It was about mid-January, and 2012 was still new. I was sitting outside with my friend in the hot tub that sits in the middle of the garden in Spa Zuiver. We were sunk up to our necks in warm bubbling water, but the outside air was brisk and there were only starts and a bright three-quarter moon above us in the sky.
I’m not sure what we were discussing as we soaked there, staring up at that amazing sky, but eventually the topic rolled around to surfing, and my friend mentioned that she knew of a place in Morocco with a “learn to surf” package aimed at girls (ahem…women), where in addition to surfing you also did yoga every morning, went shopping at the markets, and hung out with other girls.
And so the idea was born.
“We should totally do that.”
“Totally!” (Because we are 31 going on 13.)
“How about for our birthdays? We both turn 32 in September. It’s the perfect reason to try something new.”
Nine months later, and it is finally our birthday month, and so on Friday we’re popping on a plane to Morocco and learning how to surf!
I am a big birthday kind of girl. Birthdays are the perfect time to begin all over, rethink your life’s strategy, contemplate where you are going and what you want to do with your life. I treat every birthday as my own personal New Year’s, complete with resolutions for the year ahead, so the fact that I will be stepping into a new country (never been to Morocco), on a new continent (never been to Africa before!), and trying something new (never been surfing!) for my birthday just tickles me.
This will be an amazing way to start the 32nd year off right, and who says you can’t start surfing when you’re 32?
I think this sums it up.
The place where we are going is the dfrost surf house in Taghazout. To prepare I have spent my summer running, doing hot yoga, working out at the gym, and swimming at the Marnixbad. I did standup paddling and slacklining to work on my balance. I revised some French lessons. I bought three new bikinis. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
This is what the week ahead has in store for us:
I know, right?
After a week there we will then explore Morocco a bit more, so if you have tips on where to go and what to see, please let me know! We will spend 3 days in Marrakech, but there are still a few more days free that we haven’t planned yet. But not knowing is half of the excitement.
So wish me a happy birthday, and a happy travel, and I will blog again when I get back!
Not many of my friends here in Amsterdam read my blog.
I know this, because they tell me so.
“I don’t read your blog,” they might say.
Or if they are being less direct, they say, “I haven’t ever read your blog…yet.” And I know to take that with a silent, “…and I probably never will.”
This is ok in my books, for two reasons.
Number One Reason is that I don’t necessarily blog for my friends, they are not my target audience. I blog for a faceless mass that I don’t know and maybe will never meet, and this makes blogging easier. In this way, I can be more free with what I want to say.
Imagine trying to spill out your deepest thoughts (or ok…sometimes just a pretty vapid thought) and having the knowledge that all of your friends and family will read it.
I mean, that’s pretty much what facebook is for, right?
And if I ever do have a blog post that I want to share with friends and family specifically, I will post it on facebook and let people choose to read or not, no biggie if they don’t.
And if they ever do click on the link and then tell me, “Hey, I read your blog post on such-and-such-a-nonsense,” well then I am flattered. Because I know they are in the minority, and I’m happy they took the time out to read and I’m hoping they brushed away some of the cobwebs around here on their way out.
Number Two Reason that it’s ok that my friends don’t read my blog is because, just as online, in real life I am a blabber.
This is new to me. I would class myself as a Born Again Shy Person. For years and years I was shy, and for more years and years I told people, “I’m a shy person,” until one day someone replied with, “No, you’re not.”
“I am,” I insisted, “I’m shy.” But then another person said it, and then another person.
“No, I wouldn’t call you shy at all. You’re very much not shy,” they said.
And that’s when I realized that I wasn’t shy anymore. It just took someone else to point it out for me. Now I am trying out this new “I’m-not-a-shy-person” thing, trying to get rid of the label of myself that I carried for so long.
So, like a baby learning how to walk, I’m stretching those talky-talky muscles at every opportunity.
“Blah blah blah,” I say to my friends. “Blah blah blah blabber blabber,” not stopping to take a breath or ask, “And how was your day?”
(Those friends that told me that I wasn’t shy have created a monster.)
And so the less my friends read my blog, well the more I will have to tell them in person. Lucky them!
I am also of the opinion that the most loathsome question one can ask is, “Did you see what I wrote on my blog?” It’s right up there with the even more irksome, “Did you see what I posted on my facebook?” And so I try not to ever ask either, and automatically assume the answer would be a negative on both counts.
So who, you might ask, actually reads this blog?
Well. I happen to know from behind-the-scenes that the number one commenter on my blog goes by the name of “YoMama”, so put your sleuth hat on and figure that one out. I always know when “YoMama” is checking up on me, because after weeks and weeks of silence, in one hour I will get a comment on every post that I have written in the past month.
“Oop,” I’ll say, as I watch the messages roll in (One comment- ping! Two comments- ping! Three, Four comments- ping-ping!) “Mom’s checking up on me.”
I’ve asked her in the past to comment less on my blog. It sounds rude, but it has to do with that censorship thing again. “Look, read it as much as you like,” I whined to her on Skype chat, “But the less I know that you are reading, the better I will write.”
She relented. “Okay,” she sighed, “You big meanie.” Then she gave me shifty eyes.
Sure enough, a month later: Ping! Ping! Ping-Ping!
It is all to no avail. You can just as easily ask the sun to call it a day early as you can ask a mother to change her motherly ways.
And the funny part…and for god’s sake don’t tell her this…but the funny part is that it’s nice to know, when those comments do come rolling in, that someone’s actually out there paying attention.
When I was little, I always thought it would be a good idea to have a restaurant in a house, with tables set up in every room: the kitchen, the living room, the bedrooms, even the bathroom (cleaned and appropriately designed of course, but still a bathroom). I even thought there should be tables in the attic and basement, and that the whole experience would be crazy and kooky for the guests.
Fastforward twenty years, and I now know that no one in their right mind would ever agree to go out for a meal and then be forced to sit in a bathroom to eat it, or a table set up next to a bed in a bedroom, much less a dusty attic or the remains of a moldy dank basement.
But you don’t know these things when you are little, and deep down some part of me still sorta kinda (ok really) thinks that it is a brilliant idea.
On the plane home from Edinburgh two weekends ago, I was looking at my friend’s Grazia UK magazine to pass the time when I came across an article about a restaurant in someone’s house. This someone (Marit) had worked as a designer for Tommy Hilfiger but then left the fashion world to open a vegetarian restaurant in her own home.
I only skimmed the article, but read that Marit herself was a vegetarian and had been less than impressed with the vegetarian options in restaurants. Thinking she could do it better, she found a new home with appropriate dining space for several tables and chairs, and opened her restaurant.
It all rang so true for me- veg food in restaurants is pretty dire, and the concept of a restaurant in a house got my 12 year old self in a tizzy- so my interest was immediately piqued. Everything about the article- photos, the names of the journalist, Marit’s name- felt so oddly Dutch, but I couldn’t see where this restaurant was supposed to be, and surely a UK gossip magazine wouldn’t have a Dutch restaurant in a feature article?
“Where is this magical place?” I said outloud.
My friend looked over my shoulder and pointed to the very first line of the article. “It says RIGHT HERE that it is in Amsterdam,” he said.
Oef. What good are Dutch friends if not to point out your shortcomings, right? (This friend is particularly good at that.)
I wrote down the name of the restaurant, and made a reservation as soon as I was back home in Amsterdam.
Last night rolled around, and it was the night that I had booked a table at Marit’s. Even my 4-day Wallowing in Infinite Sadness wasn’t enough to stop me from getting out of bed, throwing on some gladrags, and heading on my bike across town towards the East.
The concept of Marit’s is quite beautiful in its simplicity: delicious but beautifully designed (and mostly locally sourced) vegetarian food in a 3-course menu. You have a choice from a selection of starters and desserts, but the main course is set. Friendly service comes in an intimate atmosphere (it is her house after all), with a friendly, fluffy poodle named Tilly to greet you and entertain you between courses. And all of this comes delivered in a beautiful living room decorated with antique furniture and mid-century charm.
Perhaps inspired by Marit’s own story, the talk around our table curled mostly around what we would do if we could leave our jobs tomorrow and follow our dreams. Such inspiring and uplifting talk (mixed with the shared bottle of white wine) was enough to dispell the sorrow that has been hanging on my shoulders of late. (And that was even before the excellent food arrived: more photos below.)
I can’t fault Marit’s for anything, I honestly couldn’t even if I tried. The entire restaurant/home breathes an air of contentment with life, of offering to others what Marit herself has discovered on her own, and that is: a taste of following your dreams and making them real. The inspiration to follow your heart was so tangible, that we left feeling as if we had been served a secret fourth course somewhere between the main and the dessert: a course that satisfied not our bellies but our souls.
Before this gets any more poetic and cheesey, and I end up writing a love sonnet to Marit herself (what word rhymes with ‘Marit’?), I’m going to wrap it up: Amsterdam has a wonderful new addition to the vegetarian scene, so please go check it out and let me know what you think! And in case you were wondering, no there were no tables in the bathroom.
In our walk around Vondelpark yesterday, I picked up a stick and threw it for Mylo. I don’t know why I bothered, he never plays along with me, and it’s usually me throwing a stick around a park and going to pick it up again myself.
But this time he did! He ran after the stick, actually picked it up, and brought it back. You know, like a dog!
With all the whooping and hollering I was doing (“GOOD BOY! YOU’RE A GOOOOD BOOOOOY!”), you would have thought he was bringing me back the Nobel Peace Prize that he had just won for physics.
But no, it was only a stick.
I made to throw it again, and he yipped and yipped as if he wanted that: ”Yes! Throw it again! I will get it again! YOUR MIND WILL BE BOGGLED AGAIN!”
And so I threw it again, and he chased after it again.
When he got to it, he sniffed it, and then lifted his leg and pissed on it, thus effectively ending our little game of fetch.
This week started in something of a rut. I’ve been bluer than blue, and this blog is not the place to get into the finer details of why. But to sum it up, I was blue about everything. EVERYTHING.
Yeah, sort that out if you can.
Every day I spent every spare moment in bed, alternating between sleeping and quietly crying.
Mylo stayed by me constantly, he never once left my side, whether I was sleeping or sobbing or watching episodes of Cougartown to get my mind off of things. See, he’s even here now as I write this.
Here now, here always.
In fact he was the only element of my life that I wasn’t crying over, the only thing that made me happy, and the only thing that made me laugh this week so far.
I’ve written before how accurate he is when he senses that I need him, and this week really proves that for me. But he seems to need me as much as I need him. This worries me, because as I have written before, he no longer has his pack. I am his pack, and I’m not so sure I’m up to the job. How do I know what a dog really needs? He is always watching me and waiting for me to do something, but what exactly? I’m not sure.
The best I can do is give him back all of the attention that I am getting, and in the only way I know how. So there are walks in the park, failed attempts at playing fetch, whole TV series that we watch together, and in just a little while I’m taking him on my Bagels & Coffee date.
We’ll figure it out. Somehow we will find the balance between people needs and dog needs, and meet somewhere in the middle.
On days like this I have to really thank myself for landing in Amsterdam those handful of years ago (nearly 7 if anyone is counting) and having the perseverance to stay here through all of the good times and all of those many bad times.
In the short time that they have been open, G&T’s is receiving a lot of attention and acclaim, even making it into the very first edition of VOGUE Nederland, which premiered this month.
Not bad, not bad at all.
And yet G(eorge) and T(anya) remain down-to-earth and personable, and always completely welcoming. And they have since expanded into movie nights, socials, and events.
G&T's...wait is that gin? Hendrick's gin?!?!?!
Normally blindsided by their really nice Bloody Mary’s, today I noticed (with shock and a bit of a squeal) that they also serve a Hendrick’s gin and tonic with cucumber (and thyme). Well slap me silly and call me Sally, but wasn’t I just talking about this? How did I ever miss this before?
Appropriate quote for this occasion:
“I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast.” -W.C. Fields
And so that’s exactly what I had, a gin before my breakfast.
Brunch of Champions
After brunch we just wandered, keeping eyes and ears open, and I happily reminded myself that this is Amsterdam, and I live here.
CD's & Tulips. But of course.
Cat on the ledge of a creepy shop window selling old sunglasses
The Wild Mushroom Stall at the market
The color! A rainbow of veggies.
For a post-brunch dessert I stopped at Diana Store‘s raw food stall in the Noordermarket for a piece of raw chocolate cake- so rich and tasty you wouldn’t believe it was vegan, raw or good for you!
Raw chocolate cake
On a side note, I have taken Diana’s raw food workshop awhile back, where we learned the concept and how-to’s of a raw food diet and saw a few live recipe demos, including a raw lasagna, which is also sold at her stall on the Saturday biological Noordermarkt. If you have any questions or curiosities about the raw food lifestyle, you should definitely stop by this stall on Saturdays for a peek.
Fresh roses for the mantle
Tea & Books
Then we headed towards home, stopping to peruse a few book stores and buy a few flowers for the mantle.
And now here I sit, and curled up on the couch with the dog, a tea and my new book, ‘A Short History of Amsterdam‘. I figured, as in love as I am with this city, I should probably learn more about its history. So that’s what the rest of this afternoon will be dedicated to doing.
If life were always spent like a Saturday afternoon, then wouldn’t the world be a happier place?
Sitting on the train on my way to the airport in Amsterdam to meet my friends before our weekend in Edinburgh a few days ago, my head started spinning with so many thoughts. I grabbed the notebook that I always carry with me, but only ever use when I am travelling. Inside is filled with random pieces of thoughts that I want to develop into ideas which will eventually/hopefully/probably-never turn into projects (“Rome story idea”, “epic TV drama”, “improv comedy course?”). Also interspersed throughout are quasi- and somewhat vague motivational phrases: “Time to Live the Life!” (ed note: what life?), “I have finally begun to SEE again!” (ed note: see what?).
This time, however, overcome with too many ideas and too little train journey time, I only flipped through the pages and marveled at all of these ideas that I am not developing. I wonder how great it would be if your main purpose in life is to focus on your ideas and make them happen, to undertake projects with the only outcome being the satisfaction of seeing your idea completed in full. My ideas are almost never completed in full. Who has the time/money/space?
At any rate, I realized that this is always when my mind races: when I am bags-packed-and-ready, on a train or tram or plane, heading towards a destination that might be new or revisited. It is that very small and specific time- the inbetween- that is really it for me. That is when my brain relaxes between the planning for the trip and the unknown expectation of what is to come, and I have no dog to cuddle, no dinner to prepare, no hotel work to think about, no husband to attend to (for lack of a better word that doesn’t sound as negative as “nag”). In that small window of relaxation, my brain clicks on and it is rapid-fire. This is the only time I really ever use that notebook.
On the subject of Edinburgh itself, there is not much to say: good food, good friends, beautiful city. I spent most of the time as I do in any foreign city, which is thinking “What would it be like to live here?” I also discovered the awe-inspiring new twist on the gin & tonic, which is to use Hendrick’s gin (which is apparently infused with cucumbers) and served not with a slice of lemon but with slices of cucumber.
I kid you not when I say this blew my mind. And I thought the Spaniards had a good gin thing going!
Hendricks Gin & Tonic with cucumber: Life will never be the same again.
At this very moment I am back in Amsterdam and sitting in a bar writing this blog post (not surprisingly also sipping on a gin and tonic, sans concombre). All of the above made me think of a quote, but I couldn’t quite get the wording right. Was it “Half of the adventure is in the journey”? Or “The journey is half of the fun”? Something like that, you know the saying, and you get what I mean. But I went online to find it, and instead immediately found this one which felt more appropriate:
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson
This better describes what I meant by all of the above, and does it concisely and more accurately, which I suppose is the mark of a great writer such as Robert Louis Stevenson.
And Stevenson, to bring this blog post neatly and coincidentally full circle, was born and raised in Edinburgh, and I passed his childhood home with my friends while in Edinburgh’s New Town last weekend.
Last night around 1:30 am, I was plagued by thoughts of Lola, and how much I miss her (more than I have ever experienced before), and the hole that is in my life these past 10 months that she’s been gone (a big hole, a huge hole). This happens often when I have a spare second of thought, and most often when I am laying in bed trying to fall asleep. (That would have been when I would have been drowning in the sounds of her snoring.)
(It’s so quiet now.)
Knowing that I would be facing another sleepless night if I didn’t do something, I call in the reserves: I drag a peacefully sleeping Mylo up from the foot of the bed to my pillow, and I cry quietly into his furry neck. At any other time if I drag him to me he bears it for a moment and then squiggles away, but these times I think he senses the sadness (I feel him turn his head and peer at my face) and he lets me cry it out without fuss.
Within minutes I am calm again, and he tosses and turns for a moment before going back down to the foot of the bed, away from all sad insomniacs who wet his fur with tears. We both fall asleep.
In my dream we are all by a lake, and Lola is in the water swimming. Only the deepest water that she was ever in was the bathtub (which she loved) and she isn’t quite strong enough for full-on swimming, so she dips under, fights her way back to the surface, dips under again. I am watching her from the shore close by, watching for the moment where she won’t make her way to the surface, won’t be strong enough to come up again, watching for when I will have to jump in and save her. But she swims.
When I wake up, it reminds me that I never brought her swimming like I wanted to. I always thought she would love that, attracted as she was to the water.
Her Happy Spot
Then still later in the park I run into my neighbor who also has a Cavalier King Charles, called Lady. We bonded over our cavaliers before on walks in the park, laughing over their breed-specific traits while the two cavaliers would sniff eachother in greeting and then ignore eachother completely (another cavalier specific trait- they don’t care for other dogs, can’t be bothered with them, much prefer the company of humans).
Now, however, catching up with her and Lady is always painful. I see Lola in Lady, in how she looks and acts. I lean down to give Lady a little cuddle (her fur is so soft, Lola’s used to be that soft, etc) and of course my eyes mist up.
I see, or at least I think I see, a spark of recognition in Mylo’s ears and stance as he sees Lady and runs towards her. Does he miss Lola too? Miss her like I miss her? I worry that he is lonely with no other dog in the house, that he is left wanting now that half of his pack is gone.
He sniffs at Lady and I guess that tells him all he needs to know: No, not Lola.
This quote from Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’:
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
This quote from Nicole Krauss’ ‘A History of Love’:
“I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I’m out, I’ll buy a juice even when I’m not thirsty. If the store is crowded I’ll even go so far as dropping change all over the floor, nickels and dimes skidding in every direction. All I want is not to die on a day I went unseen.”
A- AmandaBlog&Kiss: This year I bought the domain for my blog and gave it a spiffy new makeover. And then shortly thereafter completely fell out of tune with blogging. My timing is always impeccable at best! But as the year draws to a close I find myself drawn back to blogging more and more, so here I am again! ….and now the domain registration expires in less than 20 days. Did I mention my timing is brilliant? Because it is. (Note to self: Let’s remember to update that, hey?)
B- Barcelona: A wonderful trip to Barcelona with friends this summer. What a great city! Even more great when you throw away all intentions of doing anything touristy, and just relax and spend some quality time with friends. That’s what life is all about, right?
Barcelona Alley at Night
C- Camera: Probably one of the nicest birthday gifts I have ever received: my new Canon camera. Dave knew that I regretted ever giving up photography, so for my birthday he surprised me with a new camera. I totally wasn’t expecting it. I’m having a lot of fun with it. Am I good at it? Nah. But it’s a learning process, and I’m okay with that.
D- Driver’s License: I finally put one foot in front of the other and went down and took the exam for my Dutch driver’s license. I passed! …And since then I haven’t gotten into a car at all, except for maybe a taxi here and there. But damnit I have that little piece of plastic, and that’s good enough for me. And if anything, it’s made me a completely better cyclist. True story.
E- Events: I organize the events now for the hotel. It was an unexpected but welcome turn of events (no pun intended) and I’m loving it!
F- Family: Family in Ireland, Family in Scotland, and Family that visited Amsterdam. A lot of family time this year. It was lovely, and something that cannot be underestimated when you are an expat who lives far from home.
Family Time in Amsterdam
G- Games: Mediamatic gave me a huge present this year wrapped in the shape of an exhibition on nostalgic arcade games and a three day conference on mobile gaming. I went several times, and several times more, to play games that I used to love before video games became crap, such as Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt (video here). Yes, this was a highlight of my year, you’d better believe it.
H- Hotel: I bore everyone to tears saying how much I love my job and the hotel where I work. So I’ll skip this and just say: Best. Job. Ever. (Damn I did it again didn’t I? Sorry!)
I- Ireland: We made a last-minute trip to Ireland this year for family purposes, and while the aim of the trip wasn’t that great, hanging out with everyone was, as always.
J- John/The Colours of Amsterdam: The joint production with John of our new blog blew back some creativity in my life where it was sorely lacking, and from that spark many others followed. Now if only John would contribute some more! (HINT HINT JOHN.)
The Colours of Amsterdam
K-København: I got you this time, K, you tricky bastard. A wonderful trip to Copenhagen with 2 friends to visit a friend that was studying there for the semester! This was my first foray into Scandinavia, and it’s true what they say! It’s a very clean place.
Three Girls on a Boat in Copenhagen
L- Lola: My lowest low of 2011, maybe of my entire life. She’s almost always been the L when I do these posts. I still miss her daily, and cry for her often. I can’t get a respite from the guilt that came with her death, or the big hollow hole inside of me since she’s been gone.
Lola sleeping whereever the hell she wanted to. One of the many things I loved about her, and what I miss today.
I have to double up on M here, because I have two important ones:
M- Mylo: I have spent the last half of this year with just one dog, and seeing how Mylo’s personality has changed as a result of going from a 2-dog to 1-dog household has been fascinating. And he’s been an important part of the support that I needed after Lola died. I guess having no other dog around to compete for my attention has given him one hundred percent access to me, and sometimes I feel that this has overwhelmed him. I can’t help it, I just have a lot of cuddles to give, and now one dog less to receive them.
Mylo, will you be my new best friend?
M- Milan: Twice. Once with Angela where we yapped for 36 hours straight and never once got tired, and once to meet up with my cousin from New Jersey. Both times were great, and I cried when I had to leave my cousin. It was really special being with family in Italy, that’s all I’ll say. …And I might have been a bit drunk. And holy shit do you know about aperitivo? This Milanese tradition should be spread worldwide!
Angela overlooking the Duomo as the sun set
I told my cousin to meet me on top of the Duomo. A happy and very high reunion!
N- Nederlands: I’m not sure if I’m learning the language, or just fooling myself, but twice a week I sit through a three hour class, so surely some of it must be seeping into my brain by osmosis, right? My exam is in January, guess I’ll see then.
O- Overtoom: Still kicking it on the Mighty Mighty Overtoom, 6 years running. Best street in the Dam.
Q- Queen’s Day: The best Queen’s Day I’ve had in Amsterdam, mostly because I wasn’t trying to fight through crowds of drunks. Instead we sat at the bottom of our stairs and had friends drop by to drink. What stuff we didn’t sell in the rummage sale was taken away by the crowds after we left it there, and I am judging this Queen’s Day as the best by how a pair of my bikini bottoms are still wrapped around a bike’s handlebars in front of my house, nine months later. How my bikini bottoms made it outside and around the handlebars is anyone’s guess, I really don’t know. But it makes me laugh every morning to see they are still hanging there, waving like a flag.
R- Rome: This year we went to Rome and soaked in some heavy sun (blimey that’s a hot sun down south) and some ancient culture. We also met up with our old flatmate Veronica, where we continued our tradition of jumping in front of some of the world’s best landmarks.
Coffee in Rome, because that's just what you do.
Jumping in Rome with Lake
S- Scotland: Met up with my parents in Edinburgh for a 5-day break. It was nice to get back to Scotland, and even nicer to spend time with the old folks. A lot of drinking was done. A lot.
T- The Stone: I have an old friend to thank for getting me writing again, at least writing fiction, and I look forward to more editions of The Stone literary magazine.
U- Uncategorizable: My 11/11/11 Party, aptly titled “The Return of the Hat”. Everyone played along nicely with the theme.
11/11/11 AND hats! What better excuse to throw a party?
V- Valtifest: The festival that marks the end of the summer festivals, and for me it also marked one of the few times this year that I overdid it so badly that I was in tears the next day. There’s just something about a party with a dress-up theme! Gets me every time. (See 11/11/11 Hat Party, above). This year’s Valtifest theme was “All in the Family”.
We dressed, we went, we partied.
W- Writing: I fell out of love a little with blogging this year, and immersed myself more into writing offline. It’s an emotional process, which surprised me to find out. You have to put yourself into the characters and feel what they are feeling in order to write about them, which doesn’t always translate into good writing, but is interesting to experience nonetheless.
X- Xpat’s Life for Me: As an expat, you simply learn to live with the fact that your other expat friends won’t always be there with you, that in most cases, one day they will move on and the tide that brought them to you will just as easily take them away.
Y- Yankee: More and more as each year passes, I feel a little less American, a little more country-less. Although based in the Netherlands for the foreseeable future, I don’t feel very Dutch. So where does this leave me?
Z- Zombie Geisha: This year’s Halloween costume had to fit into the Zombie Walk that I was going to, but I didn’t just want to be any old zombie. So I stepped it up a notch and went as a geisha zombie. I wore a kimono, carried a parasol, and had brain sushi on a plate. It was definitely in my top three Halloween costumes to date. Except when I had to take the makeup off and took half of my face skin with it. OUCH!
Mmmmmm brain sushi!
Sooo, that’s a wrap! See you all in the new year! Roll on 2012…
I just woke from a dream where I gave Lola, my dog, to a friend to bring her to her new owners. The friend left, and Lola walked out behind her, not looking back.
After a few minutes, the panic started to rise in my throat. I turned to Dave. “But….can I….will they ever let me come and see her? As often as I want?” I asked.
He tried to explain that it might be hard to see her again, and the sad look on his face brought the panic in my throat rushing upwards. I started to choke and sob as the realization sunk in. What had I just done? Had I given her away for good?
And that’s how I woke up, choking on tears.
I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep again tonight.
Since losing Lola in early June, I’ve been having a pretty hard time. It’s not easy spending months on the verge of tears, waking at night from nightmares or not being able to sleep at all from thinking of her (and her death). Even now, going on 5 a.m. and 5 months after the fact, I am sitting here trying to see my typing through the tears. I’ve tried several times to blog about her, I’ve tried to give her the eloquent eulogy that she deserves, but in this one crucial time, the proper words have failed me.
How can I possibly summarize in one blog post what she meant to me? The words end up clunky on the screen, inadequate and dull for a dog who was so full of love and sweetness and who made me smile every day for the seven years that we shared this life. (Every day.)
We started a list of all of the small and funny ways that she made us laugh and what we will miss about her. The list goes on and on.
There is so much that I miss.
There is a lot of advice out there about getting a dog, raising a dog, living with a dog, training a dog. But what they never tell you about bringing a dog into your life, is that one day you will have to say goodbye. How are you meant to deal with that?
I am working through a lot of sadness, emptiness, and guilt. Her death, too soon and too sudden, was harsh and unfair for a dog who was so mild-natured and delicate. I didn’t have a proper chance to say goodbye, it was over before I realized that it had even started. How am I meant to deal with that?
I wish that I had the energy to write more about her and what she meant to me, but for now I have to make do with the fact that she was no stranger to this blog. I hope she knew how much I loved her, and that I continue to take her with me everywhere I go.
And then just like that, life picks you up and steals away with you at a running pace.
Where to even begin?
This month I have been either a) lucky enough, or b) stoopid enough to book myself in for three different trips abroad. Ireland and Milan have come and gone, and in two days I leave for Edinburgh to spend some quality time with my parents who are there for a few weeks.
This fills me with much anticipation and joy.
I know I’m not the only one afflicted with a wicked case of Insectis Travellitis, but this year it seems to have hit me pretty hard. I wrote up a list of places I want to hit this year and it was a staggering 19 places! That is 19 different trips in 12 little months. The dogsitting costs alone would kill me.
Suffice to say, two trips are down, one looms on this week’s horizon, and several have been cancelled due to various reasons (for instance…it’s maybe not the best time to drop in and say hi to Egypt. “What up EGYPT! Holla atcha girl!“).
But still, there are about eight more destinations in which I definitely and seriously intend to plant my feet this year, mostly weekend trips around Europe. We’ll see what my boss says about that.
Oh, and my bank account!
Moving on the the point of this blog post: my trip to Milan.
Angela and I spent a quick weekend away there and I have to say, Milan pretty much made me love it. I tried not to, I really did. But a scant few hours after uttering the haughty line, “You know, Milan isn’t really a city you fall in love with, is it?” I found myself on a rooftop terrace, tipsy on lunch-time wine and watching the sun set over the incredibly impressive Duomo, thinking “Well damn.”
Rooftop Sunset Lunch next to Duomo (photo by Angela's Hipstomatic)
I guess I done up and fell in love with Milan.
For a play-by-play account of what we got up to (and what you should see if you’re going) go read Angela’s post on her blog. Her photos are stunning and she has graciously let me borrow a few for this post. How’s that for a true friend?
A vegan and a celiac go to Milan. SO WHO EATS THE COOKIES?!?! (photo by Angela)
I'm a leetle tea-pot! (Photo by Angela)
"Nothing comes between me and my gelato. NOTHING!" She really said that, and then growled at me.
Ain't gonna lie. We did a lot of this the first night...
...until we got a bit blurry....
On top of Duomo (a serious climb) (photo by Angela. Oh hell, just assume she took all of these.)
Not what I ordered. Not it at all. How do you say "Take this foul thing away" in Italian?
Stretch me as much as you like, I'll never be as tall as this 700 year old piece of amazingness.
Bee-yoo-tee-ful architecture. No one does it like the Eye-talians.
Angela was too decent to do this in front of the castle, but I ain't too proud to jump.
Speaks for itself. If it doesn't Angela won't mind speaking for it....for real, that girl can talk for 36 hours STRAIGHT! I was counting!
Fun Girly Weekend Away! Highly Recommended as a Girly Trip Destination by the 2 of us.
So, I think that’s enough photos of me to whet your whistle. You can thank Ange for those, she sufficiently fed into my narcissism due to lack of any other person to take a photo of. Thanks Ange! That’s what you get when you travel, party of two (and only one of whom has a good camera)!
I had a blast and it both inspired me and left me wanting more travel, more trips, more great time with friends.
And one last thing, because you knew it had to happen:
So last month a little anniversary passed by, and it was only on my walk home from work at 5:30 in the evening that I remembered that that particular day (25th of August) was the day that I moved to Amsterdam 5 years before.
I’m sure I had a lot to say about that only-to-me-momentous occasion, but if I did it is now forgotten. It probably went something along the lines of “Oh my it’s been 5 years, times have been good, times have been bad, I’m still here, baby, wooot.” Although I hope it would have been more flowery and poetic.
Also, I think I would have added a Josh Ritter song to the post, because it was just before my move from Brussels to Amsterdam that I had been first introduced to his music, and I fell in love with the sound immediately.
On the train to Amsterdam, I listened to one album in particular for the entire 3 hour journey. I was striking out on my own, feeling vulnerable and sensitive, having just left my home, my friends, and my relationship, and it felt not unlike a bird taking flight for the first time on shakey wings (oh hey look, guess that flowery and poetic post is still in me somewhere!).
Several songs, it seemed, were made for just such a trip. For instance the aptly named “Leaving“, or the appropriately titled “Roll On“. And, of course, “Come and Find Me Now“, the lyrics of which made my heart weep wondering had I made the right decision:
Though I’m here in this far off place
My air is not this time and space
I draw you close with every breath
You don’t know it’s right until it’s wrong
You don’t know it’s yours until it’s gone
I didn’t know that it was home ’til you up and left
Anyway, since that trip just 5 years ago, I have seen Josh Ritter live in concert three times in Amsterdam, and once in Ireland. He is a fantastic performer- he and his band really give a lot back to their audience- and I fall in love all over again with his music every time I see him smiling and singing on stage. I have mentioned him on this blog plenty of times. His music stepped in at an important time in my life, and he continues to deliver with every new album.
So I guess it’s no surprise that I saw him again on Tuesday night. Which I suppose means I average one Josh Ritter concert for every year in Amsterdam. Can you see why his music is so special to me?
Because of several factors (weather, work, stress) , I really wasn’t feeling social that night, and I was just sort of coasting through the concert when one song in particular started. My friend, who is normally very reserved and doesn’t get outwardly excited about much, leaned down and whispered to me, “Have you heard this one yet?”
I hadn’t, but something about his question and the look on his face made me perk up and listen harder. If he was this excited about a song, then it must be good.
It ended up being a song so beautiful that it made me cry.
Here it is:
I was so swept away by this song, that I didn’t take in all of the lyrics. I remember being a bit confused by some of them, but it wasn’t until later when I saw the official video that it all made sense.
This amazing video is by the drummer from Josh Ritter’s band, Liam Hurley, who is apparently a puppeteer as well! I haven’t been able to stop watching the video or listening to this song since I heard it first.
If you ever have a chance, and you haven’t seen Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band yet, please please go see them live (they’ll be back in Amsterdam in April!). And then think of me, on the train to Amsterdam, striking out on my new life, or in the balcony above in Paradiso, listening to this music with tears in my eyes.