reflections on amsterdam

When we first arrived in Amsterdam we were enthralled. The architecture, the vibe, the layout of the city built around a series of canals, the water and bicycles and boats everywhere, were all uniquely Dutch and very charming. It was fun to visit the homeland of so many of Brandon's family (many of whom are 100% Dutch), and see the model for his Dutch hometown of Pella. I have to say they did a really good job recreating the Dutch aesthetic in Iowa.

They've even "cleaned up" the red light district so when we went there for dinner with our friends the first night (I was a bit freaked out to hear that was where they were taking us) we felt safe and wouldn't have had any idea that that's where we were if we hadn't been told (except for the strong scent of weed on the breeze, but that was everywhere in the city).

I am ashamed to say that some very small part of me had kind of wanted to see the old Amsterdam in the same way you can't help but look when passing a car accident.

But a few days on, while innocently shopping and strolling through the city I saw out of the corner of my eye that someone was looking at me. At first, I thought the woman was sitting in a cafe window but when I looked over I realized that she was in a booth. Staring at me. In lingerie. Then Brandon noticed, and in an attempt to avert our eyes we looked the other way and saw that we were surrounded by them, women in windows with creepy "come hither" stares. It was DISTURBING. Shudder. In the same instant I felt them, and myself, being objectified. I felt dirty. I regretted my previous thoughts. We just put our heads down and got the heck out of there. It was so sad and so off-putting. Afterwards we walked along in silence wishing that we had never seen that.

After that, the smell of pot really started getting to us too. I hate the way that stuff smells. Now we were noticing it and the "coffee shops" everywhere (they don't sell coffee if you know what I mean, um you're looking for a "cafĂ©," sir). Then one woman told us passively that people didn't go to church anymore, so they were mostly made into museums now. The beautiful facade couldn't carry it anymore, couldn't hide what was really underneath. We were disillusioned, disenchanted, disappointed. The depravity hung in the air. Dear Lord, may this not be where our country is headed, except that it is. Kyrie, eleison!

We went on a mission to have one last positive experience before flying to Italy. We wanted to eat real Dutch poffertjes (traditional mini puffed pancakes). We searched and searched and couldn't find them anywhere. We found about 15 places to buy weed, but no where to buy the traditional tasty Dutch treat. Finally, after looking it up on B's phone we found the perfect little pancake shop, but we had to walk really far to get to it. They were delicious and the shop was warm, dark and cozy. Right as we stepped inside it started to rain. We sat for a long time, ordered coffees, pancakes and poffertjes for dessert. It was delightful, and they were delicious.

Don't mean to be overly negative, we really liked the Netherlands in general and feel hopeful that the smaller villages (getting outside the big city) are more moral than Amsterdam, and we didn't have time to explore as much of the country as we'd have liked. But, Amsterdam was an unfortunate place and we were so ready to go to Rome.

Most of you have probably seen this video floating around Facebook in the last couple of weeks but I wanted to share it because I thought it was really powerful, and especially after our experience it hit close to home.

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