Het Laatste Rit: My Final Hours in Amsterdam (Part 1)

Hannah McGrew
March 17, 2020

When I was in middle school, my bedroom was decorated in a Parisian theme. Eiffel towers were thrown all over my room and pink was splattered everywhere. I suppose I was intrigued by the foreignness of a culture I’d never experienced and by the words I didn’t understand. I dreamed of the day I would get to go to Europe and see it all myself. As I grew older and graduated from the pink Parisian room, I hung a large world map on my wall. I pinned all of the places that I had been in green and all of the places I wished to see in red. There was so much red and so little green. I couldn’t wait for the day that I’d be able to switch out the red pins to green. The map hung on my wall as a daily reminder that my hard work would one day pay off.

Living in Amsterdam was a dream come true. Every day, I woke up and opened my window to stare at the canal across from my building. I thought maybe if I stared long enough it would feel real. That this was my life.

As I finally felt it was settling in, and Amsterdam felt like home, I received an email from my homeschool: “IU advises students still in Europe to return to the US as soon as possible…”

There’s no way. It couldn’t be over. Just like that? They said “urge.” They can’t force me to leave then, right? My inner monologue swarmed with denial. While my roommates began booking flights just in case, I booked a ticket to Anne Frank. If I were only here for a few more days, I was going to see as much as I could.

I messaged my family, who were all still asleep because of the time difference. I told them the situation and said I’d be back in the evening to discuss options. I hopped on my bike and headed to the Anne Frank museum.

The entire museum was surreal - but more on that in another post. After, I met some friends at our favorite apple pie place that was a quick bike ride away. In the unpredictable fashion of Amsterdam weather, the grey sky released a storm of hail for about five minutes that lasted the duration of my bike ride. As I walked up to the restaurant sopping wet, the sun came back out and the sky was blue. I couldn’t help but laugh, I’d bike in the hail every day if that were my sacrifice to stay in Amsterdam. We all sat around the table and attempted to play a fun game where we spoke about anything but the coronavirus. We asked random questions and laughed and ate pie, but there were times that the conversation dwindled. We’d go quiet for a moment knowing where each other’s thoughts drifted but we dared not say. This could be it.

As we got up to leave and thanked our usual waitress (all together we’d been there an absurd amount of times), she cheerfully replied, “Thank you! I’ll see you soon!” My heart did a tight squeeze that I tried to ignore.

The rest of the day was perfect. The sun was out. The buildings of Amsterdam glowed, looking even more beautiful than usual. We took lots of pictures. We laughed. We biked. We looked around in different local shops. We ate dinner at a wonderful Indonesian place. We biked home after the sun went down - the lights of the canal houses glowing and the air finally smelling like spring. It was simple and perfect.

As I parked my bike in the garage of the apartment building, I mourned my ignorant bliss. I was going to have to talk to my family about potentially leaving.

I walked into my room and as my phone connected to the Wi-Fi, it began uncontrollably buzzing. I read one of the messages, “Hannah, where are you? You need to start packing ASAP. You need to be at the airport tomorrow morning.”

My heart completely dropped.

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Hannah McGrew

<p>Being from a small town in Michigan, I was always eager to get out and explore the world. Upon my graduation from high school, I was gifted with the opportunity to travel to Alaska which is where my insatiable desire to see the world truly began. At school, I’m studying Psychology, Business, and History—a reflection of my many interests! When I'm not studying, I love curling up with a book, teaching Gymnastics, and exploring wherever I'm at.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Indiana University
Stevensville, MI
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