When I arrived in Amsterdam, I went to live in the Indische Buurt. Molukkenstraat, to be more precise. First day upon my arrival I found it an ugly street. There were no hipster cafes at the Molukkenstraat at the time, just very shady coffee shops, equally shady dry-cleaning businesses, and Turkish man-only hairdressers. There was also the occasional male who would harass you on the street, which was something quite peculiar having into account that that phenomenon simply DOESN’T happen in Amsterdam. But it did at the Molukkenstraat.
‘Indische Buurt’ sounded like something India-related to me, wich I figured out should have something to do with immigrant populations. I googled it. A very interesting piece of history unfolded upon me. ‘Indische’ was related to the former Dutch colony of the Dutch East Indies or now known as Indonesia. It was indeed a borough ( ‘buurt’) built for immigrants, in the early 2oth century. There are still an estimated 100 languages spoken there (!). The Wikipedia-knowledge I gathered in those 5 minutes were enough to impress one of my first Dutch friends, whose family roots were, coincidentally, at the Molukken Islands, which gave the name to my street!
I remember feeling very happy the first day I walked the entire street alone to Albert Hein, the supermarket, and got my groceries. It was my second day in Amsterdam, and I had managed to walk a few hundred meters along my new street, buy shampoo, yoghurt and cereal without speaking the local language, and at cheaper prices than in Portugal. I felt victorious.
I recall looking at the old Badhuis, at the Javaplein, and feeling slightly puzzled. The place looked creative and wonderful – a little bit exotic even, but in a modern way – and it was quite a contrast to the rest of the Molukkenstraat. It resembled a bar, or cafe, or restaurant. I learned soon afterwards that in Amsterdam, most of the times, the three coexist perfectly in one same place. People sitting at their large terrace seemed relaxed and satisfied while wrapped up in their super winter scarves, holding their glasses of wine stylishly. I wondered how they wouldn’t freeze outside. And I secretly desired to be at that same place, in that same fashion, transpiring that bourgeois tranquility just as they did. But for now, I just had to find my way around. And a job, for that matter.