Jieun initially loved Amsterdam, then liked it considerably less once she learned more about the Red Light District and the drugs. One thing I learned: “Coffee Shops” in Amsterdam are not coffee shops. Joshua wanted a donut, and in search of one, he and I went into what I thought (based on the sign) was a US-style coffee shop. I barely stepped in the door but my lungs are still recovering.
I don’t consider myself super spiritually sensitive to geography, but I have had isolated experiences where I’ve had a sense of something spiritual about a place. The summer of ’95 I spent in Daejeon, Korea, I felt like there was a spiritual light there. I had virtually no community or real access to worship that whole summer, but I still felt a spiritual depth. I felt the opposite the summer of ’98 in China, that there was spiritual darkness over the area. I felt a darkness in Amsterdam too, that kind of manifested itself in weird dreams and a lot of difficulty sleeping that felt abnormal. Strange place.
Highlights were the canals and the Anne Frank Museum. The latter is haunting and enraging. Super crowded, but highly recommended. We visited the Charles Dickens House on Christmas and this was vastly different – it’s one of those house museums where it makes a huge difference that that’s where she actually was.
One thing that stuck with me though was kind of a random video of her father, who talked about his reaction once he was given and first read her daughter’s diaries after her death. He was shocked at the depth of her feelings and thoughts. Of course he talked to her every day while she was writing them, and she told him how she was feeling and what she was thinking, but he had no real idea about the depth and content of her inner life. And what he says is that he concludes that parents don’t ever *really* know their children.
That thought lingered, because I think it’s true, and I already see that in my own kids. I know there’s depth to Abby’s thought, and I already know that there are ways in which I’m terrible at understanding her. And I know this because she tells me – there are times when she’s upset, and when I try to get her to explain why, and she tries to, she frequently ends with “you can’t understand”. And it’s true. Part of it is I’m terrible at understanding women, because Jieun says the same thing, and Abby also frequently says “only mom can understand” (or asks for Jieun straightaway). But part of it is more fundamental also, I think, in that parents can’t ever fully know their kids. Jieun thinks this distance is appropriate, that parents aren’t supposed to be friends with their kids or fully know them, but that their job is to love them and release them to independence. In any case, the idea that I already don’t fully know my kids, and that I may not even be supposed to – that’s something I’ve been thinking about.
One interesting about The Netherlands is that there aren’t a ton of taxis around, so we rode a lot of mass transit. And combinations of them. To get back this morning we walked to the train station, took a train to Rotterdam Central (I booked flights via Hipmunk and didn’t carefully check the airport. It was only when we were waiting for our flight at Heathrow that I checked to make sure that the “Rotterdam” listed on our flight status is in Amsterdam and discovered to my astonishment that it’s not), a bus from Rotterdam Central to the airport, a plane to London, then a taxi home. 5 modes of transit in one morning. Nuts.