Holland is also called “The Netherlands” Before coming to Holland the only thing I knew about this country was that they were AWESOME in the last Winter Olympics , especially in speed skating, and that ORANGE is the color of the Netherland’s uniform ( I am a big fan of the Olympics). Beside speed skating, Holland is famous for its tulips that  grow in the spring.   Now that I have been here I really love this country and the people living here.

Located in Northern Europe, between Belgium and Germany, the Netherland’s has a lot of coastline and 1,000’s of Canal waterways. We arrived in Amsterdam , the Capitol, from Belgium by train.  (I will post on Belgium in a few days).  It was practically empty and we did some school work and looked out the window.  The ride was about 3 hours. IMG_2514

My favorite part of Holland is the time I spent at the ANDERSEN SCHOOL in Woerden, Netherlands.  My family met a woman named Afke while we were in Australia.  She also volunteered in South East Asia as a teacher too just like Mom did. She invited us to her classroom if we ever made it to Amsterdam.   (I talked about her in the blog on the Great Barrier Reef).

Afke speaks great English and Sawyer and I  were very excited to go to school with her.  We had to take a 30 minute train from Amsterdam to get there and then walk about 10 minutes to get to the school. We had to leave at 7am. My parents would meet Afke at the train station with us and she would take us to the school with her.  How cool is that….

IMG_2647  IMG_2685 IMG_2645 IMG_4479My parents came to visit the last half hour one day so we got some great pictures.  IMG_4474These were the girls I met. I know if I could have stayed at the Andersen school more days we would have been great friends. During the day Ms. Afke taught the kids a lot of things, even English and a Math lesson and a History video on the stone age. It was in Dutch (their language) but I still got it. They did Math with computer tablets and I helped with the problems.  IMG_4433Some of the word problems were in Dutch but I looked at the numbers and figured out the problems.  My partner and I  got a lot correct.  I also was asked to present THIS BLOG to the class. IMG_4446IMG_4450I only had time to talk about The Great Barrier Reef, the kids asked questions in Dutch and Ms. Afke translated to English and then back to Dutch again.  I was impressed with how much English some kids already know.  In Holland they learn from Kindergarden English and Dutch.   IMG_4451 IMG_4425IMG_4429Ms. Afke has a very nice classroom. We eat lunch and snack in there and did our lessons also.  My favorite part about the school is playing with the kids at Gym (they call it Gymnastics) and outside at recess. The Gym was at another school which was a 5 minute walk away.  We played really awesome games with cool obstacles involved. I played “tic” at recess which is the Dutch word for “tag.”  We met a boy from the USA, he was from Baltimore, Maryland and has been living in Holland for about a month. He was the same age as me and learning Dutch too. IMG_4460

This was the class. Ms. Afke is a great teacher, I can tell the kids love her.  Try and locate Sawyer and I.  Unlike the schools we went to in Cambodia and Thailand, here we blend in!  We had a lot of fun and enjoyed learning and playing with all the kids.  I will keep in touch with the class  by email….Class…. when you read this please e-mail me. I say Hello to everyone and miss all of you.  Thank you Afke, we will all miss you. Hopefully we will see you when you come to New York.


AMSTERDAM: What a great city! 

First thing we all noticed when we got off the train was the number of BIKES in the city.  OMG!!!!! IMG_4419People ride everywhere and there are dedicated bike lanes next to the road that are Only for bicycles. Very cool. I learned the central train station has 2,900 parking spots for bikes but 9,000 people leave bikes there. They have double decker bike parking. IMG_4380 Of course WE had to get in on the action and rent a bike for the day. The bikes don’t have gears because it is really flat . IMG_4404 Our friend Afke gave us great suggestions on where to go in the city.  We took her advise and rode by VondellparkIMG_4393 .IMG_4397 (2)We saw tons and tons of canals and I really liked seeing all the Houseboats. It is not really a boat, most can not even be moved, they reside in the water though. Some boats can be moved. They were all different. Some were even made of brick, some 2 stories, and the Houseboats have their own parking space in the water and park the bikes on the street. They have their own address and mailbox.  I would like to live on a houseboat for a month or two, I think it would be fun. You can see the Houseboats on the sides of the canals….



Most are rectangular shaped and look like a trailer but in the water. We saw families in them and some have wood stoves for heat.

We rode around a lot of bridges that go over the canals. The houses are all narrow and skinny, they all have different “gables” some are triangular.   You can see the differences in the houses here.IMG_4389It was very scenic to ride around and just get lost through the streets and over the canals.

IMG_4374IMG_2630  IMG_4390It is winter here and I can imagine how beautiful it would look in summer time here.  One day it was raining out so we took a Canal boat tour along the canals.  It was interesting to see the city from the water.IMG_2708

Fun Facts about Amsterdam:

Dutch people are the tallest in the world (maybe that’s why we felt so “short”)

86% of Dutchies speak English as a second language

All Dutch kids learn English in school and visitors to Amsterdam are often impressed with the fluency with which the Dutch speak English.

The Nederlands is the largest beer exporter in the world.  In 2001, Dutch beer companies exported an astonishing volume of 1.3 billion liters of beer abroad. Half of that was shipped to the U.S.!



Another day we went to THE ANN FRANK HOUSE.  It is the most visited site in Amsterdam.  I read the book earlier in my trip and looked forward to visiting this.  Here is a short summary of the story.

FUN FACT: Ann Frank was a 13 yr old girl born in Germany and moved to Holland. During the WWII invasion of Holland by German Nazi’s  her family and a few others went into hiding at her fathers warehouse….she writes in her diary about the things that happen everyday and her thoughts.  She is a great writer and includes lots of detail. They were in hiding for 2 years (1942-44). Eventually they get found and were moved to a concentration camp and Ann died there.  The story is amazing. 

It must have been hard being in a house for 2 years and never going outside.

We studied up on Ann Frank before going to the museum. Use this link to learn a lot…http://www.annefrank.org/en/

IMG_2690 You are not allowed to take pictures inside the house, this is from the internet.. The bookcase that was the entrance to the hidden part of the house.

Seeing the actual house was interesting, I got to see all the rooms and the book really came to life. The secret annex can not be seen from the street.   If you are in Holland and you know the story you will appreciate it.  All the rooms are now empty because the Nazi Army took everything!  A museum has been built next to the original building now. Her father was the only one to survive. Her real diary, and lots of notebooks are on display in a case there.  I would include more facts but my mom is telling me to “shorten it up” and get ready for bed!  I suggest you read the book.  Sawyer is actually reading it right now!!!



There is an entire museum dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh. I loved his paintings. He includes tons of short brush strokes to make beautiful pictures.  He also did many self portraits of himself.   the museum is small but it tells his story and how he taught himself to paint , moved from Holland to Paris. How he went crazy with mental illness, cut off part of his ear and then went to a mental hospital. In the last 75 days of his life he made 75 incredible paintings.  He died from shooting himself. IMG_2710

At the museum we did an art project where we had to locate certain paintings, read about them, sketch them, and use facts. It was a book we completed and then got gifts from the museum for doing it.  It was cool and we learned a lot. Mom and Dad thought Sawyer would be bored to death but he was totally into it.IMG_2714 IMG_2715IMG_2718I really wanted to see the famous “starry night” painting but it is actually in a museum in NEW YORK.  This museum even  had cool images projected of his famous work. if you have any questions about my travels my email is rileymeckley@yahoo.com      I will love to here from you and will get back as soon as I can