“Make it two hot chocolates, alstublieft”
Nothing really matched in the 70s. Disco, the Brady Bunch, and hippies all coexisted with their polyester pants, bellbottom jeans, and John Travolta hairdos. In this café, that lightly harkens to your uncle’s basement refurbished into a man's entertainment room, the odd combination of food, nachos and hot chocolate, fit into the whole Café de Pijp vibe. My point was confirmed as two individuals move to the table below ours with an already started game of Dutch Scrabble.
As my mind drifted into thoughts of the times before my time, he walked up the stairs – I knew him? I knew him! Though we met previously at a number of Meetups for expats, we shook hands as I unsuccessfully surfed my memory to introduce my colleague. She chimed in, thankfully, followed ten minutes later by a ‘don’t worry about it’ after my apologies drifted over the baked nachos. Blame it on the 70s décor or the temperamental Sunday weather, but don’t dismiss the perfect scene for my first it’s-a-small-world occurrence in Amsterdam.
Over a month passed since waking up Sunday morning on my one-way KLM flight from Boston, a city actually comparable in size to Amsterdam. But this capital of canals really is a small world, a consideration everyday as I wiz by pedestrians on my rusty bike or board the tram heading toward central station. Moving to a city unrepresented in my friend network only meant throwing out any previous social inhibitions to hopefully find a new loyal set of acquaintances. A task where during its progress led to nights with individuals from Denmark to Portugal, Argentina to Canada, and Russia to Greece.
Everyday I walk out of my apartment with a map and umbrella, equipped for the expected daily conditions, however over this first month numerous chores to set up a new life required an extended set of tools. Looking back, much has been accomplished:
Set up a bank account, got paid;
Established a Dutch phone number, gave out my Dutch phone number;
Gave someone directions, got someone lost;
Found an apartment, cursed at its price;
Bought a bike, crashed into a pedestrian;
Started a blog, should tell more people about it;
Invited to China for two weeks, need to get a visa;
And got my haircut, met a Connecticut transplant.
Not too bad. Most tasks performed in a patient state, however the first panicked, long distance phone call home over the extensive list of unknowns and irritations occurred within my first week. My mom, understanding yet stern advised, “I completely expected this to happen…[however] many people would die to trade in their problems for yours.” I know. I know and now I feel foolish- I know, I know this all comes with the deal. Though my formal offer for the job left these tribulations unlisted, counsels from numerous colleagues and family members filled in where the offer left off.
Across the table, my colleague relayed a similar story of initial frustrations, a gesture more comforting than she probably realized. We both went through this right of passage alive and now sat with a hot chocolate quickly cooling down in a tall glass as we wonder where the waitress went. Looking around, our waitress remained unseen; fifteen minutes passed by and our wallets waited on the table. The first month saw a notable amount of progress and hopefully month two will experience the same productivity. Well, if month two doesn’t pass by as we wait for our check.