I arrived in the Kansas City airport last night at 10pm, greeted by 3 fantastic folks in my life. Nothing went wrong in the traveling process. There weren't even any flight delays.
So yes. I am safe on the ground and returning to life as an American.
Looking back on the trip I realize I'm still processing a lot. The things I did, the people I met, the various experiences I encountered, the information I learned... it's all quite a bit to take in. However, I will definitely say it was the experience of a lifetime. One that not many people get an opportunity to do, especially at no cost besides everyday expenses.
I am excited to be home, though. I'm especially excited to be reunited with my family and all of my friends. I adored Europe, but I missed everyone here a bit too much. If only I could take everyone to Europe with me... then I would have the best of both worlds! :)
I'm not sure what else to say. I guess this is where I leave it up to my faithful readers.
First of all: Is there anything you're wanting to know about my experience? How I felt about something, what things I liked best, what was the most interesting dish I ate... or anything like that?
Second of all: Do I continue the blog? I know my mom would like me to, but I don't count her vote. I figure she can call me if she really wants to know what's going on in my life. Therefore, I pose the question to you. To me it seems kind of silly to continue posting while in the United States as it would no longer be a travel log. However, I also realize that some of you enjoyed this blog simply to see what was going on in my life. So yes. Do I continue it or do I not? You make the call!
And yes. If you didn't know, regardless of if you have a xanga account or not, you can comment on this entry with your responses to my two questions. Or if you'd rather not comment on the xanga, you can always e-mail me at email@example.com so yes.
As of right now I think I'm going to gather some pictures together and start my work on my movie with most of my pictures from the trip to show to the folks that didn't read my blog... or to anyone else who'd care to see the photos! :)
Yes, there was no update yesterday. This is due to the fact that we had to leave the hotel by 8:15 this morning and that these past two days have been chock full of academic visits and nothing else. I'm sorry if you were lost without me for a day, but I figured I would just blog about the past two days today.
Okay. So. Yesterday.
Yesterday began with a visit to the University of Amsterdam where three people lectured for us. That wasn't very interesting as it was a lot of stuff we had already learned about in the class. By the time lunch came around it was a very welcome break. Lunch wasn't anything special - just some tuna sandwiches and salad. After lunch though we heard from a formerly trafficked woman.
Her story was absolutely heartbreaking - full of much abuse (mostly sexually) and full of misleading information as well as people constantly toying with her emotional state. Thankfully, though, she was able to seek help and got out of her trafficked situation. Unfortunately, she fell victim to something called the "lover boy" situation. It's when a man seeks out an emotionally, physically, financially, or mentally unstable or insecure woman and "starts a relationship" with them. They date, "fall in love," and right when the man has her under his wing he (basically) asks her to get herself into prostitution in order for the two of them to have a "better life" with more money. It's awful. I can explain more about it if you'd like, but that's the jist.
Later on in the evening a few of us went out for pizza and then Kate and I walked around to the different souvenir shops. I'm kicking myself for not saving more money for Amsterdam because the souvenirs here are AWESOME. Ten times better than Copenhagen's souvenirs. I don't know why Copenhagen had such lame souvenirs. But whatev. After shopping a bit, Kate and I went back to the Red Light District to observe a bit more. We saw a few men walking out of the rooms and we saw a few prostitutes motioning to men and making propositions to them. It's so strange to walk around there and see all of it. I'm still in culture shock whenever I go. I took some pictures of the area, but none of the windows with the girls in them. Those are STRICTLY forbidden, and apparently if you do take pictures of them, they will come out of your window and throw your entire camera into the canal. As I rather enjoy my camera and don't really have the money for a new one, I figured I should probably abide by their wishes.
Today we went back to the university and heard from the Politie (police) here in Amsterdam. That was incredibly interesting, and it basically convinced me that prostitution should be legalized. I won't go into a whole lot of detail on that here, but if you'd like to know some of the things I've learned that have swayed me in that direction, let me know and I'd be happy to tell you! Lunch was good (salmon sandwich again!) and then we heard from a former sex worker and sex worker rights activist this afternoon. She had a very positive view on prostitution and told some really interesting stories. I'm always interested to hear from former sex workers, or even current sex workers, who have such a positive outlook on the profession. It's not generally something we hear and so I think it's an important point of view to look at from time to time. We're all generally so focused on how prostitution is bad that we often forget that for some (although I'm sure it's not an extremely large amount) it really is a very positive line of work.
Aaaaand yep. That's basically all I have done today! Except I did end up eating poffertjes for dinner which were INCREDIBLE. It was another dish on Adrian's list, and it's like mini pancakes, except butterier... and just.. more delicious. Almost like funnel cake, except denser like pancakes and put into small circles. It's basically indescribable... but if I could eat those once a year... I would be one very happy lady. Very, VERY enjoyable.
Anyway, I may try to update tomorrow, but no promises. It's my last full day in Amsterdam (last full day in Europe for that matter!) so I might be off enjoying my time here (as well as researching for our debate on Thursday. Lame.) So yes. I love you all and I'll see most of you soon! :) Here's the link to the pics.. there's not very many though. Sorry! : http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2018515&l=aeb92&id=1191390661
Hello everyone. How are you all? I hope you're all well.
Today was pretty laid back and therefore was a great opportunity to spend some lesuirely time around Amsterdam. I hadn't been a very big fan of Amsterdam thus far, but I think that's because on my first full day here I was acquainted with some of the not-so-good sides of the city (pot, prostitution, etc). Today, however, was pretty much all free time which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Lets start with lunch. Last night I e-mailed my Dutch grandfather, Adrian, and asked him what things I needed to do/see/eat while in Amsterdam. He sent me a list and I'm going to at least try to eat most of the foods on the list even if I can't go see everything he wanted me to see on the list. The thing he seemed most excited about though was a dish called kroketten and he told me that if I ate it, then I had to take a picture of it... as he can't eat it anymore. :( So today, we went to a pub for lunch and that's what I did. I ate the kroketten and it was DELICIOUS! It's like little balls of deep fried chicken pot pie... except it's made with beef... and it's thicker than chicken pot pie. I don't know how to describe it, and I don't know what all is in it, but it was definitely a cultural experience worth eating. :)
After that our group walked to the Van Gogh Museum. I had seen a few Van Gogh's in Denmark, if you remember, but this museum houses all of his most famous paintings except for Starry Night. The flowers in the pot were there, though, as were his self portrait, the picture of his bedroom, and some of the paintings he did of the mental institution he was at. Again, Van Gogh's are INCREDIBLE up close. You can see every stroke and every combination of different colors that blend together to create such a beautiful picture. It's pretty indescribable. All I can say is, the reprints don't do the actual paintings justice.
Tonight, Kate and I went to the Anne Frank House. It was... one of the best things I have done so far. It was heartbreaking though to see her picture. She truly was a beautiful girl who had such hope in her eyes. I cannot imagine some of the horrors she lived through nor can I imagine what Amsterdam was like in such an awful time. It was also really crazy going up into the annex... especially climbing the stairs to get there. The stairs were SO steep and the living quarters were very confined. It was a lot to take in, but carried a very important message - to remember that people today are still being persecuted for race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I can't really say much else about it. It was definitely an incredible museum and definitely worth my time and money.
Beyond that, Spain just won Euro 2008.. and I feel pretty bad for Germany. I would have liked for them to win. (Which Jimmy thought was ironic... seeing as I had just come back from the Anne Frank House, but whatev.)
Well. Finally, an update! Lets start with my last day in Copenhagen, shall we?
For my last day in Copenhagen I met up with my grandmother, Ann's, friend from high school, Merete, who is Danish and lives right outside Copenhagen. She took me to her home and we walked around this park nearby her house. We passed a really neat area where there are rowing competitions, we saw a sign that said baadfarten, and we saw ruins of an old residential castle. Very cool. And then of course after our walk we went back to her house and she made smorrebrod for dinner. Smorrebrod, if you have not heard of it, is a very traditional Danish dish. Basically it's an open faced sandwhich with lots of different stuff on it. She made some with salmon, some with liverpaste, some with fishballs (like meatballs, except with fish), and some with egg and tomatoes. It was QUITE delicious and was a great last meal to be had in Copenhagen. Very, very nice, and a very Danish ending to my Denmark experience.
Yesterday I left my room at 4:45 a.m. to get to the airport for my flight to Amsterdam. It was not an enjoyable experience lugging two very full suitcases for about 15 minutes, but I suppose what must be done, must be done. Our flight was a bit delayed, but we arrived in Amsterdam and got to our hotel around 11:00. It's a pretty nice hotel and I have few complaints thus far (except that they don't have blow dryers. :( ) After dropping stuff off in our rooms and settling in a bit, Heather, Jimmy, Kate and I headed out for lunch. I had a salmonsalad sandwhich (like tuna salad, but with salmon!) and it was taaaaaasty. After lunch there was a bike tour, but as I was EXHAUSTED and I've forgotten how to ride a bike (oops!) I didn't go. It was necessary for me to get some rest at that point so it was a good choice. Dinner was held at a restraunt called Simpel and it was also a fantastic meal with 3 courses. I had salmon as a starter, rib eye steak for my main entree, and a white and dark chocolate mousse for my dessert. Pretty amazing if you ask me.
Today has been an interesting one. We went on a canal tour of Amsterdam this morning and got to see some of the sights from the canals. What's really cool here in Amsterdam are these boat homes/water homes. Basically they're boats that stay in the canals in their set spots and do not move as they're homes for people. Hard to explain, but trust me, they're very cool. I definitely think if I were to be living by myself in Amsterdam I would want one. They're quaint, can be easily decorated, still have all the necessary amenities, and always have great views! :)
After the canal tour we had lunch in a historical building that used to be used for weighing things... including people. Apparently, back in the witch hunting days, you could go to this place and pay a sum of money for them to weight you and give you an official certificate about how much you weigh. Therefore, if you were accused of being a witch, instead of them sending you to drown, you would just give them the slip to show them that obviously you can't be a witch, because you actually have a weight. Cool. The lunch was also very nice - tomato basil soup and salmon sandwiches. Yes. I had salmon for 3 meals in a row.
Next on the agenda was the red light district tour, but as that did not start for almost two hours after we were done with dinner, a few of us went back to the hotel. Bad idea. Apparently there was a wreck at one of the tram stations, so our tram never came, so we had to walk all the way back to our lunch location in 20 minutes. It was awful and I was not a happy camper, but oh well. The red light district tour was INCREDIBLY interesting.
The women, if you have not heard, literally rent out spaces and then stand in the windows in their scantily clad outfits hoping to lure customers their way. It's weird/cool/interesting though because it's done in very safe ways... as in, the women can just open the door from the inside so any customers that they don't want, aren't even able to come in to the "store." Also in every room is a panic button of sorts and if a prostitute presses it then the police, or another prostitute will come to your rescue. Another strange thing is that the two women who gave us the tour had a really positive view on prostitution and considered the women to be powerful, sexy, charming, and very professional.
Aaaaaand that's about it. The day toooootally wore me out though and I'm ready to relax before getting to sleep early. Hopefully tomorrow I'll see the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frank House/Museum and I'll tell you all about it! :) Oh, and here are my pictures so far: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2018431&l=15227&id=1191390661