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!
I would say that I left my heart in Belfast, but in truth I left my heart somewhere on the coastal road hours away in the north of County Antrim, somewhere where green fields filled with cliffs and frolicking baby lambs stretched away to the south and the Irish Sea laid flat and blue as far north as your eyes could see.
Right about here.
Where my heart is waiting
I’ve wanted to go to Northern Ireland for a long time now, but I guess I didn’t expect what I found there- the people, the beauty, the history, the friendliness. I didn’t expect to fall so completely for it.
I know I’ll be back one day soon, I don’t doubt that for a moment.
The only question is how soon? When, and how soon?
It’s no secret that I have sleeping problems. I blog about it, I talk about it, and I’m sure that everyone is tired of hearing me say that I’m tired.
But why I have sleeping problems remain a mystery. Sometimes I can’t sleep because of nightmares. Sometimes it is because I have thoughts that keep me awake. Other times it could be excitement, or adrenaline, or anything really.
But last night, or rather this morning, my sleep was disturbed by a word, specifically a Dutch word.
It means to cutback, for instance in budgets. To economize.
It wasn’t the meaning of this word that woke me up. I’m not laying in bed at night worried about budgets or bezuinigingen or whatever.
But somehow the word pushed itself into my subconscious, raised my subconscious into my consciousness, and then woke me the f*ck up.
Bezuinigen, I thought, as I lay there awake but eyes closed trying to get back to sleep. Bezuinigen.
Over and over and over and over until I was one hundred perfect fully awake, and somewhat pissed.
What a shitty way to wake up, and an even shittier way to stay awake, by not being able to get one simple word out of your head.
Sorry for the cursing, can you tell I’m tired?
In other better news, tomorrow I fly to Belfast for a long weekend where I will meet with my cousin (the same one I met in Milan last year). I’ve never been to Belfast but have always wanted to go, so I’m really excited.
And even more exciting is that we will be in a hotel! A real, live hotel! Not a hostel or someone’s house or an apartment like all the other trips I have taken this year . That means: comfy bed, fresh clean sheets, no dog around (sorry Mylo!), breakfast buffets, fluffy robes and slippers, and maybe (ooooo just maybe) room service! It’s going to be heaven.
My cousin will be lucky if I leave the room long enough to meet up with her!
Besides the obvious Dutch bars in the Netherlands, I have never been in a Dutch bar abroad. I didn’t even realize that it was a “thing”, like Irish pubs or American burger joints.
But lo and behold, thanks to the powers of the Googles, I stumbled upon a Dutch bar in London called De Hems! So I added that to my to-do list and just happened to stumble upon it again when walking through Soho one day. Luck of the Dutch! (…doesn’t have quite the same ring to it….)
De Hems, Dutch flags flying and everything.
Now, I don’t know why, but I was expecting tackiness for some reason. I suppose I thought that, because it seems to be the only Dutch bar in London, perhaps they were going to play that up to an annoyance. You know: orange everywhere, portraits of the Queen, etc. But I am more than pleased to report that it was actually a lovely place, and I was pleasantly surprised.
I guess the appeal for me in going to a Dutch bar when I was outside of the Dutch borders for less than a day was because I was curious about how Dutchness would be translated abroad.
There are Dutch influences the world over- in fact the first “genuine” taste of the Netherlands I ever experienced was in Japan, of all places, on a school trip to Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki. There they had blonde white people in traditional Dutch dress working in the cafes, and tandem-bikes that you could rent to ride all over the brick lanes from windmill to windmill. In Japan.
So I suppose I was wondering if De Hems in London would be like that- more of a stereotype of all things Dutch than delving any further below the surface to, for instance, Dutch design or trading history or influence on the world. However, it was a lovely bar with tasteful decor and a nice varied menu. With, of course, some Dutch hapjes thrown in for good measure.
In case you were missing your Patatje Oorlog or Vlammetjes.
Dutch sayings on the wall- the only outwardly Dutch thing there.
Located on the edge between Soho and Chinatown, it is a perfect place to drop in for a quick drink, whether you have any affinity, curiosity or association with the Netherlands or not. The building itself also has a great history (it was also previously owned by an American bare-knuckle boxer in the early 1800s) which is described in more detail on a sign inside the bar and one by the door. (Or just read it here- most recently it was also a comedy club venue which debuted The Mighty Boosh!)
And I heard two Dutch girls at the next table, so I’m not the only one who was curious! Consider this an aanrader*.
So there I was in London, a huge, sprawling, diverse city whose history dates back about 2,000 years, a city founded by Romans, plagued by fire and Jack the Ripper and, well…the Plague, and what was on my mind?
I passed the Tower of London, where Elizabeth I was imprisoned and Anne Boleyn executed…
We went for a drink at the George Inn, which is a beautiful old coaching inn from the middle ages and boasts past visitors such as Charles Dickens (who wrote about it in one of his books) and Shakespeare…
Me in the George Inn
And we were all in a flutter because sitting at the table behind us was Brian May, the guitarist from Queen. We know this was Brian May, because he wore a shirt with a huge photo of himself on it, with the words “BRIAN MAY” written in large black letters across the top.
Sneaky Phone Cam Shot of Brian May
I saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, which is considered the Mother of Parliament, as many governments are based on this system, and was the location where Guy Fawkes tried to assassinate King James in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605….
But all I could think of was that scene from ‘National Lampoons European Vacation’. (Still makes me laugh to watch it.)
"Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament!"
(Video embedding disabled but you can watch it here.)
Tomorrow I am off to London for a long weekend. It’s been a few years since I was there, and off the top of my head I can remember being there at least seventeen times. I have been there more times than anywhere else, but every time I go it is like I am starting all over again.
It’s a big and busy city, spread out and full of people and neighborhoods. It seems that when I go home after having visited, I forget everything I learned- every place that I went to eat or drink, every museum visited, every convenient tube station, every cool neighborhood that I stumbled upon. I still don’t have the feeling that I know London.
So this trip, which could very well be trip number eighteen if not nineteen or twenty, will be like my very first time, because I don’t remember much of the last times. I’m not sure how this happens. London is just too large and unwieldy to fit into my brain storage space, along with my husband’s birthday and names of most songs and bands.
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.
What I guess people don’t realize, when they first start learning a foreign language, is that it is something like a jigsaw puzzle. You don’t learn the correct grammatical form of a sentence in the past (“I watched a film”) and then remember it completely each time after that. This is because you don’t automatically know each verb right away (“to watch, watched”, “to fall, fell”, “to go, went”). So you pretty much spend a lot of time searching for the missing puzzle pieces, trying each one that seems like it might squeeze in there. (Whoops, no, that’s an eye not a flower.)
And you get it wrong lots of the time. Even know, six years later in the Netherlands, I feel I am only just starting to wade in the waters of Dutch. I have an inherent shyness that prevents me from trying Dutch with those closest around me. I’m perfectly fine trying it out on strangers, I can blabber away at someone I don’t know- other dogwalkers in the park, shop assistants, waiters, bartenders, not a bother. I see the looks on their faces (confusion mixed with a bit of dismay) and it doesn’t bother me (Abandon all hope, all ye Dutch strangers who enter my vicinity). And besides, if a stranger is the only one to see me fall flat on my Dutch skills, then in my book it never happened, end of story/einde van het verhaal.
However, with my Dutch friends and coworkers- all who are waiting patiently for me to try my Dutch on them- I clamp up. I suppose it’s something about them seeing me as inferior, or stupid, or unprofessional. I just can’t seem to let them know (yet) that they’re right on all above counts.
Japan was the first time that I was really immersed in a foreign language, day in and day out. I threw myself into learning the language, but quickly got further along with learning how to write Japanese than how to speak it. The difference in how women and men spoke the language, and how younger and older people spoke the language, only added to the confusion and I spent a lot of that year not knowing what was coming next. Where were they taking me? What were we supposed to do next? What page should I turn to in the textbook? Why are we here again? Everything was a surprise, and my shyness prevented me from asking too many questions. I suppose while there I developed a very laid-back let’s-see-what-happens-next attitude. Because I had no choice, most of the time I just had to see what was happening next to figure things out.
I also did a lot of nodding. I nodded to show that I understood, but more often than that I nodded to show that I had heard the speaker say something….but what that something was was anyone’s guess.
(I was that strange foreign exchange student that everyone seems to have in their school. There I was, smiling and nodding, saying “Yes, yes” and going left when they had just told me to go right. It was a confusing year, but also one of the best of my life. I wasn’t held accountable for anything, not even for having a clue. It was brilliant.)
Here I thought I was going on a nature hike. Turns out we were trying on kimonos.
My group of Japanese friends and I were sitting around our hotel room in Tokyo one night, having taken an overnight bus across the country on a girly trip to Tokyo Disneyland. I had bought a small rainbow-colored bag that hung around my neck like a necklace, only big enough for money, change or a small telephone (none of which I ever really had, but I loved the rainbow look). One of the girls, Yukuri, was admiring it, and quite in keeping with Japanese politeness, told me that it looked very good on me.
I nodded my agreement (“I heard that you said something, yes, but….”) before my brain had the chance to register what she had actually said.
You see, in modest Japan, if someone compliments you, you deny whatever it is they are complimenting. And you do so politely and demurely.
“You are very beautiful.”
“Oh, no, no, that is very kind of you, but I am not beautiful. My face is shaped like a pig and my legs are stumpy.”
“You write Japanese so well.”
“Oh, if only that were true. I aspire to one day write a great novel in Japanese, but until then I hope you can help me write my own name. Right now it looks like mud on paper.”
But you should never agree, or even thank them and leave it at that, as that would be seen as very rude and obnoxious.
So for me to nod to Yukuri’s compliment was essentially for me to say, “Yes it does look quite fetching around my neck, doesn’t it?” And that was just not on.
Yukuri threw a shifty glance at me, and that would have been the perfect chance to correct myself, or to deny it as was the polite thing to do, but that would mean admitting to the fact that I walked the days and nights of Japan not having any sort of clue whatsoever, and so I clamped up and cringed inwardly, preferring her to think me obnoxious rather than stupid.
I think that’s when she realized that Amanda no comprendo Japanese-o. The gig was up.
Many is the time that I will be with a group of friends, or in a business meeting, and will be honestly trying to concentrate on totally understanding the Dutch that is flying around the room. But you know how things are: your mind skips a word, and then a sentence, and then starts to wander (“Ooo look, there’s a bee on the window…spring really is here….”). The next thing you know, everyone is laughing at a joke, and it seems like it was such a funny joke! They all look so happy!
So I laugh too, and I smile too. Aren’t we all happy right now? Isn’t it good to be alive? We’re laughing!
And inevitably someone will see me laughing and ask, “Did you get that?” This is a polite Dutch thing to do, to make sure everyone (every-foreign-one) understands, it is not to be mean or to call me out.
But call me out it does. My smile freezes, before completely natural, now made of hard cement. And the trusty old Japan trick comes back: I nod. ”Yes, yes, I got it.”
Meaning: I heard that you said something, and I understand from those around me that it was quite so very funny. And so I, too, got caught up in the moment.
Meaning: I “got” it, like you get measles or the flu. It was a matter of contagion, not comprehension.
Luckily, now that I am an Official Dutch Speaker with an Official Dutch Speaker Diploma to prove it, these awkward occurrences are happening less frequently. But it is taking a lot of mind-power to stay mentally In The (Dutch) Game, and so I fear that now I scowl in concentration more often than nod in happy confusion.
I’m sure most people speaking to me would prefer friendly-looking ignorance to angry-looking comprehension, but they luckily have no say in the matter.
And come to find out, the joke is never really as funny as I had hoped.
Sangria & Olives in the Spanish Sunshine, so cliche!
While normally I spend a holiday snapping photos like it’s no one’s business, my short time in Madrid was spent mostly soaking up the conversation (and admittedly- the gin and tonics and pitchers of sangria) with two friends that I haven’t seen in ages. These two friends, by the way, had never met and got along grand, something that always makes me happy (Worlds Colliding!).
You might not know this (and I found out on the flight to Madrid) but Spain is experiencing something of a Gin & Tonic craze right now. More to be found on that here, here and here. And as Gin & Tonic is, in fact, my weapon drink of choice, it was quite easy for me to do like the locals.
I call this "View from a Gin & Tonic"
I call this one "View from a Gin & Tonic, 2"
Required Shot of Plaza Mayor, Hangover Edition (Thanks to the previous Gin & Tonics)
Despite what the photos say, we actually did do more in Madrid than eat and drink. We perused the amazing Prado Museum, focusing mostly on the Spanish artists, wondered at some of the thought-provoking work in the Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and we popped into the very busy El Rastro market on Sunday. We also shopped (fancy that!) and wandered.
However, there was a surprisingly lot that we didn’t get to do, and it is for that reason that Madrid is still on my List. As a big, bustling city, it definitely deserved a lot more time, and I can’t cross it off until I get back there and give it more of the attention that it deserves.
Tiramisu in a Jar
Angela playing the part of Madrileña quite convincingly
A sugar-packed breakfast of churros & chocolate. YES PLEASE.
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…
Tomorrow I hop on a big tin plane bound for Rome where I will meet up with a friend, and afterwards take a train to Milan where I will see my cousin for a day.
Before that, however, I will take my Dutch driving test.
Take a guess which one I am more excited about!
This driver’s license thing has been going on for well over a year now, and I regret ever beginning the process, which is long and complicated and expensive and involves not one, not two, but three tests! And the funny thing is, I don’t even need a license for living in Amsterdam. I have an American license that suits me just fine should I wish to rent a car, and I have no intention of ever actually buying a car in this lifetime.
But I started the process, and am one day away from finishing it, so this will be a huge weight off of my chest. I’ll consider it a Dutch right-of-passage if I get the damn thing, although none of my Dutch friends have their license either, so….
Yeah, basically it’s just been a waste of time and money.
Anyway! The tin plane! To la bella citta di Roma!
The first time that I landed in Rome, I was a naive and uncultured silly little thing of 18 years. I was backpacking around Italy for 3 weeks on my own, and seeing what trouble I could get up to. Plenty it turned out!
Rome was the city where I experienced my first body shot on a pub crawl. In fact, I think it was the first time I had ever tasted tequila at all, much less off of the salty neck of another backpacker from Chicago.
Pedro was his name.
Aaahh, Pedro rued the day he ever came into contact with me when I nearly took his bottom lip with the lemon slice that he held in his mouth for me (ouch!). From that point on, things got sketchy (or I should say sketchier), and resulted in poor Pedro literally carrying me through the city of Rome back to my hostel in the wee hours of the morning, stopping kindly to let me off so that I could puke at various points of interest such as the mighty Colosseum, which I assure you looks much less grandiose at 4 in the morning next to my pile of vomit.
Good times they were.
I do imagine, however, that at the much more mature age of 30 my upcoming trip to Rome will involve drinking in more of the culture, and less of the vino. Priorities have to change at some point in your life, ey?