Without A Net
Things have continued to be pretty weird since I left Amsterdam.
The weirdness peaked when I was almost mugged before leaving The Hague. I was out walking with a French guy that I met in the hostel when two North Africans came up to us, whacked out on what seemed to be was mushrooms. They tried talking to us in both English and French, but didn't really speak either. One of them tried to take me down with a leg sweep, while ramming his hand into my pocket to nab my wallet.
At this point the smart move would have probably been to let him take it. But I've been paranoid about losing my cash cards for so long that I reacted on instinct. I grabbed his wrist and started shoulder blocking him into a wall, all the while yelling bloody murder. He finally let go, and walked away after people started coming around.
This is the second time that I've almost been mugged by North Africans in Europe. The first time was a few years ago in Lille. There is a reason why even liberal Europeans are becoming so hostile to immigration. A loud minority of second generation Arab immigrants form gangs, vandalize, steal, and act like all around assholes. The problem is especially bad in Holland. Being as liberal as they are, they tend to clash all the more with Islam. That, combined with few integration programs [they're attitude has been to more or less let the Arabs be as they like] leads to many problems and quite a bit of crime. A lot of the immigrants that live in Holland don't even speak Dutch.
Afterwards, I went back to the hostel, but things didn't improve much. It was pretty clear that one of my roommates had a crush on me, as [operative word] he tried repeatedly to get me to go to a sauna with him, even offering to pay for me. Of course, in Dutch saunas, you go nude. That night, he woke me up by caressing my face. I slapped his hand away, told him to get the fuck away from me, and caught the next train to Rotterdam.
Seeing as how weirdness seems to come in surges, things weren't much more comfortable with my roommate in Rotterdam. He wasn't there when I arrived, but he was kind enough to leave his porno collection out. Lovely way to make your roommates feel welcome. About three big stacks of magazines, and ten or twenty videos. The word creepy just doesn't do this justice. He turned out to be German, complete with weird grin and accent. Nothing happened (that I know of, at any rate), but I'd really rather not think about what he was doing in there when I wasn't around. Needless to say, I made it a point of always knocking on the door before going in.
After leaving Holland, I spent a few days in Belgium. The first stop was Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world. Apparently, 85% of all diamonds sold in the world are cut in Antwerp. Most of the shops sold jewelry, and were much more than just expensive. There's something very disconcerting about seeing a necklace that costs about five times what most people make in a year.
The last stop on my little side trip was Brugge, one of the most preserved towns in Europe in terms of architecture. This is mainly due to the city having been almost completely abandoned for many decades, and hence not developed or modernized. Still, quite a few of the buildings that seemed to be from the 16th century were in fact built quite recently, and just made to look much older. The town was very pretty, but overall more of a tourist trap than anything else.
One thing that I found quite strange about Belgium was the tension and animosity between the two regions. Anywhere north of Brussels is Flemish speaking, which is basically Dutch with a bit of an accent [I'm not entirely sure why they decided to call it something else. Perhaps it was because the Flemish and Dutch didn't get along for many years. Holland went Protestant, Flanders (Flemish country) stayed Catholic, and bad feeling followed]. South of Brussels is French speaking. Seeing as how the country is bilingual, I figured it would be more polite to talk to people in French than English, even in Flanders. But for some reason, the people weren't very friendly. I learned later the Flemish hate (or at the very least resent) the French speaking Belgians because the French oppressed the Flemish for centuries, with Flemish being the language of the poor, and the rich speaking French. Similarly, the four cultures in Switzerland don't get along very well with each other, particularly the Germans and the French. All of this doesn't seem to hold well for Canada ever working past it's cultural differences.
As of now, I'm in Paris, a huge city with huge city problems [lots of crime, lots of crazies, etc.]. If a decent job comes my way, I'll stick around for a few months. Otherwise, perhaps I'll head for the eastern boarder.
As for what's going on in Canada, hopefully all of the politicians will finally pull their heads out of their asses and stop acting like a bunch of children. I'm glad that the budget finally passed, as it is quite good. There's a substantial amount of funding for social programs such as education, urban transportation, and the environment. I'm glad that the N.D.P. managed to influence it so heavily. But the media circus around all of this has been nothing short of sickening. It's more like a soap opera slash sitcom than anything else, especially the coverage of Stronach's defection. Not that I blame her for wanting to jump ship. How any sane person could co-exist with those Reform nutballs, I can't fathom.
Lastly, it's now been over a year since my grandmother died. It's been strange how much has happened since. As she was the one that raised me, getting used to not having a parent figure around was a bit strange. Having so few strong ties to one place is the main reason that I've been able to wander aimlessly like this...