A young dutchman cracks a joke as we inhale the smoke and turn the pages of the guestbook. I’m in the Siberie coffee shop, where a warm haze permeates the room.
It’s a good place to seek refuge, considering that outside the door, there’s a strange wintery mix of hail, rain, and sunshine. I guess it’s typical for November in Holland since we are close to the sea.
I hate to generalize, but there’s something attractive about the Dutch. The way they self-mock, their open encouragement to be weird or creative. Perhaps it’s because they acceptant a liberal life which should be celebrated by individual principles within a socially collective society. A paradox, I know. Even this dutch cat has a say on life. He has a choice to be human too.
Where the old world meets the new, I’m spell-bound by Amsterdam. Unlike Rotterdam’s new and urbanized structures, Amsterdam’s houses show their age and character which dates back hundreds of years. The city harbors influences from Surinam, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Morocco all in a messy concoction of globularness. Although some of these cultures were once a part of the lost history of colonialism, they still carry a strong mark today.
Returning to their sense of humor, I like to describe Dutch humor as slightly self-deprecating, dry with a touch of sharp wit. Our tour guide cracked me up as we floated through Keizersgracht (Kings Canal). We pass by multi-million dollar boathouses, an all inclusive deal for twenty-somethings like me. Gliding nearly into a boat home, we snap away photos up close and personal. “It’s worth it!” he says sardonically. “You have all the privacy you can get!” he says point blank.
We went to a few coffee shops to wind down, including Amnesia and Siberie. I am buzzed at this point recollecting my overly romanticized feelings for the city. I stroll up to the counter where the young dutchman is sitting. Stereotypically blond, lean, with green eyes, he watches me as I approach the counter.
“Excuse me, can I have the bathroom key please?” I ask. He nervously picks up a key, the wrong one, of course.
“This one is for the men’s room..” I chuckle.
“Oh, Sorry! I didn’t see!” he exclaims.
Cute, I think. When I return the key, he’s flipping through the pages of what it looks to be a sketchbook.
“Ohh, you’re an artist?!” I ask.
“Haha, no actually, this is actually our guest book. People like to draw in here, I guess, when they’re high.”
“Ahh,” I smile.
“Where are you from?”
“Hm..well you sound American.”
“Right, but do you know where exactly?” I grin.
“East coast more or less.”
Soon we begin to click. But too bad my friends gathered their coats as our conversation grew. I wave them to join, hoping to kill more time with the dutchman, but they’re eager to leave.
“Let me write something in the guestbook.” I say.
He smiles at my note. This is Amsterdam with an open mind.