Welcoming Stew and Sinterklaas.

While I did welcome one of my best friends from home, Sarah Stewart, and the Dutch legend Sinterklaas this past weekend, this post is dedicated to my fabulous but incredibly short time with Stew. Before I get to her visit, I’ll mention another fun activity I did this week which was going to get coffee with an exchange student from Hockaday from Lithuania, Gaby, that was in my advisory and now goes to Amsterdam University College. We had talked about getting together all semester and finally did; I actually saw her twice this week, once for the coffee and again for the AUC open mic night at Science Park. I invited Nat to come with us to hear Gaby recite some orginal poetry, and we saw some of Nat’s AUC friends there too. Gezellig!

Gaby at AUC.

Gaby at AUC.

I found out that not only am I a skilled hostess, but Stew is a smart traveller. This made us a killer combination and we ran around Amsterdam like the two crazy, cultured, twenty year olds we have become. She came into Amsterdam at around noon on Saturday and had left my apartment by 5:30 Sunday evening, but we still somhow covered so many Amsterdam traditions and I learned even more about my city while being reminded of home. I told Stew that Saturday we would focus on the Amsterdam that tourists come to see (she sent me a list ahead of time of things she wanted to do, so smart!) and on Sunday, I would show her the Amsterdam I have grown to love. I had another Pitzer friend in the city also this weekend, but she was so busy with the travel tips list I sent to her that we didn’t end up meeting up. I will be giving this list to anyone that visits in the future and base my friends’ visits on it as well. Stew and I started off at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum (second time but still awesome), and we got through them so fast by just seeing the necessities. We then travelled through Leidseplein and Kalverstraat to see Christmas lights and extremely packed streets of shoppers–the touristy we got this weekend. In between our sights, Stew and I caught up with each other and shared what it’s been like being abroad; we’ve had really similar experiences and adjusting to home will be easier with her so close.

Museumplein with Stew.

Museumplein with Stew.

From Dam Square we went to the Red Light District and I’m pretty sure Stew is now scarred. I think Amsterdam customs go straight over my head and I don’t realize some things really are bizarre. Stew had the assumption that the ladies in the Red Light District were more of strippers/showgirls than prostitutes, but this just isn’t the case. We saw customers entering rooms, and that was something I actually hadn’t seen yet. Later that night when we were with friends that have taken the prostitution class at UvA, we learned that the purple lights above windows signify transvestites and side streets have specific purposes, some are more expensive because they don’t use protection, things like that. I wish we would have seen some purple lights but I think Stew was thankful we didn’t stumble upon them. To the district again this weekend!

After we kind of lost our appetites, or Stew did at least (I’m used to this life!), we returned home to rest, eat, and get ready to go to Trouw, the biggest and best club in Amsterdam. Electronic music started in Amsterdam, so Stew had to go to the best place to hear it. We met up with friends and travelled to East Amsterdam, the part of the city with more warehouses than canals. The night was fun but given Stew had woken up at 4:45 that morning, we lasted until about 3am (turning in early by Trouw standards…) and that was enough. Sleep felt like heaven. We had to get up 4 hours later, which didn’t feel so great.

A typical view of the RLD, obviously not my picture as I don’t risk taking out my phone for a picture at all there!

Up close and personal at Trouw.

Stew went to the Anne Frank Huis on Sunday morning while I hung out in a cafe close by. We went to my second favorite pancake restaurant for a quick breakfast then wandered around Jordaan. Unfortunately the stores are closed on Sundays but she got the idea of what shopping is like here. We didn’t have much time anyway because Sinterklaas would be arriving soon! See next post for details on this special man. We did get to see him, along with plenty of Zwarte Pieten, then had to sprint across a few canals to catch a boat tour. Considering my first boat tour didn’t include any information, I was happy to hear about some history that I wasn’t aware of, for example: a street was named specifically because the breweries were on it (Brouwersstraat), we rode on the Amstel which I don’t think I had actually been on, we passed the mayor’s house, and we even saw Sinterklaas again on a bridge. Stew definitely dosed off a few times on the tour so we returned home after for quick naps before she left for the airport. I died on Sunday night; my muscles were sore from running or standing around, but it was so worth it.

I finished my work for this week early. Every day I have to remind myself that I’ll be home in less than a month. That only means the next four weeks will be busy and stressful, and there’s a trip to Prague in the middle of it. The weather is significantly colder now, doesn’t break 45 degrees, and the fog has moved in significantly. I had major bike drama earlier in the week (bought a new one, didn’t like it, traded it, broke my old one, got it fixed for seven euro, selling it) but I am officially set with a new bike with pedal breaks AND gears which makes a huge difference in my commute to class. I’m going to paint it soon as its matte black at the moment. In other exciting news, I have realized (specifically today while looking at Christmas gifts in the shops) that people really do think I’m Dutch. A shop owner was speaking to me in Dutch, I kept up until I couldn’t understand, and he told me he was surprised because I “definitely don’t look American.” I’m taking that as a compliment. I told him I try hard to hide it, and his response was “just don’t start talking.” Thanks. Time for a cup of avond (evening) tea and more internship applications. I’m trying to keep myself busy or I’ll keep getting these flashbacks of California weather! Maybe that’s a good thing or I’ll just forget what the sun looks like altogether. IMG_4286

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