Sunsets in Santorini

DAY 22

On Friday, Ylenia headed back to Amsterdam because she had to work in the weekend and Lara, Shawn, Ivo and I got on a Ferry to Santorini! I’ve wanted to go to Santorini since I was (INSERT AGE HERE) and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants came out featuring Alexis Bledel’s character spending the summer with her Grandparents in Santorini. It’s always been at the top of my list, so to say I was excited was an understatement.

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We arrived in the harbor at Santorini and it was a mad house. Several boats brought hundreds of tourists to the landing area and everyone was bustling around trying to get on busses that were so full they were turning people down to ride donkeys up the mountain to their destinations. Luckily, a van from our hotel was there to pick us up, but the traffic was jam packed on the narrow, windy, back-and-forth road up the cliffs.

Once we got to our hotel we ate lunch while waiting for our rooms to be prepared. We had some really good sunbaked tomato infused bread and olives, of course.

We then got settled into our rooms. Lara’s and my room had a great view of the Santorini bay and Santorini’s famous blue and white buildings stacked on top of one another up and down cliffs. The view was made even better with our beautiful terrace with an infinity pool and hot tub.

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Lara and I enjoyed our pool along with the welcome wine and yogurt that they brought us for awhile before getting cleaned up and walking around.

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In Oia, the village we stayed in, the main part of town is only walking streets lined with shops, some of which were extremely high end and pricey and some really cute and affordable. We got a bit of shopping done and ran into Shawn and Ivo who told us we would meet at 8 to go to dinner.

We had dinner at a restaurant named Catch which had a rooftop terrace in a prime location to watch the sunset! It was one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen and the food and wine were wonderful. I had a pasta with shrimp and wine in a tomato based sauce and a glass of a sparkling Moscato (probably my favorite wine of the whole trip).

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We returned to the hotel and Lara and I enjoyed our hot tub and pool a bit more before heading to bed.

DAY 23

On Saturday we attempted a the 10 mile hike to Fira, the main city of Santorini. However, I had only brought sandals, so about 2 miles in, when the path turned to climbing unsteady rocks up the cliff, I said good luck to the crew and turned around meandering back to the hotel slowly and taking a million photos, of course.

Once Lara, Ivo and Shawn returned we had lunch at a Greek Tapas place that the concierge recommended. It was fabulous. All of the produce and other ingredients were local and the dishes were delicious.

After lunch, we did a bit more relaxing and met in the evening to take a walk all together. We went the opposite direction as Lara and I had gone the day before and saw some really nice handmade Greek jewelry and art galleries. We all had a drink at the hotel bar and us three ladies were gifted really beautiful little roses by the bartender.

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DAY 24

Sunday was our last full day in Santorini so we made sure to make the most of it. After treating ourselves to cheesecake and chocolate cake for breakfast, we went our separate ways for walks. Lara and I grabbed our cameras and strolled down the coastline taking photos before everyone else on the island woke up and cluttered the view.

It then got very hot so we made our way back to our pool and relaxed awhile before going back out to shop. We had a great shopping trip this time! We turned down a few side roads which were much less crowded and found a really nice gelatoria as well as some much different shops and a really adorable book store.

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The book store, Atlantis Books, is apparently known around the world (most likely by book worms–that doesn’t include myself), but the shop was so welcoming and had so much to offer, even a strict movie watcher and magazine-only reader like myself felt compelled to wander around and even purchase a few books. I bought Bad Feminist, a compilation of essays by Roxane Gay (that I actually had read about in Elle magazine), and a journal (more my style), and Lara bought two non-fiction books written about doctors in their residencies.

After our very successful shopping trip we met Shawn and Ivo at the hotel’s gourmet restaurant for dinner. This was a very different dining experience, and I’ve got to say, it was probably my least favorite since leaving the good ole US of A. The food was unpronounceable and featured things like “fish mousse”, “truffle foam” and some weird green (orange-leaf-frozen-yogurt-topping-esque) sac filled with melon juice and topped with tomato paste. Call me uncultured, but I was really missing Momma’s homemade mac’n’cheese and Taco Bell’s Cool Ranch Doritos Loco taco in that moment. I’m quite the picky eater, so the fact that I’ve had lamb and seafood several times in the passed week amazes me. Maybe I’ll get to mushroom-paste-level someday, but Sunday July 30th, 2017 was not that day.

DAY 25

Monday was the day we had to sadly say goodbye to my personal heaven, Santorini, and go back to the Netherlands. We had breakfast at the hotel and packed our bags. Then, we got in a van enroute to the tiny airport in Thira. We had just beat the Amsterdam-bound crowd and got checked in and our bags checked quite quickly. Then we had to exit the building to get in line for security. The security was extremely painless. We ended up with an hour to wait. We didn’t have to spend much time finding our gate, since there are only 6, so we relaxed on the terrace where you could watch the planes land and take off.

We boarded on time and quite smoothly, and enjoyed our painless 3 1/2 hour ride back to Amsterdam.

When we were finally back home to Delft, Ivo made me spaghetti one last time. Then I unpacked from Greece and repacked to go home. I cannot believe my journey is coming to an end. It has definitely been one I will never forget.

SANTORINI PHOTO GALLERY

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Heels + cobblestone = twisted ankles.  Good thing we had Ivo to hold us up.

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Santorini is literally a desert in the middle of the sea.

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Sun, Salt & Sweets in Crete

DAY 17 (CONTINUED)

We landed in Crete (an island in Greece) on Saturday night and arrived at the hotel a bit later than we anticipated.  We had an hour and a half delay in Amsterdam (once we were already on the plane), a 3 and a half hour flight and spent about an hour waiting for our luggage before getting in the taxi for an hour long ride to our villa, but it was all so worth it.  Once we got to St. Nikolas Bay Resort, the owner himself showed us to our villa, where he had an array of fresh local fruits and desserts along with a bottle of champagne waiting for us.  We sat and ate for awhile and said goodnight quickly, all of us tired after a long day of travel.

DAY 18

On Sunday, we woke up and went to the breakfast buffet included in our stay, which was really good.  Then we headed back to our villa to enjoy our private pool.

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We spent most of the day relaxing at the pool and the beach before heading into the nearest town, Aghios Nikolaos.  It was about 4 miles to the heart of town, up and down hill, and the route was mostly seaside with beautiful views of the coast, boats and Cretan architecture.

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We did a little “shoppy-shoppy” in Ivo’s words, and had a drink while waiting for our reservation at the number one restaurant in town according to Foursquare.  The restaurant was authentic Greek food with a great atmosphere.  Most restaurants have only outdoor seating because of how ideal the weather is here, and there were a million beautiful lights making the patio area glow.  The food and local wine were so good.  I tried my first Gyro (btw, does anyone in the world know how to pronounce that properly?!) and I understand the hype.  Also, they brought us complimentary appetizers AND desserts without us ordering anything.  At first, we were confused but after looking around we realized they were doing that at every table.  To top it off, the bill was only $56!  That is a craft of red wine, a glass of white wine (for me because I’m picky), two table-sized bottles of water (one still, one sparkling), a large salad to share, five entrees, the complimentary appetizers and the complimentary desserts (shown below) for only $56!!  I’m still amazed.

After returning to the resort, we enjoyed some of the bartender’s “signature Greek drinks”, and hit the hay.

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DAY 19

Monday was a verrrrry chill day.  I ended up sleeping until 1:30 (oops), so I missed breakfast and most of the morning activities, but once I woke up, Ivo, Lara, Ylenia and I went to the beach and swam around for awhile while Shawn was on a conference call.  Then, we all met for a late lunch/early dinner.  The eating habbits are so relaxed here.  At the resort, lunch is open from 11 to 7.  After eating, we relaxed some more and soaked in the beautiful views of Crete.

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DAY 20

On Tuesday we rented a car with a driver for the morning and afternoon, so we ate breakfast early (by early I mean 9 o’clock) and then headed to the reception to meet our chauffeur for the day.  This was by the hottest day that we’ve spent here so far at 105 degrees with absolutely no breeze.

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It was a long, windy car ride.

We first went to Lasithi Plateau (la-city plateau), which was about an hour drive through the mountains, providing some of the most beautiful views.  Once we got there I was a little confused.  I’d never seen Lasithi spelled out so I thought we were going to a big city in the mountains (blonde moment).  Instead it was more like a farmers plateau, but there was a really cool archeological site.

We arrived at what looked like just a giant parking lot with a lot of tour busses.  Shortly after the start of our walk in the same direction all of the tourists were going I realized we were about to climb a mountain. *Cue the constant stream of complaints about how hot it is and how I’m not wearing the right shoes for this*.

Once we got to the top of the mountain, we waited in line to buy our tickets and then we saw a staircase leading into a giant cave in the ground.  It was so cool.  Literally.  It was like the best air conditioning in the world, and the sight of it was so amazing.  Reportedly, it was the birthplace of Zeus.

After our super long hike, we had the best frozen yogurt I’ve ever tasted.  Greek yogurt is truly a special breed of yogurt, but nothing like the Greek yogurt you buy at the super market from Yoplait or something.  It doesn’t have the tang to it.  It is super smooth and often mixed with the best honey in the world, also from Greece.

Our minivan adventure then carried on to Kritsa, a village known for selling local handmade goods.  There were so many little shops with really cool silver and gold jewelry, beatiful handmade tapestries, leather sandals and blown glass vases as well as so many natural foods stores with herbs and other goods directly from Crete.

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We then returned to the resort.  I took a nap, exhausted from CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN IN 105 DEGREE HEAT AND FLIP FLOPS (sorry, last little whine I had left in me).  I’ve also had a really weird headache since we got to Greece, which I think I figured out is because I haven’t had my daily Diet Coke.

Later in the evening we went to the resorts Greek restaurant and pigged out.  We got eight starters, bread, cocktails (the drink of the night was a passionfruit margarita, so yes please), wine and main courses of lamb, steak and goat meat.

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DAY 20

Wednesday morning was another late one for me.  I was awoken by the maintenance crew drilling on the villa next to ours at 11:30.  Lara, Ylenia, Ivo and Shawn had all already been up for hours enjoying the pool and local breakfast foods.  I spent a few hours soaking up the sun, before we had lunch.

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After lunch, Lara, Ylenia and Ivo went into town to explore a bit more.  Shawn and I stayed back.  I edited some photos for Alana Braund Photography, and we had a really nice chat.

DAY 21

It is our last day in Crete.  Lara and I woke up and went snorkeling!  It was my first time, so everything I saw was the coolest thing in the world (we saw an octopus, a lot of beautiful fish, a crab and an eel), but Lara said it wasn’t the best snorkeling experience she’s ever had.

We then relaxed by the pool for awhile to work on our tans as much as we can before we have to leave the island tomorrow morning.

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To cap off our last night in Crete, we went for another dinner at the Greek restaurant in town that we went to on Sunday.  It was just as good the second time, and the walk there at sunset was beautiful.

Flying Solo

DAY 16

On Friday, I didn’t have to go into Nature’s Pride, but Shawn and Ivo had to work and Lara had to go to Rotterdam so for the first time on the trip it was up to me to make my own plans for the day. If you know me personally, you know that I’m a very anxious, cautious person and I don’t very often push myself out of my comfort zone. However, on Friday I did.

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I decided to take a walk (after sleeping in until noon of course) and ended up at the tram station. I got on the tram towards Scheveningen (the beach on the North Sea in The Hauge) with no plans other than to see what happens. First I got off near the Delft city center and attempted to find a place to get my nails done (high maintenance, I know), but every place I found said they didn’t have openings for weeks. Crazy.

Then I decided I was hungry and was excited that I could pick whatever I wanted since I was alone. I got back on the tram with plans to get off whenever I saw somewhere I wanted to eat. I ended up picking McDonald’s (oops).

I didn’t realize that I was in the city center of The Hauge until I was leaving McDonald’s, so I did a little walking around and exploring. It was a really cool experience to be alone in a foreign city. I didn’t feel rushed or like I had to accommodate anyone I was with. I could walk into whatever shops I wanted, go down whatever street I wanted, take as long as I wanted and stop to take as many pictures as I wanted. It was a super effective way of soaking in the culture.
I returned home to Shawn and Ivo’s at around 6 and had locked myself out, so I called Ivo and he came home to let me in. While I was waiting I got to call and catch up with my Momma ❤️.

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For dinner we had grilled cheeses with Champagne because, you know, Friday. Then it was a chill night of FaceTime and packing. I’m really proud of myself for getting over my fears and going out and taking public transportation in a foreign country with a foreign language without cellphone service and exploring, and I’m really glad I did it.

DAY 17

On Saturday, Shawn, Ivo and I packed up the trunk and went to pick up Lara and Ylenia on our way to Amsterdam. We had lunch at The Avocado Show, a new restaurant in the heart of the city that has become super popular with locals and tourists alike. The wait was over an hour and is usually longer. Since I’ve been in the Netherlands at least 6 people have talked about going to (or trying to go to) The Avocado Show and I had seen posts about it on social media even when I was back in Wisconsin, so I knew it was something I had to see.

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It was definitely worth all of the hype. The basic concept is that everything on the menu contains Avocado. Most of it is vegetarian (there is only one meat option–chicken skewers which were 10/10) and there are a lot of vegan options as well. It is all very good for you, but not in a “I’m going to eat this because it’s good for me” way, more of a “I’m going to eat this because it tastes good and ooh yay it’s good for me too!” kind of way. To top it all off, every dish was a work of art. There were even edible fresh flowers to decorate the plates.

After we left The Avocado Show, we headed to the airport. Where to next? Stay tuned at AlanaAbroad.com to find out!

The Halfway Mark & Farewell Nature’s Pride

DAY 14

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I left Wisconsin!  I especially can’t believe that I only have one more day of interning at Nature’s Pride!  This internship has honestly been the opportunity of a lifetime.  By working with almost every department, I really got a good overview of the whole company and everything that goes into running a successful company, and this opportunity opened my eyes to what I want to do as a career.  Marketing has definitely been my favorite department to work with.  I get to use my creativity in a practical way in a business setting and I love that!

Writting this blog over the last few weeks, however, has made me think that I would enjoy a job in journalism as well though, so now I have to pick between journalism and marketing.  I must just be completely unsatisfied with knowing what I want to do and not being totally lost and confused.  Yay.

Another thing that I’ve had a lot of time to think about is whether or not I could see myself leaving the U.S. for good.  I think that if it weren’t for most of my loved ones living in Wisconsin and the fact that is somewhat difficult to travel back and forth between Europe and America, I would never come home.  But the people that I fill my life with are so soooo important to me, so I don’t think I could up and move across the ocean by myself quite yet.  Maybe after school or later in life.

Wednesday at Nature’s Pride, I finished my final project analysing the difference in the way that American produce companies (Dole Food Company, Whole Food’s Market and Trader Joe’s mainly) use social media to market their products versus how Nature’s Pride does.  At first, when I recieved the assignment, I thought, “it’s the internet.  It’s the same everywhere,” but it turns out I was wrong because I actually found very different trends especially between the Instagram accounts of American produce brands and those of European ones.  Basically, American brands try to interact with their consumers much more on social media while European brands tend to just use social medias to inform.  The paper is 8 pages long, so I hope Shawn, Fred, Adrielle and Jan Willem (the marketing director) are ready to be schooled on Instagram from the viewpoint of someone who’s on it 23 hours a day.  (The other one is for sleeping.) 😛

After work and my usual post-work nap, Ivo and Lara showed me what they like to do whenever Shawn is away: dinner at IKEA.  I was surprised to discover that IKEA has a full functioning cafeteria as well as a Target- or Sam’s Club-style food counter.  We had Swedish meat balls (so good) and the drinks were refillable!!  Finally.  That’s one of the things I miss most about the U.S. honestly (other than my family and friends of course).

DAY 15

On Thursday, I was in the warehouse for my last day at Nature’s Pride.  I first started with Mateusz, a young worker on the incoming side who’s English was rough, but he was very nice and a great teacher.  Mateusz showed me his job of counting the boxes on the incoming pallets and labeling them with barcodes.  Then I went to order picking with Jesse.  I got to drive the forklift-ish thing around, find the boxes that we needed to build the pallet for the customer, scan the products so their location was updated in the system, finish the pallet with plastic wrap and cardboard corners and take it to the outgoing side of the warehouse.

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Profile pic material, am I right?!

After orderpicking, I went to the outgoing side with Mus, who showed me his very simple but verrrrry important job of checking the outgoing pallets to assure that the customers all got what they’d ordered.  Then, Mo, who works in the warehouse office, showed me how he coordinates everything that happens between Nature’s Pack, incoming, outgoing and the truck drivers so that everything goes smoothly and all customers are happy.

The warehouse was a super interesting.  Everything moves very fast paced, since the product is fresh and has a very short shelf life, and it is also very cold for that same reason.  Also, I was the only girl in the whole building, so that was interesting.  I think I was hit on more in my 3 hours at the warehouse than collectively in my entire life which was strange, but hey at least they were nice to me and didn’t care when I ran the forklift into the shelves and almost ran people over.

I FINALLY got to have lunch with Shawn… On my last day.  She’s a very busy woman.  Then we took off a little bit early to go do some shopping in Rotterdam.

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I’m so spoiled.  I got THEE most stunning shoes in the whole world.  A few pairs of jeans, a few shirts and the most delicious perfume from a parfumerie that is run by a friend of Shawn’s.  I actually was there the first time I visited when I was 13 and I still have the empty bottle from that trip.

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This style is suuuuuper European, and HELLO who can say no to comfortable glittery shoes with studs?!  Limited edition Valentinos.  *Heart eyes*.

After shopping, Ivo met us at a restaurant called 1 zero 8 (literally the house number for the building) and we had wine and tapas.  Then, we returned home and I took the longest shower ever (to wash the warehouse off of me).  I am SO looking forward to being able to sleep in past 6:30 for the first time this trip!

A THANK YOU TO NATURES PRIDE

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to thank you all for being so nice and welcoming to me these last few weeks!  Thank you all for everything you’ve taught me!  Special thanks to everyone who took time out of their days to talk to me about their jobs, to Daisy for giving up your computer more than once so I could use the English version of Photoshop, to Daniella for ALL the bandaids, to Maya for answering my many questions and being so sweet and helpful, to everyone I had lunch with, to the marketing girls for showing me cool shoes and of course to Shawn, Fred and Adrielle for this amazing opportunity.  I learned so much in the past 11 work days than I could have in 11 weeks in a classroom.  I’ll always remember this experience!

*3 kisses*,

Alana

 

 

Spaghetti & Sustainablility

DAY 12 

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At Nature’s Pride on Monday I was with the avocado and mango sourcing team.  avocados and mangos are NP’s two most popular products, making up about half of all sales among the 100 products that they offer.  The sourcing team I followed is responsible for acquiring the mangos and avocados from growers all over the world.  They must coordinate everyone’s growing seasons so that they get the highest quality product all year round.

The sourcing team also has to organize all of the stock and make sure that there is enough fruit to fill the orders that the sales team inputs into the system and not too much excess.  They also have to communicate with the warehouse and production when they need what orders by and all of the incoming shipments as well as talking to the ripening team and quality control department about the status of the fruit.

I also snuck back over to the marketing department (my fav) to talk to the girls over there and see if there was anything they needed help with.  They gave me an assignment to make a banner for a local festival advertising NP.  I made it on Photoshop, but it was unlike anything I’ve done since my yearbook days in high school.  Here is what I came up with…

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After work, Ivo made his delicious spaghetti again!

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Following dinner, Lara, Lisa and I went into Delft.  I’ve actually never seen the city center despite having visited the city 3 times.  We took the tram, which was cool to experience, and walked around for a while before finding the cutest gelatoria.  There were more flavors of gelato than I’ve ever seen in my life!  None of us could decide and we ended up with 8 flavors of ice cream between the 3 off us.  (Heart eyes).

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We walked around a bit more and took some photos.  All of the shops close at around 5 on weekdays here so there wasn’t a lot to do, but there was a lot to see and the weather was beautiful.

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DAY 13

At work on Tuesday, I toured the ripening rooms at Nature’s Pride in the morning.  Hirich, one of the lead ripeners, has been ripening avocados, mangos, kiwis and papayas at NP for 8 years, so he had a lot of information to share with me.  Ripening is a science and it took a lot of time and money to become one of the leading fruit ripening companies in the world, so there was also a lot of information he could not share because most companies still don’t have it quite figured out.

It was, however, still very interesting, I learned a lot about what happens in and out of the 50 ripening rooms including a lot of quality checks at several different points in the products.  I got to perform a few tests myself on the pressure and sugar levels of the fruits.  I also got to eat a lot of mango, kiwi and avocado, so of course that made for a great morning along with Hirich’s humor and useful life knowledge such as, “if there are two unpredictable things in life, they are women and fruit.”

I then met the Sustainable Business department, and they took me straight to lunch.  I got to ask them a lot of cultural questions which was awesome.  There are four people on the team.  Coon was born and raised in the Netherlands, has lived in Argentina (where he met his wife) and Washington D.C. and now lives in Spain and works mostly from home with monthly (ish) visits to the office in  Maasdijk.  Dani was born in Colombia, lived in Curaçao (a Dutch commonwealth) from 10-18 and moved to the Netherlands for college.  Stefanie has always lived in the Netherlands, and there is another team member who lives currently in South America working closely with the growers there on environmental efforts and improving their crop.  I really enjoyed my lunch with Coon, Stefanie and Dani because there were so many cultural perspectives, and Coon made sure to ask if I prefer East coast or West coast American rap: a very serious personal question that I am still pondering.  

Working with the Sustainable Business department was also very cool.  They gave me a presentation and generally talked about what they do, and they are all so passionate about their work.  They focus on social and environmental efforts here within the company and in the communities of NP’s growers all over the world.

Dani showed me some really interesting and powerful videos produced by the Conservation International Nature is Speaking Campaign.  The videos feature several very well known American celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson speaking as different aspects of nature (mother earth, the rainforest, water, ice, etc.), and the tagline at the end of each video reads “Nature doesn’t need people.  People need nature.”  I would highly, highly suggest taking a look at the videos.

Dani also showed me Nature’s Pride’s goals in terms of sustainability of the world wide community for the next 13 years which follow the 17 Sustainable Development Goals decided upon by the United Nations in 2015.  The most important one goal Nature’s Pride individually is “zero hunger” which highlights the fact that 40% of the worlds economy is powered by agriculture, which is most of what NP does.  The UN and Nature’s Pride believe that if we can improve our agriculture system including how we grow our food and the compensation to farmers and farm workers in underdeveloped parts of the world, we can greatly improve food security and the quality of nutrition everywhere.

The team then talked to me about the social projects that Nature’s Pride has done in the underdeveloped countries that their fruit comes from through the Nature’s Pride Foundation.  Nature’s Pride requires all of their growers to be fair trade certified by one of seven private organizations.  They then donate a fair for life premium of 7 cents per box back to the growers in ways that will benefit the employees on the farms and in the packhouses in places like Peru, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.  They have built schools and irrigation systems in Guatemala as well as providing improved training for the teachers there, built a water system and provided vaccines for the people that work for one of Nature’s Pride’s major importers in the Dominican Repulic and they are currently working on an intervention in Colombia to change the way of thinking about domestic violence there.

After work, Ivo, Lara and I got pizza and had a lazy night in complete with bad European reality TV.

 

City & Sea: A Weekend in Ireland

DAY 9 

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On Friday, I left work early (around 12:45) for those exciting weekend plans I’ve been hinting about so much.  Ivo picked me up, and he, Lara and I met Shawn at the airport in Amsterdam.  We flew to Dublin at around 4 o’clock!  After the one hour flight and being unreasonably hassled by the Irish passport control, we got in a taxi (the driver was on the “wrong” side of the car.  So weird.) and headed to our hotel in the heart of the city, The Morgan.

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We dropped our bags and went to dinner in search of fish and chips.  I’m not a huge fan of fried fish, so I got a burger which was okay, but Shawn, Lara and Ivo weren’t particularly impressed with their fish.  The atmosphere was cool, though.

After dinner, we started walking with plans of just taking a look at the city.  However, we ran into a guy promoting theatre tickets to a musical called Once.  The four of us decided it would be a cool experience and got really good seats!

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We got into the theatre and went to the bar for some pre-show beers.  I tried an Irish cider called Orchard Thieves.  It was really good and perfectly sweet.

The show was pretty good.  It was about a vacuum cleaner repair man who writes songs on his guitar. He meets a girl who is a Czech immigrant and also writes songs on her piano.  Both are heartbroken over lost loves but end up falling for each other.  They then team up with other musicians to record a demo and the story ends kind of bizarrely.  However, despite an average and somewhat confusing storyline, the transitions, acting and Irish folk rock music were in my opinion phenomenal.  It is apparently based off of a movie from 2007 with the same title, so I want to check that out soon.

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Before the show, the cast had a jam session on stage!

After the musical, we wandered around the city center a bit more and stopped for some ice cream before heading back to the hotel to bed.

DAY 10

The next morning, Lara and I woke up around 8ish.  We wanted to sleep in but also take full advantage of the short amount of time we had in Dublin.  We met Shawn and Ivo in the lobby and headed to one of the many, many Starbuckses in the area where we discussed the plan for the day.

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We started out with sightseeing.  First to the Dublin Castle, then Grafton Street, Trinity College and their famous library.  Throughout our little walking tour, led by the “head duck” Ivo and his many maps, we passed through many cool streets and alleyways and a really beautiful park.  We also just happened to see an advertisement that said the world famous Riverdance which is originally from Dublin was back in town and jumped on the opportunity to buy tickets for that evening.

We had lunch at a really cute place called “The Pig’s Ear”.  There, we had some of the best  food I’ve had all trip and of course more beer–we’re in Ireland so it’s okay, duh.  I had Irish beef (which was basically fancy beef roast with gravy) and the best mashed potatoes in the whole world.  Then we shared cheesecake.

After lunch it was time for a “little nap-y” for Shawn and Ivo, so Lara and I hit the shops.  We found a super cool shop that was actually underground, where we both bought adorable world map necklaces.  We went into a few other souveniere shops and a super cool record store.

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At 7:30 it was time for the Riverdance!  I didn’t really know what to expect other than fiddles and a bunch of people wearing green and tap dancing, but I was in for so much more than that.  It was honestly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life.  I was thinking the whole time, “how the hell do they do that?!” and the music was incredible.  If you ever have a chance to go, I would highly recommend it.

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Can we just all agree that this is a creepily good face in the hole?

We went to a pub for a beer, then we hit the hay to prepare to wake up wayyyy too early the next day.

DAY 11

Yesterday Lara and I woke up at about 6 to get ready and pack so we could be downstairs in the lobby at 7.  A tour guide, Jim, picked us up at the hotel at and we headed out of Dublin into the beautiful Irish countryside.  We stopped at a hotel on the Irish Sea to have breakfast.

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One of my favorites from the trip.

We then continued on into the mountains, and stopped at the Glendalough Monastic City (click on the link to read more in depth about the history) which was founded in the 7th century and has ruins of 7 cathedrals and an extensive grave yard.  It is nestled in between the beautiful green mountains characteristic of Ireland and was an amazing setting for photos.

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Our tour guide then dropped us at the airport.  We had a seamless time going through customs and security (other than a security officer joking with me that my camera and favorite sweater had acid residue on them and would have to be destroyed and the mini heart attack that ensued after).  We sat in our plane for about an hour before take off, but the 45 minute flight went without flaw.  When we landed, Ylenia, who works at the airport escorting VIPs and unaccompanied minors, surpised us at our gate!

When we got home, we had some of Shawnie’s famous tacos for dinner and relaxed for the rest of the evening!

PHOTO GALLERY

I feel like I cannot do Dublin or the Irish countryside justice with my writing, and you know what they say about a picture being worth a thousand words, so here are about 936,000 words for you in the form of pictures I took on our mini vacation to the land of beer, sheep and leprechauns…

The City…

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Nature’s Pride EAT ME ready to eat avocados on the streets of Dublin!

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…The Sea…

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…The Cemetery…

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Alana in Amsterdam

DAY 8

On Thursday, I left Nature’s Pride early around 12:45 to head to Amsterdam!  Ivo drove me, Lara and two of her good friends, Lisa and Robyn, to central station in Amsterdam and dropped us off.  I was very excited!  Although I have been to Amsterdam before, we were always on a tight schedule and weren’t able to wander around and explore the city!  Plus, this time I was shown around by locals my age, and the girls Lara brought were so sweet!  It is interesting how many things we have in common and the similarities in popular culture and slang even from 3,000 miles away.  However, of course, there were a loooot of differences there as well which was even more interesting to learn!

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The second we stepped out of the car, you could smell Amsterdam and all the things it is known for.  For a second, I thought I was back in my dorm building at Boo-U.

We walked around and dodged bicycles and mopeds–and stopped at Dunkin Donuts–until we reached the shopping street.  First stop: Forever  21, which was having a big sale.  I know, I know, I can get that in the states, but how do you pass up 50-70% off?!  Besides, a lot of the styles were different and I found a few really cute pieces for very cheap.

While Robyn, Lara and I were still trying on clothes, Lisa ran to the McDonald’s next door.  She brought me back a cheeseburger so I try it to see the difference between McDonald’s here and at home.  The main differences were that they wouldn’t put Big Mac sauce on it (sad face) and how much less greasy it was.  The bun wasn’t greasy on top so after eating it my fingers didn’t feel greasy.  Plus I didn’t feel sick afterwards.

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After taking awhile to explore the 3-story store, we moved on to another that Lara wanted to show me.  It was a makeup brand named Kiko Cosmetics which is based out of Milan.  I have never seen it in America, which is saying something for how much I shop at cosmetic retailers.  It was very affordable (I got 5 items for 40 Euros which is less than my foundation costs in the US), but the quality was surprisingly good.  I would definitely recommend checking it out!  They have 18 stores in the US which are all on the east coast and in Texas, but you can buy them online at Kiko Cosmetics.  I got the Extra Scult Volume Mascara, which both Lara and Ylenia recommended to me, and I’m amazed!  It is comparable to (if not better than) mascaras I’ve tried from Lancome, Two Faced and Urban Decay, and truly waterproof but for only $14!

We then checked out a few more shops, like Hunkemöller where I found this wall that matched my outfit, so we obviously had to do a mini photoshoot…

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Then we headed to dinner where we met a few more of Lara’s friends from school.  We went to an Italian restaurant called Ristorante Saturnino.  I had bruschetta and tortellini alla panna which had cheese tortellini, a cream sauce and prosciutto.  The bruschetta was okay.  Not as good as in Italy three years ago, but the pasta was fantastic.

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Robyn, Jordan (Robyn’s twin brother) and Lisa

After dinner, we started walking to BOOM Chicago.  Lara’s school had arranged a private show with them, and Lara talked with her teachers so that I could come along!  It was a mix of skits and improv comedy by a cast that was mostly American.  It was especially funny because they talked about what they thought of Dutch brand names, and there was one skit about an American English speaker on a Dutch game show.  I could definitely relate.

Ivo picked us up at about 11:45 and I slept the whole way home.  Lara is coming to stay with us for the rest of my visit, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Here are a few more pictures from Amsterdam…

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Don’t forget to stay tuned to see what we’ll be up to this weekend!  I cannot wait!

 

 

 

 

Fitness (Whole Rack of Ribs in my Mouth)

DAY 6

Tuesday started like every other day has since I’ve gotten here: with a wake up FaceTime call from Jordan at 6:30 AM sharp (11:30 PM Wisconsin time). After good morning/good nights, I got ready for another day of hard labor, this time in the warehouse order picking.

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However, once I got to NP, Shawn and I decided to switch around a few days in my schedule, so that I would be with the Scandinavian sales department that day and order pick next week. (My blisters are still killing me.)

The sales team makes phone calls (some in Dutch, some English, some Norwegian, German and Spanish), answers emails and fills out invoices all day, so there wasn’t much for me to do. Hans, the sales leader of the Scandinavian block, has been with the company almost since the very beginning and gave me a little schpeel about what he does. He also showed me a lot about Bama Trading, Nature’s Pride’s biggest customer from Norway, including their marketing plans. Another girl, who’s name I didn’t quite catch, showed me what she does as sales support. It was a lot of entering information into computer systems so that the buyers, warehouse and Pack could all see what orders needed to go out and when.

All of that took probably only an hour altogether before they had to get back to work, so I spent most of the day working on my final project for the internship, writing blog posts, searching “travel”on Pinterest and daydreaming.

After work, Shawn and I went to the grocery store. We went to Albert Heijn. It was a similar experience to going to Hansen’s at home, but smaller. We got stuff to make salads, yogurt, Doritos and vanilla ice cream, almonds, and the Dutch version of Almond Joys to attempt to recreate Shawn’s favorite ice cream in Vegas.

Shawn recently told me how to pronounce all of he vowels in Dutch, so on the way home from the store I tried pronouncing every word I saw. I’ve found myself constantly doing this, actually, and all of the constant concentrated thinking is really exhausting.

We made our salads and talked about Shawn’s future plans after retiring for quite awhile before making our dessert, which she said turned out not quite like the Almond Joy ice cream in Vegas but still good.

It was a pretty quiet night. Ivo is gone visiting his dad and we were both quite tired.

DAY 7

Today was a very busy day for me at Nature’s Pride, even though it is rainy, cold, foggy and windy outside. I worked with 3 departments. I started with sourcing, talking to Joost who buys asparagus and sugar snaps. He explained to me how he procures the stock, how he knows how much to buy, what he does with the information and other processes he is responsible for like making sure that the shipment is successful, on time and correct.

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I then spoke with three different people in wholesale, Chantal, Damien and Rita. The wholesale clients buy what they need today or tomorrow, so I personally think wholesale is a lot more exciting than regular sales. It is unpredictable and you have to work with what you already have in stock.

Chantal showed me how the computer program they use works, and I listened in on a few sales calls that she did. Some were in English and others in Dutch. She also showed me that she IM’s a lot of her customers on Skype, which to me is much more appealing than speaking on the phone. Damien and Rita told me about business trips that they’ve went on to places like Lisbon, Portugal and talked to me about generally working at Nature’s Pride. Actually, everyone that I’ve talked to here seems to really enjoy what they do and where they work. Nature’s Pride is definitely a employee-friendly company.

After lunch, I was with Fred, the Managing Director who will be CEO after Shawn retires. I went to a few meetings with him, and they were very nice to speak completely in English so I could follow along. The meetings were basically to decide how they are going to decide things in the upcoming year, and I got to hear about projects they are working on to improve their company which was really cool.

I then went with Adrielle to watch another intern present his final thesis project to graduate from his university. It was about why consumers choose to purchase an avocado. I thought it was super interesting. There were focus groups and recommendations for marketing strategies, and it gave me a lot of ideas for my final paper.

After work, I conquered boot camp. Nature’s Pride has a full boot camp area outside of their building complete with a turf, track and a lot of jungle gym-like equipment. They also hold free boot camp sessions with trainers 9 times a week for their employees. Since I got here, everyone has been bugging me to go, so Shawn and I decided it was time and brought a change of clothes for boot camp at 5 PM. When Shawn ended up being in a meeting, I thought I was off the hook, but Peter, who works in sales and I’ve known since I was a baby, dragged me along. We did a cross-fit style workout with several circuits. The trainer was so nice and took it easy on me knowing that it was my first time, so it really wasn’t that bad at all. I actually had a lot of fun.

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The trainer
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I wanted to try

Shawn and I met up again and headed home, but first stop: food. We went to Shawn’s favorite restaurant, De Resident, in the Hauge which had the most amazing wings. It was really nice to have an evening alone with her to just have girl talk.

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When we got home she showed me about the stock trade and the stocks she watches, and we caught one of my favorite movies, The Devil Wears Prada, on a local station. Then, it was off to bed.

The Packing Line Life Ain’t the Life for Me, Plus Almost Italian Pizza in Rotterdam

DAY 5

Monday was a very interesting day in the life of Alana.  First of all, it was my mom’s birthday!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOMMA!  I LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU SO SO MUCH! 

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Obviously a photo from before my trip.
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Hope you enjoyed your flowers ❤

Second of all, it was the day that I had to work at Nature’s Pack, the fruit packing company owned by Nature’s Pride.  I arrived to work bright and early at 8 o’clock, just like every other day.  The receptionist, Daniella, who is very nice and accommodating, gave me my Nature’s Pack coat and safety shoes.  However, the sizing is much different over here.  There is still the typical XS, S, M, L, XL, but pant and shoe sizes are a lot different.  Most of the time, the tag will also give UK and US sizes, so when I told Daniella that I would need a size 8 for my safety shoes, she gave me a size 36, reading the 8 (which was actually the width of the shoe) on the box.  I later learned that I wear a size 38 in European shoes, so I had shoes that were two sizes too small.  Of course, me being me, I didn’t want to say anything since it would inconvenience everyone forcing them to bring me back to the reception desk to get a new pair of shoes.

In my two-sizes-too-small shoes, I followed Mo, the manager of Nature’s Pack.  To enter Pack, you must first go through a room that is sealed off to account for the temperature difference between Pack and the rest of the building–Nature’s Pack must be about 40 degrees to keep the produce refrigerated.  First you scan your key fob which acts as your punch card.  Then you must place your hands under the scanner.  Once the machine recognizes that there are hands there, it squirts out soap and you are able to get passed the revolver where there are faucets to wash your hands.  Next you must place your hands under another scanner that squirts out disinfectant and activates another revolver allowing you to enter the packing room.

Of course, you may only enter the packing room after you have put on your super sexy hair net.  Unfortunately I do not have any photos of me wearing said hair net because I could not bring my phone to Pack.  Darn.  One thing that I think is very well thought out is that there is actually a hair net system.  There are 5 colors of hair nets worn by the workers at Pack: white, yellow, blue, red and purple.  The white and yellow are worn by the regular line workers–white for first shift and yellow for second.  Blue are worn by the line leaders and red by team leaders.  Team leaders are in charge of a whole area that consists of a few lines.  The purple hair nets are worn only by employees that have licenses that allow them to drive forklifts and other heavy machinery in the packing room.

First, Mo gave me a tour of Pack as a whole.  He didn’t go super into detail on any lines in particular because I would get that later, but he did give me some general information.  From Mo I learned that one side of Pack packs mostly the less popular exotics such as ginger, carambola (starfruit) and kumquats.  Because most of these fruits are small and they are the orders for them are in smaller quantities, this side of Pack is run manually.  The workers must walk and pick up/set down boxes by hand rather than conveyers bringing boxes to them.  The other half of Pack runs automatically along with the workers.  This side packs mostly avocado and mangos, Nature’s Pride’s two most popular products.

Mo also showed me the box-making area (I’m sure there is a more technical name for that).  It is floating above the packing room and it is 5 levels high.  There are big machines that press and fold the flat printed cardboard into a box with 5 sides and a bottom.  These boxes are then carried by conveyer belts to their destinations, whether that be another conveyer belt or the manual side of Pack.

Mo then handed me off to the team leader that is in charge of the manual lines.  He gave me a quick tour of his area and also told me some information about what he does as a team leader.  He showed me a bulletin board where all of the workers may submit their ideas.  Every Wednesday morning, the team leaders take the ideas from the bulletin board and look them over in the team leaders’ office where they decide whether or not to go forward with each idea.  I thought that was very cool that Nature’s Pack allows workers at every level have some input on the operations that occur there.

Then it was my turn to help.  I was given boxes of plastic baggies of portions of green beans that had been flowpacked (I’ll explain that later).  The customer wanted the bags in plastic crates rather than the cardboard boxes they’d previously been ordering them in, so my job was to neatly transfer the green bean packets from the card board to the plastic crate.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  Yeah, well I managed to completely embarrass myself by dropping 4 boxes of green beans on the ground because another worker handed them to me and they were too heavy.  Stupid American.  The beans weren’t bruised but my ego was.

After about a half hour of re-packing green beans, I went to the label room where the labels for the boxes, bags and individual pieces of fruit are printed.  The team leader, Fatima, explained the program that they use to sort the orders and get the barcodes and other information that the customer wants on the label.  Sometimes they use the Nature’s Pride “EAT ME” label and sometimes they use a label that the customer provides.

I was only at the label room for about 20 minutes when the next team leader picked me up.  This team leader works only with avocados.  There are 5 avocado sorting lines.  First the avocados go through a huge state of the art sorting machine.  The machine uses several different mechanisms including springs that test the pressure of the avo and several cameras that take 10 pictures of each avocado to detect the color and if there are any stains or skin flaws on the avocados.  If there are stains or skin flaws bigger than about half an inch, the avocado is thrown out.  Nature’s Pride’s number one priority is quality, quality, quality.  The team leader cut open a few avocados to show me and they were literally beautiful: perfectly ripe and soft and the most perfect shade of green with absolutely NO brown.  You can’t get avocado like that in the U.S..  The avocados are also weighed and measured and sorted by size (there are 5 sizes).  The avocados that the machine deems worthy then leave the machine through several exits that are manned by workers who pack them in boxes of 20.  There are then several stickering lines where each individual avocado in every box is given a label.  The process of packing mangos is very similar, but I did not tour that area.

After my lunch break (on which I switched shoes and got band-aids for the huge blisters on my feet, making me much more comfortable), it was my turn to work the avocado packing line.  I was given an exit and instructions to examine each avocado before packing it and sort out any bad ones that the machines missed.  Then, I had to pack 20 avocados in the box, each laying perfectly in the right direction so they could be stickered properly.  The ladies on the line did all of that very well and very very fast.  The team leader adjusted the machine so that my exit would only output 30 avocados every minute, and that was a perfectly steady stream of avos for me.  However, most of the women on the packing line were packing at a rate of 60-70 avocados per minute.  On an average day, Nature’s Pack packs 900 avocados per hour.

After my mind had been sufficiently blown by the avocado machine, I moved onto flowpack.  The flowpack team leader was really cool.  He lives in Rotterdam and told me some fun things to do there.  He also was a marine in the Korps Mariniers for quite awhile and told me about that.

Flowpacking is the process where produce is packed in sealed plastic bags by either a machine that weighs the amount of fruits or vegetables, drops it in the bag, seals it and cuts it loose to repeat the process or workers must pack a certain number or weight of fruits or vegetables in a small box to be put in a bag, sealed and cut from the remaining plastic.  The tricky part of working on a flowpack line is that you have to work as fast as the conveyer belt moves.  I definitely could not keep up at all.  I worked on the avocado flowpack line for probably 8 minutes and was completely flustered.  I couldn’t help but think of this Drake and Josh episode…

After flowpack, I went to berries with another teamleader.  The berries department is even colder and I slipped on a strawberry dangerously close to stairs, so once again… Stupid American.  Berries are sorted, weighed and packed 100% manually  I spent about 20 minutes making mixed berry cups to be shipped to Bama Trading in Norway.  By hand I placed a cup on the scale, zeroed it, measured 35 g of blueberries, added strawberries until the scale said 100g, placed on a lid and gently shook the cup to mix the berries.  Over and over and over.  I now understand why berries are so damn expensive at the grocery store.

Here are some final take aways from my day at Nature’s Pack…

  1. I most definitely will finish my college degree.  Not that my degree was in jeopardy, but next finals week when I’m wondering if it is all worth it or if I could drop out and pray to God that I married rich I will remember freezing my ass off with 1 inch in diameter blisters on my feet, wearing a hair net, carrying heavy boxes and sorting fruit (that I can’t even eat) in a dangerous environment for 9 hours a day.
  2. We take for granted the food that we eat.  It is so easy to go to the grocery store and buy an avocado, but I’ve never thought before about how many people slave over this piece of fruit that my privileged self can have in 3 minutes if I was motivated enough to get of the couch and hop into my Ford Fiesta to drive a mile to Hansens and buy it.  I haven’t even seen anything about the months of labor and precious water that it takes to grow this produce in often underdeveloped countries, and I already have a higher appreciation.
  3. I need to learn to speak up for myself because I can still hardly walk a day later.
  4. Drake and Josh is real life.
  5. I was not bred for the factory life.  I’m too weak, lazy and spoiled, but this was a good reality check to make me a little more grateful for all of the great things God has given to me and done in my life.

On our way home from work, Aunt Shawnie and I called my mom to wish her a happy birthday.  It was so good to hear her voice.  We then picked up Ivo, changed and headed to Rotterdam.  Facebook friends of Shawn who are originally from New Lisbon and Kendall, WI were in town for a jazz festival, so we met them for dinner.

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Ivo took us to his favorite Italian place in the Netherlands.  It was a very nice atmosphere, other than the bathroom which played creepy Italian church music weirdly loud and made it difficult to pee in peace.  I let Ivo order for me (although I did say no seafood), and he did a very good job.  I ate a margherita pizza with Italian sausage, bacon, garlic, zucchini and arugala (which I ended up picking off and giving to Ivo).  Starving after my exhausting day at Pack, I devoured the whole thing–except the crust like always.

Rotterdam is a really beautiful city.  In WWII the entire thing was destroyed by bombs, so it is all very new and modern.  Street art decorates the lively city.

Once we got home I headed straight to bed.  I think I’m almost safe to say that my jet lagged days are behind me… at least until I go home and have to go the other way.

 

**Disclaimer: I appologize for any typos or spelling errors that I may have missed.  I’m writing this on a Dutch laptop, so it highlights almost every word as being spelled incorrectly since it is English.

Shopping & Sushi

DAY 3

On Saturday I went with Ivo’s daughters, Ylenia and Lara, Ylenia’s boyfriend, Danny, and Danny’s friend, Bob, to a nearby city, Haarlem.  We walked on a walking only street and stopped at some shops.  It was very very busy since it was Saturday and there were a lot of good sales, but I did find a few things…

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Off white lace shirt with bell sleeves from Zara & Bikini from Hunkemoller

There were a few bizarre finds as well…

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The Athlete’s Foot really sounds like somewhere I wanna buy shoes from.

After walking for awhile we entered a square that was filled with food trucks and tents of people selling things.  There were so many beautiful flower markets selling huge bouquets of fresh flowers for very cheap!  I think that is something we should get in the States for sure.

Whenever Ylenia and Lara come to Wisconsin to visit, they bring packages of cookies called Stroopwafles.  Usually they are about 3 inches in diameter.  There was a food truck at the square that was making them fresh!  They mixed the dough right there, put it in the waffle iron, and spread warm, gooey caramel between two cookies.  They were more than twice the size of the Stoopwafles I’ve had before and warm!  Delicious.

Once we were finished shopping we found an outdoor patio and ordered a few drinks and some appetizers.  Bitterballen are croquets filled with some sausage or other meat and cheese, deep fried and served with really tasty mustard.  They are super popular here.  I’ve had them three times already.  (Not complaining at all.  I could live off of these.)

We left Haarlem and drove about twenty minutes back to Hoofddorp where Ylenia and Lara live with their mom.  It was the first time I’ve ever seen where they live most of the time, so that was super cool!  Now I can picture what they are talking about when they come to Elroy and tell me stories about home.  It is a beautiful airy space decorated with tons of plants and art!  I’m still a little tiny bit jet lagged so I took an hour long nap before getting ready for dinner.

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Ylenia and Danny have raved to me about how good the sushi is in the Netherlands.  It is always fresh and prepared by chefs directly from Japan.  I needed to see what all the buzz is about so we went to a really nice sushi restaurant, Kokusai, in Amstelveen which is very close to Amsterdam.  It was all you can eat sushi!  Each round, every person at the table can select up to four things off of the menu which also included salads, chicken, beef, noodles and some fried foods.  The sushi was the best I’ve ever had.  You could taste how fresh the fish and vegetables were, and the sauces were made very well!  One thing I did think was a little weird, though, was that even though the sushi was all you can eat, the sodas did not have free refills.  No restaraunts over here offer free refills, and if you know me, you know that that is a huge issue for me.  😛

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On our way home, Ylenia and Lara showed me some Dutch rap music which was really cool.  It was a lot different than the rap that I am used to.  Every time I asked Lara to translate she said it was way too dirty for her to tell me what they are saying.  It is very interesting to listen to people speak Dutch.  Some of their words sound a lot like English words.  For example, Kokummber is Cucumber and vijftien (pronounced like “five teen”) is fifteen.  Also, they use all American English swear words, so you can sometimes figure out generally what someone may be talking about.

When we got home, Ylenia and Danny went to a birthday party (which they invited me to but I was exhausted and they said they’d probably not get home until 3 or 4).  Lara and I watched some Modern Family and eventually went to bed.  I listened to Big Sean on Apple Music before falling asleep jealous of my friends in America seeing him live that night.

DAY 4

Late Sunday morning, I woke up and got ready and Ylenia, Lara, Danny and I drove to The Haag (the nation’s capitol) to meet Shawn and Ivo for lunch.  We ate at an up and coming restaurant, Catch by Simonis, near Scheveningen (the beach on the North Sea).  I had an Aperol spritz (a very popular European cocktail made up of Aperol, prosecco, soda water and a slice of orange), a caesar salad and a vegetarian pasta with a parmesan sauce and roasted vegetables.  We talked about our weekends and what Shawn and Ivo have planned for Lara and I next weekend (VERY exciting)!

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Now for a quiet evening back at Shawn’s house to prepare for the next week at my internship!