Last First Day Of School

Events
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Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, British Columbia (September 2016)

“Don’t let your anchor hold you down forever. Eventually, you will have to sail to a new adventure.”
– Unknown

And That My Dear, Changes Everything

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands (August 2016)

“I urge you to travel. As far and as much as possible. Work ridiculous shifts to save your money. Go without the latest IPhone. Throw yourself out of your comfort zone. Find out how other people live and realize that the world is much bigger than the town that you live in. And when you come home, home may still be the same. Yes, you may have to go back to your same old job. But something in your mind will have changed. And that my dear, changes everything.”
– Unknown

Kings Day. Best Day.

Events, Study Abroad, Travel

Kings Day is by far one of the best days to be in The Netherlands!

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Kings Day (Breda, April 2016)

I was lucky and one of my very best friends surprised me with a gift for my first of hopefully many Kings Days to come. In the gift was assorted silly clothing to wear, all orange of course, orange tinted sunglasses, a crown, balloons, chalk, and tasty Dutch treats. For breakfast, we had a puff pasty filled with slaagroom called tompauce. These are decorated with orange icing especially for this holiday. Fun fact, there is a 600% increase in sales of tompauce on this holiday compared to any other day. I shared much of my candy and sweets with my room mates as well, and we decorated our flat with orange balloons.

The holiday is a celebration for the Kings Birthday, and all throughout the country there are city wide parties with a sea of people dressed in orange. As I mentioned before, I went to the 538 KoningsDag festival which amazing beyond my expectations. But in the city centre there were multiple free stages that people could enjoy and the terraces of many restaurants were open.

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Sunset Over Eva Simon’s Set (Breda, April 2016)

The weather was not the best, with some rain, some hail, and some cold wind. But that didn’t stop anyone from having an amazing time! I had so much fun spending time with my friends and dancing the entire day away. Artists like Martin Garrix, Tiesto, and Hardwell perform all over the country with multiple shows. Martin Garrix performed around one o’clock, and unfortunately we missed him as we were waiting in line. After his set, he was off into his helicopter for another set in Amsterdam. Unreal!

I was the most excited to see Armin Van Burren during this festival as I had not seen him before. His music was great, and he played one of my favourite songs by Alan Walker called Faded. The ultimate highlight was seeing Tiesto and Hardwell (both Breda born Djs) perform at the same time during a rainstorm. Easily 20,000 people dressed in orange were moshing and thrashing to heavy beats, and cheering in the rain. Seriously, that’s a moment to remember! I am so grateful to be living in a country where there is such a prominent festival and electronic dance music culture. This REALLY is my kind of place!

There truly is no party like a Kings Day party!

 

Kings Day

Events, News, Study Abroad, Travel

On April 27th, 2016, the entire country will celebrate Kings Day. This is a public holiday, and most people do not have to work and many essential services have limited hours. The holiday is to celebrate the King’s birthday. Formerly, this holiday was celebrated as Queen’s Day, on the Queen’s birthday. This celebration is known to be one of the largest, most colourful festivals that takes place country wide.

Everyone wears lots of orange, the country’s national color, and adorns flags, and assorted memorabilia. A KoningsDag (Kings Day translated in Dutch) tradition is to buy second hand items in each city’s parks or city centre. In Breda, Valkenberg Park will be full of bartering and great finds throughout the day. Many, many, music festivals and large scale events take place throughout the entire country.

The royal celebrations were first held on August 31st, 1885 in honour of the birth of Queen Wilhelmina, and the Queen’s Day tradition was born. After Wilhelmina’s daughter (Juliana) succeeded to the throne in 1949, the day was changed to 30 April in accordance with the new Queen’s birthday.  When she became queen, the now Princess Beatrix chose to retain the day in honour of her mother but as of 2014, King’s Day is officially celebrated on April 27th (the King’s birthday). Every year, the royal entourage visits a town or municipality in the Netherlands as part of the celebrations. In 2016, they will visit Zwolle, in the province Overijssel. Often, in cities with water features, there is a gridlock of boats on the canals as many people take to their boats or tours to have a few drinks on the water.

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Kings Day in Amsterdam, 2015 (Source: Radio 538)

Originally, I was planning to attend the Kings Land festival in Amsterdam, though I decided to get a ticket (for only 20 euros!) with my friends to the 538 celebration in Breda. It will be a huge one day festival with sets from famous Breda artists, like Hardwell and Tiesto, as well as Armin Van Burren, Martin Garrix, Jessi Glynne, and Miss Montreal. I am beyond thrilled as I am planning to attend three music festivals this summer, and all of these big name artists will also be playing there. AND THIS TICKET WAS ONLY TWENTY EUROS. TWENTY EUROS, PEOPLE.

So, in advance, Fijne Konings Dag!

Drink It All In…

Events, Study Abroad, Travel

As I wrote about before, Carnaval is celebrated all across the south of the Netherlands in early February. It is such a fun time for all ages! In each city, I think the celebration looks a little bit different and I’m told that the farther south one goes, the more intense the celebrations become.

On the last day of Carnaval in Breda, the Prince of Carnaval returned “the key to the city” to the mayor, and everyone celebrated by listening to the Carnaval music one last time in the main market square. There is a fun song and dance called the Polonaise which looks like the Conga to me. Every time this song played every single person, literally hundreds of people, started dancing in a conga line and singing along. Afterwards, the giant paper dolls were taken down from their perch at the top of city hall and hoisted upon a wooden bed. The wooden bed was paraded through the city centre with a marching band that played a light, fun version of the death march. Once the parade reached the harbour, the wooden dolls were attached to a floating crane and set afire. After a few minutes, fireworks exploded over the nearby castle. And that my friends, was how I spent the last wonderful day of Carnaval!

And here is some more footage from Carnaval. The costumes, the music, the language, the cultural shifts, the atmosphere… Drink it all in, ’cause it’s really amazing to experience!  And as is said for five days a year, here in this lovely country, ALAAF!

Ultimate Guide To Celebrating Dutch Carnaval

Events, Study Abroad, Travel

Guys, you have probably heard of the carnival that is celebrated in Brazil every year. Well, just in case you haven’t heard… The Netherlands also is known to celebrate this holiday! And it’s like North America’s Halloween mixed with Dutch music, Thanksgiving and lots of partying. (Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this.)

Carnival in the Netherlands is called Carnaval, and its traditionally celebrated in the Catholic region of the Netherlands in the south around the provinces of North Brabant and Limburg. Carnaval starts on Sunday and follows through to Ash Wednesday. Although, most students use this holiday as a reason to party and will often party every single night of the year. In 2016, Carnaval falls on February 7th to 9th.

Everyone looks forward to Carnaval each year. There are some people who take a week off work and school simply to celebrate! Dutch Carnaval can be confusing for International students on exchange in the south of the Netherlands. It’s up to you to make this week incredible, by stepping up, committing to the Carnaval spirit and going all out. By wanting to make it the best carnival of your life you will easily find other Dutchies also wanting to do the same. You can decide to remain clueless and remain in your home city, from the outside, you won’t “get it or “understand it”, but don’t be this person, jump in and embrace it!

So, here are some tips that I have learned from my Dutch friends on how to make the most of Carnaval.

  1. Embrace Dutch Music!
    I try to love Dutch music, I really do. But it’s hard when I can’t understand a lot of Dutch and some of the beats come across as very ‘cheesy’. Nonetheless, buck up, smile, and start listening to Carnaval music in advance. Try to learn some of the words. Get familiar with some of the songs. Every club, cafe, pub, and place you go during this week will be playing this kind of music. If you haven’t been able to learn Dutch yet this is this a fun time to learn some of the lyrics, the locals will happily translate them for you. They might go something like: “Have sex with a bald guy” or “There is a horse in the hallway”. Really random lyrics that are either dubbed over a recent chart song or a rip off of a German classic with a Dutch twist.
  2. Dress Up!
    Carnaval is just like Halloween. Do not be lame and say that you are not dressing up. Every single person dresses up every night with different costumes. Imagine going to a music festival like Burning Man, where people put a lot of effort into how they look. It’s like that – or even, like a Halloween party. There will be plenty of sugar skulls, pretend police officers, pirates, and other great costumes all throughout the city centre. A lot of people wear onesies. The whole point of Dutch carnival is to become someone else, let yourself go and have a great time. This is why all Dutch people during carnival will dress up in crazy costumes, the more creative and home made the better.

3. Do Not Wear Clothes You Love!
This is important. Do not wear shoes that you like. The floors of every cafe will be thick with gooey used drink cups. The coat check lines will be long. Keep it simple and wear a jacket that you can live without if its lost and prepare for alcohol to be split all over you in the heat of the moment. Go with the flow and accept that this might happen at least once.

4. Taste Local Beer and Cuisine!
Yes, local beer is delicious – like Heineken, Amstel, Hertog Jam, and Grosch. The craft beer selection in The Netherlands is even better. But don’t forget to stop and eat every once in a while. Dutch snacks are so greasy, salty, and mouthwatering. They are also quick, cheap, and easy to find. Sample a Frikandel XXL special, Kaassouffle, krokets, and hopefully you can find a loempia van for some authentic tasty spring rolls.

5. Buy A Dutch Carnaval Scarf
If you can find a shop that sells these orange and green scarves, pick one up. Often if a local cafe or club is really full, you can still be allowed in by the bouncers if you are wearing one of these.

6. Have Fun!
There is usually lots of great activities and events going on in each and every city in the South. Scout out what’s going on online or download the local city’s app with an agenda. There are often parades throughout the centre. Also, there is a ceremony where the Carnival celebrations start after the mayor symbolically hands over the key to the city to Prince Carnival. For three days, the Carnival Prince has control of the city and, together with his subjects, celebrates the temporary establishment of their Kingdom of Fools. Merrymakers make their way from pub to pub and greet Prince Carnival with three cheers of “Alaaf”. Also, it’s said that if you haven’t kissed at least one person during Carnaval then it wasn’t a Carnaval after all.