We were crossing the Ij to Amsterdam North with the ferry, and he asked me, with eyes wide open, if there were fish in the Ij. I was struck by the question. Fish in the Ij. Damn. I had never thought of it. I used to have cool conversations all the time with artists and creatives of all sorts, folks of different nationalities who could speak at least a couple of languages, and had university degrees, and were cosmopolitan, and well-travelled, and kept themselves busy with exciting occupations, and knew a lot of complex stuff about fields of which existence I ignored. And then this guy I had randomly met at a party asks me, in his broken English, if there are fish in the IJ, and I am mindblown. Who would have cared for such a seamless, simple thing like the aquatic vertebrates living down under water? To what sort of person could this piece of information matter? At that moment the love seed germinated.
Every now and then I am walking around the city – wait, who am I kidding?, I never walk – I am cycling, cycling around the city -, and I get struck by this feeling that we are all so disconnected from each other. Which is ironical given the fact that we are also living crammed to each other and yet emotionally so far apart, always busy, never really paying attention to what’s happening around us. Then I can’t avoid my mind to wander to a place where it all was different, where connecting was the rule and not the exception. Where everyone smiled at each other, where people acknowledge each other’s presence, where interactions with other human beings were easy, simple, and free. This description might sound like a mere utopia to most of us. But the cool thing is that there are places like this in the world: not many, that’s true, but they exist.
Six years: still no house
Right now, all the things I own are stored in three different houses in Amsterdam. Most of them are housed in a storeroom of this couple friend of mine who lives in Ijburg, in the large house they own. Then I have some other stuff in the Westerpark area, at the place of another friend who has also been the caregiver of my cats while I can’t have them with me. He also owns his house. Finally, I have one piece of luggage and a backpack which I carry with me everywhere, with the essentials for everyday life. Currently, I am staying in the area of Museumplein (I know, I know). This other couple friend went on holiday and offered their home for me to plant sit while they’re away. Thank god they are not like most people in Amsterdam who will Airbnb their place at the first opportunity. If they had done that they would be now basically enjoying a free holiday. Airbnb prices here are similar to hotel ones so it is easy to understand why people do it so massively in this city. This also helps explain why, from a market point of view, is it not the first time that I am in the ‘homelessness’ situation in the almost six years I’ve been living over here.
I came back with no expectations. After one month in London, Oslo, Copenhagen, and last but not the least, Where The Sheep Sleep, my feelings could have changed. Moreover, we went through very difficult times, the last couple of months together. I mean, I’ve always known my feelings but, regarding love, you have to leave some space for things to evolve. It is so easy to get caught up in the routine and stagnate into boredom and nagging, but when you let things breathe and give yourself the chance to look at it from a distance, love might bloom once more. I was pretty cautious when I came back. I didn’t shed a tear of emotion when I landed (but I must admit I smiled from within when I arrived in Central Station). I was home. And my home was as beautiful as I remember it. So I basically started making a mental list of reasons why it is great to be back to this long-lasting case of love in my life, called Amsterdam.
Why is it good to be back in Amsterdam:
(If I was writing for SEO I would have made the sentence above the title for this post, right?)
LONDON: MUSEUMS & FRIENDS
There were two things I absolutely loved about my trip to London. On a personal level, the reencounter with friends I have known for years and who have been very influential in my life. From an objective point of view, the museums. London is an extraordinary place when it comes to world-class art, and I believe there are few places on the planet that can rival that aspect. I have just visited four art museums + a couple of galleries, but art is everywhere in London, really. From the subway to the streets, including markets, cafes and abandoned public spaces. We can argue against the ways the British got hold of a lot of foreign art in their possession. For instance, the British Museum ought to be named after “The Museum of Culture Representation in Britain”, or “The stuff we got by means of British Imperialism”, or quite simply, “Shouldn’t we be flying to Asia, Africa, and America instead?”. But instead of focusing on the political ethics of the whole thing, the goal of this article is to tell you about moments of enlightenment I experienced in London. These are a synonym to art and friends, so I decided to combine one museum to each friend I met in the city. This is thus the first part of the series Museums & Friends.
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.