First Europe Trip, Part 1 - From SFO to AMS

October 24, 2016

Earlier this October, I travelled to Europe for the first time in my life. I flew to Amsterdam, Netherlands to present a paper written by my teammates working on the Fourth Year Engineering Design project and our professor supervising us for the project. I would like to thank them for their dedication in pushing for the paper and allowing me to represent the group, especially our professor.

On the afternoon of October 14, I left work at my internship in San Francisco early and headed to the airport after picking up the presentation poster.

Photo 1

The last time I travelled to a new continent was on August 4, 2005. I was born in China and that day was when my parents immigrated to Canada with me. Since setting foot on North America then, I have not travelled to a continent besides North America and Asia. 11 years later, I was excited to see a new continent, Europe.

About 10 hours later, the plane landed at a connection stop in Dublin, Ireland. It was noon on Saturday, October 15. Surprisingly, it was difficult to tell I was in Europe without closer inspection since the first restaurants I saw in the airport were McDonald’s and Burger King, recognizably American. However, when I was walking to the connection gate I was amazed by the cleanliness of the airport and saw rows of products with price tags in euros. I knew stood on a new land. My feelings were reminiscent of those I had on my first day in Canada as a child, but only this time I am an adult.

Photo 2

After waiting for about an hour and a half, I boarded the second flight to Amsterdam. While I was in the sky approaching the final destination, I wondered if I could see windmills on the ground that the Netherlands was known for, and I did. The day was cloudy, and the windmills with the farmlands and waterways painted a tranquil rural landscape.

After arriving at the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, I knew I had to take a Sprinter light rail train to the neighbourhood I’ll be staying at that I found on Airbnb. However, I was quite lost and confused since the train signs were in Dutch and not English, and they showed the major train station name for each direction only and not the name of the train station I needed to get off at. With the help of the amicable staff who spoke fluent English, I got on the correct train and set off for my destination. In my head I was back in high school European history class, remembering the documentaries I saw with images of European streets and architecture. I was also reminded of taking trains in China, with the same kind of orange sky around sunset time.

Photo 3

I got off my stop, Muiderpoort, without extra hassles and confidently marched towards my Airbnb staying with my phone navigating directions using offline cached Google Maps in one hand and pulling my suitcase with the rolled-up poster on top using the other hand. I passed a street market full of merchants packing up their booths after a busy day, who sold everything from food to arts & crafts. Such types of street markets are extremely rare in North America, but they are everywhere in China. The streets were dirty with pieces of trash here and there, and scavengers roamed around, but nonetheless I felt warm since it reminded me of places in my childhood. I made a left turn on Von Zesenstraat street. There were tall trees on either side of the road, casting shadows onto the crimson sidewalks. Apartment buildings of approximately 4 stories high loomed on both sides of the street. So much of the scenery resembled those of my childhood, except this is on a different continent, with a different people, different culture, and different language. Finally, I arrived at my Airbnb staying and met my host.

To be continued…