The past few weeks have been pretty amazing.
First, there was Ascension day, which I'm linking to because I had no idea what it was celebrating. Ok, ascending, so it must be when Jesus goes up to heaven, right? But doesn't that happen around Easter? So did he come back down and then go up again? Whatever it is (you can google it if you care), it means all businesses are closed in the Netherlands, so it quickly became one of my favorite holidays. It was a Thursday, and man, there is just nothing like having a random weekday off from work. During that day I saw a piece of impromptu theater in Vondelpark, had a 3-hour lunch with friends followed by an amazing dinner with different friends and a documentary screening at a former squat in the oud west. I felt like I was on vacation in my own city, except it was even better because I knew how to get everywhere.
The days are very long now. The sun doesn't set until about 10.30pm, and the sunsets are long and beautiful. On the flip side, I'm getting constant reminders about how late I tend to stay up, as the sun wakes me up every morning around 4.30am.
There was another public holiday just a few days ago, on 1 June - Whit Monday, which is celebrated "seven weeks after Easter Monday, marking the day the Holy Spirit entered the disciples left behind and the beginning of their ministry." Another holiday I never knew existed before, but granted me the day off from work. This time I celebrated by going on an overnight trip to Maastricht, the southern most city in the Netherlands (very close to Belgium). The weather was absolutely amazing, so I spent most of my time in that city just walking around outside, happy to be in the sun. It's a beautiful city and very different from Amsterdam, definitely a place I would recommend visiting.
I went to the huge Damoclash party at the ADM. It was a comeback party, described as "The comeback is as it should be: on a huge squatted terrain, away from the hectic city-life." The journey out there and back was almost as fun as the party - the bike ride took about an hour each way (from the center of Amsterdam to the party). Me and my party companions rode out there at sunset, passing by huge windmills the entire way there. We drank and sang songs and somehow didn't get lost. It took a lot of motivation to get on our bikes and go - none of us are used to having to cycle for more than 20 minutes to get anywhere, so the idea of cycling way out past the city limits of Amsterdam at first seemed daunting. But the fabulous weather and the promise of a fun party got us out, and it was worth it.
So, okay. I've been to some new places, I saw some new things, and I'm planning some great trips. But on a very selfish note, my favorite part of the past few weeks was last night, 4 June - my 30th birthday! I'm a big fan of birthdays in general, especially my own. On the night of 3 June, I stayed up late baking so I could have something to bring to work with me on the 4th. This is a Dutch tradition - the birthday person always brings in the treats on their own birthday. My colleagues happily ate up the chocolate-chip banana bread I made in the morning, and then we toasted in the late afternoon with a bottle of red wine. When I was done with work, I went home, put on a party dress, and sat down to dinner with 11 good friends in my apartment. It was absolutely perfect - my friends were all running around, cooking, blending, and stirring. I was totally overwhelmed by how loved I felt and how perfect the night was. I heard three different languages going on at the dinner table at any given moment and the last guest didn't leave until after 1am.
My favorite birthday greeting came from my friend Kate in New York City: You put the "daaaaamn" in Amsterdam.
Bring on thirty! I think I'm ready. The official birthday party is this Saturday night, and is actually more of a party for my friend Fabio, who was actually born on 6 June. I'm just tagging along because I like parties (and it's at my house). If you're reading and you're a friend of mine here, get in touch if you want to join!