A Semester Abroad || Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam was a city that truly impressed me. We arrived in Amsterdam by train from Frankfurt. During the train ride, we met a lady, Silke, who we spoke to the entire train ride. We bonded over yoga and she tried to teach me some Dutch. She also showed us how to get out of the train station, Centraal. My first impression of Amsterdam was one of my favourites. We walked out of the relative calm of Centraal and into an explosion of the senses. The sun was setting over the canals and the Christmas Lights were out and twinkling. Then the cold air hit us, as had the noise and commotion from the traffic. There were bikes, trams, cars and people all intertwining, lights were flashing and horns were beeping. Tourists were everywhere, all speaking rapidly in different languages. It was overwhelming to first walk into the chaos. Especially since I was still not used to right-hand traffic. I couldn’t remember which way to look, or who to give way to.

Once we had navigated our way to our hotel we unpacked and got ourselves comfortable. We went back right into the mayhem to find some dinner, we chose pancakes. We spent five nights in Amsterdam and quickly fell into a pattern. I would eat croissants for breakfast, we would walk to the city and wander all day and eat pancakes.

It was a nice rhythm, we would walk throughout Amsterdam taking in all its uniqueness and beauty. I really enjoyed the way that Matt and I travelled together. We would pick a place or two that we wanted to visit and walk in that general direction. If and when we saw something interesting we would make a detour. It meant that we had purpose in our wanderings and would see something we wanted to, but enough flexibility that we could stumble across some cool places. I liked walking up to intersections and going whichever way looked the most interesting.

On our first full day in Amsterdam, our goal was to figure out the general layout of Amsterdam and see some of the main sights. I had wanted to see the I Amsterdam letters, apart from the canals they were quintessential Amsterdam to me. I had not done my research, but luckily we stumbled across them when we went to check out the museum’s.

I am quite a fan of climbing, and will generally climb on most things. That was one of the reasons why I was looking forward to those letters. I love that these letters were built to be interacted with. So, of course, I had to climb them. This will be a general theme within these blog posts, me climbing to the top of things.

As I previously mentioned, we would wander to our hearts content. One of the downsides of this is that you don’t know where you’ll end up, and you can’t always find your way back. We had come across some winter markets. We stopped and had a few drinks and tried these delicious cheesy fingers. They were spring rolls filled with cheese that you dipped in sweet chilli sauce. They were delicious. One day we caught up with some Australian’s that I had met back at Splendour in the Grass. We had raved on and on about these cheesy sticks, that we had to find them again to show them.

We all explored Vondelpark together and again climbed the I Amsterdam letters. We spent all day keeping our eyes out for these markets, and as soon as we gave up we stumbled upon them. It was like finding Narnia. We all ate and swapped stories. I am really glad that we had caught up with Elise, Beau and their friend Abbey. I had not seen them for 2 years and travelling had brought us back together.

New Years was the big day. We knew the layout of Amsterdam and we were determined to get a good spot. We decided on one of the main canals. It was flooded with people, to the point that people were standing on the tops of bus stops. Fireworks were a constant, coming from every direction. Bursts of colour twisting through the air. The sizzling and crackles echoed through your body. It gave a feeling of connectedness and warmness within the crowd, despite the cold mask over everyone. I had never experienced a New Years celebration like it, the fireworks were endless. When we were leaving Amsterdam two days later, explosions would set off once or twice every hour.

Amsterdam was the city that I was the most reflective. It was one of the cities that we spent the most time in, so we took it at a slower pace. By this time of the trip, it had hit me that I had left home and that all the trip was ahead of me. Not only was I overcome with excitement at all the possibilities, I realised that parts of this trip will be difficult. This exchange trip had been a dream of mine for over a year, and it was finally coming to life. It was no longer in the future, it was finally happening. It was a bit of shock as I had expected to be distracted all the time. I associated travelling with constantly having new things to do, new things to explore. Whilst this was true to a certain extent, it was not as often as I was expecting. To fill my time I started drawing, something I had not done for a few years. I also spent quite a bit of time determining my ten songs that summarised 2015 for me.

Photography: Winter

I have just started a photography challenge where every month we are given a prompt to photograph, this months was winter. My first thoughts were ‘Winter?.. you’ve got to be kidding me’. Don’t get me wrong I adore winter. Snuggling up under the covers and watching tv with a hot tea in your hand, hot chocolate, beanies. It is ultimate tv weather. There’s just one small problem about this prompt, I live in Australia. Why is that a problem you may ask? Well, unlike you northerners in the other hemisphere we are smack bang in the heat of summer. We have actually just finished our third or fourth big summer storm, in fact we just had two cyclones tearing up the country at the same time. Just before that we had a month of disgusting humid heat. So my problem all month was… how do I take photos of winter in summer Australia?

My first thought was to show you guys of winter in Canada. I spent the Christmas of 2013 up there with my family (which I totally wrote a blog post or two about). This is a true winter. Layers upon layers of clothing, surrounded by snow. The bloody trees are frozen. It is cold, and wintery. IMG_0702

However, I don’t want to be using all of my Canada photos. I really want to show what winter is like where I live (Brisbane, Australia). So I’ve had a rifle through all my photos (as I really can’t take any now) and realised just how hard this is, we don’t have snow, we don’t even get under 0 degrees (celcius, Americans, celcius). We sure don’t have ski mountains anywhere in my State. It just gets a little chilly. I mean seriously, we aren’t the stereotypical winter. Below is a photo of me on top of a mountain in the middle of winter.

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The only way you can tell that this is the middle of winter is by looking at my legs.

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My, my, what marvellous goosebumps

And again, when I went to the Splendour in the Grass festival it was actually in the middle of winter. The only way that you can really tell this is because I’m wearing jeans, a jumper and holding onto a jacket.

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Really apart from that there’s very little way to show what winter looks like. I could totally throw in a photo taken in the middle of summer and you’d have no idea.

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Hint: It’s this one

We really don’t have a stereotypical winter. Generally the biggest difference is the temperature and therefore what you’re wearing (however we still do get those silly people who wear incredibly short shorts in the middle of winter and I don’t understand how… or why). It’s generally much nicer to be outside in winter (actually any time of the year bar summer). You get to rug up in warm oversized jumpers and wear beanies. However, the only downside is that because our summers are so hot most of our houses are built to accommodate the heat and not the cold. I’ve heard that people from places that have a real winter can sometimes feel cold much more than they expect. This is because many houses don’t have a heating system. In my family we heat up a room when we need it (on portable little heaters) so whatever the temperature is outside, it’s like that inside. And whilst 7C isn’t that cold compared to some, it sucks to sleep in that.

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Such cold

The biggest difference in terms of photos in winter and summer is the summer storms. Generally our biggest and most devastating floods or storms are in the middle of summer. Which means everything looks like this for a few days

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