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Greetings from Amsterdam.

We made the trip fine, though we got very little rest on the flights, as expected.  I am pleased with Continental Airline's people, who are friendly and helpful.  At Houston they wouldn't let us off the plane until they had offloaded the luggage, which then made our transfer time very short.  Immigration at Houston went fairly quickly, more so for me as a US citizen, but Andrew was not much bothered.  It all just takes time.  Customs was nothing, simply handing in our declaration papers.  Then we had to go through airport security again, which was very slow.  By the time we got through that, my foot was hurting excessively from all the running.  Andrew insisted on obtaining a wheelchair.  We piled our four bag (two backpacks and two courier bags) on top of me, and he raced us through the airport to our next gate.  There, though, the plane was delayed an hour.  All that running was not necessary, but we had no way to know that until we got there.

Arrived in Amsterdam at 9 instead of 8 in the morning.  Train, then tram to our CouchSurfing (CS) host's stop.  Walked the two blocks to his place.  We three talked for half an hour or so, and then Andrew and I napped for nearly four hours.  Marco, our CS host, had previously agreed to let us nap upon our arrivla.

When we woke, Marco was gone, riding his bike around town.  We took the tram to the canal boat and rode that for the 1.5 hour tour.  I was sad that there was very little narration during the tour.  But the sun was setting during our ride, which made very pretty colors, plus we got to watch the city lights come on.

After the boat ride, we walked a few blocks to the I Amsterdam sign.  There is an ice rink set up very close to it, so that we couldn't get far enough from it to photograph the entire sign, except from an oblique angle.  There was insufficient light to be able to see us at the sign anyway.  But I wanted to see the sign in the dark as well as in the light, which we will do later today before we visit the Rijks Museuam.
  We then walked the Red Light District and then headed back to Marco's house for dinner and sleep.  Marco had requested we return to his house for dinner at 7:30.  Dinner consisted of Holland traditional dishes of meatballs, mash of potatoes and carrots and onions, and smoked sausage, with yogurt for dessert.  I very much like tasting new dishes, especially specialties of various areas around the world.  We will sample more dishes during our eighteen days here.

This morning we woke after thirteen (for me) or fourteen (for Andrew) hours of sleep.  I am typing this at noon and hope to find an internet connection to send it this afternoon.  Marco tried getting my old tech pda connected to his wifi, but I think the security is set too high for this old thing.

Today we'll tour a couple of museums and see other things around Amsterdam.  We are expected at a different CS host's house this afternoon at 5:30 to help prepare a traditional Christmas dinner there.  We had contacted these other CS hosts first, but they were already booked.  They were the ones who recommended we contact Marco.  There will be nine people for dinner tonight.  We'll have partridge and all the trimmings.  Marco said the dinner will probably start around 7 pm and last until 11pm.  Wow.  Meals in Europe are always more relaxed than in USA or NZ or even in Mexico.

Thank you for praying for us, for our safety and health.
Cell phone in Europe (in Netherlands) is (00131 or +31 or 0031) 627 626 764.  Country code is the '31' in parentheses.

Sun 20 Dec

Last night's dinner was amazing.  We spent five hours at the table, and the time flew.  Six courses, including cheeses before the quiche and chocolates after the chocolate muffins.  Pumpkin soup and lamb with "hutspot" (mixed dish = potatoes, carrots and onions) between the others.  Excellent conversations about all kinds of things.  This was the highlight of our day, a typical Dutch Christmas dinner.

More later.

Sunday, 20 Dec
  we had a long day today, very fun and interesting and long.  We saw Amstedam's last working windmill, a couple of museums, a couple of churches, and lots and lots of snow.  This is the most snow Amsterdam has had in nearly thirty years.  I think it is wonderful, as does Andrew, but many residents here do not seem to like it very much.  Most of them, though, say they would enjoy having a white Christmas.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Germany and the Rhine River.  Obviously (since you've not yet received this email), we've not found a wifi that works.  I will send this off as soon as I am able.

We are well and doing fine and having fun.  Thanks for praying.


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