One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

Just a shorter update before classes start this week. I’ll have a nice long entry after my sister visits, can’t wait until Friday! I was so ready to announce that Amsterdam’s winter officially didn’t come this year, but now it has changed its mind again! My days fluctuate between sunshine and gloominess, but either way I try not to let the weather dictate my mood or activities. I’m still crossing places off of my cafe bucket list and getting ready for classes to start Monday. Just living the life of a Dutchie, and loving every day.

This past week has been slow but I’ve mustered up the energy and money for a few adventures. We went to ikea, always an adventure and one filled with fifty cent hotdogs after buying sheets for visitors. We met new neighbors (yay!) and then crashed the ISN introduction party for the newbies of this semester. Of course, being there reminded me how much I disliked it the first time around as it felt like high school. Yesterday, when the sun came out, Nat, Devon and I took advantage by strolling down to a favorite cafe called Two for Joy (see cafe tab for pictures!). It is so comfortable there and such a great place to talk. The name is based off of the nursery rhyme, I like this version the best:

One for sorrow, two for joy,
three for a girl, four for a boy,
five for silver, six for gold
seven for a secret, never to be told,
eight for a wish, nine for a kiss,
ten for a time of joyous bliss.

After we got home, Natalie and I walked along the dock right next to where we live. I’m unsure how I went all of last semester without exploring it, but it’s a beautiful place. People dock their ships there and most likely live there as well. The sky was clear and we could look straight out to see Amsterdam North. I can see many picnics taking place on that pier. I’m thankful I can uncover such beautiful places every day, and so close to home even. What a perfect friday afternoon.

Danglin out on the dock with Nat

Danglin out on the dock with Nat

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

lil on pier
Devon alerted us that today, February 1, was the last day to ice skate in Museumplein. Somehow this activity got away from me last semester when the outdoor rinks around town opened (or I avoided them based on my dad’s skating accident back in the day), but since today was my last chance I just had to go for it. The Dutch people know how to do it yet again and supplied old wooden chairs for people to push around on the ice for balance if they couldn’t skate. I had never seen that! Fortunately none of us needed them. Devon is Canadian and worked in a hockey shop so she was a total pro while Calum had never skated before. I was somewhere in the middle and got into my groove pretty quickly. There was a pop-up cafe connected to where skates could be rented, and also where we enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate during a break. It felt like winter today, so maybe it’ll stick around for a little longer. I really don’t mind it, at least during these days when I’m not on my bike for 10 miles.

Being a dweeb in front of the I Amsterdam sign, what else is there to do.

Being a dweeb in front of the I Amsterdam sign, what else is there to do.

Posing with Devon.

Posing with Devon.

...and Calum, holding on for dear life.

…and Calum, holding on for dear life.

Although last week I hated the time spent alone in my apartment, I love now the time that I’ve had just living and being. There’s no pressure to sightsee or completely fill my days with activities. This is the time I knew I’d want here, just living as a local and seeing a city from a view that most kids my age don’t get to see. Even though we didn’t go out of the country on these two weeks off, I still enjoyed myself and am well-rested for classes. Looking forward to a great week. Tot ziens!

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On Being Conceptual

The conformed Dutchie is back and in full swing. I am happy to announce that I’ve survived a week of suffering from brutal jet lag, cold rain, and feeling like maybe coming back to wet and empty Amsterdam was a mistake. You truly forget how great home is once you leave; fortunately, I got out of my funk and have fallen in love with Amsterdam once again. Friends from last semester will be returning this week, everyone is getting ready for classes, and I’ve started planning out my trips and activities for this semester. Finally, purpose once again.

Before I start I’ll explain the title of this blog. This has been a week of contemplation, regrouping, and attempting to define what I want my semester to be. Natalie and I have spent hours in cafes (see the coffee bucket list, below) jokingly being “conceptual” (because that’s what the Dutch are all about, with their concept stores and artsy cafes) but in all seriousness also doing serious thinking and finding more meaning behind our experiences here. So meta, but that’s what happens with rainy days, hours of free time, and a great cappuccino.

Since I’m feeling comfortable with my city and I’m not a newcomer this time around, I’ve deemed this to be the semester of new beginnings on a more personal level as opposed to a situational level, although those two things are not mutually exclusive. As you can tell, the format of the blog has changed to something more practical and easy to navigate and see, at least I think so. I rearranged my room to no longer feel like a student room but a real place of peace, now with more room for my many-a-guest that will be visiting this semester. I–typical Lily–persuaded secretaries and registrars from multiple departments to get me into the exact classes I wanted. I’m feeling insanely organized, balanced, and ready to kick major butt this semester. This applies in a literal way, as well, since I just joined the school gym. Nothing wrong with having some time to gawk at fit Dutch people while getting healthier myself, right?

Although it took a few days, I finally persuaded myself to leave the apartment and get back into my hobby of exploring. What a privileged hobby to have… and I’m happy to take advantage of that. Nat and I already got poffertjes, thought I should share incase anyone was concerned that I was deficient in them after a month. And let me tell you, even in the spitting rain, it’s feeling great to bike again. I decided to start a grand Amsterdam Cafe Bucket List which gives me an excuse to do my absolute favorite activity more often, which is bumming around and acting cool in minimalistic-yet-rustic-Dutch-design cafes. I visited a few of the best coffee places in Amsterdam last semester but didn’t report on them; looks like I’ll be going back!

Cafe Bucket List stop #1: Six & Sons, Haarlemmerdijk
I found this cafe while walking around my neighborhood but was drawn to it more so by reading about it on one of my Amsterdam go-to websites, http://themakersamsterdam.com. The Makers project was started by one of my first Amsterdam contacts, and I’ve been thrilled to watch it grow as it launched pretty much right when I got here in August.

Nat and I saw the founder of Six & Sons while drinking our cappuccinos and thought of him as a celebrity because of what we saw on The Makers site. Anyway, Six & Sons is half cafe, half retail store. Everything is on sale, including the cafe furniture. The Makers site describes it as “raw and manly,” but it is also somehow quaint, not trying too hard, and clean. That’s actually exactly how I’d describe the typical Dutch man. The cappuccinos were absolutely delicious, their homemade hummingbird pie was to die for, but the baby sitting next to us was the real icing on the cake (or pie, rather). Our experience here made Nat and I contemplate the option of having a Dutch baby blog, but figured we couldn’t just ask to take pictures of people’s’ children and post it online. This baby was ridiculous in its neutral and minimal knitwear.

The menu, on the perfectly doodled-on and also for-sale table

The menu, on the perfectly doodled-on and also for-sale table

Hummingbird Pie

Hummingbird Pie

I didn’t take a picture of the actual cappuccino because unfortuantely, all cappuccinos look the same unless it has the fancy design. These ones didn’t.

Cafe Bucket List stop #2: De Koffie Salon, Utrechtsestraat
Utrechsestraat is a popular shopping street in Amsterdam (full of concept stores, of course) but luckily lacks the typical touristy shops. It is lined with cafes and restaurants, but I had read that De Koffie Salon was one of the better ones to try on various websites. While I was a bit underwhelmed with the quality of the cappuccino I had, the atmosphere made up for it. De Koffie Salon is in a canal house and has multiple seating levels. They have beautiful machinery and pastries, and felt more upscale but still casual. I liked De Koffie Salon because while there were still a few individual tables, it has 2 huge communal tables.

As Nat and I sat in the back of the upper seating area by a window, eating a fruit tart (and realizing I made the right choice to join the gym if this will be a regular activity for me), we talked about how the greatness of Amsterdam cafes is in the diversity of the customers. You see families taking breaks with their kids. You see two older men that could be discussing business or just taking time for themselves. You see a team of obviously creative types making big decisions about a project. And everyone is just minding their own business and being respectful. True community.

De Koffie Salon

De Koffie Salon

And now, a quiet Sunday to be spent planning more outings and errands while simultaneously watching Friday Night Lights. It’s my guilty pleasure and has been surprisingly healing during my week of adjustment. I even make Natalie watch a few with me to see what Texas is like and she finds them enjoyable, so I guess we Texans aren’t too ridiculous for the Europeans. Be on the lookout for more stories, coffee adventures, and photos of the semester. It’ll be a good one!

Washed Out (literally)

So THIS is what Amsterdam rain is all about! I really thought our apartments were going to blow right into the bay this weekend. Downpours started Friday and haven’t quit. Did I break my umbrella, try to deal with a broken umbrella, and then break it worse? Of course! Did this hinder my weekend plans? Of course not! Except I do need a new umbrella, so that might hinder my weekday plans…

I’ll dork out for a second to talk about my Friday computer practicum for Food Production– we got to use a program to model crop rotations of a certain amount of years, and see how certain crops and fertilizers changed the environment and production of nitrogen in the Netherlands and also in Spain. It was really interesting and a lot of fun. I am also now a member of Students for Sustainability Amsterdam, which is a city-wide environmental group. Although the group is mainly Dutch, the coordinator said they would be happy to have an English speaker to work on the divestment campaign. I did some work for a campaign like this at Pitzer (trying to divest from fossil fuels), so I feel like I somewhat know what I’m talking about. We’ll see how this goes, I’m meeting with them this week.

Incase you were curious, this is what my commute to campus looks like while riding through the more industrial part of Amsterdam: am_commute

Friday night was a relaxing night of drinking with friends and going to a very local bar right in the middle of Westerpark (where the market was last weekend). It’s called Pacific Park, and they play lots of oldies. The atmosphere is amazing and everyone is young and so very Dutch (typical). My partner in crime, Natalie, was off to Ukraine so I enjoyed time with other friends in my building and had a really awesome night. It ended with warm tea in the Cal(l)um apartment which was perfect. The only picture I have is this very eerie picture of the giant table and chairs that are also in the middle of the park. am_table

Saturday was homework, pizza, and rain-filled. So I’ll just leave that there.

Sunday, I ventured into the city center for retail therapy (specifically more sweaters… necessary!) and this is where I saw pure chaos. Broken umbrellas were flooding the streets, and the street cleaners were out just to take care of them. The wind was insane, but tourists were still out and about.  I would see tourists walk out of gift shops with brand new Amsterdam-themed umbrellas (rainbow, marijuana leaves, anything that was left) only for the umbrellas to immediately invert and break. So sad, but also kind of funny? I enjoyed roughing it alone in the rain and getting out of my apartment. Leah was gone for the weekend and I did some deep cleaning and organizing (finally). Although I sense another IKEA shop coming upon me (probably when the rain stops).

Once returning home, I went to my very first Canadian Thanksgiving. I didn’t know this was a thing until my Canadian friend, Devon, planned it. Either way, it was a great excuse to eat yummy mashed potatoes and salad and some steak (no turkey…) with some sweet Canadians. Unfortunately, Taylor (an actual Canadian) and I had to leave dinner early to head to the Washed Out concert at Melkweg. The wind was still insane, the rain hadn’t stopped, and buses were on weird schedules. Callum, Nathan, Taylor and I might have gotten lost in the rain a few times before finally arriving for the show. We caught the end of the opening act, Amateur Best, and then saw Washed Out. He/they were so good, really incredible. Their popular song is “Feel it All Around” which plays at the beginning of Portlandia, you’ll recognize it– song is under the picture.

am_WO1

Still smooth sailing apart from adjusting to daily hurricanes. After my Dutch exam this Thursday, visitors from Copenhagen and a music festival this weekend, and an exam on Wednesday, I’ll be off to Dublin. Two months until I’ll be back home. I honestly can’t imagine only being here for a semester. Oh the things I would miss. am_stickers

Here’s a bonus picture of my breakfast from today, just for fun. It’s orange, like this country and me. am_breakfast

Tot ziens!

Silly Little Dutch Things.

I’ve reached that lull in the semester that although I’m still greatly enjoying my time here, I have a schedule down pat and and I am busy with classes and homework. This whole month will be insanely busy with a final Food Production paper, two final exams, friends visiting, the Amsterdam Music Festival, and planning a trip to either Dublin or Poland for mid October. November will be even more busy with an added class and GIS lab once a week and a trip to Prague in early December. I did the math and my commute to and from Science Park is a total of 10 miles. That will be at least 40 miles a week next block to school alone. That doesn’t include daily biking around the city for groceries/my culture class/anything else. After biking this much, how could I ever drive a car again?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my Food Production course, particularly our guest speaker series where we talk and debate with GMO professionals. Now my opinion on genetically modified food is all jumbled and I don’t know where I stand; I thought the Netherlands would have been against this. Oh well, you find out something new every day here.  I will have the rest of this semester to learn more about these food issues and of course that’s why I chose this program. My Dutch course is also winding down, and I have enjoyed it so much. I’ve gotten to the point where I ask my Dutch teacher random cultural questions that usually spin the class off onto a tangent, but what can you do when you’re a curious little exchange student. We talked about biking last week and googled all the different types of wagons people attach to their bikes. We also talked about bike theft and my teacher left us with the great wisdom that “if you’re a junkie, you’ll do anything” when we discussed bikes stolen from infront of police stations. I’ll be sad when it’s over, but I’ll continue learning on my own of course.

Since I do have a more boring life now (only more boring than what I originated with, not more boring, but calmer) I decided to dedicate this post to silly little dutch things that I’ve been seeing lately. Kind of like a “day in the life” segment.

1) I mentioned biking earlier, actually twice, so it is obviously no joke here. We usually lock up to four bikes together if we’re all leaving somewhere at the same time. No one wants to deal with a pile of bikes. Taking your bike on a train or the ferry is usual, and there are definitely less people without bikes than with bikes on ferry rides. I saw the kids in the last picture today at the Westerpark Sunday Market, notice the tiny ones that don’t have training wheels. They get done with training wheels by age 3. These kids are incredible. In fact, as I am writing this, Natalie just sent me a picture of the Dutch model Doutzen Kroes walking around New York with her two and a half year old son on one of the “walking bikes” little kids use! The Dutch are spreading!

The "chain gang," or us creating the obnoxious bike pile in Rembrandtplein

The “chain gang,” or us creating the obnoxious bike pile in Rembrandtplein

Bikes on the ferry!

Bikes on the ferry!

Kids on bikes outside of a bar in a park... typical!

Kids on bikes outside of a bar in a park… typical!

2) Hedgehogs are a real thing here, and walk around. I have yet to see a real one, but I ate one made out of chocolate and saw hedgehog food for sale, so I know they are a thing. I WILL see a hedgehog before I leave, and I WILL try to catch it. I don’t think they are very fast. I will be doing more research on wild hedgehogs (Anna) and see what I find out.

Me and my hedgehog.

Me and my hedgehog.

I found this video while in Amsterdam when Miley Cyrus’ new video came out. Also some hedgehog symbolism. What does it all mean!

3) I thought I had a love of boots before, but the love has grown. And not even for just leather boots, but booties and baby boots and rain boots too. I thought I would put up a little tribute to my cycling boots that are perfect for the rain. They are my best friends, and the laces even match my rain coat. The felt boots were at the Sunday Market as well. How cute! I wish I knew someone with a baby that I can buy them for. Well actually… I just realized I do… get ready, Sahar!

The best rainboot investment to date, hope they last!

The best rainboot investment to date, hope they last!

How cute!

How cute!

We love our city, and ice cream, and the weird things that includes. Here are the last of my random pictures from today.

Yeah we like our ice cream by canals.

Yeah we like our ice cream by canals.

IMG_3938

Lunch today, yummy street market food!

Lunch today, yummy street market food!

And for the final surprise… a flea market find from two weeks ago! Anyone that knows me knows my obsession with the Sims, can you believe I found it in Dutch!

The Sims in Dutch... at a flea market...

The Sims in Dutch… at a flea market…

That’s all for now. I hope for a week of good weather and good adventures! Tot ziens!

So Darn Lekker

My free week completely flew past me, but definitely not without some good adventures and memories added to my Amsterdam story. It’s just about time to start classes and I had two introduction meetings this week, one for the Faculty of Science and another for the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies. Both programs are in Science Park, a portion of Uva that is east of the city, and about a 40 minute bike from my apartment. Am I super thrilled about that? Not exactly. What I am thrilled about is that my Dutch language course is twice a week from 7-9pm, and my science courses are Tuesday and Wednesday from either 7-9pm or 5-7pm. No morning classes! Coming home at 9 really isn’t a big deal, and I’ll be finished with these classes before the evenings get too dark and miserable. Also, I have to understand that this amazing science facility wouldn’t be possible in the middle of the city, so in order to have the resources, I have to travel a bit. After my science meeting I went into the city and did some shopping at Kalverstraat, the biggest shopping area in the city center. I needed to buy some cute little sneakers because good biking shoes are a necessity. One can only wear motorcycle boots during warm days so often.

The courtyard of my science building, so beautiful!

The courtyard of my science building, so beautiful!

I have yet to decide what I will do during the day when I don’t have class. I applied for the Global Exchange Ambassadors Program (fingers crossed, 15 international students get the jobs) that will allow me much more interaction with different parts of the University. I know teaching young kids English, or at least doing jobs where school children could come and hear me speak English is a big thing here, so I’ll either look for that or environmental internships. The first 8 weeks will take some time as I will get adjusted to classes and the workload. The follow eight weeks, however, I might add on another course to gain enough credits to skip block 3. That would allow me more time in Dallas before I return after Christmas, and I could spent a little time travelling. Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday night, a few of Nat’s friends from Manchester arrived and we decided to show them some of the city. We went down to Rembrandtplein, one of the most popular squares for clubs and bars. The Three Sisters Pub has kind of become our place in Rembrandtplein (been there twice in the past 4 days); the bar has a nice location in the square, a cozy inside, and isn’t as overwhelming as some bars can be. I love the social life that is simply getting a drink or two and talking for hours. We were on a mission to find me some cider, what those crazy kids drink in England, and we found some at an Irish bar also in Rembrandtplein called St. James Gate (shout out to Jim!).

I had to work on an assignment for an online Pitzer course on Wednesday, but we revisited Coco’s that night for their weekly international deals. I had to go to the almighty Albert Hein on Wednesday afternoon, only to find that a fire was burning in the parking garage under it! The entire street smelled horrible, and I also couldn’t get to the store. I went to the other market down the street that is much smaller and mainly sells produce. At least three people were in there just to buy quarters of watermelon… not quite sure what that was about. Coco’s is a great place to see our ISN friends and even our coaches were there (kind of weird because they are about thirty, but that’s ok I guess?).

Me, Kaitlyn, and Divya at Coco's

Me, Kaitlyn, and Divya at Coco’s

The next day I returned to Science Park for another introduction for IIS and learned more about the building. I finally met my mentor-ish girl that helps me register for classes and such, which was a relief. After returning home (another long bike ride, where this time a car only honked at me once!) I went with Nat to get her bike fixed at the little shop down our street. The weather was absolutely perfect yesterday so we stopped for a beer at one of the neighborhood bars, Mensjelief  Cafe (which means “Sweet Person”) and tried some beer brewed about 10 minutes from our apartments. The brand is De Prael, a really ethical company and we plan on taking a tour of the brewery soon. Each beer is named after a Dutch folk singer and has a quote. Nat and I took the bottles, collected flowers from outside of our apartments, and made centerpieces for our kitchen tables. So lekker. Note: “Lekker” is a Dutch word for anything good, tasty, cool, anything positive really. We overuse it.

De Prael beers

De Prael beers

This dude... infront of a neighborhood snack shop

This dude… infront of a neighborhood snack shop

Thursday night was our neighborhood welcome-international-students BBQ, and let me say that Dutch BBQ doesn’t compare at all to what we have in Texas. It was still good to actually see the people that are living around us, meet some new faces, and check in with those we saw briefly on the first day moving in and haven’t seen since. The dinner was overlooking the pier, which is really incredible. I get more amazed with this city every day, even days when I barely get out of my room (that’s only been one so far, but I’m sure when it snows there will be more).

The backyard!

The backyard!

So here I am, living the Dutch life. Tomorrow is a beach day, and then who knows what’ll come. I just got back from more welcome meetings for Global Exchange students and then had dinner (my first dinner out actually, and only for about 5,50 euro) with my girls. Despite the incredibly creepy Italian waiter that kept telling me that he’d “seen me before,” we had a great time eating and drinking in our beloved Rembrandtplein.