2013 Year in Review

On NY’s day I was in Mazunte, Oaxaca state, Mexico. I was swimming in the ocean by 9 or 10am, and it was one of the best new years of my life, really. I never had the experience of not being cold during that time of year before. After a wonderful break, Enrique and I returned to our apartment in Puebla and decided pretty quickly that we wanted to move out of that apartment and out of Puebla. We signed a short-term lease for an apartment in San Andrés Cholula and moved in at the end of the month – this turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

View from our apartment in San Andres Cholula during the day

View from our apartment in San Andres Cholula during the day

In the midst of packing up and moving to our smaller apartment in Cholula, I went back to Amsterdam for six weeks. It was my first time back in Amsterdam after almost 5 months away. I was pretty happy in Amsterdam, I loved riding my bike through the snow, seeing friends, and working on some “professional development” type projects.

Feb 2013 in Amsterdam

Feb 2013 in Amsterdam

But I missed Enrique and looked forward to getting back to Mexico, which was oddly enough feeling more and more like “home.” When I got back, and walked into our new place in Cholula, everything felt right. I immediately bought a green bicycle, joined a new gym, and got myself involved in doing 4-6 intercambios (language exchange) every week, and found the lovely group of people involved in Cholula en Bici. I spoke Spanish in public for the first time, I entered into friendships where we only spoke Spanish, and I made a promo video for Cholula en Bici in Spanish. Enrique and I hosted visitors, we spent time in Mexico City, Queratero, and Oaxaca, and really embraced pretty much everything about our life.

Walking into San Pedro Cholula, Mexico.

Walking into San Pedro Cholula, Mexico, from the Great Pyramid.

Celebrating the Spring Equinox in San Andres Cholula, Mexico.

Celebrating the Spring Equinox in San Andres Cholula, Mexico.

Street Food in San Andres Cholula, Mexico

Street Food in San Andres Cholula, Mexico

The view from our apartment in San Andres Cholula, Mexico

The view from our apartment in San Andres Cholula, Mexico

However, for a variety of reasons, we decided to return to Amsterdam once Enrique’s academic year was over. We both had the opportunity to get “upgraded” in our Netherlands residence permits that would allow us to get 5-year resident permits allowing us to work freely on the open market. That was a huge change for us – I was previously only able to work on a freelance basis, and Enrique could only work if he was sponsored by an employer. But this was a hard decision to make, and the night of my birthday (4 June) my heart was aching to think that I was leaving Mexico. I had friends – real, wonderful, Mexican friends, that came out to celebrate, dance, and sing with me. Sure, we were going back to wonderful friendships in Amsterdam as well, but man. It was tough. We had a goodbye party in late June, and I had a similar feeling. Volcanoes in the background, dogs and kids running around, friends showing up by bicycle to hang out in the grass, friends who came with pulque and artisenal mexican beer and mezcal. It was rainy season, the day stayed completely dry until the last guest left. Leaving Mexico wasn’t easy.

Birthday celebration in Puebla, Mexico. June 2013.

Birthday celebration in Puebla, Mexico. June 2013.

But July found me back in Amsterdam (Enrique arrived a few weeks later). I obsessively looked for work and started freelance producing again sometime in August. Enrique relaxed a bit and took some much-deserved time off while his residence permit was being processed. The summer in Amsterdam was absolutely beautiful, and we spent time at the beach, in the park, riding boats through the canals with big groups of very close friends, and found a great place to live in De Baarjes. By October, both Enrique and I were very much back in our routines and happy to be back “home.” We took a trip to Lanzarote (part of the Canary Islands), hosted huge dinner parties, and generally just lived a normal life. 2013 ended with us in Italy on a two-week vacation that took us through Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Florence, Bologna, and Venice.

Boating through the canals in Amsterdam, summer 2013

Boating through the canals in Amsterdam, summer 2013

Cycling around the North of Amsterdam in Autumn 2013

Cycling around the North of Amsterdam in Autumn 2013

Celebrating New Years Eve in Sorrento, Italy.

Celebrating New Years Eve in Sorrento, Italy. Saying goodbye to 2013.

We celebrated New Years on a balcony in southern Italy with a big group of friends, watching the sky fill up with fireworks, hugging and kissing everyone. The year ended in a very different location than where we started, but the most important thing remained exactly the same: we were together.

 

Living in the exact center of Amsterdam

These days I’m living on a busy, touristy street in the middle of the center of Amsterdam. It’s hard to be more central, my place is literally 300 meters from Centraal station, a neighborhood I never envisioned myself living. I’ve lived in the south, the center/east (near Weesperplein), two places in the pijp, and a canal-side apartment off the Leidsekade. Now I’m in the exact area that I thought I’d never live in – on a busy, super-touristy street that smells like pot smoke and fast food.

Honestly, it’s perfect. It’s big (90 sq meters, two floors!), I only share it with my boyfriend, and the absolute best most wonderful part about it is that I have zero issues with the neighbors. Whenever I walk down the street, I smile and wave at the men and women who work in the coffee shops, kebab stands, sex stores, and tourist-friendly restaurants. My neighbors across the street have at least two or three young kids who are always at the window looking down, waving, shouting, and playing. A few days ago there was a gigantic rain storm in the middle of the day, and my boyfriend and I ran to our front windows to watch the people on the street either try to hide or just take off their clothes and run around in delight. The kids across the street did the same thing, and we waved and yelled hello to each other.

I used to wave and yell hello to my neighbor across the street when I lived on the Saphartistraat as well, and one time we even ran into each other on the street and finally said hello in person. It’s so easy to see into your neighbors homes here in Amsterdam – partly because it’s a city and we all live so closely together, but also because Dutch people aren’t in the habit of really closing themselves in. It’s strange, one could say the dutch are a “closed” type of people, but at the same time they’re perfectly find leaving their curtains and windows and doors wide open whenever possible. I like this, because I like sticking my nose in everyone’s business. Most people pretend they don’t look into other people’s windows, but the kids across the street and my former non-dutch neighbor actually enjoy the fact that we can see and hear each other. It’s part of why we live in a city and not the middle of nowhere.

It’s a fantastic place where I live – the building is old, the house is leaning over (like you see in postcards), I live among a lot of very dutch people and a lot of very foreign people and while my street is busy with tourists and music all day long, cars are not allowed down my street. My boyfriend (who isn’t Dutch) and I were welcomed the first day we moved in by people in the restaurant across the street, who told us that they only accepted cash (we didn’t have any, only bank cards) but not to worry, we could come back some other time to pay them. This is my 6th apartment in three years of living in Amsterdam, and it’s the place that feels the most like home. I didn’t expect to like the neighborhood as much as I do, but I’ve never felt so at ease anywhere else in this city.