Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Living it up on the other side of the world

Oh, what a trip this has been already! One full week here now, and happily, it feels as though I've been able to pack in a lot of great adventures, without completely overwhelming myself. Still plenty of time to relax, read, catch up with my mom and catch up on sleep.

With the exception of a few cold, rainy days at the beginning, we've had great fall weather here. Loads of sunshine, crisp air, picturesque clouds. I arrived via a 9-hour direct flight (the first time I've ever been able to fly nonstop from home to Amsterdam! Thank you, Seattle!) last Tuesday. I made a futile attempt to ward off jetlag by sleeping only 3.5 hours the night before my flight, thinking I'd be able to just pass out on the plane and wake up refreshed and ready to roll when I arrived in Amsterdam at 8:20 a.m. local Dutch time. Unfortunately, I decided to finally take the fancy-phone plunge and purchase an iPhone for myself right before leaving - and the thrills of being able to play with a new mobile toy in airplane mode on my flight, combined with chatting it up with a sweet German woman whom I sat next to, prevented me from sleeping much at all on the flight.

Almost full moon! Trippy to watch a sunset, moonrise, and sunrise all in the course of one flight.

My mom came to meet me at the airport, and we immediately hopped on the train back to Nijverdal, the small town in the east where she lives. Upon arrival in Nijverdal, I barely made it through the tour of her cozy, new little house before collapsing in bed for an all-day nap. Woke up for dinner and passed back out again shortly thereafter, for a total of 17 hours of sleep. Oi vey!

The next few days, we had a relaxing few days at home in Nijverdal. I got to know her daily environs a bit more - the neighbors (who fielded a few complaints about our rowdy storytelling and laughing into the wee hours of my first few jetlagged nights here!), the local thrift shops, the newly renovated town square, and what I remember best about my last visit to Nijverdal...the beautiful woods and heather fields on the edge of town. For my last few training runs before the Amsterdam marathon, my mom and I set out for the woods, and she walked one loop on various routes while I ran the same loop twice. We really lucked out with the blue skies and sun-spackled trails.

On Saturday morning, we set out for Amsterdam again by train - arriving to slightly warmer weather, and a sunny, glorious weekend day in the city. A longtime friend of my mom's is vacationing in Uzbekistan for a few weeks; generously, he left us the keys to his centrally-located Amsterdam apartment, as well as two ratty old bikes for us to ride around the city. Truly a blessing - I can't imagine being in A'dam without a bike!

Saturday afternoon, my mom and I biked to the marathon expo in the south of the city to pick up my marathon bib and t-shirt, then on to the house of Cinta - my host during my semester abroad in Amsterdam. Cinta, a longtime marathon runner herself, prepared a delicious, vegetarian pre-race meal for me (and herself! She ran as an official Runner's World pacer for runners trying to get a time of 3:45) of pasta with fennel, mushrooms, walnuts and cheese. Her girlfriend Tanja joined us, and the four of us had a wonderful time making up for lost time.

Me with Cinta and Tanja

We biked home at the end of the night, through the lovely Vondelpark, of which I have many fond memories of nighttime biking with Taryn (my fellow housemate at Cinta's from study abroad). It's really peaceful there at night, the darkness punctuated only by other bike lights, the silence broken by the steady whirr of your bike light on your front wheel...on many Dutch bikes, your bike light at night is powered by the energy of your actual pedaling - innovative indeed! I fell into bed at Gustaaf's flat, stayed up awhile reading the latest Jeffrey Eugenides novel on my iPhone before dropping off to sleep. Amazing, technology. (On a total sidenote, I'm halfway through it now and really enjoying the read, contrary to many of the early negative reviews.)

Sunday was the big day - Marathon Day! I think I'll save most of my ramblings about the marathon itself for a separate entry (because we've all witnessed how capable of rambling about running I am!), but suffice to say that it was a gorgeous day with a beautiful, flat course, and I ran about as fast as I hoped to.

Sunday evening, we celebrated by getting together for tea, and later dinner, with one of my mom's close friends from 40+ years ago when they shared their first apartment in Amsterdam together, and her husband and daughter Sabrina. A good evening, full of many stories and laughs too! My mom and Sabrina worked on devising a plan to keep me in Holland longterm :)

Monday, my mom and I hopped on our bikes and headed for the "Amsterdamse Bos" - perhaps my favorite, most cherished part of the city, and one of which few people, even lifelong Amsterdam residents, seem to be aware.

It's a big wooded area just a kilometer or two outside of the city, with an expansive trail system (both semi-paved bike trails and unpaved walking/running trails), lots of lakes and creeks, scenic farmland, and even - as I learned with surprise on a solo run there four years ago - wild boar-ish animals called "Schotse Hooglanders".

One such mellow fellow, just hanging out next to the trail.

The intention was to bike to my favorite restaurant in all of Amsterdam, a Dutch pannenkoekenhuis (pancake house!) with a pancake menu reminiscent of the indulgent breadth of options available at the Cheesecake Factory. Dutch pancakes can be sweet or savory, and include a wealth of ingredients we Americans typically only thing of putting in omelets or crepes...but we're talking full-blown, thick, bigger-than-your-face pancakes here, with any ingredient or combination you desire cooked right into the middle of the batter.

The Boerderij Meerzicht (roughly translated: Farm with a Lake View) is situated in the middle of the forest. Though we found it without trouble, we were disappointed to discover that it's not open on Mondays. Talk about a bummer! Happily, though, we biked back to the city and found ourselves some solid Dutch pancakes there instead.

Sunday evening I was able to get together with a fellow marathoner and friend from my semester abroad, whom I'd originally gotten to know through interviewing for my thesis paper. Over a pot of tea, a few glasses of port, and a block of aged Dutch cheese, we had quite the time catching up, too!

Today, my mom and I spent a relaxed morning wandering around the famous, outdoor Albert Cuyp market, enjoying some traditional Dutch "patat met" (fat french fries doused in mayonnaise and served in a paper funnel with a fork) before making our way back to Amsterdam's Central Station and on the train back to Nijverdal...

...which brings me to tonight! More updates to follow. Namely, the marathon report :)

1 comment:

  1. loved this entry yitka!!! thank you so much for posting! i was wondering how you were doing...and this satisfied my curiosity until we can next catch up. it sounds like you're having a wonderful wonderful time- full of laughter, running, and beautiful skies. i send my love from this side of the pond!