Thursday, September 15, 2011

Trend Forecasting My Future:

Here I am on yet another trip to Maastricht. Again.

I recently read through some of my old posts, and saw that I wrote something along the lines of 'Who knew that the city of Maastricht would become such an integral part of my life?' So true. I have a few friends there, I know the city well, certainly its geography. Last time I was there I ran to Belgium, as in ran, crossed the bridge, touched Belgium, and then ran back. It was about 12K in total. It really is a beautiful, Maastricht. It is a city tucked alongside the river Meuse. It doesn't feel Dutch in the way North Holland does. And it is a nice destination to be. I should perhaps refer to it as a leisure destination. The whole city is full of shops and restaurants, and it often feels like an outdoor shopping mall. That is until the streets clear, because the shops have closed. The city has a bit of a French feel to it, and a bit more wrought-iron too.

Regardless, it's very pretty–heel heel mooi–and I've genuinely learned to appreciate the city, its people, their customs and cultures that make them so unique.

That's enough of a tribute to Limburg. Onto North Holland, again.

I really love my little city on the North Sea. Amsterdam and I have had plenty of time to get acquainted with one another. I have been thrusting both my professional existence and my personal interests out into the world these days, at what seems like a drastic force, to me at least–as someone who's very content to lounge around the house all day. I'm starting to take a conscious interest in fashion, too. But then again, I'm always up for a run, I constantly crave being outdoors, and the excitement of the city, can always pull me. Amsterdam has so much to offer, and it has offered me so much more, since my Dutch has improved. I am very proud of the Dutch I have learned since moving to Amsterdam. It makes me feel a bit more in tuned and aware of my surrounding, beyond the physical built environment, and more so into the invisible social environment. I like being in the moment, and I like being a stranger. I like knowing what's happening in my city, what the views, actions and initiatives are, of those around me and inhabiting space around my general living vicinity/neighborhood.

For the past year and half I have lived in the Indische Buurt with my boyfriend. It's swell. I guess if you were British you could say it was lovely. It was not so hot of a neighborhood in the city 5-10 years ago. But lately it has taken off... Most of the nieighborhood above the Insulindeweg is quite cute, with late nineteenth century architecture so characteristic of Dutch architecture of that period. And it's very linguistically and visually diverse. There are so many cultures and colors living side by side. This little neighborhood is on the rise. And I can say that I have never had a neighborhood of my own before, as I have never really had the chance to semi-settle anywhere. I lived in Russian Hill in San Francisco, the East Village in Manhattan, Amager in Copenhagen, and in Derendorf in Düsseldorf. I've also lived in the Ouid Zuid, Fredrik Hendrikbuurt, and Westerpark, here in Amsterdam. But all of those places were temporary, and I have never lived in a house, bought it, renovated it, and lived in it with a boyfriend before. But it has been the most beautiful experience. So since we moved in, it of course feels much more permanent. So I claim the Indishe Burt to be my first true neighborhood; one where I belong, because I live here. I care about my neighborhood.

The Indishe Buurt is full of little gems: The Wilde Swijnen and the Het Badhuis on Javaplein, a brand new library just opened around the corner, also on Javaplein. I have two Albert Heijn's within a 200 m walk of my house, and there is this great little produce shop on Javastraat that sells supper cheap and super fresh veggies, fruits, couscous, eggs, etc. My favorite is called Efe Food, and they are the best! There is also Studio K, just around the corner, and the somewhat over-hyped but still pleasantly enjoyable, Pompstation, a restaurant in an old pump station, as the name implies. There is also Muiderpoort station just a five minute walk from my house–the better to take the NS train anywhere in Holland, or for that matter Europe: Paris, Nice, Berlin... all trains interconnect–some just cost more, obviously. But I can, similarly, take the train to Schipol Airport, and jet off around the world anywhere. You see, the Netherlands has traditionally been very fertile in both its land and its accessibility to the world. And I love that. It means the world is at my fingertips. Cities that don't have some sort of fixed rail, light rail, subway, metro, etc.–that connects their city's core to their airport, always confuse me. I don't have a car in Amsterdam, and I love that. But...

My boyfriend and I are a member of Amsterdam's version of the 'Zip Car' scheme. It's a city car-sharing program, similar to the original from San Francisco. It's called GreenWheels. Last weekend we decided to use the electric car they just docked around the way from our house. It costs the same price as the gas/petrol car, and it seemed like a fun and guilt free way to get to The Hague asap, without–you know, that combustion engine thing also along for the ride. When we got in, the other started the car, but neither of us realized that it was on for quite some time. I think he tried to start it at least five times before we realized that, since it was electric, it was also noiseless. Every worry or question that people have about electric cars, in the name of a slight skepticism, came true for us that day–though I have always been a fan of the idea and the reality of an electric car, I had never ridden in one until now. Our 'power' dropped to half, halfway to The Hague. I stammered, 'It's totally fine! Of course! No keep going to The Hague! It's fully charged!' In the end we just barely made it back to Amsterdam, after turning around while halfway to The Hague, while driving as fluidly as possible to make it back home. We returned to and pulled into the parking spot, just as the powered-low dashboard light was just about to finish its first and final round of 'low power' blinks. What a day that was.

I feel at home in this city. I have a history here. And I love that. I moved here not knowing what to expect, whom I would meet, where my professional life would lead, or who and what would stumble–or I would pull–into my life. I have pulled some very fascinating people in the Dutch world of design into my little social-interaction-circle. It's all very stimulating and I feel as if Amsterdam has taught me, professionally, that life and the work that you've devoted your time to, does not always move so fast as you think it can–or should. Life is not always about speed, or numbers, or money. Growing up in America everything is about money, but in a very strange way. Every new building, complex or development proudly announces and markets how many millions it cost–and everyone is always trying to get ahead. In a way this is nice. It makes people non-stagnant and in my experience, a bit more competitive too. It's a faster life. I feel as in Europe there is often a less rushed life dance-taking place, than that in (Northern) North America. It's so far been a beautiful discovery for me, moving here, and Europe has really slowed me down.

Europe has done to me, many of the things I had hoped and wished it would: slow me down, profoundly raise my self-confidence, change my eating habits, get me in super-shape, open up the world to me in terms of my writing and editing endeavor–beyond this publication–and allow me to experience regions of the world previously unknown to me–through travel. I've learned/am learning a whole new language that enables me to see the world in a whole new way, and better yet, be able to express myself in a whole new way too. It's great fun, and I must say I am incredibly surprised myself how good my Dutch can actually be, if I, A: try had enough, and/or B: have an urge or desire to speak it. Depends who I'm talking to. I like being able to express myself in two languages. It's very interesting.

I have really been horrible with jotting down of words this year and I have to say I have received quite a few random emails this year from websites, etc. that refer to this publication as, 'a photo blog'. A photo blog! Wow–that was a kick and an inspiration to set my fingers on a pecking spree against my keyboard. But it's true though; most of 2011 has been imagery. But nice imagery, I like to think. But I do love writing and I've recently been devoting myself to other projects in 2010-11. Articles and books and editing. I must say I love the little design and publishing sphere that I've fallen into in this city. Life feels so right at this moment. And, as I've always known, it can only get better. The best is yet to come. Here's to the future, whatever that may bring, and wherever that may bring me.

Though I can say, that life will be taking me to Paris–again! My fourth time in the city, to visit two of my great friends in October, the 14-16. A quick weekend get away. I am so excited to see my friends (always fun to see American friends in Europe), and bask in the lights, of La Ville-Lumière, yet again.