Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Netherlands (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

There are two effective antidotes to physical stress—food and sleep—but since my schedule didn't permit me to doze lazily on my bed (I had, after all, just been through more than 12 hours of travel), at least I had a sumptuous breakfast.

The Dutch aren't fond of rice, something Southeast Asians can't live without, but what I saw on my plate was a treat nevertheless. I had no idea of what half of the food served tasted like, but I took my time to sample as much as I could.


I met Ashwini Paranjpe (India) and Pinpin Chen (Taiwan) who joined me in the table. It took a while to get used to their accents, but it amazed me how people from all over the world have studied English so much so that it's now possible for people of other tribes and tongues to actually understand each other.

new faces

During the little free time I had, I freshened up, changed clothes, and surveyed the neighborhood, walking alone like a madman taking pictures of anything and everything.



I was fascinated by the quietness, the sheer peacefulness, of the streets, something that one only gets to experience in Manila during Manny Pacquiao's matches: almost everyone would be indoors, glued to the television, waiting for him to knock out his rival.

But when I thought about it, Leiden wasn't as populated as Manila to begin with. And there were lots of bicycles, the city's major mode of short-distance travel, because owning a car is expensive. That could work in the Philippines, perhaps, but I doubt if bikes will take off that easily. It's often unbearably hot in the tropics.



A couple of blocks away, I saw scenes that looked like postcards: brick houses three storeys high, old windmills, and the canals, of which Netherlands is popular for.

brick houses windmill canal and windmill

At 10:30, the conference delegates gathered in front of the Leiden Central Station for announcements before the tour was to begin. We were clustered into different groups; there were just too many of us. My group had to take the Leiden canal tour in the morning and the Boerhave Museum in the afternoon.


While waiting for the others to arrive, I engaged in small talk with people in my group. Talking to complete strangers was a skill I would perfect during my trip. What was I to do? I was alone—the sole participant from the Philippines, the people from the registration booth said—and so I had to strike conversations with other people, make friends, and mingle.

My knees were literally shaking from the cold, but I noticed two people who didn't seem to mind the weather at all.

"Hi, where are you from?" I asked.

"Hello. We're from Siberia." That made sense. And it hit me: Viktor and Helena were the first Siberians I'd seen in my life. I was so amused, hearing them speak of an ever more freezing weather in their area, that they live near Lake Baikal, the world's biggest lake, which was frozen during that time.

"I've never seen snow before," I confessed. I think that surprised shocked them. And I told them about the beaches in the Philippines, the scorching heat, and I felt that it was so distant to them: the idea of a place where one didn't have to wear layers upon layers of clothes.

the world in one place

We walked around, getting to know the folks beside us—the Iranians were the noisiest and funniest lot—until we reached the canal. It took as a while to get there because people were stopping here and there for pictures. Thankfully the tour guides assigned to us were gifted with extraordinary patience.



looking up



boat tour

At this point my camera's battery got drained, so I'm referring you to Justin Jacobse's photos during that trip. The scenes were beautiful. People opened their windows and waved their hands when they saw us.

We had lunch at the Academy Building before visiting the Boerhaave Museum. Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) is one of the foremost scientists that the Netherlands has produced. His method of teaching is still being practiced today. In that museum, I saw the sketches of Carl Von Linnae (the father of taxonomy), Antonie van Leeuwenhoek's miscroscopes, and many other historical paraphernalia, including the first dialysis machine. As you can see, the Renal module, from which I was excused, was still haunting me.

After the afternoon tours we got back to the hotel to freshen up. I took a quick nap before changing into my suit for the Opening Ceremony at the Town Hall and the Gala Dinner.

Beside me are my roommates, Aldo Ferly (Indonesia) and Laxminarayan Bhandari (India). Our other roommate, Arjun Balaji (India), took this. I look like a kid here.


The sky was bleak, and it got even colder.

bleak canal tour Heineken

When we reached the Town Hall, I was struck by the architecture, a far cry from my ideas of municipal halls with basketball courts and such.

leiden town hall

I got to talk and mingle with other people over a glass of wine and champagne but the tragedy was that I couldn't, for the love of me, remember all the names, only some of them. Others confessed the same dilemma, too. Thankfully there's Facebook now to help me out.

getting-to-know with Gabor and Xin Fung with Hungarians small talk with Indonesians

We then had dinner at the Academy Building. Wahyu, an Indonesian participant, would eventually look for rice, but there wasn't, and I simply laughed with him, amused at his hunger for, in his own words, "real" food. I took my chance at savoring the wine and the cheeses, taking a risk at that because I'm lactose intolerant, but then again I thought, "Who cares?" I was stuffed.


A live band serenaded us. I remember one jazz song that was played that night. It was called Night and Day, and every time I hear that playing in coffee shops in Malate, I always remember that night of the conference.


Nothing we ate for the rest of the conference could beat this dessert that was served: a yogurt-ice cream of sorts, topped with sweet, flavorful cream.


Because my body-clock was confused (oh, the jetlag!), I already felt sleepy halfway through the dinner. I walked home with Michal (Poland) and Aldo in midst of the dead of the night, moist cobblestones, and second-hand marijuana smoke, and in my hotel I would drift in sound sleep, to ready myself for the first day of the actual conference and my solo trip to Amsterdam.




Anonymous Lau said...

Loving these posts, Lance! :)

Tue Apr 19, 03:36:00 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Glenda said...

Cant wait for part 3!

PS. Who hosts your domain? Can you recommend a good service? Please and thank you.

Fri Apr 22, 07:55:00 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Sahan said...

Love ur blog dude...actually i missed the conference due to exams scheduling...i am also a medical student from Srilanka but studying in Nepal.. 3 Cheers to you Buddy!! Keep it Up!! =)

Sun May 01, 08:47:00 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Lance said...

Hi, Sahan. I'm glad I didn't have exams in conflict with the schedule, but I did have to go home earlier. The conference was great. Who knows? Maybe you can go next time around.

It's great to hear someone from Sri Lanka. It's a dream of mine to go to Nepal, too! Thank you for the kind words!

Tue May 03, 02:44:00 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kuya Lance, what camera are you using? Very nice shots, indeed. :)

-Leland Ustare

Sun May 22, 03:04:00 PM GMT+8  

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