Last week I went to the Netherlands (also known as Holland – which Wikipedia told me is a wrong usage) to go to a meeting in Rotterdam. The meeting gathered some of AIESEC’s elite talent managers from all continents to review the long-term talent strategy, solve some problems with the implementation of AIESEC’s competency model, work on how to make our processes more flexible and bring quicker results and so on. It was loads of fun and a lot of work that helped me to understand a little more about AIESEC in the global level and the challenges we face.
But I don’t want to talk about the meeting.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel this meeting has an important contribution to AIESEC’s global network and that we generated there some basis for the evolution of the AIESEC Experience and breaking some paradigms. But, hey, I don’t want to talk about it, because soon the output of the meeting will be released and that will be much better than my words. What I want to talk is something more free and personal: my experience (in the meeting and far away from it – because I managed to spend one day in Amsterdam just for the fun).
First the people
In the end, it’s always about the people. I have been to enough AIESEC conferences and meetings to understand that if it sucks or rocks, usually more than 50% is because of the people you interact and put the conference mood up in terms of learning and fun. Not that the content is not important, but usually it’s less than people. And in this meeting we had some of the best talent managers’ vice-presidents in AIESEC, so, definitely, it was great. It was very cool to meet again people such as Daz, Sophie and Letzu (with their amazing creativity and passion) and meet new ones such as the brilliant Vicky and the best-buddy-ever Mayank. And I didn’t even talk about the ones that were not members of TMU, such as Stephane Le Camus (from Unilever Global Expertise team), Evert Temminck (CEO from Humexx), AIESEC International people such as sweet sweet Lucy and funny Juan, people from other support teams, such as Shawn (whatever it is written) and old old friends, like Conrado, Bê, Maurício, Lilian and Gabriel (all from Brazil).
It’s very good to be among people who are also passionate about AIESEC and work hard to make it evolve.
Rotterdam is fairly nice, but not really. All you can find is Turkish junk food every(any)where and a kind of uglier, smaller and with less options and bikes Amsterdam. Comprehensible, Rotterdam was fully rebuilt after WWII, because Hitler made it as an example for those who would not surrender.
I must say that AIESEC International office is quite nice, as well as their living conditions – which is a big plus plus in AIESEC terms.
Ok, maybe my views of Rotterdam are quite unimpressive because of lies bellow:
Third, Amsterdam, the sin city
The flag and coat of arms of Amsterdam says a lot about the spirit of the city: “XXX” (whatever you are up to date to the crazy internet slangs, where “XXX” means “sex” [or maybe “pornography”?] in the cybertech-oompa-loompa-interNERDway). Amsterdam transpires (inspires?) sin, while also being very classy – somehow it remembers me of “the Story of O”. Old (and pretty) buildings from 1600, canals all over the city that make it humid and with shades of green everywhere, bikes everywhere you go and dodgy alleys holding “coffee shops” usually even more dodgy. Ah, and let’s not forget the Red Light District. The city is actually small (I walked from center to east, than south, then west and then center again in 7h), but there’s greatness on it.
Maybe I am not a good writer, but all of the above is actually GREAT. Here are some of my pictures from the one day walking trip:
The architecture is truly amazing (especially for a Brazilian that has very little experience in Europe).
The canals add a touch to the city (and a very helpful way to find out where you are in the map, if you have any).
Bikes everywhere. You can’t see a place without them.
Some cool parks too (but not nearly as green as Oslo, of course)
I don’t have pictures, but some other stuff:
- Coffee shops. After 7 hours walking, I had nothing else to do, so I went to the “Bulldog”, the first coffee shop in Amsterdam (founded in 1975), just by the Red Light District. For those not versed in the NETHERLANDER language, coffee shop means “marijuana shop”. I had to taste the aspect of smoking with the blessing of the law, even though I am a totally non-smoker (proved by how many times I actually coughed while smoking, making a total fool of myself). I bough pre-rolled joints, because I had never rolled one (as I said, I don’t smoke). I can say the feeling of that was pretty interesting, it was like being mild drunk and mild LSD: a little problems with motion coordination, blurry vision, lots of thoughts and some strange senses and 6th sense. Definitely good, but, still, I hate the act of smoking itself, so there’s no way I am going to do it again.
Besides that, even smoking pot being legalized in the Netherlands, I believe that smoking is also helping international drug dealers, because the source of the weed is the same anyway. So, in the end, even thought it was wrong, I did it - mostly because I am very pro legalizing hemp. I don't smoke it, but if cigarretes and alcohol are legal (and we humans are quite keen on poisoning ourselves with it), I don't see any reason with hemp shouldn't be. I would not go for it anyway, but, hey, let those guys smoke their pot in peace.
- Red Light District* (it is “forbidden” to take pictures).
I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but, really, I was not expecting anything good at all. Public places with whores tend, in my Brazilian view, to be decadent, filled with dodgy (dangerous) characters, with ugly & sad girls and a possible a place to get:
What I found in the dodgy alleys of Red Light, just by a big beautiful church to save us from our sins, was lots of happy smiling tourists (mainly men, of course) and damn pretty girls illuminated by red lights (which is kind of a sad thing in its own ways). I do believe a lot in energy (not in a new wave fashion or freak-o-teric way) and definitely Red Light District has a weird energy around it. Besides being a happy, sexy and cool place on the surface, it is a very sad and frightening place, full of vices and bad bad people. I could sense that those girls using underwear, behind glass windows, so angelical and devilish at the same time, are afraid to be punched or stabbed by some crazy psycho, are probably addicted to some shitty thing and exchange their flesh and soul for money (with men that can’t get such pretty girls for one reason or another). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pity them, such pretty girls probably chose that path and most of them might even be proud of it. But, anyway, they are screwing up their body and soul (NOT in a catholical way, sex per se has NO PROBLEM at all and it’s not a sin – in fact it’s a sacred thing). But I guess I can’t explain that without sounding crazy, so I just say: go there and check out those babies, you will be impressed. But beware and protect yourself.
Sad story in the district: I was passing by one of those alleys and there was this guy on a wheel chair. A high tech one, that you can drive around as a electric car or something. I overheard his conversation with the beauty:
- But I won't hurt you.
- Yeah, I know, maybe tomorrow. (generating excuses voice)
- Yeah, maybe tomorrow... (disapointed voice)
I could not help but to notice that, besides the guy being on a wheel chair, in case the whore would accept him, he would have to climb the everest of 2 steps to actually get into the little room. Sad.
If you want to check all the pics of my Netherlands experience, check it on my Picasa.
And, finally (not connected to red light at all):
BEST HOSTING AWARD goes to Daniel Prestes. Thanks a lot, man! Prestes hosted me his house, even cooked to me one chinese meal and made everything possible for me to have an A-class stay. That was amazing.
* there are several “red light” districts, but the one I am mentioning here is the true one, near the church. In the others, I was told, there are ugly girls and/or transvestites (indicated by blue lights, instead of red).