Wake up to the Sunday morning, hop on your bike, cycle to the park, and feel the smell of the trees around you, listen to the chirping of birds, feel the wind breeze. It’s spring, and we’re at the Oosterpark. It’s 10 a.m. and unlike later on in the afternoon, it is quiet over here, and there’s SPACE. My friend Catarina from All In Yoga is about to start the class. As much as I love dancing the night out, the feeling of starting the day early, and in this fashion, is incomparable.
Yesterday I was thinking of the downs of living “abroad”. I must say I very rarely put myself this question, but I know that this is a very relatable topic to most expats. If you are one, you might immediately have a whole spectrum of ideas on it. Things like the absence of friends and family might automatically pop into your mind, or the missing of certain foods, your hometown, the weather, or a type of human warmth very specific to where you come from. Personally, the following sentence immediately banged in my head:
Allow me to go straight to the point. Does Amsterdam need someone else making yet another photo of a canal house, dissecting its every inclined building, stripping off every single of the city’s hidden facets? Does the city need someone else attempting at getting hold of the essence of its people just to overly simplify everything into “Six things that annoy me about the Dutch”, slurping every of its characteristics only to digest them into a two-minute read entitled “Ten things you cannot miss in Amsterdam”? Do we really need to know all about yet another restaurant / bar of which interior recreates the hortus-botanicus with an industrial feel? I haven’t been able to avoid struggling with these questions since I started blogging.
I’m a cafe person, and hardly a day goes by without paying a visit to one of my hangouts of choice. Usually the process of deciding which cafe to head to is quite simple: I know my favorites, and I am well-acquainted with their dynamics, their menu, their barristas. I do happen to have conditioned myself to work in public spaces, where the cacophony of conversations and crockery, and the smell of coffee being brewed have this magical property of making me focus. I’m a sort of pavlovian dog, specialty coffee being my trigger.
Last month, I celebrated five years in my beloved city of Amsterdam. You don’t go past a five year anniversary just like that. After all, this is the longest relationship I have ever been in – and moving here, the best decision of my life. But like in all relationships, you have to work on it because, you guessed it, it doesn’t always come easy. So I figured LIFE LESSONS. Ha! Don’t we all love/hate that? Five years of Amsterdam, five lessons. Here are my two cents on what starting from scratch in a totally new place has taught me, on a spiritual level.
Once upon a time there was a person who was afraid of the cold. She was the Strandmeisje.
She was brought up at a coastal area of a country where summers were long and temperatures high. Come May and the Strandmeisje was already laying on the beach, an activity which she would commitedely perform until mid September.
Unexpectedly, I won’t be spending New Year in our beloved city of Amsterdam. I usually don’t leave the city in this time of the year, for the simple reason that, more often than not, it is a stupidly expensive season, one flooded by collective hysteria and way more glitter than I can stand. So I always choose to host a party myself, away from the city center, at a location that can host all my friends, and whoever they wish to bring. Those really are the best parties. No themes, obligations, no expectations. Just ( our own) music, good people, and enough room for surprise and improvisation. For this reason, part of me is seriously going to long for one of these self-organized festivities. To make up for eventual disappointment, I though I would redirect my dear friends to the fun parties in the city, and in the meanwhile, get all nostalgic with a couple of pictures from previous years.
Two weeks ago I wrote a blogpost on how I get so many compliments ( and stares of incredulity) for having learned Dutch in a way that others think went “so fast!”. Truth is, it actuality took me more than two years to start speaking it decently. I wouldn’t be so sure as to using the word “fast”to describe the process, but hey!, I did it. And I promised a follow up on this whole learning-Dutch-issue. Usually, people are striked about the HOW.
“Oh wow. How did you do it?”
“I wish I spoke half the Dutch you do”
“Oh, I think I’ll never be able to learn it”