Monday, July 1, 2013

If we had blogs in 1997: I still don't know who Christophe Plantin was

Leuven...City Hall, if I remember correctly.
The latest installment from my "If we had blogs in 1997" series is about the bizarre study tour we took through Flanders and Holland. The way the program worked is you had one core course, presumably in your major or related to it, that was worth four credit hours plus two additional hours for a research project. The core courses each took a week-long field study trip to someplace in Europe. At that time, there were two core courses offered - one in political history and another in educational psychology. Being a political science major, I elected to take the political history course, which originally was supposed to be some sort of course that had a photography project to go along with it. At the last minute, however, the professor had to withdraw from the school, and they had to scramble to find someone to take his place. Enter Tony Steinhoff. 

30 Sept 1997

Second day of the study tour today. I'm sitting on the bus in Antwerp waiting for departure to Leiden. Saturday night I went to a restaurant to celebrate Robert's birthday (he paid for everyone). It was a pretty good time. Sunday the bus departed for Leuven. Our bus is cool - it's a pink double decker. The bus ride up was nice; we played Euchere with Tony. He's hard to figure out. He's a very nervous man with a quick temper. But he seems cool.

Tony Steinhoff. First year professor, now Associate Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Droning lecturer. Tough grader. Stealer of souls. Check out these rating by his recent students.

We spent a nice night in Leuven. Went with April and Kate and Brad R, Brad M, and Matt H. We were just looking for a place to go (place means bar), so we just picked a place. Then we went to the place next door, then a place across the square. Then another place, each time having a different beer. Belgians are really proud of their beer, but I didn't think it was that great. Ha! Famous last words! It was a good time, then we went back and Brad, Brad, & Kate, and I stayed out and talked for awhile about everything. It was the best conversation I've had since I've been here. Then yesterday we walked around Leuven for the morning and then had to sit through a lecture and a tour of the university before taking off for Antwerp. We went to an awesome buffet restaurant after we checked into the hostel. Everyone got drunk on wine, including Matt O, the student activities coordinator, Tony, and Felipe, our bus driver. Then we went to a cool puppet show that was in Flemish, so we had no idea what it was about except that Christophe Plantin was the main character. Christophe Plantin was a figure in European political history. We went to a museum for him and he was a central character to the study tour. The tour had such a profound impact on my life that I couldn't tell you who he was without googling him just now, though there was something to do with a printing press...I do remember at one point near the end of the tour a student asked "Who is Christopher Plantin again?"

But during the puppet show the evening's mood was changed. People were being obnoxious in the theater and on the walk back. I was so embarrassed. I was fuming on the way back to the hostel. Then there was the bar in the hostel. That pissed me off. I was one of the first people at the bar, but one of the last to get my drink. So I was pissed about that rudeness too. But a shower cured that mood, because the showers were funny. The water only stayed on for about five seconds.

Today we had to listen to two lectures and then tour the city for four hours. I had a Belgium waffle which was great. Belgium waffle. Ha. We saw an awesome church that survived both world wars. Yes - Europe has road construction - we just went through it in Den Haag. Good lord, you'd think I was in a destitute third world country. Antwerp is definitely a place I would like to go back to. Alas, I haven't been back. I want to take a summer trip to Flanders and do a lot of biking, so I will get there one day soon. There is so much art there and we had no time for ourselves there. We are already a half hour off schedule because Tony allowed for no traffic - and we left Antwerp at 5:00 and had to go through Rotterdam and Den Haag traffic. His schedule is way too tight.

Now I am about ready to go to bed after an evening (though brief) in Leiden. Now we're in Holland. When we got to Leiden (late, of course), we went straight to go eat. But a lot of stupid people had to use the ATM machine before the search of restaurants (which there were plenty of). Ooh, what a crime, having to get guilders when entering The Netherlands for the first time. I guess I had guilders on me. I take it this was my lesson learned from not having gotten lira before going to Italy? Then April & Kate & Valerie & Dana went to an Italian place (so adventurous) while me and Brad R went to a Pancake place (native to Holland). The "clique" was in there, but it was ok. The pancakes were awesome. I had a pineapple pancake the size of a pizza. Brad had a tomato/cheese/onion pancake which was pretty good too. The people there were great too (employees, I mean). Then we found a cool pub with half price beer. And Achtung Baby! which was my favorite part. We talked about owning restaurants & then Steve & Jared came in. And then a bunch of other people came in, including Kyle, who said, "I guess we came to the wrong place" when he looked and saw who was already there. What an asshole. I'd like to confront him about it. But John & Scott were there too. So it was ok. This reads like an episode of Mean Girls, or at least what I think an episode of Mean Girls is like. But come on, what a dick thing to say.

After sampling three Dutch beers, we had to go back to the bus and the hostel, where the Clique had the bar taken over and some idiots walked a half hour to the beach. And now, here I sit, at 1am, six hours away from wake up.

Flanders is a great part of the world. Food, beer, people, architecture, art, beaches, history...everything I love is in that tiny part of the world. I have planned a trip that involves biking that I'd like to take in the next few years. Just waiting for the budget and vacation time to line up. Funny thing is I'm not sure I would have ever gone there had it not been for this study tour. I mean, when Americans think about going to Europe, they think about Paris, London, and Rome, not Antwerp and Leuven. That's a shame!

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