Sunday, July 30, 2006

now we're talking...


I finally found a fiber optics connection to hook my computer to for a couple of hours... the place is amazing, a robotics lab in an old palace in Genova... a wonderful mixture of high-tech with old-school. and i get to visit it at 3am... lol. Man, this is the life. I've really spent a great week here. :D

I'm off to the south of Italy this afternoon, sunday. Should arrive monday morning, and then I have to find an internet connection again... *sigh* good news is, there shouldn't be much to do in Crotone, so I'll have time to update the blog :)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Genova: 15 years after.

My health has been holding up. One up for designer pills! :) So I have been out and about town, scarfing down as much focaccia and "baci di dama" and Genovese specialties as I can.

Even though I do not have a hometown now, I have had several in my past. This was my second. I have been visiting some old friends, seeing their lives, hearing their stories. I haven't seen them in 15 years. All I remember is their personalities as pre-teens. It's interesting to see that in the adults of now.

Down memory lane there are also other classmates, and I heard scraps of their stories. Many surprising reversals of fortunes: the nerds that became druggies or developed serious disorders. The underachievers who now have normal and good lives, with steady jobs, or became entrepreneurs. A few expected endings, both good and bad. It's amazing to hear all this. And to be still considered a good friend after so much time. My friends are truly my family.

Besides the mental walks, I've done some real-life ones. I have taken some pics of places and people, but unfortunately this block of email and chat includes sftp, so I can't upload anything to my server. I need to find a better connection... ugh.

Anyhoo, we have done several group outings, I met new people and old friends. We walked the boardwalk in Nervi, a beautiful town. Hung out by the water on a small pier. Had ice-cream and anything cold enough to make the heat bearable every day. Tried a local restaurant, up a hill, middle of nowhere. No way a tourist can find his way up here.

I did not have the camera with me these past two days, I spent them in a camper at the beach, and I didn't want to chance salt and sand. Besides the good food, sun, and the gorgeous, clean, transparent blue sea, I had the good company of Lore's family. Her 6.5 yrs-old daughter is a cute terror. I forgot how malicious kids are! But we got along and spent hours of fun at the beach. Until we started seeing medusas. :( The tropical-like weather has brought those damn things around the Italian coast. We only saw one tiny one, slightly purple, and I managed to get a nice welt a couple of inches long. Luckily the stinging sensation passed quickly. Only a bit of skin remains burnt now.

This Sunday the friend I was staying with is going back to work. Her vacation is over. Her job is on the southern end of Italy. I'm supposed to go with her, but I have yet to book my train ticket.

Man, it's been hot this week...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Italian public wifi spots... useless

Confirmed: email clients are blocked at a public wifi spot. And so are chat clients, apparently. So I'm stuck with webmail and public internet. Definitely no checking of my bank account here...

I'm surprised that the blog client works. At least I got one thing! Although now I have to worry about my traffic being watched... passwords snooped, usernames logged...

The place I'm at now is not very accessible from where I am, but I'll do my best to try elsewhere. Cool news: I might have found travel companions for a trip through Eastern Europe in September! 2-3 weeks semi-planned by other people :) More news on that if and when they take shape.

I'm freeeeee!

...of fever, at least. There might actually be something to these designer pills. Headache is slowly melting away, and I even dared to go out yesterday night for a chill evening down by the old harbor. Genova is not often associated with beauty as far as cities go... but I like it. Where I lived it's outside the city, in one of the nicer neighborhoods, apparently, so I was lucky. But even walking through the city, the little streets, the palaces, and the old harbor, felt and looked good.

They cleaned things up a lot over the years, and now the historical center is a cool place to hang out and even live. In the harbor there is an aquarium that is supposed to be the biggest in Europe. I made a note of visiting it, and I am curious to compare it with the experience in Valencia. Near it there is a funky construction of masts, which hold a 360 elevator, and at night it illuminates the sky so brightly, that a cloud of seagulls circles over it, creating a stunning visual effect. Next week I'm going to try and photograph it!

Today Thursday I dared lie in the sun I have been avoiding for all these days, to try out a bit of tanning. I'm used to the tropics, where I have to time each side I tan on properly or I burn. Here it's hot, but it doesn't seem to burn quite as quickly. Tomorrow morning we might venture to the actual beach! Ah, it feels good to be well again!

If you're reading this, I finally found an IV of life in the city. Internet connection! It's frustrating to be cut off regular communication with the world... The internet is really what is allowing me to maintain this international identity. If I'm cut off... a lot of me will be lost.

Still, all is well, I am around friends, and I'll try to connect as much as I can with updates. I'll definitely keep blogging offline, take pics, and hope to find spots to upload from as I go. Although I envision dozens of minutes spent downloading spam the moment I get my computer online...

Adventures in the Italian Health Care System

It's Tuesday night, July 18. With no internet connection in sight, I'm doing some offline blogging.

I've been in Italy 3 whole days! Yey! I'd almost say home sweet home... but that expression is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I still have to experience much of what I came back for. All I've seen up to now is my bedroom, in the beautiful home I'm staying in... and the emergency room. Kinda sad. When I arrived after 10 hours of traveling, I was taken straight from the train station to the nearest Pronto Soccorro. Not really 'cause I was in an emergency. But given the fever and the soreness, that would be the only place to do all the blood tests on a Sat night, and check to make sure it wasn't anything contagious or serious.

6 hours later, they confirmed that my blood was fine, x-rays said I had no lung infections, the antibiotics seemed to be doing their job, so I could go home and finish taking the recommended dosage. If, at the end of the antibiotics, I was still with fever, I was told to go back. I should have taken their offer to take me in for the night. I spent the next three days cursing a constant headache, on a fever roller coaster. I had 38 degrees when I woke up this morning. Same as every night since Sat. I was tired of seeing only the inside of the house, as nice as it is. We decided we'd eat lunch, looking forward to another long wait, and then head to the hospital again. By lunch time, though, the fever hit a low and went away. Figures. If I showed up now they'd probably decree me cured and send me packing. So my friend decided to run errands, and I returned inside, back to my cage.

4pm, fever check: 37.3. I figured it'll only climb higher, so it was enough to warrant going back. The first run to the hospital was kinda slow, but when I finally got to see the doctor I was listened to, asked questions, and cared for. I was quite impressed by the system. I went back looking forward to a similar service, hoping for a cure. Silly me.

Different reception guy, kept being interrupted by emergencies, and I observed him send away an old guy, bloodied, who needed a transplant, 'cause him and the wife, old people, made the "mistake" of calling emergency rather than take a cab to their surgeon! The old guy was actually, somehow, walking around. The nurse declared a bureaucratic tie-up, and told them to either take *their* surgeon but expect no transplant, or go take a cab! And then they are horrified by the stories of USA health care system. Bureaucracy seems a shit on both sides of the world. Although you have to admit that in the USA it revolves heavily around money. Here money is not the object. Just the right papers and right stamps for the right procedure.

Back to me, he was in no mood to listen to my pitiful sore throat/headache/fever story. He deemed me a non-urgency, and sent me to a throat doctor in an annex. After a dispirited check-up, I was sent back to emergency with a list of blood exams. They told me very nice, I could go and get them done elsewhere. Surprised, I tried to explain my situation. I currently have no residence in Italy, which means no pre-assigned doctor that can assign the blood exams. No pity. They told me the paper said "suggested" tests, not "required"! I tried again, telling them the nurse that took care of me Sat was there, he had recognized me in passing, he would know. I was taken by the guard direct to the doctor, a different one from Sat, though. The nurse did try to explain about me, but she'd have none of it. She told me to have my friend's doctor prescribe me the exams (technically illegal, as he's not *my* doctor) or try the infectious diseases annex in the morning.

In the end I was sent home up with a new antibiotic prescription from the throat guy's 2 minutes check-up --and he didn't look like he tried hard to figure out what I had. "Let's try a new molecule" he said. "A newer, stronger antibiotic, to see if it works." You can imagine the warm and fuzzy feeling that put in my belly. With no other option until morning, we went to the pharmacy. And got free, mad expensive, new-generation stuff. Free 'cause Italian health care system prices its services, including medicines, based on income. Having none, the price was zero. If what I have happens to be one of the strains it's designed to combat, I should be set. If it's not... I am ingesting 66 euros worth of designer pills and building immunity for nothing.

So now I'm back to the room of a wonderful home in the Italian Riviera... the blue sea only 5 mins away... and yet I'm inside, watching cheesy American shark attack movies dubbed to Italian, headache still there, blogging offline, and waiting 'til morning to try the Italian Health Services offices and see what they tell me.

In every place I've been to I was well prepared, had guides in hand, researching where I went before arriving... figures that my home country is the one to give me troubles! Although I admit that my hostess is up to par with all the hosts I've had throughout my trip. She has taken me up and down without a complaint. How nice it is to have childhood friends... almost like having family :) And her father is also mad kind. I've eaten nothing but home-made gourmet food, all natural... Italy might have corruption, bureocracy, lazyness, pollution... but it's hard to beat its food culture!

As far as the emergency service... next time I'm going to take my friend's advice, and play it up at the reception. Tell them I am in paaaain, I need heeeelp, I've been huuurting... you know, the Italian way ;)

Friday, July 14, 2006

not cool things about being sick in europe...

I think they gave me a dosage too low of antibiotics, afraid that it would hurt my liver. 'Cause now, 2 days later, I have fever and feel like crap. The soreness *is* a bit better, but now it's concentrated in a shoulder, and the fever is a bit high. I already booked my ticket for mad early tomorrow, and I'm better off going to Italy than staying here alone in a country I have troubles communicating.

No clue about the internet situation yet, so hang on tight for news... ;)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Paris to Italy

My neck is sore, my throat is sore, my head hurts, my body is blah, I am tired, and in no mood to go anywhere... I think the insane heat and then the cooler nights got to me. My current hosts leave for vacation reeeeal early Fri morning, so I was supposed to leave tomorrow, Thu. They're willing to leave me with keys, nice people that they are, but then I have to coordinate to drop them off with a friend of theirs that lives kinda far. My friend in Italy doesn't get to Genova until Sat, and one other person I got in touch with (the old fashioned way, they don't even have voicemail...) was too busy 'til Sunday. So I'll be chilling here for Bastille day, and I should be seeing some fireworks :)

While searching information about Italy I ran into the wikitravel article for it, which reads:

"The Italian government has recently passed a law requiring all public-access internet points to keep records of web sites viewed by customers, and even the customer's ID. Accessing e-mail service has been also forbidden. However, if you bring your own laptop you should be able to check e-mail, but not avoid ID recording. Hotels providing Internet access are not required to record ID. Publicly available wireless access is forbidden unless the provider has a special government license. This has caused only major phone-like companies to be able to afford that, so wireless access is generally expensive."

How insane is that?? My connection future is looking gloom. Most of the people I know have no internet at home, I think... :P

Cool thing about being sick in Europe: health care is basically free. Not for locals with a job. They get to pay lotsa insurance every month, and have to pay the doctor 20EUR every time they visit on top of that... But since I have no insurance, I went to a pharmacy, told them I needed antibiotics, they weren't sure what I could have, so they sent me to a local doctor, who saw me right away and told me I didn't need to pay anything! All I had to pay was 9EUR for the pills and some throat spray. She thinks I just have laringitis and tonsillitis, combined. Soup, chamomile, rest, medicine... all in 30 degree celsius heat. lol. Sucky weather to be sick.

Only other thing I've done since the weekend was go shopping for shorts (It's probably why I got sick, overheated in corduroy long pants...). Summer officially started ;)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back to the future. Or rather, forward to the past.

I keep retracing my steps. A part of me feels bad, thinking I am wasting my time. But I recognize that feeling as that same little voice in me that also keeps nagging I'm never doing anything good. So I tell it to shut up and I go ahead with my trip.

Dog owner arrived on Friday as scheduled, we got together, chatted, walked about, I spent the night there, and had a reservation for a train early the next morning. Ah, one really good news: I found my camera's flash card!!! As I was packing to leave, I found it in one of the thousand pockets I have, in my backpack... behind a bag of chamomile tea... lol. So I have some cute pics of the doggies I talked about. Then from Brussels I took one of them mad fast trains to Paris. First class, too. They had a half-price internet promotion that ended up being 15 euros cheaper than a regular 2nd class ticket! Got free breakfast and nicer seats for less money. Now, *that* is making good use of my money :) Only scary part of the trip was how badly the train shook throughout. After hearing about the Valencia metro accident all I could think of was that this train was going to derail, too... I even got motion sickness! Took one pill, tried to sleep most of the 1.5 hrs it took to travel, and arrived with no problems :)

The idea for this leg of the trip was to make a brief stop at the same friends' place as I visited last time, research travel options like last-minute deals and all those good promotions, and work my way south through France to Italy, where I am meeting another friend half-way in July, before heading south to Crotone (aaaall the way at the bottom of mainland Italy) for all of August, to chill by the beach. One thing I didn't consider was that July 14 is a major holiday in France, Bastille's day. Same as the 4th of July in the USA. So traveling this week is kinda insane. Another tiny detail that is hampering my progress is that my friends' internet connection broke exactly the day I arrived!! I'm writing this offline, hoping it'll be resolved on Monday. [editor's note: they finally got it working on Tue night! They're still troubleshooting the details, but I was able to start checking email at least :) ] Now I have to plan a week's trip in one day. How the hell did people do it back in the day...?? I mean, I *could* just go to the train station, pick up a brochure, pay full ticket fare, and find my way as I go... but stuff like that always leaves you much poorer and hassled at the end than if you had figured out the right itinerary and cheapest route first.

Anyhoo, I already had lotsa fun these two days back in Paris. Sat we went shopping at an outlet mall. Unfortunately if I buy something, I have to leave something behind, my suitcase can't squeeze anything else in it (and I've already left pieces along the way...!) and I didn't find anything worth that. Even though I'm dying with my winter corduroys and sneakers in 30 degree heat.

Sunday we went to mini-France. Similar concept like Madurodam in Holland, but this one is actually geographically accurate. They recreated France, and built representative miniature sites in their corresponding spots. I saw a couple of sights that I really want to try and go see. The one that stands out the most in my head is Mont Saint-Michel, dubbed the Wonder of the West. It seems to be a tiny island with a castle and an old town in it. Gorgeous model. I hope the real thing is similar. It might be more than a day trip, unfortunately, so I have to plan for it.

Cool extra thing about this place was a mini theme park half-way through the models. Oddest thing was that all the rides were completely do-it-yourself! There was one pirate ship-looking thing, for just two people, whose instructions were actually to find someone to lock the gate and push the button for you from the outside!! The coolest, and hardest, "ride" was a climbing tent. The foot/handholds were barely enough to put your fingertips in them, making the ascent really hard! And other people climbing would shake the surface, since it was a tent and not a hard, stable thing. I held on for dear life for what felt like forever near the top, until I found the strength, coordination, and quiet surface to reach the last two steps! We later found that we started on the hard side... the other side had a lot more footholds, and without socks it was a cinch!

Both evenings we watched the World cup matches. I'm glad that Italy won (even though 3 other people in the room were rooting for France) but I can't say that a final won through penalties is much of a victory. You should have heard the quiet in the neighborhood... ;) And Germany did get third place at least, Lila ;)

Tomorrow everyone is going back to work. Which leaves me stuck with no internet and roaming the streets of Paris, aimlessly, alone... Feel sorry for me yet? ;) Here are the pics for these couple of days.

PS) The worse tease about this lack of internet is that my computer recognizes other wireless connections... but they are all securely locked! If only I could find out the owners, to ask for temporary access... Ana and Nico don't really know their neighbors, so they have no idea who it could be. Ugh. [ note to self: getting to know your neighbors might be worth the hassle ;) ]

Friday, July 07, 2006

a quiet week

Dog sitting isn't anything like cat sitting. This having to take walks 3 times a day is hard work!! This whole week I fell into a routine of waking up (late), showering, take a 1-2 hours walk, come back to eat, chill for the afternoon, playing offline videogames mostly, since my internet connection is so flaky, then 6-7pm another walk, this one a bit shorter, no more than 1 hour. Then home again, to play some more. While watching the world cup if it's on. And one last quick walk before sleeping, so I don't feel bad if I sleep late ;) Their owner is dues back in only a couple of hours. In a way I'm relieved. I take the responsibility seriously, and I have been stressing over them. In another, I am going to miss them...

I tried to keep things varied by taking a different route every morning. I think I have visited every major park in a mile radius! I haven't made much human contact, so I've taken to observe the two doggies. One is an older female chihuahua mix. Almost looks like a macho chihuahua, if that was ever possible. It has scraggly hair and it's bigger than a regular rat... but, alas, while it doesn't have the huge pop-out eyes and the shakiness typical of that race, it's still as submissive as it can be. At least with humans. It takes no shit from its companion, though, a Yorkshire Terrier Mix. Much younger, only 2 yrs old, it's a little ball of energy that keeps the other one active. But has a similar submissive reaction when handled. They make an odd pair, sticking together through most things, while still being different. They're both likable. But it's easier to be happy and energetic around the little one. The older, when approached, will just put her head down to be petted, looking completely surrendered. And won't play, letting the little one take the toys. She plays and becomes confident only when the little one nips at her and provokes her. Then she switches personality, becoming just as energetic for a couple of minutes. And I feel sorry for her. She looks at you with sad eyes, wanting attention, but just sitting in her corner until you go up to her...

Then I think about people. We all have different personalities, too. Some people are more shy, some are more energetic and care-free. Throughout my life I kept being told by my peers that I was too serious, too quiet, I had to be more energetic, fun, outgoing... I always had to strive to be more, better, different. The world, after all, belongs to the ambitious ones, the confident ones, the ones that push themselves out there. And I did try, being proud of myself every time I broke through my lack of confidence and accomplished something that labeled me as cool, fun, with personality, with style... But feeling bad every time I didn't manage to do so, and I was just plain me. Where do you draw the line between being ambitious, bettering yourself, and accepting who you are?

What makes for different personalities? Where is confidence? How much of it is learned, and how much is what you're born with? What is different in the brain? Does it all come back to chemicals? We take drugs to alter ourselves, often losing our inhibitions, gaining confidence, or, rather, loosing fear and care of consequences... the world becomes acceptable for a little while. Life is good. Medicine is hard at work to alter the nature of the human body.

I keep coming back to the idea of human beings being just a random flow of chemicals...

And it's all, always, random.

Random, random, random.

And, yeah, Italy is in the finals. *\^o^/*

Sunday, July 02, 2006

piccies.. the last for a little bit :(

I finally get around to adding to my photo album. I have pics of Amsterdam, none of Brussels. But I thought I'd take some pics of the doggies, my new charges, to add on. I take the camera, says no CF card. I go to take it out of the computer. It's not there. I panic. Then reason. I was running out, I probably put it in a side pocket. Yeah. That's it. I go search my luggage. Nothing. I search it again. Still nothing.


All I can do is email the lady whose apt I was staying at, and hope she finds it and can mail it. A 2GB Compact Flash card would put an extra dent in my pocket I wasn't planning for.

So, here are the pics I have for now... Seems like I am doomed to not take pics of Belgium :P

- Aalsmeer and Amsterdam: the flower auction, and a couple of street shots.

- The Heineken Experience: being an indoor touristy thing, I had no fears of having my camera out all the time. So plenty pics here!

Enjoy... and I'll keep you posted on this week's adventures :P

PS) Italy is in the semi-finals... Forza Azzurri! *\^o^/*

dog sitting in brussels

Uff. This didn't quite start off with the right foot. I arrived yesterday, friday, at 5pm, at the door of the apartment in Brussels, where the doggies and the couple taking care of them were supposed to be. No one was home. So I sat in front and waited. For about 40 mins. Which was fine, I knew they were given a 5-5:30pm leeway. Problem is, while I was waiting, the owner of the apartment came by, to show a place for rent to some girl. He of course asked me what was I doing there. I didn't quite give him the full story, but I mentioned dogs. He got upset. He said no dogs are allowed here. I shrugged and said I don't know, I'm just supposed to meet someone here, I don't really know them. Which I'm sure sounded mad suspicious... but the innocent face for once worked in my favor, I guess. He let me be and went in with the girl. He did check on me one more time, trying a couple more questions, but I didn't give him much, so he went back in.

10 mins later the couple arrived with the doggies, I walked them away and explained that the guy was there, maybe if we waited a little bit he'd leave and then we could go back in. He did drive away, but I had a gut feeling he was going to just circle around the block and check on us. We walked to the apt, the keys didn't work, and, of course, the guy drove by, parked again, and asked what were we doing, and the kids lied and said the dogs were theirs, they were just visiting... I kept quiet, glad that he was questioning them, not me. But then *I* was the one to have to spend the next week avoiding him! We went inside, waited for a little, they planned on leaving with the dogs and coming back. Which they did in 10 mins. Then they left. And now I'm stuck here dreading the twice-a-day walks they are supposed to take...

Now, I sent an email to the owner of the dogs. She left her cellphone in the apartment (...) and I pretty much have no other way of getting in touch with her. Only thing I know is she'll be back on Fri afternoon. If I see the apt owner again I can only explain my situation and hope he's not some angry guy who's gonna have a fit and throw me out. I hope he'll let me stay and deal with with things when she is back.

Meanwhile, I am dreading leaving the house alone, for fear they'll bark. And I don't really wanna go out with them, for fear of being seen. But also 'cause being about with two dogs you can't really just walk into stores. Sucky, eh? And it's a nice day out... although I think I've seen as much as I wanted to see of Brussels last I was here, so I am not really feeling like I'm missing out.

One good thing is, I finally found a spot in the apartment that catches a public wi-fi signal properly! Kim kept complaining that the connection she found kept dropping, and she hadn't found a spot where it'd work better than other spots. Turns out her "bedroom" (one of those crawl-in holes near the ceiling) is the nearest point to the signal, and it seems to be holding!! I was getting so frustrated being stuck here *and* not having a connection...!!!

Now I just have to find people to come visit. The place is tiny, but it's cute. Anyone visiting Brussels this week? :D

Saturday, July 01, 2006

last day in Amsterdam!

Ah, let's see, this one is going to be a long entry. Lotsa stuff since last Sat! Although I'm about to go to the train station to catch my train to Brussels... So please excuse any inconsistencies. I'll re-edit when I have a chance. And will add pics :)

Sunday, the 25th, was real cool. One of the new ladies I met volunteers as a cook at a squatters' farm near the park. It used to be a regular food farm, building was abandoned, squatters took over, and got organized so well, that they ended up making a deal with the government to restore the building, and they work a bit as a half-way home for people that need to "take a break from the world" for a couple of months. And they also have workshops for children. And while I was there, they ran two movies from DVD, they had a project setup!! Cool place. The building is half in ruin, but it's cozy from lotsa loving living in, and has a great garden setup. Random people come in and out, some volunteers, some residents... many dogs, random furniture, but good and extremely cheap food. Met one of the organizers, a half Dutch half Italian guy, and we philosophized for a little while in Italian. I even managed to find their website he mentioned, so I can make up for forgetting the cf card for my camera and not taking any pics... lol:

We got there around 2pm, but then ended up getting stuck there late, as it poured for most of the afternoon! We finally made it back a little too late to catch the beginning of the Netherlands-Portugal game. We went to the local bar to watch the second half, and we didn't miss much, as they ended up loosing. A dejected group of customers left, and they closed the bar soon after. But since keys lady knows the owner, we hung out a bit after, chatting up the staff. From there we felt like keeping the party going, so we went off to the local lounge to dance a bit. I ended up getting some dancing out of my system, with a random guy that seemed to be into it as I was. When they closed *that* place, he said he knew of another place that still had music going. I hadn't danced in a while, and it felt good, and the guy seemed safe... so off I went! It was the first time I can remember that I rode in the back of a bike!! I finally can say I biked in Holland ;)

The place we went to was one I had looked up and had wanted to go to, but hadn't dared to go alone. The name is Korsakoff, and it seems to be the local heavy rock/goth/industrial joint. Well, not quite goth. More like the heavy metal look. A bit Europeanized... no one looks too crazy. Music similar to what they run in the main room at the Batcave. We closed that place down as well. Wasn't even that late, 3am :)

Monday I have to admit I was hurting. Not only my stomach from the all day and night partying, but my butt, too! And not 'cause of what all of you dirty-minded people might already be thinking... ;) but rather a little from the dancing, and a lot from the metal of the bike I kept bouncing on whenever we ran over bumps!! I tried to use my sweater and his jacket as padding, but it didn't quite work... lol. So I spent all day inside, recovering.

Tuesday I walked about a little bit. Days are starting to blur here... I think I went to the Electric Lady Land, which turned out to be one psychedelic experience. Not so much for the facilities, but the hippie dude from Brooklyn that explains everything to you, and shows you every piece he's got under long- and short-wave UV rays. Trippy.

Wed I woke up at crack of dawn to go to the flower auction in Aalsmeer. It's the biggest commercial building in the world!! Cool thing is, I got a private tour, since the guy I met is one of my father's business clients :D Impressive the volume of material and money that goes through!! On the way back we also stopped by another impressive feat of Dutch engineering, The storm barrier. Once back to Amsterdam's Central Station, I decided to go off the opposite way I came from and see the Nemo museum. The half-ship looking thing. Walked aaaall the way to the entrance, to be told the museum card was not accepted, and the roof was closed. Not worth 11EUR. So from there I walked through the red light district to get to the Cannabis College. Not much to it. You can find out all you want about pot. They will even direct you to coffeeshops. And they have an indoor pot garden, but I didn't pay the 2.5EUR to go in...

I also finally visited Anna Frank's house. Interesting experience. Nicely set up exhibit and signs. But the most interesting part was a temporary interactive exhibit about human rights, with interactive voting.

From there, I realized I was running out of time and I haven't tried nearly enough pot products. So I searched for the famous brownies. Had some regular food first, then had the dessert. I was a bit anxious, never tried them before, so I made my way home quickly to wait for the high... which never came! As far as I could tell, I was sliiiiightly relaxed and happy, which I guess *could* have been from the pot. But I didn't feel anything in my head resembling a high. *shrug*. Gonna try one more time. The brownie *was* good, though :D

Thu I woke up rather late, and I had set an appointment to meet keys lady and daughter at the park again in the evening, so I made time for just one touristy spot: the Heineken Experience! This is a cool place, worth the entrance money, especially since it includes 3 beers and a souvenir. Highlights were a mini-ride in front of a screen, on a moving platform, titled "Be a Heineken Bottle"! Best way to experience the experience is to go with a small group of friends. Many of the activities are geared to groups, and it's more fun to hang out in the two internal bars when you have ppl to chat with. I was alone in the first one, I quickly downed my beer and continued the exhibit. But the last 2 I couldn't quite rush through (I'm a slow drinker!) and I ended up chatting with a group of 4 girls and one guy. It was hilarious, none of the girls wanted to drink beer, among the 4 of them I think they only had 2... so the guy ended up with 8 glasses in front of himself!! The were from Ireland (hehe) and I just *had* to take a pic. I ended up making little notes on their map about places to see. I then realized I was gonna be late for my appointment, so I rushed out and went home.

Fed the kitty, went to the park, hung out, went back home... by 11pm, I decided to head back to korsakoff by myself. Today had been a gorgeous sunny day, weather was still fine and not cold. And I had gotten a decent sense of the place from last time I was there, figured I'd be safe. I arrived there too early for ppl to be there, so, bored, I started doodling... you can see my results in the photo album :D I should make a series of "bar coasters art"! The night was mellow, spent most of the time at the bar itself, then headed off to the dance floor, but wasn't quite feeling it. Only a couple of guys started chatting me up at random times. I was polite but didn't express any interest, so wasn't bothered too much. I ended up doodling and staring more than dancing. But went home content.

Fri I had just one mission: find brownies! Given last experience, I figured I'd eat real food, buy two brownies, then go home. These did hit me. A bit too much, as I fell asleep on the couch mad early, missing the italy soccer game! lol. With more time I think I'd try to experiment a bit more with them... find the right mix of food and those and just get mellow... ah well.

I'm off to the train station in 10 mins, going to Brussels for 6-7 days to take care of two doggies. Internet connection there will probably be crappy, but I'll try to keep up. Although 2 puppies are a lot more interactive work than one cat... *sigh* sometimes I don't think things through :P

Overall, Amsterdam gets thumbs up!! \^o^/