Random observations

  • Los Angeles is not a pretty city, like for instance Paris is, still, it is very appealing in some way. Near the beach the atmosphere is actually really great with lots of people on skateboards
  • Downtown is a lot hotter than near the ocean
  • You’re allowed to cycle on the pavement here!
  • Everyone wants to be an actor
  • The USC International Student and Scholar Handbook contains a section on Social Interaction and Etiquette which contains all kinds of useful advices. On dating, for instance, it tells you that “it is not uncommon or considered inappropriate for an American to date more than one person at a time”. How about that? It also says that direct communication is preferred, although if being honest involves crushing someone’s self esteem (like the jury does on Pop Idol) it’s not quite appreciated (the latter advice obviously does not come from the handbook ;)).
  • I opened up an American bank account today, it comes with a debit card that has my photo on it (not like my Dutch debit card though, this is just a mugshot)
  • Free student drinks in some places
  • People will not pack their own groceries at a supermarket, even if they’re creating a big unnecessary queue with that
  • In some places, the receptionist is called ‘information specialist’
  • Food leftovers don’t go into the bin but through the sink, they’re not even allowed to go into the bin…
  • Portuguese is surprisingly easy to read 😉

Getting used to California

It’s 22:00 here now and I’m absolutely wasted, so this won’t be a very long post, but nothing much has happened anyway. Throughout this week I’ve been to ISI every day (even today, but that was only to pick up my surfboard :P) and sorted out some more paperwork such as getting a bank account (which took me one whole lunch break) or signing the agreement with my new landlady (Wednesday). Yesterday I got to do some work, well, read ing a paper and then attending a reading group in which the paper was thoroughly discussed, which was pretty good. After that there was cake again because another person was leaving ISI. In the evening we went to ISI’s regular Friday night pub, which features in the film ‘Million Dollar Baby’ and happens to be right around the corner of my new place. After that we went to a place called the Novel bar (if I remember correctly), a cute little place that serves desserts and has lots of bookcases.

This morning Rahul drove us to Zuma beach in Malibu. Rahul and Zornitsa lied on the beach and chatted with the lifeguard (including the red swimming trunks!) while I was trying out my new board for the first time. It’s an extremely pleasant board 😀 😀 😀

After that we went to a party in Long Beach, in a gorgeous apartment. The guys who threw the party had cooked fantastic stuff, such as fresh tzaziki (one of the is Greek). We left the party early to go to an exhibition, but more on that tomorrow as I’m having some real trouble to stay awake now.



In love with my new board

This morning I got to try it out and I love it! It’s extremely light weight, but still very stable so I got a few nice rides even though the waves weren’t great (the forecast for tomorrow is much better) 🙂


Sorry no time for a proper update as I’m on my way to a party in Long Beach.


Meet my new best friend:


This room is actually the living room of the place I’ll live at as of Monday 🙂


She is 6’10”, extremely lightweight, although not too slim so I still have enough buoyancy and stability to not have to start all over again. She doesn’t mind being carried on a bike. In fact, I experienced a serious moment of pure happiness when I was cycling along the beach and saw my silhouette of a cyclist carrying a surfboard 🙂


She also goes really well with my office 😛

I haven’t tried it out yet because I only had one hour between when I got back into the office and sunset (it gets dark here really quickly, at 19:00 it’s dark, and there’s hardly dusk). Maybe tomorrow 🙂

What’s been going on here…

I’ve been in Los Angeles for two days now and it’s been pretty good so far. I haven’t really done any work, although I did go into the office yesterday and today (strangely enough I’m not really suffering from a jetlag, I’ve been going to bed around 22:00 the past few days, yesterday I woke up at 04:00 and today at 05:00 but throughout the day I feel alright, albeit not too concentrated). So if I didn’t do any work, what did I do? Well, mainly paperwork and arranging some bare necessities to settle in. On Tuesday I got my ISI keycard and office, met my office mate from Bulgaria, who is really cool, got the earthquake instruction and a tour of the building. Today was a big paperwork day too. I had to go to USC campus to register with the Office of International Services there, they needed some info too and they gave me a USC card, not sure what I’ll need to use that for. Actually getting to campus was quite hard, it’s about 12 kms and I found out that they’re really not big on public transport here. But I got there eventually anyway :). I also got a letter that will enable me to get a social security number (SSN), so I took the letter and went off to the social security office, which is close to the campus. I sat there for half an hour waiting for my turn, and when I actually got the desk the lady checked my I-94 form (given to me by immigration when I entered the US) and said that my entry to the country had not been registered yet so they couldn’t give me an SSN yet and that I could come back in 10 days…ah well…luckily when I got back to the office there was mocha cake, not to cheer me up, but because one of the PhDs finished and was leaving, so everyone went up to the sixth floor (from where you can see the Hollywood sign on the hills, but it’s very far away, and doesn’t look too impressive anymore then) and chatted and took a major sugar intake :).

Outside the office I also arranged some things. First thing I did yesterday was buying a bike, because I’m Dutch. I used it to cycle to Venice to check out a place to live, which turned out to be a really nice cottage, about 50 metres away from the beach….

I have the key now and I will move in on Monday 🙂

I’m sharing the living room, kitchen and bathroom with one other girl who’s working for a film studio, and actually the landlady uses the living room as an office throughout the day on weekdays (for some sort of casting agency) but I’m in the office myself then anyway so that’s fine. Actually, today when I went there to sign the agreement, the landlady wasn’t there yet, but someone working on the actors and actresses thing was and it turned out that he had lived in the Netherlands for 10 years and spoke some Dutch, and he had really been all over the place. He had lived in Amsterdam and Den Bosch (dated the singer of “The Gathering” at some point, he even knew Sint Michielsgestel) and even visited Groningen, Vlissingen and Maastricht…

And of course I bought Felicidade today (before I got the key to my room, so strictly speaking I succeeded in getting a board before I got a place to live:))

And so the adventure commences

Hi everyone,

Just a quick post to let you all know I arrived safely in Los Angeles. My flights were rather uneventful, just slept a bit, listened to some music and watched Ocean’s 13..I just had dinner at a nice Thai place with Rahul from ISI on who’s sofa I’m crashing (well, actually he’s sacrificing his bedroom for me, which is really far beyond hospitable, but I haven’t seen a bed for over 24 hours now so it will be good, and tomorrow I’m going out to find a place of my own..)

The weather is really nice here by the way, and there are palm trees everywhere, what I’ve seen from the city so far is quite nice, mainly only 2 or 3 storey buildings giving it a less ‘big city’ feeling than for instance Chicago, although downtown LA, where I haven’t been yet, has some skyscrapers 🙂



Merpel’s goodbye-for-now-tour

The past week has been hectic but absolutely great. Here’s a short account before I’m going to get some sleep, as in six hours I need to be up and in the car again on my way to the airport for my big adventure.

  • Monday: getting a visa with the American consulate in Amsterdam (spent more time getting through security than actually sorting out the visa, but all worked out, they let me in (and back out) and on Tuesday my passport with visa already arrived), sharing music with Tikitu and dinner with Wouter, his wife, Tikitu and one of Tikitu’s houseboat-mates (excellent menu & excellent company)
  • Tuesday: last ILK meeting for a while in Tilburg, went swimming with dad in the evening (got to stay a little bit fit)
  • Wednesday: worked in Tilburg, possibly the most uneventful day of the week (calm before the storm), but we did have mussels!
  • Thursday: gave a guest lecture in Tilburg, funnily enough I got through what I wanted to tell a lot faster than last year, but still fun. Will need to rethink some stuff though. Said goodbye to the folks in Tilburg (the few that were there anyway)
  • Friday: real start of the goodbye-tour; went to see my grandparents from my mother’s side in the morning (immediately had to climb a roof to rescue a toy that had gotten stuck in a tree, which was fun), visited my grandparents from my father’s side before dinner and then met my uncles for dinner. In between visiting my grandparents mum (and dad, although he wasn’t there) treated me to the most beautiful travel bags, so my stuff will arrive in the US in good order 🙂
  • Saturday: went for a swim in the morning, got a last-minute haircut and did some tidying up. Late in the afternoon I caught a train to Leiden (delayed of course, because of a collapsed lorry quite close, but fortunately not on, the track) to meet up with Judith, whom I hadn’t seen for over two months because she spent the Summer in Scotland doing all kinds of great things. I’m really going to miss her. After our short visit to the English pub I had to dash to my home for a fancy dinner organised by Sander, one of my housemates. Of course I was late (“Brabants kwartiertje”), but I think the fact that I remembered to bring my fancy clothes and put them on (in the bathroom downstairs) made up for it a little bit. Most of my housemates were there, as well as a good friend of one of the housemates and Barbara’s new lover, and all were dressed for the occasion. Sander went really out of his way for this dinner: 9 courses and most of them came with a suitable wine. We started off with a raspberry something shot, then crispy amuses with some nice bubbly wine. The second real course (of course the shot doesn’t really count) was a lovely salmon carpaccio with a Pinot Grigrio if I remember well, followed by truffle risotto with rosé, followed by courgette soup, followed by a spoon with limoncello and mint, followed by I think escalope with prosciutto. In the meantime the wines were getting stronger, so I could be mistaken or forgetting something here or there. The dessert consisted of zabaglione pudding, homemade chocolate mousse (well, just about everything was homemade, including the ravioli that accompanied the meat) with raspberry jelly and an Italian fig, of course accompanied by a superb dessert wine. The meal was completed with coffee and liqueur, after which I said goodbye to my housemates, and my house for a while. I have no idea where they got the energy to still go to a pub, but I found my way to Steve’s apartment, where I crashed on the sofa. But not before I told him about my evening, probably not in a very organised way since I didn’t remember telling him anymore this morning.
  • Sunday: family day, spent a lovely day with my parents, Frank & Joyce and Hans (Sara was away for most of the day for a dance rehearsal, but joined us for dinner). We went out cycling for a bit as the weather was gorgeous and had ice-cream at our favourite ice-cream parlour in the centre of Etten-Leur. Then, while mum was preparing the lovely dinner, I packed my bag.

So this is it for now from the Netherlands. I’ll post soon from the other side of the world and in 89 days I’ll be back for the Christmas holidays 🙂

Summer days in Portugal

The past two weeks I’ve really been AFK for a well-deserved holiday in sunny Portugal. I know I’ve been away a lot but travelling for work but that is usually far from relaxed. This holiday was all about relaxing, through corporal punishment though, as one Australian guy described surfing. But it’s a physical fatigue that makes you feel good and rosy at the end of the day. While you’re surfing work or worries don’t exist, just that next wave that’s showing up on the horizon. It’s that good 🙂

So anyway, most of the days started with gathering at the surf school, stuffing the van with surfboards and driving to a spot for a morning session. Lunch break was either on the beach or at a little bar near the beach (tostas!) and often involved a little nap (sometimes resulting in very interesting tan lines, but Steve can tell you more about those). Then a second session until about 1700, and then back to the camp. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there was a video correction session as the surf had been filmed, which is really helpful. On Mondays and Thursdays there was a barbecue org anised by the camp staff (chicken and sardines), and every day yoga classes by Matthias (although I only went 5 times out of 10, some days I was just too tired). Leopold also gave a demonstration of how boards are shaped, which is really amazing, in about an hour and a half he would just create a board, starting off with a big block of foam and ending up with a gorgeous round board.

Twice the instructors organised a dinner at a local restaurant, where there was a lot of sangria, great fish, people drawing pictures on each other with pens, the hiding of shoes and the throwing of little bits of paper at each other. There were also visits to the local cocktail bar, and we also crashed a Caipirinha party at another surf camp. In the evenings we didn’t go out Steve and I started some live music session with eventually lots of people joining in (as everyone seems to be able to play a couple of songs on the guitar and collectively we could put together the lyrics of a whole song), which was really cool. I also played some guitar with Filipe, but he was just much better and also really good at inventing silly songs on the spot so it usually ended in him playing and me listening.

The trip also involved meeting lots of cool people from all over the world, and I still have to send many people a lot of pictures, but I’m just not really in an internet mood yet. It always takes some time to go back to the nerdy person after a good holiday AFK, perhaps I should stop being so nerdy as I really love being outdoors so much (although just wearing flip flops and a bikini and boardshorts probably played a role in making it feel so extremely good). Apart from hanging with the holiday goers we also hung out with the instructors, who always seemed to be in a good mood and were all just great and were having perhaps even more fun than we were having. When there were no waves one afternoon they took us for a tour of Peniche, so there we did some sightseeing and then we all jumped off a pier for a refreshing swim in the lovely clear water.

At the dinner in the second week I met a charming friend of Gonçalo and Alex: Nelson. He is just the most wonderful person I ever met, I can’t think of another way of describing him.

But nothing happened, at least not the first two evenings :).

He is very hot 😀

Anyway, Saturday was my last day, so after surfing with Allie, Sarah, Alex and Nelson in the afternoon on a board that was slightly too heavy for me so it wasn’t my best session I decided to go out again just before dinner for one last session. I took out a 6’8″ NSP board which, strangely enough paddles exactly the same as my 7’3″ Bic Minimal. The sun was setting, it wasn’t too crowded and there wasn’t much wind. Slow friendly waves came rolling in, and so I said goodbye to Peniche. At least for now, because I will definitely return.


Just a short post from Portugal where I finally arrived after a long day of travelling (about 14 hours in total because of a 2 hour delay at Brussels airport). I’m utterly exhausted because of moving my stuff from my room back to my parents the previous few days, but it feels good to have that done. Also going out with my housemates turned out to be a bit more exhausting than I had thought it would be but it was an excellent night out so the lack of sleep is definitely worth it. And this morning Steve and I bumped into Ed, a postdoc whom I know from a conference a year and a half ago on the escalator at Brussels airport (what are the odds!) so we had breakfast together which was cool.

The surfcamp is really relaxed, it’s really close the beach (although it was foggy when we arrived so we haven’t seen much ocean yet) on the bus Steve and I met Julia from Australia and I’m in a room with two Irish girls, and there’s are another Dutch girl, a Belgian guy and an Australian guy in my apartment in which we have a big kitchen and a sitting room with comfy sofas. Anyway, I won’t be online much because I’ll be too busy having a great time, but you’ll all hear the stories when I get back. Oh, and I forgot my phone so you can’t even call me (now that’s a real holiday isn’t it? ;P)