I had Friday morning to get reacquainted with Amsterdam. I had been there 20 years earlier, and in some ways, nothing has changed. The friendly people (who all speak English) mingle amid the unique combination of canals, bicycles, shops, and European charm. Amsterdam is people enjoying life.
Except for the new transportation-payment system.
The new system involves electronic cards. I had already encountered difficulty when I arrived the day before. This time, I wanted to ride the metro back into the city center.
On the platform I saw a ticket vending machine, and I mistakenly thought I could use it to buy a ticket. The good news was that the machine had a button marked “English,” so I didn’t have to risk misunderstanding the Dutch. But after switching languages I encountered my first problem. The machine was sold out of single-use tickets.
I knew I’d be taking more than one ride, so I figured that a reasonable plan B was to buy an electronic pass.
But the machine didn’t take cash. Nor did it take American credit cards.
So I had to give up on the metro, and take a tram, instead, buying a ticket from the driver.
I wandered around Amsterdam for a while, enjoyed lunch facing a popular square, and then (after a similar adventure with tickets, cash, trams, and metros) returned to rest before my first speaking event in Amsterdam.
I was speaking at a minyan, a prayer meeting held in the living room of my hosts. And it was fabulous! It was attended by some 60-70 young participants, mostly from Amsterdam but also a few from France who had arrived for the Sunday/Monday conference that I would be speaking at. The evening was full of song, prayer, joy, delicious food, and wonderful people. My memory of being there remains a highlight of my trip.