Sunday, March 8, 2015

Flevopark as Sanctuary:

This past weekend I spent much time on my balcony, refreshening the tiny garden that sits within it, in anticipation of spring. The sun shined all day this weekend, and only became more pronounced as it progressed. Yesterday I spent much time with my hands in dirt; it was nice. Saturday I showed a friend who lives just nearby, around the neighborhood here, and all of the wonderful things that fill its streets, like new shops, cafes, and ephemeral places–and then we wandered over to Flevopark, (which I usually run thorough) to walk together. The park was also the location that her dog–with us all day too–was able to run leashless, making friends with all the other surrounding leashless dogs. I do not have a dog, but did babysit one here in Amsterdam once–and they are cute, but much work indeed. Flevopark really is gorgeous, and the few paths that run through its thin swathes of mature trees, really do make it seem as if I'm somehow lost within some deep primaeval forest. Afterwards we waddled over to Drover’s Dog for a wine on their terrace, and then stumbled home. Serendipitous Saturdays like that one are welcomed. I was running around the city that morning, and passed her sitting in her windowsill smoking, as her house is situated along my running route, and I looked up when I passed her house, and there she was! I had also ran into two other people on that same run, just 10 and 20 minutes earlier. Amsterdam feels comfortingly intimate like that sometimes; such as when I run into no less than three people I know when running, and the last of them says, ‘Let’s go to Flevopark! I'll call you in an hour.’ It's good for the self to be recognized in public; to meet people one knows out of the expected contexts. What a difference nearly seven years makes. I speak Dutch everywhere these days; it just falls out of my mouth. Give me some cheese and mustard any day. I’ve taken to my newly certified Dutch-citizen identity stridently; it would be difficult to say that I wasn’t already an adherent believer in mustard and cheese, starting years earlier in fact. Yet I’ve also retained my American self too; in the process I’ve created something new–a new identity that I bring to 'Dutch' society. Just as all the people who are Dutch-(Something), and not just simply ‘Dutch’; we're inside outsiders. I’m part of the former, not the later. Yet most everyone I speak with seems to have no problem accepting me as just Dutch. My skin though is white. Why is that? Would it be the same if I were an African-American-Dutch citizen? I don’t know if I would have had such an easy time assimilating if I were. Yet perhaps I am wrong; though this subject I have just discussed in one of my classes, while standing in front of the Nation Slavery Monument in Oosterpark. Here we were, this tiny class of only a few, huddled next to this elongated statue, answering questioned posed about identity and race, and the Dutch colonial past and its current view in the minds of the country’s citizens, versus the same condition and its current state in the UK. These two post-colonial conditions–views toward and memory and heritage status of, the colonial past–are treated in very different way in each country. Here it’s largely ignored. I have quested this monument years ago, and why, for instance, it isn’t announced more prominently within the park; small thoughts such as that, concerning Dutch identity, have often crossed my mind. And there I was, five years later, in class, at the same monument, having questions such as those I had already asked myself years ago, posed to me now, by my professor. My life is beginning to make full circles. So many exciting events and occurrences are happening within it right now. Above all, I'm anticipating my trip to London, in just over three weeks. Hello, sunny springtime in the UK.