mattbell: (Default)
I had a wonderful time with my second and third couchsurfing hosts. I got a lightning tour of Utrecht from one, and some great experiences in Amsterdam from the other. My Amsterdam host is an Iranian-born Jewish family man with a passion for filmmaking, traveling, and intense life experiences. He's currently doing a documentary on Couchsurfing. As part of that, he took me to a party at a shared open house on the western end of town, and I got to meet the eclectic blend of inhabitants it attracted. This is the real way to experience a city... tag along with an interesting local for a couple of days.

Since maor cities have over 1000 active couchsurfing hosts, I can pick people who will be good matches for me. So far I've met up with a futurist/entreprener, a new media artist, and an experienced traveller. I may soom neet a woman in Germany who's an art professor. I like this service.
mattbell: (Default)
Amsterdam is one of the most impressive cities I've been to so far. It's architecturally picturesque, with long rows of pretty but not overly ornate brick house, . The construction of its extensive canal system only adds to the beauty and gives the city a unique, quirky, and romantic charm. While the canals were initially strictly practical, they now give the city a great deal of character. Amsterdam is also extremely international. It certainly helps that the Dutch have a very open society. People of all races, beliefs and cultural persuasions can feel comfortable here. (There are many benefits to a diverse multicultural society, though the one coming to mind at the moment is the access to good food.) Progressive cultural forces have a strong voice. Unlike other countries, the Netherlands is too small to get pushy about having everyone speak their language, so it's relatively easy for English-speaking foreigners to settle here. The government is also highly generous with art grants and invests heavily in education. Overall, it's the perfect formula for success. I definitely will return to the Nethetlands.
mattbell: (Default)
Amsterdam's red light district makes for some of the most interesting people-watching in the world. It's a multinational human carnival full of people from different backgrounds, all reacting to the base reality of human desire. Strong stimuli bring out strong reactions. People are confronted with their prejudices and instincts.
You are about to view content not appropriate for whiners. Lots of observations and people-watching. )
mattbell: (Default)
While the transmission rates per sex act for HIV are roughly known, they are not known for all the other lovely STDs out there (herpes, gonohhrea, syphilis, HPV etc). This knowledge would be really valuable in fighting the spread of these diseases. But hey, I know a place where I can gather a ton of data. If the prostitutes in Amsterdam are having large (and meticulously recorded) amounts of regular always-protected sex, we can get a good sense for the transmission rates of various STDs with a condom. If we assumed that the clients had STD infection rates similar to or greater than the general male population (a reasonable thing to assume) then we could get an upper bound on STD transmission rates per sex act for all the major STDs. My guide on the tour thought this was unliekly – prostitution is still heavily stigmatized in Holland, and most prostitutes do not like any invasions of their privacy, especially an expiriment that tracked them over time.
mattbell: (Default)
I ws lucky enough to be able to attend the twice-weekly Red Light District tour and Q&A organized by the prostitution information center. It's ironic that I'd never pay for sex, but I'll eagerly pay 12 euros to have a former prostitute show me around a brothel and have her answer my questions. Anyway, here's what I learned:

There'll be aa quiz on it later. )
mattbell: (Default)
Tourist: "Hey, you'll do anything, right?"
Prostitute. "Yeah, whatever you want."
Tourist: Okay. I want you to take me through the canals on the pedal boat while I sit in back and smoke a joint."


mattbell: (Default)

February 2011

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