I am an applied medical anthropologist beginning my PhD in Public Health this fall. For the second summer in a row, I will travel with my research partner, Ginger Mckay, to Kampala, Uganda. Last summer, we evaluated an HIV education program for children developed by the Savannah Sunrise Foundation, which is a non-profit organization. We we will be residing in Kampala from the end of May until the end of July to conduct additional fieldwork. This summer, our colleague Nicole Smith will be joining us as we wrap up our project.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The beginning of Summer 2: Amsterdam

A quick recap on what's going on:

In May, I graduated with my cohort from the University of Memphis, and I will miss them all dearly over this summer and as we all move on with our lives. I moved to New Orleans recently, and I look forward to beginning my PhD in Public Health from Louisiana State University in the fall.

I am thrilled to be traveling with two of my best friends and colleagues, Ginger and Nicole! The past year has been very exciting for us all and being reunited feels great. Nicole just completed her first year as a doctoral student in Medical Anthropology at the University of Kentucky and Ginger is beginning a doctorate in Public Health from the Oregon State University this fall. I am looking forward to sharing the journey to Europe and Africa with them both. Please read their blogs to catch up on the latest news from abroad as they have already written more than I have! I need to catch up!

We arrived safely in Amsterdam, although there were a few bumps in the road. First, my plane was delayed in Greenville, so I barely made it to Atlanta in time to get on the flight to Amsterdam with Ginger and Nicole. Fortunately, I was able to board but my luggage did not make it! It arrived in Amsterdam at the end of day two.

We decided to extend our layover in Amsterdam on the way to Uganda this summer. I’ve never been to Europe, so this is a very new experience for me. The primary source of transportation here appears to be biking around the city, or simply walking, which makes the city seem quiet despite the bustling of large crowds. The city has a very modern feel, even though it's quite old, which contrasts with the quietness since there are few cars. Even the tram is virtually silent. Amsterdam is actually nothing like what I expected.

The first day we walked around a TON and I was dead tired. We couldn´t go to our room until after noon, even though we arrived at the airport early. Everyone tells you that the place you are looking for is 5 minutes around the corner but it never is. I was so tired I could barely appreciate being somewhere new. Finally we got to go to the hostel. I don´t like staying in one very much because I really prefer my privacy and everyone is very young and here to party. Anyway, Í´ve never stayed in one before so I at least appreciate trying it out once. I was surprised about the subtlety of the girls advertising themselves in the window in the redlight district. It was oddly tasteful.

I love the canals and the boats, and the variation in flora. The first two days we explored the Redlight district, and the open air market and flower market. At the flower market, I was expecting cut-flowers but it’s primarily bulbs and seeds for sale. We also have figured out the trams now, and learned them in an attempt to visit the harbor and see larger boats. It´s colder here, so we are wearing layers and jackets each night. We decided not to go to Cologne, and instead our friend Sonja from Germany, (who we met in Uganda last year), is going to come visit us here on Wednesday. We discussed going to Bruges but we decided not to spend so much money. Instead we are going to go out to eat at this really fancy place called Supper Club. Today we went by there to make sure we had reservations.

For dinner the second night, we decided to buy groceries and eat a picnic in the park. We brought bread, cheese, salami, red and black berries, and olive paste. We had the most lovely picnic, and laughed while we chatted. It was beautiful out. The parks are so well used here, and it was nice to feel like we were behaving like natives. That was my favorite part so far. Afterwards, we went dancing. Sunday we went to the city of Haarlem. Its much smaller and more like what I expected of Amsterdam. It´s quaint and quiet and much less like a big city. I like it better there. We toured a windmill and learned how complex they are. I was really impressed with our guide, and when we went to the top it was really windy and I was terrified because of heights. I thought the windmill had started! I can’t wait until we figure out a way for everyone to see the pictures. Nicole is doing a great job documenting each day.

Today (Monday) we toured the Van Gogh and Anne Frank House museums. I was really moved at both, and had a great time viewing the exhibits. Tomorrow we are going to the Rembrandt museum. I’m sure both Ginger and Nicole have blogged about the trip more in detail so I’ll let you catch up on the rest through them. Cheers!

A few observations:

- Everyone takes bikes and there are very few cars. Bikes are the primary form of transportation. It's very quiet as a result

- At restaurants all the chairs face out to the street/square enhancing the sense of a real community

- There are lots of cute dogs that are well behaved walking without leashes

- The canals and houseboats are gorgeous

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