Arriving in Amterdam

The flight took less time than I expected because when you fly over the North Pole it's a relatively short line. It only took 12 hours there, and 10 hour back. That's only half the time it takes to fly to Boston! I flew with KLM Airlines, and I was hoping for a 747 and was psyched when they actually changed my 757 to a 747, but it turned out to backfire on me. The personal entertainment center is the only way I enjoy myself on these long flights, but appearently 747's are some of the oldest planes out there (funny how the older the plane, the cooler it looks. the Concorde was the oldest, and coolest plane until it got retired. Now the 747 is the coolest, but also the oldest. The planes of the 80's and 90's are just ulgy. Can't wait for these 777's and A380's!). Mine didn't have them! For 12 hours I was forced to watch crap movies on a tiny screen 5 rows away that I'd already seen, or just try to sleep. I tried to sleep and just fuck with my cicadian clock enough to reset it and avoid jet lag. At least that worked. But I was thoroughly disappointed in KLM for having a long range aircraft without personal entertainment. . . . at least the flight was cheap.

I arrived an was reminded of the wonderful EU airport style of volutary customs declaration lines. It's great. You just pick up your bags and walk out to meet your party. I usually don't travel with bags but this time I had a rediculously heavy box of YAUC cards that I had to get out of Japan. I couldn't check it because it was over 20kg, so I checked my only bag, and brought the box on the plane with me. Eve though it was small, it was an ordeal just to walk with it so I had to try very hard to look like I wasn't staringing as I walked on the plane. It sucked, but I'd done it on 3 previous flights so I was used to it.

This was one of the few times I was actually greated by someone at the arrival hall! It was really nice to have Jia waiting for me, and from then on I pretty much just followed her around Holland. The first stop was at her office in the heart of Amsterdam to drop off the box of YAUC cards, and my bag, so we could walk around. I had been to "A'dam" before but I had forgotten about how much I loved it 8 years prior. But as soon as we emerged form Centraal Station it all came back to me. I remembered the scene, and the beauty of the city. I rememebred the diversity of the people, and neverending construction of the canals. What I didn't remember so well was how freindly everyone was. Coming from Japan it stuck me esspecially. The Japanese are firnedly, but it's in a very Japanese way. They rarely smile, and certainly wouldn't smile or laugh as they walked down the street. It's probably something that bothers visitors to Japan, but I don't notice anymore. But as soon as I LEAVE Japan, I notice things like this a lot. I notice how new, cheap, and ugly Japanese arcitecture is. Most buildings in Japan have corrigated tin siding or roofing. The houses are rusty, and seem post-war era. The telephone and power lines are a cat's cradle of wires obscuring the sky, landscape, skyscrapers, and even mountains. New roads and infrastructure are built with no consideration for aesthetics or heritage leaving some of Japanese prized historical sites next to superhighways, train tracks, or at least main roads. These, and more; but one of these things concern me when I'm in Japan. For whatever reason, I block it out. But when I go to other developed countries, I notice. And I it's only then that I understand what my boss means when he insists Japan is NOT a developed nation.

But sure enough, all of these comparisons just made me fall instantly back in love with A'dam. I remembered the last trip I loved Holland and Dutch people, but I thought I remembered Amsterdam as merely a beautiful city and an exciting scene - but with pretty sleezy people. It seemed like a magnet for hustlers, and disreputable people from all over the world. Like Montmartre's sullied reputation 100 years ago, it seemed dirty, and filled with an aweful lot of dirty people trying to mix amoung the throngs of dirty-minded tourists. But I've been told that I misremember it, and that is was more like a cute Bohemia that Montmartre really was at that time. This time the tourists were absent, and the city was full of Dutch. Friendly, smiling Dutch. I even lost my wallet full of almost $100, and it was turned into the bar the next day WITH all the money in it!! A really fine people!

To be continued...