A little more Amsterdam

A little more Amsterdam

At a cafe I am reminded that there are many Amsterdams. Beside me are a couple of young men with bright red eyes. I am having breakfast but they are having a meal at the end of a long night, and even though neither of them are saying much they cannot stop giggling. Theirs is not the Amsterdam I am here for, but I remember my younger days when it might have been.

At a park I am momentarily mesmerized by a young girl spinning around on playground equipment. She is sitting on a chin-up bar and after taking a deep breath she drops, quickly and dramatically, and spins completely around three or four times before stopping at the top for another breath. Beside her a group of boys take turns jumping off of swings, and in a weird little playground cage a postcard-perfect group of multicultural mixed gender preteens play something that looks like dodgeball soccer. It is not clear if they are being watched by any adults; in any event, the children definitely don’t see any of the grown-ups walking past them. The spinning girl doesn’t even seem to notice that every time she whips around her ponytail drags through the dirt. Theirs is an altogether different Amsterdam, too.

A girl with pink hair and a ring in her nose; a jowly man in a very expensive coat; a baker who apologizes to his Dutch customer that he only speaks English. I love cities. I can appreciate the charms of the rural life for a weekend at most. I don’t look down on it, and respect that others can’t stand all the sounds and smells of urban spaces. But I love it. I love letting myself through these overlapping worlds. Funny then how in all my pictures there are no people present. I guess I feel the need to respect their worlds, and I only take pictures of mine.

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“Amsterdam is always good for grieving…”

“Amsterdam is always good for grieving…”

Not that I’m actually grieving. It’s a lyric in a Steve Earle song that I’ve had in my head for the past few days.

I wanted to go somewhere cold for Christmas but I didn’t want to take too many days off or miss Christmas at home, and there are very few direct flights from Uganda to cold places, so here I am in Amsterdam, with Steve Earle in my head.

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I’ve had my camera hanging around my neck this whole time, and I wish I was taking a bunch of beautiful pictures, but I guess that’s not the mode I’m in right now.

This city is beautiful, and obviously rich with culture, but except for a foray to the Rijksmuseum and a canal cruise to see the Festival of Lights, I haven’t done anything particularly touristy. I’ve walked around and looked at things; done some very boring (but satisfying) shopping at department stores; and done some more walking. Despite the multiple travel guides and apps I downloaded, I don’t feel any obligation to go see any museum, or venture out to funky neighborhood, or make reservations to one of Amsterdam’s finest restaurants.

I’m happy to just walk and watch the people. And if sometimes forget to take my camera, well, I guess I’ll have to trust my memory.