“It’s time to move on, time to get going”

I’ve had this Tom Petty song stuck in my head for a few days. Unfortunately the song is about moving on from something that’s bad for you and onto something better, which just isn’t the case. Still, it talks about time, and getting going, which is exactly what is happening.

I’m currently in the Philadelphia airport and am already fussy. Delayed flights are one thing, dealing with delayed flights after being in such an efficient country is another. I also realized that I haven’t heard conversations in exclusively English in a while which was a bit of a shock. When I am around people speaking Dutch, I don’t really know what they are saying so I’m not affected. But here, I can hear everyone complaining again, and it’s actually really annoying. I want to go up and confront them. Just some little observations.

I’m also reading through the Pitzer guide to coming home and the challenges you face after leaving being abroad. Sometimes the transition back is even more difficult than moving away! A few things stand out to me. First, people who weren’t abroad have a hard time understanding reverse culture shock. They might expect you to be exactly the same, and although I don’t consider myself to have gone through a colossal transformation that makes me a different person, I am no doubt a changed person. I keep saying that I’m looking forward to applying what I learned in Amsterdam (about life, in school, everything) to my “normal” life, but, living in Amsterdam was my actual life. I was there long enough to call it my home, to fall in love with it, and it will be carried with me for the rest of my life. I wish I had Natalie in my pocket to relate to and have someone who knows exactly what I went through.

Another thing the Pitzer literature says is about comparing the cultures in a negative way. Whoops, already did that and I’ve been in America for like an hour! I just need to stay flexible, give myself some time, and do some cultural research to see what I missed. I know what’s going on with the world in general obviously, I wasn’t living in a hole, but I’m really curious to see what trends the kids are into these days in Dallas. I hear juice bars might be a thing now? I suddenly feel old and out of it.

Well, I really have no idea how to wrap this up so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Firstly, thank you to everyone that read about my journey and supported me throughout this entire year. It moved so fast, but when I think back at it, so much happened. I feel like I’m living in a dream and I can’t really fathom what I just did exactly. Second, I can’t even begin to describe how much I appreciate the friends (international and Dutch) that I made abroad and look forward to keeping up with them for the rest of my life. The people do make the place, and they all accepted me for me, supported me as well, and showed me so much about living well and positive outlooks.

So there’s that. I did it. I moved to Amsterdam alone and survived. I went to Munich, Dublin, The Hague, Prague, Rotterdam, Barcelona, and Lyon and loved every one in their uniqueness. I studied what I absolutely love and love environmental policy even more, especially in an international light. I will be applying to grad school in some international places and a Fulbright and will really look into my options to preserve this wide worldview. I will look back at all of these posts fondly, and I hope you all do too.

Tot ziens, beste, Lily

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Counting Down

Yes, it’s officially my last week in Amsterdam. I finished my last UvA exam today, which also concluded my last visit to Science Park. I thought my trips there would never end, but suddenly my time is over! I am currently sitting in City Hall, attempting to get proof of my deregistration from Amsterdam. So many technical things to account for this week. I’m getting there.

Despite stressing over my über huge to-do list, I managed to have fun this weekend with my wonderful friend from college, Yael! We hadn’t seen each other in a full year, but like all visitors, I realize that absolutely nothing changes with friends. I had this same experience with my friend Lily from Hockaday who visited 2 weekends ago. It had been easily 3 years since I’d seen her, but it felt so normal. With both of these visitors, I got to relax and see more of my city while simultaneously still trying a few new things. Yael’s visit was a combination of goodbyes and new experiences. I loved them equally.

We explored Noord Amsterdam her first night here. It was a little mix of an early birthday celebration for Natalie, finally going to Noorderlicht Cafe, and showing Yael a great part of Amsterdam. We went to Noorderlicht as well as Pllek, both are beach-y cafes with lots of outdoor seating. And let me tell you, a picnic table outside, friends, and a beer are truly all you in Amsterdam Noord. We watched the sunset and the beautiful Amsterdam clouds while the three of us bonded. I love having friends from different points in my life meet. Nat and I had also talked about “tagging” Amsterdam with the spray paint left over from when she painted her bike. Amsterdam Noord is an industrial area covered in graffiti, so it was the right place. We found an open spot and sprayed “Twee” (two in Dutch), and an infinity sign. Cliche, whatever, but it represents the two great explorers, forever.

Noorderlicht. The sunset hadn't started yet!

Noorderlicht. The sunset hadn’t started yet!

Me and Yaely!

Me and Yaely!

Our poor attempt at art... that's ok!

Our poor attempt at art… that’s ok!

Yael did exploring on her own during the day on Friday while I studied. We still met up for a picnic in Vondelpark and then went out to drinks with friends on Friday night. First we went to Thijssen in Jordaan and then went to Leidseplein to find my friend from Pitzer that lives in the Netherlands, Harry, and 4 boys from Pitzer that were staying with him for the weekend. They were doing a pub crawl, but we opted out and just joined in later. We never spend time in Leidseplein unless it’s for a special occasion, super touristy, but it was good to get out of my Jordaan comfort-zone for a bit and say goodbye to the busiest clubbing square.

Vondelpark picnic... tired of picnic picture yet?

Vondelpark picnic… tired of picnic picture yet?

Yael at Vondelpark

Yael at Vondelpark

 

Nat and me at Thijseen in Jordaan.

Nat and me at Thijseen in Jordaan.

On Saturday, Yael and I went to Espressofabriek for my final goodbye. We enjoyed flat whites and talked about how we’ll both be coming back to Europe to raise our kids (most likely Scandinavia). This was as we looked around and saw a ton of adorable children with no other than their fathers enjoying a morning in Westergasfabriek. Afterwards we perused Noordermarkt for my last time and then stopped for a raw herring sandwich. It had been nine months and still no herring! If I wouldn’t have tried it, I would have failed at being Dutch. We stopped at a small place on Haarlemmerstraat to get my fish fix and I actually really enjoyed it. Yael documented the experience for me, while also adding that she learned how herrings communicate in the water through farts. Thanks for that, Yael. We did more exploring through the city on Saturday before grabbing dinner with our Pitzer friends. The rest of her time here was spent catching up, eating pancakes, and seeing how words and phrases in German and Dutch compare. Spoiler alert, they are really similar.

Smiling with some herring, pre-bite. It is served in a bun with pickles and onions.

Smiling with some herring, pre-bite. It is served in a bun with pickles and onions.

Trying to eat while Yael explained the farting fish phenomenon

Trying to eat while Yael explained the farting fish phenomenon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is officially the second to last blog post and that’s a terrifying thing. Maybe this could turn into a more regular Lily travel blog, but maybe I should just leave it as my Amsterdam adventures. Who knows where I’ll end up next! For now, I will continue to wrap up things here and enjoyed my last few nights with a few dinners and drinks with friends. I can’t let my leaving be too dramatic, I’ve never been that type of person. It’s a see you later Amsterdam, definitely not a goodbye. But all those insights will come in my final post, most likely written in the air on my way back to America! Tot ziens!

9 Month Anniversary

…of my relationship with the best city in the whole world. Unfortunately, this means that my Amsterdam cultural baby is being delivered right around the time I have to leave. This baby is just metaphorical, I don’t have some great project to present or token of my time abroad. I’d say what was birthed may just be a new Lily; an older one (no avoiding that though…) and a more tolerant one but at the same time a more stubborn one. Stubborn in the sense that I, in no way, will settle for anything less than extraordinary after what I’ve had the opportunity to experience here. The world has big things in store for me and might have always had, but only now do I realize my purpose and the extent that I can take my capabilities.

I know I just said that I don’t have a token of my time here, but that was a lie. I did buy myself a ring from one of my favorite stores last week (unaware of this significant date, the anniversary was technically yesterday), engraved with “Lucky.” I do hold myself (and my family) as the prime reasons for pursuing the opportunities I’ve had in life, but those opportunities had to have come to me with a bit of luck. And the fact that I do get to pursue them makes me truly, truly lucky.

One of my most influencial English teachers at Hockaday, Kyle Vaughn, shared this poem with us and it has stuck with me for years after: Lucky Life, by Gerald Stern. The last two stanzas replay in my mind over and over again. Oh Lucky life, oh lucky, lucky life.

Lucky life isn’t one long string of horrors 
and there are moments of peace, and pleasure, as I lie in between the blows. 
Lucky I don’t have to wake up in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 
on the hill overlooking Union Square or the hill overlooking 
Kuebler Brewery or the hill overlooking SS. Philip and James 
but have my own hills and my own vistas to come back to. 

Each year I go down to the island I add 
one more year to the darkness; 
and though I sit up with my dear friends 
trying to separate the one year from the other, 
this one from the last, that one from the former, 
another from another, 
after a while they all get lumped together, 
the year we walked to Holgate, 
the year our shoes got washed away, 
the year it rained, 
the year my tooth brought misery to us all. 

This year was a crisis. I knew it when we pulled 
the car onto the sand and looked for the key. 
I knew it when we walked up the outside steps 
and opened the hot icebox and began the struggle 
with swollen drawers and I knew it when we laid out 
the sheets and separated the clothes into piles 
and I knew it when we made our first rush onto 
the beach and I knew it when we finally sat 
on the porch with coffee cups shaking in our hands. 

My dream is I’m walking through Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 
and I’m lost on South Main Street. I am trying to tell, 
by memory, which statue of Christopher Columbus 
I have to look for, the one with him slumped over 
and lost in weariness or the one with him 
vaguely guiding the way with a cross and globe in 
one hand and a compass in the other. 
My dream is I’m in the Eagle Hotel on Chamber Street 
sitting at the oak bar, listening to two 
obese veterans discussing Hawaii in 1942, 
and reading the funny signs over the bottles. 
My dream is I sleep upstairs over the honey locust 
and sit on the side porch overlooking the stone culvert 
with a whole new set of friends, mostly old and humorless. 

Dear waves, what will you do for me this year? 
Will you drown out my scream? 
Will you let me rise through the fog? 
Will you fill me with that old salt feeling? 
Will you let me take my long steps in the cold sand? 
Will you let me lie on the white bedspread and study 
the black clouds with the blue holes in them? 
Will you let me see the rusty trees and the old monoplanes one more year? 
Will you still let me draw my sacred figures 
and move the kites and the birds around with my dark mind? 

Lucky life is like this. Lucky there is an ocean to come to. 
Lucky you can judge yourself in this water. 
Lucky you can be purified over and over again. 
Lucky there is the same cleanliness for everyone. 
Lucky life is like that. Lucky life. Oh lucky life. 
Oh lucky lucky life. Lucky life.

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Reflections from Rainy Daze

The past few days have literally been a daze, hard cold rain seems to have kept me inside for the most part, but I managed to get out a bit for a few events. But, these days are perfect for reflections. My Dutch Culture and Society professor said those that come in the spring made the better choice (luckily I got to experience both) but I’m realizing she was right; Amsterdam LOVES spring holidays and festivals, and we’ve had quite a bit of school off for these special days. However, I don’t have class on Mondays or Fridays anyway, so they felt pretty normal.

Events in Spring
Aside from King’s Day, there are a few other official (and unofficial) spring holidays that the Dutch celebrate. I was in Lyon for Labor Day on May 1; this is an unofficial holiday that involves a lot of strikes, and our professor said to stay away from the university building… socialist protests. Shortly after on May 4, the Netherlands remembers those that died in peace-keeping missions (WWII as well as the Indonesian Revolution) at the national monument in Dam Square. It’s known as “Dodenherdenking,” and King Willem Alexander comes to town.

I did, however, make it to the May 5 celebrations in Westergasfabriek for Liberation Day. The Netherlands holds a variety of festivals on May 5 to celebrate liberation from Germany (by the Canadians). I was in Westergasfabriek anyway writing a paper on the buildings there (uploaded into my new “Netherlands Writings” section), and checked out the market and a few of the stages at the Bevrijdingsfestival. They just love to celebrate over here!

Liberation Day festival in Westerpark.

Liberation Day festival in Westerpark.

Last Sunday
Despite horrid weather, I had places to go and people to see. I’ve been working on selling some of my belongings already, things I can’t take back to the US or don’t have a need for. I had been meaning to explore far west Amsterdam a bit more, specifically a coffee place, and luckily the girl buying my bike pump lived there. I met her at White Label Coffee, and then spent the day doing work there by the window, half doing actual research and half just watching the rain.

Obviously I had to include a coffee shot...

Obviously I had to include a coffee shot…

They knew I was coming... lilies!

They knew I was coming… lilies!

Sunday night was a real treat. The Food Film Festival was happening in Amsterdam over the rainy weekend; it’s a small festival dedicated to sustainable food and cooking, involving mainly cooking workshops and viewings of food-related films. The events are pricey, but I went to see the free keynote speaker, the final event of the festival. And who was the speaker? Only my favorite American farmer, Joel Salatin! I couldn’t believe it. He’s mentioned in The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and can been seen in the films Food, Inc. and American Meat. Who would have thought he would be wrapping up his visit to the Netherlands literally five minutes from where I live? I got there early and sat in the front row (naturally) next to a Dutch man who works for basically the Audubon Society of the Netherlands, Vogelbescherming Nederland. Of course that would happen.

Anyway, more on Joel. He’s a farmer and author from Virginia with special emphasis on alternative farming. Most of his talk was about his own farm and the methods he uses (free-range, no pesticides or antibiotics) and then he focused a little bit on the perfect alternative farm customer. My favorite quote by Joel was something along the lines of this “We are not meant to be a manipulator, but a masseuse… a masseuse of the ecological womb.” He also made a good point about meat production, a huge resource-user that would seem to collide with his principles. He said that basically not eating meat or encouraging the stop to production of meat is the biggest insult unto indigenous people, as farm animals are the ideal source of mobile, nutrient-rich food for those that don’t have first-world options of vegetarianism. Taking away their main source of life would be an incredible detriment. Animals are also crucial in farming (manure, naturally tilling soil, etc,). This made me think a lot about the choices of environmental vegetarians, and it was refreshing to hear about this debate from an environmentalist himself.

Photo from the Food Film Festival website.

Photo from the Food Film Festival website.

Joel’s ideal customer is one that involves their kids in the kitchen and really yearns to have a relationship with their food. They have to be willing to be innovative, and learn how to use knives again (silly, but so true). They also have to be willing to meet their farmers to get a full picture of food production. Another Joel quote, something along the lines of “if you don’t your farmer should make as much as you do, you don’t deserve to eat their food.” I really butchered that one (no pun intended) but he was emphasizing the importance of the farmer.

Stalker front-row pic...

Stalker front-row pic…photobombed by a giant plastic chicken.

So, there we have it. You wondered what I have been up to for the past few days? That’s it! I’ve been doing a lot of work and research on some exciting papers. The one I’m most excited about is research I’ve done on the quality of life in the Netherlands, rates of psychiatric disorders, and how Green Care farms and healing gardens are the Western European route to mental success. I’ll upload that to my Netherlands Writings section as well once it’s complete. Stay tuned… I might only have 17 more days here, but they will be busy up until the very last minute!

 

De Koffie Kaart Komplete

Can you believe it? I got this coffee card at the very end of January, and now it’s finally complete. The task? Go to the seven independent coffee bars in Amsterdam, and then get a free coffee of your choice when you are done! I don’t know where I’ll redeem my free coffee from… probably Koko or Espressofabriek. These cafes really varied in location, so I’m happy I made it to all of the unique places. Reviews of all are on my Amsterdam Cafe Bucket page.

Headfirst coffee roasters, Screaming Beans, Espressofabriek, Coffee Bru, Trakteren, Koko, Sweet Cup!

Headfirst coffee roasters, Screaming Beans, Espressofabriek, Coffee Bru, Trakteren, Koko, Sweet Cup!

Ode to Constant- Lyon, France

As I unpacked my bag from the last few days of travelling in France– with everything I own smelling like a mix of cigarettes (not from me, stop freaking out, Mom) and some olive sausage I brought back– I came to realize three truths. 1) I am incredibly lucky to have friends all over the world, close enough friends that will share their lives with me when I visit, 2) everything you hear about how wonderful French food is, is true, and 3) the only real universal language, at least for people my age, is having fun.

Nat and I decided to have our last trip be a relaxing one, and chose Lyon. I knew someone who lived there, Constant, a French boy from when he came to live in Dallas with my friend George for a bit 4 years ago. We knew each other for only a few weeks but kept in touch, always saying we would see each other one day. I asked Constant where we should stay and what we should do in Lyon, and he took this as planning our entire trip and even hosting us in his family home; he just started summer vacation and had the time. Nat and I couldn’t believe what we got to experience for the past 4 days. My favorite parts of the trip were definitely the beauty of the city (you can’t miss it, anywhere you go), meeting new people my age from a culture I knew relatively nothing about, and simply relaxing in a city while Constant took care of us. There was no pressure to hustle around and see everything, we had enough time to get it all done.

Constant picked us up on Wednesday afternoon. He was exactly the same as I remembered, and he said I was as well. He also announced that his English was still bad, and the worst of his friends. I thought he did just fine, and we even had conversations about politics with hard vocabulary. Nat used to speak French, so they tried a little, but we did the best we could. He took us to his home and when he opened the beautiful french blue door/gate hidden in a wall of ivy, we honestly couldn’t believe what was behind it. A beautiful bright orange French country house stood in front of us, with beautiful gardens and an adorable Lab named Uno. I didn’t realize that Constant’s family hosts exchange students frequently, so they were already prepared for us. His mom, an artist whose work is all over the house, came home while we were getting settled. She, as well as his father, speak very little English. Constant translated for us, but I really hope our gratitude translated as well. We took them stroopwafels.

The Delois Home!

The Delouis Home!

Uno, the first dog I've got to love in a while.

Uno, the first dog I’ve had the chance to show some love to in a while.

Constant's mother's studio.

Constant’s mother’s studio.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring Vieux Lyon, taking pictures and eating pastries while Constant met with a friend. Later that night we went into the downtown area to one of his friends’ houses for a party. We were imagining an apartment, but no, this was a full-scale house that happened to be up in a building downtown. The ceilings were high and beautiful and everything was old and French. We met a few of Constant’s closest friends, one of which was a countess and she tried to hide this from us. Their English skills varied but everyone was friendly nonetheless. There were a few moments where Nat and I just sat and looked at each other while this whole French party happened around us, everyone jabbering on and us having no clue what was happening. We stayed until the wee hours of the morning, I have a list of the French songs that were played so I can remember the night.

Nat and me on one of the Lyon bridges.

Nat and me on one of the Lyon bridges.

The kids walking around Old Lyon.

The kids walking around Old Lyon.

Our first lemon meringue tart of the trip.

Our first lemon meringue tart of the trip.

Our first night with Constant's friends.

Our first night with Constant’s friends.

The next morning was spent sitting around Constant’s kitchen table and trying a variety of French condiments on miniature toast. Constant is so enthusiastic about life in Lyon and wanted to show us absolutely everything. A lot of his friends haven’t left Lyon or won’t be studying abroad. They really love it there. Anyway, we made the effort to drive up to Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere for the famous view of Lyon from above. Fourviere was incredible. The inside of the church was also stunning. Luckily it was clear enough to see the city. Constant drove us up in his teeny little car, which was an experience in itself. He told us we would return to his home for lunch with his family, and yet again we were blown away by a perfect table setting outside in their garden, pork with mint cooking on the grill, various salads, and even a sponge cake with homemade blackberry jam that we saw his sister working on earlier in the morning. We were so spoiled.

Inside the cathedral.

Inside the cathedral.

View of Lyon.

View of Lyon. I believe the bridge on the left is where Nat and I took the earlier picture.

Post-lunch cheese at the Delois house.

Post-lunch cheese at the Delouis house.

We headed into the city for more exploring and to meet up with another one of Constant’s friends for coffee. It was May Day, so no public transport was running and many stores were closed. We still enjoyed strolling around, saw Place des Terreaux, and one of the girls Natalie knew from an exchange in high school came to meet us for coffee as well. Reunions all around! We went back to rest at the house for a while before heading back into the city for dinner. We wanted a real Lyonnaise dinner, and had just talked to Constant’s parents and a few of their friends at the house about quenelle, a Lyonnaise specialty that can’t be explained. We went on a hunt, and I was successful. We decided on Le Saint Joseph, a nice French restaurant that advertised a quenelle. The only way to explain quenelle is like a Czech dumpling, but if you haven’t had that, then I don’t know what to say. It’s a soft, doughy/eggy loaf with fish flavoring, and mine was covered in lobster sauce. I really enjoyed it, despite being scared at first! We had a pudding for dessert, walked around town a bit more afterwards, and then headed home to get to bed early while a beautiful French thunderstorm struck the city. I had missed those.

Place des Terreaux.

Place des Terreaux.

Bellecour.

Bellecour.

Quenelle for dinner!

Quenelle for dinner!

We started Friday with Croix-Rousse, a very beautiful part of Lyon with more cobblestone streets and hills, and walked to see Le Mur Des Canuts. It is a huge mural painted on a previously ugly wall, and it was pretty fascinating to see and to pose with. We traversed (don’t know how else to explain it) all the way down to the city center again from Croix-Rousse, and went to Constant’s favorite market. Here we had a Lyon classic, a Praline tart, and bought sausage to bring home. I can’t describe this sausage either, but it’s incredible. We chose the one with olives in it. Nat and I split from Constant for a bit to shop, but met up to trek over to Parc de la Tete d’Or, the biggest public park in Europe I believe. There’s a free zoo in the middle of it! By this time we were completely beat and went home for a bit of a rest.

The mural.

The mural.

Praline tart perfection.

Praline tart perfection.

Sausages, incredible.

Sausages, incredible.

In the park, see the animals?

In the park, see the animals?

It was time to leave Constant’s house to stay at the French house we visited the first night, since Stan (the owner) lives in the city and it would be easier for us to get around in the morning if we stayed there. It was hard to say goodbye to such a perfect little home and his sweet parents. We couldn’t be sad for long because Constant took us to the most amazing restaurant for our last meal; L’Epicerie. This place is known for their tartine. Tartine is a piece of amazing bread with melted cheese on it, but that description does it no justice. The bread is thick and toasted, the cheese is a variety– Nat and Constant ate goat’s cheese with honey on theirs, I had three cheeses with pear on mine. It was heaven. We started the dinner with bread, brie, terrine (ground cow liver), and rosette (Lyon sausage). That blew me away enough, but then came the tartine. We were full, but since it was our last night, Nat and I went for the most delicious tart combo and ordered a praline tart and a lemon meringue tart to share. Food coma, but worth it. Afterwards we went to another party with Constant’s friends before returning to Stan’s. We got up and left Lyon in the morning.

Started with this at L'Epicerie.

Started with this at L’Epicerie.

Look at it! The three cheeses were mozarella, chevre, and fourme.

Look at it! The three cheeses were mozarella, chevre, and fourme.

Me and Constant at our last dinner.

Me and Constant at our last dinner.

I feel like I’m still living in a little French dream. I’ve realized that my favorite way to travel is to go to places where I know people enough that they can help me navigate and really see the city’s gems. This worked out in Dublin last semester, and luckily Prague was small enough to get around easily ourselves, but a friend could have been nice. This was my last trip in Europe before I return home, and it was hard flying into Amsterdam realizing that the next time I’m on a plane I’ll be leaving. This was also a great way to spend quality time with Nat before we have to part, like we don’t spend enough time together already. We’re both smart and easy travellers, and I love that we both had friends in Lyon and left with an even broader group of friends in Lyon incase I end up going back. I don’t want to end this post because I don’t want the adventure to be over. It’s times like these when I realize I can’t ever lose this adventurous side of me, or I’ll end up missing a whole lot.