Friday, September 01, 2006

Boat, museum and party (abr)

Woke up with a terrible headache this morning, and still feel a bit sick. I don't know if it was that glass of Heineken I drank yesterday, the nuts, olives or airline sandwiches, but ever since this morning I've been having this terrible feeling of dizzyness and like there's air in my chest I can't get rid of. When I breathe hard, the back of my neck hurts and my chest feels compressed.

I blame it on the beer. Frankly I don't like beer, and it's been years since my last 'pint', until yesterday that is. I don't know what posessed me to drink something that makes me want to throw up and pee all the time, and feel all gasy and nauseous afterwards...I guess when all the guys were drinking it, I sort of 'had' to too.

Since today's programme didn't start until noon, I could lie in a bit, which helped get rid of the nauseating feeling, if only a little bit. Picked up our 'packed lunch', packaged in a green paper bag, the contents of which look like they managed to skim off the left-overs of KLM's (Royal Dutch Airlines) on-board catering service.

Met some more people, all on the same course I'll be doing. And that was pretty nice, since for the day I basically had company and people to talk to. We did a boat trip, cruising around the canals and lakes around Leiden. This ancient city is shaped like a star and surrounded by moats. It was here that resistance against the Spanish (Catholics) was staunchest. For the sake of religious freedom and freedom of expression, the citizens of the town refused to cave into a siege in 1574. As a token of appreciation was rewarded with a university in that very year by William of Orange ('Father of the Netherlands'). That university is Leiden University, with the motto Praesidium Libertatis, (‘bastion of freedom’) on the emblem. And I'm now a member of that bastion.

Old(er) students
and professors of Leiden include Rembrandt van Rijn (painter), who never actually graduatlly and registered for the sake of getting cheap beer as a student (believe me beer is definitely not the reason why I'm studying here). The Dutch Royal family has traditionally gone to this university too. Rumour has it that during the years when our Crown Prince William Alexander, who is reputed for being a bit...slow, the tradition of publishing everyone's grades in public disappeared. Einstein taught here a while (there's a pub named after him), while Kamerlign Onnes was won the Nobel Prize for Physics for achieving the lowest temperate possible (absolute zero). My law faculty buidling is named after him, and located in the very building where he conducted the experiment. Then there's Huygens, who invented the telescope, and has a space probe named after him. Then there's the likes of Spinoza and Descarte, who escaped to Leiden on account of its libertarian values and freedom of expression. I doubt I'd come close to what these great people have achieved in my lifetime, but it's something to mention when people ask me in the future why I chose this uni as my own. I guess.

A museum visit was also part of the tour, and we were taken to Boerhave Museum, named after the physician who introduced natural sciences as key to the study of medicine
in Europe. Besides the famous Huygen telescopes and clocks, the sight of numerous 'pickled' feotuses, ovaries with a fertilised egg, fingers of young children, skinned snakes, inner ear of a dog, drawings of a disected woman carrying a baby, real skeletons of human beings, cats, elephants, horses and a turkey were not all that appealing. Especially when I was already feeling like throwing up the whole day. Dinner was immediate after the museum. I waited at least an hour before I could take a bite and swallow.

It was a bit silly how they organised the programme. By five we were ushered into the canteen and fed. The next event was the party at 10pm. Five hours to kill, in a town, in a country where shops are few and close at 6pm sharp. A bunch of us, three guys and two girls, all on the same course, sat around, got to know each other better, lurked around the empty streets a bit more, sat at a cafe and chatted the hours away. It was surprisingly relaxing, and we were pretty much on similiar wave lenghts, so I had a really good time. [...]

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