I’m sitting in the hostel lobby, knowing if I had a bigger, thicker coat, I’d hit the streets and walk until a stranger gave me a ride back. But it’s fucking cold, and I’ve had too much food over the last few days, and too many milk products today to hit the streets without knowing where all the toilets in the city are.
I’ll sit here. It’s better this way. I can reflect like I promised too many people back home I would. I can google “how to be vulnerable” and listen to the white girl cry on the stairs 5 feet away. It’s not a party night if there isn’t a white girl crying about a boy or about an empty jar of Nutella. I can think about these relationships I’m watering or stopped watering, and about these goals of mine that seem to be waiting on me to get a little more focused. Or I can sit here and people watch.
I don’t want to think too much about the standoff earlier with the police in front of the McDonald’s closest to Dam Square. I’ll get upset when I see the young, Black boy being choked by A’dam Politie, or how the manager tried to fight him, then threw him to the police like a character from Aesop’s fables. I love Amsterdam too much to think about it. How everything that happened in those 18 minutes took me back to my days in Missouri last year. You know why I’m here, right?
An elderly Black man in a wheelchair because his knees no longer serve their purpose approached me today asking for €2 to get off the street. His West Philly accent came through, and I help tight to my Euros until after out conversation. He’s part of the reason I’m here. As some of you know, I’ve decided to use this trip to film a documentary about Seeking Asylum. Listening to others’ stories about why they left, what they think, how they feel, what can be done, and so forth. J.J., he said he wants to be called, was right on time. I told him about the project, and he started talking. He has a sister, and he gave me her name and I need to find her or her daughter now. I must.
I’m sitting here pretending high pitched Dutch speakers don’t sound like The Sims, and pretending I’ll be sleep by 5am. It can’t be done. I may go around the block in my reeboks that now smell like creek water and hot dog broth, and shoot some random footage just in case.
I’ll think about King’s Day. The event I’ve been trying to attend for years, and finally made it. The seas of orange, and canals of drunken, fun people, bouncing to EDM and pouring more and more in front of my envious eyes. I’ll think about conversation about President Obama, the devil, and Bush with Noah who rolled such an amazing looking joint, I almost called an HBCU to offer him an honorary architectural degree. The music was amazing, but not as amazing as my cotton candy, or the man who told me to call him “iPhone” as he poured me and Sanura multiple shots of Orange Bitters. Who the hell drinks Orange Bitters in a shot glass? Me, apparently.
I thought about Justine Sacco randomly today and her Dec. 20, 2013 tweet:
“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
I wanted to say “Going back to America soon. Land of opportunity and equality. Just kidding, I’m Black,” but I was afraid it wouldn’t land well.
I have no more thoughts. Just tips:
1. Travel with purpose.
2. Talk to the homeless in each country you visit if you have the opportunity. What comes from that conversation may be the difference between a life worth living and not.
3. I’m the guy who takes shots from strangers. If you ever travel with me, don’t judge, and don’t tell my mama.
4. If you hate noisy people, find a hostel run by nuns. Otherwise, fall in like with the sounds the people in the lobby will make.
5. If you see a white girl crying on a Friday night (or any night of partying), these words will help: “he’s not worth it.”