Saturday, May 8, 2010

Planes, trains, automobiles...and lots of walking

The 2010 IRES team travelled from Tampa to Amsterdam via Newark. The trip was long and now seems like a blur (mostly due to jet lag and sleep deprevation). The excitement was evident. For a couple of the students this was their first time traveling internationally.

(IRES team waiting to board flight at Newark Airport for Amsterdam)

(IRES team at Amsterdam Schiphol airport)

We arrived at AMS Schiphol airport, retrieved our luggage, exchanged currency, bought train tickets, and started to make our way towards Delft. We took the stoptrein last year, which stopped at every stop between Schiphol and Delft and took a long time ... however, at least you only load and unload the luggage once. This year in the interest of "saving time," I decided to take the Sneltrain, which would gave been faster, with only one train change in Leiden. Well, we got on the train at Schiphol airport, got off at Leiden, waited for the train to Delft via Den Haag HS, boarded the train, only to realize that somehow we got on the train which explicitly excluded (niet) stopping at Delft. We had to get off at Den Haag HS, then finally boarded another train to Delft.

(IRES team waiting for train at Schiphol)

(Laurel, Ana and Audrey with luggage on the train)
(Transferring at Den Haag HS station)
We did not get lost, but ended up not saving much time and had to load/unload bags a few times. The handle broke off of one student's bag, which made transportation more challenging. (DHY note to self: next year just take the stoptrein, however slower, and enjoy views of the countryside). Delft station was under construction (They are moving the station underground and rows of buildings have been bulldozed to make room for the renovation). IHE is now in sight but we still needed to make the final half mile journel over stairs, brick sidewalks, construction debris, sand, etc. with our myriad bags (the path was definitely not ADA compliant).

We finally arrived at IHE and received a warm welcome with much needed coffee from IHE staff Titia van der Zee. We had to wait for our room keys for the student hostel Mina, and used this time to visit the local market to pick up supplies. When we finally received the keys, we decided to hire two cabs (there was no question about it) to take our stuff over to Mina, which was about a mile away away. By that time, we were all exhausted from the jet lag and travel ... and felt like zombies dragging around.

(students meeting with IHE staff Titia van der Zee)

The students took the inconvenience all in stride. They are very resilient and simply too excited to be in NL. The inter-modal transportation was something new for most of the students, many of whom had grown up in car-centric communities in the U.S., and accustomed to door-to-door auto transportation. Delft train station was about as inter-modal as it gets, we counted eight differential modes of transportation: train, light rail, bus, car, scooter, bicycle (lots and lots of bicycles), foot, canal boat. It was like a glimpse into a possible future for communities in the U.S.. Just a few months ago the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail was announced. This Fall, Tampa will put the one-cent sales tax increase up for vote, as a way to fund light rail construction in Tampa. I have no doubt that this group of students, after spending three months in Delft, willing to be strong advocates for mass transit options when they return to the U.S..


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