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Amsterdam Museums

The Netherlands is affectionately known as ‘the land of museums’ and Amsterdam alone has over 42 museums displaying a vast array of history and artefacts.  Visitors interested in art, sex, erotica, hash, torture, maritime transport, diamonds, religion, the holocaust, beverages, flora and fauna, theatre, archaeology, science and technology are all well catered for.

The most touching, true story and personal account is that of Anne Frank’s house located at Prinsengracht opposite 296.  Anne Frank was a 14-year-old Jewish girl growing up during the Second World War.  The house, now a museum open to the public, is a reminder of what happened to so many Jewish families during the holocaust.  Visitors are able to walk through the house and even climb up to the secret annexe where Anne and her family hid for so long from the Nazi’s prior to their capture.  During that time Anne kept a diary which a family friend later had published, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.  For more information about living in Amsterdam during the years of German occupation, An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum is about a young Jewish woman living in Amsterdam prior to her death at Auschwitz.  More information about the Jews and their history may be found at the Jewish Museum (Joods Historisch Museum) at Jonas Daniel Meijerplein 2-4.

Other more shocking but on some accounts, humorous, artefacts may be found in the Torture Museum, located near Muntplein on the left bank of the Singel canal.  It is a small but confronting documentary of human cruelty displaying instruments used on prisoners throughout the medieval times for crimes we would today regard as petty.

The Tulip Museum also on Prinsengracht (112) just over the bridge from Anne Frank’s house may offer solace after appreciating such terror as that experienced by Jewish families during the holocaust and medieval prisoners.  The tulip is the floral symbol of the Netherlands and the museum presents the history of the cultivation of the tulip including the tulip mania of the 17th century.

On a lighter note, the Sex Museum – Temple of Venus is located just in front of Centraal Station on the way to Dam Square consists of a rich collection of art, photography, sculptures, plates and other wares displaying the beauty of human sexuality.  Once in the mood, the Erotic Museum in the heart of the Red Light district is sure to provide pleasure if not a good laugh.  It displays a series of John Lennon’s lithographs, erotic photography, and an adult version of ‘Snow White and Seven Dwarfs’ is projected in a separate room.  There is even a vending machine holding the most unusual condoms for sale for those who wish to purchase in public!

The Hash, Hemp and Marijuana Museum at Oudezijgs Achterburgwal 148, presents convincing displays about the various constructive uses of hemp such as fuel, clothes and paper.  According to the museum, one hectare of cannabis plants can make the same amount of paper as four hectares of forest.  The hemp seed also produces oil which is good for many things including human health.  Once upon a time it was illegal not to grow a plant of cannabis for the government and it is only due to international pressure that it is officially illegal in Amsterdam.

If the controversy proves too much or information overflow builds up a thirst, the Vodka Museum at Damrack 33 in front of Centraal Station features the history of Russian Vodka.  There is an amazing collection of old vodka bottles in timeline order in addition to a wide selection of vodka from all around the world for sale in shots on the spot at the elegant Museum bar.

A bigger thirst may send visitors to the Heineken Brewery further out at 78 Stadhouderskade.  Brewery tours are held each weekday in the morning for a donation which is given to several different charities.  Amsterdam’s brewery was Heineken’s first, opened in 1864, and the tour guides visitors through the whole brewery process including the old brewing facilities and a beer museum.  Cold beers are served in a large drinking hall overlooking the city at the end of the tour.

After a short break in the many coffee shops all over Amsterdam, art lovers should never miss the opportunity to view Vincent Van Gogh’s Museum at Paulus Potterstraat 7, which is home to the world’s largest collection of the most important Dutch artist of the 19th century in chronological order.  Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art is close by on Paulus Potterstraat 13.  Other art museums include Rembrandthuis Museum on Jodenbreestraat 4-6 and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s largest at Stadhouderskade 42.

These are just some of Amsterdam’s museums but of all, the Amsterdam Historisch Museum at 92 Kalverstraat is the best designed.  The former orphanage exhibits 700 years of the city’s history with a focus around the Golden Age of Amsterdam in the 17th century.  It was during this time that the city flourished as the richest city in the world.  Some of the exhibits even included actual traded goods which contributed to its success of the time.

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June 1, 2010 Posted by | Travel & Tourism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Drive to Save African Sex Workers

BS Top - Gbowee Congo A sex worker waits in a corridor in a center run by Doctors Without Borders in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. (Lionel Healing, AFP / Getty Images) On a trip to Congo, peace activist and Daily Beast Africa columnist Leymah Gbowee witnesses the violent arrest of a refugee girl forced into a bleak life as a sex worker. Inside her rage and helplessness.

In the past two weeks I have cried angry tears on more than occasion. Each time, it has been because of the tragic fate facing a young African girl.

On April 24, I attended the funeral of a young Liberian refugee who had died of AIDS-related causes. I met this very promising young woman in September 2002 at the West African Peacebuilding Institute, when I was leading a women’s movement for peace in my home country, Liberia. A friendship blossomed and she joined our Mass Action Campaign. In 2003, she was the youngest member of the sit-ins for peace held in Accra, Ghana. At the time she told me she wanted to be a journalist.

The men pulled the girl out of the hotel room clothed only in panties, kicking and punching her for resisting. I ran to follow and she reached out to me, pleading for help.

A month ago, I got a message from a friend that this young girl had suffered a stroke, was diagnosed HIV-positive, and had a brain infection. She died on Easter Sunday.

At her funeral, I cried for a life that had been wasted and wondered how many more young Africans with fine prospects are losing theirs lives based on limited choices—a direct result of their economic status.

Take Action: To help build the African sexual rights movement, support Akina Mama wa Afrika, whose goal is to empower sex workers to stay healthy and improve their lives. Learn more through AMwA’s partners, HIVOS and the Open Society Institute. I was once a young refugee myself, and I endured the constant harassment of men who imagined that every refugee girl was ready to have sex for some form of cash. At the funeral of this young woman, there were many other refugee girls who came skimpily dressed. I kept asking myself, ‘How can we help them, how can we reach them, how can we as African women ensure that they don’t all die because some man neglected to protect them?’ ”

These questions continued to haunt me as I traveled to Congo to do some work with Congolese women, who live in a nation plagued by war and mass rape. On the fourth day of the trip, I was sitting in my hotel room chatting online when I heard a scream: “Somebody help me!”

Article - Gbowee Sex Workers Nicolette Bopunza, age 14, stands outside her house in Mbandaka, Congo. She works as a sex worker, charging about 50 cents for sex and $2 for a whole night. (Per-Anders Pettersson, File Photo / Getty images) The activist, mother, and feminist in me ran outside in only a piece of wrap and a shirt, to see a young Congolese girl on the balcony of a hotel room crying. She was shouting in not so perfect English, “This is all you wanted, sex me and throw me out! You are a bad person! I don’t ever want to see you again!” I continued to stand and watch. She said to me, “Mama help me, after being bad to me, now he is calling the police.” In less than five minutes, about four police officers and several men in plain clothes came running to the scene. The girl was pulled off the balcony and back into the room, as she screamed for help and asked, “What is my crime?”

The men then pulled her out of the hotel room clothed only in panties, kicking and punching her for resisting. I ran to follow and she reached out to me, pleading for help. I asked the guy who was apparently the commander of the whole operation to release her to me, but he said no, that she was a constant problem for the hotel. More men continued to pound and kick this girl.

As three police officers and two plainclothes men dragged her away, she tilted her head in my direction and said, “Mama, help me!” They had handcuffed her, and she was obviously headed for a police cell. What became of her in the cell that night, only God can tell.

All I could do was join her in screaming. My scream was for my own helpless state at the moment, for her pain, and for the many young African girls living in situations of conflict, who are constantly being exploited. My scream and angry tears were for the psychopaths we call leaders in Africa, who give us nothing but pain and misery. My scream was for the misery of so many African women who live at the mercy of men and boys.

My scream blended with the screams of my Congolese sisters. The rage subsided after 15 minutes and all that was left was a feeling of helplessness for every African refugee girl. I believe even as they walk the streets offering sex, they are looking at us African women, the seemingly strong ones, and screaming silently like the Congolese girl I saw: “Mama, help me!”

Take Action: To help build the African sexual rights movement, support Akina Mama wa Afrika, whose goal is to empower sex workers to stay healthy and improve their lives. Learn more through AMwA’s partners, HIVOS and the Open Society Institute.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Sexuality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Laws of Attraction Are Mysterious and Uncontrollable

Some crushes are inappropriate but excusable. For example, you may find yourself doing a double take when someone from the sales department walks past. He may be cute but it’s not a good idea to admit you have a thing for him, because you work with him. And because he’s a salesman.

Still, at least he’s hot. What happens when you find yourself going weak in the head for somebody who really is not in the slightest bit nice to look at?

Funny Guys

It’s vaguely understandable when the object of your crush is attractive in other ways – for example, he could be funny. Take American talk-show host Conan O’Brien. (I would.) He looks a bit like Tilda Swinton, only more unsettling. He has ginger hair. He has no discernible eyebrows. He’s about nine feet tall and can’t weigh more than 65kg. But every time he gives the double thumbs up, grins into the camera and says ‘Buddy boy,’ I want to jump his bones. Funny is so sexy that it can make up for there being no actual sexy present at all.

That’s why I’d happily do Michael Cera or Seth Rogen. Or Steve Carell or Vince Vaughn, spare tyre and all – though – if you needed glasses but didn’t have them on, you could justifiably think those two fairly good-looking.

Right, so we can like men because they make us laugh, but that doesn’t explain it all the way. It’s not as though the world is short of sexy men who are also funny. Remember Brad Pitt in Snatch? Hysterical. Jimmy Fallen is adorable and one of the funniest men on screen. But, given the choice, I think I’d rather sleep with Jack Black. I think it’s the chubby cheeks.

Nerds

One step away from the funny-looking funny guy is the funny-looking clever guy. Cathy, is into Barack Obama. Who isn’t? But if you take away the power and the stage lights, what you’re left with is a sexy voice stuck in a stick figure with big feet and crazy ears.

Still, Obama is an extremely glamorous nerd, and he does have that smile, the one that could probably charm even Julius Malema into submission. Obama is also cool. Cool goes a long way. That’s how men such as Billy Bob Thornton and Slash – get my sexiness vote.

My own nerd crush is not cool. If I ever saw Jarvis Cocker walking in the street, I would immediately delete all the Blur songs off my iPod and run over to accost him. I might break a bone, but I’d do it anyway. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it.

Crusty Old Men

Which takes us another step further, into the category of just plain inexplicable. These are the really inappropriate crushes, because they seem not to have any redeeming features at all. Or, if they do, they are not enough to cancel out all the scary features. And yet these men are sexy. I’m not the only one who thinks so – just look online.

Did you sense that I was procrastinating a bit in the last paragraph? I was, because I keep cringing at the thought of typing what I need to type next. Okay, I’ll be brave. Here goes: Gordon Brown. I would totally do Gordon Brown. I expect it would take years of therapy to discover why.

Some people believe power can make a man sexier. In some ways they’re right. It might be because charismatic people are often the ones who end up holding power, and charisma is sexy. Someone I know once met red-faced, puffy-nosed Bill Clinton – just after the Monica Lewinsky thing – and described him as ‘sex on wheels’.

But the thing is, Gordon Brown doesn’t even really have power on his side. He’s one of the least popular prime ministers in British history. He’s not funny; he looks like he doesn’t brush his teeth; he has a freakier smile than Dracula.

At least Jeremy Clarkson, my number-one ‘older’ crush, is less embarrassing than Mr. Brown. He’s crusty and flabby, and his habit of wearing jeans that sag around the bum has been blamed by some for the decline in denim sales during the ’90s.

But he’s also opinionated and clever and funny. And politically incorrect and often inappropriate. Like my crush on him.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Off Topig, Sexuality | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Having Sex When You Have a Yeast Infection

When most of us think of a yeast infection, we think of it in connection with women. However, the Candida albicans fungus (yeast) can cause infections in anyone of either gender, because it is present in all of our bodies. This will come as an unwelcome surprise to men, but hang on, because it gets worse. Guys, when you have sex with a woman who has yeast infection, she can easily pass it on to you.

Due to the specific hormones women have, they are more susceptible to yeast infections. Usually when a woman has an infection she will experience all of the uncomfortable symptoms that tell her what’s going on. She’ll know when it’s necessary to take more precautions in having sex. However, there are times when she may experience such mild symptoms that she’s unaware she even has a problem, so she can pass the infection on to a man without knowing it.

Most men don’t even think about being concerned over getting a yeast infection, but it can happen. In fact, yeast infections of the penis are very common and seldom cause any symptoms in otherwise healthy men. During an active yeast infection in either partner, it is safer to avoid sex altogether. This practice will not only ensure that the infection won’t be passed on, but it will also avoid more irritation which will make the condition last longer.

In order to know if you have a yeast infection, it will help if you know the symptoms. In women the most common symptoms are irritation, itching, redness, swelling, burning, and a whitish-grey discharge that has the consistency of cheese as well as a smell much like yeast or beer.

Men who are infected will show redness, irritation, and possibly white spots on the end of the penis. There may also be a white to yellow discharge present. It could be that after he has intercourse his penis will be sore. The better your overall health is, though, the milder the symptoms you’ll experience.

Both men and women should see a physician if they are concerned that they might have yeast infection. Your doctor will be able to confirm the diagnosis and make suggestions for effective treatments. There are numerous prescription, over-the-counter and natural remedies for treating yeast infection available.

If one partner in a sexual relationship has yeast infection, both partners should get diagnosed and treated. Otherwise, the person who was treated and is now symptom-free will run the risk of getting it back from their untreated partner every time they have sex.

Yeast infections can be a nuisance and wreak havoc with your sex life, but with proper treatment and precautions, soon you’ll both be healed up and back in action.

It is very important that you let your partner know of the risks involved. Sharing a tender moment is great, sharing an infection is not. Learn the facts and learn more about what options are available to you.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | News and Society, Sexuality | , , , , , | Leave a comment