Greeted with colorful banners and Netherland-themed drawings, I was welcomed by Janette and her family on May 7th-morning. I had spent my last night in India with friends and finished it off the way I had welcomed it-Java City, Temptations, and Pebbles-style (not to mention the coffee, idlies, masala dosas, coconuts, juices, and on and on).

I waved goodbye to Mahima and Kris through the glass windows of the airport, and went to check in. Ten hours of flying and almost no security or customs waiting and hassle, I reached Amsterdam around 12am, and we all introduced ourselves, and chatted as we walked to the car.

We drove-past solar panels-in oh so cloudy Amsterdam… and pastures-HUGE green fields with hows and canals. The traffic moved fast and the roads were empty-of everything except cars. No vendors, no cows, no dogs, no pani puri, just highway followed by greenery. ( I liked the movement of traffic, I missed the street life)

We drove over rivers- big and small, and boats. We wove through their neighborhood streets housing tall brick buildings, churches, and people. Lots of people on bikes and on foot, and very strange looking trees. Trees that grew straight up and then in two directions, reached out horizontally, as if the branches were arms of a scarecrow. Only, it didn’t stop here, with greater heights, another pair of “arms” would appear, and this would continue for some while.

The house was amazing. It had been described to me as small, but I would say it was-efficient- with regards to space. Exploring the house, brought me back to ADP 3(?) with Nick Tobier, we covered Dutch design and architecture just a bit.

In the few days I spent with their Janette, Andre, Maud, and Iera, we did a lot! We ate traditional dutch food- bread, butter, and sprinkles-amazing combination, for starters. We had stroopwaffles-which were another amazing treat, and pancakes with raisins! We had other things too, but theses were a few highlights.

We went downtown to the main area of the village, and found ourselves highly amused by the sort of life museum that was taking place. There were WWII camp sites set up everywhere, and soldiers from the war wandering around the streets, eating ice cream and chatting on their cell phones. There were flags everywhere, and army vehicles parked through the streets.

We roamed, past the HUGE river, and we biked through some really nice trails. I was able to take a really nice hot shower, and-in all honesty-they definitely pampered me! I even got to sleep in Iera’s bunk bed. Both Iera and Maud can ride a unicycle. I am still amazed by this.

I said goodbye for a few days and went to Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Rotterdam, was quiet-it was sunday and everything was closed, but I walked all day long and made some friends who I spent time talking to in the park. I also visited the Cube houses, which were incredible. I could never live in one, but to look at, these structures were intriguing. (I will add pictures when I can!)

I also found a market where they were selling my poofy pants I love dearly and wore every day in India for 75 euros! (three usd in India). I later found my masala dosa for an astounding 12 euros (usually 24 rs/50 cents-usd), and had to run away from the South Indian restaurant before reading further! I saw the bridge, and went to a Museum where I saw lots of design, Dali, Degas, Rembrandt, and on.

I spent the evening drinking coffee at my hostel and the guys who worked there, plus some other guests, and the hostel dog-beautiful cocker spaniel!

Two nights, I then spent in Amsterdam. The first night I was at the Stayokay, the second-at the travellers hostel. Similar to Rotterdam, I just walked around all day long-both days. There were glimpses of sunlight now and then, but in the shade and in the wind, it was cool. The garbage collectors were on strike, so trash lined the curbs and piled up in front of the beautiful monuments. Every time I went walking, I found new things, new places, new markets, and I was very startled when I wound up in the Red Light District. It always happened while my eyes were attached to the massive church up in the sky, while my feet continued down an unknown ally- and when I would continue my window shopping, the baguettes, and coffee shops had transformed into glass doors framing women in lingerie and red, drawn curtains.

I got over it fast, for I found myself there unexpected- very often. I walked very far in all directions, and would sometimes sit down for a coffee, a Heineken, or a baguette. The last night there, I stayed up most of the night in a small shop drinking coffee while it rained outside. It was cozy and I had the best seat in the house, the one against the window, where people watching was prime. I spoke for many hours with people as they came and left, people either “passing through” or “taking a few days off”.

In the morning I returned to Janettes house, and we had another really mellow day, while I made further arrangements for travel-with their help.

We all piled in the car and drove me to the bus stand, where a huge yellow bus picked me up. Student Agency, a bus line, cost 70 euros from Utrecht to Prague, and would arrive at 5 am in the night! The bus stopped nearly every hour (if that) and I am not sure it was always to pick people up. I am more convinced, the stopping was for the unfortunate addiction of all the passengers; smoking. Every hour, the passengers would pile off the bus, stand in the cold and smoke, then pile back on, only to repeat this action within the hour.

Goodbye to the Netherlands-just for now. I would love to go back. It was incredible. The place where Janette lives is unbelieveable-brick buildings and roads, canals and very old boats. The architecture of different neighborhoods, the friendly people. Bikes EVERYWHERE, and people are outside. The houses were tall, and the windows HUGE, so the house was full of natural light and you could watch the neighbors go by. The canals that cut through the grassy fields held motor boats. On my tram ride, there were grasslands, and a canal where all sorts of big boats were parked-not up against a boardwalk, up against the grassy field… it was amazing. Windmills- old and new, draw your attention with almost no hope of returning it. The tall, skinny, homes that would twist around the bend and go on for as far as one could see, drew out a cityscape I have never experienced in real life, and the contrast between old and new (especially in Rotterdam where most of the old buildings were destroyed) was beautiful.

Strange, to be looking at baby pictures in the Netherlands with a woman I haven’t seen in 20 years! To see pictures of my parents in the East Lansing house, raising three small kids, and big smiles-was a treat!

Strange to not be in India.


May 14, 2010. travel.

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