Saturday, September 29, 2012

And so they moved into the marshes...

And I am one of them. I am one of the people who follow in the footsteps of those who, centuries ago, moved into the marshes, since tamed and turned into polders–onto which Amsterdam has been built–of the rivers Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt, at the foot of the North Sea, southwest of Germany, and just east of England. But, now that I speak Dutch I notice often that I 'miss the mark' when at a store checking out with a cashier, or doing the same at a bank, or when ordering a sandwich at a deli; even if I say everything right in Dutch–as well as its pronunciation and syntax–if the recipient doesn't hear what's expected in the beginning and ending of a conversation (as in, the colloquial Dutch greets/goodbyes and the matching body language), it sort of throws the other off, quite a bit. Suddenly you're questionable. Or at least a bit different. And so the unwritten-unspoken codes of a language has more to do with putting people at ease, than it does to actually communicate anything. I usually leave these expected-sayings-and-movements out of my speech and interactions anyway, often because I don't know them fully or because I'll merge my American manners and use my Dutch language skills as a means to express those manners. But this is the same when I speak English. I am just being myself, why still being conscious of those around me, of course. It is very easy to fall into patterns, especially with, for instance, the supermarket check-out girls. 'Hello, Hello; Bonus card? Yes; Pin. Receipt? Yes; Thanks. Good weekend; You too, bye,' and so on. I find it much more fulfilling to, for instance, chat with the wonderful book-keepers of Boekhandel Mulder on the lovely Cornelis Schuytstraat in the Ou-Zuid, just below the Concertgebouw, or equally be sociable with the shop-keepers of the adjacent Organic food shop, whilst around to the east of the Concertgebouw, Renzo's employees too will take their time and listen to your mid-level Dutch, smile, and throw-out their Dutch right back. Quite quickly I'm learning that language can denote who's in and who's out; who belongs and who doesn't. And it's all interesting to take in fromt a native English perspective, with the skills to at the same time understand everything being said around me in Dutch. Fun! Language has played a key role in Europe's past, as it has in many societies; for status, rank, recognition... I imagine that my spoken Dutch is exotic, mysterious, semi-correct, and yet not quite the norm as those around me. That becomes overcome with time. It is fun to speak Dutch; the language suits me quite well.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Looking Forward:

So I've lived here for more than four years now and the time just keeps ticking. It seems that most people die around the age of 80; some get lucky–if you prefer to call it that–and live longer, while the lives of some are cut short. So is life, I imagine. Amsterdam has presented many opportunities to me and luckily I have reached out and grabbed many of them with a ferocious intensity. Whoops! Was that me? When I first moved here just the idea of being so close to every other city in Europe made me giddy. Still does. But in a different way than it used to. Europe used to have many different meaning to me; now those meanings have been refined and rethought. Europe is a continent, and a damn pretty one at that.

Lately I've been pondering the road yet untravelled, future-tripping like no other rather than living in the moment. What can I say; living in the moment can be difficult at times. But, then again, if you never look forward or backward, time stands still, and the moment is always nearby. Professionally life couldn't be more exciting; so many wonderful people and projects and situations requiring intense strategy fill my days. It is a mixture of intellectual curiosity and intensive production. I know that digital and printed media is where my heart feels most at home, and also where my professional aspirations and gains can found. But what I also love is not journalism per se, but editing, writing, and creating narratives that touch emotion, and, subsequently, build businesses. I have learned so much about the world since moving to Amsterdam, and I only continue to absorb more of its culture each day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pondering the Present:

As I continue to ponder my future, and my present, I ask myself what it is once again that life is all about. What is it that I'm here to do, if anything. Perhaps I'm not a world shape-shifter, and instead only meant to enjoy the good life... could totally be in my future, or present. I feel as if the work I am doing is very beneficial to the skill set that I possess and continue to refine. But does that work make me feel like a good person, and what is the point of work anyway? Without full-time employment, who would I be? The thing is: I'm pretty sure I know the answer. I would be John–just John, thank you–the happy sprite-y guy who loves life more than the sun loves rising. My titles do not define me, nor does my education (which is also stellar, thank you), nor do the 'accomplishments' I've collected over the years. Even though I am still quite proud of them. I am not finding myself in Amsterdam; I'm making myself in Amsterdam. And so far, the me I'm making is rather taking shape; another layer off, another layer on, and one step further into my future, as seen from the present.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Slow Love:

A while back I brushed up on my social psychology and my personality types, learning along the way that extroverts gain energy from social situations while extroverts expel energy in the same situation. This comes to mind as I spent most of Sunday afternoon glued to the couch, deep in Dominque Browning's memoir Slow Love. It tells the unraveling of her job as editor-in-chief of Condé Nast's House & Garden, which has obviously folded by now (2007, to be exact). She mentions the bit about expelling and gaining energy from parties within the pages. I would say I'm an expeller. For sure.

Social situations, I'm learning, are what makes the world go round. How we respect and treat one another is of grave importance. I'd much rather not connect with people and just observe, but I'm sure everyone feels that way at times. Sometimes getting lost within the crowd is one of the best ways to also disappear. I'm learning a great deal about life lately, or so I tell myself. Who I want in it; who I don't; what I engage with; what I don't. I'm learning to engage more; to be more assertive; to be myself; to be free. A little bit wiser than the day before, and a little bit further down the road of the life.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Autumn is Nearby:

A chill has descended upon Amsterdam during the past few days, as Western Europe begins its plunge into what I consider 'the eternal darkness of the European winter'. This aforementioned season is particularly gruesome during the months of January and February, in Amsterdam. Dreary skies are all the eye can see for weeks on end, blanketing the city in a seemingly never-ending state of gray. But coming with this change in seasons, and preluding winter, is autumn; a season that Amsterdam oppositely revels within. The leaves on the trees have begun their drop, and the city's parks are beginning to see less cyclists, loungers, and people watchers. Luckily I'm in love with autumn, and, as you may have guessed, I'm more than excited to usher in its copious, warm-hued, visual offerings.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

(the) Weekend:

This past weekend was a fabulous weekend here in Amsterdam. After what has seemed like a summer full of rain, the skies opened and the clouds drifted... well, to be honest I do not know where they drifted... but they left Amsterdam's sky and in doing so painted it a shade of blue it hasn't seen in some time: a stunningly refreshing and crisp blue that begs you come outside and play in the summer sun.

Now that we've pondered the weather, it's time to get to business. This little publication is slowly evolving, as am I, and it's always insightful to pour through the older entries of it and revisit the subjects that were, at times, so consuming of my thoughts during the past few years. The general narrative goes something like this: Amsterdam is beautiful; I love it here; Growing up is more challenging in a non-native environment; Growing up also entails countless doors of opportunities (if you aren't afraid to look for, and open, them); Speaking Dutch comes with time and intense studying (and not solely setting foot on Dutch soil); I couldn't be more happy to be where I am, at this moment in time.

That's a damn good narrative; sprinkled with lots of pretty photos of this city, other cities, and general landscapes and daily scenes that make me smile. Steven Heller said it best when he proclaimed, 'Everybody has a story to tell... if you can figure out how to make it work in any kind of medium, you may have a product.' Transcribing my thoughts, and reshaping them over and over again, until those thoughts resonate in words, is one of my passions. And I want to continue building and improving upon my passions, with time. And time, is so precious.

Earlier this year I made a large decision that has propelled my life forward. It was totally a 'crossroads' moment, and I chose left. Now while I am right-handed person, in this instance left seemed best–at the time–and so far that's proven to be true. Another large life-event happened earlier this year, also, during my trip to Scandinavia, whilst watching over the waters just beyond Denmark's shores, with Sweden in the distance. It was magic. Two life stepping-stones this year, already stepped across; options I've chosen that will certainly direct my future in unseen ways. Exciting.

My Dutch lessons have begun (again) and I'm scheduled to take my super-big-official test. After which after I will be considered a B1 Dutch speaker by the Dutch government. I was originally going for the B2 level of communication in Dutch, but slowly discovered that while I am driven in my desire to learn Dutch, there's no rush to get to a 'near-native' of comprehension. There's time for that. So, Dutch lessons until December.

I'm no longer at the point where I live in Europe and am, just smitten with Europe. It's a continent. But yes; it is really magical and overflowing with history. I always make it a point throughout my day to pause, listen, smell, see, hear, touch, and appreciate the small moments that make my life so worth living. More often than not, these mini-breaks (each lasting only a few seconds, or minutes, at most) happen when a particular moment creates the framework for a scene within my field of vision to become glamorized in all its romantic-Amsterdam-ness. Almost always these scenes include a gable, canal, or brick-paved street. What can I say? I feel at home in Amsterdam, amongst it timeless layers and within its abundant enveloping offerings.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dwindling Summer:

The last days of the summer months are coming to an end in Amsterdam, or at least it feels that way. Boats glide down the city's canals less frequently, and the leaves are beginning their autumnal transformation. The days of wearing sweaters slowly approaches, and each night the sun begins to set, just a bit earlier. Summer, in Amsterdam, has nearly come and gone...