How to make a friend in Uganda. business consultant, NGO worker, former Peace Corps volunteer, activist: searching for sustainable solutions to eradicate extreme poverty

January 22, 2012

Amsterdam

Beyond the neon red lights and the sweet smoke wafting from the coffee shops, I found a beautiful small city with magical row houses set upon canals and a people as open and friendly as one might hope. The last city on my itinerary, I was a bit tired but found my first bit of hope in a fellow traveler. Within minutes of checking in, I began talking to an Aussie who was also travelling through Europe for his first time. After ordering a bit of dinner from the hostel’s bar, we journeyed out across the city. The red light district was jarring. I’m accustomed to women soliciting on the street or on craigslist; yet, here prostitutes, perch in storefront windows as if some sort of candy. More disturbing was just how many storefronts had their lights on but the curtains drawn. Despite the tapping on the glass, we made our way across town to a bar where we sat, talked, amd watched people as the effects of the brownie I ate earlier began to kick in. Walking back we noticed swans swimming in the canals. This is my perspective:

swans

My second night in Amsterdam I stopped at Paridiso to catch Cymbals Eat Guitars play a show. The venue wasn’t super-crowded and the fans seemed eager to listen to the music. Before and after, I stopped at a local bar and chatted with a bartender about life in Uganda vs. Amsterdam. A great conversation and one of the highlights of my trip. The Van Gogh museum was also pretty hip.

cymbals eat guitar

The openness and acceptance of the Dutch people is astounding. At times, they seemingly just look the other way, as with the sex tourists, while, as with me, sometimes they just greet with open arms. fantastic. Oh, and all the bikers and bike lanes just rock.

A church crowded between houses:

church

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