All things come to a beginning

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hi, how are you?

After a fairly sleepless night – way too hot – we wandered into town trying to find some breakfast. We found a bunch of places that offered it to us free (the Continental comes with only 12.50 spent on hash!) but settled on a regular (So these are just brownies? With sugar and chocolate? Are you sure?) place with tasty bread and cheap coffee. Our wanderings brought us into the Red Light district too. One minute you’re walking along this picturesque canal, the next you’re surrounded by seediness. It was so early, around 9.30, that the place was entirely deserted but still carrying the foul stench of the previous night. Brendan commented that he wouldn’t mind seeing it when stuff was actually going on – which we did a day later. Both times I rushed through it, angrily, past 20-something tourists ogling the women in the windows with eyes that are bigger than the patches sewn onto their backpacks. I can’t figure out what it is exactly that offends me about that place so much – whether it’s the fact that it exists, the fact that it is so strictly gendered into those who stare and choose and those who undergo? Do I have some misplaced Jesus complex? I don’t know a thing about the lives of these women, I don’t know how they ended up there, how easy it would be for them to quit, how they regard their customers…no clue. But I can’t stand it.

For lunch we ended up in Vondelpark. I was hoping the Julidans festival that was going on would offer us some distractions, but the act we saw was pretty painfully blah. We swiftly moved on to the Van Gogh Museum which I absolutely loved. At this point, I was already deeply in love with Amsterdam and the idea of going to work in the morning past the canals and into this museum made me giddy with anticipation. I’ve been sending out lots of applications for internships and work placements in museums across Flanders, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some experience here and then take that abroad afterwards. Brendan’s very much the “Figure out what you want to do and take steps towards that goal, regardless of what people think you should do or what is the most rational choice” kinda guy, and I see so many opportunities from that perspective. Internships, random jobs, networking, whatever you have to do to slowly make your way into the environment you want to live and grow in. It’s a nice feeling to have. Anyway, excellent museum, very well set up, lots of light and air.

We made it into the Anne Frank House as well – last time I was in Amsterdam the line was ridiculously long so we didn’t even bother trying to get in. I’m a little torn on the entire issue…I agree that one person or one family’s story can be more instructive and real than the abstract “6 million people”. But at the same time, it seems overly mediatized and polarized. I miss a bit of critical thought. For dinner we found a great organic place, where you paid by the weight of your plate. Super friendly people, delicious food, I was about to proclaim Amsterdam as Eden…until we almost got ripped off. And until someone scowled at me on the street for no reason. And until someone got aggressive in traffic. I slowly came back down to Earth, realizing Amsterdam has assholes and jerks and dirt like any other place where people cohabit. But I still see myself living there. We topped off the day in a cosy bar, watching the French beat the Portuguese (well, Bren did most of the watching, I was leafing through magazines and reading articles on, surprise surprise, how to have a successful professional life). I could work in this bar. You know, just until I get a job at the museum or at Amsterdam Weekly. It’s totally possible.


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