Yesterday I received some feedback on my last post; most of the readers didn’t think I am the one who wrote it. No, I am not offended because I can understand why; it was very informative and wasn’t even relatable or sarcastic in any way. In my defense, though, I am so overwhelmed by so much information and I really want to tell everything to you all without writing a boring 900-word essay. Because I know when I get back, you will ask me how my experience was and I will say it was really great and that will be end of the conversation. But, anyway, let’s try again…
I often find myself taking online quizzes; what food matches your personality, what state do you actually belong in, which “Girls” character are you etc. It’s not because I am dying to know what my soulmate food is, it is mostly because I am trying to get to know myself and let me tell you, it is so hard. Same goes for the process of getting to know a city; I don’t know how many books I have read on Amsterdam, how many maps I looked at, yet, I also lost the count of how many times I was amazed or surprised or got lost trying to find this one “plein”. After all, no book tells you that you have to check in and check out everytime you get on the tram, no guide makes it clear that open air market in Waterlooplein that looks very cheap is actually expensive… Not to mention that you have to pay everytime you use a public bathroom (including McDonald’s) or for the water you order at a restaurant. Many tourists also don’t even realize the fact that bikes in Amsterdam are not popular for environmental reasons but they are the common way of transportation because the streets are so narrow that it is incredibly hard to move around in the city with a four wheel vehicle. Beside the interesting facts, there are times you make a fool out of yourself while experimenting, or even being yourself… Like that time our Dutch language prof said “reizend” (means traveling in Dutch) and I chuckled saying “Raisin… I’m raisining… Ehehe” repeatedly… He looked at me like he was wasn’t sure if I was a 5 year old trapped in a 20 year old’s body or just an idiot. Well, sometimes you have to learn it the hard way.
Of course there are undeniable, very obvious facts that you know the first time you see the city; just like how much you will enjoy that 45 minute walk to school while passing by beautiful parks, 400 year old buildings and chapels. Then, there is “your” cafe that you stop by to grab your “Dutch usual” every morning; the gooses that get in your way everyday which once was annoying to you but now you look forward to feed them right before class; that canal view you see every afternoon when the bridge is all lit up and you just stand there for exactly 30 seconds while “In My Arms” by Jon Foreman is playing on your iPhone.
The small things that you make memories of, the details which make that place your nest; that’s what it takes to actually get to know a city and fall in love with it. Maybe there are going to be rough times that you two won’t get along so well; like how my first night here I cried my eyes out because I was afraid of going out with friends thinking that if I leave the house, I won’t be able to find my way back (ended up with finding it like I lived there for years), or how my friend’s bike fell into a canal, or how the cat peed on my coat on a Monday morning, or that time I forgot to check out from the tram and my 5 euros was instantly gone… Sometimes the city will treat you like you don’t mean a thing, you’re just another person walking around it. But then you will take a breath and go to De Laatste Kruimel with your friends or while walking back home a Dutch person will smile at you for no reason or maybe your favorite song will come up on this Dutch radio station while you are walking home or maybe nothing will happen and you will sit on a bank in Park Frankendael to daydream… But to have all of these wonderful experiences, you have to understand that comfort zone is one sweet enemy that will hold you back. Like Bradbury says in Fahrenheit 451:
“See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask for no guarantees, ask for no security.”
Don’t be afraid, after all, adventure may hurt but monotony will kill you.
Nevertheless, if you make an effort to get to know a city; I am sure it will treat you accordingly and maybe if you are lucky enough, will help you to get to know to yourself. Well, I got lucky, hope you do too.
Have a wonderful day,