A Dwarf In The Giant’s Lair

Amelia Safira (INA AFS to Netherlands YP 16–17)

Life is like riding a bicycle…

You know what? This is too soon. Let’s keep this part first.

It has been 6 months since I arrived here, a small beautiful country in Europe that identify me as a dwarf. My friends say they feel so tall when they stand next to me. Me and a friend of mine have a joke that whenever one of us is being extra loud and jumpy, we’re high of sugar. And when it’s me, she would say “but you’re also low in a different way”.

Anyway… So, nog meer 5 maanden, 5 more months and I shall return to my homeland. In 5 months, I have to say goodbye to my friends. No more frietjes (fries) after school, and cycling between classes because our next class is in the other location of our school.

I have to say goodbye to my family. No more thee, koffie, en koekjes tijd (tea coffee and cookie time) and random hilarious conversation at 8. No more Goeiemorgen! (Good morning) when I came downstairs in the morning, Doei! (Bye), Fijne Dag! (Have a good day) or Tot straks! when I’m going to school, and Welterusten! when I’m going to bed at night.

I also have to say goodbye to my bikey (yes, bikey). No more cycling through the empty town streets at night due to shops are closing at 6 pm or anywhere just because. I mean for the sake of boredom.

I have to say goodbye to my school. My -somehow different, strangely unique, and weirdly amazing- school. People call it the hippies school. The cool one in town where everybody want to attend.

I go to a Vrijeschool (Waldorf school). It is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. It emphasizes the role of imagination in learning, to increase the intellectual, practical, and artistic development of students. I learn and experience a lot of things in this school.

We say the Ochtendspreuk (Morning spell) everyday before the first lesson of the day. You can search it if you’re curious. On September, we celebrate bravery by shooting fiery arrows to a dragon (it’s a fake one, in case you’re wondering). This month, we’re having the Parzival period every morning until the next four weeks. Inspired by the story of an Arthurian hero Parzival with his spiritual and physical journey on searching the Holy Grail. There are more interesting facts and stories about this school, but I can’t write everything here.

Yes, I miss everything back home. So much. On the other side, I still remember first time stepping into my “exchange year” home with hope that the words “exchange year“ would slowly faded and the word second appears. Now it does feel like home.

I never liked cheese before. But here, it’s impossible to dislike cheese. They eat cheese with almost everything. Now I love it! Especially the dutch cheese. This one is just a random part.

Now here it comes.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”.

It has not been easy. It’s definitely a challenge for me coming here. At first I struggled with a lot of stuff. I have my ups and downs. I’ve been distracted, lose my balance and fall down. It’s okay because sometimes you’re lost in thoughts and forget that the path in life is not always a freeway. Bicycles are not even allowed on the freeway. You have no choice but to ride on the one with obstacles and it makes sense if you fall. Failure is an ordinary thing in life. “So sit your butt back on the saddle, and start pedalling again!” That’s what I’ve always told to myself.

I’m writing this in the middle of a night in February with snow falling on my window pane. I wish you can see the view in front of me. This is the example of the kind of things that makes it hard to go back home. But again, I still have five more months to enjoy and explore The Netherlands. Better use it the best way possible.