Monday, April 12, 2010

Amsterdam Day 2

We are in Amsterdam now, and what stands out to me are the windmills and tulips and marijuana. The way each country uses its natural resources gives it character. In Ireland the farmers

cleared their fields of the many rocks, and then built fences out of them. In Amsterdam flooding is an issue so the Dutch have built dikes and canals, and use the water as fences to enclose their animals and delineate their property. It feels a lot like Venice to me. The canals are lined with daffodils and quaint bridges.
Sometimes my students don't want to get involved in politics, or even register to vote when they are 18. Young and old here are very interested in politics. Before the war, the Dutch left politics to their government. They learned that you couldn't always trust the government to do what's right.

We went to a working farm where they made cheese and clogs. It reminded me of my family's farms in Ireland--small, family operations on beautiful land. It took about 3 minutes to make a clog from a block of wood, and only a little longer to sell a large part of their inventory to us.

We saw the bustling flower market where they sell bulbs, and found some bargains at the flea market. We saw most of the artist's original paintings at the Van Gogh museum. Amazingly beautiful! At the museums many young people are standing in front of a painting getting the information about it from their iPhones. Only the old people are using the audio-tour headsets.

Anne Frank's house was quite sobering. She always believed she would escape and get to live a normal life again. The eerie details of their lives shut away are still there: the marks on the wall to measure the children's height, the flash cards Anne's sister used to study Latin by correspondence course, and the playbills on the wall of Anne's room of the performances she was missing.

The Red Light District was actually started by the church to keep the sailors concentrated in one area, and not let their sinful excesses corrupt the rest of the area. They put a huge church in the middle of the area in hopes some will find a more lasting comfort than the drugs and sex they are seeking. Marijuana isn't legal, but tolerated, and the coffee shops don't sell coffee. There is a huge crime element connected with the drug sales.

Then we took a cruise down the canals. The kids were tired and quiet until about halfway through the cruise when a passing boat of 5 young men mooned us. They were quite animated after that, and many said the cruise was the best part of the day.

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