May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Netherlands, nether here nor ther... Recalibrate?

August 11
Photos of the restaurant Hollis recommended.  …and Les’s favorite Dane—our hostel receptionist.

August 12
We left our hostel and Les’s favorite Dane, Rebeka.

Scouts were everywhere!

It was our first leg on the Eurail pass.  We reserved a bunk on a train, and after spending some time making sure we were early for the ride, arrived at our car and hurled our packs up into the compartment above the aisle.  We got the top two bunks that we found much later had a ladder under the beds for access.  We shared the place with an Indonesian man, two Russians, and a German woman.  The Russians came with beer, and Fisk.  (I had some in the middle of the night while they were still up drinking, and it tasted just like cough syrup; it felt great on my scratchy throat.)

Train Station
our hostel
August 13
Our teacher, Kristien
our neighborhood and trolley
We arrived in time to check into the hostel, get our bearings, and for me to set out to find the contact improvisation class and jam that Sebas emailed me about.  I wandered and asked various people, including the trolley driver, who wants to be a journalist and thinks that people are not informed (nor do they want to be) of global warming, and that some day there will be a lot of strife for the humans, but the world may be much better off with fewer of our species.  I resonated with that opinion, with melancholy.  I finally found the jam, and one of the people to whom I asked directions to the street was there!  The class was wonderful and I loved being invited to move in my familiar and in new ways.  The teacher, Kristien Sonnevijlle brought some clowning to contact; but it was much more than what I first think of when I think of clowning.  The ideas seemed to come from creating real connection through the personality—one full of emotion and expression—not necessarily through entertaining at another.  I liked that it never replaced the deep physicality that we started with.  I jammed until I was weak and enjoyed every dance!  So thankful to move!  On the way home I got some salad to share for dinner and we illegally ate it in our dorm room.

City of Bikes: look both ways on both sides of the street!
August 14
The Narrowest Building 1.8 Meters Wide
Place for Escaped Catholic Nuns
"Coffee Shop;" tokers on the upper floors
THIS was our big tourist day!  HOLY smokes, we walked and walked.  A “free” (for tips) walking tour of the main sites of the city was spectacularly delivered by Simon.  He enlightened us about the history, the important players, politics, the erection of monuments, the antics of groups of young drunk men and bikes (or Smart cars too close to the edge) and the canal, the Jewish section, the story of Anne Frank, the monument to gays and the overall attitude of, “if it doesn’t hurt anyone, and it’s discreet, then walk on by, it’s ok.”  It’s the first place in the world where homosexuals can get married.  The police don’t see the point of arresting people who smoke marijuana, as they are typically mellow, non-violent types, and would rather they stay in the job stream and pay taxes than paying to put them up in jails.  When Catholics couldn’t express themselves religiously, the police looked the other way from their clandestine churches.

Old Church
One cool story was the mystery of the art that replaced a couple of bricks in the sidewalk.  The brass breast fondled was anonymously placed in the dark of the night, and when the police decided to remove it, there was such an uproar from the locals, that they decided to keep it.  For most, it symbolized the sentiment that if it doesn’t hurt anyone, let it be; and for others it was the symbol of support for the women in the neighborhood.  That it stood right outside the doors of the old church was of little consequence.  
 Simon was exceptional with his tour: informative, entertaining, succinct, grounded, resilient, clear, considerate.  I was very impressed.  
The Bulldog, famous "coffee shop"

Public Urinal, heavily used!
Prostitute Widows, Thai Massage, Christian Hostel...
Leaning houses

Les signed us up for another walking tour of the Red Light District with Jo.  Jo was a bit of a funny character, with her gestures that were late for her verbal rhythm.  She also seemed to be slightly repulsed by the whole scene.  We learned that the lit windows where the ladies call to men (16 years and older) for a 15 minute 50+ Euro session are open, and if the curtain is closed, she has been successful in finding business.  If there is a blacklight, the woman might be a man, or she might be a good choice in fetish activity.  She pays for the rental of the window and room that comes with security, should something go wrong.  This independent entrepreneur pays taxes based on the average amount someone would make in the time she rented.  
Jo called them condom ninjas, and they are as healthy as anyone else in Netherlands, even though 75% of them are immigrants of the EU.  I was surprised with how many windows there were, and especially surprised at how many had curtains closed, though I never saw a man go in or out.  The women are violent when someone wants to take a picture, and a common retaliation is chasing them down, tossing a glass of piss on the camera holder and crushing the camera on the cobblestone. 
 I still don’t know why so many are doing such good business; apparently you can make between 800 and 5000 Euros on a good night.  They tried 4 windows with men in them, but the publicity drove the women insane and drove them out.  You can ask for “the book” at your local hotel and call in a man if you like. 
His Holiness (Hare Krishna)
Between the tours, I enjoyed the scene of the Hare Krishnas, gossiping horses and other characters in the palace square.  It was a lively scene overall.  We had Indonesian take out for dinner and ate it on a park bench.

August 15 
A simple day, compared to yesterday: a trip to the flea market, where I bought a lovely crocheted poncho.  I love it because it’s easy to take off and on, very handy for many looks and coverage, I can hide my money pouch better, and it matches my sandals!   The market had everything from bike parts, to trendy clothes, to garage sale stuff, to touristy things, including hash candy pops, heifer cow clogs, and post cards.  On our way home (we took the trolley the “other” way so that we could see more of the city) we stopped at the brewery by the old windmill to share a beer sampler that included 5 different brews.  
Everyone drinks noon beer
Once back, Les looked at his bank account and freaked.  At the rate we’re spending money, we would last maybe 2 months.  He’s thinking of going home and recalibrating the trip.  I’d like to see what we can do from here.

Aug 16
We spent the day on the computer, exploring what to do.  Should we explore couch surfing more vigorously?  Look into the WWOOF programs?  Stay on the night trains?  Ask dancers from the Contact Improvisation world to put us up in exchange for chores or dinners or something?  We’ve got plans to see Job and Michelle who we met in Thailand and Vietnam, and we’re excited about that, but beyond that, we are pretty fluid.

Any ideas out there?

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