25th May 2002 (my past email, posing as travel blog now.)
i'm mass emailing yet again .... BUT....
it means i'm on the road again....
the joys of not doing poo-ey temp work...
rather, i'm squandering those hard-earned dosh, wandering through seedy but beautiful narrow alleyways, and hopefully some pretty cobbled streets on this trip. just generally being a happy snapper.
talking about snaps, i've yet to scan my pics from my US trip and show u all the wonders of that very vast land. (oh well, didn't expect i wasn't gonna get a job-with-scanner-on-table was i? pfft...)
anyway, i'm now in prague. was in berlin before that, and amsterdam before berlin. i got myself an unlimited 30-day travel coach pass for use in many many cities in europe, for a grand total of 167 pounds! life doesn't get any grander. only thing is, bus trips take forever, but i've learned to cope and think it's much better that way since i can read up my lonelyplanet before i arrive in each city.
also, i have time on my hands, and it's not like i've got a JOB to rush back to...
no i'm not bitter.
but i do have to rush through the cities though... 30 days don't add up to much. ah well, if i don't get to experience each city, at least i get a wee taste.
anyway, my first update: amsterdam!
caught up with a friend mia, from melbourne, who's living in amsterdam now. i'm very jealous.
was staying at her place.. well, not really... staying at this flat she's minding for a week. such a beautiful flat! with big bay windows stretching across the length of the room, and on the other side of the glass window, the balcony/rooftop. (we're on the top floor).
the city of bicycles.
bicycles rule here, not that u don't already know. but it's so kewl. and apparently every friday night, in-line skaters take to the streets... kinda like critical mass but on a much smaller scale, and i don't think there's much of a political stand.. just a whole lot of amsterdammers having fun on skates, on the road.
the dutch are so friendly and helpful! they're always smiley when i ask them questions and they go out of their way to help me. i was at the LGBT kiosk the other day, looking for the free gay press but couldn't find it. i was leaving when the volunteer working there called me back and handed me a lesbian listings pamphlet which has listings of cafes/bars/clubs....
... and of course, meetings, discussions and workshops.
(i bet gay men are secretly jealous that we have workshops and discuss about a whole lot of stuff! *grin* )
he then directed me to the LGBT bookshop - Vrolijk (frolic?)
when i got there, i asked one of the guys there for the free gay press, and he said "sorry, as of today, it's no longer free. they cost 2.50 euros now." and this other guy working there, who must have seen my disappointed look, picked up a copy and offered it to me for free! "here take it. it's your lucky day today." and the first guy proceeded to give me a carrier bag to put the magazine and all the stuff i had on my arms (thick heavy lonelyplanet, parka, water bottle, my lunch).
this is just one of the wonderful things that's happened to me in amsterdam that day. my guardian angel must have woken up early in the morning and explored amsterdam on foot with me. normally she'd be sleeping.
a hilarious sight i recalled was this man in his late 40's/ early 50's on his bicycle..
he was kinda short, kinda frumpy, and all he was wearing (i guess it was a very hot day) was a leopard-print swimming costume! not trunks... but swimming costume. i don't know which was more hilarious. the fact that he was in a costume, or the leopard prints.
well, to each his own hey.
not everything is funny though.
i was happily walking along one of the many canals here when a car drove up behind me and slowed down when he came by me. i was wondering what was up, so i turned and looked into the car...
something was definitely up....
he was bloody wanking away.
one hand on the wheel, the other....
well, it can be funny...
quirks of amsterdam:
(i) if u live here, there's a certain night when u're only allowed to leave rubbish out on the streets for collection... as is like most other cities. but, if u do it on a night when it isn't garbage night, there are garbage police who'd go through the contents in the garbage bag and search for info or some kinda identification, like letters addressed to you etc., and they'll come looking for u.
a slight digression: my friend mia, was telling me that in melbourne, there's the dog-poo police, who'd go round testing the dna of dog poos that owners failed to clean up. i didn't know that!
(ii) amsterdammers love using the word "gezellig" (heh-zel-lick), but with both the g(s) at either end pronounced a gutteral, almost silent "ch".
it means cozy, or a place where good times can be had.
so a gezellig place is cosy and inviting and full of gezellig things that make it oh-so gezellig.
i was at one of the tourist booths one day and the people who work there were sitting behind glass windows with microphones. i was waiting in line when i noticed this. and when it got to my turn, i had to speak through this microphone by my side, and hear the person on the other side of the window serving me at same time on this other speaker thingy.
how un-gezellig is that!
it's so hard to communicate. i mean, do robbers really want brochures and city maps and transport maps?
"gimme all you tulip postcards and no one gets hurt!"
i cycled one night into the red light district. it was an eye-opener. women were standing in the glass windows, like cubicles/glass rooms, facing the street, almost like as if they are on display in a museum. (one woman in each "cubicle"). and these "glass cubicles" are lit up in neon pink. so walking down the street, u'd see these pink-lit "boxes". and the girls in the windows were just standing there, or the more energetic ones, dancing.
according to a magazine i picked up here, the going rate is 50 euros for what they unpoetically called "a suck and fuck", but always with a condom. and apparently, the windows are rented to the women for between 100 and 150 euro dollars for an 8 hour shift. the popular girls take in about 450-600 euros a day/night. they fill out tax forms, and many belong to a loose union called The Red Thread.
on saturday night, we visited the dyke bars.
didn't make it to clubs ços they were expensive. but poor fraser, friend of mia's, who's been coming out with us and showing me around (very sweet boy) had to suffer in rooms full of girls.
on my last night, we went to a "coffeeshop". all three of us were very light-weight. we ordered a ready made spliff that we didn't even finish... probably only halfway through, and was stoned as. i had the excuse of having a cocktail beforehand since i don't drink that much anymore.
we then proceeded to the squat bar - Vrankrijk, that had monday nights for lesbians and gay boys. it wasn't very happening, but t'was kewl.
(sorry, my writing isn't in order of events...)
i'd also visited the Anne Frankhuis (anne frank house), the house and secret annex where the little jewish girl (aged 14) wrote her diary while in hiding during the war.
it wasn't as i expected ços it's been reconstructed and everything looked quite new, but was informative.
there was an interactive bit at the end which confused me a li'l.
basically it started with the history of hitler and book burning. (in fact, i was at the square in the former east berlin where the nazis burnt all those books, just a couple of days ago). anyway, it's in a large room with consoles (one red button, the other green) so that u feel like u're in a game show. there's a huge screen in front of you.
u press the green button if u're for freedom of speech.
u press the red button if u're for the government banning discrimination.
one of the footage was of the pope speaking out against lesbians and gays strutting their stuff during pride 2000 in rome, the jubilee year, and how it was disrespectful.. disgraceful...immoral...wrong... abnormal... rah rah rah...
which button should i press?
on the one hand, i am fully in favour of freedom of speech. but in this case, i think i should press the red button. but then, doesn't that mean, i'm not in favour of freedom of expression?
i just think the two opposing buttons aren't very fair.
- stamps my foot*
i also visited the mushroom gallery while i was in this liberated city. it was basically trippy vegetables displayed under glass cabinets with descriptions saying what they do to ya... like relaxing hypnotic herb, or a stimulating high...etc. and they were obviously for sale. there is also a changing exhibit of the work of artists, created while under the influence of these trippy veges.
anyway... time to stop my rant.
i know it's sudden (u're all probably relieved), but it's costing me lots. and tell me if it's boring u, then i won't write these long rant-y things anymore.
i always do when i get started hey.
i'll update on berlin and prague when i next write.
hope u're all well and happy!
big hugs and sloppiest of sloppiest kisses!