So this will be my last blog as it is my last day…then I'm homeward bound! It will feel so good to be state side and as one girl put it, "know that I have my rights." I really don't know what that means, but it's pretty funny. The thing I'm looking forward to the most is sleeping in my own bed next to my dear husband. The last two weeks we have been staying at a chain called NovaHotels. They are very nice and chic, but the rooms are quite small…like NY small. And for two people sharing a room, bathroom and sometimes bed it was a bit uncomfortable. Luckily, my roommate Shelly is a very nice woman and we made it work. This last place we had two VERY small twin beds, and by TWO beds I mean - two beds literally pushed together to disguise themselves as a small queen. We were each so worried that we'd be a bed hog, that we were hugging onto opposite sides of the bed. Shelly one night literally rolled over and fell right off of the bed onto the hardwood floor. She was a good sport when I couldn't stop laughing at her.
On this last post I would like to some interesting takeaways I had from this trip:
1. Mind the bikes! In Amsterdam and all of the Netherlands they do have the right away before pedestrians, before cars and before public transportation. THEY WILL RUN YOU OVER. Please remember to look both ways before you step out onto the sidewalk or street.
2. The Red Light District is safe. In fact it is the safest part of Amsterdam to be in if you are out wandering about because the police are all over patrolling the area, just go with a pal and you'll be fine. It is not this crazy Vegas meets the brothel area that everyone makes it sound like, in fact it reminded so much of New Orleans' district - live music, open window bars and clubs, places to eat, naked pictures galore and people for hire. Women rent out window space and dress in their lingerie - day = not so good looking, night = the hotties. There are both places for men and women, so ladies don't feel left out. Someone actually told me this, and it still makes me laugh as to why they mentioned it to ME of all people.
3. Everyone speaks English. The average European knows 4 languages, with English being the universal language. So if English is not the greatest option, then you can find one to communicate in. This came in handy to me twice - once in an Italian restaurant where our waiter spoke Spanish and the other my high school and college French helped us find directions.
4. Do NOT complain about your food. Universally this is just very rude. Someone told us a story of how they sent a steak back and the chef came out, threw the plate on the floor and they were kicked out.
5. Europe is a mosaic of people, not a melting pot. They do not conform to what the norm is, everyone holds true to their language, religion, dress and cultural ways. They do not understand how we expect everyone in our country to "Americanize" themselves. This is very foreign to them, as it is engrained to them from childhood that diversity is the only option and one must respect all differences not judge them. They do not understand our country in this way. I find their way fascinating.
6. Don't expect to find American restaurants here. On our trip we had a couple of people who did not like European food. One was my roommate. She did not like trying new foods and kept us in search for hamburgers, French fries and cokes. The fries were easy to find, the hamburger and coke a bit harder. So she would need to buy 3 at one time to get her through until the next place. Both Beth and Shelly were my coke feinds during this trip. Shelly finally had to conform and find the best option at the places we went to. There are many similar foods but any food you try is out of this world, if you're just open to it. Also, their food portions are smaller as are their drink sizes. My favorite meal was a mozzarella and tomato sandwich on a fresh bun.
7. If you are open to make new friends, you will. I don't know why I worried about making friends on such a short time. With me being a new transfer to TWU this past semester, I was afraid that they would already have clicks as it seemed in my night class for this trip. I have made great friends and met active art students who I will see again this semester. Some I hope to see out of school as they are Graduate or PH.D students and some who are life learners and already have their degrees and teach high school, our university and SMU.
I am still in awe that this trip worked out in my favor. I am blessed to have a husband who loves me dearly and supports me in my personal growth. My sweet David is such a wonderful man, and this trip is just one other way that he has shown me how assured he is in our marriage. Many people shared stories of having to beg or plead to take this class. This was never the case for us. We both believe that experiences both separate and together can only strengthen us individually and bring more into our marriage.
I am so very grateful that I was able to go through this experience on my own, and grow on my own. The art I have seen has been a dream of a lifetime. I never ever thought that I would stand in the home of Rembrandt, let alone stand in his studio. The emotions of it are still so fresh that I don't know whether to cry or whether to jump from excitement. I never dreamt that I would go to the Netherlands and visit the Van Gogh museum, even though I have always loved him. It just seemed like a planet away and a place I would never go to just to vacation. It never occurred to me that one day I would see a Michelangelo in a Cathedral. This experience was life changing. I will never look a Madonna and Child or a Pieta in the same way now that I have seen one in its natural resting place, a place of worship. The art, techniques and movements I have seen have inspired me in so many ways artistically that I cannot wait to get back home, put up my easel and paint for me, not for a grade.
I would like to end this, with a quote a friend shared with me:
Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving it the sharp contour and meaning of art.
- Freya Stark