Bitter Sweet of Kanaalstraat

8:14 PM Andri Zainal Kari 0 Comments

Basically, this article is about how my first semester was in the chilled and not-so-crowded-city named Utrecht. I still remember how happy I was, although just a little bit worried and nervous, when my family and friends dropped me at the Airport. Happy because, you know, it's the thing that I had been fighting for with thousands of failures, worried and nervous because it's a 14 hour-long flight. No. I am joking. I have experienced that several times before. Of course it's due to the thing that I would face later in Europe. But apparently, the good friend of mine Khalista told me that, "one day, you will regret that you had been nervous about it.. because you will realize that there is nothing that you need to worry about". Hmm.. Leh uga.

There isn’t much that I remember about my 14-hour-flight but I thought about who I was going to meet later and what I was going to face. I tried to remember my 2011 trip to the Netherlands to give me some clue but I remained clueless. It was going to be a different moment than the last one. The last one was an amazing experience for sure, living with a kind and lovely Indonesian-Dutch family. While this one was gonna be me and everything that the Netherlands has to offer. I would have to make all the decisions, and also live with all of the consequences, as always. But remember, it was going to be a different community and a different environment.

I came two weeks earlier to the Netherlands before class started to get a better feel of the country. I explored the city little bit and wandered around just to get to know how the battlefield was gonna be. I also travelled to the Indonesian-Dutch families' house to say hello in Ridderkerk. Before the first of February, the day that I should move my 40kg luggage to my new room in Kanaalstraat, Lombok. Lombok? Sounds familiar to me.

Lombok during King's Day
The gateway of Lombok area from the city center of Utrecht is a big mosque with a fancy kebab store at the bottom called Kebab Factory. It could be a sign that, a large Turkish and Moroccan community dominated this area, even though the area itself has a familiar Indonesian flavor (not to mention the name of streets in this area that are mostly Indonesian such as Borneostraat, Padangstraat, Sumaterastraat, Javastraat, Balistraat, and many other straats). Indonesian community? I know there are just three or four families living in this area, plus me. This area is also full of local groceries, halal-meat butchers, halal-restaurants and even a cheap bike shop (I remember the second day in Kanaalstraat I bought a 15 Euro bike from or with - which is still debatable - Pedro, but now the bike has since been stolen).

I successfully brought all of my luggage to Kanaalstraat. I went to de Uithof (the science park where most of the university classes and student accommodation buildings are). I snapped a picture when I picked up the key; at this time I did not now anyone yet. Well, Reece and Martina that I met in a hostel.


After that, the housing company dropped the residents off at the house. Then when I arrived there I met many beautiful people from all around Europe, also a few from Asia, America and Australia. Let me try to remember. They was one Polish, two Singaporeans, two Czechs, a guy from Hong Kong, three Italians, a Brit, two Turks, three Spaniards, two Australians, a Greek, a Ukrainian, a Portuguese, an American, a Swiss, three Swedish, a Norwegian, a Finish. For sure, I know what their names are.

Why was it so multicultural? Apparently almost 100% of them are Erasmus or Exchange students coming to Utrecht just for a semester. Well, some of them had extended for another semester but still they were not originally Utrecht University students. It was so nice, wasn't it? Meeting a wide selection of students from all around Europe right in your own home, next to your room. Romano, Artur, Josephine and KK were next to my room. It was really; really nice to do so many cultural exchange things, we learned from each other and certainly had so many fun moments. All of them were so sweet to forget. Even sweeter than Baklava, Isabel's favorite.

Tahu and Tempeh among Portuguese and Swiss foods

The bitter part of course was about the studying. Doing a master after not going to university for almost two years and being back to having to deal with journals and scientific stuff definitely needed much more effort to deal with. Furthermore, the standard and quality of this highly ranked university as well as the colleges and partners I worked with, compared to the one in Ciputat must be different. It required so much effort to adapt and to deal with. More, I started in the middle of the year (February), which also made me not learn my program from the basic level, but the advance instead. I experienced so many setbacks during this time. Not to mention the broken sleeping pattern (my record was 28+ hours awake), losing an 8000 word assignment, leaving my assignments until I was on holiday, etc etc etc etc.

But when I could deal with all of these issues, I was satisfied for sure. Khalista was right. I began to enjoy the bitter stuff. I think everyone does enjoy it as well, even though sometimes it drove me crazy, even more so if it's too much and uncontrolled. The picture of the beautiful Sustainable Development (SD) students bellow explains how we enjoyed the bitter parts of being SD master students.

Saint Patrick 2016

Appeltaart and Chocomel. (Ayu interpretation is chocomel (me) in the middle of Appeltaarts. KZL)

When the bitter stuff that drives me crazy meets the sweet things, it makes me even more insane. Well, what? I don’t think that this article is going anywhere now and I need to end it soon. Yeps, really soon. At least you got a tiny bit about the bittersweet lifestyle of Kanaalstraat. I can tell more later. I have endless stories about Kanaalstraat. For sure. Period.

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