Unorganized Update

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July 25, 2012 by MM

Warning: this is going to be a rambling, non-themed, unfunny, journal-style entry just summing up what I’ve been up to. If you hate being bored, feel free to skip to the next post. If you love boring yourself, read on!

My first month in Amsterdam inched by so slowly, but this last one flew by. I guess that’s because I’m no longer in a confused daze, just trying to figure everything out. I’m feeling so much more comfortable here, although I still have lonely days where I would give anything just to teleport to LA or NC and do something familiar. See my family, kiss my boyfriend, go to my favorite restaurant in Malibu, or just enjoy some sunshine without an equal amount of humidity.

So tomorrow marks my two-month luniversary of living in Amsterdam. There are a lot of things I’m learning to love about my new home, and some that I must tolerate. Here are some:

I love living on the water. From the living room windows, I can sit and watch boats go by any time of day. It’s fun to see the different types of boats and people in boats: stiff-looking people in suits, clearly on some after-work function; partyers dancing and blasting music; a homemade-looking wooden thing with balloons that floated by just now that I wish I had snapped a picture of; and everything else you can imagine. Adding particularly nicely to the ambiance, a houseboat that’s been parked downstairs for the last few days has a parrot on it that whistles and sings beautifully, adding a fun soundtrack to my boat-watching. Sometimes he even makes the sound of a truck backing up. The only downside is that it always makes me wish I were in a boat myself (except when it’s raining).

There are clock towers all over the place, and they chime the hour, the half hour, the 15-minutes, and whenever else they feel like chiming. I can hear them from any place in the house. Growing up, there was a church in our neighborhood that chimed songs every evening, so I associate it with the safety and peace I felt in childhood.

Although there is unarguably too much rain here, I love the sound of it on the windows. I love falling asleep when it’s raining outside. When it’s done raining, from my room in the back of the house, I can hear it dripping against metal. It’s soothing. I also like the view out my window. It’s of the backs of other houses, rooftops and roof decks. It may not be the “flashy” side with the river view, but it’s quiet and comforting.

I love riding my bike. Learning how to navigate through all the various forms of traffic makes me feel empowered and proud of myself. People bike here like you’d drive anywhere else; some people are awesome at it, weaving in and out, merging seamlessly, even talking on the phone. You can tell they grew up with it. At first, just like driving, I was nervous and tentative, but now I’m getting the feel of it and am blending in a lot better — making left turns across tram tracks, merging with cars and other bikes, ringing my bell at pedestrians, the whole thing. It’s new and fun! Then, of course, you run into things like today, when I rode to church in a nice dress that didn’t allow my legs to move enough, until I ripped it. Oops. And then I got caught in the rain and drenched on the way back. I guess I’ll just have to learn to ride one-handed while I hold an umbrella. People do that, too.

One thing I don’t like is how much Dutch people love their cigarettes. Man, these people love to smoke. Walking down the street, everyone seems to be lighting up. Luckily, it’s now banned in restaurants, but many people do smoke indoors. At our theatre, there’s a smoking room upstairs, and cutting through it happens to be the quickest route from the cast office to the downstairs bar and outside, so I often dash through, hoping to beat the smoke smell before it can cling to my clothes and hair. A couple weeks ago, I went to hear a band at a small venue. The music was great, but people were smoking all around me, and by about half an hour in, my eyes were burning. One woman smoked a whole cigarette directly into my face. Not to get all preachy, but Europeans seem to love to think they’re more healthy than Americans, and yet, smoking is THE number-one worst thing you can do for your health. (I got preachy; sorry.)

Last week, my good friend Tami from LA was in Belgium for her sister’s wedding reception. I took the train to meet her and spent the day with her family. I stayed with her in their beautiful Bed & Breakfast, then they dropped me off at the station the next day. We had some good Belgian beer, some good girl talk, and her sweet parents treated me to an array of food and drinks, even though they had never met me before. It was so wonderful on so many levels, and it makes me want more! More travel and more time with good, old friends. I do have a few more friends scattered around Europe, and I’m chomping at the bit to plan trips to visit them. Unfortunately I’m not a millionaire, but travel is my #1 spending priority while I’m living in Europe, so I plan to make the most of my opportunities.

I’ve started exploring a little of the Netherlands. A couple weeks ago, my castmate Jim and I went to Madurodam, a 1 to 20 scale model of many parts of the country. It was so detailed, and there was some fun interactive stuff, like a waterway where you could put little foam boats in and open and close the dikes and dams, raising and lowering the water level, just like a real waterway. It’s the kind of thing kids would totally dig, so yeah, it was right up my alley.

Tomorrow, two of my castmates and I are taking the train (and bus) to Efteling, an amusement park that apparently inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland. If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge sucker for Disneyland and Disney World (I even worked in Disney World when I was 19), and although I’m not one of those crazies who decorates her whole house with Disney paraphernalia, I must concur that it is the happiest place on earth. So anything that inspired Walt himself is something I’ll get behind. I absolutely cannot wait.

Other things I’ve done include:

  • Learning to quickly cook good chicken
  • Joining a great gym and going a lot
  • Celebrating the Fourth of July (on the second of July) at a party hosted by the US Consulate. Free food, booze, The Star-Spangled Banner, boring speeches, and lots of old people. Well worth it for the food and booze. And the anthem. I got a little teary. But then, I always do.
  • Finding the aforementioned church this morning, which was easier said than done. This church was built during the Protestant Reformation you may have learned about in high-school history. It was a Catholic church, and was officially illegal, but in the typical Dutch style of tolerance, Catholic churches were allowed to exist as long as they were not visible from the street. So you can’t see it until you walk into a courtyard which it took me a while to find. In 1607, the Protestants kicked the Catholics out, and it’s been an English-speaking Presbyterian church ever since. I feel a little guilty about the fact that it was literally commandeered from the Catholics, but nevertheless, I attended it and plan to continue doing so. Church and the gym have in common that they can take me out of my head and everything I’m worrying about and plop me right into the present, where I feel much more peaceful.
  • Shopping for clothes. Is it me, or do stores in Europe have way better sales than their US counterparts? Today after church I went into H&M and bought three cotton dresses, a belt, and a pair of shorts, and it was all, in total, about 23 Euros. I have to be careful, because I have very little storage space in my room, and I want to make a point to live simply and not accumulate too many things while I’m here. But these sales are not making it easy!
  • Coming to terms with the fact that I love Dutch cookies, and I’m going to continue eating them, a lot.  Luckily, I’m also going to the gym a lot, so I’m hoping the two will at least cancel each other out. Ideally, the gym results will outweigh the cookie results, but we’ll just have to see. I’m not giving up those cookies.

If I were at my old copy editing job, I would not have allowed that bullet list to exist in its current form with its inconsistent punctuation. But I don’t work there anymore, and so now I’m at liberty to make shitty bullet lists! Hopefully its inconsistent punctuation doesn’t offend you.

This is all I have to bore you with for now. Happy July!

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