Monthly Archives: August 2011

Snapshot: Giant Dutch Clogs

Just checking in with this rather touristy but still fun photo in Amsterdam.  Made it here a few nights ago and am glad to confirm I have already taken care of what’s most pressing on everyone’s mind- yes, I got a Museumkaart which allows free admission to virtually every museum in the Netherlands!  And have already almost made it all back in just a weekend of museum visiting…

For the minority with more mundane concerns, the Great Amsterdam Apartment Search continues but will hopefully be resolved soon.  More later when things are more settled!

On Moving to Europe

One of my favorite words in the world is a Hungarian one, világgá.  It comes from the root word vilag, or world, which is the source of all sorts of fascinating words if you add suffixes to it- add an “-os” for “have something” turns it into világos which means light or illuminating, and while világegyetem is a mouthful that means “the world’s university” literally it actually means the universe.  Hungarian has a bit of poetry to it that most people never stop to think about even when they speak it every day.

But anyway, világgá translates literally as “of the world” really means something that doesn’t have an English equivalent but translates something like “to go off into the world and seek your fortune.”  The heroes and heroines of Hungarian fairy tales go világgá all the time- of all fairy tales really but most languages don’t have a word for it- so it’s really not surprising that I daydreamed a lot about adventures as a kid and then decided to go világgá on my own a few times already.

Tomorrow I’m about to go világgá again to find a new home in Amsterdam, by way of a week in Hungary in case anyone’s wondering why I’m parsing Hungarian tonight. (It’s a habit that finds magic in the strangest of places.  Did you know that “sibling” in Hungarian is testvér, which literally means “body blood” and hence what you share with your brother and sister?   Or that the only difference between “lion,” oroszlán, and “Russian girl” is the latter has a -y on the end of it?)  I’ve done this before- I did a semester abroad in New Zealand, and I’ve flown to an exotic continent with no plans to return twice now- but the longest of those was six months abroad.  This time I’ll be abroad for at least four years, and while I’m sure I’ll be back there’s no way around how they’ll be visits.

For me, going abroad is the right thing to do- I am ready to spend years in a new place to get to know it really well, and my work there gets me as excited as I was about astronomy when I first read a book about it on the school bus 12 years ago.  It is a new adventure that I am ready and excited to experience, even though I know all adventures have bumps along the way the storytellers like to gloss over in the telling.

So time to go világgá.  I’ll catch you guys on the flip side.

Derby Line, Vermont- A True Border Town

I returned to the United States from my Quebec romp to the great state of Vermont after leaving Canada and answering questions from a border guard who was genuinely curious as to what on Earth I do to have so many different passport stamps (a first, actually).  I needed to stop for gas because it’s significantly cheaper on the American side, and this innocuous reason led me to Derby Line, Vermont, a small community of ~700 souls that I’d read about before but was tickled pink to actually see in person.

Because you see, Derby Line, VT is actually contiguous with another town called Stanstead, QC, which is a rather fancy way of saying the border between the USA and Canada runs smack dab through the center of town.  People who live in the community often have their houses in the USA but enter Canada when they back their car out of the driveway, town meetings are sometimes held in a foreign country, and even the sewage makes a cross-border journey for treatment.  I’ve always thought it must be neat to live there, partly as a symbol of how borders are just lines and we’re all people but mainly because I think it would be cool to travel between two countries whenever I wanted a snack from the kitchen.

Of course such a beautiful system that had worked for hundreds of years was sure to be tampered with by idiots who don’t know a good thing when they see one- namely the United States government- and after 9/11 US Customs and Border Protection decided to tell a town of less than a thousand souls that their undocumented border crossings were a threat to homeland security.  There was talk and outrage because the Powers That Be were interested in shutting down some of the roads to traffic, and this was of particular concern to the community because the library/opera house was built directly on top of the border.  By a dual nationality couple intent on fostering cross-border ties.

Anyway, after such a quirky little story I had to take a look around, right? Continue reading

A Visit to Montmorency Falls

The problem with visiting a waterfall and then deciding to write about it is, really, there isn’t that much to say about them that no one finds that interesting.  I mean I enjoy visiting them and becoming captivated by rushing water, but I really can’t think of a good way to describe the interest so an audience is similarly captivated.  Just one of those things.

That said, if you find yourself in Quebec City and enjoy waterfalls without me having to explain why they’re so cool, it’s worth driving the 15 minutes or so out of town to see Montmorency Falls.  It’s actually taller than Niagara Falls by 30m (~100 feet), so certainly nice for those of us who get rather mesmerized by falling water and all that. Continue reading