International Women’s Day

Since today is International Women’s Day (Vrouwen Dag), I’d like to say thank you to the women in my life. Thank you for listening, loving, teaching, supporting, and inspiring. And a special thank you to the women who befriended me and helped make my transition to living in the Netherlands easier.

 

 

Women’s March Amsterdam

The signs we carried for the march.

The signs we carried for the march.

Disclaimer: I rarely mention politics but today I am making an exception. My aim is not to persuade or change your mind but rather to share my experiences and perspective.

On January 21, Amsterdam held a Women’s March in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. The march’s aim was to raise awareness and show support for women’s and minorities’ issues. I found out about the event a week before it happened (thanks to a friend’s post on social media) and debated joining the march. Would it do any good? Would anyone listen? The current political landscape is hateful, divisive, and exclusionary. None of those things help people or demonstrate compassion. I was raised to treat people with love and compassion whether or not I agreed with them. In the end I decided to march because I believe that everyone has a right to freedom, education, and safety. I believe people have a right to be heard and respected.

In the days leading up to the march, I read a bunch of articles covering intersectional issues. I thought long and hard about what to put on my sign. How could I show support everything I wanted to support and yet be clear and concise? (If you have ever tried to write a tweet about a complex issue you can appreciate the struggle.) I learned how to crochet so I could make a hatĀ  (yes, I read many articles for and against the pussyhat). To be honest it was less about the hat and more about learning a new skill but I digress.

On the day of the march Mike and I boarded a train to Amsterdam with hand painted signs. (No pussyhat since I hadn’t finished it.) While waiting for the tram, I met another expat and her daughter heading to the march. The woman felt frustrated with the recent election and had been disappointed she couldn’t attend the Women’s March on Washington. She was happily surprised that the Dutch were holding solidarity marches in Amsterdam and Den Haag.

meeting area

Photo by Mike

The closer we got to Museumplein the more people we saw carrying signs, wearing pussyhats, or wearing political pins. I wasn’t sure how many people would attend but the crowd assembled in front of the Rijksmuseum exceeded my expectations. The area in front of the I AMsterdam sign was already shoulder to shoulder. Signs rose above the crowd proclaiming support for women’s rights, refugees, immigration, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA issues, Muslims, education, democratic freedom etc. (Some took advantage of the opportunity to protest a certain orange haired individual.)

We chanted “Equal rights are human rights” and “Black lives matter” etc. Some people had brought sheet music and sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “All You Need is Love.” We marched around Museumplein and ended in front of the US Consulate.

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Photo by Mike

As an immigrant/expat in the Netherlands, it heartened me to see how many people (approximately 3000 according to police estimates) came out on a cold winter day to raise their voices in support of each other. Some people brought their families (including pets, the Dutch bring their dogs everywhere it seems). The individuals marching were as diverse as the issues. Most of the people I spoke to were expats from all over, including a Muslim refugee, but I also spoke a Dutch woman or two. Everyone I spoke to came out for different reasons. Some marched for themselves. Some marched for their children or family. Some marched for friends.

I had begun the week frustrated but after the march I felt at peace. I felt heard and no longer alone. If enough of us raise our voices we will be heard and we can change things for the better.

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Photo by Mike

Amsterdam Gay Pride

I was flipping through my photos recently and realized that I neglected to post about theĀ Amsterdam Gay Pride festival. Considering what a HUGE event Pride is, this was a big oversight on my part. Oops. So now you get my perspective on the event (just a little late).

The Amsterdam Gay Pride is a week long festival that occurs annually in August. This year Amsterdam hosted EuroPride, a gay pride festival hosted by a different European city each year, so the festival lasted 3 weeks this year. There are always tons of events ranging from drag shows to parties to film screenings. And this year, thanks to EuroPride, there were even more events. Conchita Wurst (2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner) performed this year as part of EuroPride but unfortunately, I didn’t get to see her. It is impossible to attend all the events and parties.

People come from all over Europe (and the world) to celebrate. The streets are crowded with people in pink* and rainbow garb. There are beer and concession vendors (plus information tents) all over the town center. You can also buy (or sometimes get free) swag ranging from t-shirts to penis balloons. The balloons seemed to be quite popular this year. I ended up with a free fan this year.

Last year was my first Pride and I had no idea what to expect. I arrived late to an event and could barely see the performers. It was still fun but I would have enjoyed it more had I been able to see more of the show. This year I decided to do it right. I planned what I wanted to see and arrived early. Dressing up is part of the fun so I spent a lot of time putting together my costume. Mike even got into the spirit with a feather boa. We ordered him an ally pin but it didn’t arrive in time. On the upside he has it for next year.

My Pride outfit in the colors of the bi pride flag. The tights are very pink and sparkly (the picture doesn't show all the glitter sadly).

My Pride outfit in the colors of the bi pride flag.

We decided to check out the Canal Parade and staked out our spot early. We were near the end of the route so it was maybe 15-20 minutes after the start time that we saw the first float. The Canal Parade is a quintessentially Dutch (and extremely popular) part of the festivities. Local groups and businesses put together floats for the parade.

It was heartening to see all the support for the community. Amsterdam is committed to making the city safe and welcome for the LGBTQIA+ individuals and it shows. I’m happy to live in a country where it is safe to be yourself and love who you love. And I’m lucky to have found someone who loves and supports me (and is willing to wear a boa to prove it). Pride was a lot of fun this year and I’m looking forward to the festivities next year.

The decorations on the boat next to us at the parade.

The decorations on the boat next to us at the Canal Parade.

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oudt-and-proud

pink-orange-float

Drag queen with pink paper hair

Drag queen with pink paper hair

Inter-faith float supporting queer individuals

Inter-faith float supporting queer individuals

Mike and I enjoying the parade

Mike and I enjoying the parade

*Pink is the official color of the LGBTQIA+ community is the Netherlands.

Further exploration of Utrecht

I love Utrecht. It is a lovely town and a short train ride away from me. There are lots of restaurants and things to do. I often walk by the Domkerk when I visit. The Pandenhof is the cloister adjoining the church.

The famous Domkerk

The famous Domkerk

Corridor off the Pandenhof

Corridor off the Pandenhof

Pandenhof

Pandenhof

Utrecht also has several canals. There are cafes along many of the canals. One of my favorite wine bars overlooks a canal. At some point I want to rent a boat to tour along the canals.

canal

canal

Relief along a canal depicting Icarus

Relief along a canal depicting Icarus

I am a huge nerd (no shocker to those of you who know me) and I love museums. The Speelklok Musuem is pretty cool and one of the more unusual museums I have visited. They have a variety of mechanical music devices from music boxes on up to precursors of the jukebox. You can still see speelkloken in town markets and festivals all over the Netherlands. The ones in town are usually the size of a keyboard and operated by one person. I love listening to them as I go about errands in town.

Phonoliszt Violina at the Speelklok museum

Phonoliszt Violina at the Speelklok museum

Nijntje is one of the more famous Dutch residents; she’s been around since the mid 1950’s. Her name comes from the Dutch word for little rabbit (konijntje). English speakers know her better as Miffy. I totally missed it last time I was there but there are Nijntje traffic lights in Utrecht. There is also an adorable Nijntje store in downtown Utrecht.

Nijntje Pleintje - English speakers know her as Miffy

Nijntje Pleintje

Nijntje aka Miffy

Nijntje aka Miffy

Sculpture in Amsterdam

I have a bit of an obsession with finding art in public spaces. Below is some of the art I’ve stumbled upon while wandering Amsterdam.

I couldn't find a title or description for this sculpture.

I couldn’t find a title or description for this sculpture.

This is a statue of Spinoza. The inscription at the bottom reads "De doel van de staat is de vrijheid" or "The purpose of the state is freedom."

This is a statue of Spinoza. The inscription at the bottom reads “De doel van de staat is de vrijheid” or “The purpose of the state is freedom.”

This guy is sticking out of a wall near a canal. Again no title or descriptor found.

This guy is sticking out of a wall near a canal. Again no title or descriptor found.

mural on Spui

mural on Spui

Sculpture in Westergasfabriek

Sculpture in Westergasfabriek

Floating sculpture in Westergasfabriek

Floating roccoco dress sculpture in Westergasfabriek

De schreeuw in Oosterpark

De schreeuw in Oosterpark

"Gedeeld verleden, gezamenlijke toekomst" (shared past, common future), Oosterpark

“Gedeeld verleden, gezamenlijke toekomst” (shared past, common future), Oosterpark

You can see more art that I’ve found around the Netherlands here.