The flight was 8 hours. This was my very first flight too. Never have been on a plane before, and my stomach was in anxious knots. Robin sat next to me, and ended up telling the flight attendant that this was my first time. She ended up smiling and giving me “wings”, a pin for first time flyers. It was hard to sleep, because it was so uncomfortable and anxious, but I fell in and out of slumber regardless.
 I was so excited when I heard we were close to landing, and when I stepped off that plane, I could already tell I was in a completely new area. The airport was much larger than the one we left from, and all the signs were in a language I couldn’t understand. My sleepiness wore off fast, and our group all gathered together attempting to find out where we needed to go next, because we had a small layover. I ended up getting really close to Robin on the layover, since we talked a lot about my mom and my sister, and my previous home life. One more plane ride and we would be in the Netherlands. I felt like I was dreaming. 
When we arrived, we walked out of the terminal and there was a group of people standing before us, a few of them were holding signs saying, “Welcome!” They all welcomed us as we neared them, and I was taken by surprise as I watched Robin get kissed on both of her cheeks, one at a time. I was next, and I almost didn’t know how to react, but instead awkwardly tried to kiss cheek by cheek as mine were kissed. I quickly realized this was how they greeted others.
I ended up leaving with Linda and Claudia, my host family. As I got in the car and we started driving to my new home, I stared out the window. Everything looked so new. I was in awe. I’ve hardly seen anything yet and I already was in love. I took in everything, The difference of the driving, the roadways, the signs, the license plates, the scenery and the smell of rain.
We ended up meeting the others at a small restaurant. There was food laid out everywhere, and it seemed to be a buffet of sorts. All of it looked SO delicious. I just knew I wanted to try coffee from the Netherlands, and they bought me an espresso. It came in the tiniest cup, and I learned fast that it was only espresso and no milk or creamer. Claudia laughed when she saw my face scrunch up. I won’t share every moment of every day, but I will share the things I remember most.
My only regret is that I didn’t journal everything when I was there, but I feel like that would’ve taken from the experience.
There were trees, that linked together in front of houses and they looked like fences.
The house I stayed in was tall, with steep stairs. A lot of the houses in the Netherlands were tall, rather than wide, to save space.
I had breakfast, and dinner with the family, and for me…that was an extraordinary thing in itself. Us Americans are more prone to watch TV while we eat, or for me, it was more like me eating away from the dinner table in general. Most often even away from my mother and her boyfriend. Mostly because at the time, I often wanted to stay away from him because of fear. When I went to the Netherlands, it’s been awhile since mom passed,  so I no longer lived in a family setting. At that time, I had my own apartment and it was often kind of lonely.
Yet at the Netherlands dinner table, I felt like I had a family again. We made conversation, talked about what we were going to do that day, about ourselves, among other small talk. I tried a Netherlands breakfast with bread, butter, and sprinkles, and oh. my. god. It was so delicious! Claudia was more than willing to give me lots of coffee too. She also took me grocery shopping with Linda, and I was able to experience lots of “exotic” food. She purchased a lot of things I wanted to try. (Mostly chocolate) I also helped her to set up the table for dinner. With my second host family that I stayed with, we even got to use a small indoor grill and cook numerous kinds of meats as well as eggs.
We met up with the group at the Boulavard. I confessed that one of my dreams was to see a castle in person. Granted, even though we weren’t supposed to stop along the way, they did for me. There was a castle along the way, and they stopped for me. I was so excited. My first castle. Even though it was now a hotel, the beauty of it was still there. A bridge loomed over the moat that surrounded the castle, and there was an abandoned tower in the corner for lookout. I was in awe.
We got back in the car and made our way to the Boulavard, and along the way I was able to see an abandoned war bunker. When we made it to the boulavard, we found out we parked too far but ended up walking down the boulavard anyway. When we rounded a corner on the trail, I saw the sea for the first time in my life; the trail followed all along the sea, and not to far off were many colorful little beach houses that people rent out. About a mile or two out, I could finally see the “boulavard”; a bunch of buildings standing together, one towering amongst all the others. There were probably about 100 vendors, with hundreds of people walking on the road nearby these looming buildings. I was pumped. I walked far ahead of Danielle (another foster family I stayed with), and her boyfriend. I walked near the ocean, looking at all the sea shells that were stranded in the sand from the waves.
It might not of seemed impressive to anyone who lives near an ocean, especially to the Netherlanders who were surrounded by the sea, but to me…it was complete and utter beauty. I wanted to dive in it, but the water was freezing and I wasn’t dressed for it. After all, the boulavard awaited!
After our long walk, I caught wisps of delicious food in the air. There were so many people making their way up and down the boulavard, and it made it hard to stay together with the rest of the group. There were a lot of vendors with clothes at cheap prices, and I got super excited. I ended up buying a dress that I still own that was only 10 euros, and I considered that a steal. We spent a majority of the day at the boulavard shopping and enjoying food. I also enjoyed people watching.
They showed me numerous different cities. I went to a lot of different shops, but a lot of the clothing I enjoyed was too expensive for my taste. Especially since I was low on spending money. Instead, I enjoyed going to a chocolate shop and buying a box of assorted truffles. My favorite had rum in them! I also got to experience different coffee shops (and no, not the pot kind…), and try a lot of different snacks and food. My favorite part about seeing the different cities was the architecture, the second best being the cuisine. I was able to experience my very first train ride (which was a couple hours by the way) to Amsterdam, and also my very first bus ride BY MYSELF (that was a tad nervewrecking). I was really worried I was gonna get off at the wrong stop!
The amsterdam trip was really fun and I got to learn a lot. We ended up taking a bike tour which was really enjoyable, getting to see a vast majority of the city in a faster way instead of walking. We were able to go to some bars, one being an Irish pub. I was underage at the time in America so it was pretty exciting for me to finally have my first drink in a bar. My American friends (who were in their 30’s), suggested a long island iced tea. Little did I know, those things packed a punch!; especially seeing as I didn’t really consume a lot of alcohol back in america. After about half way drinking it, I was buzzed. I slowly started to panic because I Had to meet my teacher and the rest of the group at a restaurant. I gave the rest of my drink to my dutch friend Robin (not the teacher). When we met up at the pancake house, I hoped no one knew I was drunk. But there, I had my very first dutch pancake, and they were huge! I ended up having a banana one and it was super delicious. They were enormous, as big as the plate they sat on, and I could only eat half before I started to get full. We walked around some of Amsterdam and went to numerous little shops, saw some of the ladies in the windows (prostitutes, incase you didn’t know what I was referring too), and even got to see the canals lit up at night. When I first saw the women standing and dancing in the windows, I had to try really hard not to stare. All I could think about was that it was oddly depressing knowing some of these women had to do this for a living. However, it was also hard not to look because some of them were astoundingly beautiful in their corsets, so I looked out of the corner of my eyes, that way I didn’t mislead them that I wanted to buy.
I learned quite a bit of history of Amsterdam. If you’ve never been to Amsterdam, you’ve probably never seen their houses lined along the canals. When you first look at them, you kinda wonder if its just you. After all, it seems like…they’re about to fall on you. Just like seemingly the rest of Europe, a lot of the houses are tall and skinny and have tight and narrow staircases which make it hard to move furniture or other goods. Not to mention, in a city full of canals, they need a place to store items when it floods. At the top of the houses, there’s a long pole sticking out, which they use as a pulley to bring up items to the top floor. The tilt of the homes, helps to prevent the goods from damaging the home.
Amsterdam is also probably the top friendlist bike city worldwide. You won’t go anywhere without seeing a bike. Bike lanes and bike stands are on every road, and most homes even have bike railings lined along the staircases so they can easily bring their bike up steps.
We ended up staying in a hostel in Amsterdam, which is an establishment that provides cheap lodging and food, most often for students, travelers, and workers. When you stay in a hostel, you’re sleeping in a bunk bed and sharing a room (most often) with strangers.

Another adventure consisted of Danielle and her boyfriend taking me to see a windmill, which sat nearby a restaurant. They used this windmill to grind grain, which they used for their pancakes. I ended up have a ham and cheese pancake, which was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my life. Didn’t even need syrup or anything. Eventually we ended up taking a trip to Efteling, which is a fantasy themed amusement park in the netherlands. I’m deathly  scared of roller coasters, but I went anyway. After all, yolo right? Sadly, this is where I lost the crememation urn of  my mom’s ashes, that was connected to my choker. Not sure where I lost it there, and the entire group tried looking for it, but it just couldn’t be found. I was really sad about it for like 2 days, but then remembered that was where my mom wanted to go her whole life…and to be lost at an amusement park? She would’ve been ecstatic. I did go on a lot of roller coasters, one that even went upside down completely, and even a water themed one. We ate at a fantasy themed restaurant there, and I had even more pancakes (couldn’t get enough of them lol). Another was called the Villa Volta, and it was a type of haunted house that played mind tricks on you. It made it feel like you, or the attraction, or both were upside down.