rain, sleet or snow: i will still shop.

Yesterday I went to my first flea market since I’ve been here. I was expecting to be a bit disappointed, as the Doppermarkt (where I buy my food) only has trashy gloves and summer dresses that would be sure to break after a few uses. Thank you, Noodermarkt, for being all my hip guidebook cracked you up to be. The selection of clothes was fabulous, even if you did have to weed through piles to find something wearable. Great fabrics, great conditions, nice people, decent prices - I really couldn’t have asked for more from a weekly street flea market. Taking home with me two sweaters and some boots I will be sure to wear until they break, I finally feel like I can walk around close to the level of style that these Europeans exude. Even if I am out a few euros.

In other news, I will be going to FLORENCE this weekend! I’m staying with Tristan’s home stay family, which should be awesomely authentic and a very unique experience. I can see he’s having the time of his life, and hopefully we’ll be doing that together this whole weekend.

It seems like I’m running out of weekends. I never want to leave. Thank god school doesn’t start until August. Unfortunately, I should start worrying about money again if I want my summer to be as extravagant as it should be.

And I forgot to mention I’m trying to read a book every 2 weeks. One has been read, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggaring Genius. One is being read, Brave New World. I will continue to update you on my mundane facts of life once something remotely interesting occurs. Until then, folks.

from brothels to waffles - my trip to antwerp

The day began normally - I woke up late, as usual, and after suiting up for a cold, long day, I frantically biked to Central Station. (This is usually not far, but I discovered on Thursday I have had a flat tire for presumably a few days. I was struggling.) Upon locking my bike and walking into the Metro station I realized I had forgotten my passport. I panted and pedaled all the way home, ultimately taking a taxi to Amstel station (while loving Amsterdam’s lack of rush hour traffic). Obviously I was incredibly early and never needed to be rushing. Also obviously, no one ever checked my passport, residence permit, ID - nothing. Even more obviously, Aliza and David waltzed in five minutes before the bus left, and everything was fine. Good start.

The bus ride was really nice despite my hangover and the vending machine waffles I had chosen to nurse it with (ew). Halfway I listened to music and the other half I spent getting to know the two fellow world explorers that had opted to join me on my day trip.

Once we were dropped off in Antwerp, we had absolutely no idea what to do. Our stomachs told us to eat, and we had our hearts set on three things: chocolate, waffles, and fries. We asked these guys to point us in the direction of the nearest Belgian restaurant, and they directed us down a street with McDonalds(es) galore and a Wagamama Stir Fry. Luckily we found a little place that boasted fries for sale, and we proceeded to feast upon beer, mayonnaise, and more mayonnaise.

After our lunch, we set out to find the fashion museum. It featured a handbag exhibit, which Aliza and I both adored (David, not so much).

Next came De Cathedral, a marvelous building located in the town center. Its architecture caught our eye, and once the clerk at the fashion museum insisted it was a must-see, we had to check it out. After stopping at one of the best thrift stores I’ve been in, we made it inside.

wowza.

Shrine to Lady Antwerp

such detailing.

It was mid-afternoon, and our blood sugar was dropping. We needed some Belgian medicine, and fast.

That helped a little bit, but we could not regain our normal level of function without another dose of suiker. We attacked the chocolate stores, then had time to kill (and a sugar high to work off). All signs point to… pub crawl!

We decided we would go to as many pubs as we had time for, trying a different beer at each. We made it to two.

We were a bit buzzed, and we shuffled back to our bus stop to make the trek home. We arrived a half hour early and decided to get some falafel to pass the time. We eat it. Time passes. We wait.

About an hour later, we are still waiting. The weather is too bad for us to keep standing outside, so we find a cafe with a window view of the bus stop and take a seat. Bus drivers keep assuring us that buses being this late is perfectly normal, and we should just stay put. Once the clock nears 9 pm (TWO HOURS after we should have boarded our bus, 30 minutes before we should have been home), we decide to throw in our towels and catch a train. Desperate and tired, the train ride (and the wait for it at the station) proves to be a solid few hours of bonding time.

I am so glad I got to share that (semi) miserable evening with Aliza and David, as it was only seconds before we could look back on the whole thing and laugh. The best part was probably my relief upon arriving back in Amsterdam. Man, did it feel good to be home.

things i learned from reading my guidebook
  • Prostitutes that work in Amsterdam pay taxes, receive regular medical checks, and have their own trade union. Talk about legitimate.
  • The Netherlands supplies free heroin to addicts, and, while the country receives much criticism for its’ policies on drugs, it has lower rates of drug use, addiction, and drug related deaths than Britain, Germany, France, and many others.
  • "Dutch" is actually a semi-derogatory term, stemming from the common mistake of the medieval English who couldn’t tell apart the people of Germany and the Netherlands. However, because the Dutch rock and are a "practical people," they just kind of decided to use the term.
  • As a reward for their resilience during the 1574 Spanish siege, Prince William of Orange offered the people of Leiden (suburb-thing about 22 miles south, where I went with my family when I was 13) a either a tax cut or a university. They chose the university.
  • Netherlands means “low land,” referencing the fact that the city is below sea level. Which in itself I guess explains all the canals.

geiten

means “goat” in Dutch, apparently. That would explain why the milk I have been drinking tastes like a worse version of whole milk. For those of you who know of my experience with goats in Africa, you will understand why I am on the verge of throwing up. It’s going to be a little while before I get the hang of grocery shopping here.

electric lady land, a flourescent light museum dedicated to jimi hendrix.

last one is a pic of the owner, who spent seven years on psychedelic drugs, building his fortress.

Went to the Van Gogh (pronounced “Van GOUGH” by the dutch) museum last night. This one is called “irises.”

Went to the Van Gogh (pronounced “Van GOUGH” by the dutch) museum last night. This one is called “irises.”

change of heart

Amsterdam! My haven, how I love thee. May I never return home, may America be crushed to death by all of its oversize shampoo containers and left unrinsed for eternity. For this is where I want to stay, in my larger than life room that is actually normal sized, with this appreciation for human interaction as I once was when I had my own personal space. I had forgotten how much of my self my lonesome can carry, and how experiences apart from everyone and everything are where I become whole. I only wish, however, that I did not spend as much time on the computer. Unfortunately, blogging is way more efficient than journaling, but ironically, this entry says way less than my letters to Colin.

I embark now, to read my guidebook and hopefully understand the twists and turns of this city (named for the dam on the Amstel River. Did you know that?) as it twists and turns my psyche. With its sporadic weather and somewhat unglamorous nightlife, its windy roads and its graffiti overkill, there is nowhere I’d rather be.

Except for maybe Barcelona. I want to see Julia.

the tallest people in the world…

…are busy shoving me out of their bike lanes, as I am newly an intruder among the Dutch.

Amsterdam is cool. I say this not just because of the typical reasons people would praise the liberal metropolis, but because of the details. The way it looks at night, the way marijuana is really no big deal to the Dutch, the simplicity of its design. Most of all, I think I love the way I am forcing myself to love the city because – lets face it – I’m going to be here for 6 months. It’s fucking unfortunate. I am not in the mood for adventures, I am not in the mood to listen to Bon Iver all by myself in a poorly decorated hostel that has vending machines with cans of water inside. I am not thrilled by the thought of pizza with tuna on top of it, and I am not excited to bike in the snow and slowly become comfortable running over tourists (or harmless study abroad rookies). Le sigh. This is going to be hard.

Today, I met a number of people. They were all very impressed by my tales of the Green House (some are pretty extravagant) and few brought anything shockingly new to the table. I did meet someone who intrigued me, however, and she sits across the lounge from me as I type, reading a book. She is a student at Brown of Dutch origin, and plans to not do much traveling during her time in Amsterdam. I wish I didn’t feel so damn anti-social if I took her route, but it seems like I can either be a loner intellectual or have friends and be in debt – not do both. Julia told me to do whatever I want and people will understand just because its me, but I don’t think she understands that I have no idea who I am… I guess that’s what I’m here to find out.

the countdown begins

Colin came to Bloomington, oh yes he did. My weekend was amazing, oh yes it was. I am now a firm believer that a twinge of sadness is similar to hunger, in that it heightens your perceptions and emotions. Of course by that logic, the weekend would have been even more emotional if we had not eaten enough to feed Uganda, but what can you do.

The Coachella lineup has emerged, and people (i.e., me, Ari) are shitting themselves. And yes, it is glorious in the way it makes me dream marijuana-scented dreams with DEVO as the soundtrack, but it more so serves as a symbol for the unfortunate dilemma that changing my life (studying abroad) presents: it’s not going to be easy.

I have yet to come to terms with the things I couldn’t deal with in Africa, the inevitable conclusions I have to force myself not to regret. I am going to miss out, I am going to be behind in almost everything from pop culture to Stephanie’s sex life. But I’ll catch up, and I will grow more than I ever could by staying in my old habitat and in my old ways. I must keep repeating to myself that I am ready for this, I am strong enough. I must recognize that by being fully present in my experiences, I will somehow survive and ultimately embrace them. This will not kill me, nor is this going to be easy. But I will do it, and I will do it well, dammit.