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Studying and crazy canoeing

Written on: Friday August 17th, 2007

A journal entry from: Northern Europe

The summer school has been a bit busy so far.  We have lectures from 9am until about 3pm every day, and then work on our short research project.  The material has been quite diverse, from atmospheric chemistry to overview of the recent IPCC report.

 In the evenings, I am spending a lot of time with the other summer school participants.  There are students from all over the world, and many of them are quite outgoing.  So far, we have been having a lot of fun.  On Monday night, a group of us went on a night tour of the city center (Utrecht, that is).  It was nice to see the tower and canals at sunset, and then lit up after dark.

On Wednesday night, we went night canoeing in the canals in Utrecht.  The trip was organized by the internation student network at the University.  About 70 students from all of the summer schoools went.  At the beginning it was raining a lot, but my poncho kept my shirt pretty dry.  I was in a canoe with Denica (from Bulgaria), who is one of the most boisterous students in our summer school.  After a while, we were paddling well enough to make steady progress.  After 30 minutes or so, we stopped off to have a drink at a local pub.  By this time, having soaking wet pants was beginning to be quite uncomfortable.  To make matters worse, the rain started coming down hard and the wind was picking up.  Fortunately, there was some cover at the pub, so we were able to stay out of the rain.

After resting at the pub for about an hour, it was time to head back.  There were two routes, a long one and a short one.  Being wet, cold, and tired, Denica and I decided we shoule take the short route.  Well, somehow we got confused and ended up on the long path.   After a while, the canals got very narrow.  With so many canoes it was hard to keep straight and avoid collision.  So everyone was jammed up for a bit, and also running into the bushes.  But still, everyone was having a fun time, making jokes about how silly it all was.  Finally we reached the end of the narrow canal, took our canoes over a short division, and got back in at a nice wide canal.  We though we were home free, but the absurdity of the canoe trip had just begun!

While we were waiting for everyone to get their boats across, the trip organizers were talking amongst themselves about how they would have to take us "underneath all the bridges."  I didn't think this sounded like anything to worry about.  However, I shortly found out what they were talking about.  The water level in the canal was so high that we only had about two feet to get under the bridge.  We had to lay back and push with our hands on the underside of the bridge to get under.  The next bridge was about the same, then another.  Finally we reach a bridge with only about 16 inches between the water and the bridge.  Also, it was about 80 yards long.  We could barely see anything because it was night! So, that was an interesting experience to say the least!  Luckily,  when we got to the other side of the bridge, we were at the end of our trip and could get out of our canoe!

I think I will remember that canoe trip for the rest of my life!  Very absurd, but a lot of fun! 


From mom on Aug 18th, 2007

The canoe trip sounds like a lot of fun. The rain must remind you of Portland. Not much summer this year. Been mostly between 70 and 80. Expect some dizzle in the morning. Like being at the beach.Glad you are enjoying the sites and meeting new people. Hope you have a good day. Love, mom

From Susan on Aug 23rd, 2007

WOW! I wish I was there, yet I'm glad I wasn't..

From Sherie on Aug 24th, 2007

Hi Laura--Glad you're doing some fun stuff! Claire has started school and is playing the clarinet. Take care...we love you.