Video Blog – May 2016

Inspiration, Study Abroad, Travel

Instead of uploading photos and telling you about what I’ve been up to, I thought this time I would show you. In three minutes and forty two seconds, you will glimpse into a month of my adventures in Breda, Tilburg, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Den Hague, Kinderdijk, Gouda, Brussels, Sliema, Gozo, Valletta, Mdina, Rabat… and maybe a few other destinations.

“I had a dream so big and loud.
I jumped so high I touched the clouds.
I stretched my hands out to the sky.
We danced with monsters through the night.

I’m never going to look back. 
Whoa, I’m never going to give it up. 
No, please don’t wake me now.
This is going to be the best day of my life.”

Remembering & Celebrating The Fallen

Study Abroad, Travel

In The Netherlands, on May 4th, is a day called Dodenherdenking, which means ‘remembrance of the dead’. On this day, around the country, services are held and two minutes of silence are observed to commemorate all civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War Two. In Amsterdam, at the Dam Square Memorial, the King and Queen stood vigilant with thousands of on lookers to remember these brave souls.

The following day, is known as Bevrijdingsdag, and is a national holiday to celebrate the end of the Nazi Germany occupation. The nation was liberated largely by the First Canadian Army, which included British I Corps, the first Polish Armoured Division, and in some areas, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops. Across the Netherlands, free public music festivals were held in honour of celebrating freedom. Most people do not have to go to work, and many are adorned in orange and the country’s national colours, red, white, and blue. Celebrations of big and small are all over the country, as in Utrecht, I saw thousands of people in line for a music festival and in Tilburg, I saw a group of friends who had sat outside on the street curb in lawn chairs drinking cold beverages. Later that night, I was cycling home from seeing a film, and I could hear the British anthem playing loudly on a sound system somewhere in the city centre, echoing over the sleeping rooftops.

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An Adorned War Memorial (Utrecht, May 2016)

In my opinion, it is really a beautiful contrast to see such somber thoughts moved to overwhelming joy over these two days. I’m moved, really, to love such a proud nation who have overcome so much since this time period. I am so proud to say that I am Canadian, and so please to spend time celebrating such a special occasion with a country that now call my second home.

As many of you may know, last December, I won a scholarship in honour of the Liberation. This is also another reason why I am so moved by this occasion, as over seventy years later, this incredible moment of history has affected my life in a way that I never thought possible.

Take a look at some iconic photos of Liberation day, be grateful for everything and everyone you have in your life in this present moment, and remember.

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!

 

Sinterklaas Parade

News, Travel
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The Arrival of Sinterklaas (Breda, The Netherlands, December 2015)

Sinterklaas is a tradition that the Dutch celebrate dating back hundreds of years. This is a holiday that is celebrated annually with the giving of gifts on December 5th (stay tuned for more!), which is also the night before Saint Nicholas Day. He is well known in territories of the former Dutch Empire, including Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.

Sinterklaas is very similar to Santa Claus in North America, although he has a different story. He is a bishop who arrives on a boat from Spain with his helpers, Zwarte Peites (or Black Petes). Together, they distribute gifts and kruidnoten, small ginger cookies that are also sometimes covered in chocolate, throughout the country to all of the good boys and girls.

Today, Sinterklaas arrived in Breda! A big parade was held in the centre of the city, with his big arrival at the harbour by boat. There was plenty of live music, dancing, free giveaways, and great atmosphere. It started to rain, but my friends and I still loved every moment of waiting for a glimpse of Sinterklaas riding in on his white stallion. The parade was great and Zwart Petes threw kruidnoten into the crowd. Many children were there dressed as bishops and black petes.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the idea of black pete originates with the Dutch colonization in the Moors; however, this holiday tradition is not meant to be harmful to anyone in anyway. The United Nations even had a major discussion about in It is said that Sinterklaas’s helpers have black faces because they get so dirty while coming down the chimney. The holiday is full of good intentions, and while is a major topic of conversation for many, for me it’s just a different way of viewing North American Christmas traditions. When children grow up, Sinterklaas becomes a fictional character. One could truly argue that house elves, while fictional, also are slave labour after all! I feel that I am guest in this wonderful country and that it’s important to keep an open mind to new experiences. I definitely felt like a little kid again while enjoying this fun activity!

Read more here on this controversial topic if you are interested!