Carol Bontekoe

This blog has been keeping track of my adventures since 2004. The stories and the adventures have come from my college dorm room to Uganda, Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, learning Dutch in the Netherlands to living in the wilds of Homer, Alaska. I went back to school in Amsterdam to study Theaterwetenschap (Theatre Science) at University of Amsterdam. And now my adventures as a Fruit Fly, a Sexy Unicorn, and creating a movement with Team Sparkle in Chicago.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's in the title

So, the title for this blog is How did I get here? So, I figured I would compile a slide show of different pics from all my travels. I never know how I ended up somewhere..... things just seem to randomly happen to me. So, I hope you enjoy the randomness.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I might have laughed too hard at this....

for the first time....

I feel like I'm seeing the netherlands for the first time. I have to say it is a really beautiful country. It isn't the majestic beauty of Canada or the American west. It isn't a classic and perfected beauty of Paris or Northern Italy. It especially isn't a wild beauty like Scotland or Kyrgyzstan. No, I'm finding here to have what I would say is a quiet beauty. Almost....hmmmm.... if landscape can have this.... let's say an inner beauty. I have been living here for over 8 months and though I have kind of noticed it in the past I never truely was in awe of the beauty here. That is the problem with inner beauty... It doesn't hit you in the face right away.
When I first got here I was kind of in a daze from the summer I had just ended. I worked at...hmmm.... for lack of a better word... uniquely insane camp.
Actually it could have been a good summer if I didn't have the boss I had. He would tell me to do something, I would do it, and then he would get mad or sarcastic at me for doing it. And unlike after Peace Corps I didn't get to have a week or two to recoup before joing the real world. Nope. I moved to The Netherlands the day after camp ended. For the first month or so here I was still in post camp shock.
Then as that wore off I began to realize... I'M IN THE NETHERLANDS!!! WHAT?! How did I get here? It has been difficult to develop a social life here. The Fries aren't the most welcoming people to outsiders.

However, in the past two months I have started to develop a social life. I'm on three different sports teams and I go out once or twice a week. The weather was crap for months.
It wasn't even snowing, it just was kinda cold, windy, and there was no sun. Now all of a sudden the sun has come out and with it there is a whole new light being shined on the netherlands. Now as I look out on the green pastors filled with sheep and cattle; the canals that seem to stretch on forever; the sea filled with sail boats; the flowers next to the roads; I suddenly get it. I get that The Netherlands is a truely beautiful place.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Yesterday I went to the Keukenhof in Lisse. It boasts of being the biggest spring time garden in the world. I don't know if that is true or not, but it is really big. I showed up early in the morning which was cool because there weren't many people there. I planned on staying there all day but after the busses started coming in there were just too many people and I had to get out of there. But it is really lovely.
I'm putting up some photos. I don't know if these are even the best photos I took but I felt I needed to put some up. The Keukenhof also claims to be one of the most photographed places in the world. So, if that is true I'm just keeping with tradition and adding my little lot to the bunch.

Friday, April 18, 2008

making clean water available to all

This is doc from National Geographic about how PLay Pumps are bringing fresh water to people in s.s. Africa. Worth taking a look at:

Clean Water

I Know H20 Do you?

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's all in what ya drink....

I am not a great student of languages. There are some people who get languages. I’m not saying that they don’t study, I‘m just saying they know how to make their studies very efficient. A friend of mine seems to think people either get languages or they don‘t. I don’t exactly believe that, I think some people are naturally better than others and the rest of us have to work really hard just to learn the basics.

In high school I took a year and a half of Spanish. I recently went to Spain with my sister and what was made painfully clear is that I can’t speak any Spanish. If I hadn’t had Diane with me I would have been totally screwed.

However, in the past two years I have been able to learn two very different languages. Last year I lived in Kyrgyzstan and was an English teacher with Peace Corps. I had to learn Russian in order to live and work there. It was tough. It is a difficult language to learn and in all honesty it was the first language I was ever really learning. I then went back to America for a few months. Fortunately while I was in America for a majority of the time I was working at a camp with a lot of Russian Jews so I got to still practice my Russian. Since coming to the Netherlands my brain has pushed out a big chunk of Russian in order to fill that space with Dutch. Russian, -a language spoken by almost 200 million people -came in second place to Dutch -a language spoken by almost 30 million people. I have never been known for prioritizing.

I’m still not confident with foreign languages. I hate that I don’t know slang. I have a very thick American accent. I can only really understand if people are speaking clearly and not too fast. I hate all of it. The thing I hate the most is when you can’t find the words to express myself.

I have found something that helps my language abilities more than studying ever has. Alcohol. Not just any alcohol. The drink must be very specific to the language.

Vodka for Russian and beer for Dutch.

When I would first show up at a party in Kyrgyzstan I would sit quietly. I might be able to carry on a little bit of a one-on-one conversation but nothing more. As the toasts went on through the night my Russian became better and better. When I started to slur, I some how became more understandable. One party in particular by the time it was my turn to give a toast I went on so long they had to sit me down because everyone wanted to drink and I had been talking to long. I have only had vodka a few times since leaving Kyrgyzstan, but every time I have had it since I suddenly feel I am a great master of the Russian language.

Vodka doesn’t work with Dutch. If I have a couple shots I resort back to Russian. No, it takes beer for me to speak descent Dutch. I especially need to have a couple beers to keep up with the conversation if I’m at a party with a bunch of Dutch people. If I’m not drinking beer I can keep track of the conversation but I can’t think in Dutch quickly enough to add anything to the conversation. I don’t get messy when I drink beer. I become very focused which is what I need to speak Dutch. Vodka makes me very sloppy which brings what I’m missing to the Russian language.

The past two weeks I have been too sick to drink beer so I have been stuck just sitting and listening to Dutch people at the parties I went to. My Dutch feels as if it has dramatically decreased. I need to get healthy again so I can get drinking again and starting speaking Dutch again.

Whenever I drink wine I think I can speak French. When I have sangria I think I think that year and a half of Spanish actually did some good. Whiskey has made me believe I can understand what Scottish people are saying to me. Tequila makes me pass out.

The more I learn about different alcohols the more I learn about different cultures. So, Bottoms up!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dutch Music vs. Russian Music

When I first arrived in Kyrgyzstan a Peace Corps volunteer from the group before me told me it would be just a matter of time and I would learn to like Russian Pop Music. I laughed in his face cuz I felt I had a good taste in Music and Russian Pop was not good music. Eventually over time I learned to love Димa Билан (Dima Bilan) I thought his music videos were ridiculous but I loved singing along with the music. I even bought one of his CDs before I went home. Ever since then it has been one of my favorite CDs that I own.
So, when I moved to The Netherlands I was at first skeptical that I could find anything that I liked. Now with my Dutch considerably better than my Russian I have found lots of Dutch Music I enjoy. My favorite Dutch band in Blof. There should be like a line through the "o" but I don't know how to do that. Also, I saw a band called Nick and Simon in concert. While, my friend Lauren hated them, I actually really enjoyed their music. They sing the theme song from the movie De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe. I don't know if you noticed but my last name is totally rockin' the title of that movie.
So, I decided to let you hear and judge for yourself which is better. I know odds are if your my friend or relative and you are reading this you know neither Dutch or Russian(Carly your the exception with your Russian) Still check out these music videos they are all kinda funny in their own right.
The first one is Dima Bilan with: Impossible Possible
The second is Blof with: All is Love (theme song from the Dutch version of Love Actually)
The third is Nick and Simon with the theme from De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe: Take my hand
I gave the English names just cuz the Dutchand Russian names would me nothing to you. Blof is my favorite Dutch band and this is my favorite song of theirs and Dima Bilan is my favorite Russian singer and this is my favorite song of his. Nick and Simon were just included cuz I saw them in concert and I love typing my own last name

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dwarf Soccer in Brazil

I love when this is on CNN

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spanish Football

Me cheering on Barcelona

Diane and I at Real Madrid.

I never did get the chance to talk about going to some Spanish Football games with Diane. We first went to a Real Madrid-Getafe game in Madrid that ended with Getafe winning 1-0. Very dissappointing. Then I got her to also go to a Barcelona-Valencia CF game. That ended with a 1-1 tie. It was amazing though. Valencia's goalie Timo Hildebrand was so A-Mazing. Barcelona had shot after shot and he was stopping everything. Valencia had two shots at the goal and made one. Barca's goalie only had a 50% for the night. Diane felt the need to point out the math on that. Barcelona only scored in the very last seconds of the extended play of the game where they threw everything they had at good ole Timo. Diane and I sat near the Valencia crowd, which was so loud and chaotic. After the game Diane and I waited for the fans to clear out so we wouldn't have to fight our way out. What we didn't know we'd get to see by waiting was actual fights. The police trapped in the Valencia fans and wouldn't let them leave till all of Barca's fans were gone. The continued to sing and cheer for the time they were trapped in the stadium. However when they did let a few go there were still a few Barca fans in there and that's when the fights started. Was pretty cool for D.D. and I since we were just sitting there waiting for everyone to leave.
Those fights didn't seem too common of the atmosphere of Spanish Football. I couldn't believe how supportive the fans were at both Barcelona and Madrid. Diane said people had potty mouths(she speaks Spanish, where as I was delightfully ignorant) But seriously they would cheer just for trying to make a goal. They weren' angry at the team for their mistakes but encouraging them to do better. I loved the enviroment that I was engolfed in at the games.
One strange thing from the Madrid game that didn't happen at the Barcelona game was that at half time everyone in unison pulled out a sandwich wrapped in tin foil and sat there eating their sandwiches and talking about the first half of the game. The women's bathroom at Real Madrid was empty in the mostly Male crowd. Diane and I looked around and we were the only women that were there without a man. Barcelona was completely different with a strong female presence. The one who sat behind us had a particularly filthy mouth.
So, if you are ever in Spain it is worth checking out the football Matches. Even if you know nothing about the sport. Diane can back me up here... Spanish Football is alot of fun.

This made me laugh

taking my blog to a multimedia level! Watch out for more ways to waste your time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

how old am i?

I know in the grand scheme of things 24 isn't very old. If I were to keel over tomorrow everyone would just keep sobbing, she was so young, she was so young. The problem with 24 is when you haven't played basketball since you were 18 and some how you talked your way on to one of the best basketball teams in the netherlands.... Suddenly 18 seems like an eternity ago and 24 belongs in a nursing home.
Yep, I'm training with the women's basketball team in Urk.The practices aren't even that hard, I'm just that out of shape. I hadn't done a sprint in two years.
Now into my third week of practice I'm doing alright. But that first week.... oh, that first week I could hardly move. I hadn't been so sore since freshman year of college during the first week of track practice. That week Erica and I debated over whether it would be less painful to throw ourselves down the stairs than it was to walk down them.
I do alirhgt for about the first hour of practices then the last half hour I'm just throwing up shots hoping something goes in. When need be I still resort bck to the infamous walk-jog. It something Erica and I perfected in college. It is where you are actually walking but you throw your hips in such a way as to appear to be running incrediably slow.
I'm going to keep going to the basketball practices, but all I can say this thank god I'm leaving before I'm 25.