What DOESN’T make me happy about Amsterdam?
It’s been MONTHS since I blogged last, but the next topic for the Foreign Service Blog Roundup has given me a shot of motivation to write again. The topic: something that makes you happy at your current posting.
For me, it’d probably be easier to answer what DOESN’T make me happy about Amsterdam. And I’m being completely serious…as you can see from the blog posts I wrote during our first six months here, particularly the post A Day in the Life. The museums! The parks!! The quaintness!!! The food!!!! The opportunities to travel all over Europe!!!!!
But, now that we’re approaching one year at post, let me see if I can find something a little more thoughtful to say. I think what makes me so happy living in Amsterdam is that you can breathe here. I don’t mean literally (although the air quality is good, which is something I’m coming to appreciate more and more as we’re researching possible next posts); I mean that the pace and the quality of life in Amsterdam is so good that you feel calm and content much of the time. If you, like me, were living in a critical-crime threat post, you can appreciate how calm can bring such happiness.
Take, for example, my daily bike ride to drop off Kahlilah at school. First, I’m riding a bike. On nice roads. With dedicated bike lanes and bike lights. Getting a workout (but not too much of a workout, considering how nice and flat the Netherlands is). Getting some sun (and often some rain). Other than for my time living in Davis, California, which–before becoming known for pepper-spraying cops–was known for being one of the most bike-friendly places in the USA…I have never lived in a place where people are so healthy and so supportive of public and alternative means of transportation. Besides, if the most you can do if someone cuts you off is to ring your bell, somehow the “morning commute” is so much more enjoyable. I never thought I’d be a bike person, but I’m becoming one here! Second, I ride through a beautiful tree-covered neighbourhood with local shops that have been there for 20 years (the gourmet grocery/deli), 50 years (the bread shop), 100 years (the chocolate/sweet shop). I can easily stop on my way to or from the school to buy any number of good eats, drop off our dry cleaning, buy some hardware supplies, pick up my prescription, buy an English-language book, and stop by “my” friendly cheeseman to pick up some gouda on his recommendation. Everything is nearby and, since we decided to “go Dutch” and bought a cargo bike, I can simply load my purchases into the bike—with room enough left for Kahlilah. Third, we ride along canals. There’s something about being near the water that quiets the mind and canals, in particular, have such charm. Each has its own character. And, they’re so quiet. The most you’ll hear is the gentle lap against boats’ sides when another boat passes by. During the summer, you see scores of Dutch out enjoying the afternoon in their boats. During the winter, if you’re lucky, you’ll see an equal number of Dutch out ice skating. The canals are quite simply, lovely.
So, if you EVER get the chance to travel to or live in Amsterdam, don’t pause…don’t hesitate…GRAB the opportunity and squeeze every last ounce of wonderful out of the experience you can.
Post script: I realized that I never did say what doesn’t make me happy about Amsterdam. The only thing I can come up with is that tram and bus drivers can often be pretty rude and won’t stop for you if you arrive at the stop even 10 seconds late. But, really, I think that stems from them being so schedule oriented…so that brings me back to one of the pros: a reliable public transportation system. See? There’s really nothing I don’t like about this place.