I’m staying with my brother in Amsterdam during quarantine. It was announced in mid-March that no physical classes were taking place this semester and it turned out all my friends were leaving Leiden, so with nothing to keep me there, I moved in with my brother. My brother lives a little outside the centre so it might not be the Amsterdam you imagine. However, I still enjoyed getting to know his area more. Normally, we’d walk to a restaurant or shop but we mostly stayed inside hanging out and playing games, which was of course fun. But as I started going out for walks, it astounded me how much I didn’t know about the area despite my regularly visiting.
I’d never even been to the park a ten-minute walk away, which by now, I’ve spent many sunny afternoons relaxing in. I also found some nice paths near it, which seem to be nice day trip getaways.
Another great thing was taking long walks to more remote areas and to the centre. I tend to prefer other parts of the Netherlands over the centre of Amsterdam as the capital’s centre can feel like a tourist theme park at times. But quarantine made it slightly more empty and it was great to see it in a new light.
I spent an hour walking to the Posthumuswinkel, a great stationery shop (more in this lettering post coming next week).
During this walk, I saw how I actually knew Amsterdam better than I thought. From the times I’d walked around for fun, shown visiting friends around, gone to Chinatown for ingredients or from Museum Night back in November 2019 when the world was normal. It was great to walk past those memories and use them to piece the city together, making a map in my mind. It was interesting to know that certain areas were closer together than I thought or a new road I walked on eventually led to one I knew…
I walked past a pancake shop where I got vegan pancakes the first time I visited Amsterdam (back in 2017!) I went to the same Chinese supermarket my brother and I first went to when I moved here in 2018, where I first discovered a great brand of delicious vegan kimchi (Oh Na Mi is amazing, Random link incase you want vegan kimchi in Amsterdam), I walked past two of our museum night stops, the Tropenmuseum and Micropia…
I came to wonder if I know other places better than I thought too. Unfortunately, one shouldn’t be going out too often during these times, but once in a while, it is good for your mental health, provided the necessary precautions are taken. I took the opportunity because I knew the rest of May would (or at least should) be a time of intense studying due to the last semester of my second year finishing soon.
The day before my centre walk, I took a walk in the opposite direction of the centre. Like the nearby park, it helped me see how quickly and easily I can get to more open-air and greenery. It also made me realise how much I’d been sitting on my arse. I took an amazing walk across the Amsterdamse Brug. It was funny because I’d never realised I could have such a therapeutic walk that made me feel so in touch with nature; more greenery than I’d expected and the calming feeling of being near water bodies. If you’re like me and find water bodies calming, the Netherlands might be the place for you. In general, I’ve often relieved myself of negative emotions by simply sitting by a canal. I wasn’t feeling particularly stressed or upset but with all the tumultuous events of the Corona pandemic, it brought more relief than I knew I needed.
I loved these walks for their calming effect, for the feel of the good ol’ outside world, for the much needed fresh air, for the satisfaction of realising I know some areas better than I realise, but also because it gave me a better appreciation for the Netherlands in general. I also came to realise that the Netherlands is actually a great place to walk long distances. I would never go so far to say that I’m grateful for the pandemic in that it’s given us new outlooks, but I will say that in trying to make the best of it when I have some time and energy, I’ve learnt new things about myself and my surroundings and that’s something.
I’ve often seen the Netherlands as merely my place of study. But more recently, I’ve come to feel more attached to it. Similarly, I’ve come to feel more attached to Amsterdam since quarantine began. The previous lack of attachment is why I haven’t written much about the Netherlands despite it being where I live. Without my friends and study, there was never much for me here and I saw that to mean that the Netherlands itself did not have much importance to me. I liked it, but it was not where I saw myself studying if you asked me three years ago. It felt like a mere small stepping stone in my journey across many nations.
But now, it’s slightly different. I still do feel it to be a stepping stone in my journey, but it’s a far more significant one. I’ve come to see that having attachments here that aren’t linked to the country itself does not make my relationship with this country a temporary or less significant one. Instead, it makes my relationship with it one deeply rooted in life-changing experiences and memories, both strange and beautiful due to its unexpected nature.
It’s amazing to think how this new found feeling towards a country I’ve lived in since August 2018 is going to shape me. Only time will tell!
I hope everyone is coping okay and making the best of things in their own way!