Amsterdam, the final chapter…

March 3, 2014

Last night was not an easy one.  I went to bed at 11:30 after finishing yesterday’s post.  Everyone thinks I am crazy for staying up late writing, but I am worried I will forget everything if I don’t write it down.  Unfortunately, I woke up around 2 hours later and could not go back to sleep. I was wide awake. And Aubrey was also awake.

I decided to get some food.  I carefully tiptoed to the kitchen and found that Michelle was up emailing back and forth with Howard.  We were all awake, trying not to wake anyone else up.  As I was sitting at the table eating a bowl of yogurt and Muesli, Erez came down the dangerously steep stairs from the loft.  Naturally, he wanted to eat too.  We were having a quiet kitchen party at 3:45am, when Erez looked at me and said: “Hashtag midnight snack!”  Yes, Erez is twelve now, but he’s not even on twitter!  As we wrapped up our snack, Zev came down the stairs. Of course he was hungry, too.  I gave him a banana and sent him back to bed. Apparently, the two of them never went back to sleep.

The alarm went off way too soon.  Michelle went to meet Maxine at the airport, and the flight came in almost an hour early at 6:45am.  We wanted to be at the Anne Frank house before it opened, to get in line, so we had to get moving early. It was painful.

Last week, we took Erez and Zev to see “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Oshawa Little Theatre, so they were prepared.  Over breakfast, I had to prepare Noam and Teva for the museum because they did not join us at the play.  How does one do that?  How to explain Hitler and his atrocities to a four and seven year old over breakfast?

In spite of the lack of sleep, and such a heavy breakfast talk, we got out on time and were 14th in line when we arrived.  (Statistics provided by Zev.) We only had to stand in the rain for about 20 minutes until the museum opened and we started our journey through the Anne Frank House and the Secret Annex.

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We got there just in time, because, even though it was raining, people were lined up around the block to get in.  It was amazing to see how many people come from all over the world to see this exhibit, judging by the number of languages in which the guide is available. People come here because Anne’s story has struck a chord in so many people across the globe.  I think one of the reasons why her diary has had such a broad appeal, and why it is different from thousands of other holocaust narratives, is that it is not a retrospective look by an adult; rather, it is a young girl, in real time, telling in a very articulate way, how the war was impacting her family in the present.

The museum is very well done. It was a bit surreal seeing the Secret Annex after all these years and after seeing the play just last week. It was also surreal hearing Teva ask me some big questions I didn’t really have answers to, in his innocent, but megaphone-like voice while we were touring the exhibit. It only took about an hour to go through and then there was an interesting exhibit at the end that looks at intolerance in our society now.

In this exhibit, they showed short film clips of “dilemmas” in our society now, and then at the end, you must vote with a button about what side of the debate you are on.  We were shown the results of the people in the room, and then the cumulative stats of everyone that has voted in the exhibit so far – very interesting.  It usually introduced a real life situation in the news that had to do with balancing the rights of the individual versus the community or government. None had easy answers, but I couldn’t help but juxtapose issues prominent in the world with what was happening in Nazi Germany and its occupied lands in World War II.  What would any of us have done in similar circumstances if we were not the oppressed group?  Would we stand up for them?  Or would we be too afraid?  Or, would we have found it “justified”. There are many situations in the world today that seem to be in this grey zone.  We cannot sit idly by. It really gave me something to think about.

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We met up with Maxine and Michelle outside the Museum and then headed over to the Rijksmuseum.  Wow!  What an impressive building. We affectionately called it the “Museum of Lines.” We had to wait outside in the rain for about 25 minutes, then wait inside for awhile to get our tickets, (but we didn’t mind, we weren’t cold and wet anymore and we were in a gorgeous atrium).  Then we lined up for the coat check, and then lined up to get a spot in the café to eat lunch, and then after lunch, we lined up to get into the museum, and then lined up to see all of the paintings.

I didn’t mind the waiting, because everything was so impressive: the art, the artifacts, and the rooms housing them. It was all worth it. I was particularly in awe of the paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, especially “Night Watch,” which is actually a day scene military portrait. It is famous for its groundbreaking use of lighting, but was misnamed much later, after the painting became dirty and darker ( see pic below).



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Almost as impressive were the works created by Rembrandt’s contemporaries, inspired by his military portraits ( see pic of a “not Rembrandt” immediately above). The sheer size of the works was astounding, some taking up an entire wall. However, I did start wilting a little, as did the kids. After ninety minutes of actual gallery viewing, we walked home.  We did eat lunch in the cafe before we went into the gallery.

When we got home, I was reminded of one of my  favourite things about travelling.  Maxine and I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things, and of course, I ended up buying more than I set out to buy.  I get very excited about grocery shopping in other countries.

This time, I wanted to buy a treat for the boys, so I got mini chocolate banana caramel cheesecakes and some chocolate/vanilla milk in a carton.  Once home, the boys were duly excited at the treat but were still mesmerized by cartoons in Dutch. Yes, in Dutch.

I opened the cheesecakes and found they were in individual wide mouthed glass jars – yes, jars.

I poured them each a glass of milk, only to find that it was not milk, but …pudding!!!!


I love it!  That happened to me all the time when I Iived in Japan. Priceless!

After finishing off most of the food Amira had given us the first day, we packed up and got the kids to bed.  I still had quite a lot to organize, and was feeling tired, so Aubrey and Michelle went out on their own to explore Amsterdam at night by foot.  I can’t wait to hear what they were up to.

Here are some gratuitous Amsterdam shots because I couldn’t figure out how to get them off my camera for yesterday’s post.

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Stay tuned for our next post from Nairobi, Kenya.




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