Canals, Windmills, Red Lights, Bikes and No Tulips

Trip Start Oct 18, 2006
Trip End Oct 19, 2007

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Friday, May 4, 2007

This city has opened up my eyes to how disturbed our Western world is. Yesterday walking through the Red light district l have never felt so disturbed walking through a place (exception being Dachau concentration camp)- it made me almost sick. After only just finishing reading Jacquie Pullingers "Chasing The Dragon," last week in which she describes the drugs and prostitution explicitly happending in the wale dcity in Hong Kong over 30 years ago lam amazed at the sight l saw here in Amsterdam. She had described how people- woman and children have no choice but to seel their bodies or their own children to the night to be able to survive. And then l visit Amseterdam- where depite curret misconception Prositiution has only been legal since 2000. Where l walked past beautiful women, exposing their bodies in house windows to the people passing by. Woman who appeared to not care that men where looking at them only with oen thing on their minds. Right before my eyes l was seeing the undoing of what all feminisist and our foremothers have tried to undo. It shattered me and made me angry and confused as to why these beautiful women were selling themselves so short- was the money really worth it? How can they ever live a normal life after this- do they want too? I just wanted to sit and talk to one of them and get inside their head and mind space. In many ways that night shattered me yet opened my eyes up to the dirtiness of this world- where a bus load of Chinese tourists (mainly couples) line up outside a live porn show famous in Amsterdam- just because its what other tourists go too! What is this encouraging in their marriages as they walk into these places together, encouraging in their lives? As we were walking down the district (mind you it was only around 8.30pm) surrounded by men standing and watching the women and shouting to their mates lucid comments, Sarah my friend from NZ stated something that has had me thinking all weekend "What do you think Jesus would do right now?" I stopped still....l knew l couldn't answer the question. I had come to the red light district just because its one of the must see sights in Amsterdam (that's as far as l went though don't worry...l didn't enter any of the must see sights within the district!) and l left unable to get the sight and feel of the place out of my soul. What would Jesus do? Would he try and talk one by one to these girls, would he try and preach in the middle of one of the districts canal bridges about Gods love... what would he have done? What should l have done and been doing? Why do we let this corruption go on. Why do l not care enough that this city is full of people getting "high" in coffee houses- because they don't know any better and because it's the thing to do! Am l living for the current thing to do? Or am l living for Gods things to do? I would have never imagined tat a city like Amsterdam would challenge me so much but it has and l can honestly say l hardly slept a wink that first night in the flying Pig beach hostel....manly because l had so many thought whizzing through my head and secondly because there was constant music playing until 6am!
Sarah and l decided we would try and clear our heads the following morning and go for a walk along the North sea and through the sand dunes to the tulip farms. I thought l had timed the trip perfectly to coincide with the tulip season, so that Sarah and l could tip toe through the tulips and past windmills...alas l forgot that the tulips are actually cut when they are blooming and we reached the fields only to find a sea of green beheaded tulip leaves!!! Once we got over the disappointment we had to laugh at the scene in front of us and we tried to use our imaginations as to what it would have looked like a week ago. We then continued to sit on the beach for the rest of morning by the windy North Sea watching kite flyers and going shopping in Noordwick.
We then caught our hostel shuttle bus back into Amsterdam city- this time fortunately our driver was not completely high and hallucinating as trains went past like the night before and l felt a lot safer on the 40 minute trip which took us past numerous windmills and canals! Upon reaching the city we made our way to the floating flower market, which is famous for its tulip bulbs and flowers. We finally saw the tulips we had been wanting to see all morning, despite being wrapped heavily in cellophane they were still beautiful. We then made our way to the station to catch yet another Free walking tour held everyday in Amsterdam....yes l know l love my freebies! But they really are good value...and this one took us around the city for 3 and a half hours showing us all the must see sights aka. Rembrants house, the red light district, the worlds smallest house and numerous other local attractions.
Now sitting in a lovely Christian city hostel (Shelter Jordaan) having spent the day at the fabulous Van Gogh museum (10 Euro) and walking the Jordaan canals and eating pizza lam yet again contemplating me and others lives in this world. Van Gogh has also left me thinking. He wanted to leave for the world a "souviner" (his words) of emotions he saw when he viewed the world, this he did through his unique art. He didn't want to just paint realistic landscapes- no he wanted to portray the emotions and feeling you/he felt when viewing these landscapes. Hence his unique use of colour- where he has green sky's and blue and purple trees. And yet somehow it works- because you begin to understand that these are the clours deep down in your subconscious, these are your feelings, your emotions but in order to realise it you have view a slightly mad mans art. A man who had to struggle all through life with himself and the world, a man who had to commit suicide for his work to become noticed in order for you to be able to view and understand his work! He not only left a souviner for your eyes- he left one for your soul as well.
And then there was the amazing sobering experience of visiting Anne Frank's haus. The young Jewish girl ho have the holocaust a face and a soul. It is said that without her story the holocaust would just be to us numbers- not real people. But she and her amazing story brought a face- a young, innocent face to something mankind will never forget. Her simple diary has opened our eyes, to understand the fear and power of man against man. It astounded me that people could live for two years straight- never being able to go outside, never being able to use the toilet or speak loudly during the day. To have your only sanctuary be a tiny attic, to have the only beauty in your life be a tree swaying in the breeze outside your small bedroom window. To love and await everyday for the sound of the nearby church bells- to be happy with a few small posters of old movie stars and a couple of queens around a bare bedroom wall. How lucky lam- how much l have freely been given and blessed with. I often look and contemplate these peoples lives and think how lucky lam that lam living in the here and now. And yet l forget that other people, children, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are living in the here and now with me right now in the world and suffering just as much by mans hands. When will my eyes be opened with compassion to them? What do l want my souviner of my life to be to the world? Just a couple of creative photos taken of the world? Or a life that made a difference to those and the world around her? Thank you for opening my eyes Amsterdam- thank you for touching my soul with both your beauty and your darkness- you have left me never forgetting!!
The above was written on my last day in Amsterdam...however on my last evening in Amsterdam l realised l was very wrong about the Red Light district and l want to rectify my misconceptions to you all. Staying in the Jordann Shelter City hostel- Sarah and l ended up talking to one of the Christian volunteers worked there about his ministry and lie in Amsterdam. Of course our number one question was based around the Red-light district. He informed us that actually only 2% of the women working as prostitutes were actually Dutch and were there of their own free will. The other 98% were generally from Eastern European countries where men had come and promised them an amazing life in Amsterdam, taken the girls, usually raped them numerous times to get them used to sex, got them addicted to drugs in most cases so they could become reliant on the income and pimp and then took them to the Red light district. They were then threatened that if they ever ran away one of their usually family members would be killed- and now and again a member of a girls family would be to put the fear into the girls. Once l came to hear all this- l felt truly terrible! There l had been walking through the red-light district trying not to- but in reality judging these women and now l learnt the truth. I can't even imagine! I am glad my eyes are now opened.


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