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A Full Year and an Inspirational Moment

A year ago today, I woke up at my parents' place in Chicago, finished packing (eternal procrastinator) and set off to O'Hare Airport fly over the ocean to a new beginning.

I was to arrive in Amsterdam on October 23rd, 2002 to meet D - who I hadn't seen for 20 days - not that I was counting. Leaving was meant to bring many things for me/us - one of them being a renewed enthusiasm for writing and being a writer.

It seems quite fitting, when I think back over this last year, that Amsterdam was the first place I hit. It was Anne Frank who got me started on this whole writing thing in the first place.

I remember reading her in elementary school for our English class. I was so touched by her story. I starting writing religiously in my diary every day, in the hopes that I could someday make a difference like she did, that in someway, people would read my diary and feel the way I felt when I read hers.

I started trying to write more profound things in my diary, just so it could sound as important as what Anne was writing about. It was only years later as adulthood creeped up on me that I realized I would never really be able to have the effect that Anne did simply because I would never really experience the horror she faced.

And so my fondest memory of Amsterdam was not when I arrived a year ago but when I spent an evening there by myself in June, waiting to fly back to Chicago. Both D and I had return flights in June from the cities we arrived at in October - D flew in and out of Manchester, I, Amsterdam. We both flew out on the same day, which left me by myself in the 'wild city' for one night.

I decided to take my travel diary - a hardcover leather book, a gift from a dear friend when he was travelling in Italy years before - and find a cafe on Prinsengracht near the Anne Frank Museum.

I had left D at the train station - he was gearing up for planes, trains and automobiles to get himself back to Canada - feeling a bit lonely as it was the first time we had been apart in about 4 months time.

I began to wander the streets of Amsterdam - the sun was beaming down on all the canals, making the water glimmer and sparkle. People were out and about as it was a national holiday, walking the streets or passing by in boats with music blaring and drinks in hand.

I slowly approached the Huis, which had a long queue due to the fact it was 4 in the afternoon. I stopped at a tree and just looked up. All those months. All that time. All her words. Written, from that little space.

I was quite enjoying just being part of the moment when a rude awakening occurred - a man came up to me and said something in Dutch. When I looked confused, he sheepishly said 'sorry' and slithered away. Leaning against trees in a city where prostitution is legal is not a good idea - even if you're in jeans, no makeup and hair in a ponytail.

I looked across the canal and saw a myriad of patio tables outside what looked quite like an English pub. That was it.

I wandered down the cobblestone road, across the bridge and found myself a seat by the water.

I could see the Huis perfectly, past the canal, past therevelingg boaters, past the trees. With my glad of white wine, I just began to write. I wrote and wrote for a good hour or so - a couple of wine glasses later - until I decided that I could write no more. It was almost as if I could feel her youthful spirit right there with me.

Occasionally, I would look back at the Huis and around at the life existing - people just being. The human spirit has incredible healing power. To think of all the horror that happened not so long ago in the same place I was sitting. And yet, we continue on.

I remember it felt so good to be there. I was so excited to go home and just so happy that my last day in Europe had turned out to be so meaningful.

One of the best parts of travelling in stumbling across an unplanned inspirational moment.

I think that's why I leaving the travel planning and co-ordinating to D - I'm better when life sneaks up on me.


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