So I’m sitting in my room at the NH Centre Utrecht hotel writing this post. It’s a little after midnight, local time, which I guess means it’s like 4pm Pacific and still Monday…
I’m here for a conference called ICLS 2008, the International Conference for the Learning Sciences, run by ISLS (replace “Conference” with “Society”). It’s held every two years, and this year it’s at the Utrecht University in The Netherlands. My first time in Europe! Wow!
It happened that my neighbor Beth (who is also on my committee, btw) coincidentally booked the same flight as me. She was on her way to Budapest with Amsterdam (Schipol) as a layover. So, I was able to ride with her to the airport in Seattle. 🙂
I was also able to bypass the long-ass check-in line for plebs and tag along with her in the elite first-class travelers line. That was cool, but as soon as I got up to the front and scanned my passport into the auto-kiosk thingie, it became clear that I should’ve changed my legal name or added it to my profile at the various travel websites I use a long time ago. Having the name on my ticket and my passport was a problem, and the person who tried to help me kept saying, “This will delay you. This will delay you.” like some sort of mantra instead of telling me something useful like how I could fix it. But then she whisked away my ticket and passport to an open podium and changed the name on my ticket in a lickety-split. Not much of a delay, I’d say…
Once I got to the gate (and saw Vero, Tiffany, and Leah real quick-like) I had to wait to try to get a seat number. Apparently, they overbooked the flight. Then it turned out that they were offering a $750 voucher for anyone willing to take the next flight. I volunteered since there was nothing pressing here that I needed to attend. (In fact, I have all day tomorrow to hang around and walk about, even.) The next flight left 2 hours later and stopped at Minneapolis first. It wasn’t so bad, and I got bumped to first-class for the Seattle to Minneapolis flight. (Got served dinner in actual ceramic bowls and silverware… Shouldn’t have eaten a Whopper right before getting on…) (photos taken with a cell-phone, btw, so they might suck)
The long part of the flight was alright, too (Solaris, Horton Hears a Who, The Devil Wears Prada, another dinner and a breakfast). The guy next to me on the international flight was in heated discussions with his son over his alcohol abuse right before we took off and then ended up drinking a bit of wine himself. Hmmm… He has the bladder of a wilderbeast or something, as he didn’t get up once during the whole 8 hour flight. Amazingly, I didn’t need to get up either, so it was alright (I was window, he was aisle).
I started to worry a little bit as I got off the plane in Amsterdam finally. Different official-type people told me different ways to get a ticket for the train to Utrecht. The Info attendant told me to get Euro coins from the bank (since she thought coins were cheaper than using a card). The banker told me to buy with credit card from the train ticket kiosk (since he charges a commission for money changes). The kiosk told me my card was not usable (both a VISA card and a debit card). The train Info woman (friendly-looking, but amazingly lazy or laid-back–not sure which) told me to go to a train ticket booth instead of a self-serve kiosk. The ticket booth people (two of them sitting next to each other) told me that sometimes the kiosks don’t work with some cards, but that my VISA card was fine (thank god). Then they each initially told me different platforms to wait on, finally agreeing on one. Thanks. (The train info posters they have posted around really ought to be color-coded, btw.) Finally, the train itself was unmarked. I basically looked at my phone for the time and trusted that the train I got on was the right one according to the time.
Got to Utrecht Centraal. Looked amazingly at the lack of useful signage. Asked a Info dude (again, friendly-looking, yet lazy or laid-back) told me that NH Centre hotel was just down the stairs, out the door, and down the street. The hotel lobby looked really nice. Unfortunately, there’s two NH hotels in Utrecht. So, a little trek through the city (man, there are bicyclists everywhere!) and I finally check in. Smoking room. I thought I requested a non-smoking. I’ll have to change it tomorrow if I can.
A little nap, and then dinner with Ben Devane (who’s getting married in two weeks–grats!) at a dingy falafel place nearby. He’s a guildie, so we wanted to meet up and talk DPS shit. Well, we actually ended up talking really briefly about our dissertation topics, about GLS (the Games Learning Society group at UWisc-Madison) and LIFE. I met him last year at the GLS conference (which he won’t be attending this year due to getting married at the same time 🙁 ). We might be hanging out tomorrow a bit. I should probably call some UW CoE people who are here already, too, to see what they’re up to tomorrow.
- We had the longest taxiing to the terminal after landing ever on record, I swear. Also, the highways here go *under* the airport runway! That doesn’t exist in the U.S.
- The emergency exit signs in the airport are hilarious. I’ll try to remember to snap a shot when I leave.
- There’s a surprising lack of billboards here. Nice!
- Lots of iPods on the train.
- Amsterdam is modern and ancient, slick and grimy. Heh.
- Not many pedestrians, mostly bicyclists.
- Everyone here looks attractive. Healthy, not overweight, delicate features…