Erin and I landed ourselves at the one “safe Christian” hostel in Amsterdam, where drugs and alcohol are banned. Not that we rage with either, but of all places to choose the holy hostel.
After my day spent on trains, we finally met up at seven. Erin had already been here a day and knew her way around, so we set out to find dinner. Amsterdam – fries, pancakes, pot, sex workers. So everyone giving me crap about not trying the local things enough… Here we go.
My friend Katie had said we had to go to Wok to Walk. Erin and I happened to stumble upon it – we wok to walked until we were stuffed and then some. Feeling gross about ourselves afterward, we set out for the Red Light District, because there’s nothing that makes you feel better about your Chinese food bloat than seeing hundreds of prostitutes.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it’s legal prostitution – red lights over the windows, women in lingerie posing in them. Closed red curtains mean they’re in there with someone. Blue light windows, Erin explained as “they have something we don’t have.”
I’m a moron – I really thought it was male prostitutes, say, for my sake in an alternate universe. So when blue lights meant men dressed as women, I needed clarification. “Well, then what light are they? I’m just lookin’ to chat with one.”
Walking through the red light district as a girl, it’s really hard to tell what to do. Look straight ahead? Look at the girls? Get lingerie ideas? Do you smile or keep a straight face?
I walked the red light district licking an ice cream cone.
Erin and I got back to the hostel giggly. Hadn’t smoked, hadn’t drank, just giggly. Nobody in our dorm room talks either, so when Erin pulled my beanie over my face and I started zombie walking, the blank stares we got sent us running to the hall to explode with laughter. Tears of laughter.
We went to bed with ideas of smoking and peep shows the following night. How silly and memorable would that be – and it would be on our last night together. Hmm..
Free walking tour day. So we walked for free plus tip once again, all around town. We got a better idea of Amsterdam’s culture and tolerance. Two big things:
Prostitution: Accepted here since the beginning of time, four companies now rent out windows to the women for 8-12hr shifts, charging them 75-100euro per shift. Generally, it costs the visitor about 50euros for fifteen minutes of time, the price going up as you get more, picky? Complicated? The women are independent contractors – they hold the same license as the free tour guides – the license requires they be 18 or older, though some of the companies and peep shows require you be 21. The city as a whole is considering raising the minimum age to 23. Random facts, Amsterdam sex workers have the same rate of STD’s as any other person in the city. The oldest sex worker is 82 and she has a two week waiting list. The oldest working a window is 72.
Coffeehouses: Pot smoking is illegal, but tolerated. Freedom is celebrated in Amsterdam. Coffeehouses are allowed to have 500grams on the premises at any one time- the most popular get hourly deliveries, if not more often.
It was during this lecture my rebellious not-actually-going-to-happen-fantasy of eating a pot brownie (space cake) was crushed. If you eat a brownie, you consume 100% of the marijuana in it (and you don’t know how much that is). Now, you roll a joint, have a few puffs, half of it goes up in smoke. Not so bad. Also, if you overdo it, and lose your basic ability to function, the coffeehouse people call the cops who buy you orange juice to raise your blood sugar and then give you a 400 euro ticket.
Ugh. I can’t afford that. And I’m pretty sure I could get super stoned. You should see me after the dentist.
After the tour, Erin and I went to a pancake house with four people we met on the tour. Oh my, and I thought I could be friends with anyone. This was the worst lunch conversation of my life. I never, ever thought I’d say that. It’s so mean, it’s so unlike me… Ugh it was so bad.
We walked, we toured, we chatted. Erin treated us to our final dinner together, and her final good dinner in Europe. She’s from Australia, but tomorrow takes a night bus to Paris, from where she’s off to Canada to live with family for the next few years. She’ll probably visit, if I do something cool like get married or buy a puppy or a lamp or something.
We got steak, fries and salad for 7.90 each. It was pretty darn rare, and for someone who spent nine years of her life not eating red meat, another new experience.
Erin: “It’s good once you get past the fact it’s still mooing.”
I’m going to miss her.