My trip to Amsterdam was the perfect mixture of adventure and learning. Amsterdam really made me think about a lot of things in our society. Visiting Anne Frank’s secret annex and visiting the Red Light District museum both weighed heavy on my heart for numerous, yet different, reasons which I will discuss further a little later in this post. However, with Amsterdam brought spontaneous fun!
In order to catch our 6:45 am flight, my friend Karen and I had to take the last train out of central London…at 12:30 am. I can now say that I have “slept” in an airport. Whether it was the hard chair as a bed, or the pop music as my lullaby, I got about an hour rest before the flight. I passed out within seconds of taking my seat on the plane, but our 45 minute flight did not suffice my craving for sleep. Needless to say, Karen and I were lagging. As we stepped off the bus to find our hotel, these two British boys with backpacks got off as well. We quickly realized that we were going to the same hotel! At the hotel check-in, we also found out we had used the same groupon deal for the trip! One of the boys, Adam, offered the idea to go explore the city together. Although scenes from the movie Taken appeared in my head and I could hear my mom saying, “Stay away from strangers!” they seemed harmless and we agreed. We had wanted to meet British friends!
Turned out to absolutely make my trip! It was a beautiful day, so we decided to get a coffee by the canal. We set a game plan for the day. What better thing to do with new friends than go to the “Secrets of the Red Light” museum! After that we headed to the Anne Frank House. We were feeling a little down after that, so we got a few drinks out by the canal. Karen and I got to know so much more about the British culture and what it would be like to grow up in London. We learned what London-ers do for fun, what they think of Americans, what kind of music they like and the list goes on! After this we wandered around for dinner. To my astonishment, we came across “Wok to Walk,” which was my favorite restaurant in Barcelona! I made the choice for the group dinner and had never been so excited for a meal! After walking the streets a little longer, Karen and I decided to call it a night while the boys stayed out for a few more drinks.
The next morning, Karen and I headed out early in the morning (The boys slept until the afternoon!) and went on our canal boat tour. It dropped us off at the Heineken Experience. Although a little commercialized, the tour was awesome! Before we got the free beers, we get through a museum of the founders and how the beer is made (did you know Heineken is 92% water?!). I was sold on how great Heineken was….until I tasted it at the end of the tour and realized that I really am not a huge fan of the beer! Haha!! We ended our day with the “I Amsterdam” sign and lots of food!
With all this fun also came a lot of introspective thinking. The Red Light District museum, paired with walking the district at night, sat very uneasy with me. There are over 900 women working the district a night with millions of tourists and 200,000 “buyers” a year. Learning these facts, as well as how the district and “loverboys” (also known as pimps) function, made the district seem like much more of a reality. It is more than a girl in a window. It is a daughter, mother, sister, and friend. Someone who had/has aspirations and dreams. Someone who has few options out. My friends and I were in shock as we walked down the streets watching “transactions” being made. The girls, very suggestively dressed, would tap on the windows or wave to flirt for attention. It was their way to pay the bills. I felt very uneasy after leaving the district, but I also felt very thankful; thankful for my education, my home, my family, my job. I am in a position in life where I would never have to consider prostitution as an option. Others are not as lucky.
Secondly, the Anne Frank House nearly brought me to tears. I have so much respect for those who endured the Holocaust after taking my German and the Holocaust course at Chapman University. I had told myself that I would make it out to a concentration camp or death camp this semester abroad, but after going to the Anne Frank House, I do not think I could handle the emotional drain of a death camp. Before going into the secret annex, we go through a museum and learn about the 8 members of the annex. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only one to survive. He wished for the annex to remain unfurnished. Because of this, before walking into the annex, we looked at a dollhouse model of what the annex would have looked like with the furniture in it. It was actually larger than I thought it was. I thought the annex that the Frank’s lived in was literally one room, but in fact it was a 3.5 room, 2 story, apartment. However, when we walked into the annex, I quickly ate my words. Although larger than the one room I had imagined, the rooms were small and dark. Imagining beds and tables and furniture in the rooms as well was nearly impossible. Imagining living there for over 2 years was impossible. It was extremely eerie being in the same room as Anne Frank and her family lived. One thing that nearly broke my heart was the remaining hope that was in the annex. That is one thing I cannot fathom from the Holocaust- throughout all the horrors and dire circumstances, people still had fiery hope within them. Otto Frank had a map of Europe on the wall in his bedroom and would place pushpins where the United States or Great Britain landed for invasions. On the same wall were Anne and Margot’s height marks. It was crazy to see how much both of them grew in hiding and so sad knowing what happened to the two young girls. Anne and Margot both got sick in a concentration camp and died in the spring of 1945; weeks before the camp would have been liberated. I am so thankful; for this experience to remind me of the past and how important it is to learn and grow from other’s experiences. Naturally, I bought the Anne Frank Diary in the book store and have begun reading it. Anne truly was a special girl and I look forward to growing closer to her as I continue to read her story.