I arrived in Schiphol on Saturday morning after a slightly uncomfortable flight...and hopped on a train to Amsterdam Centraal. Then I walked the familiar streets to the Shelter City (only the Zeedijk is under construction and is all torn up, which makes pulling a suitcase somewhat challenging) where Jacoline was working a reception shift. I relaxed in the cafe for a while and chatted with one of the cleaners. After Jaco's shift, we grabbed her bike, Marco's bike, and my stuff and set off for her house. It was a bit difficult because we had to carry my suitcase along, and Marco's bike had a flat tires, not to mention the construction along the way (apparently Amsterdam decided to do a whole lot of construction at once!) but we made it. There I met Jan Pieter, Jaco's husband, got settled, and had lunch. Their apartment is really cute, and they made me feel right at home. We were talking about what I do, and I gave them a shortened version of the relationship triangle (keep in mind that this was on no sleep...) because apparently I really can't leave work behind me. Later JP's brother and his girlfriend joined us and we walked around a bit, went to a cafe, then came home to make dinner. I was really, really tired by now, but I stayed up until about 9:45 I think...I figured that I had been up for about 30 hours. Het is niet goed!
I slept really really well that night, and just relaxed on Sunday morning while Jaco and JP were at their Dutch-speaking church. Then I hung out with Ben at his house for the afternoon. We talked about life and relationships, and, of course, camera stuff. It was good. Unfortunately Teri was feeling sick, so I didn't really see her at all, but that's ok. Ben drove me back to Jaco's and we tried quickly to pump Marco's tire so I could use his bike to get to church, but it didn't work (we needed the french tip) so I borrowed Jaco's and set off for the Zolder...in the kelder. I got there a bit late, but that's ok. It was a good service, and I got to see so many old friends! I also saw many of them again on Saturday, so it was cool to see them twice. Elliot did not remember me at all, but he certainly wasn't shy about becoming instant friends! The Asp's have cool kids and it was neat to see them older (and to meet Cor for the first time!).
On Monday Jaco and I went to the Albert Cuyp Markt where I got the majority of my souvenirs. Sadly, the stroopwafel guy was not there (that's 2 years in a row I have missed him!) but I did take my picture with Andre Hazes, hahaha. Jaco and I fixed Marco's flat tire which, oddly enough, did not have a hole in it. In the afternoon we went boating on the grachts, and the weather was so sunny and beautiful...it was a lovely relaxing time. On our way to the boat I was riding Marco's bike, which is way too tall for me, and I dismounted rather smoothly, landing on both feet, but in the car lane...so Jacoline and I switched bikes. But she also couldn't ride it, so we parked his bike, and she and JP ended up sharing his bike as we went. After the boat trip we went to Dwaze Zaken for dinner and a little concert. It was fun to be back there again (and no, I did not take the stereotypical bathroom photo there. but probably I should have).
On Tuesday I headed over to the Jordan to see Ewout. It was, as usual, wonderful to talk with him again. I also talked with Jacob for a while, so that was nice too. The staff there right now are really friendly, and I just relaxed in the cafe and the garden for a while and read my book. It felt like home. After that, I went to the library...wow, that place is huge! I can see why people like to go there to hang out. For supper we made a lekker salade and ate it outside by the Amstel at the launching docks for the rowers. Then we went back and watched a movie, and then we played Uno and the Dutch version of Dutch Blitz, which is exactly the same only it's called Ligretto and the cards don't have little Dutch people on them. I schooled JP and Jaco at Ligretto, but they both schooled me at Uno.
On Wednesday I slept in, which was really nice because my throat started hurting (I was really hoping the Cold FX would pull through for me). In the early afternoon I met Samira at the Cafe de Jaren where we sat on the patio on the gracht. After that, we walked along the Kalverstraat so she could return some boots, and then we headed back towards Jacoline's. We stopped to grab a late lunch at Amstel Haven, a cafe on the water, and het was heel lekker! Then we got back to the apartment and I cut Samira's hair (just like old times, haha). Jaco and JP had small group coming that night, so I helped prep a bit for dinner (Meera, I chopped the vegetables. apparently that is my food prep calling, haha) and set the table. I hid away during their small group so they could chat in Dutch without feeling obligated to translate (plus, I really have no vested interest in helping them decide when and how often to meet). I really think I should have learned Dutch when I lived here. At least I can pronounce the language well...
On Thursday I did a bit of shopping (I tried to find the book Dat is Gevaarlijk with no luck, but I did get Marco and Claudia's wedding present) and then sat by the Amstel writing postcards and reading a bit. I enjoyed a delicious dinner at Eric and Marci's. We taught the kids the moonwalk (with the help of Michael Jackson and YouTube), and Elliot also began to learn how to walk/dance on his hands. It was lovely to catch up with them.
On Friday I walked to the market to buy Jaco and JP some beautiful flowers for their anniversary. Then I hung out with Nynke. We took some touristy photos in/on the I Amsterdam sign, and also ate poffertjes. That night Jaco, JP and I went to a 90's birthday party. As in...we brought out the track suits (i.e. I borrowed bright yellow sweat pants from Jacoline), side ponytails, and Jaco even did the dark lipliner thing (although she actually used eyeliner to do it). It was a pretty loud dance party, and I was thankful that some people came that I know. It was awesome to see Annemarie, since I didn't think I was going to be able to see her. And it was nice to chat with Suzy and Arienne.
On Saturday we tried to go to the Palace and up the Westerkerk tower, but we were too late to book them, so we went to another church (where we found a quilt on the wall on which someone had penned "Nynke") and a garden. It was nice to hang out with Marco and Nynke (again) but then I had to leave to go to the wedding! Marco and Claudia had a lovely wedding, and although it was all in Dutch and German, I could follow right along thanks to Eric's English translation. The party afterwards in the H88 was very fun too, and I got to chat with Kor and Gerard for a bit, which was cool, cuz I haven't seen either of them since I lived there (last summer they weren't around when I visited). I also got to chat with Heidi for a while which was lovely. So yeah, it was great to catch up with people again, as well as to celebrate Marco and Claudia. I'm so happy I could be part of their special day!
On Sunday morning I went out for breakfast with Rosemary (although everywhere was closed and it took us some effort to find a place that was open) and it was great, cuz last summer we only had the chance to talk briefly on the phone, not to actually see each other. After breakfast I dropped her off (late, oops!) for church and walked back to Jaco's and JP's to say goodbye. Then I walked for an hour to Centraal Station, pulling my luggage. I'm glad I walked, though, so I could say goodbye to the city. I know, I'm a cheesy romantic like that, and in reality my hands began to blister, but it was still totally worth it.
And I have to say that it didn't rain the whole time I was there! Do you realize how amazing that is? So I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to have such a wonderful vacation.