The Netherlands, part 3

My year abroad wasn’t all drinking and going to shows and eating butterhams. I also took some trips. Here are my travel notes.

Rotterdam. A historic seaport city from the glory days of the Dutch empire. Amazing harbor. Impressive mix of grandiose stone architecture and grubby industrial monstrosities. Lots of public urination, old men mostly. Strong contender for dogshit capital of Europe.Read More »

The Netherlands, part 2

It took a while to make friends in Holland. The Dutch are not the most outgoing, and I wasn’t either at the tender age of 18. There were these two metalheads in my art class, Ruud (typical Dutch name), and Bart (character from The Simpsons). Their English sucked, and so did my Dutch, but we bonded by comparing band logos we’d drawn, and reciting random lines from metal songs in a deadpan voice. Like this…

RUUD: Mark.
ME: Ja.
RUUD: You will die. You will fry.
ME: You never learned, so now you’ll burn.
[RUUD and BART nod approvingly]Read More »

The Netherlands

Soon after I graduated high school in 1988, I left my family and Kenai to be an exchange student in The Netherlands, or Holland. Or Dutchlandia. Or whatever it’s called. I chose Holland mainly because all the other kids who wanted to be exchange students wanted to go to France or Germany, and I had to be different. Even so, it was hard to be that different since those were the only three countries any of us knew about. (We knew about Canada, but since that’s just Alaska with metrics, it didn’t count.)Read More »

North Kenai

North Kenai wasn’t an official place, it was just the area north of Kenai. To get there you took the road north out of Kenai, the North Road to we locals, but officially named the Spur Highway. Only cops and paramedics and the like called it that, though (as in:  Spur Highway mile 18, behind Dick’s Arctic Welding, teen gas huffing in progress, over!).

The real name for North Kenai was Nikiski, and if you lived further north than us, past the refineries and the elementary school and closer to where there was a grocery store and a fire station you called it Nikiski. But the elementary school was called North Kenai Elementary, and that was good enough for me. Plus, that is where I learned that Nikiski means moose turd in the local native language, so of course as a kid I wasn’t going to go around saying I was from Moose Turd. Duh.Read More »

Kenai

When I was five we moved from Seward to Kenai, near the mouth of the Kenai River. The Kenai River begins at pristine Kenai Lake, in the Kenai mountains, on the Kenai Peninsula, and flows west. It’s a beautiful glacial blue green until it gets close to the mouth, then it meanders through a marshy river flats and the banks become silt clay, which turns the river a corresponding ashy gray color. It oozes out into the Cook Inlet near the town of Kenai.Read More »