in projects, tests and papers. In the face of our excessive, but quickly improving, work load, we found time to get out into and enjoy the fall wonderland around us. As per normal for all rain free adventures, I documented what we found through photography.

You can find the set here, or a slide show here (recommended).

Note: The pictures in this set are from three different locations at three different times, but because it is not necessary to view them in the order they were taken, and they all closely correlate to the same theme, I grouped them into the same photo set.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lessons Learned

We have officially been living in Nijmegen for a little over two months now, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of what we have learned in this time.

Lessons Learned:
1. Get a hair cut before coming to Europe. The cheapest cut I found was for 22 euros or a little over 30 dollars. Needless to say, we may not be getting haircuts for a long time.

2. Cash is king -- credit cards, checks, etc., these things are useless. Only Dutch cards work here. Apparently it is a completely different numbering system. Of course, you can still use your debit card to withdraw money from the ATM.

3. Shops close at 6:00. They will lock you in. Yes, I am speaking from personal experience.

4. Grocery stores will claim to be open 7 days a week, not completely true. They are open everyday, but not at the same hours, not opening until 4:00 pm on Sundays.

5. On Mondays, most stores/businesses do not open until noon. I don't know why.

6. Just because you have directions, that does not mean they are the correct directions.

7. Know the address of where you are staying.

8. Find out where to get and dispose of essential items (food and trashbags).

9. Be friendly and patient. Getting angry further frustrates your intended goal.

10. When you do get angry, forgive yourself and move on.

11. For people from North Carolina or surrounding areas, it is cold. Warm clothes are essential.

12. Eating a good meal in, is always cheaper than eating out.

13. Drink plenty of water. It seems obvious, but it can be easy to forget and if you do, it is the quickest way to start feeling bad. For us, coming from the Caribbean and N.C. (where we would sweat and naturally want water), this cold climate just makes it difficult to remember.

14. The days are shorter. No, it is not just because we are nearing winter. Rather, because we are so much farther north, the light reaches us less, so sunrise is later and sunset is earlier.

15. A bike is a must. If you are spending any extended amount of time in the Netherlands, you will need a bike for getting around. Otherwise, you will be walking because buses do not go everywhere you may want to go and not everything you need will be within reasonable walking distance.

Until next time,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Warm and Dry

On this cold, rainy, typically Dutch day, it seems a good time to update everyone on our stay here in Nijmegen. Last week and this week have mostly been filled with studying, as will this next week. Farrell had his midterms and related assignments this week and mine are all next week, so I have been working hard this week in order to try and make next week more managable. Of course, in the midst of all this, I ended up catching some sort of virus. At first I just thought it was a cold, but I ended up with aches and a fever, but after a day solely dedicated to getting better, well, I did just that. Though, every now and then the stuffed nose and sniffles reappear. Regardless, Farrell has been lucky and has managed to escape any illness, thus far.

We did not go to the market today because we still had plenty of groceries (and it's been cold and rainy), so we have stayed in all day in the warmest room in the house working on various things. With the candle lit, the heater on, and the smell of all the teas and coffee we have been drinking it smells like Christmas: nice, cozy, and spiced with cinammon. I think there may be some other tennants in the house now, since our landlady has other rooms that she rents out, but I think he/she/they must work because we never actually see them. Simply renting the room for a place to sleep, it is likely they go home or travel on the weekend, which is fairly common since housing is in short supply.

Returning to our day, I made potato soup for lunch. I chopped up some onions and red pepper to make a vegetable broth and let that cook up for a while. Then, I diced two tiny potatoes we had and added them to the soup and let that cook until the potatoes were tender. For the final step, I added some dehydrated potatoes Mom sent me from home (I have since found them here, by the way) to thicken the soup and give it the right potatoey texture, adding a little greek yogurt to gice it a slight sour cream taste. Needless to say, it was quite tastey and a perfect dish for this dreary, yet cozy day.

I should probably get back to work. Right now I am preparing for my Dutch History and Culture exam on Monday. If you would like to take a look at some aspects of Dutch History yourself, please visit this website, which we actually use for our class in addition to books and historical articles. It is interesting, interactive, and gives a nice overview of Dutch History, just make sure you change the language option to English at the top (the blue tab).

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Univeristy Photo's Up

Jessica and I went on a walk, in between light rain showers, to explore some parts of Radboud's campus we had not yet visited properly. I had gotten a quick glimpse of a fragment of a massive concrete tower-like structure through a window in the Huygensgebouw (HG) building during a Prolog programing lab, and, thinking of the centrality of the bell tower on NCSU's campus, I thought it deserved looking in to. It turned out to be noteworthy and cool, but by a different metric. It was a physically prominent marker for a very cool area of campus, including the super-modern HG building, an underground very strong magnet lab, and some really cool green space designs. Here is an excerpt from a Radboud sub-domain webpage on the magnetic lab:
"The High Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) is a European research facility used for research on materials in very high magnetic fields. This striking building is in fact a large factory that is needed to achieve a continuous field of 33 Tesla or a pulsed field of 60 Tesla in a small research cell. There are only two other comparable laboratories in the entire world.
The main users, research scientists of the Institute for Molecules and Materials, concentrate on the measurement of quantum effects, magnetic manipulation of molecules and on optical and far infra-red spectroscopy. The state of weightlessness that occurs in magnetic fields is comparable to those in space and provides excellent conditions for growing pure (protein) crystals." - Radboud
Anyway, check out the decent sized photo set of Radboud University, including beautiful green spaces and cool building designs among a spattering of other interesting things. Click here for a large image sideshow with descriptions visible, or here for the set main-page.


Edit: You may have noticed that the blog currently has a poll question up. Voting in this poll is only open for 2 more days, so please, if you would like to share your input, which helps us improve the blog, do so while you have a chance!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

To Arnhem, by Bike

So, we have a new photo set from our afternoon trip to Arnhem last week. We biked 26 km there and another 26 on the way back for a grand total of about 35 miles. Impressed? Well, you probably shouldn't be -- here, that's still considered a reasonable distance, just not one you would make on a rainy day. Anyway, take a look at the photos, which chronicle our journey from Nijmegen, through the countryside and smaller villages, to historic Arnhem. We will be heading back at some point in the next few weeks, so let us know if there is something in particular you would like to see. Enjoy!   

From the top, or view the set here.

Jessica and Farrell

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two Small Photo Sets Up

Some of you may have already stumbled on these pre-published by exploring my Flicker account. They have been online for a while as I added pictures to them, waiting for them to be substantial enough to publish. Unlike all of my other sets, I will continue adding pictures to these in the future, as I take more photos best categorized by one of them.

The first set consists of pictures of general happenings from around our flat. Find a large version of the first picture in the set here (recommended) or the set main-page.

The second set is called 'The Biking Dutch,' and is populated with, you guessed it, pictures of Dutch people biking. I have seen so many cool things on bikes here, but have so far only documented a tiny fraction of them. Again, this will be an ongoing project. Recommended viewing starts here, set main-page here.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recomended Reading

I just wanted to quickly point out a not-particularly-recent addition to our blog-roll, a collection of links to other blogs we like, located in the right pane of any of our blog's pages. Peggy Boone, a good friend of ours from NC State, is doing some very, very cool pre-Ph.D fieldwork studying black howler monkeys in Mexico. I want to make a special point of recognizing that her photography and writing skills totally trump my own, so have mercy when coming back to my work. I was shooting a 5 year old point-and-shoot camera while she was covering college level athletic events weekly. I was the noob playing with her and Ty Johnson's cameras every time they set them down within reach. In general, she rocks. Her blog, The Gonzo Journey, also seems to be habitually at the top of our blog-roll, which is sorted by most recent post. One of my greatest envies in life is the frequency of her posting.

Check the blog-roll to the right for snippets + links.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Photos: The City of Nijmegen

Sorry for the longish gap without a post, our lives have been very academic-centric recently. Look for some details of the more interesting highlights of our academic escapades in the near future.

However, as you know by the title, this is not an apology post. I've just finished tagging and writing descriptions for a nice size set of new photos. Jessica and I took advantage of a rare warm, dry day to explore Nijmegen, documenting as we wandered. We biked from our flat to Nijmegen's central station, where we parked our bikes and, as we transitioned to foot travel, I was able to use my camera, so the set starts there. We walked North to Nijmegen's large train/bike bridge over the river Waal, from which some of the best views of the city can be found. Notice the other large bridge visible in may of my pictures? That is one of the critical bridges in WWII's Operation Market Garden. Perhaps you've seen the movie 'A Bridge too Far?' Well, it was one of the ones that was not too far. Also note that the barges visible in many of my bridge pictures seem to travel as fast as cars. They move from the large car bridge to the bike bridge we were on in what has to be less then 2 minutes. I would estimate no less then 20 of them passed in our 30 minutes on the bridge. After getting some nice photographs of the city from a distance, we walked the streets visible to us earlier, still photographing, to get the micro-perspective.

Start viewing large photos at the beginning of the set here (recommended) or view the set main-page.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

De Hemel Photos Up

Sorry for the longish gap without a new set of pictures, I had a large test on Friday for my Assembly Language class, and as Jessica just reminded me I need to get back to work on other things. But, because I try to be timely with my uploads, I've just finished the final touches on my latest set, which features the restaurant De Hemel and our exquisite meal there. This restaurant is one of several residing in an old castle that overlooks the river Waal. What makes this restaurant unique, besides its location, home made beers and breads, and delicious menu items in general, is its unlimited course dinner. For 28.50E you receive an appetizer of breads and dips, followed by an assortment of courses brought out every 15-30 minutes as the chef prepares them. Once you have had your fill, you tell them that you are done with dinner, and in 30 minutes (after your food has settled some) they bring out dessert. Take a look at the pictures and share in our experience, though, even I must admit the pictures do not do the food justice.

Find the set here. I recommend viewing the photos in as large a size as possible, that's how I create them to be viewed. This link will take you to the set main-page if you don't like the viewbox.

Farrell & Jessica

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Comparative Studies 101

For an exchange student, life here in the Netherlands can be organized into distinct categories: expected differences, unexpected similarities, and unexpected differences. Based on background knowledge and previous posts it is easy to guess what belongs in the first two categories, but allow me to give a brief overview of the unexpected differences as of yet unrecounted.

1. The Architecture
Because of the limited land space, which is perpetually threatened by rising sea levels and sinking land masses, the Dutch must meticulously plan their cities, housing, and even the natural areas, to protect and conserve the environment and the unmistakable Dutch quality found in the city and countryside. With regards to the actual look and design of the buildings, there are common characteristics to be found in the old and the new. Roofs tend to be high and either orange or black, but tiled rather than shingled. Furthermore, houses have open floor plans with lots of windows to let it light, and people rarely have or use curtains because they are seen as unnecessary, signifying that the individual (and by extension society as a whole) has nothing to hide.

2. The Bike Roads
True, we expected bike lanes, but certainly not bike roads, and we definitely did not expect the bike lanes to be nearly as profuse. The reality, however, is a road system with abundant accommodations for cars, bikes, various motorized bikes (from motorcycles to motorized wheel chairs), and pedestrians. On the side of every road there is at least one bike lane. Yet, as the road becomes bigger, so do the bike lanes, often becoming two-laned bike roads on both sides of the road, which in many cases break off into independent bike roads that are actually short-cuts, allowing bikers to get to places much quicker. Moreover, these bike lanes/roads do not just remain in the cities, but extend beyond to the country and even along the highways to other cities (big and small) forming an intricate network of travel that is surprisingly vast, fun, and cheap -- the access fee simply being the purchase of a bike. Nevertheless, the most unexpected thing about the bike roads were all the different people using them, which brings me to my next difference.

3. Treatment of the Disabled
Interestingly enough, the Netherlands seems to be a great place to live for the physically and mentally disabled. It is extremely common to see someone in a wheel chair or motorized chair zooming down the bike lane next to you. There are all sorts of wheel chair/bike combinations that allow the person to pedal with their hands, or, perhaps just as often, the person in the wheelchair will bum a ride off their friend by simply holding on to the end of their bike. However, it is not just those in wheel chairs, or older people in motorized chairs, but even people with what we would consider severe conditions are able to take part in all this. There is one memory that always stand out in my mind, and that is of the paraplegic and his dog. One day I was out on the bike road heading away from the city and I came across a man walking his dog, although not how it is usually done. The dog's leash was fastened to the chair, while the man, who was clearly paralyzed from the neck-down, scooted along enjoying his Sunday afternoon and leading his dog, who was running, sniffing, and playing. I remember thinking then what a great place this must be, if even the most disabled are able to enjoy such a great degree of freedom. Even the mentally handicapped are able to enjoy more freedom and acceptance than I have ever seen at home. This country has a lot the U.S. could learn from with respect to acceptance and attitude.

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Little More Green

Green cricket friend living in mine and Jessica's flat
Green cricket friend
Originally uploaded by dfarrell07
So, I know I had promised that my next post would be about all things biking here in the Netherlands, but something far more pressing has come up: our flat has a pet. True, pets are not usually allowed, but we were allowed to make an exception for our cute, green, no-named friend. We have no idea where he came from, but one day this grasshopper just appeared, his bright green easily seen on the bright red walls. Interestingly (or perhaps it's more fortunate), he is missing one of his long-back legs, so he cannot make any of his annoying music, which works out well. How he survives, i.e. what he is eating, is a mystery, but he must like it here because he has been with us for a few weeks now, just popping in and disappearing again at will. It's fun though. We are always on the look out for our new friend, but he still surprises us sometimes. We have yet to find a name that suits him, so feel free to make suggestions!

Until Next Time,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Layout, Blogroll, Polls

You may have noticed some slight revisions to the layout of the blog. The updates include going from two Google adverts to one, removing the 'Following' and 'Subscribe via Email' applets, style changes, and the addition of a Blogroll. Users who are already receiving email updates will continue getting them, but the system is closed to new subscriptions. It is also still possible to follow this blog as normal, there just is not a shortcut in the right pane. We implemented these changes to encourage users to visit the blog, leave comments, and get involved instead of simply reading our posts in their email clients. The Blogroll will feature external links to other noteworthy blogs, I suggest everyone check them out. 'Me, Myself and Ty' is a new blog by my friend and the editor-in-chief (retired) of NCSU's student newspaper, Ty Johnson. 'Cultural geography from SoCal to Nijmegen' is the travel blog of another friend and International Student at Radboud, Phil Gresham. The featured blogs will rotate irregularly.

Look for new site updates in the near future, including a few polls to help us learn about our users and provide more responsive content.


Two New Sets Up

Jessica at Piecken
Originally uploaded by dfarrell07
I've just finished uploading two small sets of pictures from around Nijmegen. The first is at Cafe Piecken, a local bar that hosts International Night every Tuesday. The second is of Jessica cooking a dish of her own creation. Both provide a little insight into our daily routine.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Smoke and Mirrors: Why I Hate Banks

Mom and Dad taught me while I was growing up that hate is a very strong word, and that I should not use it lightly. Well, I have thought seriously about it for ~30 minutes, and I am now convinced that I am not making light of the term. I stand by these statements with somber conviction. This is not a rant.

According to Google's 'define' function, hate means:

"The emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action."

Well, the action I have chosen this time is a blog post, hopefully leading to a little more awareness, and some bad PR for the objects of my hate.

As we have blogged before, we have been having considerable trouble getting Dutch bank accounts, as we have been trying to do nearly since we got here. We care so much about accounts because we are required to have a Dutch bank account before we can get a cell phone contract, and we are really hurting without any type of Dutch phone. We were told by the International Office that we would not be able to get a bank account until we had student ID's, or the papers we got the Friday before last, vouching that we will eventually get student ID's. The first thing we did the following Monday was go to Rabobank, chosen arbitrarily because they are the most prominent looking of the large banks on Nijmegen's massive central round-a-bout. We waited in the physically-short 'Student Accounts' line for 10-15 minutes before finally being addressed, told that we would not be able to create an account right now, and scheduled for a 6:00PM Wednesday appointment. So, condemned to wander unconnected a few days longer, we left in good spirits, thinking of Thursday morning, with visions of cell phones dancing in our heads.

So, Wednesday evening rolls around agonizingly slowly, and we make our meet. We have to enter via a small side door, as the bank is closed for regular business. We tell the guy in the suite about our situation and that we wanted to open an account, which he should have heard as:

'I want to give you money so you can invest it in sketchy business models developed by Ph.Ds of Mathematics. You will make about 6-7%, but you only need to give me around 1%. I only do this because I am forced to by my micro-economic system, but thats cool, I just really need an account.'

He politely told us that it would not be possible, basically saying:

'You're only going to be here for a year, and you are students so you don't have much money, so I don't really care about you. Humm, how can I reject you? You have every kind of identification paper I know of, from passports to immunization records, so check the creativity bonus for this one: your official, stamped paper from your University saying that you are a student, residing here, and pending a Visa, and that the University guarantees financially that you will get one is not good enough. You must have an actual Visa, which I know could take up to 3 months. BOOYAH!! Oh yeah, by the way, it's an official policy and my hands are tied, all of the other banks have the same policy.'

I argued our point, told him why we needed an account soon, told him why we are required to have an account by the end of September. But, as always when it comes to banks, you don't have any real power. If you want to live in the modern world, you minimally have to have a savings account. The only substantial choice is which billionaires you want to make richer.

So, we leave again, defeated, but still optimistic. We incorrectly believed that we would be getting our Visas the upcoming Wednesday (we are on this week now) when we meet with the Stadswinkel, the Dutch immigration authority. In reality we are told that it would be anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months before we would receive our actual Visas. Incidentally, the lady we met with had no idea why the bank wanted a Visa. She had never heard of any bank requiring a Visa, and told us again that our letters from the University would be fine. Two other American students confirmed this, saying they had got bank accounts at ING and Rabobank without a Visa.

Today we marched out again, this time fully informed, to take from the banks what, in a rational, consistent system, they should be pleading with us to accept. First stop was ABN AMRO, another of the large banks in the central round-a-bout. We didn't even make it past the first, seemingly totally untrained, lady. If we had of been in the States, I would have accepted that she had no idea what she was talking about and moved on to someone else. Here, I'm not sure if that is appropriate, so with a massive round-a-bout full of other banks and time in short supply, we decided to try another. A quick search and 30 second bike ride later we found ING, another bank at which we know many international students have successfully gotten accounts. Closed. We had been recommended to try Rabobank again, as they have historically been the most international student friendly, and they where open until 8:00PM, so we gave it another shot.

30 minutes later we were in front of another suit's desk, this time female. She seemed totally cool with our paperwork and lack of Visas, but manged to successfully turn us away again! In her thoughts:

'Its 5:30PM now, and we close at 8:00PM. These two will not require identically the same series of inane data entry I do all day, so I really don't want to deal with them. I'll just give them an appointment and let someone else deal with them.'

In words, she offers no explanation as to why we could not possibly get an account in the next two and half hours. She just takes it as an assumption that she is not going to work with us, and moves on from there with the appointment scheduling.

'No appointments available Friday, how about Saturday at 10:00AM? Going to be in Germany you say? Ok, how about Monday? Don't want to wait that long? Really need one soon? Yes, you can just walk in tomorrow. Yeah, anyone sitting in these seats (motions to her seat and the three around her) will be able to help you setup an account.'

What is her job anyway?! People go through the process to get a bank account, the process she tells people to do, ending in her suit-desk, like she said it would, but if she does not feel like it she just kicks them to rung zero? Is this real!? Dutch students are getting bank accounts at the desks all around us. She has two and a half hours. You would only need a few 100 million monkeys smashing on a few 100 million keyboards to setup a bank account in two and a half hours!! (?) But, because we have truly no other option, we are going to go try once again to give them money in the morning. Banks are not members of a free market!! For a free market to be real, you have to have a real choice. Sure, they definitely offer some random free junk when (Dutch) students sign up, and yes, they sometimes have very small differences in how little of a pittance they give back to you, but those aren't choices, just slightly more clever smoke and mirrors.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

False Starts and Fresh Foods

Well into the second week of school classes are surprisingly still largely undetermined for many students. It is hard to describe, but the Dutch University system is extremely easy going, but not in the way you would think. For example, University started last Monday and most people (other international students included) assumed that classes started that day as well, but this simple, common sense conclusion was completely wrong. Monday was simply the start of the new school year, which was marked with opening ceremonies, not school, a fact that the international office neglected to tell us and one of the first sign that things were most certainly going to be different here.

As for the classes themselves, you are expected to always be prompt and prepared (perhaps even more so than back home), yet for many classes times and classrooms are not fixed. So, for some classes you meet the first day and the professor explains that this is actually not a good day for him and enquires when/if the students would be available to meet at other times, on different days. Or, in some instances a first meeting is not even scheduled and the professor contacts everyone by email to see when the students would be available for class. Then, when you add into this mix classes that actually do meet at a fixed time and date, as well as the very limiting factor of only being able to take courses in English, it is a daunting task to find a viable class schedule. Fortunately though, Farrell has been able to work out his classes completely, and I am only waiting on two of mine to see if they will be moved or cancelled. So, I am very happy to say the ordeal is almost over. Of course, that is not to say we have not enjoyed the past few weeks. Yes, it has been stressful, but it has honestly been more entertaining than anything else. Plus, we both really like the classes we are taking...of the ones that have started anyway. Oh, and most classes here only meet once a week for around two hours, rather than two or three times a week as is the norm back home. Needless to say, it will be interesting at the end of all this to see which system we end up preferring.

On to another point of interest, it is surprising how cheap it is to eat healthy. Or, perhaps better wording: it is surprising how healthy it is to eat cheap. The least expensive foods here are fruits and vegetables. On Saturdays and Mondays there is a market in the city center that sells fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, cheese, meat, bread, etc. and it is all so affordable. Last time we went we bought 4 limes, a bag of red peppers, a bag of onions, bananas, a kilo of mushrooms, and two large hunks of specialty cheese for 10 Euros (give or take a Euro), with the cheese being the most expensive at a grand total of 5 Euros. Interestingly, at the store just one hunk of cheese is anywhere from 5-7 Euros, depending on the type. At this point though, the only need to go to the store is for pasta, milk, bathroom essentials, and items of that nature. Regardless, while everything else may be more expensive here, eating healthy at home is extremely affordable.

Things to Come
As this post has already become longer than anticipated, be sure to check back in the next few days for a post largely dedicated to exploring Nijmegen, its outskirts, and our ever-improving cycling abilities.

Until Next Time,

Monday, September 6, 2010

'Moving Pictures' - Now Available!

So, I've finally branched out into publishing series of pictures that appear to move, instead of simple single-images and text. I've had a YouTube account for years, but it was a very old username I don't use any more. Perhaps more importantly, I had never actually created any content under that account. With the goal of remedying the first problem, and the first video content I am willing to share pressuring me onward, I created a YouTube account I could take pride in.

Check out my Chanel, essentially a YouTube equivalent of a home-page or main-page, here.

As of this posting I have uploaded 26 videos of International Students from 25 countries, working together by home country, performing a song of their choice for the rest of the International Students and Mentors. It has taken just over two weeks to edit the videos, figure out what codecs YouTube plays nice with, get them into those codecs without losing video quality, upload everything, add tags, titles and descriptions for everything and setup my user-account satisfactorily. It was really an effort of scale - 26 is not a big number, but it is a lot of videos.

If you have a YouTube account, subscribe to my channel for further, possibly not travel related, video content.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Orientation: Weekend Pictures

Orientation Weekend
Originally uploaded by Farrell
And finally, the last blog post about the orientation weekend. I've uploaded and described forty-something pictures of the weekend. Check them out here.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Amsterdam Pictures

Originally uploaded by Farrell
Finally, the Amsterdam set is uploaded and ready for viewing. We are having some internet connectivity troubles, nothing like Nevis but more annoying then I had hoped for. As soon as I can get a 220v-110v converter for my wireless router and replace my landlady's router with mine I believe all will be well. I'm working on at least one more set of photos, but I'll refrain from giving a time table for their release.

The best way to view any given set of pictures I upload is to select a picture thumbnail from the page I always link to and then click 'Next' to see the next picture in the set. If you start at the beginning of a set and move towards the end, you will be viewing the pictures in the order they were taken. Be sure to read the descriptions I include on some pictures, those should really help to get more of the experience across, or minimally provide some context.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Orientation: The Middle Third

It has certainly been a while since I last posted. Of course, Farrell has written a few posts, but they have been necessarily short due to time constraints, nevertheless, they have certainly communicated the hectic-ness of life since we left home. Fortunately, everything is finally beginning to settle down a bit. After nearly two weeks here in Nijmegen, we were finally able to do some grocery shopping today. It is sad to say, but prior to today we were mostly living off the few packs of Ramen Farrell brought, the free meals incorporated into our orientation program, and the three loaves of bread that I took (as they were going to be thrown away) from the program this past weekend, which was a lot of fun.

All, or I guess I should say most, of the international students headed out on a weekend trip to Putten, a lovely village in the Dutch countryside. There were a lot of activities planned, but for the most part everyone just relaxed and worked on making new friends. Oh, and we stayed on a working farm, which made it even more interesting – Farrell has several pictures of the goats, I think, and all should be posted fairly soon.

We arrived back in Nijmegen around noon on Sunday, at which point I headed straight back for a nap (as we all did), a four-hour nap to be precise, followed by a solid hour of unpacking, which is happily completed. Today, was a fun day: we met some friends at noon and went downtown to do some shopping. I finally introduced Farrell to my favorite Dutch food “friets speciaal”, which are fries with mayonnaise, curry ketchup, and onions. True, it sounds like it should be gross, but it is really fantastic. The mayonnaise here is remarkably different and is really more of a sauce (in texture and taste) than the globby, fatty mess that we have back home, not to say that it is not good on some things... Anyway, we are now mostly settled in.

Tonight there is another dinner that has been organized (and paid for), and then all that remains in the way of orientation is a packed day tomorrow, and a few meetings for our individual colleges on Thursday. After all that, we have some time off to make final preparations before school starts on Monday or Tuesday. Hopefully, during that time, our classes will be approved, we will be issued student IDs, allowing us to get bank accounts, cell phones, and all those other necessary items. Ultimately though, all is well!

Until Next Time,

Friday, August 20, 2010

They Call Me the Wind...

So, we did our first intra-Netherlands travel yesterday. The International Office arranged a day trip to Amsterdam. I took quite a few good pictures, and will have them up as soon as I finish going through them. As normal, I will write notes on the individual pictures describing anything noteworthy, but no blog post about that trip this time. We are about to leave on a weekend orientation retreat to a farm in the country. I'm not sure if there will be internet, so assuming the negative, signing off until Monday.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Deelnemer Introductie 2010

Our first full day in the Netherlands went quite well. We slept until about 1:00PM local time in a rather successful attempt to catch up on lost rest. First order of the day was to find the 'Sports Cafe' where we were meant to register for orientation and meet our orientation group(s). If you Google the address of the cafe, Heyendaalseweg 141 Nijmegen, you will get a location about two kilometers north of the location of the cafe. If you search in the general area of the location provided by Google Maps, you will find a retirement home, student housing, a gas station and a pub. If you spread your search out, you might find more student housing, professors houses, a bakery, a clothing store, a lab and a bike parking garage. In no reasonable amount of time will you find a sports cafe within a reasonable search grid of Google's o-so-unhelpful location. In our experience, 1 in 8 people within your search grid will know anything about a Sports Cafe. That person might tell you something about being way off, a road to follow, and/or a tall building to look around. Anyway, you get the idea. It took us about 4.5 hours to find the Sports Cafe, which was actually very nice, once found. We registered, ate dinner with our respective (different) mentors, talked to our fellow International Students and eventually meet at a pre-organized, social, orientation event at the same pub we had been walking around all day. We set outside in the beautiful 70 degree Dutch weather talking to students from the Netherlands, Lithuania, Latvia, France, Germany, Spain, Slovenia, Scotland, Ireland, and Italy late into the night. Most noteworthy thing? I made friends with a dude from Lithuania that loves talking politics not quite as much as he loves the Doors. I told him about my envy for Dad's experiences in the 1960's, especially his attendance of a Vietnam war protest on the Washington mall that Jimi Hendrix played at. Luidas excitedly informed me that Jim Morrison and Janice Joplin also played at that show, and we tingly-spine-thinged together.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Need Sleep...Must Post!

So, we made it to the Netherlands! Its been ~33 hours with out sleep so far, so this post is going to be very short – prepare for sentence stubs. Nijmegen is beautiful. The flat seems cool so far. We missed a connecting flight from Frankfurt Germany to Brussels Belgium. People in the parts of Europe we have visited so far suck at giving directions, they don't use discrete distances or proper names (Terminal C vs 'go that way and take the second right'). There is a old, dutch style, windmill in our back yard. We took 3 cars, 3 trains and 3 planes to get here. My laptop can handle 220v input. This is really turning into a free associative thought spill. I'm going to take a shower and go to bed.


Monday, August 9, 2010

The Final Countdown

I should probably begin this post by apologizing for the paucity of posts, but, as per usual, time simply slipped away from us. For those of you who have not heard, Farrell and I arrived back in the good old U.S. of A. on August 4, but we did not actually make it back to our respective homes until the 5th. Then, once home, well, the blog was de-prioritized, ranked somewhere between sleep and doing anything other than writing a blog post. Besides, in all honesty there is not much to report. We are both just visiting family, (hopefully) seeing some old friends, and attempting to get everything ready before we leave this Saturday for the next eleven months. Anyway, we will try and do a better job of keeping everyone up to date, or at least those of you that are interested.

Until Next Time,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pictures up!

Mike riding a cannon
Originally uploaded by Farrell
New pictures up of our day trip to St. Kitts. Check them out here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rainforest/Ruins Hike

Jessica eating a wild mango
Originally uploaded by Farrell
I don't have time to write *anything* because I had to hike out into the mosquitoes to get enough connection to post this. I've gotten at least 12 bites in the last 5 minutes, and killed no less then 30.

Rainforest/Ruins pictures

Running back to the mosquito netting,

Edited 6.29.10

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hooray, Update!

So, let me catch everyone up on all the events from the past few days.

Thursday night was the kick-off for Culturama, which is a big celebration of Nevisian/Caribbean culture. It officially began last night, which was inaugurated with a huge concert downtown with lots of dancing and street food.The whole group ended up going and it was a great deal of fun. The celebrating will last until August 3 (give or take a day), reaching full swing by the middle of next week and ending with the selection of the Culturama Queen and parade, both of which we are going to compliments of the program.

Friday we had the day off from work so that we could all go to St. Kitts for the day. Quetta, one of the directors, had this field trip organized to the letter. We all met at 7:45 am, hoped on the bus, and drove to the ferry. Once on St. Kitts we drove all around the island, literally -- the main road was a loop around the island. It was so beautiful, but everything here is. The most interesting site from the day was this old British fort from the early 1700s. It was in great condition and very expansive, providing great views all around, so it was so much fun to explore. To see all the sites take a look at our pictures, which will be up soon, hopefully. It was a long, tiring day, arriving back at Hurricane Cove after sunset, so most people just went straight to bed.

Today was the exhibition day at the museum. On Thursday Farrell and I went down town to help set up the exhibit, which was a little slow in coming together, but eventually turned out great. The exhibit was from 1-4:00PM today with Dr. Fitzpatrick giving a talk at 3:00. Not as many people turned up as I was hoping for (Farrell edit: more then I expected), but I did not really know what to expect. Overall it turned out well as it was a great experience and everyone did such a good job.

Now, it's time to relax. Maybe it will be a movie night?

Until Next Time,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quick post

Hello again!

Sorry it has been so long since we last wrote, but the internet where we are staying is extremely unreliable, in addition to a few power outages from various thunderstorms that have been rolling through. In fact, it has done little more than rain since last Friday, as a result of which we were unable to do fieldwork all week. Needless to say this week has been mind-numbing, filled with hours upon hours of scrubbing shells, tiny bones, and pottery with a tooth brush. To catch you up real quick: we are scuba certified, have adjusted to the heat and humidity, helped to set up the exhibit down town, and having a great time! Pictures will come as soon as the our internet connection allows!

Until Next Time!
Jessica and Farrell

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Scuba, Tours, and Work! Oh my!

Hello Everyone!

Sorry for the delay, we have just been so busy with tours and such (as you can see from the pictures), aside from all the work we have had to do. Anyway, this needs to be a short post, but I will try to give a good summary of everything.

Saturday: Our first day scuba diving
Basically, it was amazing. There was no classroom learning session: we walked down to the scuba diving place, were fitted for everything we needed, and then hopped in the water with the instructor. After about 3 hours of instruction, we had an hour break, and then headed out on our first two legit dives. For our dives we took a boat ride out to a little unpopulated island in between Nevis and St. Kitts. That bay had the bluest water any of us had ever seen. We were then given final instructions and began our decent, granted on our first dive it was only down about 20 ft. but you still had to equalize and do various other things to ensure your lungs did not burst. Needless to say some of us (I) were nervous (hysterical), but eventually everyone was in the water enjoying themselves. This first dive was an underwater skills test where we did several basic things while sitting on the sea floor: put our masks on and off, lost and recaptured our respirators, shared oxygen with a neighbour, and emergency saves. Then, we returned to the surface switched tanks, jumped back in, and received a 30 minute tour of the most beautiful coral reefs you could imagine. It was just like we had stepped into finding Nemo. There were all kinds of fishes, and corals, and plants of all kinds of colors. The most interesting site being this soft sea cucumber, which looked like a huge, underwater caterpillar. On this second dive we went to about 35 feet, but I must admit I have no desire to go any deeper. All I want to do is swim around and look at the reefs, I cannot think of any other reason I would want to be that far under. Regardless, we have two more dives (maybe just one though) and our skills test all this Saturday and then we will be certified and able to go whenever we want, for a fee...

Sunday: Independence Day in the Caribbean
Everyone was really tuckered out so we all slept in late. We went out to eat as a group and got a tour of an old plantation. The restaurant was a part of the plantation so it was all fairly fancy, but it was right on the beach, gorgeous, and the meal was already paid for. We got fish sandwiches with a fruit relish on top. It was very unique and surprisingly delicious. After all that, we went down the road to this pottery place owned by the same woman that runs the museum. It is the only place on the island that still produces pottery the traditional way. They had some pretty cool stuff, so of course we bought some. Then we went to see an old fort, followed by a visit to the hot springs, where, interestingly enough, there were several men bathing naked, but not in the pools, just in the little river in front of it. It was rather odd. After all that we finally returned to our bungalows, and rested up. But don't worry, we managed to sing the National Anthem twice during the day to celebrate the 4th.

The Rest
As far as Monday and Tuesday, well we worked from 6:30 am to 1:00pm , had a two hour break, and then washed all the shells, pottery, and other artifacts we found from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. It's been fun, educational, and tiring. Plus, I still have a bunch of reading to do for class tomorrow. Overall though, things are going well. (Minus the fact that the fan just broke...)

Until Next Time,

More pictues up

Leaving for the dig in ~10 mins, but wanted to share my latest picture upload. Find it here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rock or Pottery?

First day on the dig site! But lets back it up a little, I'll come back to that.

Yesterday we visited both dig sites we will be working on, the primary one at Coconut Walk, and the second one at Indian Castle. They are both on the windward side of the island, so the ocean is treacherous but there is a very nice breeze to cool us down. When it is not muddy, our land rovers and vans can drive right up to the Coconut Walk, which is very nice. Indian Castle is about at 15 minute walk down the beach from the furthest point our vehicles can make it, which is inconvenient for us and our equipment, but helps keep random people from unintentionally disturbing anything (picking up old looking things). After getting acquainted with the digs, we went to lunch at Double Deuce, a very cool beach-side restaurant and bar. The trip picked up the tab as well, which made it doubly sweet. Jessica and I had goat cheese salads and fries, all of which was truly amazing. The goat cheese hunk was very unique, I had never had anything like it, or any cheese I liked as much. Fitzpatrick gave us about two hours to rest and relax after lunch. Much of the group, including Jessica and I, got a beer and went swimming to cool off, always something we value in this Caribbean weather. After swimming for an hour or so we broke off into volleyball and ping-pong, Jessica opted for the former and I went for the latter. We had a few hours off after the buses picked us up and dropped us back off at Hurricane Cove. At 5:00PM we left for orientation at Rumors, another restaurant/bar. The trip bought us all pizza and the Ph.D's gave an overview of policies and good dig practices. Dinner was very good and the orientation quick and informative. We got back from Rumors around 7:30PM. Jessica, the rest of the group and myself went down to the beach/bar for a swim and a few beers. We had some interesting animal sightings, blue fish similar to what we call Gar fish in the US poked our legs, eating dead skin we believe, mostly painlessly. Later that night we saw our first Caribbean bioluminescent plankton, as we moved around in the water we looked as if we were burning in a green fire.

Back to today! Dr. Fitzpatrick gave us a break this morning, we met the buses (they are actually similar to 12 passenger vans) at 7:30AM instead of our normal 6:30AM. We were on site by 8:00 and working almost immediately. I volunteered to be one of the 3 assigned to cut back a grove of cacti 1.5m or so along the south side of our southern most Coconut Walk site. With my trail making experience, I felt that the machete should be in my hands. It was very hard, very hot, very very sharp work. But we did well and had it cleared in <45 minuets. During that time most the rest of the group divided into two teams, one for both of our excavations. I don't know much about what the northern group did, but they used much larger tools and dug quite a bit more than we did. I get the feeling they are doing more of a quick and dirty site, vs our very meticulous one. All of the Ph.D's worked on the north site besides Dr. Fitzpatrick, he supervised us at the south site. Jessica helped turn a 5m by 5m square into a grid of 25 1m by 1m squares. After the grid was complete, we all picked a square and begin removing surface material. We kept all pottery, shells, chert and bones we found, and discarded any coral and rocks. After the material laying loose on the surface was collected, we bagged it up and labelled it. After a short break for water and sunscreen, we began excavating down 5cm. We almost exclusively used our trowels, with some help from dust pans, to gently scrape down a tiny bit at a time. Any important things were set aside, all other dirt, grass, rocks, coral and plants were put into a bucket and then dumped into our waste pile. Jessica and I worked together on square 24 for about two hours, clearing about 30% of it down to 5cm. We collected about a softball size pile of artifices, mostly food shells with some pottery, 2-3 pieces of chert (used to make tools) and one fish vertebrate. The most interesting thing we found was part of a pot lip, rounded on one side. Kevin found poetry with what looked like a fish eye carved in, and two other squares turned up pottery with a white stripe. The other north dig found very little (they will find more when they get deeper). Their most interesting find was pottery with circular designs in it. We broke for lunch at about 1:00PM. At 2:00PM our bus came to take whoever wanted to get more groceries to town. Jessica and I stocked up for the week, including some fruit which we are very excited about. We didn't have lab today, so we are free until Monday! Jessica and I have our first day of SCUBA training tomorrow morning at 9:00AM, which we are both exceptionally stoked for.

Well, that's all for now.


Pictures are up!

Island from the plane
Originally uploaded by Farrell
I, very resourcefully, figured out how to login to the actual router for our resort. It has been nearly completely down since we arrived, with only a few people even claiming to have successfully logged on to it. We have slow wireless from the bar down the beach, which is what most people use. The lady that owns this place told us that whenever their is a hurricane in the Gulf the wireless gets funky, from atmospheric disturbances apparently. I, as the Computer Science major, feel that it has much more to do with the 30 new bandwidth hungry laptops that just showed up.

Anyway, these are pictures of our Miami airport, our flight from Miami, some island we flew over in the Caribbean, our landing at St. Kits, riding around St. Kits, and the ferry ride to Nevis.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arrival in a Foreign Land

Although I am currently sitting comfortably on my bed, with two fans blowing on me and a protective tent of mosquito netting draped around me, I still do not quite believe we are actually here, on the island of Nevis. Of course, this disbelief is more the result of the humor that comes from ultimate despair rather than simply pure joy over being in such a place for, you see, today was the longest day of my life. I thought it would never end! And, yet somehow it did, for here I sit. Let me start at the beginning.

Farrell and I left Greensboro at about 1:50 pm yesterday, which was a little later than intended because we stopped in to see my elderly neighbors before we left. From there, we skipped Raleigh and headed to Goldsboro to pick up some last minute supplies. After finding only two water bladders and one field bag, we decided that was good enough and we packed back into the truck for Raleigh where we had a nice, relaxing Chinese dinner with Ty, followed by an hour and a half break at his house. Then, at 11:00 pm it was time to go meet Farrell's Dad at the airport. His flight was a little late, but it was not a big problem, as we still had plenty of time to catch-up. By 2:30 am though, we were all getting sleepy, so Frank decided to head back to Goldsboro and Daniel and I got all our stuff out of the car and headed back into the airport for what turned out to be little more than two hours of awkwardly positioned sleep on a bed of airport chairs and tables. At 4:20 am we woke up and got in line to check-in and check our bags, which could barely even be classified as ordered chaos. But we made it through that line and on through security as well. What made all this worse was that I was not feeling well at all this morning – a combination of nerves, discomfort from awkward sleep, and possibly bad Chinese food. However, I saw a Brueggers in the airport and was able to stomach half a plain bagel and some coffee. Finally, feeling a smidge better, we boarded the plane to Miami which left at 6:55 am from RDU and arrived at 8:55, a manageable ride. Unfortunately, Miami is where things began to turn slightly downhill.

The flight to St. Kitts was supposed to leave at 10:45 am and arrive on the island at 1:50 pm. There are two major problems with this: (1) it is over a 3 hour flight and (2) the plane does not serve lunch or any sort of complimentary food item. To make matters worse, there was no where to eat in the Miami airport; our only choices were moderately cheap and very unhealthy or ungodly expensive. So, we ate nothing. To make matters worse, once on the plane, they had to do some maintenance, which means we sat there while crews added parts to the airplane. Furthermore, the tv programming provided for entertainment ended about 2 hours into this 3-hour flight...and all there was to look at was ocean. It was the perfect storm for boredom, but, despite what I thought at the time, I did survive the excruciating flight. However, things became even weirder once at the airport, where various men “helped” us (really, the entire group) with our bags, “help” hear meaning to basically take your bags and demand a dollar for each bag to have them returned. They were at the Ferry as well, and every other place we moved our bags. Only the first set managed to sneak our luggage away though, needless to say we all quickly learned our lesson. Despite the stress and angsts, it was still totally worth it! We got a bird's eye view of the volcanoes on St. Kitts and Nevis, a truly unique glimpse of the changing vistas between the islands as seen from the ferry (although surprisingly long for such a short distance), and to finally be here, relaxing under my mosquito net.

Until Next Time,

PS – Pictures are soon to come, no worries!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quick Update on Following the Blog

I told a few of you that following the blog by clicking 'Follow' in the right panel would give you an option to receive emails when we upload new content. Well, that turns out to be completely wrong. I suspect that you could figure out some way to do that via Google Reader, but pushing email updates should be much simpler than that. I finally figured out, after giving up hope twice, that Blogger does have a (very well hidden) way of pushing RSS feeds via email. Google recently bought some small start up that just got up and running again called FeedBurner. Their service monitors our blogs RSS feed, parses it up, and publicizes it in various forms.

To get signed up:
1. Enter your email address in the box to the right and click subscribe
2. Crack the captcha (type the funky looking letters in the bottom of the box that pops up into the form near them)
3. Login to the email account corresponding to the address you provided in (1)
4. Click the validation link in the email you just got (or will get in the next few seconds)


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hope (for Food)?

Greensboro Farmers Market
Originally uploaded by Farrell
As some of you know, we have become vegetarians of sorts. However, this lifestyle choice did not arise from any new-founded distaste, at least not in the traditional sense. Our hybrid vegetarianism is the result of all the information we have discovered, through various means, about the food industry and the truth about not just how our meat is raised, produced, and distributed, but also our fruits, vegetables, and the false cornucopia of foods that line our grocery shelves. The food industry is just as corrupt as all other industry, receiving little to no regulation: the line between industry and government is non-existent as regulators and companies continually switch employees and employers. Unfortunately, this earth-shattering news is slow to spread due to the tightly drawn "iron veil" that lies between the food industry and consumers, which hides all the misdeeds, culminating in the exploitation of animals, their employees, and, of course, "us" the consumers. And yet, today brought a great deal of hope. Not because we got my parents to buy some organic foods and local, grass fed beef from Earthfare, which was inspiring in and of itself, but because when we went to the local Farmer's Market (as per usual during the summer) we were confronted with something amazing. It seemed as though almost every stall was advertising "organic", "no pesticides", or something of that nature. What's more, there were even local farms selling their locally grown, pastured steaks, ground beef, chicken, and all other kinds of meat. It was fantastic! Morevoer, it was encouraging to see some sort of transparency (or, rather communication) returning between the farmer and the consumer. If you want to know how McDaniel's Farm raised, feed, slaughtered, and brought his meat to market, well, all you have to do is ask. Take a look at the pictures and see for yourself. Oh, and please, if you want to lift the veil between you and your food watch Food, inc. and/or The Future of Food (full version). Of course, if you have any trouble you can always try renting these documentaries from Netflix or some other video store.

Until Next Time,
Jessica (and Farrell)
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