In the two years that I’ve lived in Amsterdam it’s rained something like 680 out of the 730 days.
Add to that at least 20 days of snow falling.
For this South African who arrived by way of California, that’s been harsh.
I knew that living in the Northern European climate would be difficult – after all, my year in London had taught me that a thing like Seasonal Depression really does exist. But I’d been here on visits often enough that I figured I had a good handle on the weather.
No such thing.
But that’s OK. I’m learning to adapt. I’m learning that getting soaked in the rain is not the end of the world. That when it’s snowing it’s better because snow is not as wet as rain. That if a deluge starts, to hop into a covered entrance or a shop because the downpour will probably only last a few minutes and then will settle into a soft drizzle. That you need to check the clouds before you leave the house. That cobblestones can be slippery when wet. That you need something to keep your bicycle seat dry or you end up with a soggy rear. That you are not going to wear open-toed shoes NEARLY as much as the average Californian.
And that when the sun is shining and it’s warm – get the hell out of the house! Drop what you are doing! Go outside! Soak it in!
The Dutch are famous (maybe it’s infamous) for that orangey leathered skin look – a lot of that comes from their annual vacation migrations to anywhere that has sun by the bucketfuls. Even Oman is not too hot or too sunny. But it also comes from sitting in cafés, in parks, along the canals, on the sidewalk in front of their houses – basically anywhere – when the sun makes an appearance. A perfectly good café will be empty as a church because it is in the shade. In the summertime there are temporary outdoor pools that are packed and “urban beaches” where you can reserve a table and while a way the day in the sand and sun. (Seriously! Check it out by clicking here!) There was a guy next to me today in his business suit who totally calmly and nonchalantly took of his jacket then unbuttoned his shirt so he can get color on his chest! Is it because the sun is such a rare commodity that it’s appreciated more than we did in California, in South Africa? Is the culture? Is it a biological need for more Vitamin C? I have no idea, but I like appreciating this piece of Dutch culture and claiming it also as mine.
So today… to celebrate the fact that it’s actually 81°F in Amsterdam, that it’s sunny, that the skies are blue and that it’s actually feeling like July for once! I decided to rename the day to “Saturday.”
I got up early, did the crucial things that needed to be done. And then armed with a bottle of water, some fruit and a sandwich, set off on the bike along the Amstel River.
The ride from Amsterdam south to Ouderkerk a.d. Amstel is lovely – along a nice bike path that takes you past massive villas, the river by your side, boats bedecked with sunbathers keeping up with you on your bike as they chug along. You leave city life behind rather quickly (as in like 5 minutes!) to see cows and goats dotting the green landscape in between the houses and the farmhouses. (This is the Netherlands after all – all that cheese has to come from somewhere!) There are ducks waddling out of the water. Tall trees. Church spires. People picnicking on the side of the road.
It struck me that this Dutch life is a great life. I took a huge gamble two+ years ago when I decided to quit a career that was rocketing into good places, to sell my home with it’s lovely deck, to leave behind my friends, family, dog, and sunshine. But biking along the river, watching people take such great pleasure simply in being outside, enjoying the sun, finding ways to sit on the grass, leisurely lunch together – all on what is still for them most surely a Wednesday… I find that I am happy in this world. At home in this world. Grateful for this world.
Even if it should rain :)