~Written and edited by Veronica Clark ~

Monday, 4 November 2013

An African in Amsterdam ~ By Invitation Only

Hi Dear Friends!!!
As you all know, I have been away from blogging!!! I have however, always been kept in the loop by my dear friend Marsha from Splenderosa about what the topics were for our monthly "By Invitation Only" posts. And, when she decided that we had to have someone write us a blog post who is NOT a blogger, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for a re-opening post!!!!

My son, Byron is studying towards his Honors in Philosophy at Stellenbosch University is on a student exchange to Amsterdam University for six months. So, I have naturally been keeping in touch via Blackberry Messenger, Whats app, Skype, Face Book,  email...you name it!!!!! What would we have done without the wonder of technology!!! I even receive pics of him shopping, his dinner, his washing...you get the drift.....sigh.....
I also receive regular updates on the partying, the weather, and requests for recipes, etc! So, I asked Byron to write a lil something of what he gets up to over in Amsterdam...apart from party vibe, that is....
So, over to Byron
I don’t blog!!!! I am so painfully self-reflective that I’m likely to write more about the emotional experience of journaling than I am to actually journal.... But, having left behind my friends, family and home comforts to study a world away in Europe’s most liberal city, the compulsion to write something about it is well, irresistible…
Here Byron is with his sister Jacqui in Johannesburg en route to Amsterdam via Munchen!!!!
            The first thing that hit me about Amsterdam, after dealing with the stress of picking up my moolah at the airport, is the many means of transport… this may seem mundane but I assure you it is not, especially coming from a country whose public transport is often harrowing at best. Better than Amsterdam’s impeccably clean trains and busses are Amsterdam’s trams which seem to glide miraculously over the cobbled streets like busy blue centipedes… (they always seem more animal to me than machine). The other famous Amsterdam transportation machine of course are bicycles which are everywhere… by the third week my motley crew of international student friends resembled a dangerously drunk and bewilderingly cosmopolitan bicycle gang, cycling en mass (there are about twenty of us) from bar to bar…

I would have much trouble locating my bike, I struggle to remember where I parked my car when I come out the mall!!!!!
            Amsterdam’s traditional “brown-bars” are a treat, but their beers are rather small (a result of the general expensiveness of the city, though some may use it as an excuse to mock a drunken Dutchman for impotence). We made our home at Café de Geiter, a tiny student bar on Korte Leidsedwarsstraat , often crowded, but the best place to get riled up before heading to Melkweg or Odeon to dance… incidentally, be careful of Amsterdam bouncers/barman if you have a sparkling personality like mine. Despite being a de Geiter regular I have regularly been refused service for having had “too much”, something which has never happened to me in my home city of Cape Town where, I can assure you, I can afford to get more slizzard a lot quicker than I can on impotent miniature beer charged in Euros. Without the intervention of one of my girlfrewnds (misspelt for effect) bouncers at clubs are similarly reticent, sometimes before I have even begun the evening… It is one of those Amsterdam dichotomies: open prostitution, and the smell of weed every couple meters on the street, but don’t you dare appear tipsy or at all “out of it”…

            Anyway, Amsterdam isn’t all about going from bar to nightclub (unless you’re 23)… her many magical parks and hundreds of pretty canals make Amsterdam every bit as romantic and relaxing a city as Paris, if that’s the side of the city you choose to see. Ironically the red light district is actually one of the quaintest parts of the city (it is easy to avert your eyes from the prostitutes if you are so inclined). The Venice of the North is a good place to wonder from shop to shop, including the fanciest China-town I’ve ever seen (around Zeedijk) and the coolest little art galleries and café’s in the Jordaan. It is easy to lose sight of all these things though, when one is a South African student living 10 kilometers from the center and juggling university and the incessant partying of European friends on a restricted budget of 600 Euros a month. But I can testify that despite is notorious expensiveness Amsterdam can still rock your socks off on such a budget. Amsterdam it seems is many things, to some it is the heart of sleaze, to others it is bars and parties and to others it is an undeniable cente of culture with Museums and galleries and an indie music scene that one needs to live two lives to keep up with…
            It is incredible how quickly one is absorbed into the local culture here, I eat more cheese and bread than I ever have in my life, I cycle more than anyone I know, my internal map of Amsterdam is fully updated, and I have a corresponding internal schedule of hippie, hip hop and high art events that I struggle to keep up with (both because cycling 20km’s a day is wearing me out and because every day of the week is party day in Amsterdam)… But if you plan better than me and need less sleep… well, see you on the Dam in a bit? Bring your bike, and a bong…
Thank you B!!!!
This is your mother again....
I do also get updates on academics from time to time and the last message I got read like this....." Hi Ma, got 92% for my exams....came top of the class, so now I can party with a clear conscience!!!!"
My response to that....
" Hi B.... Wowza that is way cool....SO PROUD of YOU!!!!!!
When is your thesis due?"
I got a one word response from Byron....
(which is local lingo for....Oh my goodness, don't mention that!!!)
So, I live in hope that the thesis is getting the attention it is due and that the due date has not been completely forgotten!!!!!

I am very proud of both my children and am so grateful for the opportunity that Byron has to study abroad! He is a very versatile young man who is passionate about the subject he is studying. He is also doing a film making course and has been chosen as Chairperson for the Humanities  Exchange Student Council at the University of Amsterdam. The life lessons he will learn and the friends that he has made from all over the world as well as the memories he will take with him will just be life changing experience....
I must just diarize the date for that Thesis....
and perhaps join the
"Mums who needs Wine" club....
Missing him so much, but so content that he is happy and having the time of his life.... on a budget!!!!!

Now that you know what students get up to when they are away from home hop over and enjoy all the other posts at Splenderosa

Please regale me with a comment or advise on my wine selection until the thesis is safely delivered to the prof, that is....

Live Well



All pic by Byron!!!




  1. Veronica, what a brilliant post your son has given to us! I read every single word & think he sounds very mature in his speaking and totally a student in his activities. I love Amsterdam, as a tourist, and I believe they do have the best transportation of anywhere. But, I'm afraid I'll get lost so I'm still cabbing it to every place. But, there one can walk. & talk. to everyone it seems. So fortunate for him that you guys have made this possible for him. Bravo & Brava to both parents for this! So good to have you back!

    1. Thank you my friend!!! I m so very happy to be back in this amazing group of inspirational bloggers!!! We are very blessed that Byron has this opportunity and all credit to him, he made it all happen on his very own!! Sending love xxxx

  2. You must be one proud Mama. Byron sounds like an amazing guy and I can relate to your dual emotions of missing and yet being happy because your (adult) child is where he needs to be in order to grow. What a great experience for him and count me in your "Mums who need wine" club! Personally I think it should be mandatory for all mothers will college age sons :)

  3. Thank you Leslie!!! You are most welcome to the club Madam!! I am very proud and grateful for the wonderful time he is having. So very blessed!!! Hugs xxx

  4. It looks as if Byron is having the time of his life, Veronica and still managing to excel in his studies ..... that's the way to do it !!!! It was also lovely to see his photographs ..... they bring back happy memories of our stay there. Byron, you have done a wonderful job for our BIO post this month..... I'm suprised that you found the time !! XXXX

  5. How delicious! Bravo to the boys offering words to their moms!

    I love seeing the canals and the bikes. Both my sons have spent time in Belgium with relatives and biked everywhere to get around. Likewise, my firstborn in both France and Switzerland, where he studied in high school and then in college. So this is pure pleasure for me to see and read. (It wasn't so long ago that #1 Kiddo was in Europe and #2 is headed that way for a semester next year.)

    Fantastic job - to both mother and son.


  6. Spelderosa - next time you are in Amsterdam boycott the taxis! Bicycle is the only way... I was also nervous of biking at first (took me a while to get a bike) but after the first day of biking didn't look back... you will probably beat the taxi to your destination...

  7. Merci pour votre commentaire sur mon blog...le jardin perd sa couleur verte au profit du doré en ce moment!
    J'aime votre post sur Amsterdam où vit votre fils, c'est une ville magnifique, chargée d'histoire , et j'adore la diversité des posts de notre groupe.
    Désolée de vous répondre en français, mon anglais n'est pas génial!

  8. Dear Veronica,
    How lovely to see you back in our group, back with such a wonderful and interesting post! Byron's Amsterdam-reportage is simply wonderful!

    Warmest greetings from teh other side of the world, the Périgord,

    Sorry for late comment but had some endless internet-access problems during the last few weeks, but sorted out by now.
    And thank YOU very much for your friendly comment on my post!