Saturday, January 23, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
About a week ago the Netherlands was completely covered in snow, as it had been since before christmas. Now the temperature is back above 0C (32F), the snow is gone, and the rain is back. Dutch rain is a unique type of rain. It never rains very hard (except for those rare occasions in the summer), and it sort of mist's/drizzles for most of the day–keeping everything in a constant state of 'damp'. Including you. And you will never have a chance to dry. Because you'll probably need to go somewhere (else) on your bike shortly after arriving indoors. The snow was nice, as it doesn't snow much here usually. But now the rain's back–which means it's going to be like the current conditions for about another three months until spring hits. The birds are already chirping. Strange how snow always makes everything seem silent. Do birds chirp when there's snow, too? It never seems like it. All I really want to do is ride my bike around Vondelpark (in shorts and sandals!), lay down in a patch of grass, and watch the clouds roll-by overhead. Soon enough, I imagine.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I’m currently on a train to heading toward Maastricht. Ah, glorious Maastricht. Land of less than 118,00 people, who feel the need to pull together and give themselves a separate identity from the rest of the Netherlands, because of many reasons. But mainly because they're distanced from the rest of the country. And their religion. And they even have their own language. Limburgsg. Fascinating. But I’ve been going to the Maas for work every other week, which will just continue indefinitely. Fun in a way, but at the same time, it also pulls me away from AMS. But the Maas is beautiful. I remember a period where I thought taking trains throughout Europe was sexy and exciting and fun. It still can be if I'm in the right mood, but now it's more of a: 'I need to get here, so I take the train to get there... Sort of thing'. But it still beats having a car any day. I'm so glad I don't have to drive here in AMS. (Because I have no car!) The other day, since ams is covered in ice and snow these days, I said to myself–as my bike was sliding around, and the freezing cold wind (thanks for the lovely breeze, North Sea!) was piercing through my hands, as I pedaled to work over bridges and bike lanes, ‘Right now I should be driving to work in my (heated) car right now, listening to my favorite song of the moment, on my amazing car-audio system (Bose!), as I sip my piping hot local-non-Starbucks to-go cappuccino, in pure bliss.' I’m also realizing the average salaries of Europeans, and they are tiny when compared to those of the USA. And by Europeans, I mean Nederlanders. Tiny. Who knew that people could live off of salaries like that? A friend recently explained it so eloquently…
I wrote to him: ‘Why does America teach you that you can go to college and then get a degree and a job and that everything will be ok, without telling you that you'll probably have a very large of money to pay back in student loans? Then again, most people fresh out of college don't move to Europe and stick with the American paycheck. Europeans just don't make much. Bummer.'
He wrote back: ‘John, the problem with your situation is that you went to college in the USA (because you're a USA citizen), and you have a ton of loans now. Here in the USA we're expected to make enough money to pay that back, and live; which most people do (well, when we're not in an economic recession/depression we do). In the glorious land of Europe, they make a lot less than Americans, but their tuition is always paid for. It's just a simple trade off. Most of the Europeans I know that have college trained skills (I have friends who live in France, England and Italy: they are designers, web programmers and architects) would much rather live in the USS, because they'd get paid at least 20% more than they're making now. They envy our system. Isn't it funny that I, and many other Americans (including you) envy the Euro system, yet they envy our capitalism (though many wouldn't outright admit it)?! It's so strange that we all want what we don't have. It's the thrill and the allure of the exotic, no matter the situation.’
How is it that friends are always so right with these sorts of matters? (Update, December 2012: Or so I thought, at the time.) Money certainly doesn’t make you happy. It can buy you lots of nice things, but it also enables you to travel and access certain places, people, and things–it is a vehicle for acquisition of objects, and power, and relationships.Yet maybe life in USA can be a bit in excess, compared to the rest of the world. Which you don’t realize when you live there. This is totally a modern-day, first world sort of issue; by the way. I realize this could be much worse, as well. But when growing up in the USA, students of higher education are just automatically taught that after graduation they progress to the next sage of life (work) and make money and live. Then again, they stay in America. I have friends who graduated at the same college as I, and still don’t have jobs–even though most graduated about a year and half ago–I have no idea how some of them are getting by–as in the USA most private loans (payments kick in exactly six months after graduation, and if you don’t have a job, well then, you can’t pay your loans back, now can you?). Simple and makes complete sense. But why doesn’t the US allow you a bit more time before payments starts? Like a year, or even two, that way you find a job and save some cash, get on your feet. And then start giving it back to the bank? Makes much more sense in my mind.
I imagine some of my friends, who I know have massive amounts of student loans, still don’t have jobs and their six months have definitely passed. I’m sure their parents are helping them… or they’ve delayed them due to unemployment, which is possible. The strange thing about having a career/job in the real world, is realizing that grades don’t matter anymore, and no one is going to tell you how good or bad of a job you did in the academic sense of the words, it’s all about business–which is something design school certainly doesn’t teach you. But the strange thing about money is that I personally don’t need it to be happy–though it certainly helps. I have been more happy this past year then I have been in a long time. And I live in a beautiful city, where I can always find things to entertain myself with, whether it being laying in the park and reading a book next to a canal (which happens many times in the summer months on my weekends, and I love it), browsing through markets, or sitting next to a canal in the center, watching the world go by, sitting in cafes sipping cappuccinos for hours. The list is endless. I’m happy in this city. It does something to me. It has elevated me to new heights. Even without the extra Euro on my bank account, that could potentially be there. There’s always another side of this city to explore. And I love that. The tiny city of less than 800,000 that some how never ceases to keep giving. And giving.
What really does upset me sometimes is that I could easily move back to the USA and make quite a bit more money than I do here in Amsterdam. Then again, I didn't go to a design school to become a plutocrat; I did it because I love design. But even if I had more money, what would I do with it? Travel to Europe? Buy a car? Pay more money for my health insurance? Buy a house? See more of the United States? (Which aren’t going anywhere anytime soon). Or perhaps I would travel, outside the USA, all the time.But it still amazes me to this day that I found a job in Amsterdam after my internship last year, during that whole 'the world is crumbling to bits because of the economic recession!' bit, which we experienced in late 2008. Which was apparently much worse in the USA. But I did take to AMS quite quickly. My little home on the North Sea. I absolutely love living near the ocean. Beaches here are so breathtaking. In summer, in winter. Yet I imagine life is always in your own hands, and you control and direct where it is you’re going. Perhaps, as a non-native, I will always be at a slight monetary disadvantage in Amsterdam. Or maybe not. But that’s ok, because in the USA, there is no Amsterdam. And Amsterdam is my home.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I went to Berlin for the Christmas holiday, and it was bone chilling cold. Freezing. Actually: below freezing–the whole time. But beautiful. And what was even more beautiful, was once again stepping foot inside Schipol–Amsterdam's airport, and returning home after being away for almost 16 days. It's been a little over a week since I returned back in the land of tiny. How is it that 16 days can sound like so long–yet lasts far too little?