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The Eagles in Concert

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I remember the moment I learned the Eagles would be touring in Europe again. I sat on a train to Steven for the weekend and I called him up, excitedly, asking if I could arrange ‘something’ for that particular weekend in May. Surprised and curious he had said: ‘of course’. This was the third time I had heard of a tour and this time I was going to be on time for tickets, so I ordered them right there and then (thank the Dutch Railway for Wi-Fi on their trains)! VIP tickets. This is one of the reasons you put money aside. You can’t die and never have seen the Eagles live!

They would play a couple of times in the Netherlands, but Antwerp in Belgium is closer to my home than Amsterdam. (I had also seen Queen with Paul Rodgers here twice, a couple of years ago). I had copied a few Eagles albums for in the car and I sang out loud until we were On The Border. There was a bit of a traffic jam and it was a hot day, but I really did get a Peaceful Easy Feeling. The bruise on my knee from last week had grown into a huge purple ball but I wore a little black dress anyway. We arrived early and collected our tickets and goodie bags.

The one proper restaurant near the Sportpaleis venue knew how to attract customers: they played one of the Eagles’ DVDs. We had seats to this concert, as there were no standing tickets. The upside of that is that you know where you’ll be and you don’t need to hurry. So before the show started, I bought a t-shirt I had set my eyes on for a while and then we walked in. I had seen the seating plan of course. But when the guy showing us our seats kept walking closer towards the stage, my ‘fan girl’ heart skipped a beat. WE WERE ALMOST FRONT ROW. LOOK HOW CLOSE WE ARE TO THE STAGE! I AM GOING TO SEE THE EAGLES FROM THIS CLOSE.

Of course it would still take a while before the show would actually start, but that’s just details. Meanwhile we looked around in awe of how big this venue is and how it was slowly filled up with a lot of people. (I will never get used to that). There was a dad sitting in front of us with his two children and I remember thinking what a good parent he must be. Of course all these people together make a lot of noise, but we had also bought these fancy earplugs, which allow you to enjoy the music without all that noise. They’re brilliant. Steven and I could still hear each other perfectly and afterwards we didn’t have that buzz in our ears.

The Eagles were phenomenal. This is how music is made! Don and Glenn started out small, like the Eagles did back then. They really did tell the story of their history. The others joined them soon. They played all their classics; ballads and the rock ones. Joe truly is as funny as I had expected (with his camera) and isn’t Timothy so lovely?! The only very small downside was that they didn’t play The Last Resort, but there are so many favourites, I understand the choices. Maybe a real downside was the lame audience (the boys had to ASK them to clap along – I mean, come on!) But at least they didn’t watch the show through their camera screens (we were very cleverly warned not to).

It didn’t really bother me though, nor the lady next to me. We both danced in our seats and thoroughly enjoyed the gig. After all these years. Growing up hearing the Eagles on a cassette in the family car. After all the evenings mum played the Hell Freezes Over DVD. And after all the times I learned to play their Tequila Sunrise in university. At the end of the show, Glenn asked for a pen. I had one, but it took me too long to act. I just stood there, smiling. Thank you for the music, Eagles! You rock!

It took a while to get out of the parking lot. We didn’t arrive home before 2 am. But it was worth this once in a lifetime experience. Alright. Nighty night.

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Het Limburgweekend

More pictures of this weekend can be seen on my Flickr page.

It’s probably not hard to guess the meaning of the title; it says ‘The Limburg Weekend’. A weekend in the province of Limburg. Now, I live there, so I spend a lot of weekends in Limburg (about 26 of them a year, since I met Steven who lives in Deventer). But this is what the amateur astronomers of the AstroForum call their annual event. They first came to visit the science centre Sterrenwacht Limburg last year, when I was invited as a speaker (and incidentally met the love of my life). Since it was a huge success back then, we had another gathering last month.

Remember I showed you how much fun The Achterhoek Weekend was? That’s what we do. Even I had to travel for it this time, as I had just spent a week camping up north. Steven had picked me up and we drove to my place to freshen up and repack my bags (hashtag ‘en door’). We came together in the evening and as soon as all the visitors were gone, we looked for a place to park our airbeds. We decided upon the lecture room! After the first night, it turned out Joep’s airbed was broken, but we found a sofa (!) in the outside dome/shed.

It had been a fairly good night. Of course I had been struggling to stay awake and eventually only managed to see meteors in my dreams, but I was mainly here for the fun anyway. And fun we had. We went for a walk in the forest (Roel went barefoot, of course) and we met a lovely dog named Stella, with whom we played near and in the water. Michael gave a demonstration on using different binoculars, but this was very difficult due to the biting midges which seemed to have followed me home. We found out they don’t like wind though and setting up the fans outside did keep them away!

The second night we had a few curious visitors and I saw Saturn through Roel’s telescope. It was a beautiful evening and this had been a lovely break. Since Steven and I met here last year, we’d soon have our first anniversary too. But we would go and see the Eagles in concert this Sunday first. Yes, all in one week! (This is actually living life to the fullest). The last morning it turned out Roel’s airbed was mostly deflated as well, but at least we cured him of his phobia of sleeping in a room with others.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. I’ve put a selection on my Flickr page. Thanks for taking them to Ruben, Steven and Casper! See you guys next year!

Freshwater Ecology 4/4

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More pictures of this day can be seen on my Flickr page.

Thursday: Wieden

Yesterday’s programme announcement was a success: we had another plan for today. It told us we were going to be in boats again most of the day, except this time we would have to punt! Some students sighed, but I had looked forward to this. Punting boats are even better than electric ones. While we were getting ready, I noticed someone had caught an exotic looking moth (last night?) and I took a picture of it. Then we were off to collect our rented boats, but not before we made a spontaneous stop (not on the programme) at the Spinnekopmolen. We were on our way to the Wieden, a different wetland area than the Weerribben, which we had visited previously. (Both are connected now in the National Park I mentioned earlier).

On the radio in the car, the DJ of Radio 2 asked to call in your favourite Eagles song, as they would soon do a few concerts in our country. Right before they played one of these songs, we had arrived. It didn’t matter much, as I’d be seeing them live soon, in Antwerp. Anyway, we were here on a mission. The other students were pleased I was so keen on punting and I did the whole outwards trip. When they saw how much fun it is, I let them take over on our way back. The tests that had to be done were pretty much the same as yesterday, except we didn’t have to do them in ten different locations. Our teachers had predicted this environment might be a bit more nutrient rich. Besides our tests, we would also still pay attention to the wildlife and we spotted a few nice creatures.

We saw a few aalscholvers flying over, there was a fuut sitting on a nest and we saw bitterzoet growing on the edge. It was all so beautiful and quiet and I felt a bit like an intruder. We had to head to one of the floating islands, as that was one of the two spots we had to look into. We also needed to make a few drawings. Punting to this island through the open water was not hard to do, except for the fact I had a broken stick. It was doable, but in certain areas it would get stuck in the muddy ground. One time I couldn’t get it out right away, so I hung on to it and fell in the boat. This resulted in a big purple bruise next to my big mosquito bite. I got the stick though. When later one of the others was punting and we couldn’t get away from the midges quick enough, I jumped in and pushed the boat away.

Getting back in was more tricky and I fell in again, on one of the sticks, which resulted in two big bruises on my bum. (There is only a picture of my knee on my Flickr page). I was wet and muddy and bruised, but I just thought this added to the fun. You know, like we were on a survival camp. Except here the hardest obstacles were the bridges, I suppose. It was very exhausting though, this whole week. But like last time, I just felt how good spending a week in nature really is for you. And on our way back in the van, we weren’t too tired to sing along to Brown Eyed Girl. I said it before, but in case you missed it and you’re still wondering about the meaning of life… this is it: to enjoy it!

During the presentations of our results, we concluded that the water we took samples of, didn’t differ much from our results yesterday. There was one spot which appeared to have an unexplainable spike in nutrients, until we remembered we actually took that one near a little farm. After a beautiful sunset (and a nice meal of leftovers) there was some more last-minute studying and we eventually ended up in the garden late at night again. Our small group and our two teachers. I had a good conversation with Huub. I can’t remember the context, but at one point he said he likes it when things become clear (!) I told him honestly that the lack of structure at our university (Windesheim) is the main reason for me to switch. To my surprise, he said he understood.

We missed Ed as well. Especially when sharing memories of the Salty Waters trip. Huub remembered one of the students had been so drunk, they had moved a mattress. I told Huub that that was us and we hadn’t been drunk. This week we did have a nice group too. Especially with the young ones there. When we went to bed, there was the sound of rain on our window and I felt very happy. The next morning we packed, cleaned up, took that towel off the door handle (which prevented it from making a lot of noise), had breakfast for the last time at our picnic tables and there was one last test to make.

We drove back again with Wichard and Huub and we had to leave quickly as there was another midges invasion coming up due to the grass being mowed. The teachers wished me the best for my English course as we said goodbye. I will miss biology so very much and I wouldn’t be surprised if I pick it up again at a later stage. This just seems like the best career move for me now. Back at the university, Steven picked me up and we would soon be on our way to the next camping expedition (sleeping at the science centre, but more on that later). When I arrived home to repack, I noticed Sharinda had put a message on Facebook saying she still feels like she’s in a boat. Trauma or homesick (a.k.a. ‘Wiedenwee’)? I think the latter.

Freshwater Ecology 3/4

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More pictures of this day can be seen on my Flickr page.

Wednesday: Weerribben

Today we started off with a programme! Our teachers had written it on a white board after breakfast. It announced the boat trip and the assignments we were going to do. Yay, boats! The programme also advised not to get lost. Okay. (We did get maps and later it turned out we all stayed together as well). Meanwhile, Wichard had put all the stuff we needed on the tables inside (the weather was still so nice we had every meal outside). It was a lot of stuff. We needed to do 10 experiments at all of the 10 stops along the way, but eventually we turned it into a sort of efficient routine, while we also still switched so we all got to do every experiment. Huub went with us, in our boat. That didn’t help much, but we had fun and later he did explain a few things to us.

The ten experiments included: taking a water sample (to check the oxygen in it later), taking samples home of phytoplankton and zooplankton and check the water temperature, pH and transparency. We also needed to record cardinal direction, the local plant life and macro fauna (creatures in the water as well as insects near it). The boats turned out to be electric ones. Sjors mainly steered ours. Some stops were easier than others. Mainly because at some places there were more mosquitos and we quickly learned that being on the move gives them less of a chance. They still won. At the end of the day, the amount and size of the bites on our arms and legs suggested we were in the jungle somewhere. It was like having a dozen extra boobs in weird places.

Huub concluded I was tasty and I should rub myself with gagel to make that less so. He made it sound like he was some sort of witch doctor (although he clearly stated he had been a cowboy in a previous life), but if I had had the chance to reach that plant, I probably would’ve tried. There were many nice creatures too though! Not in the least the lovely German Shepherd we saw on another passing boat. We also spotted a water spider and another frog. In one of our samples I also saw a cute little fish. On the shores we found a couple of nice bugs and even – which our teachers had hoped for – a tick. They figured many people don’t really know what they look like, but since I have pets, I’m afraid I am well aware.

There was also a stop near a café for lunch, where I sat down near the shore with Sharinda and we ended up philosophising. We were also joined by one of the girls who turned out to be very religious and we landed on that subject. With all due respect, I find it very hard to understand why people can’t see already that religion should stay out of biology classes. It’s a serious point, but we were also still enjoying the sunshine and I was very pleased with my water shoes. When we got home after returning the boats, I had jumped in the water again with these shoes and I was thankful for this alternative to the way-too-hot showers. There wasn’t much time for a break though, but nobody seemed to mind.

Microscopes and laptops were placed in between all the water samples and the plants we had collected earlier. Sjors and I had taken the lead for our group’s presentation yesterday. Today that was up to Ciska and Marjolein as Sjors and I were responsible for dinner, together with Karen and Sharinda. The girls were still busy with their group, so Sjors and I went to the supermarket with Wichard and we had decided upon renting a barbecue. This had been a nice interruption, but after dinner we went straight back to work again. After most of the results had been processed, Sjors and I helped to formulate a conclusion. The amount of plankton tells you something about the quality of the water and we also tested for minerals to see if it was nutrient rich or not.

Huub had thought we would find different outcomes for the different locations, but personally I wasn’t surprised we didn’t, as the water is all connected. You would expect this water to be nutrient poor and to have a low pH because it relies on water from rain. We also saw veenmos, which usually doesn’t grow in nutrient rich areas (said Wichard). Plants overall usually grow best near water that’s something in between nutrient poor and rich. You usually find more fauna in nutrient poor waters (except for those few who prefer rich waters). We found macro fauna (mosquito larvae) that will live in both kinds of water, but also libellen, that prefer the poorer waters. In conclusion, our water was something in between. People pump extra water in to make sure a decrease won’t lower the land. This water (which comes from cities) makes it more nutrient rich.

The presentations weren’t over before 11 that evening, but at least they didn’t last until 10am, like the syllabus had said(!) I left my copy of it out of my bag, to dry off. It needed to last one more day. Bedtime gradually changed from ‘reasonably on time’ to ‘not before 1am’, which was good as we ended up having the best conversations at these moments. Before I went to sleep, I quickly tweeted a sign of life and summarised this day as: 1) Long boat trip. 2) Doing all kinds of tests. 3) Cooked for twenty. 4) Prepping our talk. 5) Still feel like floating…

Freshwater Ecology 2/4

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More pictures of this day can be seen on my Flickr page.

Tuesday: Vegetation

It was the Sun, through our big window, that woke me up quite a bit earlier than planned. With the rooms being smaller than last time we took a trip like this, we didn’t sleep in the same one as our teachers. So at least it wasn’t Huub’s Adele alarm that did the trick. During breakfast, Huub tried to explain something about our first assignments: 5, 6, 7 and 4, but eventually concluded it was best if we’d just stick to our syllabus. We did know we’d visit the visitor centre and we’d have a closer look at the plant life in this area, especially ‘krabbenscheer’. Also on the agenda was to investigate how wetlands slowly turn into land (‘verlanding’) and we’d look into the quality of (probably) nutrient rich water. Meanwhile, subgroups had been formed. We all did the same experiments and we would present them to each other and compare in the evening.

The visitor centre sold a lot of nice things, but I managed to not make my bag heavier. Point for improvement (we were asked) was to make it less of a shop and more of an appealing information centre about the area. They did also have a nice garden, with plants that represent the vegetation in the rest of this nature preserve. We learned that the ‘water soldier’ in the pond grows wider at the edges as there’s not enough space to do this in the centre, where they grow more upwards. They have a defence system: sharp edges on their leaves, but a little leaf miner (bladmineerder) eats its way through the plant’s leaf tissue. They can be found in many types of water, but they prefer a ‘clean’ pond. They take up excess nutrients, which is why they used to be used as a fertiliser.

While we had a short break we saw a few swallows probably busy making a nest out of mud and saliva. We also saw mater mint (which smells more like anise), gele plomp, waterviolier, zonnedauw, traces of a gall wasp and we heard a tureluur. To name a few of the species we had to memorise as characteristic for this region. During our walk, we stopped at four places to investigate the change of the land; how it gradually becomes less wet and how this leads to a change of vegetation. We stopped at a ‘petgat’, near ‘trilveen’ (where we saw the fallen mill), at a ‘legakker’ (next to a little bridge) and at the edge of a ‘moerasbos’. We described the local plant life and tested the water’s temperature, its pH, depth and transparency (with a Secchi disk).

As expected, windward and leeward direction has an effect on the vegetation. We also learned that the gradual changing of land is mostly due to reed, which grows from the sides of the water and often forms little (floating) islands called ‘kraggen’. Of course, the influence of humans also plays a role, as they made dams of these islands. Nowadays we try to keep the wetlands though, because of their importance for the biodiversity. When looking at the plant life in these different stages of land, you often see different plants as well as ones that seem to grow everywhere. As expected, you can see the change in vegetation gradually too. (This was the conclusion of our presentation that evening).

Besides what had to be seen according to our plan, we also had a few nice surprises. Near the legakker, we clearly saw a big root of the ‘lisdodde’ on the water. And we saw a ‘ringslang’ lying on a leaf in the water! An unpleasant surprise where the biting midges (‘knutjes’). They suddenly fly around you in groups, which is very annoying as it is, but even though their size makes them seem harmless, they are not! Even when you’re wearing a hoodie, they will find spots of skin, in your face, to bite in and leave an itching mark (I found them worse than ‘normal’ mosquito bites). And on top of this, they don’t seem to be bothered by the otherwise good working mosquito repellents. The only option seemed smoking (or in my case: standing next to someone who smokes) or hiding from them.

But it didn’t spoil our fun. All that water today had been very inviting. When we were back home I couldn’t be stopped anymore and found a place in the lake to jump in. On twitter I summed up my day in 140 characters as: 1. Worked hard in the Sunshine 2. Took a dive in the lake 3. First round of presentations went well. 4. … The dot-dot-dot stood for listening to the Beatles (Here Comes The Sun) together, drinking whisky (note I still have never been drunk in my life) and I ended up explaining why I know so much about stars and planets and certain Voorwerps in the sky. Meanwhile, Wichard had left notes on the wall with compliments for every subgroup. We liked this. It was a good day. And tomorrow would involve boats, which always makes everything even better.