It totally slipped my mind this past weekend, but I realized that last Friday marked the end of my first month in Amsterdam. Wow, right?
I’ve noticed that the older I get, the faster time passes, but in this past month, time has moved the slowest I can remember it moving since I was a kid. Which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing, it’s just a strange sensation to experience time passing this slowly when I’m used to it whipping by and constantly asking myself “How is it ______ already?” I’ve been thinking a lot about why it is that time seems to have slowed way down since I’ve been here, and I think it’s simply a by-product of the overarching newness of my situation. I’m in a country that’s unfamiliar, where an unfamiliar language is spoken, where I’m doing a job that is for the most part unfamiliar to me. That’s a lot of unfamiliarity. When I started my last job, I remember feeling, for the first few months, that no matter how hard I tried, everything I did ended up being wrong. And as someone who wants to do well and prove herself capable, it’s an indescribably exhausting feeling to always feel wrong. And here, it’s not just my job I feel I’m doing wrong, it’s life I’m doing wrong: it’s speaking the language and finding my way around and entering the tram through the correct door even when I see other people entering through the back door and not being scolded by the tram operator like I am. But I’ve been trying to adopt the mindset of “Fake it til you make it,” and to just observe what other people do and try to mirror them, and that, for the most part, has worked pretty well. It’s all just a matter of repetition, and I think at a certain point it will feel normal.
For the most part, I’m still kind of in awe of my surroundings. And maybe it’s less that I’m in awe of my surroundings than it is I’m in awe of the idea that at some point in the near future, I’m not going to be in awe of the things I do on a daily basis because they’ll become commonplace. For example, on the days that I pick up the kids from school, I ride the bakfiet (the bike with the cart in front), and the past week or so, I’ve gotten on the bike and started cruising, and there’s a moment where it feels normal and not like a big deal, but then I look up at the slanting trees and listen to the leaves crackling underneath my tires and then hang a right toward the main road and I think to myself “How is this my life?” Even after a month, it still hasn’t completely sunken in that I’m not just a tourist here, but that I live here and that my life for the next year is going to be here. It’s so different than anything I’ve ever done before, and it’s so different than I imagined it would be because I had no idea what to expect, but I feel so fortunate and like it’s a gift. And I kind of like that everything is still a novelty to me. I like that I’m dazzled by living here because I feel like it makes me appreciate this experience more fully, so in a way, I hope I never stop feeling this way.
I hadn’t planned on taking any trips during my first month in Amsterdam, just so I could focus on getting familiar with the city and to save a little money, but an opportunity arose, so I visited Belfast, Northern Ireland. I met a group of people from Northern Ireland back in 2008 when I studied abroad in South Africa, and I was able to meet up with a few of them and see them for the first time in three years. I was absolutely charmed by Belfast and its inhabitants and its delightful pubs and tasty Guinness. I know it’s only the first European city I’ve been to, but if I had occasion to move there, I think I can confidently say that I’d do it in a heartbeat. It would be a lovely place to live. And it was really nice to be able to understand what people were saying to me, and to feel understood by them, and to be able to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations. That’s truly one of the things I miss the most, because it’s utterly impossible to do in Holland.
To sum things up, I’ve experienced the amount of discomfort that I expected to feel moving to a new place, but it’s less so every day and I think that’s a step in the right direction. And more than that, I’m experiencing wonder on a daily basis that is utterly magical to my adult mind. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 11 months hold for me here.