21 November, 2007

Old friends in Amsterdam

The highlight of my trip to Amsterdam was seeing an old friend of mine, Gijs, from Holland. He took a train from his hometown in Valkesvaard, Holland, to Amsterdam, and spent the next two days giving me the tour of Amsterdam from the Dutch perspective. What I didn't realize about Holland is that it's an immigration country in much the same way that the United States is. There were so many different cultures gathered into one city, all of them speaking Dutch and working there. An article I read just this morning ("Netherlands not so Dutch anymore") elaborated on what Gijs told me about the country. I also learned more than I'll ever need to know about the canals' history thanks to a boat guide. And from Gijs, I learned that drunk people tend to throw bikes into the canal, to the point that the entire bottom is covered in bicycles.
The best part of Amsterdam itself is that everyone I talked to was so, so friendly. When a huge parade celebrating Saint Nicholas' arrival blocked me from crossing a street, I asked a stranger where I could cross, and then a police officer. They both gave me 10 different suggestions, all 10 in a cheerful tone, and wished me luck, also assuring me that their Saint Nicholas was NOT to be confused with Santa Claus. The other great thing about Amsterdam: the best cheese I have ever tasted. Ever.
On the downside, the immigration rules were strict and Matt and I had some trouble for about an hour -- I thought we might have to spend the night in the airport! But professor Hecker came to the rescue with the internet, and we bought a plane ticket. From now on I may just carry a bundle of papers documenting my entire life when I travel. That way when they ask for tickets proving that I'm leaving Spain eventually, I can show them that I ran cross country in highshcool, too.

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