University of Wisconsin–Madison

The Sunburn

Possibly my favorite part about the Netherlands is the generally bad weather. For one, I really enjoy gray skies (as long as it doesn’t actually rain) and colder weather because I love layering up. But also, I love it because on the days that there isn’t bad weather, every person is outside enjoying it. Madison is the same way. I don’t think there is ever a happier time than the end of April and beginning of May when the sun finally decides to shine. Freshman year in Witte felt like summer camp (complete with the smell of sunscreen).

Sitting al fresco with my friends after class on a sunny day is probably my favorite thing to do. This little medieval city comes alive when the sun is out. People are so happy, and I love it.

On Liberation Day (May 5th, commemorating the liberation of the country from Nazi occupation during WWII) a bunch of us decided to go to Leiden, another university city towards the coast of the country. While many of us joke that all Dutch cities look the same, Leiden can be added to the list of exceptions, along with Utrecht and Amsterdam. Each of these is, of course, Dutch, with canals and narrow houses and boats but they are also completely unique.

Amsterdam may be the most famous city in the Netherlands, but it is huge and made for large volumes of people in a way that no other city really is. It feels like a museum; I’m not entirely convinced that people carry on real lives there.

Utrecht is just old. It’s medieval (actually). Everything to me has a hint of A Knight’s Tale to it. We have castles and our canals would probably be better described as moats.

Leiden has more random examples of Dutch things (windmills, boats, flowers) and yet in a strange way it reminded me of New Orleans. I understand that NOLA is French-American and definitely not in any way Dutch looking. However, it felt similarly quaint and the canals were more bayou-like than structured. It had character. And I actually believe that real people carry on their lives there.

I used to think if I were to live in the Netherlands, I would live in Utrecht (and never in Amsterdam). But now I’m sure I would live in Leiden. I am absolutely in love with that city.

Back to the point, it was Liberation Day and it was absolutely gorgeous outside. I would describe it as hot. So of course when we sat down to lunch at a cafe, I parked myself in the direction of the sun and tanned. I wanted to soak up as much as I could get before the sun went away (which it did, the next day, and it’s been raining ever since).

I got so sunburnt, I don’t think it was healthy. But you know what, I’ve literally never in my life been so happy to be as red as a lobster. I wasn’t gloriously tan, but I was gloriously burnt, and that’s good enough for me. I missed vitamin D.

Later that night, us Americans decided to throw our own liberation celebration. We introduced the Irish and the Australians and everyone else who came to the sacred holiday of Cinco de Mayo. We even made guacamole. All in all, it was probably my favorite day here. It was just a perfect day. Touristing Leiden and then coming home with a sunburn to a fiesta, and all with some of my best friends here- perfection.

Sometimes, it’s the little things, like the sun, that make a wonderful day.

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