June 17, 2008

Where I've been going, what I've been doing

Picnics - the easiest location for me is Vondelpark, since it's so close to home and everyone knows it. But this past weekend I went for a Sunday night picnic at Beatrixpark, and it really seemed like me and my friends were the only people there. This park is in the south east of the city, near the Rai station. I got a little (okay, a lot) lost on my way there, and once I got tired of consulting my map I just stopped and asked people for directions. When I rode home with a friend, I found a much, much more direct route. I love picnics in Amsterdam parks - there are no rules about where you can or can't sit on the grass, dogs run around all over the place, and no one kicks you out at a certain time.

Bars/Cafes - places I've gone to recently include Soundgarden, OT301, Studio K, DeBalie (of course, for free wifi) and the Kriterion. Look those places up in you're in Amsterdam; they all have a really great vibe. The Soundgarden has this ideal back patio right next to a canal, and while I was sitting back there I felt that wonderful I've-left-the-city feeling, even though it's off a major street in the Jordaan. And DeBalie was a lifesaver for me before I started working - they have tons of room, incredibly cheap prices for food and drink, and no one ever minded that I would often stay there for 5-6 hours at a time in order to use the wifi.

I went to the Hope Box offices recently for a Friday night screening, in the north of Amsterdam (I took that picture just outside the office). I'll go do anything if it means I get to take a ferry to get there, so I didn't even really mind that the film was in Serbian with Dutch subtitles - actually, I was happy to find myself in the situation where I was the only non-Dutch-speaker in the room - the more this happens, the more motivated I become to learn the language. This cultural center is a global project - I think the best way I can sum it up is bringing people together from all over the world through visual arts. Visit their website to learn more. If you're interested, come along to their event this Saturday, the 21st of June at the GO Gallery (Prinsengracht 64) - I'm planning to attend, so say hi if you're there!

Speaking of learning the language, no, I haven't learned Dutch at all. I mean, I certainly know more than I did 2 months ago, and I'm getting better at reading menus and hearing the names of streets and whatnot, but I really, really don't know Dutch, and I would like for that to change. I'm going to start taking classes in September (they're offered for free by my company), but I think before I start that I may sign up for a month or two of private lessons. It's really easy to get around using English, but the thing that frustrates me is not being able to pronounce the names of the roads and streets, or even worse, the fact that I can't hear it right when someone else says it.

Tonight is another big game for Holland, and I still haven't found my inner football fan, so I'm thinking that a picnic in the park sounds like a nice way to spend some time while the rest of the city is at bars and cafes, going completely insane. And if Holland wins, that means a city full of happy people, so hey, I'll go ahead and root for Holland too. From a distance.

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