Week Four: 8/22 – 8/28

I’m currently on a 6-hour train from Amsterdam to Berlin. To recap the week, we spent our last day in Bruges, then visited the Hague on Monday and Tuesday, and spent the rest of the week in Amsterdam.

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The Belfry of Bruges

 

The first belfry was  built in 1240. It was used as a treasury and to hold records as well as to spot fires and danger.

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Inside the belfry

 

After Bruges, we headed to Den Haag (the Hague). Our time in the Hague and Amsterdam was really fun. :) Of all the countries I’ve visited in Europe, the Netherlands has made it pretty high on my list of places to come back to, especially the Hague.

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Tasha agrees, we liked the Hague.

Tasha arranged an Airbnb that was very close to the beach and the weather we had was about perfect.

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The beach

 

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The apartment we stayed in was very eclectic too. It provided a good example for uniquely decorating a place without spending a lot of money. To illustrate the idea, she had a dining room table with six chairs and each chair was different. I don’t know where she got them, but with patience and several visits to the thrift store, she probably was able to find  6 unique chairs.

Neither of us were able to arrange meetings in the Hague. No one got back to me and the people she was in contact with were either unresponsive or on holiday. We took the time to catch up on some work and enjoy the sunshine. :)

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A view above the pier

 

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More beach.

 

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Back on the boardwalk. 

 

After a few relaxing days in the Hague, we headed to Amsterdam. Tasha has book full apartments for ourselves in Geneva, Brussels and the Hague and the other places we have rented a room in an apartment on Airbnb. It is fun to meet people, but so far haven’t spent much time talking with our hosts. I do think I prefer the privacy of the apartment. I am glad we are staying with people in Cambodia, though. In Cambodia we will be staying in a couple’s house; one is Australian and the other is Cambodian. It will be nice to be with locals. Hopefully, we can practice our Khmer!

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A walk along a river in Amsterdam.

 

Amsterdam was a fun visit. Tasha had one in-person meeting and two phone meetings with organizations she will work with on the fellowship. I met with two people that work in project and climate finance. Both meetings went well. The discussion and takeaways will be discussed in another blog.

Outside of meetings we had a really wonderful visit to the Van Gogh museum on Friday afternoon/evening. Van Gogh is Tasha’s favorite painter and slowly I am starting to see why. Impressionism is my favorite kind of art and Van Gogh is one of the most well-known impressionist. They had an exhibition about his mental health, mental breakdown, and suicide. The exhibition told the story of the last few years of his life. As I have learned from listening to Andrew Solomon’s “The Noon Day Demon”, suicidal thoughts, like depression, are not a permanent mental state. It eventually passes if given sufficient time. I wish Van Gogh could have been more patient with the challenges he was facing.

After seeing the exhibition, we did a small tour of the permanent collection. The tour was interesting, but since we ended up drawing with  charcoal pencils afterwards and didn’t see any more of the permanent collection, I wish I would have just look at the collection ourselves.

We spent yesterday wandering around central Amsterdam for a little bit and eventually settled down in the public library to work for a while. It was a really pretty library equipped with a rooftop restaurant. Strangely, though, they didn’t have free wifi. We capped the day off with dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. The food was yummy and the place pretty much deserted, so we stayed for a while drank some flavored, gluten-free beer and played cards.

For the upcoming week, we will be in Berlin on Monday and Tuesday until we will then fly to St. Petersburg and begin our time in Russia. We’ll be in St. Petersburg until Saturday when we take a train to Moscow. I started reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky at the beginning of the month in the hope of finishing it by the time we hit St. Petersburg. I’m not even close. A few other things came up that seemed more important to read, though I will finish it. Crime and Punishment takes place in St. Petersburg and you can do walking tours of the book. It will be nice to be able to have an image of the book, though I should be careful to spoil it for me!

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