Our First Week Away From Home
And so it has begun. And time is already flying. We’re having fun, and we’re freezing our arses off while we bike around Amsterdam, catching wrong trains, looking for houses and finding out all kinds of new things — in short, it’s been a hard, yet extremely rewarding past week.
We left Durban on a 35ºC March Monday. That was Durban saying cheers. We were looking forward to cooler weather. But the contrast between that hot and humid climate to the dry, cold, and windy climate of Amsterdam has been intense. It has not rained yet, and we have a slight Jonah complex — as we leave South Africa it pours and floods, and since we’ve arrived it hasn’t rained. We think the Dutch are lying about the rain — we think they’re trying to deter tourists and migrants. Amsterdam is a beautiful city and if the weather were any more pleasant, there would be a bigger influx of tourists and migrants — so much so that the city wouldn’t know what to do with them all. I mean, there is already a shortage of property — and it’s been tough to find a decent (and central) place for under €1500. Yup, that’s a lot of money, especially if you’re reading this in South Africa.
The flights and transport form Durban to Amsterdam were pretty good. We were delayed in Dubai for a little bit, but not as long as others. We heard of other flights being delayed by 5 hours. Because we booked our own flights, and were able to choose gluten-free meal options, which were very good, they came before everyone else’s — much to our fellow passenger’s questioning looks. We also got to drive in a Tesla taxi from the airport which I really enjoyed.
And while the travelling was easy, saying goodbye was hard. There were tears on our side right up until boarding, and more here and there. I can only assume that there were tears in our families’ eyes on the way back from the airport. The gravity of what we’re doing is slowly sinking in.
Another thing that was hard was visiting another church. It hardly compared with Olive Tree in Durban. And despite knowing that God is all around and present everywhere we’re still looking for a group of people to call our church — and we’re super amped to get stuck in.
Stuck into what God is doing here. Stuck into living a different life. Stuck into adventuring! Stuck into living in Amsterdam!
Which brings us to Cruesli. And chocolate. And chocolade broodjes. And beer. And cheese. And pastries. If you do not believe in God after eating and drinking in the Netherlands, then you may never. The Dutch know how to cook, brew, bake, and make. The cheese and chocolate we sampled at Zaanse Schans was just ridiculous. And the odd beer we’ve sampled had has been so good. And Cruesli? It’s granola. With slices of dark chocolate in it. It’s glorious. But it could make you fat.
What about our gluten-free diet? In short, it’s messed up. Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can take a step forward. We haven’t found a good supply of gluten-free goodies, nor have we found many restaurants and cafés that make gluten-free stuff. But we haven’t looked very hard — and it’s been quite nice to live like this for a while. Our tastebuds have been well pleased.
Because we’ve been doing a lot of admin, we’ve eaten out during the day quite a bit, but we’ve also had some really good home cooked meals. We’ve been staying on a friend’s couch in Amsterdam. And we’re extremely grateful for him, his hospitality, and his kindness. Despite how much we love him, we’ve been in search for a place to stay from the day we got here, as we need a place of residence to get our BSN number (social security number), to get a bank account, to get a cellphone contract, and to get a few other things that will save us money in the long run. We’ve had a look at a few places in our price range (quite a bit of Rands) and we may have found a nice place in a central area. There are always compromises to be made, and while we wish we could have an ideal apartment for an ideal price, we don’t want to be living out of bags for another few months in the hope that the perfect apartment will show up. So, our goal is to move into our own spot by April!
After being here for just 1 week we feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground. For one, we’ve started cycling! We were advised to get cheap bikes and expensive locks. With no frame of reference we bought some second hand ouma fietsen and 2 locks each. We went biking in Vondelpark (just Google it) to practice. And then we’ve been cycling on a daily basis! We’ve visited friends by bike, gone to appointments by bike, and even taken our bikes with us on a ferry. The freedom is amazing. The bikes are heavy. The air is cold. And the braking by peddling backwards has taken some getting used to — as has cycling on the other side of the road and having cars wait for us.
When we get fitter and better at this cycling thing, we’ll start going further and further — and the Netherlands is a small country! But for now we’ll take trains to far out places — like Zaanse Schans, where we went to celebrate Chantelle’s birthday. This place has great food and amazing old windmills! We did manage to catch the wrong train before coming back and taking the correct one. We’ve also played Bingo and drunk beer at Brouwerij de Prael with friends, got Dutch sim cards, bought rain coats (in case the Dutch aren’t lying), eaten at Zouk Café, and visited Amsterdam Noord.
But now let’s talk about Amsterdam and its people. They’re direct. They speak good English. They’re fun. They start the day much later than we’re used to. There are a lot of other nationalities here. And a lot of tourists. Cycling in tourist zones is tricky. There are all kind of shops everywhere — it’s convenience to another level. You could live quite comfortably in a 200m radius of where you live. It’s expensive — but there are some things that are on par or cheaper than Durban.
And it’s cold. This topic needs its own paragraph. We’re hoping we get used to the cold. I would like to be that guy cycling in a t-shirt when it’s 1ºC outside, but I’m not sure I ever will be. We constantly have to remind ourselves of the cold outside — because when the sun is shining it doesn’t look cold. Even a jersey for a quick stroll isn’t enough. The cold makes much more sense when it’s overcast and when it’s dark (the city by night is just magical). The cold has been refreshing, but it’s always present — not like here one day and gone the next. We thought we felt it because we’d come from 35ºC weather, but we saw Canadians dressed like us and we had some locals remark how cold it was — but they may have been sympathising with us due to Oros men appearance. But apparently this isn’t really cold — we haven’t even been able to find new gloves because “we’re going into summer”.
Our first week away from home has been amazing, busy, cold and fun. We’re missing you guys back in Durbs, but we’ve had a crazy cool time on this side of the world. Thanks for all the Skype sessions — they’ve been amazing top-ups!