Saturday, April 21, 2012

Around the World: Sex, Drugs and Bicycles

April 21, 1992

I arrived in Amsterdam yesterday afternoon.  The hostel is busy, but still had a few beds available and I was able to get one for myself in the dorm and reserve another for Jane's arrival later today.  Yay!

Amsterdam, what a fantastical place!  Idyllic cobblestone paths that line a grid of canals mixed with the crowds of urban existing.  The liberal attitude toward sex and soft drugs makes for an interesting walk through the area.  Parents watch their children play in parks, tourists meander along the canals as they visit the many coffee shops offering a selection of marijuana that can be chosen from a menu, women pose in windows at all hours of the day and night waiting for interested men seeking their services.  It's all so orderly, socially acceptable and openly displayed.  Quite a difference from the "war on drugs" and street corner prostitution in the shadows of night that I'm used to.

Amsterdam.  Sex, drugs...

The attitude at home is that selling sex and using drugs is bad, a scourge of society that leads to crime and other terrible things.  Yet, as I get my bearings in a strange city, carrying a backpack and walking around with a map, I am an obvious target for anyone looking to take advantage.  I don't feel any less safe here than I would at home.   In fact, I feel safer here than I have felt in many of the other places I've been.

The people in the busy hostel keep to themselves.  Beyond civil pleasantries, it's hard to strike up a conversation with anyone.  I stuff my bag into a locker and head off to Schiphol, Amsterdam's International Airport to meet Jane.

... and bicycles

Jane is jet lagged and a little disoriented, trying to take in a new place on only a few hours sleep.  We return to the hostel to tuck her bags into a locker before planning a quiet day acclimatizing to a new place and a new time zone.  We pick up some picnic supplies for a relaxing day in a nearby park.

• ¤ •

“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”
~John Green