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AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands—I began my trip to Amsterdam as I do most trips, with some apprehension. The prospect of rowdy bands of men prowling the Red Light District in search of weed and women didn’t exactly excite me. At first, my low expectations proved true, and where I would normally delight a bit in the kitschy tourist culture, I was rather annoyed; the sex shops seemed like they were there more to scandalize American teenagers than as a sign of the city’s liberal spirit.
At night, though, Amsterdam fascinated me. After several beers (take this as a euphemism, or not) and a few cosmic coincidences, I finally got it. My one night there coincided with the Red Light Jazz festival, so some friends and I walked toward the music’s magnetic power and into the closest bar. There, a jazz quartet was playing their hearts out.
A few songs later, a burlesque dancer came onstage—the greatest chance encounter of all. I couldn’t help myself, staring and oohing along with everyone else as she stripped, teased and gyrated. How different was I now from the marauding men I had despised hours before?
I love the way that Amsterdam makes voyeurs out of us all, whether we buy into it (via two-euro peep shows) or just happen to stumble into a burlesque show. Whether the scenes terrify or excite you, one thing’s for sure: You can’t look away.
Carmen S. Enrique ’21, a Crimson Blog editor, is a Linguistics concentrator in Eliot House.
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