Finally, after all the planning and waiting, I'm in Amsterdam. And right now, I am definitely in the honeymoon stage with this city, the type of stage that pretty much anyone else (unless you're in the same kind of situation) would find either annoying or silly or boring. But you can only have this feeling once, when you finally do move to that new city or town that you wanted to get to so badly - so I'm going to enjoy it as long as it lasts.
If you're looking at a map of Amsterdam and find Vondelpark, my new home is near the "bottom" of the park, just across the canal (Sloterkade). My unpacking process is isn't moving that quickly, which is mostly due to the fact that I'm spending all day out and about and trying to get my life established - a slow process. I had a meeting this past Thursday about a potential job, and after studying a map before I left, was able to bike myself to the office without getting lost at all. When that was over, I wandered around the middle of the city looking for a place to buy a prepaid mobile phone. After about 30 minutes or so without any luck, I stopped in the closest hostel I could find to ask for advice. The girl at the front desk, who was smoking a joint (the center of Amsterdam smells like a combination of bakeries and marijuana at every turn), pointed me in the right direction and said "it's a little bit of a dodgy place, but it's cheap," she said. Perfect! I got a mobile for 35 Euros and added in the three people that I know here in Amsterdam (hey, have to start somewhere, right?) and felt like, damn, that was a successful day. In New York, a job meeting and a new phone would be no big deal - probably something I could do on a lunch break. But something about being in a new country and here on my own makes any small accomplishment into a big victory. Again, honeymoon stage.
So far, the way I've spent most of my time here is riding my bike (well, my roommate's bike). Since I have the time, I decided that I wouldn't use a map to get around while I'm out, which means it takes me a long time to get anywhere I need to go. Riding from my place to the library yesterday was fairly easy - only a few wrong turns (the main branch of the Amsterdam library is very close to Centraal Station, which makes it easy to find). Getting TO the center of Amsterdam doesn't really cause me any problems, it's when I try to get home that I end up riding around in circles. Still, on Friday night I rode home (after enjoying a lovely dinner with new friends) as the sun started to set and didn't arrive home until well after dark - which meant I got to see the canals all lit up. Not a bad reward for being lost. On Friday evening I spent enough time lost in the Oud West neighborhood that I'm hoping the area is a bit more ingrained in my head.
After not riding a bike for about three months, the feeling of relying on it as my sole method of transportation feels fantastic, and a million times more natural than it did to drive a car while I was in Los Angeles. I adore my new neighborhood and apartment - the balcony in the back looks on to all the backyards, which are full of flowers and trees, and I'm so glad I got here just as spring is beginning, to watch everything come to life.