Pedalling into problems

Hello and welcome to week 2 of my blog!

Firstly, thank you so much for your kind words of enthusiasm and encouragement about last week’s post, it received over 800 views from 10 different countries! (And here was me thinking it would just be the Boyds, Ballantines and Glenns keeping an eye on us.)

This week has been equally busy and exciting. On Monday we decided to take our first trip to Amsterdam, this time it was my turn to fail to wake until Erin battered my door down (thanks mummy Erin) – my phone had died during the night. I rushed to get ready and we finally got off on our way to Amsterdam. We wandered around the canals, racking up an impressive 22km after we dandered too much, getting lost in the RLD and missing our 8pm train. To say we were wrecked was an understatement, not helped by the fact we missed our bus stop and had to get off at the next one and walk back to our flat. The joys.

The next morning (Tuesday) we set off to the bike shop to seek my clio replacement for the next 6 months. We tried different bikes for half an hour and just as myself and Rachel were about to head for the kids section, I spotted the White Windsor and after a trial on the cycle lane outside the shop, decided she was the one. So, the nice dutch man did some last minute tweaking and €100 later we were off on our way to university, without a clue where we were going or how the cycle lanes worked. We managed to arrive safely, with Erin’s back wheel squeakily cheering us along the whole way. We attended another induction meeting and came back to the bikes for a leisurely ride home. But sorry, one moment, lets rewind to last weeks suitcase debacle… Remember when the wheel decided to fall off and we had to walk ¾ mile home carrying/pushing the injured suitcase?? Well, it looks like a curse of broken wheels now follows me because GUESS WHOSE TYRE HAD DECIDED TO GO FLAT. Oh yes, that would be myself – the queen of misfortune. So, after a wrestle with the air compressor and the realisation the tyre, like the suitcase had given up the ghost, we headed back to the bike shop IN THE POURING RAIN. If I thought I was thankful for the girls for helping get the suitcase home, they have no idea how much more appreciative I was of them as they insisted that if I was going to look like a rare hallion who was taking my bike for a walk, then so were they. So off we plodded and arrived at the bike shop where the men remembered us (how would they not remember the three eejits who wrecked about their shop knocking down bikes and struggling to lift the bikes hanging from the roof). They were so lovely and fixed both mine and Erin’s squeaky back tyre for free and sorted us out with some good oul WD40. By this point, we all felt like we needed some WD40 but we headed home, laughing about the whole situation the whole way and a hot shower sorted us right out.  (You could not make this stuff up.)

After an early night, we attended our first proper class on Wednesday, but before that had to make the cycle to university without any more tyre drama. Despite Rachel attempting to take a vlog while cycling and dropping her phone on route, we surprisingly arrived on time – pretty sure the earliest I’ve ever made a class in Stranmillis is 5 minutes late and I’ve never seen Rachel leave earlier than half an hour late for her technology classes. Our first class was holocaust and genocide in education, which I was slightly wary of considering the last time I studied history was 6 years ago in school where myself and Sarah spent more time studying the male teacher than actual history. (Sarah, if you’re reading you are also responsible for distraction at the back of Geography, which is likely the cause of my getting lost in Amsterdam on Monday/terrible perception of where ANYTHING is on a map.) Anyway, the class was actually very interesting as we looked at the roots of Judaism and it’s links with Islam and Christianity. The lecturers are very casual and friendly here, and as a self-confessed coffee addict I was so thankful for their insistence of a mid-class coffee break. The class ended and we managed to make a drama-free cycle home to begin the afternoon planning our travels around Europe while here. (Excited is an understatement!!)

On Thursday evening, all of the Erasmus students were invited to a ‘Crossing cultures’ dinner party, where we were encouraged to wear cultural dress from your country. After ditching the idea of balaclavas and orange collarettes, we got dressed up and bundled up to cycle to the dinner. Sidenote: cycling in a skirt = not dignified. After getting lost and cycling around for an hour, we arrived and thus the strangest evening began. The dinner was held in a ‘church’  (not even sure if I would call it this) and consisted of individuals singing strange songs, interpretative spiritual dancing and trying to persuade us to join their various activities – they provide muslim worship, English mass, confessions, LGBT support group, meditation, vegetable growing. I use the term church loosely, as I think the people running it have really confused beliefs. Our Portuguese flat mates described it best as an ambush in exchange for the free dinner. As flatmates, we stuck together avoiding all eye contact and waited it out until the end, as Erin had spotted some chocolate cake and was determined we were getting dessert for the sake of the strange atmosphere. We finally got out of there and it was actually worth it for the banter we had with our flat mates cycling home in the freezing cold.

After the excitement of the evening before, we had a fairly uneventful weekend, apart from the heavy snow (which has confirmed that we are very glad to have chosen Netherlands over Sweden for Erasmus). On Saturday evening we headed out for our groceries, and just as it began to snow, we had to attach our groceries onto our bikes as our rucksacks were already overflowing. The many nights in the garage with Big Stevy B making gates and other random inventions has served me well, and with a set of keys, a cardboard box, a luggage strap and some help from Rachel, we headed home in the blizzard of snow in a convoy. Hallions wouldn’t be the name for it.

However, we are kind of getting into the swing of the cycle lanes and signalling – no regrets on passing that cycling proficiency in P7. The cycling is quite enjoyable which is surprising for me, considering I was told by my former PE teacher Miss Girvan that if I ever had to be entered into the Olympics, it would have to be in a standing category as I participated in as little PE as I possibly could. If she could see me now peddling away in my 50 layers of clothing through the snow, she’d be giving me more than a C+ for effort!
So that’s about all for this week, I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to sharing my adventures next week again!
Tots zien! x

PS. This deserves a final mention, – a big shout out from Shakira to my girls 17A and 17B (check out last weeks blog here) for getting me through the Nijmegen bike drama of 2017, just as they did the Clio sunroof drama of 2016 – I definitely could not do this journey on my own and you two have kept me laughing all day every day, through all the scenes that seem to have followed me across the world. x

P.P.S. Can we also take in some of Erin’s ‘original’ suggestions for this blog post: The mighty wheel, pedal power, the mighty white horse, wheeler dealers, what is the right hand side of the road, getting used to exercise … She’s creative I’ll give her that…


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