Friday, March 30, 2012

Odds + Ends (Positive Reflections)

Inspiring, isn't it?  
I've been trying to relish the moment and for me that's much easier said than done since I'm naturally someone who's focused on what's happening next.
 Lately, I've become quite aware that my focus should change from mapping out a plan for what's 'supposed' to be done and what I have to do to get there 
 (I actually love making 'to-do' lists and checking them off) 
and instead just live in the moment. Often, it's hard for me to simply let go

Hang on now, ‘cause  I’m about to get personal, which doesn’t happen too often on this blog 
(but maybe it should?...)

Since returning to Amsterdam I'm blissfully content with my life here (so far) 
and really want to absorb all of the somewhat fresh, new moments and enjoy reflecting how it feels to be on the cusp of a new path surrounded by boundless opportunities. 
I know that as time goes on more obstacles will come my way
 and when that happens it's important to stay positive. 
All the sunshine this week has indeed gone to my head!

Here are five reflections of my life (so far) in Amsterdam... 

Be thankful...
Returning to Amsterdam has been great so far. Instead of letting my mind get boggled down by all the overwhelming moments (save those for another post) I’ve been ending my days  with thankful thoughts and in turn feeling so lucky that this is my life. Doing yoga daily has most likely heavily influenced my positivity and whenever I feel completely out of my element I remember that I remind myself there is always something to smile about...

I've just moved back to Europe with my handsome Dutchman (exciting!), caught up with old friends (the few still around), made some great new ones (hello ladies!). Despite the distance I still have a strong support system of family and friends back in America who I’ll always miss dearly (come visit!)
There is just so much to be thankful for, especially since the suns been shining all week.

Adjust + assimilate...
I like Holland...most of the time,when it isn't raining...
 but living here again has been a surreal mix of emotions. Daily life feels foreign yet normal, familiar yet confusing  (like getting back on a bicycle, literally).  

I've already gone through many of the expected expat experiences: explored the city, felt completely overwhelmed, learned some Dutch, survived homesickness, made good friends, accepted the cultural differences… But this time around my life here is more permanent and I have no clue of the challenges that are bound test me here. 

Knowing that living here is no longer a fleeting moment but now a long term reality adds motivation towards building something great here. Which in turn means (slowly) having to let go of some of my own cultural comforts. I'm desperate to fully understand an entire conversation and the ability add my own comments in Dutch or better yet crack a few jokes of my own!
Instead of getting frustrated with the cultural barriers the best I can do is take it all day by day…


Appreciate what once was...
As I'm beginning to feel adjusted here, all over again, there are daily reminders that so many familiar faces from my last chapter of life in Amsterdam have now left the city. At this was a sad observation because I couldn't ignore the constant little reminders. Even biking through the park or visiting a favorite cafe rekindles memories of my previous Amsterdam life.

That’s just an inconvenient truth in the life of any foreigner abroad. Our lives have continued in different directions and that’s healthy since friendships have their own ways of moving forward and changing (at least we’ve got Facebook and Skype). In essence my life here has a similar backdrop from before, which is reassuring but also odd since in many ways returning again feels very different this time around.

Embrace new surroundings.
 It's no longer just a gap year abroad, these choices in turn have created a potential life long commitment to existing in this country.
I need to accept that there will be a million moments where I'm forced to approach life in different way than I'm used to even with simple events like finding a doctor or applying for jobs. I'm on the edge of many new experiences that, with time, will build up my life and our life here. It's thrilling and unnerving to think the longer I'm here, the more Holland becomes my home.

Stop worrying + enjoy the moment...
Instead of always stressing about what I have to/supposed to/want to accomplish next, I'm want to let go and cherish this unique time and make the most of the sweet and simple aspects of life here with my Dutchman. In my observations, that seems to be something the Dutch are very good at. They don't feel guilty to enjoy leisure time and uphold an importance towards spending time with family and friends versus exhausting yourself with long hours at work. 

In Holland, anytime the sun shines people rush out to find their own little spot and soak up it up while it lasts. I'll probably never let go of all the aspects of American culture instilled in me but maybe there is something to learn from embracing an 'in the moment' attitude. 

It's so interesting to hear about the experiences from others which is why I wanted to share this post.
 I'm curious to hear from my fellow expats on this subject...  
What helped with your adjustment phase after moving abroad?
Have you learned any new approaches to life while living in a new country?

PS. It's FRIDAY! So head over to Ellen's blog and check out our link up

Company of Clever
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cycling along the Amstel River

After returning from a fun day-trip to Ghent with Ellen I spent (another!!) sunny Sunday taking a 40km bike ride along the Amstel River. I love Amsterdam and I love the fact that in about 30 minutes you can escape the busy city center and get lost in bright green fields with sheep, windmills and quaint cottages.

The fietspad was packed with a variety of bikes and bikers from serious cyclists zooming past me to oma and opa enjoying a more relaxed pace. I've now perfected the art of taking photos while cycling (slowly). We lost our way for a little while but luckily, there were direction points and maps along the bike paths here! How cool is that?

Lost or not, I'll never pass up an opportunity to pause and appreciate windmills or farms with sheep and miniature ponies.

Biking along the scenic river side, in the sunshine, was of course lovely. On the other hand, gasping for breath and pumping my legs in a fury in an effort to keep up with my Dutchie on his racing bike wasn't quite as charming.

I soon realized my cute daffodil bike is more suited for strolling the city's cobble stone streets. In the end, my bike's weight combined with blustery winds made for a pretty tough work out that day. The following day, a long yin yoga class the perfect recovery for my sore legs. Ouch!

On our return route we took a break to lay in the sun, next to a windmill (at my request) surrounded by spring blooms while enjoying a ijsje. A picturesque day indeed!

The weather lately has wooed me to love Holland even more after losing faith during the worst summer ever last year. That said, the focus of my current posts will continue to surround springtime fun as long as the sun keeps turning up. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the rain stays away for a long, long time.

*Yes, in making that comment I immediately realized that I too have confirmed a stereotype: the Dutch are obsessed with talking about the weather. Let's just say moments like this are part of my cultural assimilation and bound to happen eventually, ha!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day Trip to Ghent: Part III

Last time I went beer sampling in Belgium, Brussels to be exact, we drank so many that I actually had to stop taking pictures of them due to lack of space on my memory card. 
You see, there are simply so many beers here that visiting Ghent felt like a Golden age theme park for beer lovers. Yes, I'd say we were pleased.

If you missed the other parts of our adventure read Ghent Part I (we ate speculoos cupcakes!) and Ghent Part II (the medieval castle!)


This time around, we kept it simple. After eating cupcakes and tour of Gravensteeg castle we headed down the street to Het Waterhuis aan de Bier Krant. It was a delicious afternoon break complete with sunshine, views of the canal and a chilled Delirium blond beer.

In between rounds of beers we explored the cobblestone streets, poked around little shops 
and couldn't stop admiring the sun soaked buildings... 

Apparently yarn bombing has hit Ghent, but it looks like they missed a few spots. 

We stopped to sample the traditional candy of Ghent, neuzen. This was probably a tourist trap but the (nose shaped?) soft candies weren't so bad. I hate to say it but I actually preferred the licorice flavor... does that mean I've been in Holland too long?

Then we continued to wander more... and spotted cute gabled buildings here, there and everywhere. 
A very leisurely afternoon indeed... 


Much like the disappointing postcard selection, we had a hard time finding decent frites in Ghent. So, we quickly headed away from the snack bar and walked along the river bank where everyone was relaxing and soaking up the sunshine. While strolling along we set out for some retail therapy at one of my favorite shops, Dille & Kamille. I picked up a jar of biological jam and Ellen found a miniature plant.

We headed back to Amsterdam at sunset and I cycled back home in time to enjoy popcorn and a movie.  Little road trips are so much fun, our trip to Ghent made for a perfectly lovely day. 

I'd love to know if you have any recommendations for other day trips around this area!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day Trip to Ghent: Part II

Our trip to Ghent was somewhat organized. As in, we knew that drinking Belgian beers, enjoying the sunshine and taking lots of pictures were our top priorities. So what else is there to do in Ghent? I'd recommend having a visit to Gravensteen, the medieval castle located smack dab in the city center. Bonus: it's just around the corner from a bakery with speculoos cupcakes.

The castle's original structure was built in the 12th century. We didn't purchase the audio guide and honestly, I kind of regret this since informative signs were sparse throughout. But, that's okay because the exhibits consisted mostly of torture devices and medieval weaponry which aren't very high on my list of interests.


If you're limited on time, skip the torture chamber and hike straight up to the top. The city views alone are worth the entry fee.


After checking this off the list we headed out in search of frites and biertjes. Ready for more? You can read more about our adventures in Ghent Part I (speculoos cupcakes!) and Ghent Part III (Belgian beers)!