Life in Amsterdam

I love stories; I listen to stories; I’m focusing my undergraduate degree on stories; and right now I have the irrational fear of returning home from my semester abroad without any stories to tell. I’m terrified that between carrying the academic course load, and researching and writing my keystone project (like all tense and responsible fourth year students) I won’t have taken the time to enjoy Amsterdam or Europe while I’m here. Like all fears, I figure I just have to face this one head by slightly neglecting my homework and seeing all the sites I can. My first weekend of the academic puts me off to a good start. The Amsterdam Fringe festival is running from September 5-15 and as an aspiring play write I figure it is my responsibility to attend. So I did. A fellow Quest student (my friend Sarah) and I jumped on our bikes Friday evening and rode to the Ostadetheater to see the Orange Tea Theatre company present ‘I am I’. While racing our bikes home down cobblestone streets after the show, we expressed mutual gratitude for the coincidences that give credit to divine interconnectedness. Not only was the play funny, engaging and well-acted; but it was written by a Canadian, the female lead is an AUC student who lives in Sarah’s dorm building, one of the male leads is starting a masters related to Sarah’s Question, and the company regularly plays at a venue owned by a professional storyteller who also stages monthly story telling nights. Needless to say, we stayed to network after the show. We’re now set to attend their next storytelling night and I have a gentlemen’s agreement to meet Sahand, the storyteller, for a keystone interview when he returns from a festival in Israel. In the 15 or 20 minutes we spoke he told me about a traditional Iranian story (his family fled the country as refugees when he was three) that emphasizes gender equality and, what he described as healthy, masculine roles. I can’t wait to spend a few hours with the man. Driven by my irrational fear of having nothing to tell people about, I met two fellow Quest students early the next morning, Saturday, for a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. We must officially feel at home because we assumed we didn’t need maps to find it; we were wrong. After consulting a bus stop and cycling back out of the city centre we locked our bikes together at the Muesumplein and headed into the gallery. P1020058 We followed Vincent’s professional career through four floors worth of exhibits explaining his progression through styles, techniques, and influences. It was surreal to see works of art in person that I had seen reproduced or in digital form so often. I stood a foot away from ‘Sunflowers’, examined the brush strokes of a self-portrait, and was surprised to learn that ‘Skeleton with cigarette’ is so small (having only seen it as a full sized poster in friends’ apartments). The man died 120 or so years ago but the paintings are still here and the museum was full of people from around the world crowding around canvases and buying commemorative postcards. P1020056 Many of the panels describing the paintings emphasized Van Gogh’s adoption and use of colour theory. The sad thing is that after more than one hundred years the purples that so well complimented his yellows have faded to a pale blue. Despite their fame and genius, some of these canvases will never again be as brilliant as they were at their creation. Following our romp through the Van Gogh Museum we met the two other Quest students currently on exchange at AUC. After flocking in Dam Square we walked north towards Central Station to round out a day of cultural experience with a visit to the Sex Museum. For only 4e what’s the harm, eh? The museum itself was more of a porn collection than a museum but it was good for a laugh nonetheless. P1020060 Having seen everything in the Sex Museum (and I do mean everything) we went our separate ways. Sarah and I stopped by a local squat on our way back to the dorms and browsed the offerings at their weekly free store. Having both arrived in Amsterdam with only the clothes on our backs – in backpacks, but still – we expanded our wardrobes. I found a sport coat and Sarah came back with a scarf, vest, and sweater. Winter is coming you know. I planned to settle into a few hours of homework before an AUC organized pub trivia night for the exchange students but a friend from down the hall invited me for dinner. I call him ‘T’ because I can’t quite correctly pronounce his full Dutch name (Teun). He had just been home visiting his parents who happen to be organic farmers. T had also invited a first year from Kenya. We dined on organic burgers, potatoes, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and sat around debriefing our first week. When the time came, I convinced T to come along to the trivia night and we joined the bike mob gathering out front. 30 or so exchange students and mentors made our way to a little pub just the other side of the zoo and took over the back half of the establishment. After some food and a few pitchers we split up into teams and did our best to display our knowledge of trivial things. Our team of five (myself, T, Wadie my roommate, Zenat from New York, and Tenille from Australia) tied for first with another group and closed our time together by spending our winnings on a round of tequila. Nothing says exchange students like a round of tequila. I spent most of Sunday studying but I think the rest of the weekend made up for that. I’m hoping that this weekend’s schedule starts a pattern; I’d hate to come home with nothing to talk about and I’ve only got 4.5 months left.

Leave a Reply