Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day in the Netherlands.

Today was an odd Thanksgiving. Being in the Netherlands means that we were far from our friends and families but we still wanted to have some sort of Thanksgiving celebration. A bit of Googling showed that getting a turkey dinner with all the fixings in the Netherlands would not be an easy task, so we decided to hop on a train and head for Amsterdam where we found that at least one restaurant would be providing a traditional Thanksgiving meal... The Hard Rock Cafe.

Let me be blunt here. I should have known what we were in for when I realized that we were ordering our meals with Rob Zombie blaring in the background. When our food was delivered to the table it was accompanied by Lou Reed, not your typical holiday music. All in all though we were quite happy, we had turkey, carrots and broccoli, mashed potatoes with gravy, and something that was supposed to be dressing but that missed the mark completely. Still, it was better than hitting a döner stand.

After leaving the Hard Rock we wandered around Amsterdam for a while. You should know that this was my first trip to Amsterdam and to me it felt like less of a city than it was a tourist trap. Where we live in the Netherlands almost everyone can speak English but you rarely hear anyone actually using the language. In Amsterdam you heard almost nothing but English. Signs were in English, menus were in English, many of the accents you heard were English, it was like we had left the Netherlands when we got off the train in the country's capitol. It really made me appreciate my adopted home of Tilburg.

We weren't going to let any of this spoil our day though. We wandered around taking in the architecture and admiring the canals. We visited the Homomonument and took a few photos. We checked out a souvenir shop, made use of a street urinal (they should have these things every where) and after a while found ourselves at the Anne Frank House.

After some discussion we decided to go in. We didn't know if this was an appropriate day to take in a museum based on the experience of a young girl during one of the saddest points in human history. But finally we decided to go in.

If you have never been to the Anne Frank House the first thing that strikes you is the silence. No one says a word. You hear the sounds from the scattered video displays and you hear footsteps, you get a small bit of the feeling of what it must have been like to stay completely quiet in order to avoid being discovered. Of course the silence you hear in this building today doesn't come from fear, it comes from respect and sadness and introspection. As you view the exhibits, as you look at those walls, the story of Anne Frank becomes much more real and I was very glad that we took this less than traditional detour on Thanksgiving Day.

You see, this year Thanksgiving Day is also the start of Hanukkah. We were in the Anne Frank house on a day that probably would have be a celebration for her family if they had been there in saner times and we were only there because of a holiday that we were celebrating. Somehow all of this came together as an intense reminder of how thankful we should be for living in a world that is considerably less cruel, less crazy, and less confining. We were reminded just how much we had to be thankful for, so much that it can't really be quantified, and how thankful we are for people like Anne Frank who will hopefully remind us of how terrible humans can be in the hope that we will never find ourselves in a horrific situation like that again. If you find that you need to place the blame for your problems on other people based on their race or ethnicity I ask you to take a hard look inside your heart and see if the real problem doesn't come from there. Anne Frank was a little girl who died for no other reason than who she was. We should do everything we can to make sure that never happens again.