Things I remember about places I have mostly forgotten with time.
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7 am. Amsterdam. I tiptoe down the rackety stairs in my apartment building and out the door, stopping only to toss my earbuds in my ears. A quick right turn leads me directly into the red light district, where women are still dancing, and foreign tourists are still spreading eyes wide trying to figure out how to make something like this possible in their home countries. Good luck, fellows. I shoulder through the crowd, across the bridge and into Dam square, where the group is waiting for me, all smiles and morning coffee. A hundred bicycles go by, a tram, a tiny european car. We sit and watch the traffic, sipping espressos and wishing we could stay forever. I still occasionally wish it were home.
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The sun rises over the dusty dirt lot in the Uighur hotel, and we step out onto the street. In half an hour we are set to leave for more desert, days upon days of dusty beige desert at this point, more temples and statues and famous art carvings. Our just-showered bodies and newly cleaned clothes are instantly covered in dust. A bicycle with fifty chickens on the back totters by, and a local sweeps the sand from the sidewalk to the street and back again. Grapes grow overhead in the streets, and we pass by the spot where just last night, two young chinese boys told us how they want to go to america because it's better. They are fascinated by our lives, our oozing north-american-ness, our mastery of english and how we respond to their sometimes manic hellos and goodbyes. But all they really want is a dream of somewhere other than the place they're in. And you can't blame them for something that we all want, can you?