Friday, October 14, 2016

Dispatch from Cafe Hesp

Greetings! I'm writing this (by hand--to be typed later) from Cafe Hesp, an over 100-year-old bar on the banks of the Amstel River. It's also down the street from Erin & Rembert's place. I read the menu online in English before I came, so now the waiters think my Dutch reading skills are A+, even though I can't speak for shit.

Lekker bier at Cafe Hesp.

It's my first night alone in the great city of Amsterdam. Erin's at a conference in Boston, and Rembert took himself and the turkeys (5-year-old twins Willem & Hendricus and 21-month-old Matthijs) to visit his parents in Hoorn, so I have the apartment to myself. The first thing I did was take a nap--it's difficult to rid oneself of jetlag when one's tiny cousins are jumping into one's bed at 7 a.m. every day. But I figured I ought to go out and do something. No sense in coming to Europe if I'm just going to hide inside. Depending on how I feel after this, I might head to another nearby bar--but I don't want to get too wild. 

As I mentioned in my last post, I flew from Milwaukee to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Orlando, Orlando to London, and London to Amsterdam. Honestly, it wasn't that bad. I'm a fan of airports--they're great for people-watching. And the only major disaster was that I spilled ketchup on my white sweater. There was one nerve-wracking moment when I was checking in for my flight to Amsterdam; the attendant told me that the UK requires non-residents to have a return ticket, but because I was immediately leaving for the Netherlands, it was okay. If I'd needed to spend the night in London, we may have had a problem. At any rate, it all turned out well.

I arrived in Amsterdam at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, and I was greeted by the most adorable welcoming party I've ever seen.

Rumor has it Rembert made the signs while the twins slept, but it's the thought that counts.

Henry had a mild meltdown over a balloon he couldn't have, but we eventually made it back home. Erin and I picked up some Indonesian food, and we all sat down to a family meal of delicious foods we couldn't identify. 

I have to say, for two people who just moved back to Amsterdam with their three small children, E&R are doing an amazing job. Their poise is laudable. That said, some things are understandably chaotic--cardboard boxes full of clothes in the hallway, half-built IKEA cabinets. I'm hoping I can be the extra hand they need to get properly settled in; my first goal is to organize the pantry. Maybe I'll do that tonight, while there are no turkeys in the house to plow through the food I pull out. 

In other news, it turns out that E&R's neighborhood is hip now. On Thursday morning, after Erin had biked the twins to school, she and I went to work at the Volks Hotel, which has a trendy cafe and a giant (free!) workspace on the first floor. They also have yoga classes there 3 days a week (think they say "down dog" or "naar beneden hond"?), as well as an event space/bar in the basement. There's a storytelling event à la The Moth there tomorrow night, which I may attend. Hopefully it's at least partially in English? Their advertising is in English, and according to Erin, the Volks Hotel draws an international crowd, so maybe?

Today Erin left for Boston, and Rembert had to take some online tests for his current job applications, so I brought the twins to the park while Matthijs napped. It was a lovely walk along the Amstel, passing by all the houseboats. 

Woonboten. (Houseboats.)

W&H may be a tad rambunctious--as is the wont of 5-year-old boys--but overall they're remarkably well-behaved. When I ask them to hold my hands while crossing busy streets, they readily comply. Henry is adamant about my pronunciation when I ask him to teach me phrases in Dutch. 

At the park, W&H befriended two Italian bambinos, and they promptly began to throw dirt at one another--gleefully, of course. Italian dad and I tried to get them to stop, with poor results. I suppose a little dirt never hurt anyone. 

The boys are off school this week--Fall break--and Erin doesn't get back until Thursday morning, so I imagine I'll be on au pair duty a lot for the next few days. Erin left me her bike, but I'm not a particularly confident biker, especially on a fixie, which is just how they do things here. (Hand breaks get tangled together too easily.) I have so many questions. Are there bike left-hand turn lanes? Are hand signals a thing? Perhaps I'll take a ride around the block tomorrow. Baby steps. 

Actually, training wheels may be a more appropriate metaphor.


EDIT: I tried to go to Bar Bukowski for a nightcap, but it was so crowded I was afraid I wouldn't even be able to get in the door. Got intimidated by all the cool Dutch people and left. Pantry organizing it is. 

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