KDay 3

This morning was a struggle. On top of toast in the oven nearly catching on fire and a sensitive fire alarm going off when a flatmate was cooking eggs, everyone was dead tired from staying up so late last night. Our kitchen looked like a food tornado had blown in from the night before, taking 20 of our precious morning minutes to clean up. Even worst, one of our flatmates (Romina) got a fever from the long flight over and extreme lack of sleep (MUN plague strikes again! Only this time minus the Model UN conference…) 

Not a single one of us were ready when the alarm went off to leave the apartment. And looking outside we saw the dreary reality we would face today: a Vancouver-style state of grey has descended upon the city of the Hague, dropping inch upon inch of freezing water down from the sky. Our shoes have been reduced to soggy scraps of fabric ensuring our feet remain perpetually drenched. It is no wonder Romina is sick; the weather is absolutely morbid. 

Nevertheless, we traipsed out to the tram stop – thankfully arriving at the Palace with 15 minutes to spare before lecture, which allowed us (or at least me!) to down two cups of the delicious brown caffeinated liquid which fuels my life. The number one thing I am grateful for today: packing a lunch so I can stay in the academy all day and the soggy scraps of fabric on my feet have a chance to dry! 

Favorite part(s) of the day: Going to the library for the first time (its beautiful!); sitting in on a seminar discussing treaties and their practice; and attending a reception at town hall with the full academy!

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive, and I went to bed early(ish) for once.

Day Two

Well… It happened again… Classes start at 9:20am, so we thought ‘it takes 20minutes to get there; if we leave at 8:30am, that will give us plenty of time.’ Nope. Our false sense of security meant we didn’t leave until 8:45am, barely missing our tram and causing us to wait 10minutes for the next one.
9:15am: the tram arrives at the Peace Palace. In the mad dash to the palace security gate, we lost two of our flatmates in the crowd. But thankfully myself and another flatmate, Caitlin (from Ottawa), got to the academy with 3 minutes to spare. Romina (also from Ottawa) and Tringa (from London) were not so lucky… Tringa was able to get into the main lecture hall and grab a seat behind Caitlin and I before the lecture began; however, Romina arrived one minute later, and was banished to the overflow room upstairs until the 2nd lecture began an hour later…

Lesson learned: Leave at EXACTLY 8:30am, otherwise we will be doomed to sit in the seats without a desk, and be forced to write our lecture notes on notebooks in our lap…
Favorite part of the day: The lecture on the ICJ by one of the ICJ judges; and the giant party held tonight on our communal balcony, though I will be surprised if anyone is able to wake up in the morning!

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive. Super tired, but alive.

The First Day

The program began today. We woke up at 6:30am, dressed in our finest business attire, and set out for the Peace Palace (where the program is held) – only to discover we were hopelessly late. Apparently everyone else is more of keeners than we are… Most people left for the Palace at 7am to beat (or rather form) the gigantic line to obtain our security badges. 
Now, because of jet lag, I will add we did leave ‘late’ (8:30ish), but none of us realized we would be one of the last 30 people to arrive – especially since the program doesn’t start until 11am! 
Lesson learned – the majority of the people attending the program are bigger keeners than us! (Or maybe they just like mornings more…)
Best part of the day: Our afternoon lecture on treaties and their rise and decline in importance in the international sphere ❤️ Y’all know I was nerding out HARD during that lecture! And also the evening drinks with the attendees was pretty fun, minus the super crowded bar…
P.S. I haven’t died yet, Dad.

Off to the Hague

My weekend adventure in Amsterdam ended today. As my program in the Hague begins tomorrow, I got up, got breakfast at the cafe from yesterday, then took the train to Den Haag (The Hague) – the capital of international law. There are about 350 people in the program I am attending, so we are basically everywhere. Inevitably, I ran into a really sweet girl on the train (I explored Amsterdam this weekend with another girl from the program), and together we taxied to our home for the next 3 weeks.

The hotel has a series of single-sex apartments with 8 rooms of 2 people each, 4 bathrooms, and a kitchen to share between the 16 of us (plus a giant communal balcony for literally every room in the hotel). Each room is assigned by country – and I’ve been placed with the Canadians 😂 (plus 3 pretty awesome girls from the UK, Mexico and Peru.) 

Off to a pretty good start!
P.S. I’m still alive Dad. And have been adopted (again) as an honorary Canadian 🇨🇦

Wandering Amsterdam

Today was a pretty interesting beginning to my Netherlands adventure. The last time I was in Amsterdam, I had a very strict schedule. With only 48 hours to see the city, I got an IAMsterdam card (totally recommended by the way!) and saw as many amazing things as possible – like the Anne Frank Haus and the Microbe Museum. This trip, however, I wanted to have more time to randomly explore. So at 10am, I went to a breakfast cafe recommended by the amazing Brenda (thanks girl! It was SUPER delicious!), then wondered my way back to my hostel. 
My number one recommendation for anyone coming to Amsterdam – have a schedule, see as many of the incredible museums and parks as possible, but make sure to budget an afternoon to wander aimlessly in the streeets and just observe the city! Trust me – you will NOT regret it! 😁 

(Also, side note, take a cruise or two around the canal. They are super informative and fun, and different boat companies give different cool facts! Its a great way to learn more about the history and archetecture of the city!)

P.S. Dad – still alive, and still haven’t been too high to find my hostel! Sister – 1; Brother – 0

The Ultimate Juxtaposition

A little over 8 months ago, I visited Amsterdam as the second city in my two-month tour of Europe (Reykjavik was the first). In one of the strangest stories from my trip, I ended up staying at a Christian hostel in the heart of the Red Light District which specifically stated at check in: “If you are found to be drunk or high, we will kick you out.” So basically the opposite of what you expect in Amsterdam.
In the ultimate juxtaposition, guess where I am staying this time round in Amsterdam? A hostel whose parent company owns both a GIANT coffee shop AND a HUGE pub steps away from my hotel room. With a second pub that opens at 10am and closes at 4pm on the first floor of the hostel. Pretty much the entire street along the canal is devoted to the pubs and coffee shops owned by the parent company. And the entire place reeks of the smell of Vancouver. Soooo, basically the polar opposite of the hostel 8 months ago.  
Because why would that juxtaposition not exist in my life?
P.S. Dad – Don’t worry, I’m not going to be like my brother and get so high I can’t find my hotel room. And I’m still alive.

European Rainstorms

In North Carolina, thunder storms are the most common form of weather during the summer. In Europe? Not so much.
While waiting for my rebooked flight in Paris, I discovered this fact as a fairly-basic-southern-style-thunderstorm rolled in – and promptly delayed all the flights. I didn’t mind, I had found one of my favorite coffee shops from my 2 months in Europe, and had met a very nice girl from NC who was traveling with her 6 month old King Charles Cavalier (obviously I was drooling over the adorable and amazingly well behaved puppy). What is another storm when we had just had one like it on the 4th of July before I left America?
Fast forward about 12 hours. After checking into my hotel, washing the plane germs off my body, and being too tired to get dressed before I passed out for 4 hours, I finally opened my suitcase. Only to discover all of my clothes were soaked completely through. 
From what I can deduce, the storm hit too fast for the airport employees to put the luggage in an area that would keep it dry (or the employees were too inexperienced with storms to realize that was something they should do?) THANKFULLY!!! All of my electronics were in my carry-on bags, and there was nothing that couldn’t get wet in the soaked area of my bag… But lesson learned – even hardcover suitcases can have water leak in and drench everything! 😖 
P.S. Dad – My clothes are soaked, but I’m still alive.

Day One and I Already Missed My Flight 😅

As of 5:45pm last night, I have officially started off the second portion of my Grand Adventure 2017! (Or 3rd, if you want to count attempting to live with my parents for a month and a half as the ‘2nd’ portion – it sure was one hell of an ‘adventure’).
It started off pretty good; I ended up getting an empty seat next to me for the 8hour flight to Paris (though sadly I never managed to fall asleep 😩 Currently have been awake for 19hours and counting…) And the movies on the plane were good – though the food sucked like all plane food does.
Then we got in to Paris. I should have realized my connection was going to be a problem – Paris is part of the same passport zone as Amsterdam so I had to go through customs, only I barely had 1 hour for my layover. So obviously this was going to be an issue. And, at the same time as my flight coming in, at least 4 other giant Boeing 757 planes (the giant ones that fit 40+ isles of at least 7 people each) came in from the Americas. And there were only 4 border guard lanes open. Needless to say, customs was truly swamped. 
The entire time I am thinking ‘there is no way they will let all these people miss their flights; they will definitely delay them.’ Well, I was wrong. Anyone with a connection less than 2 hours long missed their flights. Including me. 
Now, if I were most people in line, I would be complaining up and down about how long it was taking and how terrible this was (and trust me, there were many an American complaining like it was their sole talent in life). But I’ve travelled A LOT, and there are two rules I live by:

  1. Complaining will do nothing but piss off the staff and everyone else around you. It’s true – you get more honey with sugar than vinegar. So grit your teeth if you have to, and smile the anger away.
  2. NEVER waste your time running through the airport. In all likelihood you are going to miss your flight anyway, and then you’ll just be tired and annoyed. So why bother? ESPECIALLY if you have carry on bags. Not. Worth. It. It is easier to just take your time, and get rebooked on the next available flight. (The exception being that one time that I nearly missed my flight in NYC when I had a final the next night… Had to run for that one)

So what did I do today? Well, I used my absolutely dreadful Spanish skills to help an old lady from Spain find her family who were stuck in the security line; I smiled at everyone I saw (because generally the smile makes them less dickish to the staff); I let some crazy complaining old man go in front of me (“My flight is at 9am!” Honey, I hate to tell you this, but it is 8:50am. The doors to that flight are already closed, and you are shit outta luck); and as soon as I was free of the customs line I said goodbye to the Spanish family and walked straight to the kiosk to get rebooked. No muss, no fuss, still happy, and waiting for my rebooked flight at 11am! (Plus, honestly, who can be mad that they have to spend more time in Paris? Especially if it means you can eat real Parisian croissants for breakfast?)

P.S. Dad (yes, that has returned) I am still alive and eating a delicious chocolate croissant without you.

Life Update

Hello everyone!

It has been awhile since my last post, so I thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve been doing:

About 8 months ago, my maternal grandmother passed away. As my mother is the executor of the estate, her and my father have been dealing with consolidating all of the worldly belongings of my grandmother’s. Thankfully, most of her things had been sold/given away when she sold her home over 15 years ago, but she still had enough stuff to fill a 3-bedroom condo – all of which has now been moved to my parent’s house and a storage unit.

So what have I been doing? Well, basically I’ve been helping my parents deal with the estate, clean up our house, get rid of the random stuff that we haven’t used in over 15 years, and train their crazy 70 pound puppy named Zippy who likes to jump up on people like Tigger (she is currently laying on the chair next to me). And in the course of all this, I have finally gotten convinced to take the LSAT to prepare for my likely career as a lawyer (Dad also keeps dragging me to his Alma Mater’s law school reunion events. His thought: ‘Well, if she has to get a law degree, she has to get it from UNC-Chapel Hill’).

So thats a quick update on my life! And because I hate studying for tests, I’m going to be spending some extra time before I leave for Europe on July 5th writing some blog posts to update everyone about how my trip went! (Honestly, if anyone has anything to help me procrastinate, I would love it!)

An Unfortunate End to My Colombia Trip

As of May 24th:

To my (extreme) dismay, for the first time in my life I may actually have to leave a trip early due to a medical illness  After an amazing weekend in Cartagena, I unfortunately contracted a pretty severe ear infection where I lost the hearing in my left ear, which led to a series of visits to Clinica del Country (one of the best hospitals in Colombia) and more visits to two different specialists. We were hoping that after a procedure with the second specialist, my ear infection would get better – and it did, for a short period of time before I caught a pretty terrible cold that now is giving me inner-ear vertigo while my original ear infection is starting to get worse again

Summary: Unfortunately I won’t be making it to NYC for the UN conference I had planned on attending, and it’s very possible I will have to fly back to the US this weekend… Not the best outcome (I was really looking forward to spending my 24th birthday in Cartagena!) but like I always say: ‘Nothing is good or bad, as long as there is a story’ and ya’ll – I got some INSANE stories out of this whole experience.

As of May 25th:

When I was treated by the specialist on Monday, we agreed that my hearing should return to normal by Friday. Unfortunately, it is thursday night and my hearing is still impaired… So today I made the difficult decision to return back to the US tomorrow to seek further medical treatment with the doctor who has previously treated my ear infections. Which really sucks because I’ve barely been able to see Colombia

I would like to point out two things though. First of all – I am forever grateful to the amazing doctors here in Colombia who have gone above and beyond to help me (one doctor even opened his office at 9am on a Sunday just for me; you would never see a doctor in the US or Canada do that for someone  ) It is a common misconception that developing nations have poor medical systems, and that is true in some countries, but Colombia is not one of them.

Second – I really don’t want people to think that because I got sick somehow Colombia is a dirty or dangerous country. Honestly everyone I have met here has been super kind, and this is a freak infection (if anything you could say the Hilton is a dirty place, since I got an infection at one of their resorts. But again, it was a freak infection.) And once I am well (and have the money to return), I am definitely coming back to explore more! Everyone else should too – this country is freakin’ beautiful.

Summary: My trip is getting cut short… but the Colombian doctors who have treated me have been incredible, the people here are amazing, and everyone should visit Colombia! I definitely will again!

 

The life, thoughts, and travels of an adventurous ginger.