Six months ago, I packed up my life in Beijing and sent it in two directions. The majority of my stuff went back to the US together with a friend who was moving there. It’s now in storage, and I’ll deal with it next year. The remainder went to the Netherlands, checked on an Aeroflot flight via Moscow and onward to Amsterdam. The following day (after a night spent in the infamous Sheremetyevo gulag prison transit hotel due to a misconnect), I arrived in Rotterdam to start my new life as a full-time MBA student.

It has been a blur ever since. The Program, as it is called, has completely consumed my life. There is a typical 8 hour day of class, followed by at least as much homework, followed by whatever sleep I can manage, lather, rinse, repeat. Weekends are packed with extra reading, so I have occasionally been able to get 4 hours of free time on one day during the weekend. This is what happens when you take an “intensive, accelerated” program. 2 years of material is squeezed into only eleven months and when they say “intensive” they mean it!

I have had a little free time, so I’ve seen quite a bit of the Netherlands. Ah, the Netherlands, home to legalized marijuana, prostitution, it must be a party, right? Actually, it isn’t. Dutch people are happy to make vices legal if a good business can be made from them, but they’re conservative with a Calvinist bent. When you live here, Holland is all about bad weather and hard work. Put on a nice smile for the tourists and then–the moment they are gone–go back to scowling and eating your stamppot.

A friend who is coming for a visit asked me what to do in the Netherlands. Here’s what I wrote, which just about sums it up:

Things to do in the Netherlands? Plenty! Buy a Dagkaart and spend the entire day on the NS railway looking at cows, windmills, and more cows. Fancy a taste of Dutch industry? Why not a tour of the Van Der Lande Industries baggage belt factory? Or how about fantastic shopping? Try the CAWI factory store, where you can browse a wide assortment of swine management equipment and hog feeding systems. And there is always just standing outside for an hour, in which you can experience howling wind, snow, rain, hail, 35 degree sunshine and a lightning storm in July. There is no end of exciting things to do in this amazing country.

Next month, I’m going on an academic exchange to Costa Rica. The weather will be better, but the Netherlands has actually grown on me a little. I may come back here after I finish, depending on the job situation.