I used the internet at the university (although later that day I finally got my internet to work by switching to Mozilla Firefox) and went to find food afterward. I had not eaten much the past few days and it was my second full meal since I had gotten there. By the university is a street with tons of restaurants, bars, some shops, and a couple casinos. After searching unsuccessfully for a traditional German restaurant I decided to try an Afghan restaurant.
There was a television on in the restaurant that was turned to a Turkish channel. It was so interesting watching it because there were music videos playing in which elements of Bollywood and American culture were combined. Sometimes the music would sound like Bollywood music and the girls would be dancing in clothing typically associated with it, and the guys would be dressed like American rappers. Commercials for American products featured Turkish women but were spoken in English by someone with a Turkish accent. Even when Turkish was being spoken English phrases were also scatter throughout the dialogue.
After I left I started walking toward the university again. A Jamaican man came up to me and said in English, "Hi. How long have you been in Germany?"
I was very surprised because I had been walking without speaking and nothing I was wearing or doing looked foreign. "Three days." I said.
"Where are you from? I feel like we've met before."
"I'm pretty sure we haven't met before. I'm from America."
His eyebrows went up. "Oh. Well I'm from Jamaica, so we're practically neighbors. Are you sure we haven't met before? You seem really familiar."
We are practically not neighbors. "I'm pretty sure we haven't met. I've only been here three days."
"We could have met somewhere--you never know. So what's your name?"
I couldn't think of a fake name fast enough, so I said, "Rachel."
"Huh." He reached his hand into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper that had 'Rachel' hand-written on it. "Are you sure we haven't met?"
Okay, I thought, that's really weird. I wondered if he had multiple pieces in his pocket and imagined him pulling out a piece and saying "Is this your name? No? How about this one?"
I made small talk with him while we walked.
"You seem very interesting. I'd like to get to know you better." He said "Do you have a phone number?"
uuuuuhhhhh not for you, creepy Jamaican name-voodo man.
"If you don't want to give it to me just say so. I promise I'm a good guy"
uuuuuuhhh I would love to say so, but I am too polite and nice for my own good. "Well I've learned to never give my phone number to strangers even if they seem very nice." Thankfully that is not a lesson I have ever had to learn--common sense simply tells me it is a bad idea.
"Well how about I give my number to you." He offered. "Do you have your phone?"
Hold on here. Do I look stupid? Are you going to text me your number or call me so I have yours? Because that would require you to know my number. Or are planning on programing it into my contacts? Either way....no.
He saw my hesitation and said "How about I write it down. Do you have a piece of paper?"
Why don't you use one of the pieces in your pocket? But I knew giving the guy what he wanted was the best way to get rid of him. I pulled out a piece of paper and he wrote his name and phone number down.
"I know you're not going to call it anyway." He said.
Damn right I'm not. Did you figure that out the same way you figured out which piece of paper to pull out of the file box of names in your pocket?
I said goodbye to him and went on with my day.
The next day I met Bettina at the main station to leave for Amsterdam on a bus that the school had rented out. My university is divided into two campuses: Essen has the humanities, while Duisburg has all the sciences and engineering programs. We drove to Duisburg and picked up thirty Brazilian students. They had been in Germany for two months, during which time they had taken intensive German language courses in preparation for their engineering courses. The trip was for them, but I was allowed to tag along for free.
I know some people think Amsterdam is ugly (Max), but I liked it. I enjoyed looking at all the narrow buildings lined up along the street painted in different colors. I don't have any pictures, but there are also canals running through Amsterdam with boat-houses tethered to the walls of the canal. It reminded me of an aqua-trailer-park, only these houses looked really nice. Surprisingly the water doesn't stink like Venice. We went into an old building that we were expecting to be a museum, but it turned out to be a mall. So there were 15th century stone archways with escalators running under them and Armani stores next to fancy pillars. By the way, the German phrase for "fancy-schmancy" is "schickie-mickie."
Everyone in the Netherlands speaks wonderful English, and that was the main language I heard while I was there. The Germans (I'm going to call them Germans even though they weren't all German) talked to one another in--you guessed it...German. I felt rather out of place. It was not until I told the story about the Jamaican man that they really start to warm up to me. Rad (I'm not sure how it is spelled or even if I have his full name) was very reserved at the train station, but he really came to like me after that. He was a ton of fun once he started talking.
Bettina and I broke off from the rest of the group and guess who we saw?
Dutch houses are very narrow and tall because in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries property taxes were based on how wide the houses were. As a result people an individual home would often have four floors connected by twisting two-foot wide staircases. Many wealthy citizens also built second buildings directly behind their homes that were on connected on two levels. The Franks had a second building that only connected on two floors and the building is not visible at all from the street. So, the Nazis could only judge the size of the house by what they saw when they were inside.
Throughout the museum quotes from Anne's diary are painted on the walls, both in Dutch and English. One of the quotes speaks of having to be as quiet as a mouse during the day, talking in whispers and tiptoeing across the floor. Perhaps it is because of how old the floors are, but with nearly every step the wood groans loudly.
After exiting the annex, visitors go through a room in which they find out the fates of all eight people who were sent to the concentration camps. A video plays in which Anne's best-friend tells of seeing her the day after Anne's sister died of typhoid. Anne said she had no one left in the world. The woman said that if she had told Anne that her parents were still alive maybe she would not have died. What a terrible question to have on your conscience for the rest of your life.
The final room contains Anne's diaries and some of the scratch-paper she wrote her unfinished novel on. After reading the quotes on the wall I have no doubt that even if Anne Frank had not died the world would still know her name. She was a fantastic writer and dreamed of being a famous journalist. What gems did the world lose due to her premature death?
While I feel sorry for Anne, I feel even worse for her father. He lived without his family for nearly forty years. He never read Anne's diary until after he was informed of her death. His life's work revolved around the nightmare he experienced during Holocaust and his daughter's diary, keeping the wounds fresh long after they should have began to heal. He lived to be ninety-one years old.
*She loves Americans, by the way; her eyes lit up when I told her I'm an American. She said the soldiers are helping the people. She has immigrated to Germany and is one of the minority religious groups in northern Iraq. Just thought that was an interesting tidbit regardless of political views. I was actually a bit surprised.
Well I am going to go back to bed. I have a sore throat and a bit of a fever today.