One short day in Amsterdam

AMS
May 16, 2016

Currently sitting in Amsterdam Airport Shiphol. My flight to Cairo is in a little under three hours. I had a wonderful day in Amsterdam and I’ve been meeting really nice people. I met an old couple at JFK who borrowed my cellphone, then watched my bags for me when I went to the bathroom and Jamba Juice. They didn’t really speak English well but they were still very sweet. We sat in the same row but opposite sides on the flight and waved to each other as if we had known each other for years. I got the window seat and sat next to a cool German girl who was visiting New York for work. She was a geologist of some sort, and also didn’t speak much English but we got along well regardless. Delta fed us so much on the flight which was great because I unfortunately didn’t sleep much. What better way to pass the time than to eat?

My uber driver on the way to JFK also didn’t speak much English but was very kind. He was originally from Pakistan but lived in Dubai and had friends in Dubai whom he told me would show me around if I decided to visit. He also showed me pictures of his family. He definitely foreshadowed the language barriers I continued to encounter throughout the trip.

When I got to Amsterdam, hardly anyone spoke English but eventually I found a transportation worker who told me where to go.

I did, however, meet a women from Chicago while waiting for our TSA check in Amsterdam. She had gone to Egypt in 2010 and was in Amsterdam to give a tour for her job. She told me all good things about her trip to Egypt and said Abu Simbel was her favorite place.

I didn’t really meet many people walking through the city, but I kind of expected that. It was kind of nice being alone and just doing my own thing on my own time, wandering freely and not feeling responsible for anyone else. The only times I ever felt just a little lonely was when I struggled to finish smoking the joints I bought or when I wanted a picture of myself in front of the I amsterdam landmark (Of course I forgot to pack my selfie stick).

I caught the train to Amsterdam Centraal and as soon as I stepped off the train I fell in love with this quaint little village with canals all over and well-dressed city-dwellers. I went into the first coffeeshop I found and bought five pre-rolled joints because I knew I had no time (or money) to waste experimenting, but I was fascinated by the dozens of strains and magic mushies sold indiscreetly.

I smoked one J while walking around and felt on top of the world. Literally, I felt like I was floating. I chatted with one of the salesmen at a souvenir shop for a bit. He straight away knew I was American which I thought was pretty funny. He was a cool guy and I wanted to go back there but couldn’t remember where it was. #TooHighGuy.

DSCN2604

I walked to the Rijksmuseum and explored a bit. Coat checking my backpack was a struggle because again, #2HG. I enjoyed the Still Life exhibits because I’m fascinated by the way the lighting and the shadows can bring a piece to life. I also chilled by the I amsterdam letters for quite a bit and just relaxed, taking in my surroundings, appreciating where I was at that exact moment in time. My heart was happy to be here. I felt like I belonged.

DSCN2676

Next I went to Sarah’s Pancakes and holy sh*t it was an orgasm in my mouth (Thank you Katie for the recommendation)! I had strawberry banana pancakes with whipped cream and a chocolate milk. I think I found some chairs and tables and smoked joint number two. Surprisingly I found that while walking and smoking, I got some funny looks. Maybe because it still wasn’t even noon and I was already high as a kite. Maybe I was just paranoid. I mean, it’s Amsterdam, right? But regardless, I decided to be a little classier about it.

Next I walked past the Anne Frank House, but the line was really long so I didn’t bother going in. I went to Abraxas coffeeshop and smoked another joint outside. I forget if it was Abraxas or another coffeeshop before it but they wouldn’t let me smoke inside unless I was going to buy something. And I still had to finish the rest of my joints before my flight so I just kept to myself outside.

Then I walked through the Red Light District which was interesting to say the least. I saw one too many tits and decided not to stay much longer. I went back to Amsterdam Centraal but realized I still had some time to wander before I needed to head back to the airport. I decided to go back to the first coffeeshop I started at and there was a guy sitting on a bench outside so I sat next to him. I asked him if I could smoke there and he handed me a lighter, which I took as a yes. (And another language barrier perhaps.) He was really chill but again, barely spoke English. I shared my last two joints with him because he seemed like a genuine, kind person. He gave off a nice vibe, and he had shared his rolling papers with some strangers in need. We didn’t really talk much because of the whole language barrier thing but we enjoyed each other’s company. I could tell he really appreciated the joints and I appreciated having someone to share them with. I had to leave to get to get back to the airport because my paranoid self was worried I’d get lost or something, but I made it back in fairly decent time. I only wish I had longer to roam around this lovely city.

DSCN2631

Everything was so precious and romantic. At one point a biker stopped to let me cross the street, he smiled and said “After you, Madam.” My heart melted. The city was very quiet otherwise, which came as a surprise to me. I felt very touristy with my camera around my neck and I got a little lost at times, but that was all part of the adventure. I stumbled upon some graffiti on a wall that read “Love Me” and I admired it for probably longer than necessary but what felt like the perfect amount of time. I got to see everything I needed to see. Next time I’m here, I want to try magic mushrooms and take a canal cruise tour. Those are my only two Amsterdam bucket list things I didn’t get to check off yet. I’d also like to visit and spend more time at the museums and shopping. I bought two beanies and four lighters. I finally heard from Mike that he and Jo are in Germany. I’ll be seeing them soon. Next destination — Cairo.

Advertisements

My Australia Playlist

During my year and a half spent in Australia, I compiled a playlist of songs from just before getting on the plane there up until leaving. Some of these songs have a story behind them, some just have the right vibe, or an essence of nostalgia. Some are just plain ol’ cheesy, and some I just felt like putting on the playlist because I can. My experience in Australia has been the most amazing adventure, and these songs are all a part of my journey. I’ve been adding songs all along the way, and here is my finalised playlist.

Leaving On A Jet Plane – Slightly Stoopid
The summer before I came to Australia, I was crashing at my best friend Alyssa’s apartment in order to work and save money before traveling. Alyssa had told me to listen to the original Leaving On a Jet Plane by John Denver because she said it reminded her of me because I was leaving and she was going to miss me. The song is about going away for a while as the lyrics say, “I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” I think any traveler feels this way when saying goodbye. The first lines of the song perfectly describe that anxious, lonely feeling when you’re just about to head out, and this is exactly how I felt when I had to leave Alyssa’s. “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standin’ here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye, but the dawn is breakin’, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waitin’, he’s blowin’ his horn, already I’m so lonesome, I could die.”
When I heard the Slightly Stoopid version, I was even more hooked due to the relaxed and tropical feel of Slightly Stoopid’s interpretation, as opposed to the depth and sadness of the original. It was obviously sad that I was leaving, but exciting to be heading to a beautiful new place. I listened to this song nonstop on my way to Australia– before leaving, in the airport, on the plane, during my layover in LA, and of course, when I arrived in Australia as well. Alyssa was always there for me throughout my entire experience abroad, and she even traveled all the way to Brisbane to visit me during her spring break, so this song is really important to me because of her.

Australia – The Shins
The title is literally Australia, so I couldn’t not put this in my playlist. But there’s actually a lot more to the song than just that. The lyrics are a bit contrasting to the upbeat melody, as it seems to be about going through the motions and not enjoying life to the fullest, for example in the lines, “Faced with the dodo’s conundrum, I felt like I could just fly, but nothing happened every time I’d try.” However, the opposing happy, fast-paced melody seems to work as an inspiration to keep going and to free yourself from the boring day to day motions. As he ends the song with the line, “Watching the lantern dim, starved of oxygen/So give me your hand and let’s jump out the window,” it shows the narrator finally breaking away from the life he hasn’t been enjoying. Coming to Australia has been this change for me to break away and have fun in a place I’ve never been able to experience before. Sometimes it was hard being in a new place with new people but after I was able to break out of my shell, I realized how much better everything can be, and how sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side, but you’ll never know until you put yourself out there.

Mango Tree – Angus and Julia Stone
First off, it’s written by Australian artists, Angus and Julia Stone. I listened to it a few times with an Australian boy I had a crush on for a while. I also listened to it a lot during my first trip to North Stradbroke Island. It’s got a really nice, comforting vibe to it. Whenever I hear it, it brings back really fond memories and a longing for Australia.

Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
My first semester, I tried to go surfing for the first time during Arcadia’s free excursion to North Stradbroke Island. The whole weekend was incredible, but I’ll always remember the last day of the trip when we went surfing. I was pretty bad at it but I still gave it a few attempts. I eventually was able to get up on my knees at least, but I wasn’t able to stand on the board. Regardless, it was such a fun time. While everyone else was showing off, I was mostly just paddling around on my board and singing this song to myself, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”
While this song will always remind me of that first attempt at surfing, it also sums up my entire experience abroad. Even if things go don’t go your way or work out as planned, just keep going and keep trying. This song always reminds me to keep my chin up and that nothing can never keep me down.

Hackensack – Fountains of Wayne
My hometown is a city known as Hackensack, New Jersey. Whenever I was feeling homesick, I would listen to this song. The line “If you ever get back to Hackensack, I’ll be here for you,” always reminded me that I had people waiting for me back home, who would still be there for me once I returned. You should always remember where you come from, but for now, I was in Australia and I didn’t want to worry about missing out on anything back home. This song would comfort me that I would return eventually. Now that I’m back, I’ve been able to reconnect with all my friends and family. It’s almost like I never left, except now I get laughed at for saying Aussie slang like “How ya goin?” and “No worries, mate.”

The City – The 1975
I’ve never lived in a big city before, and I always drove everywhere I went. I used to listen to this song a lot on the bus, and almost always while walking home from QUT over the Goodwill Bridge. On my walks home, I would always admire the view and acknowledge just how beautiful the city is. The lyrics, “If you wanna find love then you know where the city is” will always remind me of Brisbane and reflecting on those lovely walks home.

Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
This has been one of my favourite songs in the world since I was younger. I hadn’t heard it in ages, but when I came to Australia I started hearing it all the time again, even at clubs. I looked it up and apparently the single was massively popular in Aussie. I became really good friends with another girl from Arcadia, Michelle, who also studied here my first semester. We listened to it all the time together and used to joke that we are musical soulmates because we have such similar taste in music. It might also be that we like to go for those grungy, skater type guys and bonded over that as well. Regardless, this song reminds me of the good times we had, especially at Ric’s in the Valley. We’re all just a bunch of kids figuring ourselves out in another country. “I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby like you.”

Down Under – Men At Work
Isn’t this Australia’s national anthem? I had to put it on the playlist…Nothing describes Australia better than the line, “I said ‘Do you speak-a my language?’ He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”

American Girl – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
When I first came to Australia, I hated standing out for being American. I felt like people would just see me at the bus stop and KNOW I wasn’t Australian, which seems ridiculous now. But even if they did realize I was American, it was nothing to be ashamed of. I learned to embrace who I am and this song with it’s upbeat, rock n roll sound always gave me confidence by reminding me that it’s more than okay to be an American Girl.

Tourist – RAC, Tokyo Police Club
I listened to this song on repeat for the last year and a half. It’s all about being a tourist, finding the right cafes to go to, making small talk with people, “Are we strangers forever or are we strangers for now?” It’s about figuring out a new place. If I could pick one song to listen to my entire trip abroad, it would be this one.

Australia Street – Sticky Fingers
The lyrics describe it all. It’s written by an Australian band who played at Splendour in the Grass (which I had to miss because I was in America, and I can’t even tell you how many times I cried about having to miss this festival.) This song will always remind me of the friendships I had in Australia and the good times we all had.

The Good Good – Snoop Lion
My Australian best friend Grace is one of the most significant people in my journey. I met Grace at the end of my first semester, and by my third semester we became inseparable. She is even coming to visit me in America for Christmas! Grace showed me this song and we listened to it all the time. She is also a musician, and recorded a cover of this song dedicated to me. It has really chill, good vibes and a nice, beachy feel to it which is just perfect for Australia with all it’s breathtaking beaches. The line, “This is the good good, this is what people look all their lives to find” describes my friendship with Grace, as well as the amazing times I had in Australia and the beautiful places I was able to see.

Woodland – Paper Kites
The Paper Kites are a really cool Australian band that I got to see live at The Hi-Fi in West End with my other Arcadia friends Bri and Nat. Bri introduced the band to us, and when we went to their show with her we all got to meet them and get hugs and autographs and posters. This song has relaxing, fun, nature-y vibes making it perfect for hiking and bushwalks, or just a nice, sunny day.

A tout a l’heure – Bibio
I just love this song. I showed it off to all my friends when I first heard it. I listened to it while roaming through the QUT Botanic Gardens one night with my friend Alyssa when she came to visit and a few other friends I made in Australia. (And that night was one to remember.) I would listen to it while traveling, on flights, buses, trains or just walking. It would always cheer me up and calm me down. I like to think of it as my “spirit song.”

Bumpy Ride – The Hoosiers
With it’s upbeat and positive lyrics and melody, this song always keeps me going strong. “It’s gunna be a bumpy ride but it sure beats standing still.” Through the ups and downs of traveling, it’s still the most incredible experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything. From the beginning of my journey, there were obstacles– I was delayed in Newark and missed my connecting flight at LAX, so I was stranded in LA alone for a night. But then the next morning I got to lay by my hotel’s pool and wait until my flight to Brisbane. Later, I dropped my laptop at the airport and cracked the screen, I was freaking out but once I got to Brisbane, my computer was still working. There were many difficulties being abroad– jetlag, missing home, making and losing friends, tons of schoolwork, financial troubles– but through everything, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. The good times made up for the hard times.

It was all part of the experience.

Originally written for my Co-Curricular Learning Certificate