Disclaimer: Cannabis can be addictive and may have adverse effects on health. The drug is illegal in Pakistan.

Can we please, just for once, have fun reading this story rather than debating the morality of smoking up?

Would it appease your soul if I said it was a fictional account? Fine, then. For the religious police and aunty’s out there, this is a completely made-up story that has nothing to do with lived experience. There. Are you happy now? Can I proceed without the judgement of the self-proclaimed mohallah’s? Or in this case, of the cyber-mohallah (don’t make me open your internet history up).

So where was I? Oh yes, the first time I smoked weed.

What better place to do it in than the Netherlands, the modern-day weed capital of the world– or at least that’s how I had envisioned it through pop-culture. I never cared to fact-check this notion, or even see what other things the Dutch were famous for (I remember someone saying cheese or some dairy product). Pardon my ignorance. However, I’m sure you will pat me on the back once I tell you that I thoroughly researched the weed laws and best weed shops to visit while I was there.

So, ha! Not so ignorant after all.

I applied for a conference hosted by a local university in the Netherlands, and through some questionable means I was able to secure my position as one of maybe fifteen other students that was to go to the Netherlands. In a twisted up way, had I done things the legit way only to go to smoke weed, then that’d be worse than going to smoke weed from some unjust means. So in a way, I did the right thing? Maybe. Since I was going to smoke weed, I’m going to say yes. I was in the right. The only downside to this was that I was the only student from another University, whereas all the other students accompanying me were close-knit in an uncomfortably friendly way. Also, they were all engineers. Boring.

Fast-forward to landing in the Netherlands.

It was wet, gloomy and already raining as we exited the airport. A cliche, yes. But also very true. I believe it rained for the whole week I was there.

I had no intention of actually partaking in the conference itself. As I said before, it was a conference geared towards engineering students, whereas, I was more of a social sciences student. I was a misfit. I didn’t belong. I was looking to befriend cannabis.

The train station– the modus-operandi of transportation in the Netherlands– is built right into Schiphol airport in Amsterdam Central. How convenient. Except imagine trying to fit in 15 students on a train with their luggage, alongside other nationals and tourists in the country, that stops for around twenty seconds. It was a race against the clock. I was adamant. I had to survive. I had to smoke. I rushed in and shoved a couple of my other colleagues on the way in. What did I care? We weren’t friends and this was war. When was I ever going to get such a chance again?

Our first stop was going to be Leeuwarden, a small town far, far away from Amsterdam.

That didn’t matter to me. In my head, weed should have been readily available everywhere in the Netherlands. Why, I was expecting there to be weed room-service in my hotel. Once I got to my room, I switched on the TV and, lo and behold, there was porn on cable. Can you imagine that? HD porn that I couldn’t even fathom on Pakistani cable, was here for the world to see. And boy did I see. The Europeans really know how to live life to the fullest, I remember thinking to myself.

Anyways, I finally got ready and went up for dinner with everyone.

I could have skipped it, but, well, we were in a hotel, I was a college student and it was on the house. I couldn’t say no. I ate fast, talked to no one, grabbed my bag and set out for the grass.

Had my ignorant self done some background research about the place, I would’ve known beforehand that the Dutch, especially in the smaller towns, tend to close shop early. And by early I mean six-ish. Yes, the shops close down at six. That’s surprising even for someone like me who is from Islamabad. Oh, and by the way, in the summer, the sun goes down late. Very late. I remember walking out at 8pm with there still being light. So, go figure.

I had to use an old, beat-up phone in the Netherlands because I had lost mine just before coming. This phone, some cheap Xiaomi, couldn’t work the internet in the Netherlands, even though I had specifically purchased an internet package for my solo adventures.

However, that did not deter me. I googled the coffee shops (a clever name for weed shops, if I do say so myself. Although not all coffee shops are weed shops. Yeah, the Dutch are confusing. Or maybe I’m just ignorant and I never bothered asking why they were called that) that were open, and I found one. Just one coffee shop, open in this teeny tiny town, waiting for me. So I set up the location from the hotel wi-fi, and set out.

At the entrance of the hotel, I met with the dean of an accompanying school in the conference who was Dutch.

He asked me where I was off to alone at night, informing me that most places would be closed by now. I said I know. I was going to a coffee shop. He looked at me and said with a hint of condescension that you know that coffee shops here don’t actually sell coffee, right hahaha. I said I knew. He was flabbergasted. I smiled and walked away.

The coffee shop was 5 km away. That’s 3.10686 miles for imperial unit users. Which honestly, wasn’t too bad. However, now imagine walking 5km (3.10686 miles) in the rain, with a cool wind blowing, alone, without an umbrella and internet, and with your passport in the bag probably getting wet. It still didn’t deter me.

Weed is why I came here. Weed is what I was going to get.

I walked through the fairytale-esque mixed with Hogwarts looking town and finally got to the coffee shop. This was it. I was drenched from head to toe and I walked in the shop. The stench of cannabis hit me as if one of cupid’s arrows and I was in love. In love with a plant. Fuck sunflowers and tulips, I thought to myself.

I went up to the counter and asked the lady what she would recommend for a first-timer. She stood there for a second and thought over whether she should even introduce someone who had never smoked weed, to weed. She had a very brief moral argument in her head that lasted a whole of two seconds and finally, having the capitalist insider her win, handed me a small baggie with those emeralds.

Great, I thought to myself.

Only problem was that I’d never rolled a cigarette, let alone a joint in my life before. So, my gullible self asked her if she would be so kind as to roll it for me, to which she looked at me in disgust. Disgust was okay. As long as I was getting what I travelled thousands of miles for.

Fast-forward a couple of minutes, I’m sitting there smoking my tobacco and weed infused joint, constantly coughing because I don’t smoke cigarettes usually. I sat there for about 20 minutes and was honestly quite disappointed. The way weed was portrayed in TV shows was quite different. I wanted to be stoned and experience feelings that I had never experienced before. All I was experiencing now was a coughing fit.

It was no Pineapple Express, that’s for sure…

I stood up. Dejected. Ready to leave. I didn’t bother opening up the location back to the hotel. After all, how far was 5km really? I’d get there in no time and probably do some exploring as well.

So I set off from the coffee shop to the general direction of my hotel. In my head, I was singing the Wizard of Oz song, “We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz”. I was going in between streets, looking at the closed shops and the dim lights barely illuminating a sphere of light around them. It’s night-night by now. The Sun is on leave, the Moon is in attendance, and so are the weed-infused jeepers creepers.

Yes. It finally started to hit me. And unfortunately, it was a very, very paranoid high. I felt as though I’d been walking for hours, although I think it was only for around 20 minutes. But then my paranoia was given life because I reached a part of town, the outskirts of the outskirts, where the town was finished, the buildings were gone, and there was a huge grassland for as far as the eye could see.

I realise the condensation on my face is not raindrops, but actually sweat.

I don’t know who to call because I don’t have a Dutch sim. I can’t use the internet because my phone doesn’t allow it. I’m already thinking of the worst: either I’ll be found in the morning by the police crying in some corner or I’ll probably be robbed or stabbed or something.

I start running through the town square, which probably now that I think in my sober state, was probably a brisk walk. I’m constantly praying to God to let me live this one time and I promise I won’t smoke again. I’ve lost hope until I cross a McDonald’s. Ah, yes. American capitalism. A familiar sight. Something I can relate to in this Dutch town. And lo and behold! I recognize a few faces in the sparsely populated McDonalds. It’s some of the engineering students that I came with. They’re all having a good, jolly time. Ofcourse, because they have friends and they went out together, meanwhile I was on my own, left to my own devices. But whatever. Never have I ever been so happy to see people I detest.

I stick next to them like samadbond to the soul of a chappal and they take me home. This was the first time I smoked weed…. but definitely not the last…

To be continued.

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