The best compliment that I have received since moving to Amsterdam came from my past roommates Renske and Shaun (I am still in denial that they were just my AirBnB hosts). In my online guest review they described me as ‘gezellig’.
Gezellig literally means ‘cozy’, but I would argue that it is more of a general feeling of emotional and physical warmth. Gezellig is wearing a fuzzy sweater and slurping a hearty soup on a cold day, or an extra long hug with someone that you haven’t seen in forever. Restaurants will boast about how they provide a gezellig atmosphere, and my Dutch friends will often comment “oh, that is so gezellig” about any number of things.
Biking through Vondelpark on my morning commute, my eyes crossed a maroon peacoat with curls spilling out from the hood. I biked a little faster and recognized the waterproof backpack.
I met Anchorette waiting in line for ramen my first week in Amsterdam. Since then we have met up at least once a week. We started an international book club reading White Innocence by Gloria Wekker (check out my reading recommendations blog) and while sharing amazing meals we discuss how to strategically dismantle the patriarchy.
We biked alongside each other through the crisp morning air catching up on the weekend’s events until we parted ways and headed to work. I couldn’t help but think, what an absolutely lovely way to start my day.
Back in January, I attended my first LGBTQ+ community event True Colors. Since then I have continued to go to other queer events including Meet Ups, The Pink Awards for LGBT activists in Amsterdam, a gay bar crawl with another Fulbrighter, and I completed some ‘mixed-drink-methodology’ fieldwork at Club NYX.
On Valentine’s Day, I attended the Pink Awards with my advisor dAvid. Arriving before dAvid, I grabbed a drink and looked around the room for someone to strike up a conversation with. It was surprising when I recognized people I had met at the True Colors networking event. Later that same week, I was walking around Amsterdam with another Fulbrighter and ran into an Italian woman in the city center that I met at a queer Meet Up my second week here. We stopped and chatted, promising to see each other at the next event. When gay bar crawl ended at Club NYX it did not take more than a quick scan of the room to locate a dancer from True Colors organizing a ‘Vogue Off’, and other familiar faces in the crowd swaying to the music.
What a perfect ne-twerking event
3. Code Names
During the holidays, I forced my family to go around the table and share their best part of 2017. My best part was that Lindsey fell in love with hockey, and I fell in love with the game Codenames. After pestering Lindsey to constantly play, I exhausted her patience and decided to find an international gaming crew. Before leaving the United States, I stuffed Codenames into my luggage. However, in order to play Codenames you need a minimum of four people. Maybe I networked so aggressively because I come from a large family? Maybe because I desperately wanted to play Codenames? Either way, before the month of February came to a close I had assembled a crew willing to go out for food, drinks, and of course— play Codenames.
I picked some winners
A merge of Fulbright friends, hockey friends, and friends-of-friends
When you show up wearing exactly the same Dutch uniform
4. Home Sweet Home
Finding housing in Amsterdam was not easy. I had previously found two New York apartments, one in three days, and one in three hours, but searching for a flat here was no walk in Vondelpark. I was lucky enough to find a beautiful place far out of the city center by Dutch standards (25 minute bike ride), but the flat had some interesting conditions. 1. The renter has to be a women 2. She has to be a vegetarian and 3. The living room will sometimes be used for meditation sessions. This ad was crafted for any good granola-eating-lesbian. After scouring advertisements trying to find apartments a bit closer to the city center, I weighed the pros and cons and moved my belongings from my AirBnB in the East all the way to the base of Sloterpas in the West. Reshma, the landlady lives in a flat four doors down with her friend. She will often stop by and bring me and Solene (my flatmate) delicious Surinamese food. A few weeks ago, she invited me to participate in a mantra singing and meditation night that she was hosting in our living room. The words from Fulbright orientation back in August echoed in my head, ‘say yes to everything’. After a day of sitting in a cafe writing and stressing out about how little time I have in The Netherlands, a mindfulness session was exactly what I needed. I came home at 17:30 and helped Reshma prepare a feast. People started to show up around 19:00. We ate together, sang, and ended with a meditation.
The food we prepared wasn't the only thing warm and comforting
When anyone asks me my favorite part of living in The Netherlands I always say the people. Creating a community 4,000 miles away from home was daunting at first. However, the longer I am here the more I feel like Amsterdam embracing me in a way that can only be described as gezellig.