Monday, August 29


Gefeliciteerd: a Dutch word, meaning congratulations, spoken to the birthday person and all of the birthday person's immediate family members.
Gerda's (Hair-duh), Luuk's mom, official day of birth was last Thursday; however, we continued her 50th birthday celebrations on Zaterdag with a large party. The Vrenkens rented two huge tents, which spanned the entire backyard. Everyone helped decorate the tents with part lights, streamers, and balloons, on Friday. Also, we borrowed several sets of plastic chairs from various different friends and family members. Gerda and Gertjan pre-ordered a whole bunch of BBQ for the party, which was delivered on Zaterdag. 
Side note: Dutchies LOVE BBQs! It's a big deal around here. My theory is that most people do not own a large gas grill, like many Americans own, so it's a big deal to bust out the grill and cook. haha- My friend Veerle said "We don't cook in a parking lot, either." She was talking about the time she got to attend a tailgate, before a TCU football game. Also, the "BBQ" they cook is not like Texas BBQ at all. Instead, they put chicken, a meat called "speklas," sis-ca-bob , etc. Lots of different meat! Usually lots of bread is served, along with delicious spread for the bread.  Some BBQs I have attended pretty much only served meat, but others have a variety of random sides. The reason I say that Dutchies LOVE BBQs is because whenever anyone is about to attend a BBQ they announce they have a BBQ to attend or it's a decided event with friends that they are going to BBQ together. It's like a significant event in their lives at that moment. 
When someone turns 50 in the Netherlands, they are called Sarah or Abraham. It's really similar how Americans joke that the person is now "Over the Hill."It is also common for family members to put a funny Sarah doll in front of the house of the birthday woman. Tom's brother secretly borrowed the body of mannequin from one of his friends who works in a sporting store. Then, he and I dressed the mannequin in Gerda's clothes, created a head out of a creepy mask Tom owned, placed a wig and hat on top, and hid the doll in Luuk's closet until the party on Saturday. When it was finally placed in the front yard on Saturday, it totally creeped me out, because I would forget it was out front while walking by the front window and spot the doll out of the corner of my eye, almost peeing myself. 
Luuk also rented a big blow-up Sarah doll and placed it on the roof for the party. 
About 26 people came to the party on Saturday and I think Gerda really enjoyed herself. An old family friend of the Vrenkens, at one point, lead everyone in singing a birthday song he wrote to the tune of a certain Dutch song. He passed out slips of paper with lyrics and everything. It was enlightening to see the reaction on Gerda's face as everyone sang to her. 
Eating Dutch pie is a birthday tradition that I love the most! Instead of a birthday cake with candles, many Dutch people purchase pies for their birthdays, or in Gerda's case, bake pies. They are the most delicious deserts ever. Sure, there is the classic apple pie, but then other pies have a creamy consistency and have flavors such as strawberry or raspberry. Since I assisted in baking two of the pies, I'm hoping I can one day re-create a Dutchie pie when away from Dutchland. 
Happy 50th Birthday, Gerda! Van harte proficiat!!!


Thursday, August 25

Luuk Graduated!


Luuk officially graduated yesterday! Praise the Lord! No, he did not walk across a stage and wear a weird hat paired with a giant dress. Dutchies only have a ceremony later on without the garb and obnoxiousness. However, he is considered graduated here, because he finished and passed everything for school. No more school for Luuky!

To my initial confusion, Tom threw up this flag, along with the hanging book and school bag, hanging on the front of our house. Soon after, he explained it's Dutch tradition when someone graduates. Oh, sweet!

Once Luuk arrived home, he added the American flag due to his semester at TCU. Go Frogs!

Wednesday, August 24

Oh Hey, Blog!

I'm not doing too well with keeping up with regular blog posts. I feel like I have lots to blog about, but I will write about a few things at a time, so as not to overwhelm you with reading.

 I want to blog about volleyball, because a few things were slightly different than an average, past volleyball practice I attended  in Texas.

1. The club team, the highest level, consists of women from 16 to around 40. Also, I noticed many of the recreation teams have lots of older women. Although, those women aren't the best at volleyball, it made me smile that so many older woman play, despite their skills or age.
2. Everyone showers after practice in an open shower "room." I didn't bring any shower stuff for the first practice, but wish me luck next time. :P
3. I need to learn how to say "good set", "nice hustle," etc. in Dutch. Since I talk loudly and often while playing volleyball (just like Monique), I just spoke in English for the first practice, but I can imagine how interesting that must have been for the other players. It's also really hard to quickly yell for a set, by calling out the correct number in Dutch. Twee en tweentig!  Twee en tweentig!
4.  A few women/ girls (I have to include the 16 & 17-year-olds) stayed after practice for drinks. Yes, the front lobby has a bar/snack area. Some people had juice, but others actually drank beer or wine. This was so funny to me, because after practices I usually just want a shower (but now I know they just shower at the gym, TOGETHER) and definitely not anything to drink besides water.

Other than a few differences, which were peculiar only to me, the rest of practice contained familiar drills and plays. I'm stoked to be out on the court!

Tomorrow, I will update once again.

Doei! Grotjes!

Wednesday, August 17

Bees & Bikes

Bees in the Netherlands are exactly the same as bees in Texas, yet I have never seen bees in Texas migrate, as a swarm, to a new location like I did here, two nights ago.

We had just finished eating dinner and Tom, Luuk's brother, walked out the back door to go to soccer (football) practice. All of a sudden I look over and Tom has is mouth covered with his shirt, is ducking his head and looking up into the sky. Everyone went outside to see what is happening. Thousands of bees flew above our heads, in a seemingly chaotic manner, yet you could tell they all headed in the same direction- following the queen bee. The bees created a pretty loud buzzing hum as they flew together. It was creepy!

We all wanted to see where the bees were heading, so we walked out to the street and watched as the bees began making a formation on the Vrenken's front tree. Soon, neighbors emerged to watch nature do it's fascinating thing. I don't know much about bees, but I do know they are smart, social, and are extremely good job working as a team to protect the queen. It's fascinating to watch. We all stood as the bees flew above our heads and around our bodies, eventually landing on-top of other bees, surrounding the queen on the tree. I definitely became pretty itchy as I stood and watched. After about 20 minutes, almost all the bees landed on the tree and Gerda, Luuk's mommy, went to call a bee keeper.

After only a short while, two men showed up and unpacked a plastic bucket, a large spray bottle for chemicals, bee keeper swag, and two boxes that held little slates for which the bees would eventually use to form honey comb. Gertjan, Luuk's dad, grabbed a ladder for the gentlemen. Immediately one of the guys threw up the ladder, scaled the ladder spraying something on the swarm, and then ascended once more with a plastic bucket and knocked the entire swarm into the bucket. During all of this, most of us onlookers had taken a few steps away from the action at the tree. Also, the bee keepers had on their bee keeping swag (gear).

The bee keeper placed the swarm in one of the boxes and put the other box on top, concealing the bees, but leaving a small crack for the bees to travel in and out.  Then, we waited. Mr. Bee Keeper #1 informed everyone that the queen bee might still be on the tree, since some of the bees left the box and began creating a formation on the tree, again, so Mr. BK #1 needed to wait. Also, we learned that about 20,000 to 25,000 bees existed in the swarm. Ew!

Pouring the bees into the box.
Everyone watching.

Luuk said it looked like a purse.
I think a chicken body. 
Something you need to know about the Netherlands-- everyone, I mean everyone, rides a bike everywhere. It's so great! My favorite is when I go jogging and I see all the cute old men riding their bicycles back to their homes. The only problem is that I'm not the best on a bicycle. It was a lot easier when I was 10, but I am slowly gaining more confidence and skill. 

Due to the fact that Dutchies ride bikes all the time, they also have really cool stuff for their bikes. For example, I borrow Gerda's bike when I go to the store or a friend's house and she has carrier bags on the back of the back. How handy! It allows you to cycle to the grocery store and still be able to make it back home with the groceries in tow. Also, I am in love with the little baby carriers they have for bikes. The first time I saw one, it made me kind of nervous that the baby would fall out or something. Most of the baby carriers have little "windshields" that go in front of the baby and the baby rides on the very front of the bike. It makes me want to try it out with Asher, my nephew. No, I don't want to see him because I miss him so badly, but instead, so I can try out a baby carrier for a bike. Another cool feature on bikes; permanent locks. All you have to do is turn a key to lock the wheels then take the key with you. However; this is only encouraged when stopping somewhere for a short period of time, otherwise, you should place a large chain on the wheels. Riding bicycles all the time, everywhere is another thing that makes this country so unique.

Apple-shaped bike parking

Doei! (Goodbye)

Saturday, August 13

Naam Me Niet Kwalijk (Excuse Me)

Last night involved one of the first times I actually l felt a larger cultural difference between my American, or Texas culture, and that of Dutch people. Luuk and I went to the Zomerparkfeest,  a large, free music festival in Venlo, NL. The venue had about four different stages with performances that ranged from afrobeat, blues, rock, hip-hop, to African music.

The African music came from this guy who collects cassettes containing music from Africa and mixes the music and he travels around the world sharing this music. I think that is totally awesome, hence the name he labels his music "Awesome Tapes from Africa."  People around the world can hear the beauty of African music. :) Get his free music here:

My favorite performance, though, had to be "Jungle By Night." The band consisted of about twelve, maybe 16 to18-year-olds, who played afrobeat music. There were three lead guys and one played a trumpet, another a trombone, and the last "dude" a saxophone. Other members of the band played all different kinds of instruments, including; jimbay, drums, keyboard, bongos, bass, harmonica, and others.  Total jam session.

After watching and listening to these young guys create such great music, we walked to the main stage, which had the largest crowd. This is where I stood and discovered that Dutch people don't say "Excuse Me" or "Sorry." At first, I just brushed it off and thought it's just a "Dutchie thing," but the more I go shoved and bumped into, without people saying anything, the more irritated I became. I felt like people didn't even notice me as a person, but instead I was simply a barrier to move out of the away or move around. Who would ever think that by someone not saying something as simple as "excuse me" would effect me in such a negative manner? After praying for lots of patience, I eventually had to ask Luuk if we could sit down, since I began to loose my patience; however, once I sat down, thought about it, and talked to Luuk, I understand that it's just a cultural thing. People aren't trying to be rude, it wouldn't be normal for someone to say "sorry" or "excuse me". I admit it's still hard to get used to, but I cannot take it personally. It's not a bad thing, but it's just different. I'm sure if I visited New York or a busier city up north, then people might act in the same manner when it comes to big crowds.

Although I had a brief negative experience with people, I do want to note how interesting it is that no matter where we are in the world, once you begin to become comfortable with a new place, faces begin to look familiar. I love that we are built as creatures who need to be around other humans and you can definitely fulfill that God given characteristic by spending the evening surrounded by hundreds of other people who are enjoying the gift of music. Last night was ultimately a humbling experience.

I will post pictures of Boxmeer, the town I'm living in, soon!

Love you all!

-Luuk was joking around and made this up for me. It's WLP(Whitney Lee Peters) in the NL (The Netherlands), so I will sign off using that abbrev. from now on.

Song I'm in love with right now. You can't listen to it only once! The lyrics...

Monday, August 8

Summer Travels

I gave in. Peer pressure! I decided to start a blog featuring the different things I do and experience while I live in Boxmeer, The Netherlands for an indefinite amount of time. Many people ask what's going on, so I felt blogging about different things will make updating everyone easier. Plus, I think I will try to teach my readers new things about the Netherlands and other European countries' cultures, people, and places. :)

First, I will simply update you on the many places Luuk and I have already gotten to visit on our random days of travel.

Volendam, NL
Marieke & Kenny, two of Luuk and I's friends which I met for the first time during my visit in December/January, invited us for a surprise trip. Exciting! We packed into the car at 10am in order to head to our mystery destination.
"Clogs & Cheese" appeared on a barn rooftop as we entered the city and everyone informed me that Volendam is indeed a touristy town. The city is very beautiful, as it sits surrounded by water. My favorite part was just being able to sit, relax and talk sitting waterside next to docked sailboats. Marieke and Luuk bought fresh hering on bread and I had a taste. Yuck, raw fish is definitely not my favorite, but it is a typical Dutch delicacy, and being so close to the sea, I had to take at least one bite. Walking down the main strip of shops,  I noticed most stores contained the average touristy items, i.e. wooden shoes, Amsterdam t-shirts, tulips, windmills, cheese, etc. One of the restaurants we passed had waitresses wearing traditional Dutch garb, which you will see us wearing later. Everyone decided that we needed to participate with at least one touristy thing, so we got our pictures taken. Lots of fun! I almost peed myself when I got to hold the giant cheese (kas) for the picture. Dutch cheese is the best. Super lekker! Later, we went to a large shop where we learned how wooden shoes and cheese are created. Fun facts: The wood used from the shoes comes from poplar trees & cheese that is encased in wax can keep for 3 years.

Before taking the two hour trip back to Boxmeer, Marieke and Kenny decided we should grab dinner in a nearby town. We ate on the porch of a restaurant overlooking a small harbor. Eating fresh salmon made my belly happy.

The Volendam area is a beautiful part of the country, but I definitely recommend if you visit the city to explore other cities around it as well. 

I'm thankful to already know such gracious people in the Netherlands.

Oh, I almost forgot, Volendam had Jan Smit posters decorating the city everywhere one looked. He's supposedly a Dutch icon, but you can judge for yourself.


Sooo, Luuk randomly came up with idea for us to drive to Luxembourg for the day and I said, "I'm down," so we went. I think, secretly, Luuk wanted an excuse to take his first car on a first road trip, but I definitely wasn't complaining. After visiting the teeny country, I realized I need to learn a lot more about Luxembourg. haha. I did learn, thanks to Luuk, that some of the citizens speak a language which combines French, German, and Italian, or something crazy like that. By the way, I'm learning I have much to learn about this area of the world, other than the bleak memories I have from my short European History class I took Sophomore year at TCU. I'm so blessed to have this opportunity.

The drive through Belgium was gorgeous with rolling hills, tall trees, and pretty country side.

As soon as we entered the country, I was taken away by the beautiful architecture & how clean everything looks. The coolest thing we did on our visit was tour The Casemates, remaining tunnels from a fortress built in the 1600's. It fascinates me that something built so long ago can still be explored & experienced today. Luuk & I had to laugh often, though, because it was like a huge maze and at some points we didn't have any idea where we were. Also, we got stuck going up and down these extremely long & tiny spiraling staircases.

I totally reccommend visitng Luxembourg!

Amsterdam, NL
Since I am still working on paperwork for gaining a visa, we had to go to the US Consulate in Amsterdam, so we decided to make a day of it. I must admit, although I was thankful for the opportunity to visit this large city in January, it wasn't my favorite experience, but my second trip to Amsterdam went much better. After quickly getting my papers from the Consulate, we headed over to the Van Gogh museum. It was wonderful! I love Van Gogh and his paintings are fascinating to observe. Then, we ate our packed lunch on the huge lawn in the museum district along with several hundred other people who were spread out everywhere. Luuk said we were "hippies". Finally, we spent the day exploring the unique city that is Amsterdam.

 These men were gathered around watching an intense game of chess. The same people were present as we left.

Whitney P.