I feel like I am on a path. The right path. It's easy to think about the future and worry. But right now everything is right and I'm sure that's how it will always be.
August 5, 2015
I came downstairs for a glass of wine. Tyler has food poisoning and Brittany is tired. My hostel is located in the Red Light District. I booked it last minute, last night. I didn't even know Zurich had a Red Light District. I came downstairs, halfway looking for Sam, the Kiwi that checked me in, halfway looking for some alone time. I didn't exactly get either.
When I noticed that no one down here at the New Zealander bar really interested me, I took my glass of wine & sat on the couch to catch up with people on my phone. When I noticed a group of guys looking to sit next to me, I decided to take my wine to a small two-person table outside for more alone time. I figured there would be interesting people watching outside as well. I was right. Sam described this part of town as "seedy." He couldn't have chosen a better word. But he also described it as safe. I agreed. The area was seedy, but I still felt comfortable, sitting alone, outside, barefoot, with my glass of wine.
An Egyptian man came outside & asked if he could sit with me. He couldn't smoke inside. He was an artist & he showed me his abstract paintings on his phone. I was truly impressed. We sat there together at the small table, occasionally talking, but most of the while observing the world around us. The people walking by were more than interesting. Many looked crazy. But I would also see bikers passing by or a few friends going to a bar, & I felt comfortable. After a little while, the Egyptian man got up to go to bed. Overall, I liked him. He just made friendly conversation with me, rather than "hitting on me."
I sat alone maybe 15 more minutes, still observing, when another man approached & asked if he could sit with me- in Swiss German. I understood by his gestures. He looked really insane. He asked me something, again in Swiss German. I assumed he wanted to know my name so I introduced myself. He was very jittery. He had tattoos covering his arms & a T-shirt that showed a man shooting a gun with different colors splattered around. He realized I only spoke English so he continued the conversation in English. He asked if I was married. I told him I had a boyfriend. He said "I'm sighing because I saw you sitting here & I thought you were a beautiful girl." I said "Thank you" and he replied "all American girls say that- thank you." He asked if I knew where we were. I said "yes." He asked me where & I replied "the Red Light District." He was strange but I didn't feel nervous. He started talking to me about the area. He proceeded to talk about prostitutes. He was really vulgar. He asked if I had ever been to Mardi Gras. I said "No, but I've been to New Orleans." He described Mardi Gras as "beautiful" & called it a crazy party. He was passionate when he talked about Mardi Gras & all it had to offer including drugs, alcohol, gang bangs & beautiful women. But he said times were changing because of the internet. He seemed to believe people felt less free to participate in such activities because photos or videos may end up online. He seemed really upset. He told me he refused to send naked photos to the prostitutes that sent him photos & asked him for some in return.
Three police officers walked by. He immediately became alert & turned to look at them as they passed us. He pointed & whispered "police" to me. I said "yea, what are they doing?" He replied "probably looking for someone causing trouble."
He proceeded to tell me he was married. Apparently him & his wife got separated that night. He told me he loved her & at one point he would have followed her anywhere. He told me she worked in a hospital & made more money than him. I guess that caused problems in their relationship. He went into detail about their plans to move to New Zealand for her work & how they used to live in Germany. He asked if I liked drugs. I told him "sometimes" & asked him the same question. He agreed, "sometimes, with the right people."
After awhile of him talking, basically non-stop, the bartender came out & told us the shop was closed. He seemed to want to go somewhere else but I told him I was going to bed. He didn't give me any problems. I told him "good luck finding your wife" & he picked up his briefcase & my water bottle, which he had been sipping on during our conversation, & he moved along.
I went inside the bar/hostel lobby to finish my wine & write. A new guy was checking in & he started up a conversation with me. I spoke with him a few minutes, but I had had my ear chewed off enough for one night. I went to bed.
I woke up in the morning & went downstairs to get a drink for dehydrated Tyler. I was happy to see a familiar face working the coffee bar. Sam handed me a lemonade & a free croissant for Ty. I went upstairs, packed up my bag & came back downstairs to check out & wait for my sisters to finish getting their stuff together. I was happy to sit in the lobby, drink a coffee & talk to Sam. We had a train to catch to Basel in just a few hours, but my morning would turn out to be just as interesting as the night before.
Certain cities change you. For whatever reason, you visit a city & it has a strange effect on you. You feel connected to it, at home, but still foreign at the same time.
The perfect combination of people, weather, nightlife, timing, & your very own mindset will grab you & make you desperate to return to that city.
I've met people that have yet to return home, they have fallen so deeply in love with this new place. Maybe that love will fade. Maybe that person will change. Maybe the city will change. But right here, right now, they are where they belong.
We had just finished dinner at an Italian place. The night had already been fun, thanks to Riccardo, the owner of the restaurant we dined at. Riccardo was a character- loud & entertaining, but also kind & genuine. He had taken a liking to us & we were thrilled to have met him. He brought us free cocktails & even gave us his number in case we needed anything. We planned on hanging out with him whenever he had a day off.
Riccardo told us some people come to Amsterdam looking for fun. He said they will find it, but if fun is all they are looking for, they will get lost right away. He says once you have fun you wake up with an immediate feeling of "what else?" Fun is good, but there needs to be something more. I think he is right.
After dinner we stopped at a coffee shop. We initially went in only to buy a lighter for a previously bought joint, but we decided to buy another joint as well. There was a small tank with two turtles in it. We were watching the two of them, swimming frantically, not going anywhere. Britt kept commenting on how bad she felt for them. We all felt bad. Then, right at that moment, on the speaker, I heard "watch us exploit them for our amusement." It was South Park, playing on the TV. There were only two other guys in the cafe & they were watching & laughing.
We decided to stay & watch. The episode was about the exploitation of people. The people either had bizarre deformities or they were addicted to drugs or had family issues. The people would go on talk shows (South Park focused on The Maury Show) & they would be exploited for the general publics' amusement.
Then some people started pretending they had deformities so they could make money & be on TV. The South Park boys signed Butters up for The Maury Show by saying that Butters had balls growing from his chin.
It was funny because all the people with deformities formed a union. They had meetings & protests and they started turning against each other. They were just as bad as the people exploiting them. People are people.
We didn't finish the episode. We started our walk back to the hostel. I was high & I started to think about the city of Amsterdam. We passed a few "windows" with women looking out for their next customer. We passed some smoke shops & some sex stores. While the city is beautiful & charming, it is also exploited.
The following morning I met someone who told me all about the city of Amsterdam. He told me that many people come to Amsterdam thinking it is "the Las Vegas of Europe." Tourists come because they hear that sex & weed are "legal" and they assume they can do whatever they want. Maybe Amsterdam exploits itself in a sense for tourism, or maybe it is the tourists who end up exploiting the city. People will do anything for money or power. I guess people are to blame. Like Riccardo said, "life is about having fun, but there's got to be something else."
I am traveling from St. Gallen to Zurich. Here I am, caught in this moment. I am traveling through Switzerland glancing up through my window at the passing green fields, grazing cows, & scattered industrial towns. In a few hours I'll be checked into my Zurich hostel, maybe sitting at a cafe with my sisters, maybe thinking about going out, maybe meeting someone who will change my life. That is the amazing thing about traveling. You are constantly throwing yourself out there, opening yourself up to the world & opening up the world to you. There are still so many people you won't meet & so many things you won't see, but the right people & experiences will seem to make their way into your life at the right time.