I am happy to update everyone on how the first day has gone so far! Getting to Newark airport was less stressful than I could have ever imagined. I was lucky that my parents were able to take off work so they could make the drive up to Newark and I did not have to pay for a week parking pass for my car. Leaving them was a little more hard than I thought it would be. Almost every vacation we have gone on together, (whether in or out of the country) has been together. So, it was a little strange to leave them behind at the flight gate so that I could journey through security alone. The line to reach security seemed to never end. When I finally got to the end of the line my heart was in my mouth. I was terrified that I was not going to make my flight in time! Thankfully, it moved quickly and by the time twenty minutes had passed, I was at the front of the line. I probably made it through security and lines in about an hour. It was great relief to see my travel mates at our flight gate. Everyone was excited and anxious to depart. Thankfully everyone made it on time to the airport! As we boarded the plane I couldn’t help notice how big the plane was. I have flown in planes before but never in a plane where there was a large middle seat section. The flight was very relaxing. Passengers were fed two main meals; dinner and breakfast. I drank tea water and coffee. I hardly slept at all on the flight. I have a feeling it was excitement. We landed safely, grabbed our bags (and some coffee) and we were ready to start the day ahead of us.
Once our translator Rose arrived, we were allowed to board the bus we would be on for our duration of the stay. I remember everyone’s faces when we first boarded. It was a mix between shock and pure astonishment. This was the most luxurious bus I had ever been on. The seats were plush, we had tables, and multiple TV’s. I ended up sitting with Bethany Stacey and Kayla. As soon as we boarded we were off to our first destination: The US embassy!
I had never seen or been in an embassy before, but I was shocked at how tight security is. It was honestly very intimidating. We were told no phones, cameras, or video recording were allowed. We presented our United States passports and the head security guard kept them until we departed. The building was beautiful and brand new. I was taken back by the amount of greenery that was involved in the landscaping of the embassy. Our purpose at the embassy was to listen to a talk on agriculture economics and trade policy between the United States and the Netherlands, Sweden, and Scandinavia. It was an interesting talk and everyone asked questions.
After the embassy, we went to The Hague and were set free to have lunch in the city and to adventure around the city on our own. Stacy, Kayla, Bethany, Katie, Lily and I all set off to find a place to eat lunch. The city was well manicured; it had tight streets and tall buildings. As a group we decided not to stray too far from the meeting point. The city seemed maze like. I had a delicious salad with a gigantic piece of goat cheese. I was in total shock from the amount they gave me. I shared it with some of the girls but easily devoured the remaining block myself. After completing some shopping; we met up with the rest of the group. Rose gave us a walking tour of The Hague. We around the parliament buildings and the Royal manor. It was interesting to see that the presidents office was sitting virtually unguarded. I was able to take a picture in front of it. A tourist from another country would not have had the same access by the White House. Rose bought us all herring and onions. The herring was fresh caught; and while I could appreciate the freshness of the seafood, I did not ask for seconds.
The next stop on our list that day was a rooftop garden in The Hague. The rooftop garden was also a fishery created by Urban Farmers. Our tour guide was lovely. She kept a tired group of us engaged and asking questions the entire tour. They grew all sorts of vegetables; some of which I could not identify. Some of the more recognizable vegetables were zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, string beans, kale, all types of herbs and more. Next, was the tour of their fishery. All of the water used from the plants is filtered and cleaned. It then goes into the fish tanks where it will be cleaned and reused on the plants. There were multiple tanks filled with Tilapia. Our tour guide assured us that the fish were not over crowded in their tanks; she explained that they needed to be this filled or the fish will get territorial and fight among themselves. The guide told us that this entire operation was organic and that it was all one large experiment. She urged us to try things out like this in America, and we were all definitely inspired.
While the tour was interesting and engaging; we were all dragging by this point in the day. We had aboutt an hour drive to dinner and we all took advantage of this by taking a nap on the bus. When we arrived at the coast and saw the ocean I was unimpressed. I guess that is the downfall living in New Jersey. We have miles and miles of beautiful beaches. After eating dinner we boarded the bus to head towards our hotel in Rotterdam. When we arrived at the Art Hotel of Rotterdam our roommates were announced! I was lucky enough to be paired up with Bethany! We went straight up to our room and fell asleep. The marathon day was complete!