John Mike is currently living in Kenya and volunteering for an organization called "Children of God Relief Institute (COGRI)" for six months from August 2010 to February 2011. The bulk of his time will be spent in a village near Kitui (a few hours east of Nairobi) called Nyumbani Village. Follow his journey of personal growth and experience with the foreign culture, people, and land.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Amsterdam and Belgium
Greetings from Amsterdam. I am preparing for my trip to Nairobi this afternoon following an active week in Belgium and Holland. My brother, Anthony, and I arrived in Amsterdam on Monday. We went straight to the car rental shop and drove to Antwerpen. Anthony's driving and my navigation skills were tested on the no rules, crazy European roads. We got lost numerous times and almost wrecked the car on more than one occasion. Beyond dealing with the insane European drivers, a driver must be cognisant of bikes, trains, walkers, and bizarre traffic signs, lights, and one-way streets. Damage insurace is recommended!
We found out that Antwerpen offers some of the same extra-curricular activities as Amsterdam that Americans consider morally casual. The city also possesses arguably the most beautiful central train station in the world. To see the central station go to YouTube and type in Central Station Antwerpen to see a cool display of people dancing in the station.
Our Tuesday afternoon consisted of sipping on a few Belgium beer in a beer house in Ghent while overlooking a canal. Deep conversation ensued after a few strong beers. That night we drove to Louven and stayed with Anthony's friend, Colby, who lives with his wife and son and studies at the local university. Louven is a relatively small college town located 45 minutes from Brussels. That evening began a 24 hour journey through beer, chocolate, and waffle paradise. The enhanced flavors of these three indulgences were undescribable. Chocolate and waffles are two foods that I seldom crave but could not get enough of. Beer, on the other hand, I happen to enjoy on occasion. The beer is much smoother and contains significantly more alcohol than in the states (8-12% vs. 3.5-5%). My favorites were the trappist beers which are made by monks all throughout Belgium. Colby informed us that we must try to find a trappist beer called Westvleteren. It is carried by only a handful of stores in Belgium and nowhere else in the world. It has no label and is considered the holy grail of beer to many. Somehow we found 5 bottles in one of the stores in Brussels and purchased them for 9 Euros or $12 per bottle. Westvleteren truly was the best beer I have ever had.
Thursday morning we drove back to Amsterdam. Beyond its "everything goes" reputation, Amsterdam is a beautiful city. We rented bikes on Friday to travel around the city, which was the coolest thing I have done so far in my life. Saturday morning Anthony left for St. Louis and I had the opportunity to stay by myself for one more day. I experienced a sudden shock of anxiety being all alone in a hectic city but soon settled in and enjoyed another day of site-seeing via bike. I am experiencing a sense of excitement and anxiety as I leave my comforts of home. This first week provided me with just a few of the powerful experiences that I hope to enjoy during the next six months. My plan is to blog once a week if possible so stay tuned because next is Kenya........