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Amber Paulen

Two Trips

8 December 2009


I’ve taken two short trips lately, to two opposites of Europe, north and south. Two weekends ago it was Amsterdam; yesterday we returned from Malta. I love this movement Europe gives: one hop and you’re in another country, speaking another language, inhaling a whole other history and not to mention, weather. Off the train in Amsterdam at Centraal the cold rain struck us sideways; in Malta we had no need for a winter jacket, only sunglasses.

I’ve been to Amsterdam countless times before, with my family when I was young and didn’t know what marijuana or prostitutes were. When I was travelling years ago, I heard Americans scoffing at this ridiculously liberal city, concentrating solely on the sex and drugs. The Dutch don’t necessarily agree with Amsterdam’s immorals and the city is in no way a representative of the country. It should be taken in its own context, as most everything should. That said, the grey heavy weather is perfect for smoking and drinking then walking along circular streets.

We really went to Amsterdam to visit some friends touched down in Europe at the onset of a much longer trip that will take them well into next spring and Asia. Their nomadic journey may pair up with mine come January. O! I really hope so! Thailand, India, Vietnam, Australia. Right now it’s all up in the air.

Then Malta. I hadn’t been to Malta before. We went to Malta for an engagement party, which is a tradition there, held on a fancy wine estate. We ate fancy food and drank fancy wines and hobnobbed with fancily dressed people. Honestly I saw little of Malta. But I did gather its white-yellowish-tan color and that it is more chaotic than Italy. The buses were as if driven out of the seventies and only cost fifty cents (compared to Amsterdam’s three euros). Over winding roads we drove with holes, glancing out into the darkness at little stone walls. Everywhere the sea dominated as did that antiquated standby, the sun.

Rather in conformity, all the girls at the party wore small black dresses and high heels. I didn’t, and I was also the only American. The thing about being the only American among drunk Europeans (and there were a lot of British) is that at some point in the night you will have to stand up against or agree with their preconceptions. Yes, I find it not a little interesting, as the ignorance they expound in others can be found in themselves drowning in American products and the Americanized way of life. So then, what do you have to say?

Among this elite (for what else are middle-class Europeans) Americans have an extremely bad name. Sometimes I find it funny and other times I find it annoying. For the ignorance that they want to shove over on us has nothing to do with a country’s namesake but is lodged in everyone as people. I want to say that travelling can cure it, the reading of good books or the throwing away of televisions, but it can’t completely. Though ignorance may certainly be alleviated a little by the above, we should begin by tossing out this childish calling of names. Many of us are a product of our microcosms, but many of us aren’t.

Right now I’m part Mediterranean. Malta was a rock awash in it. Amsterdam was furiously blown by the chilly North Sea. In Malta I ate pasta and spoke Italian. In Amsterdam we huddled up against the biting wind and rain. In Formello the dogs are barking across the valley and night has already fallen.



Commentary for Two Trips


1 On Wednesday 09 December 2009 carolyn manney wrote:

i like this, one of my favorites. i felt like i was right there with you, as i wish i had been, smoking and drinking and walking the winding streets arm in arm bracing ourselves against the wind and rain. love you girl. xo


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