Some of the time it has been pretty challenging and other times have been fantastic, but overall it’s good.
I’ve started work at a place called Schuberg Philis and the place is great. I work with about 50 guys that all posses a technical prowess I’ve never encountered before. I learned more in my first two weeks then I did in my last two years in New Zealand. I’m loving the challenge, but still checking my ego at the door, as I’m not used to be the person asking all the questions. A pretty intimidating place though, as despite being friendly there is a palpable, if not silent, disdain for anyone less than brilliant.
I’ve still been living as a gypsy with my first week of accommodation in the red light district, then a couple weeks with a cranky old Dutch guy who smoked like a chimney, now I’m in a adequate single room in the “centrum” – the only bugger with this place is a shared bathroom with about 7 other rooms (thankfully most of the time they are empty or not showering when I am). I’ve discovered that *all* of my clothes excluding jackets and sweaters fit in a single load. (that’s a front loading European load too – not the US top-load that can fit a medium sized ocean)
My weekends have been punctuated by some great adventures already with the “Over the Ij” arts festival the first weekend. A visit from my good friend Simon for a couple great nights out on the town followed by a fantastic weekend to Austria for Griet and Sashi’s wedding. Held in the Austrain Alps outside the Salzburg, cobble stone roads with snow-capped mountains in the background carried Griet to a beautiful old Cathedral for a 12 o’clock ceremony given in 4 languages. I left the party at 3:30 am, by which time I’d met some great people from all over Europe (and the world for that matter). Selfishly, the best part of the weekend for me was seeing all my old friends from New Zealand. We managed to still wake up at a reasonable hour on Saturday and climb the mountain peak next to Griet’s family’s house.
Then another weekend back in Amsterdam for the “Canal Pride” which was a blast – and I was thoroughly impressed by the large business and government backing and participation in the parade. Not to mention it was on the water, and for me everything is improved by the act of floating.
Then last weekend I hopped the train to Belgium and was treated to amazing hospitality thanks to Tom, Griet, and Griet’s mum. Buggered off after work Friday, Tom picked me up in Antwerp and then drove me to Lockeren to attend a town festival (I was expecting the ubiquitous bad arts and crafts booths and meat on a stick). Turns out it was a music festival with Macy Grey and Grace Jones followed by a great DJ – we danced until 3:30. Not to be held back, Tom took me mountain biking the next day on a 60 KM loop starting in Flanders, through a forest with roads built by the Romans that have managed to sink 20+ feet into the ground from thousands of years of walking, a cruise through beautiful countryside in Wallonia, and finally to Hoegaarden to enjoy a Hoegaarden, before the jaunt back to Leuven for a Stella in a medieval town square. Sleep not being an option; we headed back to the music festival for another night of dancing until 4:30. Then up Sunday for a cruise to Brugges were Griet and Kaat’s family plied us with hospitality at their restaurant before touring the city. It was Sunday and we were tired, but knowing it was still the weekend we drove back to Antwerp that night and enjoyed something thing along the lines of 10,000 Belgian’s swinging glasses of beer and singing drinking songs – do we have drinking songs in the US? (Not written be AC/DC that is) Hit the sack about 2 at Tom’s brothers place before getting up a few hours later to hop the train back for a bright and early start at work about 10:30 with nearly a full beard.
This weekend was bit more subdued with a some great weather (which is less common than a blue moon around here) I caught up with Ehud, an Israeli fashion designer I had met over a couple drinks in Wellington 7 months ago, before I had any idea I would be living in Amsterdam. Not to waste his great taste we trolled a few shops and cafes and I managed to find a couple goodies by the end of the day. I then got a bit more practice keeping myself company, I must say I’m a great date too: a glass of wine watching the sunset over het Ij, then a wicked Turkish meal before cruising home through parks beneath a lunar eclipse. (too bad I’m not an earthworm, otherwise I’d be in love) Today I joined some folks for a bike ride to the next town to the West, Haarlem, where we entertained ourselves with a bit of indoor snowboarding – with which I was thoroughly under whelmed. But then I thought, “if I could do anything this afternoon what would I do?” and I remembered I bloody can do anything, so I left the odd little snow hill and rode my bike to the beach on the North Sea. Contrasting with my general distaste for the highly developed Dutch “country side” filled with motorways, power lines, and a stream of jumbo jets overhead – I was blown away by the national park on the seashore. I rode through coastal forest and along dunes as sea birds flew in to land in the estuaries around me. This was like a hit of Trey heroin – I hadn’t realised how badly I needed to not hear a motorised vehicle for a while. I rode for hours until the sunset and I arrived in Zandvoort for a dinner where I really enjoyed my own company.
I’ve noticed that I’ve spent a lot of time writing old friends lately. I’m really missing folks like Stu and Jo back in NZ and a bit bummed I’ve not met more like-minded folks here yet. It’s only been a month, but I think the 2 months of waiting in London and another month in Texas has made be a bit “new place” fatigued. Throw in the Dutch sense of humour (ha… ha… ) and a bit of language barrier (everyone speaks English, but not out of preference) and I’m getting the chance to notice my social dependencies. In one way it sucks a bit not having any good friends yet, but in another I know it’s really good for me. These are the times where growth happens, where I’m forced to attain that next level of comfort with solitude, and hopefully another step towards quite confidence.