Yesterday I went on one final excursion with CIEE. This time I actually managed to wake up on my own and made it easily to the bus by 8:15am, so that puts my success rate at waking up for excursions at 1/3. I guess that ratio could possibly give you some idea of my schedule here. Basically, yesterday was the earliest I've been awake (besides catching flights) all semester. Only two days a week do I have to wake up for an early class, and so on most other days I tend to sleep until about 11am, sometimes later on weekends, it's very enjoyable, and I'm not looking forward to next semester when I will definitely need to be a lot more productive than I am required to be here. Anyway, back to the excursion though.
In Dutch class a few days ago, Bonny (my professor) was telling us about a survey that asked Dutch people what they are most proud of regarding their Dutch identity and the society they come from. The thing that came up as what the most Dutch people are proud of (about 70% of the population) was the so called "battle against the water." As I'm sure many of you are somewhat aware, the Netherlands is full of dykes and dams that work to keep the North Sea from flooding the country. Without these dykes and dams, about half of the country would be under water, including Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam, three of the most important cities in the country. The country has been protected by dykes since the middle ages and maybe even before (I don't know the exact history) but in 1953 there was a major storm that broke past many of the dykes and flooded the coastal area. About 1,800 people were killed during the storm and flood that resulted, the sea level during that disaster was higher than it has ever been recorded in the country prior to or since 1953. After that disaster it became clear that something more was needed to keep the water out, and that is what the Delta Project was.
Shortly after the storm dams began to be constructed throughout teh Zeeland (the area where the damage of 1953 had been the harshest and also the area most vulnerable to the North Sea. The most intense dam that was constructed, and also the one that we visited yesterday, was the Eastern Scheldt dam, which was completed in 1986 and cost about 2.5 billion euros. The entire project, which included 13 different dams cost a total of 6.5 billion euros. I won't try to explain the science behind the dams or how they were able to construct such massive gateways to the North Sea, because although we watched a movie about it and had it explained to us by a guide, I really just dont understand it. Nonetheless, I was extremely impressed by the scientific genius that obviously went into the design and construction of the dams.
We got to walk out onto the main dam and look over at the rushing water, and it was quite a sight. The water was moving so incredibly fast, but we were told that it was a very calm day really. Seeing the strength of the water on a calm day, I can barely imagine what it must be like during a massive storm. The one thing I do know about how the dam works is that the gates are left open until the water level gets to 3m above sea level. At this point a series of 62 huge gates are shut so that no more water can get into the country (that seems like a weird way to put it, but that's essentially what happens). Our guide told us that in the 21 years the dam has been in operation, the gates have only been closed 9 times, and one of those times was just a few weeks ago on November 9th, 2007!
Unfortunately, my camera was out of batteries, so I can't put up a picture of the dam right now. But as soon as I get my hands on someone elses pictures from the day, I'll make sure to post one on here.
On a completely separate note, Shari visited this weekend and we had a splendid time! Also, last night I went to see Taryn's photo exhibition, which was part of her final project for SIT, and it was really great. She's an extremely talented photographer, I expect big things!