Living and learning in Leiden

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Europe » Netherlands » South Holland » Leiden
February 15th 2013
Published: February 25th 2013
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The keys are seen all over Leiden and are the keys of heaven, which St. Peter received.
Our school has campuses all over the world. After spending two semesters at the Bangkok campus we decided it was a good opportunity to visit another campus. So over Christmas and New Year’s, while in Seattle, we packed away our Bangkok clothes and repacked our bags with wool socks, sweaters and down jackets and set off for Europe - my first time in Europe. Iceland far exceeded our expectations. Everything about it was wonderful, beautiful and enjoyable. Then it was time to settle in for school in the Netherlands. That process was less wonderful, beautiful and enjoyable.

Home until May is now Leiden, a town 40 km from Amsterdam in South Holland, or Zuid Holland if you want to learn some Dutch. It’s also the birthplace of Rembrandt and home to the pilgrims who came to America and some windmills.

Finding a place to live in Leiden was – to be honest – miserable. We’re used to Bangkok where you meet with a realtor in the morning backpack on and move in by mid-afternoon. We knew that wasn’t going to be the case here, but what we encountered was worse than expected. It was a rough and extended process, but in the end we found a nice two-bedroom apartment that is about a four-minute bike ride from school.

Yes we’re fully acclimated to the Dutch culture and ride our bikes everywhere. My bike is a steel beach cruiser, weighs an insane amount and on good days the chain doesn’t fall off. Bob’s bike changes gears when it wishes and the brakes are slightly less than perfect, but work well as an audible early warning system to let all those nearby that he is attempting to brake. The bikes we owned in China were arguably better than these.

Amazingly we’re about three weeks away from the half-way point here in the Europe. Classes started four hours after we arrived in Leiden and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then.

Leiden is fun to explore. School is fun. Our classmates are amazing. But it’s been quite an adjustment coming from life in Thailand. People smile in Thailand, it’s warm in both temperature and culture, and language barriers become a fun game of charades. People here are in a stern hurry, it snows or is too cold to snow almost every day and not knowing Dutch, despite the Dutch being fluent in English, annoys me much more than not knowing Thai. But there are some positives to living here that I’m trying to focus on like cheese, crisp air and meeting new friends.

We’re getting to know our neighborhood better. Last weekend that involved a short bike ride to a park, which in the Netherlands means an area with grass. But this grass had donkeys, sheep, turkeys and goats to hang out with which made for an entertaining afternoon in the winter sun.

Leiden is about 10km away from the North Sea and we’ve already taken two trips out to the beach to Noordwijk and Katwijk. Both have great shopping/dinning streets next to the beach which makes for a fun day of wandering around.

Superbowl Sunday was actually Superbowl Monday morning here in Leiden with kickoff at 12:30am. We biked over to a friend’s house and joined a bunch of schoolmates to “watch” the game or eat, drink and talk. We left for home before the game was over going to sleep at 5am. Come noon on Monday we were still asleep when a massive siren went off through the town. Semi-asleep I wasn’t too bothered that it sounded like an air raid was in process. I got out of bed once the alarm stopped. I glanced outside and didn't notice anyone freaking out - probably because I didn't see anyone. A quick trip to Google and we learned that Leiden tests its emergency sirens the first Monday of every month at noon. Good to know.

Up next is finals and spring break! More adventures to come!

Additional photos below
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Semi-frozen canal by our condoSemi-frozen canal by our condo
Semi-frozen canal by our condo

Sadly we do not live in one of those houseboats.

or Our Lady Immaculate. The Latin phrase translates to, " This is the house of God and gate of heaven."

Late-Gothic church dedicated to St. Peter
City HallCity Hall
City Hall

It snowed five minutes later
Burcht van LeidenBurcht van Leiden
Burcht van Leiden

or Castle of Leiden

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