Monday, January 25, 2010

A Little About My Life in Amsterdam

I’ve lived in Amsterdam for a little over four months now. It has indeed been a great experience so far. I’ve danced until 6am many times, charged tall European boys in games of football and purchased two Dutch bikes. The first one was stolen within days, the cause of which I have yet to admit to anyone. You people won’t be the first.

The winter is much colder than I’m use to but the city covered in snow stands out as one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. Krakow, Budapest, Sophia, Washington DC has nothing on Amsterdam in the early morning snow covered dead of winter. Though my coat is not warm enough and a short cycle through the city keeps me shaking for hours.

I often wander my neighborhood crossing the most beautifully designed bridges overlooking small charming houseboats I could never dream. There are almost no stand-alone homes. Most apartment buildings reach no taller than four or five stories painted dark espresso, wheat, or cream with large brightly colored shutters often in the most shocking of reds. These are the only pops of bright color anywhere in the city, which includes women’s clothing and bags. Most shades seen around are of oatmeal, grass, grey, turnip, and dark denim. The shutters, bicycles, bridges, and curves of the canals are the most charming fixtures of this town, all of which could go unnoticed if you aren’t watchful and humble.

When I start to realize I’m taking all the sights for granted, I wander through undiscovered straats and grachts, take a deep breath and see it all for the first time once more.

I ‘celebrated’ Thanksgiving at a fellow ex-pats apartment just off Museumplein with a room full of other American’s and their significant others. We youtubed the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving and the college football game that played that Thursday the week before. Aussies and Brits asked if we really had to eat another plateful before dessert. “Yes!” was exclaimed rather loudly. But we weren’t fooled when after dessert the after-dessert candy and chocolate was passed around and both the Aussies and Brits continued to indulge, just like us Americans.

The following week I traveled to Cologne, Germany to drink Gluwein and wander the Christmas Market, Christmas MarketS I should say. We traveled to the six markets by a small train and tried out a Gluwein stand at each. The markets were overrun by the Brits, which I’ve learned travel the most during the festive season for small gifts. The gifts were small and not spectacular. Crocheted animals, goofy winter hats and homemade candles.

Not too long after Germany, I visited Brugge, Belgium with three co-workers. A tiny charming town that the residents call the true city of love in Europe. Move over Paris, this is where one really goes to fall and be in love, as the taxi driver informed us when we arrived. There was one large square and one small square, Gluwein excellent in both, but only in the large square will one find a skating rink with festive-goers skating to disco and strobe lights. We spent two days eating mussels and frites, getting glared out for being too loud (well . . . only me), and drinking great Belgium beer in cozy pubs out of city center.

Though I find myself a little lost in the choices I have before me at the moment, this time is another great adventure that I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life. I was a bit stuck in Washington and, for me, there is nothing worse than that claustrophobic restless feeling when you’ve overstayed your welcome. There is much too much in the world to explore and too many un-enjoyed adventures to feel stuck anywhere.

Next week I’m off to Paris, but will need to sneak into a not so quiet place to watch the Saint’s first Superbowl! Who dat nation marches to Miami!

One of the bigger lessons learned over the past four months is the depth of my commitment to the elimination of toxic chemicals from our bodies and planet and educating in fun, meaningful, and empowering ways. I count myself quite lucky to be one of the participants in this adventure as well. And quite lucky to have met all those talented and dedicated activists that give me advice, opportunities, and history lessons.

Thanks for continuing to read this little this thing I have going and for sharing it around, especially to those who never thought of themselves as environmental and social justice activists before.

Renee Claire

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