Well guys, this is it. Time to move on. I've spent the last eight months in Amsterdam running around like an obnoxious American woman, smoking weed in all 320 coffeeshops and drinking to a point where I'm found nightly wretching on all fours in rusted gutters at the Red Light District, surrounded by drug dealers and dirty, dirty prostitutes....
Come on! Don't be so quick to stereotype Amsterdam as the above description. Although, you should take pity on the weekend tourists -- they usually end up as the above description. This city is the heart of Dutch culture, and I was damn lucky to see it. The overall lifestyle here: do what makes you happy, and you'll blend in well.
Amsterdam was my playground:
Remember how I was a tour guide this summer? I was, and I was flippin good at it, too. Most summer days included me guiding young backpackers around the city, an attempt to open eyes and educate others on how the city is more than just smoking pot and indulging in the eye candy of the Red Light District. It was a three hour walking tour around the central area, and I would lead groups of 20 or 30, rambling on and on about Amsterdam's history. It was a free tour, however, so I worked my ass off for good tips. That means a certain level of entertainment was in order... It was more than joke telling, a tour was a three-hour performance.
I jumped on and off railings, steps, houseboats, tree stumps, really anything that made me taller. I shouted at Dam Square, and whispered at the Oude Kerk. At the Tower of Tears I pretended to cry. At the Rembrandt house I played Rembrandt. My hands would flail around for the Miracle of Amsterdam. My eyes would widen and arms would stretch for the story of Anne Frank. I was on an imaginary ship when telling the history of the East Indies Company. Each day I left physically and mentally exhausted.
I got real into it, and the feelings rubbed off on the crowds. Sometimes tourists would buy me beers, sometimes they would hug me. Sometimes they would laugh, sometimes they wouldn't get it. Other times they would applause after random stories, other times they would holler like sports fans. There was always a wide range of emotions on their faces, something I enjoyed to watch.
On average, I made 80 Euros a day -- for telling people how rad Amsterdam really is.
Amsterdam was my music mecca:
Off the top of my head, bands I saw while here: Atmosphere, Black Crowes, Jack Johnson, The Darkness, Death Cab, The Decemberists, Bouncing Souls, Pennywise, The Presidents of USA, The Infadels, The Kooks, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Spoon, Flaming Lips, Gabriel Rios, The Weakerthans, GunsNRoses, Planes Mistaken for Stars, Buena Vista Social Club.... Rolling Stones... El Gran Silencio...
These bands played at venues that were once maybe a Protestant church (the Paradiso) or a milk factory (The Melkweg) during the 1600s and 1700s. And the venues are incredible -- always more than one stage, a cafe somewhere, multiple bars around the club, and amazing acoustics, lights and architecture. Bands are always so ecstatic to be out here, they play only their good songs for the Dutch crowd -- though most are a good blend of locals and foreigners.
Then there is the jazz that makes your ears bleed saxophone. Every night it echoes throughout the city from small brown cafes, large music halls and student buildings. Ex pats that once played with James Brown flutter around these bars, tooting out solos from the crowd when they have a surge of urge.
In Amsterdam, there are punk rock bars, heavy metal bars, blues bars, hip hop bars, reggae bars; all well-equipped with weekend nights of endless gigs. But there's even more on the outside -- amphitheaters in parks, street musicians in Dam Square, and the random households enjoying jam sessions as they sit outside on the front steps, drinking beer and slurping on fresh herring and cheese. I'm telling you, this city sings and has a soundtrack impossible to rival against.
Amsterdam was my middle man:
Upon my arrival back in February I was placed within international student housing through the University van Amsterdam. There were around ten people on each floor studying abroad from countries all over the world.
I shared a floor with students from Russia, Hungary, England, Austria, US... Dave, a punk ass kid from Detroit, who was perma-stoned, ended up with a prostitute in his room at his going away party because his friends wanted to "surprise" him. Luke, an Iranian jazz bassist from Brighton, England, took me off guard many times when I passed by his room as he chanted Buddhist phrases and clanked his chimes... then blasted the White Stripes.
The tourists I met, that's another story of it's own. Gappi, a "citizen of the world" who was really from Germany, and decided to change his pants in front of the entire tour as I was telling the story of Anne Frank. "You're a free spirit, huh Gappi?" I asked after the tour. Gappi smiled at me, began to wave his arms like a bird and "flew" away down the street, yelling "I was born free, lady!"
There was a senior citizen couple from Florida on my tour once. The wife was small, her skin shriveled and body hunched over. The husband, tall and his head was a glossy bald. It began raining, and the wife held a poncho, camo army pattern, pitched like a tent over her head while her husband let the rain bounce off his face. Neither of them had pleasant face expressions. They looked so ridiculous I laughed so hard I was crying, in front of the entire tour group. I would try to keep going, but every time I looked over there they were, and I busted out in giggles again which caused everyone there to laugh with me. Oops.
Three words that means fun: Large Spanish Groups (LSG). These people are STOAKED to be in Amsterdam, and they are even MORE stoaked to be on a free tour! Every place we'd walk to, would receive a round of applause. I would say "Ok, guys our next stop is that bridge over there" and the LSG would clap like lunatic fans."Alright, now were headed down the street, please don't take pictures of the ladies in the windows" LSG roars with laughter, applause, hoots and hollars. I felt like a street performer. In a sense, I was.
I led girl scout groups from Canada through the Red Light District, as well as boy scout groups from Ohio. I guided kids high as a kite, or tripping on mushrooms so hard I held their hand. I led a blind guy who had a giant bloodshot eyeball on the bottom of his walking stick that rotated as he walked. So many people with so many stories and so many different backgrounds. I can't tell it all in one email, and I can only hope I remember it all.
Amsterdam was my muse:
These snippets of examples listed above will be everlasting stories. So many experiences to remember, write, share and reminisce. Enough to last my entire life. It's a satisfying feeling to have, this idea of bottomless material.
So I'll continue to write my experiences as long as you guys promise to remain my audience.
Audrey "A'dam is Awesome to the max, and beyond" Sykes