Sunny September Days

At the end of my first week of classes at AUC I still miss Quest but this is starting to feel like home. I think the difference between a tourist and a resident is that the resident has things to do and my schedule definitely qualifies me. Unlike Quest, where I take one class at a time, here I’m taking five classes at once for the next 16 weeks. All of the courses have three hours of class time each week and four of my five classes split those hours between Mondays and Thursdays. In an effort to balance having spent 8 hours straight in the AUC academic building I eagerly joined a group of first year students headed to a local bridge jumping spot.

You’re never far from the water in Amsterdam and the borders of the neighbourhoods here are set by the canals. The canal walls are lined with boats, some small, some large and some converted into apartments. Even the AUC building is surrounded by a tiny canal although, honestly, I would call it a moat.  Many of the smaller canals are lined by tall reeds and filled with lily pads and water fowl. I’d even say I’ve seen more herons here than I did growing up by the Great Lakes.

All people could talk about today was the heat. The temperature hit 30 degrees celsius and the gusts of wind were hot. AUC shares faculty with the larger University of Amsterdam in the centre of the city and many staff commute to the AUC campus by bicycle. Sweat soaked shirts made the commuters easy to spot today.

Beautiful days like this always make me feel guilty. Over my last 3+ years of study I’ve often felt conflicted between the desire to be a good student and the need to be a good human being. These conflicts are never real moral issues but arise most often when I have the choice between doing homework and doing something fun that doesn’t involve sitting. This evening I followed the urge to be a good human being, opting to take advantage of the kind of sunny September day that makes students gaze dreamily out windows and think about what life was like in August.

After grabbing a pair of swim trunks and my bicycle I met a group of 6 or 7, mostly first year students, and followed them south to what photographic evidence promised was a perfect jumping bridge. Climbing to a height of some 12 metres above what I was told is the cleanest swimming water in Amsterdam, the curving crisscross of girders offers even the most fearful the opportunity to fling yourself into a canal from any height.
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Riding quickly enough to work up a sweat before our jumping session, we were disappointed to find two vans worth of security officers patrolling the area when we arrived. The bridge is just across the road from an apartment complex and the lawn was full of people, mostly kids and teenagers, lounging on blankets with guitars and i-pods. Some of the kids were still dripping wet. It turns out the security had only just beaten us to the bridge. It seemed a neighbour had made a complaint.

What does a group of international university students do when they can’t bridge jump? They play soccer and hope that the security guards will eventually have to go home to their families, or at least dinner. We kicked the ball around for an hour or so from Canadian to Brit to Italian to German to Kenyan to Dutch until our body temperatures were just a little too high and we decided that we were wrong about the security officers having families.

Just around the corner from the bridge is a lovely, although admittedly less exciting, dock where locals swim.  We locked up our bikes and headed there to jump in and watch long river boats carry cargo while locals cruised by in small boats. We still managed to do some dives and flips from the more modest dock but seeing that bridge only made my want to bridge jump more. As we rode by again on our way home the three remaining security officers were standing side by side, leaning against the railing at the top of the bridge that was now fiercely red in the dusk light.
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[not me ^] It wasn’t the evening I thought it would be but my books were still here when I got home, I now know the way to a lovely piece of water, and have met some more fine folks from all over the world. Studying is only half of studying abroad, right?

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