Serially Obsessed!

IMG_9276The story of a missing high school honor student who was later found dead and her recent ex-boyfriend who was charged with her murder in Maryland back in 1999 has been my latest obsession for the last few weeks. If by now, you have not heard about the SERIAL podcast that began in October of 2014, then you must be living in a cave.

I first learned about this podcast about a year ago when the Today Show did a segment on it as the last episode was preparing to be released for season 1.  I have never really got into the whole “podcast” thing so I didn’t pay it too much attention then. But for whatever reason I recently heard the first episode of Serial’s season 1 and was immediately hooked. It is great for traveling so I binged through it quickly.

For quick background information on the case, SSerialerial provides a “partially unbiased” look into what happened on the afternoon of January 13th 1999, and the events that followed.  Essentially, a Korean-American female high school senior, Hae Min Lee, went missing on January 13 in 1999.  Her body was found a few weeks later in the city of Baltimore and her recent Pakistani-American ex-boyfriend and classmate, Adnan Syed, was charged with her murder.

The thing that makes this case so interesting is the cast of characters involved in the resulting trial, but more than anything it is the lack of real evidence against Adnan that somehow got him convicted and the fact that he very much seems like the most unluckiest person alive.

After I finished listening to SERIAL, I had my own theory, which I’ll share in a later post, on the case but was still a bit hesitant to make a firm assertion as to who I thought was guilty/involved etc.  So as many others have stated, Serial left me with more questions than I was comfortable with.

Luckily I immediately began listening to what I’ll call the sister podcast series entitled “Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed” which unlike SERIAL was very biased towards the innocence of Adnan.  But after episode 10 of Undisclosed, which I had to listen to at least 4 times to understand what they were trying to explain, I was convinced that Adnan was the lead character in a series of very unfortunate events, and that he was wrongfully convicted.

For me this case is even more interesting because 10 years ago I lived in Baltimore county not too far from Woodlawn high school, the school the victim and her boyfriend attended, and I’m familiar with several of the locations mentioned in the case.

But for me this is/was a case of more than just guilt or innocence. It is a case of justice and our very flawed legal system and our even more flawed prison and reform system. Whether you believe Adnan is guilty or not, one thing that is certain is that his court case was a complete circus and undoubtedly should not have led to his conviction.

Because of my past career plans to complete law school and pursue a career in the legal system, this case and all of the hoopla surrounding it have made me strongly reconsider my decision against going to law school.  I’m excited about a few things I have in the works that will allow me to explore an old and now refreshed passion of mine. And I’m also excited to see what will happen with this ongoing case, as recently a Baltimore City judge granted Adnan’s request for a post conviction hearing relief to reopen his case.

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Amsterdam (EuroTour Leg 3)

Once we arrived at our AirBnB in Amsterdam we dropped off our bags and darted out to get food nearby.

We noticed a bar near the Chinese restaurant where we got dinner, and stopped at the bar afterwards. They didn’t have much of anything that I prefer to drink and it was super crowded so we didn’t stay long and called it a night.

The following day we booked activities. Several of us picked different activities but we all agreed to do the Ice Bar, a guided tour on the canal, and the sex museum in the red light district.


I had a little time before activities so I got a manicure and pedicure. Although my friends wanted to see the Anne Frank house the line was way too long and would have cut into the other activities we had planned during our short stay.

One other friend and myself had purchased tickets for Body Worlds. I hadn’t gotten a chance to catch the exhibition several years ago when it was in both Philadelphia and the Washington DC area, so I was excited to catch it now.

 The Body Worlds exhibition takes an interesting look into the magic of the human body. One of the exhibits compared an average weeks spread of food for countries/cultures around the world and there was no surprise that the American family was among the top calorie consumers and had the unhealthiest food choices.
There were also several sex exhibits that were interesting and a display of a child fetus through each month of gestation. I really enjoyed Body Worlds.

 

I wanted to rent a bike and do some low key exploring but nobody else was interested and there wasn’t much time to fit it in.

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The canal tour was fun as well, our boat captain was funny and very attractive. And seeing the city from the canals was definite interesting, specifically learning about the architecture and design of most homes. Which explained why the steps in our AirBnB were so narrow and winding, which can be really dangerous. I will say it was a real team effort hauling our luggage up two levels of narrow and winding staircases.

The Ice Bar was an experience. It was fun and the drinks they have at their regular bar were really good.


   
After leaving the Ice Bar we headed to a nearby club, where we stayed and danced for almost an hour until I realized that I had left the hat (as seen in the photos above) I borrowed from my friend that day at the Ice Bar. As we were leaving to back to get the hat the bouncer tried to convince us to stay. We explained what happened and he offered us a bottle of champagne (well Prosecco) if we returned after retrieving the hat.

Unfortunately, the hat was nowhere to be found so we returned empty handed. But luckily the bouncer kept his word and the champagne was an added bonus to the night.


On our last night, we went to the sex museum and visited to the red light district. The museum was fun and enlightening. Learning about the sex industry in Amsterdam gave me a much different perspective on this business. I don’t plan to run out and join the industry but it is interesting to see how these “mostly women” are viewed by society and how the government has regulated or at least involved itself in this industry.

  From what we were told, a good majority of the women who put themselves on display in the windows and elsewhere to advertise themselves for sex, are in long term committed relationships or married. And their careers are not hidden or shamed by their family or friends. They all look at it as just another job.

I think most people will agree that Americans are quite prudish and overly judgmental when it comes to sex and ones sexuality. So I’m sure many of us a bit surprised when we are taken out of our element to a freer more open culture. Europe in general is a very sexually open continent, with nude beaches and nude bath houses etc.

It’s reasons like this that make me appreciate the traveling that I get to experience.

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Last Train From Paris

Next stop on the tour was Amsterdam!  But not after yet a little more travel drama…but this time we arrived at the train station in Paris to depart for Amsterdam. We probably got there way too early.


Unfortunately, we had to walk down to the second to the last Thalys train car (#18) for our seats only to learn that there was no more room for any of our luggage on our car. After being directed to the previous car (#17) to check for availability and being told the same.

We broke up our group of 4 into 2.  Two of us ran all the way to the 5th train car, where we finally found availability for our massive luggage.  We were not pleased with leaving out luggage so far out of sight and reach from the reserved seating we had in car #18, but what are you gonna do?

Returning to our seats was not a simple task as a train employee was refereeing an argument between a nice lady with kids who purchased a reserved seat and the arrogant man who was sitting in her seat and was determined not to move.

The train was full so finding an empty seat for him would probably not be easy. Getting past that drama took a few minutes. Finally we arrived at our reserved seating of 4 only to find a group of young guys playing cards and occupying them.

After making it clear that we had reserved those seats we were on our way to Amsterdam. I believe it was about a 3 hour ride.


Ironically, this happened to be the same train that 3 Americans would stop a gunman a mere 2 weeks later; only that train was going to Paris from Amsterdam. #Godisgood

 

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