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Welcomed by the children

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 26, 2008 in Experiences

He liked the movement of the mouse cursor on my computer screen. So I pried his hands from the keys and opened up Microsoft Paint. With a few interruptions to change color and tool, a four-year-old who stumbled upon me in a park in Budapest, Hungary drew me a computer-generated painting.

Children don’t likely understand the concept of language. I certainly don’t remember when I learned of the six billion people in the world, most don’t speak like me. The little boy with the dirty sweatsuit, dirt on his brown-olive skin, and sand in his bushy, black hair spoke on to me, in a language I couldn’t understand.

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Notes on seeing Europe from a train

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 23, 2008 in Commentary

You take trains from big cities to other big cities. Lands, untold by tour books and unseen by sloppy tourists like yourself, unfold beneath your high carriage of jetsetting: two months, 10 cities 3,000 miles wide and two or three days deep.

You are riding great dividers of place and time, laughing at great empires of history. Slicing corridors of culture. Other trains pass with silent screams at 70 miles per hour. You mull issues of personal importance and navigate narrow bathrooms.

There’s the old story of the boy who took a train and came back a man. No great story of accomplishment or adventure, but stalking late-night cars and toeing empty rail yards. Sleeping with a bag in his lap until he wanted someone to know him again. Until he learned who is chasing whom.

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Weed and prostitutes: a conversation in Amsterdam

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 9, 2008 in Foreign Perspectives

In Brussels, Belgium since this afternoon - six hours later here than the U.S. East Coast- but too many good things happening to keep locations straight. We’ll work to do better in the future. Here’s a dispatch from Amsterdam, our last stop.

We meet Sander and Neek at the outskirts of Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Sean, his brother Brian, and I are on a bridge demarcating where the sex ends and the large, quiet residences begin. A small, sloping bridge over a small canal, 15-feet wide, on which covered bicycle taxis perch to take drunk tourists back to their hotels.

We’re deciding if one more walk through the alleyways glancing at half-naked women in their rented window brothel doorways would be one too many. Half-naked women tap on the glass under red fluourescent lighting - the most give and take you’ll ever have window shopping. They’ll sleep with you for a little money. This is one half of many people’s Amsterdam.

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The boy in the train station coffee shop

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 8, 2008 in Commentary

Worlds - yes, disparate worlds - come to some form of a cross-section in red-eyed, late nights in train stations.

Early Tuesday morning, we were doing that, surfing the intersection of the young and the acutely itinerant - being reminded of the sociological difference between situational and generational poverty.

We, three, were in a 24-hour coffee shop just before 1 A.M., waiting on a 6 A.M. train. A security guard recommended the spot, a few modern chairs off to the side where people buy cups of foam and cream. A young man, a year or two my junior, sat beside me, tapping his foot and twitching in his chair, regularly, if subtly. The kind of movements you might expect at 1 A.M. in a late-night train station coffee shop.

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