Tagarchief: bloomington

Arts and crafts


Blog written last Friday evening – I only put it up now because the pictures needed to be put in. 

Well, dear readers, are you getting bored with all of the excited happy writing yet? Well, I might have some good news for you. Today I had an introduction at the international office and somewhere in the information booklet they gave us is a paragraph about culture shock. It apparently comes in three stages:

1. The honeymoon stage – the newcomer is excited and fascinated by her new surroundings, enjoys the change and finds the difference with her own culture interesting.

2. Culture shock – the newcomer confronts more and more differences to her home environment and will have a culture shock. Characterized by stress, frustration, misunderstandings and negative feelings about the new cultural environment

3. Adjustment – The newcomer eventually understands how things work and how people interact. This enables her to better accept and appreciate the differences and function more effectively in the new environment.

So can you guess what stage I’m in? I wonder what the time-scales associated with these stages are. Most international visitors stay for a lot longer than seven weeks, and I guess that seven weeks is not enough to go through them. I feel more like a visitor than an actual resident, and of course still have my home in the Netherlands. But, who knows, my excitement might die down a bit. I’ll keep you updated on my mental state!

Now that we’ve had that, let me tell you something more about my honeymoon! Bloomington feels like a treasure chest of awesomeness. It feels like at any random moment I can suddenly find myself in an insanely cool situation. So what happened tonight? Two girls at my lab, including my roommate, work at the local clay studio. I was curious about it after seeing lots of pretty mugs, cups, bowls, etc. around the house. My roommate’s shift is friday night, so after dinner I headed out to the clay studio.

They even had an arcade pacman machine that says rainbow bakery!

The arcade gaming machine at rainbow bakery.

The clay studio itself turned out to be rather quiet, because there was a new bakery opening next door, and they were handing out samples. We decided to go check it out, but I had eaten right before going there and was just looking at the food without trying anything. Then halfway down the shop I spotted something savory and yummy-looking, but it said ‘blabla bacon blabla’, so I sighed ‘ohh, too bad, I don’t eat bacon’ and a girl that works there replies ‘It’s vegan. All of it is.’ Wow. A vegan bakery. Of course I went back to the front and got a plate and tried almost everything after hearing that. I’ve never been at a vegan bakery before! This one was so nice, it’s called rainbow bakery. But that’s not all.

Vegan mini-pastries

Vegan mini-pastries

On the other side of the clay studio there was also something going on, it turned out to be an art studio where artists can rent some space. It also has a big central part, and tonight they were having a gallery opening. There was live music (a double bas and a guitar with lovely vocals, the band is called Charlie Jesseph) and paintings (or actually: mixed media) by a local artist named Sara Pliske. I love the soft, sweet colours that she uses. The paintings had… texture. I think that might be what mixed media means. If I could afford these paintings I would put one up above my bed and feel like a princess every morning. Yep, a princess.

Painting by Sara Pliske

Painting by Sara Pliske

And that was only half of my evening. I also met a lovely young family who invited me over to come have dinner at their home while I’m here. They had such a nice, bubbly vibe, I really enjoyed talking to them and the friend they had with them. In the Netherlands I don’t have any friends that are marrying / having kids, but here I seem to be in an environment with lots of young families. That’s probably both because people have kids a bit younger here and because the people I hang around with are a bit older (ranges from 23 – 33). At the welcome Elise dinner last wednesday there were two postdocs that had brought their wife + kid along, and at the get together at our neighbours there was also a graduate student with his wife and their son. And of course, even though I myself will be testing adults at the Goldstone lab, I am at a cognitive development lab here, which basically means that we have kids coming in every day.

My awesome roommate Lisa claying with Victor

My awesome roommate Lisa claying with Victor

I have noticed this shift lately in how I feel towards children. When I was younger, I did not see myself having kids – ever. These last few years that has changed, and I am now quite sure that I do want to have children. I guess that happens growing up. So ever since (roughly) being 20 years old  I was at a point where, theoretically, I wanted to have a family ‘when I grow up’, but in practice I still did not feel comfortable around children. This last year has really changed that, and I am now at a point where I genuinely like kids and think they are cute. Tonight was another milestone, because I was actually around a kid (little Victor) and not uncomfortable at all! Haha, the crazy effects Bloomington have on me.

Picture of some of Kim's posters at the organic store

Picture of some of Kim’s posters at the organic store

Yet another part of my evening consisted of meeting the artist that did the posters I saw at Bloomingfoods the other day. She showed me her studio and how she makes the posters, and I will dedicate a  blogpost to that this weekend. Isn’t that a wonderful coincidence? Isn’t the whole evening amazing? I bike downtown to a clay studio, find a vegan bakery that has an opening party, run into the studio of a local artist whose art I was already curious about, make some new friends that invite me over for dinner and get to see a lovely art gallery by yet another local artist, while listening to live music by (you get it…). Also, I didn’t even clay yet, so I’ll go back to the studio sometime next week to try out claying (and get some yummy vegan baked goods next door!).

Charlie Jesseph at the farmer's market next morning (in a different line-up)

Charlie Jesseph at the farmer’s market next morning (in a different line-up)

Anyway, as is probably clear by now: I am definitely still in the honeymoon stage. I love it here. I catch myself thinking about when I could come back. I now no longer think that seven weeks is long enough to be here, I’m wishing it was longer. I have already been here for one week, out of seven… time flies! In the back of my head I do know that part of what I’m feeling is the new-ness of it all, and that I will probably come to miss more about home than just having my cats around. But for now, I’m in a happy bubble and enjoying the crap out of it!


Falling in love


So, something has been happening that I did not expect: I’m falling in love with Bloomington. As I wrote yesterday, I could actually see myself living here for a longer period of time. I don’t know if this feeling will last, we’ll see about that, but for the moment I’m happy and feel very lucky to have accidentally picked such a nice place for my stay abroad. Because no, it was not intentionally. People here ask me why I’m specifically here, in Bloomington, and the only answer I can give is that it just sort of fell into my lap (here’s that story).

hippie wall decoration along the bike lane

hippie wall decoration along the bike lane

Let me tell you a bit more about why I like it here so much. Yesterday after work I decided to check out the farmer’s market. I’d read about this concept on American blogs before and was curious. They have the market twice a week, a small one on tuesday and a big one on saturday. The market was really cute and small, and because I was there near closing time not very busy. I found some awesome locally grown tomatoes, I love their colourfulness. I’m really excited about visiting the (much bigger) saturday market, I’ll get up early for it even though it’s a saturday.

those colourful things at the front are tomatoes!

those colourful things at the front are tomatoes!

I don’t usually write shoplogs, but right now I want to show the nice things I got at the farmer’s market and Bloomfoods (the organic store I mentioned yesterday). A small flask of extra virgin olive oil, ideal for a short stay and the bottle is so cute! They have a wall at Bloomfoods with huge containers of nuts, grains, seeds, herbs, etc. I got some thyme and some oregano, and am trying to figure out if I can bring some catnip home as a souvenir for Sophia and Plato (I know that on the way in customs wouldn’t have allowed it, don’t know about Dutch customs rules). I also needed shampoo (had only brought a small travel flask that I could take into the plane) and found an awesome local brand that sells all kinds of soaps (my shampoo was made here in Bloomington!). Since Janneke started making her own soaps I rediscovered actual old-fashioned non-liquid soap, and I’m really curious how it feels to wash my hair with it.


Yesterday was a lovely summer evening and on my way home I was thinking how nice it would be to eat outside. Getting home I noticed that our neighbours had friends over and were sitting outside, it looked ‘gezellig’. Within 15 minutes, when I had just started cooking my food, one of them dropped by to invite me + my roommate (who wasn’t home yet) over. I gladly accepted their invitation and took my big bowl of salad over to their patio. More and more people arrived (including my roommate, who was happy to see that I had already joined in). Musical instruments and snacks were brought out, there was a fire and (jumbo sized!) marshmallows. I had a great evening and met lots of new people (some also happened to be in cogsci).

Marshmallows over the fire

Marshmallows over the fire

I just cannot get over how nice everyone I met so far has been. People here really are more open, helpful and friendly (to strangers) than I’m used to. One of our neighbours regularly visits College Mall, a big shopping center with some stores that I’m curious about, and he offered to give me a ride sometime since it’s not a good neighbourhood to go to by bike from where we live. The other one said I could just come and get basil from the plant he has standing outside. I’m also invited to the next get together, which is on tuesday again but this time at a pub downtown.

Another pretty painting on a building

Another pretty painting on a building, though it’s hard to tell from this picture

It’s now wednesday evening (I’ve been typing this blog throughout the day) and I just got home from the welcome Elise dinner at my supervisor’s place. It was nice, there were grad students and postdocs from both the Smith and the Goldstone labs, with their families. Imagine two toddlers and a whole bunch of cognitive developmentalists. My first question after meeting a German postdoc’s Chinese wife and their kid was `so you’re raising him German/Chinese bilingual?’, which I later realized is not the first thing most people would ask. I love being around cognitive scientists the whole day, it’s nice that everyone else is just as passionate about their work as I am.

Hi there beautiful!

Hi there beautiful!

Speaking about work, there’s not really much to share yet. I’m basically learning python at the moment, since that’s what we decided to program the experiment in. I like programming and I love learning new things, so I’m really having fun. I went from ‘Hello world’ to programs that can read a text file and print a list of the words in there and how often they occur. It’s funny, because last week I learned the same thing in R, where it was much easier (but you have less control/insight). I’m done with the introduction so tomorrow I’ll start working on specifically programming experiments in python.

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So anyway, I like it here. The thing I miss most about the Netherlands (whoever you are that’s reading this, don’t be offended now) is my cats. The funny thing is, I’ve been skyping and google-chatting and emailing with friends + family, and it feels like I’m talking to them more now that I am away. Here, throughout the day, there’s also a lot of people around me. But I haven’t seen a single cat yet (apart from some vague images of Plato and Sophia via skype), whereas at home I have cats around me 24/7. A girl at the lab volunteers at the animal shelter, which happens to be right around the corner from where I live, so I’ll come with her next week to pet the kitties there. Also, Tijl tells me that Plato and Sophia have been extremely cuddly towards him since I’ve been gone, so I guess in their own cat way they also noticed that there is one less person around at the moment.

My bag was taken before I had a chance to pack for my trip here

My bag was taken before I had a chance to pack for my trip here

BTW, here’s a contest to make this blog a bit interactive: who can guess how many pictures of my cats are on my computer? Tell me in the reactions and I’ll send whoever is closest a postcard from here! Contest open till september 23rd as I’ll be leaving the week after (feel free to email your guess / post it in the comments)!

First day(s) at work


Yesterday was my first day at the lab, and so far it’s been great. The people are all friendly and I have a nice desk tucked away in a corner somewhere. This is the first time that I actually have my own desk `at work’, and I love it! I can just… leave my stuff there when I go home at night. I had never realized how incredibly convenient that is. It still looks a bit boring at the moment, but I’m putting more things there and it’s starting to really feel like `my spot’. Also, the lab (the whole town, for that matter) is really safe, I can just leave my valuables on my desk and no one will look at them twice.


My desk. Notice the brain on the mug!

The lab has a nice mini-kitchen with a microwave, a fridge, a water boiler and a common tea stash. I guess labs all over the world are the same in that. By the way, in the USA a lab is what we in the Netherlands would probably call a research group. So I’m at the Smith lab, which in the Netherlands would probably have been called the Cognitive Development Group. My own research project is not actually with children, so I’ll be running my experiment at the Goldstone lab (one floor above us). I was a bit confused myself with the `lab’ thing because well…. there are no people walking around in white laboratory coats with fancy biochemical devices. This specific lab actually looks more like a playground, to make the kids feel really at home here (that helps with them behaving naturally). I’ll make some pictures and post them here at some point.

Anyway, yesterday I didn’t actually do much work for the research project yet. I spent part of the morning walking around campus to get checked in at the office of international services, get an IU ID card, email address, etc. Everything was arranged so fast and easy, it was amazing. Turns out was lucky: all of the students will arrive sometime in the following two weeks, so I was there just before the rush hour, which meant that they were fully prepared but not busy yet. I never had to wait anywhere, it was mainly walking around the (pretty) campus to fill out some forms at some places.

The bike (assembled this time) at the bike project

My bike (assembled this time) at the bike project

After work (feels weird calling it that… but that’s what it’s like) I went to the bike project once more, this time to get a basket and to fasten some of the screws that I hadn’t been able to fix properly with the outside-attached-to-wires equipment. Now I can properly do my groceries by bike, which everyone there thought was very Dutch of me. All the people there were very nice, I met (amongst others) a local who had served in Germany as a military who asked if I was German and an IU student with Polish roots who asked if I was Polish. Turns out you can actually study Polish at this university. I checked the university website out (I had honestly never done that before, I only ever visited the psychology page) and it turns out you can study Dutch here as well. Wow! I wonder how popular that is.

IMG_1056 IMG_1057

I also went to the local organic store (they call it a co-op), which is right around the corner of the bike project. I immediately felt at home there, all kinds of hippie foods and hippie customers. They also have a cafe on the inside, which is decorated with lovely posters. The food was a bit expensive though, so I didn’t get much. I did find weird blue/purple-ish corn-sesame chips that I just had to buy. Another thing I got was a foldable cotton bag to keep in my school bag for if I want to do groceries on my way home from work. It’s amazing how many plastic bags I accumulated at my first midnight-visit to the supermarket. They have people at the check out stations to pack your shoppings for you, and they double-bag everything.

I especially loved this one

I especially loved this poster

By the time I got home I was completely exhausted and overwhelmed. So many new faces, new impressions, new places. Today was better, probably because I had a good night’s rest and (slightly) less new impressions to process. Right now I need to go to sleep, but there’s so much more I want to tell! A farmer’s market, American food, our awesome neighbours and  the weird feeling that I could actually see myself happily living here.

first impressions


I survived my first day here! Well, actually, I did a lot more than just making it through the day. I got myself a bike, an american phone number and had a first look around Bloomington. Let’s get back to where I left off. It turned out that our plane needed maintenance, and they weren’t sure where the mechanic and the necessary parts were.  In the end they just fixed another plane for us, so by the time the mechanic got there we were happily boarding the other plane. This was a good thing, since else we probably would have arrived in Indianapolis after the last shuttle bus to Bloomington had already left.

Some of the other sherwood hills houses (mine looks exactly like it)

Some of the other sherwood hills houses (mine looks exactly like it)

Once I got to Bloomington (about 23.30 local time, so 5.30 Nijmegen time) my roommate picked me up. I had entered in some kind of `I can stay awake forever mode’ and since the grocery store was still open and my roommate would be away the next morning we decided to do some midnight grocery shopping. Actually, it turns out that our nearby supermarket is open 24/7, which is really convenient. Or maybe really inconvenient, since you can keep putting of going to the store forever.

The patio of our house (+ my bedroom window) as seen from the main street

The patio of our house (+ my bedroom window) as seen from the main street

After some midnight pasta I went to sleep and, to my surprise, woke up well-rested at 8.20 local time. So no jet-lag for me this way, I guess it’ll come after the flight home. I spent the morning unpacking and finding my way around the house (which, to be honest, mainly boiled down to getting my laptop on the wifi). In the afternoon I walked downtown. There happened to be a phone shop quite near my house so within 15 minutes after leaving the house I was all set with an american phone number in my regular phone, I was really happy that it was all so easy.


The first US flag that I encountered on my walk downtown…


… and the second. Both within 3 minutes from starting out.

It was nice to have a look around the town where I’ll be living these two months. The town looks really friendly and rather different from Dutch towns. Luckily, this is a really bike-friendly city. They made a special bike track that takes me from my home to the city centre and campus area, it’s where the old railroad used to be and it looks like a park. After a whole day of walking I was really happy to buy a bike at the end of the afternoon. I got it from craigslist, the american version of `marktplaats’, and it turned out to still be in the box. Which meant that it still needed to be assembled.

my bike

my bike at this point in the story

Across the street from where I bought the bike is the Bloomington Community Bike Project (I’ll explain some more about this later), they were closed but outside they also had some tools as a facility for bikers using the b-line (the special bike trail I mentioned). Unfortunately, halfway through assembling it I managed to slide the seat post (the cylinder that the seat rests on) into the frame, where it got stuck. At that point I thought I’d basically ruined my new bike so that it could never have a seat. I asked a passing cyclist for some help and he happened to have some tools in his backpack. People that ride a bike here usually have mountainbikes or racing bikes, so they often know something about bikes. This guy really knew what he was doing. He got the thing out within a minute and we finished setting up the bike together. Or, you know, he did while I watched. I really was grateful to be able to ride the bike home.

the bike trail (though it looks more like a park to me)

the bike trail (though it looks more like a park to me)

Another plan I have is to go to the Community Bike Project next weekend and volunteer. If you volunteer for 3 hours (during which you’ll learn a lot about bikes and how they work) you can then start assembling your own bike from scratch using used parts that they have available there. I’d love to learn more about bikes, and be able to put a mountain bike together and take care of it. The bike I have now is a cruiser with pedal-breaks and no gears, and this earn-your-bike programme seems like a nice way to get myself a bike for trips around the countryside while getting to know some people (and keeping me busy the first weekend).

sign says 2.40 83 degrees

sign says 83 degrees, fahrenheit is really funny if your not used to it yet

The weather has been great so far, it’s really hot and sunny, although the locals say that it’s a mild summer this year. I’ll probably get back more bronzed than I’ve ever been in October before, since September weather here is like non-cloudy August weather at home. Anyway, I’m all set up for my first day at university tomorrow. My bags are unpacked and I have a list with some stuff that I need to arrange for my stay here. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone from the lab and seeing the labs that I’ll be working at.  Next wednesday there will be a welcome Elise dinner at my supervisor’s place, so that’s really nice.

My room (one of the things I need to get is obviously a smaller towel)

My room (one of the things I need to get is obviously a smaller towel)



As promised, I’ll blog about my stay in the USA for these next couple of weeks. I’m not sure yet how often I’ll have time to do this, but we’ll just see along the way. Right now I’m at the airport in Minneapolis, my flight to Indiana got delayed so I have some time to kill. Yay for free airport wifi!

The water tastes weird, the money feels like fake monopoly money and people have a hard time understanding my oh-so-Dutch English accent. I like these little things, they make it very clear to me that I am traveling, maybe even more than the weird thing where my computer now says it’s 23.37 whereas it is obviously daytime here. Anyway, let’s get back a bit.

This morning I got up at 4.30 to get ready to go. After some initial morning-grogginess (doesn’t help that it’s so hard to eat when you’ve hardly slept) my parents picked me + Tijl up by car and drove me to Schiphol to see me off. We were there quite early so we had some time to drink a cup of tea. Seven weeks, although it’ll be the longest that I’ve ever been away from home, is not super-long, so I was quite OK saying goodbye. It was nice having my parents and Tijl there, made me feel loved. There was one moment after saying goodbye when I was standing next to a family that, one after the other, started crying. That did make me feel a bit emotional.

Comfy outfits for the win! I do look a bit like a (happy) zombie due to the early rising...

Comfy outfits for the win! I do look a bit like a (happy) zombie due to the early rising…

The person that booked the seat next to me apparently missed their flight, so I had a rather comfortable one with an extra cushion, lots of extra room and no awkward wriggling past your neighbour going to the toilet (which is nice, since I went like 6 times….). The movie-selection they offered was good, I watched Life of Pi and Brave, two movies that were on my watch list anyway. They also had TED-talks, so after dozing for a bit I woke up with some inspirational talks. The meals were nice as well, I hadn’t been able to find vegetarian with the dietary wishes while booking tickets so I just selected vegan (turns out vegetarian is so normal they don’t need to know in advance…). The special meals were always distributed first so I was done eating by the time the regular-food cart made it to my seat.

Upon arrival we had to stand in a long, long line to go through customs and immigrations. There was a lot of stress around me, most people had to transfer to other flights as well and didn’t have as much transferring time as I did. By the time I got through all of the security lines I was so tired that it made me feel stressed out, but some nice hot food and a coke did their magic and got me feeling happy again. So here I am now, and it looks like I’ll be traveling for 24 hours by the time I actually get to Bloomington.