This brief pause to reflect upon the last two weeks since I’ve blogged is welcome. As soon as I finish this, I will hurry to my last class of the week, where I will then hurry to the airport and begin a weekend in Dublin, though I just fully unpacked from last weekend’s trip to Amsterdam yesterday. I still can’t believe I have the opportunity to do all of this; saving all year and working full time has paid off a much as I hoped it would.
Amsterdam was the one place outside of the UK I wanted to be sure that I visited while I was here, and after going I do not regret that goal in the slightest. It’s an amazing city. The canals loop around everywhere, and the Dutch architecture characterized by adorable tall buildings squished together looks so nice next to the water. I think they have a lot of things right there. For example, they seem to have almost eliminated dependence on personal motor vehicles. There were hardly any cars on the road; instead, the streets are dominated by buses and trams, and the sidewalks are always full of people walking to their destinations. That’s not even to mention the bikes. They’re everywhere. All of the streets have separate bike lanes, and the stoplights have different signals for cars, pedestrians, and bikes. I applaud it in theory, but in practice I secretly thought it was really annoying, because they are coming constantly from what feels like every direction and make it really difficult to cross a street or navigate anywhere, really. Amsterdam is also experimentally liberal in a lot of other ways that everyone knows about. Despite this, they are also remarkably backwards in other ways. There’s a big focus on weed and sex work, but also a pervasive undercurrent of racism and ignorance of the disabled, a disregard for important issues in favor of more accessible “liberal” ones that made me feel uneasy. Keep in mind that I was only there for 3 days, though, and I could be missing a lot of detail in my tourist’s impression of the city.
Overall, though, Amsterdam really felt like a different world. I’ve come from there back to England this week, and that is the context in which I’ve been watching all that’s happening at home at the University of Missouri and elsewhere. I feel completely removed from it in an eerie way. In fact, I’ve felt completely removed from any social movement since arriving here. The English in general, from what I’ve seen, just do not have a good sense of social awareness, and it horrifies me because I know the same issues exist here. It’s one thing that I have really come to appreciate about the United States: horrendous things may happen on a large scale, but they are never ignored. People are activists who engage in discussion and work for justice. I don’t mean to romanticize tragedy or injustice in any way, but I just miss being around people who care.
That got solemn, but I am otherwise in love with my life here in England. I’m so happy and comfortable in York and with my housemates. Before leaving Amsterdam, I found myself thinking that I couldn’t wait to go home, with home being York. Amsterdam was nice, but after a weekend I was exhausted and ready to get out of there. England, on the other hand, I would be happy if I never left. I’m starting to count down my last weeks. But if you’ll excuse me before I get too emotional about that, I have a plane to catch to Dublin.