First things first: I arrived safe and sound in Amsterdam with all my belongings intact.
The flight to Chicago was fine; my problems started on the flight to Brussels. Several of the middle rows of coach (at least four) will filled with young south Asian mothers traveling with two toddlers each. The children ranged in age from 1 to 5. Their fathers all seemed to be in first class or on another flight.
Starting half way through the movie (Tooth Fairy - shudder), they started screaming, and the screaming continued on and off for the next five hours. I put in my earplugs and closed my eyes. Every now and then a piercing shriek would wake me, but I did manage to sleep for at least two hours, and maybe as much as three (I kept my eyes closed for four hours).
In the morning, the kids all got yogurt. One of them, who had been coughing rather thickly, coughed, coughed, and then threw up all over himself, his mother, and the cushion. He was one row ahead of me, across the aisle. I looked at my watch: just under 30 minutes before we landed. I hoped for the best.
I found Andy's apartment in Amsterdam without too much trouble. I managed to convince one of his neighbors to let me in the building. "I'm not supposed to," she said, but I showed her Andy's letter explaining how I should get the key, so she decided to trust me after all. Annie* had arrived the day before and I saw her stuff in the guestroom. I dropped off my bags and went downstairs to look for her.
As I was walking over the bridge, I heard a geshrei, and there she was. We hugged and she told me all about her trip so far and her visit with her daughter Cherie* yesterday. They and Cherie's college friend Kaitlin went to the Anne Frank House last evening, and the experience profoundly moved Annie. We talked about it over a nice lunch of a bagel tuna melt and hot tea at a small cafe near the apartment.
I should add that Andy's apartment is in a really cool neighborhood, called Jordaan (various theories of the origin of the name). He's on the top floor and has a great view of the old city sky line.
After lunch, we rented bikes and took our lives in our hands to make our way through the city. There are so many bicycles here; they have their own traffic lights. We made our way to the Rembrandt House. We toured the historic section and watched one of the docents making a print from an etching. By the time we reached the current exhibition of Dutch photography, we both were feeling wiped.
From there it was a short trip to the Portuguese synagogue, where we chatted in Hebrew with the entrance guard, who was from Uzbekistan. After that we went across the street to the Jewish museum, but I was really feeling the effects of too little sleep.
At 5 pm, the museum closed. We called Cherie to see what she and Kaitlin were doing, but they were rather disorganized, so we decided to go for a ride. After much to-ing and thro-ing we made our way back towards the central station. I found a Change both and changed most of my dollars into Euros. Then we made our way back to the apartment.
Andy comes back tonight from Izbiza. I'm not sure if we're going to wait to have dinner with him since Annie is hungry and I'm pretty wiped. We're going to look at two cafes near Leidesplein that are supposed to be good.
That's all for now.
*At Annie's request, she and her daughter will be referred to with pseudonyms.