Thursday, August 27, 2009

Transient Amsterdam:


Sometimes I think it's amazing how quickly people come into, and out of my life in this city. But no matter what, I think everyone will always teach you something. Either about yourself, or life in general. And hopefully, if that friend means as much to you–as you do them–you'll see each other again, one day in the future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Amy & John do Amsterdam:




And just like that Amy has left for London. She really gets me excited about the future. One of the greatest things she taught me while being here–through all of our conversations and what not, is that: Life is for sharing. I often ask people–quite deep into the conversation, if they think the world is outdated. Most people get confused. However, when I asked amy, she replied, 'Is the world outdated, or are people outdated?' Interesting. She's doing some great things–and pushing the world forward through all social media outlets, so that everyone, everywhere, can share their lives with one another. Sharing, I'm discovering, is beautiful.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nassaukade:

Yesterday Amy and I were walking down Nassaukade, on our way home, after spending way too many hours in Westerpark–doing absolutely nothing. On the walk home two of the blondest children I have ever seen were hanging out of their third story window. One had a string in their hand–the string leading to the sidewalk below. At the end of the string, was tied a small basket. The two girls were speaking Dutch to passer-by-ers. I didn't quite understand everything that was being said. But suddenly I felt the need to find out. From somewhere in my subconscious-mind I shouted, 'Spreekt U Ingles?' (Keeping it classy you see–as U would be the formal version of 'you'. Even eight year old deserve respect, I believe. As someone once told me, people can be interesting at any age…) The two girls–neither older than, say, eight–suddenly glanced at each other in surprise and excitement. The one holding the string turned to the other, excitedly, 'Ja, Engles! Engles!'–as if only her fellow companion could speak the English in a way I would understand… 'We're selling bracelets for twenty cents,' the girl excitedly explained. 'Ah. I see,' I confirmed. 'I would like to buy one,' I said as I placed my twenty cents in their basket, which they lowered down There were only two options, but I really didn't mind. This whole interaction, made an already amazing day, even more amazing. 'Dank je wel!' I shouted up, with a nice waving gesture to match–(must make sure the emotions and actions match the feelings, you see). And with that–we continued on our way home from the park. As I looked back, the two girls were giggling with excitement as they pulled back up their basket, with their newly earned 20 cents inside, to the window above. 'Thank you!' They shouted in the distance. The whole thing might have taken two minutes. It's wondrous how easy it can be to brighten someone's day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

the Netherlands:


My friend Amy is visiting me in Amsterdam right now. She arrived yesterday. She really inspires me. She went to the same university as I did, which means she’s also done the whole ‘let’s move around the world every three months, for two years’–thing. Except-her program (industrial design) was five years, not four. Aka: Amy has been moving every three months for three years. Her lists of former homes include: Detroit, NYC, San Francisco, Berlin–and now London. Where she's setting up her own design firm. Cool. Of the eight (that's right people: eight!) groups of Americans that have visited me this summer–she ‘gets me’ the most. We finish each other’s sentences, and we think exactly alike. We should just get married and get it over with. We’d make the perfect, happy couple. I’m sure our kids would be blonde. I also pour my heart out to Amy–something about her makes me talk–quite a lot. We just verbally bounce conversations off each other–as if it were an intense game of tennis. Constant back and forth faster than anyone should ever talk. We just talk in one big–yet punctuated–slur. We’ve even had other people (native English speaks–at that), tell us they can’t follow our conversations. It is intense.

I’m also realizing that I ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ internally–and almost 100% of the time no one else knows what I’m thinking. Even if I’m happy as could be. My emotions do not translate to spoken words, or actions. I remember taking a test in grade school–a personality test (all American kids–I think–the results of, I'm convinced are stored somewhere by the American government–always watching they are–or so they like to make citizens think. Americans just live in fear of authority; but that's another post). I was an INTJ. Standing in for: Introversion, iNtution, Thinking & Judgment. But, like most my age at that time, I didn’t quite care–or even really understand what that meant. I recently took the test again. The test grade didn’t lie. I’m indeed an INTJ, which are also the rarest of the sisxteen Keirsey personality types. A breakdown of what exactly INTJ means (from here):

INTJs are the most self-confident of all types, having "self-power" awareness. To outsiders, INTJs may appear to project an aura of "definiteness", of self-confidence. This self-confidence, sometimes mistaken for simple arrogance by the less decisive, is actually of a very specific rather than a general nature; its source lies in the specialized knowledge systems that most INTJs start building at an early age. INTJs are strong individualists who seek new angles or novel ways of looking at things. They enjoy coming to new understandings. They are insightful and mentally quick; however, this mental quickness may not always be outwardly apparent to others since they keep a great deal to themselves.

They are very determined people who trust their vision of the possibilities, regardless of what others think. Found in about 1% of the general population, the INTJs live in an introspective reality, focusing on possibilities, using thinking in the form of empirical logic, and preferring that events and people serve some positive use. INTJs are idea people. Anything is possible; everything is negotiable.

Whatever the outer circumstances, INTJs are ever perceiving inner pattern-forms and using real-world materials to operationalize them. Others may see what is and wonder why; INTJs see what might be and say "Why not?!" Paradoxes, antinomies and other contradictory phenomena aptly express these intuitors' amusement at those whom they feel may be taking a particular view of reality too seriously. INTJs enjoy developing unique solutions to complex problems.

INTJs do, however, tend to conform to rules if they are useful, not because they believe in them, or because they make sense, but because of their unique view of reality. They are the supreme pragmatists, who see reality as something which is quite arbitrary and made up. Thus it can be used as a tool-or ignored. Reality is quite malleable and can be changed, conquered, or brought to heel. Reality is a crucible for the refining of ideas, and in this sense, INTJs are the most theoretical of all the types.

INTJs look to the future rather than the past, and a word which captures the essence of INTJs is builder-a builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. To INTJs authority based on position, rank, title, or publication has absolutely no force. This type is not likely to succumb to the magic of slogans, watchwords, or shibboleths. If an idea or position makes sense to an INTJ, it will be adopted, if it doesn't, it won't, regardless of who took the position or generated the idea. As with the INTP, authority per se does not impress the INTJ. They will trust their intuitions about others when making choices of friends and mates, even in the face of contradictory evidence and pressures applied by others. The emotions of an INTJ are hard to read, and neither male nor female INTJ is apt to express emotional reactions. At times, both will seem cold, reserved, and unresponsive, while in fact INTJs are almost hypersensitive to signals of rejection from those for whom they care.

In social situations, INTJs may also be unresponsive and may neglect to observe small rituals designed to put others at their ease. For example, INTJs may communicate that time is wasted if used for idle dialogue, and thus people receive a sense of hurry from an INTJ which is not always intended. In their interpersonal relationships, INTJs are usually better in a working situation than in recreational situations. They do not enjoy physical contact except with a chosen few. They tend to withhold their deep feelings and affections from the public and sometimes even from the object of their affections. They can be intensely loyal and caring, even though this is not always expressed in words.

By nature, INTJs are independent individualists. They see their visions so clearly that they are often surprised when others do not see things the same way.They set internal standards of achievement for themselves and often do well academically. Being sociable is a standard that they rarely think is worth their time and energy. (You can take a test based off the original, here. It might not be completely accurate, as it is not the original but it will lead you in the right direction). I’m realizing that it’s not the Netherlands that’s ‘changed me so much’–it’s life that’s changed me–and I’m just growing up. Completely normal. Though looking back at everything up until this point, I can easily see how I thought NL was the culprit. I guess what makes everything so intense sometime, is that–at the end of the day I’m growing up alone. In a foreign country at that. Which I forget, quite a lot. 

And that’s the thing; I don’t ever realize I’m in a ‘foreign’ country. It’s also probably because the Dutch all speak English. Quite well. Which only represses a foreigner’s attempt to learn, and speak, Dutch. Though I do like Dutch–and I like speaking it. My favorite words?: Kijk, alstublieft, and makkelijk. Love them all. They just make my mouth move in the strangest ways. Today I was looking at an image, and said to myself, 'ah–that's mooi'. But how could NL not feel like a foreign country? I am a Europhile; totally. I relate to European life so much more than that of life in America. The other day–as I was sitting on the edge of Eglantiersgracht, my favorite canal in the city–I had a mind shattering thought: Nothing is keeping me from leaving. If I was able to come here on my own–with almost no money–and no friends–and still managed to make things work out, hen I’m certainly determined and mentally strong enough to keep myself here. And that thought puts my mind to rest. I love it here in the Netherlands. And not just Amsterdam. I really think that most everything about the land of tiny–even the cow-filled countryside–is spectacular.

When I write about how people here will never quite know me the same way as they do in America–I’ve never expected them too. But at the same time, I’m learning that I’ll never quite know them the same way as their friends here know them. But of course, that changes with time. And it’s also one of the most amazing things about life. As much as you know someone–you’ll never know everything about them. And that’s what keeps it interesting. Because no one, will ever be–someone else.

And this is why I need to learn Dutch. Because life is about sharing. And I would venture to say people are better able to explain themselves–in their native tongue. Why not learn it if you live here? I'm starting lesson next month. I have decided. I have a huge base knowledge of Dutch, just from hearing spoken and seeing written words. There’s a quite inspiring sentence painted above a house in the Jordaan. The other day I tried to find it, to snap picture. No luck. But I do remember the quote. ‘Why are we all born as individuals, yet we all die as copies?’ Why do we?

You see it everywhere. Me included. People mirror the actions, language, customs and fashions of others. What’s keeping us from being ourselves in this false illusion of ‘reality’ that we live in? Besides, what is ‘reality’ anyway? I’m not sure it exists, as the world is in a constant state of change–as is the built environment around us. Leaving nothing to immune to change. Then again, I really don’t know and more than likely never will. My friend Melissa recently commented on an old pos, which reads: 'John, I'm proud of you. And I too am trying to recognize how I am growing. I feel like change stirs up the hidden inner pieces of who we actually are. Disruption and the following adjustment seems to show us what is real and what can melt into air. I love glimpses of that. I love when life can show me something new. I hope I can catch up with you soon. I miss you. Melissa.' My life has sort of been given a bit of a shaking since I took off to Italy; I experienced many unexpected social encounters on the Italian coast.

And I think it was for the best. Though I'm still confused about it–to be honest. My time in Italy was cut short, and I ended up taking a 22 hour train ride from Italy to Amsterdam. Which is something I've always wanted to do, just not this summer. I also came to Europe to unravel my self; find out what truly makes me tick. That's the truth; however it may sound. Last year I did some personal shake-downs (getting in shape, eating super healthy–as in baking my own bread, making every meal from scratch healthy. And I mean healthy. I'm heading in the right direction. I know that. As Melissa said in her comment, ‘Disruption and the following adjustment seems to show us what is real and what can melt into air.’ But what if–after those adjustments–what we thought was real before, didn’t melt into thin air? What if it was real? But then again, if reality isn't real–then adjustments cannot take place; therefore, how do you define an 'adjustment''? I may never know. I've been lying in the park lot these days, reading–and in what other city, can I lay in the park, next to a sculpture by Picasso? Very, very few, this I know to be true. And so, life moves forward.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

John:

-Wonders about life quite often

-Would like to run this evening (check)

-Wants to watch the stars fall from the sky, tonight (check)


-Wishes he were outside in the sun (no-check)

-Wants a hamster (soon...)

(Update, January 2011: Still no hamster; July 2012: A hamster!)

Monday, August 3, 2009

On the importance of friends.

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. 'Which road do I take?' she asked. 'Where do you want to go?' was his response. 'I don't know,' Alice answered. 'Then,' said the cat, 'it doesn't matter.' –Lewis Carroll

Last year I sort of went off the deep end here in Amsterdam. It’s something that I just can’t shake off of me. This month, a bunch of Americans from my past–a bit of a blast form the past–visited me here in Amsterdam. My city. The city I now call home, and subsequently identify with–even though my Dutch is a bit rusty (though I can be found speaking Dutch; when forced, or when I know that I have the sentence right–down to the grammar, but I’m learning mistakes are cool also. Moving on.) Friends are essentially a mirror in which you see yourself. When that mirror is suddenly gone–well, so goes all the voices that give you continuous feedback on your life. And listening to the voice inside your head, without bouncing that voice off anyone else, is like looking through a one-way mirror at times.

Looking back at the last year of my life, it is strange. There are just parts I don’t remember. But of course, I do remember them–it's just that last winter was rough. I got really sick at Christmas–and it was also my first winter in Amsterdam. It was freezing.

Then again, this is the first full year of my life where I haven’t been moving every three months, and have actually had a chance to watch the season change around me. It’s beautiful (and there was actually a period of two years where I missed winter, because I kept moving back to California).

This is also the first full year of my ‘all-grown-up’ life, where I haven’t lived by the rules of ‘quarters’ (as my university was on the quarter system–unlike the rest of American universities, which are ruled by semesters). I no longer anticipate ‘fall quarter’, ‘spring quarter’, etc. My life is now ruled by the seasons–minus the 'quarter' addition on the end. The real seasons, I guess you could say.

One of the greatest things about knowing someone for a sizable chunk of time–is watching them grow alongside you. This is hard to do from afar, and thanks you, social media. Without it, my researching abilities would likely be less developed–and consequently, the people in my life who I care about would only slip from my grasps.

But of course those who truly matter will always be in touch–and stay in touch. But it’s just different… being away from them. (Please take note of the lack of the words that could have easily replaced the word 'them' in the last sentence: home, America, the USA, etc. My home is Amsterdam.) Of course the people I care about back on the other side of the ocean will always be there for me when I need them–and vice versa–but, they’re not here. Lots of other people are–happy Dutch people even–and they are my future. They are my right now. And I’m loving this as the revelation becomes more and more pronounced.

A friend just left my house yesterday for Nice, where she’ll be studying for four weeks. The people who’ve touched my life here in Amsterdam–well, to be quite honest, have touched my life in ways that some of the people I met in America could have never achieved. There’s just something wrong about feeling trapped somewhere–and that’s one reason the USA and I parted ways. There was just no room for personal growth–given the situation I was in at the time. And honestly, I just don’t feel (Midwest) Americans are just ready for the types of architecture and design that pumps out of Europe (though I know there are pockets of the USA who are desperately thirsty for it).

I’ve had three different visitors this month on three different weekends at that. Which probably explains the lack of writing on my part–and is partially part of the reason this is all bursting out of me at the moment. My old roommate stopped by AMS for a weekend, two friends who I’ve known since 2004 (which is a long time considering my current situation), and a great great friend who I can be around and say absolutely nothing, and yet we know exactly what the other is thinking. It was great seeing them all. And it’s friends like these that provide that mirror for you to look in at your life–and look at yourself, through a completely different set of eyes. It felt really nice. Without this mirror, self-destruction can set in. And I’ve self destructed too many times here, to let it happen again.

With the brigade of Americans running through my life these past few months. It just makes me realize that, I do indeed I have a past–one that extends beyond my time in the Netherlands.

The John that’s totally down for that extra piece of cake bar (referencing my dire lack of eating last autumn), that extra mojito (referencing my dire lack of drinking last year–borderline keeping myself from letting loose and having a fun night out... because as much as I support the fact that alcohol’s just poison–it’s a socially acceptable poison that’s not going anywhere anytime soon. And sometimes it’s nice. As is being a product of your time–and in this time, alcohol is OK. So I guess I’ll live in the moment...). That spontaneous, anything goes John, is resurfacing. That fearless, driven, happy-go-lucky guy that could make anyone smile, the one who loves life–is back. He was gone for a while. And I really missed him. Hello again, sir.

When my friends where here, they told me things about my life that I would have never began to think on my own. They placed their mirror in front of me. One said something like, 'You just disappeared.' (Referencing my abrupt absence from peoples lives in the USA). Another said, 'You’re all grown up. You’re a real person!' (With sarcasm, and seriousness–referencing the fact they’re still in school, and I now have a non-academic life–and am not). Another, 'You’re so lucky.' (Referencing the fact that I live in Amsterdam; said to me as we were having a canal-side drink while the sun set).

And yet another, 'I’m really proud of you.' (Referencing everything I’ve accomplished thus far). As much as these simple words of affection–and wonder–are obvious to those on the outside–to me, they never are. And they were all–including every conversation my friends and I had–were incredibly nice to hear. Sometimes, as simple as it is, hearing the words ‘I’m proud of you’, from someone you care about–feels really really nice. And maybe I should work on telling myself that more often.

I’m growing up. And I’m aware of the changes. And it makes me really happy. Because I didn’t come to Europe for the delectable cheeses and wines; I came for the adventure and thrill–the history, culture, and countless travel possibilities for adventure and unknown. I'm in the center of the world, or at least my version of it. (And I might have possibly been motivated by the super architecture that comes with this continent, on the side). I'm going to Italy tomorrow, and I expect to do nothing but read, write, drink and eat, and lay on the beach, all, day, long.