These last few weeks have been crazy to say the least. It all began with preparations for a friend visiting Amsterdam from Whales. I was excited to have a friend from home visit. However, she just happened to be visiting the week before midterms. This forced me to work on assignments ahead of time so I could show her around the city. This first day, we walked to the Old Church where she winessed the Red Light District for the first time. It seems awful but I always find people's first reactions of the Red Light District incredibly fascinating. Either they gaze in uncomfortable amazement or they shyly look away from the women in the windows. I only mention this because prostitution and sex trafficking are my independent topics of research.
The second and third day, my academic self got the best of me and I felt inclined to study. Luckily, my friend was able to visit museums while I visited my textbooks and Word documents. Studying did not seem to be a problem before this month. I always managed to find more than enough time to study. This was manageable until I began traveling over the weekends. The first month in Amsterdam I wanted to get to know the city so I never travelled. I am really grateful I did this but I began to get sort of squirmy when I saw other people traveling to Paris, Venice, Budapest, and the list goes on. I do not know how but the trips I scheduled managed to fall together very closely. Please please please do not make this mistake or it will put you in a mad studying frenzy. Lesson learned. Period.
The last day of my friend's visit, we visited Zaanse Schans. You may think this place sounds familiar because I actually mentioned visiting it in a previous post. The windmills? Remember? I think everyone should make their way out there when visiting Amsterdam. It gives you a break from the constantly in motion city. A little country life does one good I think. We walked through the winding dirt roads among the giant windmills. We saw many goats, ducks, chickens, cats, and dogs. I love animals and the type of ducks here always amaze me. I have this deep desire to run up to every duck I see and try to form an impossible friendship that will never be.
For the next weekend, we traveled our way down to Rome. This was my first somewhat solo trip (not organized by a group) so I was really nervous. I was also a bit uneasy about the hostel we had chosen which made me even more stressed out than I had hoped. The plane ride went smoothly and we got to the train station just fine. However, once we started looking for the hostel at twelve AM was when things got too much to handle. The area felt very unsafe, could not find the hostel, and were both out of options. Luckily (and I have no idea how lucky we were at the time), there was a nice and welcoming looking hotel that took us in for the night. We planned a new hostel closer to a nicer part of the city (and safer). This part of the trip really tested my sanity. I like to be in control of situations and this was something I had to plan around and accept I could not control.
The next few days we really did it all! We walked around the Coliseum and felt like we were transported back in time. I could almost feel I was in the film Gladiator and Russell Crowe was yelling at the onlookers. I am a huge ancient history fan (like I spend hours at a time on Wikipedia clicking on one link to another until I know the entire history of the Tudors. It's bad. It's an addiction) so I could have spent all day picturing what the games were like in the vast arena. We then made our way to the Roman Forum, foolishly believing we would be there for no more than an hour. I guess we did not realize the Roman Forum was once a city. Needless to say we were there for multiple hours and only saw a fraction of it. However, it was stunning. There were old collumns reaching towards the sky with storm clouds coming in. We walked through courtyards and ancient ruins where we felt like we were walking amongst ancient people.
The following day, we toured the Vatican. I thought a tour would be helpful (and it was!) because I read it can be very overwhelming because of its size and dozens of museums. Honestly, the tour guide was the best part of the trip. His name was Frank. He was an elderly man, tall, wearing a white fedora, and hastily moved people out of our way because we needed the space "In the name of the Vatica" he would say. He would also play his harmonica for us throughout the tour. What a guy. Anyway, I highly recommend paying extra for a tour because you can skip lines and really understand what you are seeing. The Sistine Chapel was amazing and St. Peter's Basilica was breathtaking. When I would see them in books or movies I never believed I would ever see them in person. It still seems surreal that I got to see them at all.
The last day of our trip was left open to possibilities. I made the spontaneous decision that we needed to do an Angels and Demons tour. This involved visiting all the sights in Dan Brown's novel. Kinda dorky but I could not think of anything I would rather do with my time in Rome. We took a trip to the Pantheon and then spent the rest of the day trying to find this random church, in this random part of Rome, from a random part in the book, for the most random reason. I really wanted to see Bernini's sculpture, Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in the Santa Maria della Vittoria. It was really incredible that one of the best sculptures of the Baroque period is hidden in a corner of a church nobody knows about. I encourage you to Wiki it and bask in its glory as I had.
Alas, I wish I could say the last day in Rome was as good as the first. I made my way to the airport where my flight was cancelled. The next one out was not until two days later. I was in a frenzied panic. I had a presentation, readings, classes, and I just really wanted to get back to Amsterdam which is my second home now. There were a lot of factors which made me make the decision to drop a heavy sum of money to get a different airline ticket out of Rome. I know it sounds ridiculous but it took a lot of me not to break down and cry in the middle of the airport. I know what you are thinking. "Why on earth would you be upset staying in Rome another two days?" Well my dear followers, it is not nearly as easy as you may think. I was by myself (which was scary), the airport is not close to the sights and city (which is a bummer), I am very studious (when I choose to be) and classes are important to me, and I was just plain tired and wanted to be back in a familiar city. After spending a day in the airport, I made it back to Amsterdam where my roommate made me a warm meal and gave me chocolate. I was so happy.
The minute I stepped in Amsterdam again I felt like I was back home. I smelled the cool air and heard the familiar sounds of the city. I felt safe most of all because I knew where to go, how to take public transportation, and had a home as my destination. I could not have been happier to be back in the city which was once completely foreign to me. I went to class today and almost fell off my bike because of the wind but was overjoyed to be in a familiar environment with people who cared for one another. I am not telling a horror story to make you scared to ever leave your place of study. I had an amazing experience in Rome but it made me love Amsterdam even more. Take those weekend trips and get stranded at a foreign airport. You may learn more in those six hours of running from terminal to terminal than in your whole semester in your country. You will also learn to love your place of study even more when you return. Promise.
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<p>Although I am a Kansas native, I can honestly say I have never witnessed a tornado, tended to the farm, or religiously watched The Wizard of Oz. I am a studious college student who enjoys going into the city and testing new ethnic restaurants or going to a symphony performance on the weekends. This explains why my phone primarily consists of photos of food porn and Kansas City architecture. I study international relations and Spanish, both of which offer me a different perspective to the world beyond the Midwest. I often find myself distracted walking to and from class because I hoard pinecones and insist on showing my friends the ones I come across. </p>