Amsterdam—the NetherlandsMemory from: 11 February, 2013'Spring, please come soon'A duvet (not dusting, nor blanket) of snow fell upon Amsterdam during the wee hours of Saturday night. The city is covered; the snow is thick. Movement on the streets was slim to none as I originally wrote this at 8:31 on Sunday morning. Sunday mornings... they have become one of my new favorite things. Often I rise early enough to see the sun rise over the Indische Buurt, coming from the east and always thereafter heading west. The colors of the clouds in the morning can be arrestingly dramatic at times. Yesterday was not one of them. Though, the sun is rising earlier each morning and staying out just a bit later each day. When I leave the studio these days around 18:00, the sun and a lovely blue light welcomes me back to nature, the outdoors, and the short walk to the tram that whips me toward the east of Amsterdam. And thus home.
Resurfacing is the feeling of growing up in some way, yet again! How does that always seem to happen to me here in this tiny city? Though I will say the feeling feels different, this time around. I have been living in Amsterdam for about five years now, and the years keep ticking away as if they'll never stop, which is a good thing, please keep in mind. This whole journey of moving to the Netherlands has been one beautiful adventure, as it has been the most cocooning experience that my self has ever undergone. I'm breaking through that cocoon, in some way, one tiny bit at a time since initially landing on Dutch soil, slowly becoming unrestrained, and even more slowly learning how to fly, on my own, in unfamiliar air. Passing my NT2 (Dutch as a Second Language) exams was the highlight of 2012, and what a stepping stone on the way to learning how to freely fly within Dutch borders. I did not move to the Netherlands to learn to speak Dutch (I moved for the cheese (and design), of course!), but I also knew that learning it was something I would have to do, at some point. I moved to this city for all the aspects of life that weren't offered to me in the United States after graduating from university–namely the prospect of collaborating with all these fun people on this side of the ocean, which has only since expanded into equally as exciting, if not greater, prospects. I imagine my future as bright.
Amsterdam has really shown me a whole new world, or 'country', which I have never known so intimately before. After five years, I feel as if I have assimilated quite rapidly; surrendering part of the expressive and emotional John (the American John), and acquiring an equal amount of restraint and observance (the European John)–and that rebalancing of the scales should nearly be... balanced. Though, I do expect the process to take another five years or so, to truly find its equilibrium. Living within a society among those whom you are not, is interesting in these tiny European countries (and this tiny one, the Netherlands, packs 16,500,000 people within its borders; more than Sweden, which is the size of California, while the Netherlands equally roughly the size of Massachusetts–talk about comparisons). It's common knowledge that no matter how hard immigrants try and do assimilate in these tiny EU countries today, they'll never truly be accepted by the 'native-homogenous-ethnic-population', which itself never fulfills all four of those descriptions. European countries today are not homogenous entities of people, no matter how much the prevailing thoughts direct otherwise. This strategy of distance and non acceptance of 'others', worsens the further north in Europe one travels. Homogenous populations are more willing to tax themselves at higher rates, if they feel they are contributing to an egalitarian homogenous equilibrium. Immigrants tamper with that formula, skewing the data and introducing heterogeneous qualities to a populace. This whole, 'you're not one of us' is really difficult for Americans to fully understand, though I can see how the confusion occurs.
Regardless of the issue elsewhere in the EU, in Amsterdam that 'love and accept all' mantra really is strong, with the egalitarianism of the city seeping through most aspects of daily life. What happens behind closed doors stays private, and in this city, what happens in public spaces, stays public. The streets of Amsterdam are, for a European capital, quite fierce. Amsterdam is no Vienna, or Munich...
As the city's streets accumulated their white heaps of wet snow this weekend, my thoughts snowballed and accumulated an equally abundant amount of ideas, initiatives, and plans for the future. Though, to be honest, my thoughts mainly trailed around the notion of springtime being just around the corner, and how now, that February has arrived, I just can't wait for March, and April. Springtime is fabulous in Amsterdam; a light jacket is all that's needed outdoors, most often the rain isn't too oppressive. And, when it's not, the city's terraces are packed with coffee and wine conversationists. Spring, come soon.