So, here we are! Two weeks into our new living arrangement and we’re getting more settled. I generally know how to use most of the appliances in the apartment.
I know where the trash goes, where the nearest grocery store is, and I’ve tried out at least 2 routes for biking to work. Still to discover are a bakery for weekend treats and a good wine shop. We’ve bought some furniture and rearranged some other furniture, and we are slowly making the apartment feel more like home.
As we suspected, it has been fun to discover a different part of Amsterdam, and to come at the parts we already know, but now from a different angle. Our new neighborhood, which straddles the border of Oude Zuid and Nieuw West, is more residential than our previous area. Instead of tourists, my commute has me dodging school drop-off crowds. (For the record, kids on bikes are as unpredictable and stress-inducing as those Spanish tourists on their rented MacBikes.)
Our neighborhood exploration has been a bit delayed by recent travel – I was in Geneva last week – and the arrival of our first guests of 2016. Thankfully, they are not staying with us, as we’re not yet equipped to host. Plus, there are five of them, which is a little more than we’ll ever be able to handle. This is the first time we’ve entertained guests with kids, and – no surprise – I’m not at all in tune with the rhythms of children or teenagers. I think of kids as having so much energy, but I underestimate the effect of jet lag and general disorientation. Also, they seem to need to eat every few hours. I thought that was only babies, but I guess it applies to older kids, too. Which is fine with me…I’m more than happy to interrupt sight-seeing or shopping with a coffee and a little something sweet.
Even without the change of moving, I’m still gaining new perspective and new views thanks to our visitors. Hosting guests always brings questions: about Dutch traditions or history, about how we live, about what is different or challenging. I usually end up learning or re-learning something, especially since I can never remember what the three Xs in the Amsterdam city crest represent. (And no, they’re not a reflection of the city’s more, ahem, permissive elements.)
Seeing Amsterdam through the eyes of visitors – especially when those visitors are young and curious – gives me a greater appreciation for the richness of the culture and the balance of our lifestyle. It reminds me of what we’ve gained through this experience of living abroad, and I hope it shows our visitors that there’s no one way – and no right way – to live a life.