When we left for the airport about a week ago, the sound of wheels rolling 70 mph on the asphalt, windows shaking slightly, made me feel like I was really going places. Those sounds were the embodiment of that sense of anxiousness I have when I know there are experiences, sights, people, life awaiting me in a place I’ve never been before. And when I was 34,000 feet in the air, the little graphic of the airplane flying over the Atlantic teased me as it crawled about one millimeter every hour, but I still felt a pinch of anticipation every time I realized we were headed for a place and a culture we knew nothing about except for what we’ve seen in movies or read in books.
We landed in Amsterdam after a nine-hour flight, and we were exhausted and ready to collapse on anything with a flat surface. Then during our three-hour bus ride to Maastricht when we should’ve been napping, we were so excited to finally see a small piece of the Netherlands that we couldn’t close our eyes. There were sheep wandering the grassy slopes like waddling little cotton balls, and small ponds in the shape of odd puzzle-pieces dotted the landscape. There were tons of lumpy, knotty, fisted trees as opposed to the leafy-green, full foliage covering the fields like I’m used to in East Texas. There were people dressed in quaint, mismatched clothing riding their bikes next to the road, big shaggy dogs scurrying along near them. It was a picturesque piece of Dutch culture, and I was ready to see even more! We spent a few minutes in Maastricht checking into the Guesthouse (which is officially called Teikyo but is always referred to as the Guesthouse) and unpacking our luggage in our rooms before we strolled the freezing fifteen-minute walk toward the local market, where it was no longer me looking through a bus window out at the culture but me face to face with some of the Dutch community.
Their throaty, glottal spoken language is pretty impossible for me to decipher, and their long-worded, double-vowel-filled written language looks a bit like suupercaalifraagilisticexpeeaaladochees in the beginning. Buying vegetables and breads is easy, but when it comes to canned foods, sandwiches, laundry detergent, shampoo, or any other household product I’ll need, the prevalent language barrier is so much fun to work around. It’s a good thing I’m not picky about my products and I’m an adventurous eater; this will definitely come in handy when traveling all over Europe. I can’t wait for the day I order a chicken sandwich and water and am presented with a plate of fish heads and a glass of rum.
The good news is that most everyone in Maastricht speaks English as a second language, so when we need to ask someone what “2 halen, 3 betalen” means or what kind of meat it is that I just sampled, we usually don’t have too much trouble. My first experience at the local store wasn’t the best, but I’m sure it’s because I’d been traveling and hadn’t seen a bed in far too long. That disoriented, chaotic feeling of adjusting to a new country was overwhelming since I was experiencing it for the very first time, but I’m sure I’ll soon get used that feeling and it’ll become more like anticipation and hopefulness than a looming sense of worry and stress. Needless to say, that day I was beyond ready to get back to the dorm, shower, and find a warm, flat surface where I could finally crash (just to wake up early the next morning to begin our travels to London).