Day 03

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

   So today my roommate and I overslept and barely got ready in time to eat breakfast before taking the bus to school for class. Because we’ve been going to bed when it would normally be six o’clock in the evening I was not very sleepy last night. When I finally did go to bed it was about two in the morning local time which is about seven in the evening back home. So when we got our wake-up call this morning neither one of us budged out of bed. We finally got up when someone came knocking on the door to see if we were coming. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten ready so fast in my life and I literally had less than ten minutes to eat breakfast. I was eating so fast I’m surprised I didn’t choke to death. We did not miss the bus and we made it to class on time. I’m thinking by tomorrow I’ll no longer be experiencing jetlag and I should be on their sleeping pattern here…hopefully.

   Today in class we had a lecture about sustainable development in Europe. Our speaker spoke about the European Union agenda for 2020 including their five targets, seven flagship initiatives, and implementation. It was an interesting lecture because overall it was about how Europe plans to sustain itself both currently and in the future in terms of the environment and the economy. At the end of the lecture our class broke into groups for discussion. We were then able to share our thoughts and opinions to the class. I love the group discussions during class because it gives us a chance to reflect our viewpoints and opinions on what we’ve just learned as well as hear another perspective from other students. It also helps us to feel more involved in the learning process as oppose to just sitting listening to a speaker for two hours.

   It was during our discussion about the environment that I made some observations about how the Dutch people are different than the American people. From what I’ve seen so far in the three days I’ve been here, Maastricht appears to be very energy efficient. Everyone drives a very small car and they all appear to be standard transmission vehicles. I have yet to see a truck or an SUV. We were told today that there really are no trucks here. For one the roads are way too small for trucks, secondly, they use more energy. In our hotel room the air conditioner in the room only turns on if you stick your room key card through a slot to let the room know you’re in there. The reason for that is to save on energy costs if no one is in the room. The toilets use a lot less water. At the supermarket customers have to pay if they want to use plastic bags. And everyone recycles; they separate their trash and have plastics collected separately from glass. When they make purchases such as televisions or automobiles, they have to pay a surcharge to turn in their old ones to be properly disposed of. When were discussing this in class it made me realize how wasteful we can be as Americans and how we’re not as conscious about saving on electricity and energy or recycling. They could not believe that in some places we dump our trash into the ocean. In Maastricht they do not have the space for landfills that sit up and collect trash, they recycle.

   Another observation I made today is that the Dutch people appear to be veryhonest. Bike riding is extremely popular, almost more so than driving. And the people here leave their bikes on the sidewalk whenever they go into a building. Everywhere we went there are bikes all over the place that are not chained. We mumbled among ourselves that in America if you leave your bike outside it will get stolen. At the university there is a coat rack in the front of the school and students hang their jackets and bags on it out in the open. I would be afraid someone would take mine if I were to do that; they don’t seem to have any problems with it. The buses that rise through towns have two doors on them, one in the very front and one way towards the back. When the buses stop to pick up people both doors open. I would assume people would attempt to get a free ride and sneak on the bus through the back door while the bus is stopped because the driver cannot really see it and would not be able to tell. But the people always walk to the front and pay to get on. The people here also appear to be very family oriented. I’ve seen a lot of mothers and fathers walking around with their children and couples always hold hands when walking through town. In Maastricht, people are expected to take their time and enjoy 

themselves when eating out. In America we get impatient if our food takes longer than ten minutes and we start rushing the waiter/waitress. That is not done here. People sit at the tables for a long time and engage in each other’s company while patiently waiting for their food and they will spend hours at a restaurant.

   Today we went on a walking tour of the city and got to see one of the original walls of the city that were very instrumental to soldiers during World War II. We were told they hid behind that wall to fire at opposition. We saw very old historic churches that are no longer being attended. Our host told us that people here are getting away from going to church and praying, so many of the churches are closing down. (Sounds like a mission trip opportunity!) We went in one church to light a candle and say a prayer for someone. It was so beautiful, a huge cathedral that was very old and majestic. I even saw one of those little closets that people would confess to the priests in (I’m pretty sure it’s not called a closet). We saw another church that had been converted into a bookstore and café in order to preserve it. I had never seen anything like it but it was very neat. We saw the original gate to the city that was built in 1229. So much history! There are many old buildings in Maastricht and they are very beautiful. All of the city is packed together and very tight knit. It is not common to see buildings spread out with lots of space, they are all connected.   

   After our tour I stopped at a small desert shop and tried a waffle with ice cream on top. It was so delicious!!! So far I had not been too excited about the food I’ve been eating, while it is pretty good it does taste different from American food and takes some getting used to, but that waffle was pure heaven. I have definitely found my new favorite spot in Maastricht!