How about this: I'm back in the States. Although I still feel like I have a bit of a double life. I love being here, in Gainesville, with my friends and my swimming and my laptop and my little bedroom full of scented candles and my car and all that. But I love being in the Netherlands, too - speaking another language 24/7, taking the trains and buses everywhere, seeing all my friends over there whom I neglect far too often, eating European chocolate, seeing snow, etc. etc. etc. I stand by my declaration that I could happily live in either country; however, I still want to stay here in America (except for Semester at Sea) for the next year and a half. I definitely haven't ruled out the Dutch master's program yet, though - on one hand, I still really want to do that, since it would mean I have a definite time when I'll be back. At the moment, that's up in the air, and I hate that. Breaking up with M was the right decision for me, but 'achteraf gezien' it also means giving up my strongest 'link' to NL, which stinks. Not that that's a reason to stay with someone, but still. Bah.
Anyway, the Orlando airport was just awful, echt een bende - first an enormous line for customs (27 lines for foreigners and just 3 for American citizens), then a ridiculous line to get inspected and get out of the baggage claim area once I had my bag, then we had to give the bags BACK so they could be transported to the main terminal (I know, I don't get it either) and then a HUGE line (I'm talking 45 minutes) to go through yet another security inspection - shoes off, carry-ons on the belt, etc. All this just to GET OUT of the airport - I didn't have a connecting flight or anything, I just wanted to LEAVE. Sigh.
On top of which, the fact that I have a cold meant that my ears both closed up upon landing. The right one opened up a couple of hours later, as I was getting in the car, but the left one didn't open until this morning. Normally, when that happens on a plane, you yawn and swallow a few times and they clear up. So I was trying to yawn, and it was causing me a LOT of pain - it would pop, all right, but then it just stayed closed; I was essentially deaf on one side. So I decided to just leave it alone, but in Cracker Barrel I was starting to get really tired and I forgot about the don't-yawn thing... and it popped so horribly that I reflexively bent over and grabbed my head with both hands, then started crying from the suddenness of it all - it felt like someone had jammed a red-hot needle through my eardrum. Anyway, Mom and I found some earache drops at Wal-Mart and then I went to the health care center on campus the next day, and it's 99% better now (still crackles a little when yawning), so all's well that ends well, I guess.
And then we got home that night and I was in such a fog that I started speaking Dutch to my dad - I don't even remember what I said; I think I asked if his pajamas were new or something. I hadn't spoken English in two and a half weeks and the first hour or two were really difficult; I kept trying to use Dutch expressions and word order, and I was so tired that I couldn't be bothered to fix it half the time. It all made sense to ME, after all. At Cracker Barrel, I offered to drive for a little while so Mom could have a break, and she said, "No, you're jet-lagged and loopy." But at that point, I was actually wide awake - I was just coming across as loopy because I couldn't talk properly. LOL. But it was pretty funny, or at least I thought so.
Anyway, there are a million other things I could put down about those 24 hours - going horseback riding with the other M (which was a lot of fun; I hadn't ridden since June, when I was still living in Utrecht, so it was great to do it again), getting up in the dark to take the train to Schiphol, desperately searching for duty-free Christmas presents for my dad, talking the ear off a college girl from Tampa who was making the same trip I was, getting a horrible sinus headache on the plane, finally getting home and opening my Christmas presents (o.a. geld, een horloge en vanille-bloem parfum) ten days late, etc. etc. etc. But this entry would then be way too long, so I'll move on to my classes, which so far are, afkloppen, WONDERFUL. Here they are:
Language and Culture. The teacher has very strict rules about EVERYTHING - right down to what the subject line has to contain if you e-mail him - but he's very energetic and fun. One of the books we have to have is called How Babies Talk: The First Three Years; I usually sell my books back to the university to scrape up a few dollars, but I think I'm going to keep that one, because that's one topic of linguistics that I'm extremely interested in.
Language and Dialect. I'm not sure yet how this class is going to be. The teacher is a large red-haired woman who seems friendly enough, and the topics sound pretty interesting. Yet we're required to have FOUR textbooks for this class... so that might not bode well. But we shall see.
Spanish 2201. I'm just auditing this class because I'm too overqualified (7 on my IB exam, 5 on my AP exam, and 720 on my SAT II) to take it for credit. Not only that, but it would replace the grades for the 3000-level classes I already took, and I obviously don't want to do that. So I'm just going to go sit in the class and not get a grade for it, because all I really wanted was some basic, structured conversation practice, and that's what I'll be getting, so it all works out.
Aerobic Swimming. L, a swimming friend of R's from Barbados, is teaching this class. She, too, has strict rules, but that's okay - I don't want it to be easy. On Monday we have to do a swim test - 200 yards in 4:30 or less. We're not allowed to be in the class if we can't finish in that time frame. It won't be a problem for me - I should finish at a little under 4 minutes, I think - but it might scare some others off. So much the better.
Lifeguarding. I had this class for the first time this morning, but it may be dropped because there are too few people in it. 10 people came on Tuesday, when I wasn't here, and six of them dropped it, so today the remaining four came, plus me. And of those five, two didn't pass the swim test (which was very easy, 500 yards with no time limit), so they can't take the class. This one sorority girl just lowered herself about halfway into the water and then started whining, just like my little campers, "Ohhh, it's too cold, I can't breathe, no, I really can't breathe, I'm not gonna do this," and got back out again. Keep in mind that this was an indoor pool. Of course it's a little cool when you first get in; it has to be, otherwise all the people doing workouts would die of heatstroke. Grow up. The other one who didn't finish was a guy, which surprised me - maybe that's sexist, but I have never known a guy to sign up for something like lifeguarding if he knew he couldn't swim well. Anyway, the instructor, C, told us that there was no time limit and that we shouldn't go too fast, but that if we didn't finish in ten minutes or less, that we should make some time to get in the pool a few times a week to improve. I was the only one who beat ten minutes - 8:49 - the next girl had 10:55 and the other one was even slower, 12-something I think. I hope they never have to save me. But anyway, the class may be dropped because there are only 3 of us now. I hope not, because the other sections don't fit in my schedule. We'll see. Otherwise maybe I can just take it at UNF again when I go home in May.
Math for Liberal Arts Majors. I put off taking a math class for two and a half years; the time has finally come. I need it for Gen Ed credit. But it's really a joke. We're doing things like sets and Venn diagrams. The only hard thing so far has been remembering what all the set symbols mean - the upside-down U means 'or', the vertical line means 'such that', etc. etc. etc. But the math itself is so far wonderfully easy. Hope it stays that way. The class is incredibly boring, but hey, it gets one more pesky red entry off my online degree audit and makes it green. That's all that counts.
English and its Relatives. This, I think, will be my favorite of the academic classes this semester; all about the Germanic language family. I definitely have the feeling that I'm going to learn a lot and that it's going to be really interesting. The actual professor I have not yet met, but the professor who will be teaching with him, a German guy (who was raised here and speaks better English than most Americans I know), taught our two-hour class today, and he is awesome - makes a lot of jokes and has a gift for condensing long gobbledygook into an actual understandable sentence. My mind did not wander once, and with a two-hour block, that's saying something. And, the icing on the cake, he speaks Dutch, albeit not perfectly and with a heavy American-with-a-tinge-of-German accent. I went up to him during the break and asked with a smile, "U spreekt dus ook Nederlands?" "Een beetje, hoop ik," he laughed back, and we got into a long discussion (still in Dutch) about Flemish people versus Dutch people and how eager they are to speak English. (The 'u', by the way, did not last long... that's the formal form, like 'ustedes' in Spanish, and I was already using 'je' by my second sentence. I used 'u' with all my Dutch professors, but it didn't feel right with this guy; he's just too approachable for that.) So anyway, that's really cool for me.
And, in other news, we have a new roommate, H, and she's from... Utrecht! I haven't spent a lot of time with her yet, but she's very sweet. She's staying for all of spring semester, so the only change now will be F, our German roommate who is leaving in (I think) March.
I swam twice today - once for that 500-yard lifeguarding swim test, and again this evening for R. I didn't do the whole 3000 meters - just 2200 or so - but it felt good to be back in the water, echt een opluchting. I felt pretty heavy and clumsy during the sprints - three weeks without swimming does more damage than you'd think - but it did get better. In a couple of weeks I should be back to where I was before I left.
Okay, this entry is long enough now. I thought about chopping it into two, and putting the class descriptions in another entry, but I'll just leave it like this. Knock yourselves out.