Highlights of the past year

Again, another post about my last days in Netherlands. But hey, this is a blog, so I have to talk about what has been going on my life, right? Well, it turns out that this post is actually more like a summary of some of the most remarkable moments I had here in Europe, some experiences that were very special. And for that, I made a video.

Disclaimer: the following video is not supposed to be a serious project with semi-professional footage or editing. It contains excerpts of some footage I recorded almost randomly, during some very momentous occasions, and what I did was basically stitching them into a form that can be somewhat enjoyable.

The video is embedded at the end of the post, you can just jump to watch it now, or you can read my description of each of these moments I highlighted in it.

When I took the plane from São Paulo last year, I knew that I was in for a year full of new experiences. I had never flown in an airplane before, and my first time had to be an excruciating 11-hour flight, from one hemisphere to the other, to a country which had an alien language and a completely different culture. Although I don’t footage from that flight (which was kind of boring anyway), I did film a trip I took on a train (scene 1). I think that footage does a good job of setting a context to this report, so that’s why it’s there. I don’t know, there is something about trains that makes them so charming and iconic.

Most of the time I spent in Europe was here in Groningen, a city that surprisingly feels like home to me, maybe because it is so similar to my hometown: both of them are student cities, small sized (although Groningen is more populated), very cozy, tranquil and close to the countryside. But that’s where the similarities end. One of the aspects of living here that struck me the most was how crazy the weather can be in this region, especially in the summer. You can go from a sunny 30 degrees to a cloudy 19-ish degrees afternoon in the snap of a finger.

Martini Tower, one of the main landmarks in Groningen

But apart from the weather, I enjoyed countless little aspects of living in Groningen, and the ones that I think I will miss the most are the peace and quiet of the streets and the openness of the Dutch people. Sadly, it is a general pre-concept in Latin America that the Europeans tend to be cold-hearted, selfish jerks. But I have to attest against that, for the hospitality in (almost) every place I went was just as good as in what I observe in my home country. That aside, I never tire of exalting how pleasing it is to just take a walk in one of the beautiful parks or to work out along the lake Hoornsemeer, which is by far my favorite place to hang out at in Groningen. I will certainly miss the chilly yet comforting breeze that is constantly sweeping the pristine surface of the lake (scenes 2 and 3).

It was also here in Groningen that I got the meet and chat with one of the artists that influenced me the most, especially in how I see the world and confront reality. Her name is Anneke van Giersbergen. I got to know her music when she was the lead singer of the Dutch band The Gathering (which, by the way, is one of my top 5 bands). It took me some time to really get into their songs, which are generally very moody and trippy (hence the somewhat obscure classification of “trip rock” among the underground rock scene in Europe), but when I did, they resonated so much with me that I would never stop listening to them. Anneke left the band in 2006, if I’m not mistaken, and she has been following a solo career since then.

In March 2014, she came to Groningen and had a meet & greet session at the music store Plato, and she also performed some 3 acoustic songs (scene 4). I was so nervous that I couldn’t stop shaking, so almost all my footage is garbage (the sound is great though, I’ll probably upload the videos to YouTube someday). When we got to chat, I told her that I was from Brazil and she was surprised to see someone from such a far away place just hanging around there. However, the most special moment for me was when I asked to take a picture with her, and after I handed my camera to one of the fans to take the photo, Anneke gleefully embraced me and her son also joined in the frame. The picture was taken, but what stuck with me was that very special memory, that unique experience of sharing ideas with one of your greatest idols, and just seeing how human and humble they can be. It is empowering. How can I possibly say that the Europeans are cold and selfish after THAT? I just can’t.

Caught in a web

It was also here that I got to see snow for the first time in my life. It was a cold night of December, and my housemate knocked in my window to tell me that it was snowing outside. In the morning, I was blown away when seeing the streets completely covered in a white layer of ice. Unfortunately, the last winter was very mild here in Europe (as opposed to North America), so the first time I saw and walked over a very thick layer of snow was when I went for a trip in Norway. In Oslo (scene 5), I decided that it was a good idea to explore the city and visit a handful of landmarks. I have to say that it was a bit difficult to get around the snowy city, but it was definitely worth it. I took hundreds of pictures, and my favorites are, as always, in my Flickr page.

But wait, there is more! After Oslo, my friends and me also went to the city of Tromsø and to a village on Lyngseidet, in the northernmost part of Norway. Most of the people that visit that region go there for one reason: the northern lights. We got to see it, and I even took some pretty cool pictures, but what really got to me was the awesome beauty of the Lyngenfjord (scene 6). Besides the natural wonders, I also was pleased to meet and chat with the hosts of the Magic Mountain Lodge (which I highly recommend) and a lovely couple from the UK (I recall having some problems to understand their accent though). Oh Lyngen, may I go there someday again.

The lens of my camera got covered in a thin layer of ice in Tromsø

Well, now what could possibly be more exciting than falling in love with the city you’re living, meeting one of your favorite artists in person, playing in snow and seeing northern lights? Doing astronomy in one of the best observation sites of the world, of course! Last April, we traveled to La Palma (scenes 7 and 8) and had a hands-on experience with a professional large telescope that conducts modern observations of the universe. A more complete account on that can be found on my project La Palma Observation Trip.

If you ever decide to spend a long time abroad, I highly recommend that you choose a place that you can identify yourself with and simply dive into this new world. Groningen is not a perfect city, nor is my hometown. Living in a far away and different country can be tough, but if you learn to appreciate the good aspects of the place and give yourself a chance to immerse, you will be stuck with the best of the experiences. But, without further ado, here is the video. Enjoy!

Highlights of the past year

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