Haulin’ It to Holland

Posted on November 20th, 2011 by

With all the canals, Amsterdam better hope Global Warming is made up. Sadly, it's not.


With all the canals, Amsterdam better hope Global Warming is made up. Sadly, it's not.

I like to think I’m at least a fairly decent writer and have pretty good English (I’m hoping having worked at the GAC Writing Center gives me some credence to say this). With that said, I got OWNED this week. We were reading articles and had to come up with research questions that were specific yet not limiting, realistic, etc. Well, I write my group’s question on the board and come back to my seat. This sweet, soft-spoken girl from Taiwan taps me on the shoulder and asks about the difference between effect and affect. I explain and she looks a bit perplexed. She then points to what I wrote on the board and asks, “How does that use of effect make sense?” It didn’t. Just got worked.

I went to Amsterdam for the weekend to visit some extremely close family friends. My adventure started off with a bang as a guy on my flight got escorted off the plane. Nobody really knew what was going on, and then they began sweeping his area of the plane for bombs. They eventually told us that he just didn’t have proper identification such as a passport, but a) how did they figure that out once he was on the plane and b) how did no one pick up on that one at some point in the airport? Doesn’t seem to quite add up. After quite the delay, we finally take off. Nothing was amiss with the flight and finally we made it to Schipol. Upon arrival, I head to the bathroom. Right as I get up to the urinal, I hear a lady’s voice behind me. My heart stopped for a second until I realized it was just the most real sounding intercom system I’d ever heard (it was like she was whispering sweet nothings to me). Good news though, I actually was in the men’s bathroom (unlike one time in the bathrooms near the Caf where my urgency kept me from realizing the bathroom was lined with stalls…).

Anyway, the next day I was going from my aunt and uncle’s place (not truly relatives but they essentially are) in Voorschoten to Amsterdam. At the train station, I attempt to buy a ticket out of the machine. It tells me that it won’t take coins or bills. I then try my cards, but it also won’t take these seeing as they aren’t Dutch. Well, this is quite the bind. There are no attendants, so I decide to get on the train anyway (I wasn’t going to come this far and not actually go into Amsterdam). Once on, I find an official. I tell him, “Sir, I don’t have a ticket. I tried to buy one at the station but it didn’t work. Where can I buy one?” He then types it into his little, fancy handheld computer and tells me 42 euros (very nearly what I paid to fly to Amsterdam). This is obviously crazy, and it’s because he’s throwing on a hefty fine. After complaining/searching for some pity, he drops it down to 20. Still BS, but what to do? Not the best start to the day.

European markets sell EVERYTHING

Once in Amsterdam, I wandered aimlessly for a little while to get my bearings. In the process, I stumbled across the Occupy Amsterdam tent village. I was really hoping for something exciting to happen, but alas, they must have all been sleeping or out for brunch. After a fair deal more walking, I headed toward a restaurant known as Stoop and Stoop.  My roommates, from when I studied abroad in Florence, raved about this place for weeks after going there. As I started getting close, my mouth began to water thinking about putting the legend of Stoop and Stoop to the test. I got there and some guy was sanding the door. They’re remodeling. NOOOO. That’s like going to the Grand Canyon and hearing it’s closed due to snow (yup, happened to the Samaraweera family). Dejected, I left with my head hanging low. Luckily, I had a backup plan. One of the girls in my class is Dutch and grew up in Amsterdam. She gave me a trail to follow, which started at a market called Albert Cuyp. As I walked flanked by all sorts of clothes, food, and random accoutrements, I grabbed some chips (fries) and sauté sauce (some peanut butter based sauce which made me miss George Washington Carver’s masterful creation even more). This was actually pretty stellar. From there, I went into a huge, old-school music store. I even found a CD by Hugh Laurie (yeah, that’s Dr. House throwing down some sick beats). Eventually, I made it back to the train station, legally bought a ticket, and was on my way to Voorschoten.

This is just a guess, but I think the Dutch might give up their firstborn before their bike.

That night, we were off to go rub shoulders with some of the many dignitaries that live in the Hague (it’s the home of all the foreign embassies, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, among other big, cool places). Luckily, I packed for this situation. Three t-shirts and single pair of jeans. Anyway, we started by going to a Sri Lankan trade show where the Sri Lankan Minister of Trade and Commerce had come to make economic inroads with the Dutch. Best part: free food and drinks. Also, I was exposed to another part of life as a grown up (well, kind of grown up). When you talk to someone for long enough, apparently they feel the need to give you their business card. Under what scenario does a lady from the Sri Lankan Export Development Board or a Dutch journalist think I’ll be needing their contact info? I have no idea but to steal a phrase from the Occupy Movement. This is what networking looks like. But I like to think of it simply as BS-ing. From there, we were heading to the retirement of a pretty legit UN official who’s the head of one of the tribunals in the Hague. Well, this shindig is invite only, but my uncle, being the amazing man he is, hatches a plan to sneak my way in. For about ten minutes, I hang out at this classy hotel’s bar while my aunt and uncle go in . After this, my uncle comes back out and lingers with me for a little while. When it feels like things have slowed down a bit/we’re tired of waiting, we head back towards the hall. On the way, we pick up a seven year old girl who has wandered out of the festivities (a.k.a. added legitimacy; who’s going to turn away the guy bringing back the cute, lost little girl). We then waltz on in while everyone is clapping for a speech that was just given by someone up at the front. Everyone now gets back to socializing, and I know that as long as I keep talking to the various dignified old people, no one can question my legitimacy (even though I’m wearing my black Northface jacket like it’s a suit coat and a scarf to keep from betraying my t-shirt that is hidden below). While doing this, I met several really interesting people from all over the world. I also got to enjoy the food and drink the waiters (who were dressed much nicer than myself) would bring around. Eventually it was time to go. So I slipped past the UN official’s line of well-wishers and snuck out the exit. All’s well that ends well.

The next day we went to a memorial service at a church near the Hague. It was one of the oddest churches I’ve ever seen. It was like a fortress from the Middle Ages (no tunic, no breeches, no service). The stone interior was not only a bit terrifying (on account of being very dungeonesque) but also turned the place into a refrigerator. The whole service (which was Catholic and in turn, five hours long), I was trying to keep my teeth from chattering. After this, there was a meal. One of the people there started talking to me and asked, “Do you work in one of the embassies?” Slightly confused, I answered with a simple no. He then said, “I thought I saw you last night at the retirement.” I nearly burst out laughing. Well this is a bit of a predicament. Luckily, his phone went off at almost the exact same time, so I didn’t need to explain myself or come up with some kind of outlandish story. Dodging, dipping, ducking, diving, and dodging bullets. Classic five D’s strategy.

In the end, it was a fantastic weekend, and now it’s back to Berlin. Hope all is well on the homefront.

Hugs and hand pounds,


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