Amsterdam was a great place to visit in knowledge and experience. As today was our last day in the Netherlands as we headed to Belgium in the afternoon, I wanted to reflect about my experience in Amsterdam in general and touch upon some new things I learned in Brussels today.
I learned so much while staying in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. I really appreciated getting to expand my knowledge about these European countries in all aspects of their culture, society, politics, and values. I must say that I appreciated learning about the progressive policies and practices within the Netherlands along with the reality that some of these policies and practices were simply tolerated out of pragmatism. This gave me further perspective in realizing that even with policies and values I agree with, in practice sometimes there may be controversy and that there are always multiple sides that believe something else. For example, when I believed the legalization of prostitution was a solve-all, be-all solution, it wasn’t until I learned from the Professor that legalized prostitution could give way to further exploitation of undocumented workers in the underground black market of trafficking.
Another new appreciation I had learning in Amsterdam was on the politics within the Netherlands and how there are so many different parties that have a significant say in governing the nation. Furthermore, personally for me many of the parties lean to the left and generally believe in issues I believe in as well. For example, like how some parties believe that the wealthy members of society should be taxed more to provide for the social welfare of Netherlands or even from the views of a smaller political party like the party that strongly advocates for animal rights, it’s amazing that 7 or so different parties can have a say in the nation of the Netherlands. Compared to the 2-party system in the United States, this is on another new level.
The last week and a half in Amsterdam I’ve learned a lot. Learning about the Dutch during World War II, learning about Dutch colonialization of Indonesia or learning about the tensions with the Islam community within the past decade—all these topics I feel are relevant to me and everyone as all these issues are important issues in other societies such as my own in the United States. Whether or not these issues are talked about or discussed, it is still a matter of importance and I believe no matter what society, subjects such as history, culture, values should continue to be discussed.
To change gears now, I want to talk about today. In the morning on our way to Belgium, we made a stop at the Bosch Art Center and learned about the artwork of the artist Bosch who were contemporaries of Leonardo De Vinchi and Michelangelo during the medieval time period. It was interesting that someone was quoted saying that what made Bosch so different from other artists was how he was known to paint someone’s insides: as in their character, and not their exterior: their physical appearance. Many of his paintings were unusual and outright creepy to be honest such as his portrayal of people having deformed bodily and facial features. I suppose this artist who had such ideas must have had an impact as the city he got his name off of honored him with a gallery of his art.
Despite being in Brussels for a brief period of time, I’ve learned more about Belgium in this short amount of time then the span of my life. During our short tour of the city of Brussels, our Professor briefly talked about Brussels and the sites we visited so it was insightful to get an introduction to the city. One of my major qualms of visiting new cities, new countries, new anywhere is being a so-called “tourist”. When I visit someplace new I really want to learn about that place. It really bothers me that these days places of visit are commodified for the presence of tourist. With this culturally, social value is lost and disrespected from my point of view. I know if where I’ve grown up tourist commodified my home—I’d refuse their presence. Though I can’t speak for natives and locals of this country, this is my opinion.
Visiting the Neterhands was a new refreshing experience. Learning a lot I’m excited to bring back all this newly learned knowledge back home. Just as in the Netherlands, I’m excited for what Brussels and Belgium has in store.
This was one of the first sites I saw upon entering Amsterdam.
This was one of the first sites I saw upon entering Brussels. I suppose tension is always there between authority and its people. It’s global.
I wrap up my thoughts on Amsterdam in this post. This is part of a school journal I’m assigned to blog in while studying abroad in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.