24 March 2008

easter at the van gogh

today is easter sunday. i talked to my mom and sister, kirstin, last night. i have to admit that when i hung up the phone, i cried for the fist time since i've been here. it was the first time i'd spoken to them on the phone since i left, as well as the first holiday i've missed. lots of firsts, these days. i love being with my family more than the average person, and i practically live for family get-togethers and holiday celebrations, so it will be hard to miss the smaller holidays and birthdays.

as well as it being easter, it also was a "snow day." another one! the weather here has been so crazy, i can hardly believe it. one moment it'll be sunny, cold, but sunny, and the next it'll be snowing and/or pouring down rain and windy! it's not great...pretty bad, in fact! ;-) luckily we're both pacific north-westerners and were used to a fair amount of bad weather, so we try not let it keep us indoors too much.

so, despite the wind and snow, today we set off to the van gogh museum...a good museum to start with in a city that boasts the most museums per capita of any city in the world. the van gogh was just...world class. the sheer number of the pieces was mind blowing, and even more impressive, were the brilliant colors in them! the yellows, the blues! because it was a holiday, the museum more more crowded than normal. scott and i smiled at each other when we saw how many people there were, knowing that we'll be back countless times, so it was okay! we were still able to see our favorites, and when we go back, i'm sure we'll find new favorites.

when we left the museum, it had (temporarily) stopped snowing, so we found a little cafe in the museumplein to have lunch. i had one of the best sandwiches i've ever had...grilled brie and tomato. as were were finishing, a girl and her boyfriend approached the cafe, and just when she walked under the canopy a gust of wind must have come through because all of the water and melting snow dumped right on her head. it truly happened in slow motion, and this poor girl got soaked. she was a trooper, though. scott and i decided that i would have cried first and laughed second. i felt so bad for her, it was so cold out and now she was wet! i hope they gave her a free lunch or at least a free hot coco to help her warm up!

i had one last place that i wanted to see before we called it a day. this place had eluded me on all of my excursions, and it was one of the things i wanted to see the most. i have accepted that i'm not a natural with a map, in fact, i'm terrible, and it gets frustrating. i think it's the same part of my brain that can't remember my keys or if i payed my cell phone bill. anyway, the place i had been looking for a place called the begijnhof. finally we found it, with some assistance from the darling people at my all-time favorite bookstore, the american book center. turns out, the reason i had overlooked it was because all you could see from busy spui centruum was a big wooden door.

the begijnhof is a sanctuary for women. it was originally built in the 1300's for catholic women who lived like nuns. they were able to live there, away from sin (men), to worship, and to educate and take care of the poor. what a surprisingly peaceful place in the middle of the city! the peacefulness of the place was almost overwhelming. there are rumors that the women who live there (it remains a sanctuary for single women) are trying to close it to the public, but i hope they don't because it was a wonderful sight to experience. one the the first houses you see, #34, is amsterdam's oldest house, and one of only two remaining wood houses in the city, and was build in 1420! 1420!!!!! surrounding the perfectly kept greens are circle of beautiful houses with a chapel in the middle.

after every trip into the city, i feel so lucky to live here. it's really a dream come true, and i plan on continuing to make the most of everyday i have here. and in the end, it was a wonderful easter, filled with art and a trip to a place where catholics came to worship in secret when their religious freedoms had been taken away. the begijnhof was a perfect place to end our day, and like i said, i am a very lucky girl.

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