Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Noordwijk Holland

Noordwijk Holland is a relaxing sea side town where you can go to the beach, eat some nice food, or take a train into Amsterdam to enjoy what the larger city has to offer. For the last few days I have been mostly relaxing in relative solitude, reading a few books and enjoying my last few days here with serenity and no real sense of urgency. 

A few days before this I spent a night in Dem Haag and visited the M.C Escher museum there. The museum was quite stunning, especially since I am a big fan of Escher's work. I bought a few posters, one for myself and two for other people who will recieve them when I get back into town. 

Yesterday I spent the majority of the day sitting on the beach here and reading a book that Ali gave to me from Aydin called The Luck Factor. I was a pretty iteresting read and talks about some quite practical advice actually on how to bring more fortuitious things into your life. It also explored a lot of theories and ideas about what luck is and how people have attempted to control it with religion or superstitious means. 

I saw a number of famiies on the beach with their kids. The beach was not a nude one, but in Europe you just change wherever you are, so you see people naked all the time anyway. There were some people sun bathing, others swimming or flying kites. 

I just sat on my sarong with my crappy little umbrella and read for the whole day. I unfortunately didn't cover all of my lower legs with sun screen though and recieved some rather nasty sun burns on my ankles and part of my calves. 

There were a group of young men who were playing soccer who I watched for a while, partly because they were pretty, and partly because I was genuinely interested in what they were doing. Some of them seemed pretty talented with a soccer ball, but what do I know, I'm an American. 

After this I went to a Chinese restaurant since I was feeling tired of European food and had some mediocore food, but also some rather delicious lychee wine and a dessert of ice cream with banana slices in it. It was good!

Today I started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which so far I am really enjoying! The setup has been rather exciting and well put together. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about the different opinions I've gathered about the United States and what other people regard us as around the world. I talked to a man from Cosivo today who said he was so grateful to the US for helping them out when they were at war. He was a fan of both Clinton and Bush for this reason, and it felt educational to just listen to him and absorb. I asked a few questions, but mostly just wanted to hear what he had to say. 

I think one thing some European countries do that is rather interesting and I think is beneficial to a community is to require someone when then end high school to either participate in community service or join the army for a short period of time. I talked with this young man from Dusseldorf who said that volunteering with the mentally disabled as his form of community service was life changing. It made me wonder how and if a similar system would work in the US and if it might benefit our society at large. 

Another difference Europeans have is their attitude towards guns. They believe they should be banned out right, and many are shocked when I mention that both my parents and my boyfriend own firearms. I mostly stay silent on this topic because I can understand both points of view, but edge on the side of letting people own guns, I just want it to be regulated. For instance, no guns for people who have a certain kind of criminal record, and we need to do our best to keep them out of irresponsible hands. I tried to explain once that the second amendment in our constitution is there for a reason and was confronted with the fact that the time we needed them has passed. I wanted to go on to mention a what if, but stopped. More interested in understanding their ideas about gun ownership. 

Europeans look confusedly at us Americans with our big cups of coffee and huge inefficient cars. They applaude us for electing Obama and for being a country that is a melting pot of culture and with a unique form of government the world over. I don't know how I feel about my government right now, in many ways I think it's stopped being fully functional at the moment and we have a huge problem with corruption. 

In many places in Europe the governmental problems seem to spring from xenophobia and centralized power. Like the various laws that discriminate against Muslims in France and Switzerland. Or the problem of possible governmental collapse in Denmark, since 33 percent of the countries jobs are government based. 

We have a huge problem with poverty, the majority of Europe does not. I saw a few homeless people in Paris and struggling immigrants from Africa, but nothing else. People here eat better and exercise more, which probably accounts for the large amount of super model hot guys and gals walking around wherever you look. 

I think discounting Europes societal models isn't being fair, there are plenty of flaws, but from what I've gathered, there are certain things they do a lot better then we do in the US.

Anyway, I think I will return to my book and trying to get over this cold. See you all in a few days when I'm back in the states!


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