04. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
[Trip Actual Date: August 27, 2010]
The train doors opened and quickly a gust of cold air hit me in the face. I shuddered and huddled more into my jacket I had thought was pretty thick and winced against the tiny drops of frozen rain water hitting my cheeks. Hurriedly walking across the cobble-stone streets with six of my friends and a friendly local named Tim (one of my friends’ connections), we opened our umbrellas and eagerly pulled out our cameras. I pulled out mine half-reluctantly, already frowning at the stormy grey skies that reigned above us.
Turning into an alleyway, Tim pointed out the first place we were crossing: China Town. In the middle of Amsterdam. Europe. I couldn’t help but gasp and giggle. I had came all this way to experience something completely non-oriental and here I was in my second European city moving through a narrow street full of smells and windows that reminded me of my family and my culture; albeit I am only an eighth Chinese but the symbols and then walking by a closed Buddhist temple – grand and magnificent even in a European city – made me smile.
It was like two cultures clashing and contrasting and blending inside of me. I blinked and stared at the gold etchings, familiar arts I had seen just over three weeks ago in China. Here I was in the midst of my emotional storm the first week of school – a storm of anxiety, stress, homesickness, curiosity, uncertainty, and suddenly, they were all blown away. A reminder of family and home. A reassurance. The deep breath that just blew out of me was indescribable.
Everything was going to be okay. My nightly prayers will be answered.
Moving on with a small step in my walk, we scurried across the wet stones and past many interesting artifacts that just added to my whole view of the atmosphere of Amsterdam. I’m not going to lie. By the end of the day, I wasn’t a fan of the city. The downcast, turbulent, whimsical rainy weather played a larger factor in my distaste, and the general mourning mood disturbed me. Walking down Red Light District and sadly seeing the prostitutes pressed themselves against the windows, wondering about their lives, and seeing a sign of a torture museum with the combination of Anne Frank House and morose statues just sent my heart plummeting. It was hard for me to stay happy, to stay energetic and focused on every heavy step ahead of me. It wasn’t too long after lunch when I just wanted to go back to Maastricht.
But God and life has always taught me to appreciate everything, even in its smallest amounts. Little did I know, God brought out those things to make me minimally smile and gave a chance to Amsterdam. The signs started later on in the day with the large, gorgeous swans swimming gracefully at the end of the Red Light District. I gaped in awe and watched them try to unfold their large wings. I couldn’t help but mutter my amazement, saying how I’ve never pictured swans to be so big. They were perfections of white at the end of a street filled with debauchery. It was like the heavens trying to remind me to try and find the good in everything.
Near the end of our Amsterdam trip, we skipped over to a quaint market where a friend and I loudly gasped and made fools out of ourselves as we stumbled to the table with intricately patterned pastel colored leather journals. With India Ink Paper. One of the top things I love in life! It was incredibly hard to put the journal down, but that one symbol had me promising to myself that I would come back to Amsterdam for a quick day trip just to give it another chance and to buy this journal.
I keep saying: it’s a wonder what little things can do.