On Friday morning we had a class with a representative from the COC. COC Amsterdam has been advocating the rights of lesbian women, gay men, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT’s) in Amsterdam from 1946 on. It strives for the decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity and for equal rights, emancipation and social acceptance of LGBT’s in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and all over the world. During class, we learned a lot about the organization and what they had to deal with many years ago and even today. We had the opportunity to ask several questions about queer life and activism in Amsterdam and who better to ask than someone from the organization that has been fighting for LGBT+ rights so long.
After our class session, we made our way to Rotterdam by train. For many of us, this was the first time taking a train in the Netherlands. The train ride was really fun and we got to see a lot of the farming life on the way to Rotterdam. When we arrived in Rotterdam, we were stunned. Rotterdam has a particular atmosphere about it. It is vibrant, alive and mesmerizing. With the beautiful architecture and busy streets, we just wanted to explore more! We immediately settled into our dorms which was located in the famous cube houses and after all the traveling, some of us had worked up an appetite. We made our way to the Markthal which is located in a very intriguing building that allegedly has the biggest roof painting in the world (we still need to check the facts). This was an amazing experience with amazing foods from all over the world!
Now it was time to make our way to Hang-Out010 - a queer youth hang out spot in Rotterdam. The Hang-Out 010 is a living room for LGBT youth from Rotterdam where they can come together and develop their projects and ideas. Here young people can partake in program activities with other young people themselves. The parents of LGBT youth are also welcome here too and our host, Shakeel's mother even helps to run the hang out spot. Hang-Out010 is a place where LGBT young people of all ages and backgrounds can feel welcome. When we arrived we were welcomed with warm smiles and hugs and felt immediately at home. We were able to meet everyone joining for the afternoon's activities and ask questions related to the LGBT youth community in Rotterdam. While listening to music and hangout out around the living room, we were able to make new friends and share our experiences and perspectives on topics related to LGBT politics and beyond. After eating a really good vegan dinner with everyone there, we geared up to play a quiz in smaller teams. This was when everyone's competitive sides came out and the challenge got real. We were asked questions related to LGBT history in both the US and the Netherlands and many of us were surprised by how many things we did not know. After the quiz, we stayed at the hang out spot to talk more with the new friends we made and some of them showed us around the neighborhood.
The next morning after a good breakfast, we were joined by a local Rotterdammer, Peter, our tour guide to show us some more of the city. Peter took us to many interesting spots where he explained the history and significance of buildings, parks, statues, ships, and bridges. According to him, Rotterdam is the hard-working city in the Netherlands and many people here have pride in that but also a lot of frustrations. Peter also told us about the reasons for Rotterdam's amazing architecture. During World War 2, Rotterdam was really badly bombed and this resulted in the rebuilding of the city in a new era of architectural ideas and experiments.
After our tour, we made our way to The Netherlands Photo museum where we were able to learn more about photography and film. After this, we made our way back to the hostel where we were joined by Geoffrey, a local gay slam poet who we did a poetry workshop with. Geoffrey started off the workshop with a poem of his about why he goes to Pride festivals and what the importance of Pride is to him. We had the opportunity to learn more about how to write our own poems to find ways to express ourselves differently. We had the chance to share this in the group which made for a very special moment that definitely gave us more insight about one another. After all the poems, we worked up quite an appetite and made our way to our surprise dinner location. Dinner was on a pancake boat! We boarded the boat where we could eat an unlimited amount of Dutch pancakes until the ride ended. There were toppings of all kinds which we could choose from - and wow, this was an amazing dinner that we will definitely not forget!
The next morning, we had some free time until noon to explore the city, enjoy the Sunday morning markets and sunshine. After a great time in Rotterdam, we made our way back to Amsterdam. This was a really great weekend away where we learned more about Rotterdam, made some local friends and enjoyed ourselves. This will definitely be a weekend to remember!