Monday, June 23, 2008

Amsterdam trip

I got to Amsterdam about 7 p.m. yesterday after quite a long trip. It started at midnight when my “luxury limo”as Joa calls it picked me up to go to the airport. The limo is a really really old taxi that you are surprised still runs. The driver is Abdoulaye who is on a contract with Plan to drive people around when they need it. It was funny when Julie asked me a couple days ago if I could please try to take public taxis because they were cheaper. If anyone in the US saw Abdoulaye’s taxi they wouldn’t think cheaper existed.

Our flight left about 2.45 a.m. and arrived in Lisbon at 6 a.m. where we waited a 3 FULL HOURS in the immigration line. Lisbon is now my top worst airport in all my travels. The place was packed and not enough people working. Two guys got in a heated argument when someone tried to cut. Luckily for me I had my ipod and could listen to the perfect soundtrack to the situation: Radiohead’s National Anthem. The quiet part at the end was where I walked through after getting my passport stamped. Ahhh.

At one point when I was almost to the front of the immigration line a Senegalese guy in a yellow and black traditional type pants and long shirt outfit asked if I spoke English. I said yes. He asked me if I could direct him to a hotel in Lisbon. I said well, I’m actually not from Lisbon but going to Belgium. He asked if I could get there by train. I said well, no I was flying. He asked if train was possible and I said I didn’t know, but that I was actually taking the train from Belgium to Amsterdam. So then he said that the hotel address he had was fake and he wanted to know where to go in Lisbon. I said I didn’t know what to tell him. He waited awhile and then came back to ask “Can I have a room in your village?” So I had to explain that I wasn’t from Lisbon, or Senegal or Amsterdam or Belgium but on travel and couldn’t help him. Illegal immigration if I ever smelled it – and wondered why out of that whole room teeming with people he would ask me.

After the immigration, I stopped for a coffee but now my debit card is not working. I was able to call the bank and they said nothing is wrong. Tried to take out cash with my Visa but I forget the pin since I never use it for cash…. Texted my brother Alex to ask about my laptop. Getting desperate. He got back to me with some advice, but said it’s hard to know what’s wrong when you can’t be in front of the computer.

Amsterdam is a lovely place if you like bicycles, hippy kids and the consistent smell of smoke. My hotel is in walking distance from Central Station and the weather was beautiful so it was nice to walk a little after the 3 hours from Senegal to Lisbon, 3 hours in the immigration line, 2 hours waiting for the flight, 2 hours from Lisbon to Belgium and 3 hours on the train from there to here. I had some Indian food and tried to call Joa to see how Clare was doing. BUT of course my phone only calls to the US, and the phone I borrowed from Joa only works in Senegal, and back at the hotel, the phones in the rooms are just for show – all disconnected! Finally I was able to purchase a phone card and call from the hotel lobby. Clare seemed to be doing fine – but Joa said that Ben had a meltdown the night before which triggered Clare and she started crying. I felt bad for Joa having to deal with that!

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