The Impossible City

Kaylie Crawford
February 11, 2013

Amsterdam is impossible.

             The very existence of Amsterdam is something of a mixture of chance, dumb-luck, sheer willpower, and stubbornness. An old city still young compared to other European cities, Amsterdam sits among its canals and dams as a testament that impossible things do happen.

                My being here feels a bit impossible. I flew here – I flew here – on a contraption made of steel weighing thousands upon thousands of tons. Impossible. I’ve lugged my luggage, and oriented myself through orientation. A mish-mash of students from different states and countries settled themselves into alien apartments, blindly throwing themselves out there for some friendship.

                While I’m not an expert at meeting new people (actual level: novice), I find myself in a new place with no ties and a half a year ahead of me. Thus the hand shaking and genialities ensue, and soon I find myself smiling and laughing again, with family and friends thousands of miles away, something I kept feeling would be impossible at first.

                And with only a few days under my experiential belt, I slowly started to shove myself into the daily puzzle of Dutch life. Number one priority? Get a bike. Get a bike or go home. Cyclists rule these lands, and they can be both kind and merciless. Be wary and listen for the little ding-a-ling of a cyclist – it could save your life.

       With wobbly legs, I biked my bike or traveled by tram to the first days of classes. Impossibly, I was only severely lost twice (though I prefer the term “temporarily confused”). Finally, the sweet smell of academia. Different, yes, but studies are studies and feel familiar in that snuggly sort of way. I felt quite at home melting into the seat of a café with my homework at hand, sipping on some tea and hiding a smile as I watched people get pelted by sporadic hailstorms. (Later, I would bike home with hail tap dancing on my head. Karma.)

               As I walk through the canals, or bike through alleys, or even when I just sit down at some little café, I cannot help but feel the age of the city. America is young. Even my home of Massachusetts, the so-called “Cradle of the Revolution”, is a measly four-hundred or so years old. Here, in Amsterdam, history stretches back eight-hundred years, and the Netherlands dates back even further, to Roman times. When I walk the canals, I wonder how much is buried beneath Amsterdam. This impossible city, reclaimed from the sea, is built on its ancestors, with tools and skeletons and stone just beneath the surface.

               The Dutch are similar, in a way. Blunt but kind, always friendly, they are built from the frames of their city and their past, but unlike some European mindsets, not chained to the past. There is a pride here that isn’t nationalistic, but personal. Quite unlike America, one doesn’t see flags everywhere, or bumper stickers on cars (or bikes, for that matter). T-shirts with Uncle Sam or large billboards for “Go Army” have no parallels here. Just bars, shops, museums, and people.

                   I came to the Netherlands – to Amsterdam – to discover what inspired the author John Green so much. I came to discover the so-called “city of tolerance” for myself. And perhaps I came also to learn more about myself, and how I can fit in this shrinking world of ours.

                         So far, Amsterdam has shown me impossibility, and how impossibility can become reality. Also, I’ve learned mayonnaise is great on fries.

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Kaylie Crawford

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I&#39;m Kaylie Crawford, a tea-drinking writer with a desire for travel and poor coordination skills. I hail from the small town of Dracut, Massachusetts, and study writing at the gorgeous Ithaca College in New York. Besides doodling, snapping photos, and reading, I love adventuring with friends (or just staying in with a home-cooked meal and a movie). I plan to see the world and meet the many beautiful people in it, and share my shenanigans with others in hopes to spread some smiles.</span></p>

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