27.04.2009 - 10.06.2009
Sometimes it seems to be all about time and numbers. It’s almost a year since we left familiar shores to begin travelling, and a month since we returned to Amsterdam after a three-week hiatus back in New Zealand. It took two weeks for me to get over the jetlag, and when my brain finally caught up with my head, things have started returning to normal, and more excitingly – coming together for the first time…
What a strange sense of displacement to travel back to your old home without feeling settled in a new one. Everything was so achingly easy, it was hard to imagine leaving yet again… But it’s not as if we came to Amsterdam because we thought it would be a piece of taart. I can’t count the number of times that other nomadic friends have lectured us about the ‘break-in period’, and that it took them at least a year or more to ground their feet (temporarily) in Europe. As frustrating as it is to hear this as someone only halfway through the aforementioned timeframe, I’m pretty sure it’s about right. Although having said that, it’s not as if the year passes, and suddenly – 365 days later, the clouds of difficulty pass and you’re left basking in a wave of serenity. Even now, after seven months in Amsterdam, things are getting somewhat easier and far more settled.
What didn’t help is that we arrived at the start of winter, and endured the cold, poorness and loneliness all in one swift hit. Summer in Amsterdam is a completely different city. I feel as if I’ve noticed the seasonal change far more intensely than back home. Like the trees, slowly dressing themselves in green, Amsterdammers transform for summer. The city is different. Places you never knew existed seem to crop up overnight, and bar doors open their floodgates, spilling outdoor furniture onto any available space. People actually smile. Flocking to the parks on Sundays, weekend life is more relaxed.
Our (not so) new house is perfect for summer, and we've welcomed the season with a few bbqs so far - back to the traditional coals, billowing infused smoke through the neighbourhood. The bike gang has taken to picnics in the parks, the forests... wherever we can rest on some grass and soak up some sun. And here I don't burn after 10 minutes like back home!
While I find that day-by-day my Dutch is improving, I’m also noticing a decline in my English abilities… Maybe (and hopefully) it’s just a temporary thing, and trying to switch your brain to think in another language is confusing the native tongue. The sentence structure is generally the opposite of English in Dutch, so I’m constantly trying to think backwards. Small achievements yes, but I have successfully held small conversations, and enjoy being able to understand comments being made in the street.
I had my first incident with a steep Dutch staircase (ironically, the translation for stairs is ‘trap’), and am still recovering from a nasty blow to the tailbone. It’s generally okay to walk around though, and Josh and I managed a day-trip to Haarlem the weekend after – our first Dutch expedition outside Amsterdam together, and we felt like travellers again, if only for a day. It’s a beautiful city, almost like a boutique Amsterdam (only 20 minutes on the train), and we soaked up the markets, design shops and savoured the first glass of wine we’d had with lunch in Holland.
The summer calendar is stacked with visitors, and we had Liv and Jenny here from Auckland last week, and what a fantastic week it was… I’m glad they arrived at a time when we knew the neighbourhood well enough to show people around, leading the way in the biking brigade to the best coffee spots, cafes, and even out of Amsterdam to the forest where we biked all day and devoured superb Dutch pancakes in the midst of it all.
The next few months hold many more visitors, a four-day music festival in Belgium, our birthdays, and hopefully a few little trips when we can… So much more to see…