There to greet me at the station in Maastricht was my ‘travel buddy’ Elsbeth, who was to show me the ropes around the city, as well as get me to my residence hall. The first stop we made before heading out of the station was to get a little card that I would use as a bus pass to use the city’s buses, which I would need to rely upon to get around (when not on a bicycle). With card in hand and baggage in tow, we jumped onto the next bus bound for my hall, Avant Garde.
In my head, I believed the process to get my key to my room at Avant Garde would be fairly straight-forward: I walk in, got to the office to meet with the head of the building, sign some documents, get my key, then be on my way. But things were not meant to be. We arrived at Avant Garde, lugging my bags and things up to the door, only to discover it being locked. Thankfully at that moment, a fellow student was exiting the building, allowing us in. There just beyond the door was the office to where I would need to retrieve my key, but the room was dark, locked, and with no soul in sight. And there Elsbeth and I sat, wondering what the next move was we should make.
Nearly a dozen phone calls were made by my travel buddy, where she tried everything possible to figure out why my situation had turned out the way it had. Realizing that I was practically starving – my last meal being onboard my flight across the Atlantic – a walked out of the hall and to a convenience store next door, which was not unlike a standard gas station convenience store one would see everywhere in the United States. Grabbing a can of Pringles and a Coke, I made my way back into Avant Garde, where Elsbeth and I waited once more, trying to figure what we should do next.
Our answer came when we believed it would be best to travel to a location in the city called ‘Teiko,’ where I had hoped to possibly get a key. So we once more loaded up my baggage, boarded a bus, and proceeded towards the other side of town. The bus we rode did not take us directly to Teiko, but close enough for walking distance. As we began making our by foot, I realized that my purple suitcase was beginning to drag, making it difficult to continue. As I observed the underside of the bag, I discovered that one of the wheels had locked up and was melting away, given the extreme friction with the stone and brick roads of Maastricht. Without hesitation, I threw the case over my back and proceeded onward with Elsbeth.
We were nearing Teiko before I had to stop and drag the case again, with the weight becoming a bit much for me to handle at the moment. At the time we were in a nice, little neighborhood, with small yards and little driveways. I began dragging my case along, which made an enormously loud grinding sound with the sidewalk, which in turn drew the attention of an elderly couple who lived nearby. “Can I help you?” the man asked, with cigarette in hand and shirt nearly fully unbuttoned. He knew immediately that I was American, given the discussions I was having with Elsbeth over my dying suitcase. “We’re trying to make our way to Teiko,” was Elsbeth’s response, which the couple both pointed in the direction of the building. I ended up chatting with the couple long enough to get a reprieve and catch my breath; I felt disappointed to leave since they were incredibly nice and seemed genuinely interested in continuing to just talk. But I had to move along, tired fingers were taking hold and the thought of a shower was too pleasing.
Being at Teiko was no help for my cause at all. While everyone was extremely nice and helpful, I was still technically homeless, with nowhere to drop my cargo. Eventually, Elsbeth said the easiest conclusion for the night was to just stay at her place to sleep on her couch, which I was immediately grateful for. I threw my suitcase over my shoulder for one last time for the night and walked to her apartment.
We dropped my stuff off for the night at Elsbeth’s place, then headed back out again for a bite to eat at a nearby McDonald’s (they do have hamburgers in the Netherlands!). We sat down with our food and had a long discussion concerning our areas of study, as well as our views on social media and its role in society and advertising. It was a very long and fascinating discussion, but unfortunately I cannot remember much from that evening talk, granted I had been awake for nearly 36 hours by that point. We did finish up at the Mac Shack, headed over to a local pub, had a brew, talked about the fine arts and the influences it has had upon me, and then marched back to her apartment, where I crashed pretty quickly and slept the night away.
Despite the tumultuous journey I had to end up on a Dutch person’s couch on my first night in a foreign country, a bit of lyric from the song “Jet Airliner” by the Steve Miller Band popped into my head: “You have to go through hell before you get to heaven.”