Tumultuous Amsterdam

I’ve made the decision to go ahead and skip writing about the WU23UC for the moment. I will eventually,  but at the moment I am so bedazzled by travelling that it doesn’t leave much room to reminisce about that particular experience. It will come soon, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

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Amsterdam was by far one of my favourite experiences from my ‘non-frisbee’ related travels so far. Aesthetically speaking, the city is beautiful with its wide streets, bicycles, canals and architecture. But we’ve all seen beautiful cities,  right? Even being from Australia where our entire country is younger than some European buildings, I’ve seen my fair share.

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It was the people and the culture – although I must point out, i missed the true culture Netherlands has on offer due to not leaving Amsterdam for a more curious delve into the rural areas. Everybody I met, whether local or a traveller were beautiful. They were always friendly and polite, even with the language barrier. It made for an amazing experience in a great city.

We didn’t line up for the Anne Frank house in favour of renting bicycles and joining locals and tourists alike in the joy of cycling around Amsterdam.  We had them for a day and it really allowed us to see more than we could on foot. In typical tourist fashion we also found the ‘i Amsterdam’ sign and took several photos, including one rather amusing instance of my friend having to be carried down after finding she was stuck on the sign.

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The thing I would recommend is hiring a boat (you can drive it yourself!) and cruising along the canals. This was an amazing experience, we had wine and cheese and music.  Amsterdam was a whole adventure of stepping out of my comfort zone and finding that I actually quite liked it. Not in all ways though. 

My ‘last’ night in Amsterdam ended up being my longest as I discovered just how stressful it can be to lose ones wallet and passport on the way to catch a bus to Lyon. After hours of stress, some very good friends allowing me to use their houses and access their Skype accounts, i had two more nights in Amsterdam to figure out my situation.

I’m always pleasantly surprised when my faith in humanity pays off. Too often people are quick to assume the worst and I’ll admit, I was almost there. But with great advice from my travel insurance, kind directions from strangers and a policeman who made me a cup of tea – it turns out somebody had handed my passport and wallet  (with nothing stolen!) into the police. Yes, I am the luckiest person alive.

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So after my wonderful parents sending me money through Western Union, a freak storm that delayed trains and busses – i was finally on my way to Lyon.

Don’t worry Amsterdam, I didn’t want to leave either. I’ll absolutely be back one day though.

Excluding the Mosquitoes, it’s pretty alright.

Although I have known this for quite some time, it recently dawned on me that it is entirely possible to have a love-hate relationship with a place. It may seem obvious to some; indeed I have subconsciously acted upon it for what must be a good portion of my life, but it is not something you generally vocalize.

The view from the jetty I was sitting on.

The view from the jetty I was sitting on.

I am in my hometown, Portland, for a few weeks until I move back to Melbourne to start work and placement and reintroduce myself to the real world. Yesterday, I was sitting on the pier staring out over the water (this sounds like the beginning to a movie, alas it is not so exciting) and it dawned on me that I do love this place, as much as I have always convinced myself that I hated it. After pondering this for a while I asked myself: “Is that what makes this home?”. The ability to simultaneously love and hate the place I grew up? It is not the only place I have lived, but I don’t feel the same attachment to those places.

It was super windy which created a lot of ripples on the surface.

It was super windy which created a lot of ripples on the surface.

When I was in the US and contemplating returning back to Australia – I immediately knew that I wanted to come to Portland first. There was no consideration given to returning to Melbourne straight away. Despite everything that has happened here it is still the place I want to be when I need to reset. There is no struggle here; as soon as I return it is like I was never away. Everything fits right back into place. There is a certain rhythm to it and it is comforting to know that if everything falls apart – there is a place I can return to that hasn’t changed entirely. Despite all that, this is not a place I want to live permanently or even return to as a retirement possibility. Perhaps it is more a safety net than anything else? That is still substantial though, still worthwhile.

Not entirely fictional, but not entirely honest.

This is a story.. musing.. thing? I wrote whilst in the US. As the title suggests it is not an entirely fictional summation of my feelings however I have taken artistic liberty and embellished occasionally. These things happen, often it makes for a better read though. As with anything I write; it does not have a title.

You asked me if I was ready and at first I looked to you with only confusion. Ready for what? In my heart I knew; I guess it was the vagueness of your question that led to my realisation. I took my time answering. I know you hate that but condensing every thought and emotion into words is never easy when the appropriate words do not exist. How can you ask me to quantify emotion? 

I cannot articulate the turmoil I feel – the combination of relief and anguish that drives me to permanent exhaustion. I have always found emotion unbearable. 

You are never satisfied by trivial answers; you demand my honesty and will take no less. Even now I can see you watching me. Anyone else would feel trepidation at the length of my silence but you understand. If not, your façade is welcomingly believable. I can only sigh and look to you with what I can only imagine is a look of utter despair. No. My simple answer leaves you unsatisfied. You mirror my thoughts by asking ‘why’, the question I hate merely for its appropriateness. 

I do not know what I can say that will express what I feel. That in itself is not unusual. Words are never enough. I search for a way to be concise although brevity is not what you want. You will make me explain myself despite knowing the difficulty it causes. Give me a moment, I need time to think. You are temporarily sated but you watch me, fixated, allowing no escape. 

The easy answer is that by integrating myself so thoroughly; leaving everything behind will be painful. That answer does not incorporate everything though. It ignores the fear I have – of going home, having to re-establish myself there with the knowledge of how much I have changed, having to commit to a routine that I cannot currently fathom. 

I fell in love. Not with a person or place, but with a feeling. The limitation of my language constrains me. I use love for the lack of a more appropriate term. I am unfamiliar with passion – be it love, fear or hatred. The fluctuations of emotion I experience here can only be explained by passion. It is such an alternative to my usual apathy that the thought of its loss is devastating to me. I do not want to lose who I am. The desire to articulate this is overwhelming but I fear that you will be unable to understand. 

Who was I then compared to who I am now? It seems like such a time ago.

The reality is that I will miss this place when I am gone. I will miss the people, the scenery, the community and the lifestyle. I am afraid that this will become nothing but fodder for nostalgia. I could be content with that, although not happy with normalcy.

You have grown weary of my musings. The silence has prolonged and although it is not yet uncomfortable; my time is up. I look at you again: what I have become here is not who I was before and I am not ready to lose that. Passion has enlightened me to a greater desire for knowledge and emotion. I am afraid of the certainty of my future, for the trap I face is avoidable but deceivingly easy to be consumed by. I fear the inevitability of forgetting and being forgotten. I have found meaning in relationships that I previously could not comprehend, will replicating that elsewhere be as satisfying?

I am rambling, I always do when I justify myself to you, although you are accustomed to that by now. I want to provide the answer you desire; that which will lead to absolute comprehension. I am not ready, I say, because everything I have learnt is trivial. I have glimpsed a potential for greater meaning but I am not yet close enough to achieve it. I am not ready; and I am terrible at goodbye.