“So I would really like to have interviews with as many different people as possible”, I tell Jemaine as we walk around museumsquare searching for more interesting stories. From a distance we see an elderly couple sitting on a bench, enjoying the crowd of tourists walking around. We introduce ourselves and soon words keep flowing, making it a conversation going many different ways.
Mrs: “We are from Linz, Austria. It is the first time we are visiting Amsterdam. In 2 days it is my 80th birthday, and it was my wish to come here and visit Amsterdam. I Like the painters and paintings that you can find here in Amsterdam. I like Van Gogh and Rembrandt. The expressionists type of paintings, that is what I like. We are staying here for 7 days. Well, 5. Because the arrival day and day of leaving takes one day each with the travelling and flying. I enjoyed the museums a lot so far. We just walked out of the Van Gogh museum. And besides that? Well, the restaurants aren’t something I enjoyed so much so far. You see, they aren’t really local typical Dutch cultured restaurants. A lot of them have a international type of kitchen instead of the typical Dutch cuisine. So far we haven’t found anything good with a complete dutch menu, not yet.”
Mr: “I would really like to get some fish, Dutch fish.”
Jemaine jumps in and tells him that they have to go to IJmuiden. They have a lot of restaurants with a lot of fish.
Mr: “But that’s more on the country side, right? Instead of the city center?”
We both nod.
Mrs: “It’s a pity. And I haven’t found any typical Amsterdam keepers as souvenirs either. It’s all from China.
Jemaine: “And what about Delft’s blue..oh no, that’s not even typical Amsterdam all the way from Delft isn’t it..”
Mrs: “Comparing to 20/30 years ago when I used to travel with my children, I have a lot of children, it was so different. It’s all lost now. It’s all international, towards all the tourists. But besides that, it’s really nice so far. We are now on our way to find some canals, to go around and explore the city center. Last year we couldn’t go away for my birthday. The kids are coming over, the grandkids are coming over. And then I have to cook for 50 people, a crowded house full of family. But this year I said, I want to go to Amsterdam.”
I advise her to go on a canal boat tour. It is the best way to get around the inner city center, to see everything and explore and learn about the culture and buildings you see along the way.
Mr: “What will the people living in Amsterdam do when the sea level rises and the town floats with water?”
Jemaine has the most honest answer; we will drown, probably..
Mr: “Because the city will be flooded, so much water.”
I tell him that we are a little prepared, and joke we live in high buildings. So for now that’s a nice thought, and we will see what happens in the future. But I’m certainly aware of the fact that the sea water level is rising, regarding those dahm climate change problems.
Mrs: “And in the grachten..it is called grachten in Dutch right? I hope they have guides on board of the boats. Because I asked the driver of the tram things about the buildings, and he didn’t knew that much about the city. But we always walk around, and then get really tired after 3/4 hours to walk around even more, it’s difficult. So you think a canal tour is something we should do?”
Jemaine and I tell her that you will find many boats with tour guides in the city center. You will have a tour for 1 or 2 hours, and they will tell you everything about the buildings, monuments and highlights you pass. And you can just sit down, have a cup of coffee or tea on board and enjoy the trip. We both agree we would definitely recommend it.
Mr: “Where did you learn to speak English, because it is so good!”
I laugh a bit. “Do you think so? ‘Cause it has been a while, I’m still working on my pronunciation. But we learnt it at school.”
Mrs: “Have you been in England to?”
I tell here that I’ve only visit London twice so far. But I’ll be exploring England more at the end of August this year.
Mrs: “If you would like to learn a new language, always visit the country side. It is the best and easiest way to learn the language. But not so easy to make friends, since it’s much more quiet and less crowded.
Jemaine tells her that we used to work at Schiphol airport. And we had to speak English all day, everyday for about 99% of the time. It’s how Jemaine and I met to.
Mrs: “But no one speaks here German..”
Jemaine and I in our best German; “Wir verstehen es gut, aber wir sprechen das nur ein wenig.”
Mrs: “A really, where did you learn that?”
I tell her that German used to be a subject at school. We learnt the language for four years, ages 12-16. She asks me if I like to learn new languages. And I do, a lot. But I the thing is, if you stop speaking the language on a regular basis, it just fades away. It’s still there, but yeah. And it’s the same with French. I understand the language much better than speaking. I’m not fluent, nor in German, nor in French. But I manage. If I would spent a couple of days only having confrontations in German or French, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to have a basic understandable conversation after those days. And I’ve still got the books at home to learn Spanish, so maybe that’s an idea for the holiday.
Mrs: “It’s such a good idea, learn. And to go to the country, for maybe a year, and learn the language. It’s only one year. But later on, you will always remember it for the rest of your life. Everyone these days is saying; ‘Oh I have to work, and work and work and work’. But no, you should do more than that. It’s important to travel, go around, see places. Just get to know people, see the culture. You won’t loose anything, but gain a lot.”
Every person I meet, I ask the same last question, to keep the motivation for everything in life flowing.
‘Say you’ve got 5 minutes…a kid walks in. And he or she is asking for your advice. In those 5 minutes…what would it be and why?’
Mrs: “To learn. To learn, to learn and learn. And to go out. To know the world, country, people everywhere. Explore a lot. It makes you become more open, it makes you become a better person.”
Mr: “Meet people, and learn from people. Because we are living in a time where technology is taking over, and I don’t always like it. Because there is not much time. There are only 24 hours in a day. You need 8 hours for sleeping, and your time for work, traveling to your work, cooking and so on and so on. Spent time with your family. Everyone is so busy, where is the time for using your phone, where?”
Mrs: “But at the same time you have to use it. Because with all the grandchildren, it is the way to connect these days. And it’s funny. Because when I try to make a picture with my phone, in the museums or something, it takes some time for me. And then he (points to her husband) is always waiting, saying it takes to long.”
We all laugh. Yes, technology these days.
Mr: “But think about it. Because how many young people are spending all their free time using their computer or telephone? So many people. Instead of spending it with their families. It’s to much.”
Mr&Mrs: “But we would like to thank you for your interview and time. Good luck with your blog. And thank you for all the information and the nice conversation. Even with us, the older people. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
And like I said that day, Jemaine and I would like to thank you both for the good conversation and laughter we had that morning. No such thing as older people. Great stories are told and shared by all ages. We hope you both enjoyed Amsterdam!
Ps, Jemaine gave her son a kiss from you both, as promised.