I Survived! Or, Amsterdam 2014!

So… Amsterdam.

Let’s say that I made it to and from in one piece.

I left Bath at 8.30pm, meaning that I sadly had to miss the final for Battle of the Laughs, which I was gutted about, because I was really rooting for the other comedians who were battling their way into the hearts of the students, to get that all important Summer Ball gig. But, we set off into the night, snuggled in blankets and munching snacks in the hope that we’d go to sleep on the coach. Alas, we didn’t, even though I took my sleep medication. But we got onto the ferry, and sailed away into the abyss of Europe.

That said, we got into sunny Amsterdam at 8.30am, after twelve gruelling hours on the road. After dropping our bags off, the intrepid explorers decided to go grab breakfast. 

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It was lovely to nibble on a light snack whilst beginning to re-read Diary of a Young Girl, as it made sense to read the story of a brave young woman going through a terrible experience, whilst walking the streets she would of known and loved. We had plans to visit The Secret Annexe the next day anyway, so context was needed.

After that, we decided to have a wander around our surroundings. We were really lucky to be getting such amazing weather, to be honest! I brought my posh DSLR camera that I got for Christmas, so was very able to play tourist for a change, and get snap happy. I’ll show off a couple of my favourite ones:

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It was so lovely, that I agreed to hire out a bike with a couple of my friends for a couple of hours. Considering that I hadn’t cycled since I was fourteen, I was pretty nervous, especially as I’d spent quite a bit of the morning watching all the locals whizzing around like pros (seriously, some of the kids were on their smartphones, on Facebook, whilst moving!). So, after being shown how to use the bike locks (which we soon forgot) and how the brakes worked (that would prove to be rather handy!), we set off. It wasn’t long before I was wobbling all over the place, half on the pavement, half on the road. My shoe kept falling off in the middle of the cycle road, and we went the wrong way down a one-way path (doh!), and then we had pandemonium trying to lock and unlock our bikes when we went off for dinner (a lovely Italian place!), before I managed to get the hang of cycling, by which point, we had to give the bikes back. At one point, I had Dutch cyclists swear at me (it sounded like they were, harsh tone of voice!), so I swore back in English (though a mother did have to cover her daughter’s ears, whoops!), and an older gentleman came up to me in the street and said “You need to learn to ride bicycle. Get off pavement!”, when I thought I was on the road… DOH! I did try though, which I guess was the main thing.

The next day, we bought 24 hour public transport tickets, and set off to find the Anne Frank House museum. 

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It was another beautiful day, as we boarded our first tram, and trundled off to Dam Square, where we’d have to walk for another ten minutes to find Prinsengracht, where the museum was. We got there at about 10am, to discover a massive queue! I’d hoped at that time in the morning that it wouldn’t of been so busy, but I forgot for a moment just how famous Anne and her beloved diary is. Anyone who is anyone would want to come to see the place where Anne and her fellow hiders lived until that fateful day when they were captured. 

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This was the queue at around 11am! It just got madder and madder as the minutes ticked by. Although, that said, listening to the bells of the church that Anne used to love made me feel more determined to swallow my impatience, and get through the queue and into the Secret Annex. But, I did bring the diary with me…

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It kept me busy whilst the queue shuffled slowly forwards. But we got in, and that was the main thing. We read out extracts of the diary, as well as the afterword, when a couple of my friends asked if Anne survived the war unfound. Unfortunately someone did tip off the hiders to the Nazis, who took them away to the dreaded concentration camps, and only Otto, Anne’s father, survived. 

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We were not allowed to take photos inside the Secret Annexe, so this was as far as the camera got. However, I agreed with this policy even if my friends didn’t, as you don’t want to ruin the experience by taking lots of photos and disturbing other visitors, not to mention that some artifacts get affected by light damage, especially when subjected to flash photography (see, there’s the old museum volunteer in me coming out!). But seeing the postcards on the wall, the books they read, the maps on the wall where they tracked the progress of the Allied forces, brought it home for me, that these were not just stories on a page anymore, but real people, and real lives. This was even more emphasized, when we got to the room where Anne’s original diary is kept, in a glass case, for all to see, as well as pieces of paper where Anne had written short stories, or her draft of the novel she was writing about the Secret Annex, based on her original diary. 

I then had to pop back home, as my card started playing up, because I needed more funds to be loaded on, which meant I missed out on the canal cruise I’d wanted to go on, which was a shame. But before then I bought the film made in 1959 about Anne’s diary, as well as a graphic biography of Anne’s life, which I simply couldn’t bear to leave behind. We went out for one last time, to another lovely Italian restaurant, where I had a really nice calzone. We wandered the streets of Amsterdam as the nightlife awoke, before turning in for the night, as we had a long journey ahead of us for the next day.

And then we left Amsterdam the next morning, at 11am. We travelled back into England, which took us longer than planned as we got stuck in traffic. But we soon made it, and lugged all our suitcases and bags back into our rooms, before I flopped into bed.

It was a wonderful experience, and one I would love to repeat. I’d better start saving up for going back, I might persuade Josh to go with me, I think he’d love the laid back vibe of the place, not sure if he’d want to hire a bicycle though… 

 

 

In Other News…

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This week just gone has been very unusual, as I’ve done things that have changed the way I view the world forever.

This time last week I was preparing for my debut into stand-up comedy. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, just to see how it feels to get up on stage and attempt to be hilarious for a paying audience. I entered the university’s ‘Battle of the Laughs’, which is like the traditional ‘Battle of the Bands’, but instead involves stand-up comedians rather than bands. The prize is to perform as headliner for the Summer Ball, in the comedy tent (we’ve only had this for two years, but we’re one of the few universities to have them), and last week was the first heat. I really enjoyed the rush I got when getting introduced as a stand-up by our lovely compare, and appreciated the laughter that I got from a few of my jokes. I didn’t get through to the final, but it was the experience that counted, and I’ve decided that I really would like to get some compare experience in next year.

I’ve also helped out at an Asperger’s Awareness training session with the financial team at university. I really appreciate the fact that various teams on campus want to be able to help students with autism and Aspergers to be able to get the proper support they need in a way that is comfortable. It makes me happier to think that people are starting to become more aware of how the disability can affect the day-to-day life of someone on the spectrum, and that they want to help in every way that they can to make the student’s lives a lot easier. Hopefully they will be rolling out the training across the board, so that all staff members of all departments of the university become more aware of autism and Aspergers and the issues they face. Speaking of issues, Josh sent me the link to a Youtube video, that I think you’ll all find rather interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmDGvquzn2k

This is from Carly Fleischman, a young woman who has non-verbal autism, she communicates using a computer and speech software so she can explain what she needs/wants/etc. This video shows how it feels to be autistic, and the difficulties that you face when you’re dealing with sensory overload, and how it affects the world you live in, as well as how frustrating it is to be unable to explain what you want.

It’s an amazing video from a really inspirational person. It really shows what someone can achieve, regardless of their disability. If only other people could learn that we autistic people don’t want to be shut out from the world, but actually want to be given the opportunity to join in, and really make a difference, one that can change lives, for the better.

Also, next Thursday, I’m off to Amsterdam! My guidebook came through the post from Amazon, and I’ve flicked through it, getting more excited! The itinerary finally came through as well, so I’m so excited! I’m hoping that people will be able to come to the Anne Frank House with me, whilst one of my friends wants to go to all the places in The Fault in Our Stars, and to re-read the book, whilst I’m re-reading Anne’s diary. The only thing I’m dreading is all the actual travelling, as we’ll keep travelling from Bath to Amsterdam through the night. And I suck at sleeping on public transport. So I might have to ask for travel sleep meds from the doctor, as well as a letter from him to explain why I’ll be carrying sleep medication in my luggage. Oh my, so much to do before I leave as well, all the packing, the learning of some basic phrases, making sure my euro card comes in time…

I’m also going to partay! Yes, I’ve been invited to another Comedy Society party, and I’m really excited, as they always throw the best house parties, with Cards Against Humanity, Epic Rap Battles and other general awesomesauce stuff! I love parties, as long as I prepare myself in advance, like earplugs for sensory overload, making sure my handbag is packed, and that my phone is fully charged. It ought to be a great way of letting off steam after this really bizarre week that I’ve had

Other than that, it’s just a lot of catching up with work, writing and the writing of a comedy sketch involving material from my stand-up…

So, Where Were We?

This past week has been very busy for me. I say this because it has been packed with all of the things, all at once. I’m currently in my brand new writing nook (after my old one shut down its tea room part of its business, jerks) and am munching macroons whilst tapping out this little piece.

I ran for the role of Women’s Liberation Rep for my university last week, but lost. The other girl is very good, and should be able to tackle the issues on campus relating to women in a very competent manner. Obviously I’m gutted to have lost, but it’s taught me a lot about who I want to be when I actually go out into the world (I love arguing a case and campaigning for things, so I believe being a literary agent would hone those skills, and I’d be submerged in new and interesting things to read. It does mean I have to learn how to edit work, sigh) and it’s opened my eyes to other issues that I feel need more attention than they are receiving. I made some friends as well, and got myself out there into the world of university life. I also loved the post-election festivities, after my dear friend got elected into Disability and Mental Health (an amazing person who makes me laugh, and has amazing insights on how life on campus can be made better for the disabled and mental health affected students. I adore her!) . Playing Mario Kart whilst tipsy is a very peculiar, but wonderful experience (although I am such a game rager, that my friend Daniel refuses to play with me…).

I had the social workers over yesterday, and they decided that because I’ve been struggling with my sleep and getting into class, that they had to have a crisis meeting with the student support people on the front line of my support at uni in order to discuss the reason that I am an epic fail of a student. It wasn’t a comfortable experience, but now social services want to link up with the university, and have more contact with me than once a term. I guess life should get more interesting on that front.

I’ve been asked to help out with the Asperger awareness training for staff in the financial department, so I’ve been very busy making a list of useful things that they ought to know so that they can make the department more AS friendly. It’s a very long list, talking about sensory issues, language, social blindness, how to prevent an AS meltdown, and how to spot a potential one brewing, stuff along those lines. I think I’m being offered tea for my time, so it ought to be fun.

I got my overlays yesterday for my Irlen Syndrome stuff, and I’ve visited the opticians to check if my prescription for my lenses was up to date as I didn’t want to have to order lenses that were the wrong strength for my reading glasses. Turns out my left eye has gotten weaker, so my prescription needs only slight alteration. But it did mean picking out a brand new pair of glasses (very exciting!), and with the help of a lovely assistant, I picked out a pair that reminded me of the underground Beat Generation of ’50s America, ala Allen Ginsburg of  Howl fame. I’m getting my new glasses tomorrow, so will update you on that tomorrow.

I’m also preparing for my trip to Amsterdam at the end of this month! They haven’t sent in an itinerary yet, but I hope we’ll get to go to Anne Frank’s House as part of the trip. You see, one of my main inspirations to write in the first place came from reading Diary of a Young Girl when I was ten, when I too started writing a diary addressed to ‘Tabby’. I reread it aged fourteen, and it taught me that it was OK to want to dream, even if the dream seems unachievable. So, I really want to visit the place that the diary talks of, see the pictures Anne glued onto the wall. I’ll be packing the book into my suitcase, along with my guidebook and phrasebook (my Dutch phrasebook arrived yesterday!) so I can feel so inspired by Anne and Amsterdam. All I need is to wait for my currency card to be all sorted out, and then I can really start packing and looking forward to a wonderful experience! I’ll be taking my post camera with me, so I can take lots of photos and put them on here!

So, I should be writing again soon, but in the meantime, have a lovely day!