That time I almost stole a kayak in Poland.

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Ok, I might be exaggerating slightly. But not much, actually. I really did almost steal a kayak. The only thing that held us back was the lack of an oar, and therefore no way to steer ourselves down the adjacent river.

So I suppose the next step in this story is to give you some context. Because you’re probably just thinking I’m some asshole who tries to steal people’s kayaks, but I promise you it’s not like that. (Ok, it’s only sort of like that.) Also, I just switched from “I” to “us” in the previous paragraph without warning, and I swear it’s because there were other people involved, and not because I think of myself in the plural. We’re not that crazy.

ANYWAY. A few weeks ago, I went to Poland for work. As many of you know by now, this usually means I go to a foreign country and I spend a LOT of hours in a field watching people play ultimate frisbee and/or selling apparel to said ultimate frisbee players. And then, once us frisbee people leave the fields, weird things happen. Because that’s how we roll. Also, we’ve all gone insane from spending 12 hours a day in a fucking field, and we don’t know how to properly behave in the real world.

And so, on this particular Saturday night, we got into all sorts of shenanigans. The tournament had ended earlier that afternoon, so all the staff were finally done and allowed to actually let loose and enjoy themselves. So that night, it was time to go. And I mean, “let’s fucking GO” level go.

First, I should begin by saying that the crew involved consisted of 4 Brits, 2 Canadians, and myself. We all work in the ultimate frisbee world, in some capacity. So by default, we’re all a bit weird, and totally 100% awesome.

The night started with champagne. Actually, I think we had hard cider first. But then champagne. And then we went out for a very late, incredibly magnificent dinner which involved a very large beer, and then more wine. (And holy shit so much food. Pretty sure the Canadian dude ate 3 entrees because he is apparently a human garbage disposal. I mean that in the best, and most impressed, way.)

And THEN we went to this insane beach bar along the river, which also happened to be right next to the zoo. As we walked through the forest on the way to the bar, we kept passing ridiculous graffiti showing zoo animals who were apparently going into space. I promise you I’m not lying. The images were very upsetting, just look:

IMG_0471I don’t know what this octopus did to deserve being sent into space against its will, but it made me sad.

I was fascinated by the graffiti, as was this British guy Jon. We were so enthralled by the crazy space animals, in fact, that the two of quickly lagged behind the rest of the group. We stopped to marvel at them and took several selfies. And then we lost everyone.

So when we found a beach bar, we assumed we were in the right place. So we bought a beer, and then looked around and realized that there were definitely no frisbee people there. And I think everyone thought we were insane because we wouldn’t stop talking about the “crazy bird” and the “space octopus.” I only hoped that everyone there assumed these were our code names and that we were really awesome special agents. (I’m certain this is what they thought. There’s no other explanation for our behavior.)

We already had a beer in hand, so we figured we would drink it and then continue onwards to find the group. And frankly I don’t remember if we kept walking, or if frisbee people just appeared out of nowhere, because suddenly we were in the right place and everyone we knew was there too. It all seemed to happen rather magically.

We ordered more beers and then spent some time sitting on a very funky piece of architecture that I believe Jon referred to as a “geometric orgasm.” I wish I had a photo of it, but I don’t. It was pretty cool, though. His description was fairly accurate, to say the least.

And that’s when we saw the kayaks.

So here’s a little thing about me: when I get drunk, I like to do things that a) I probably wouldn’t want to do while sober and b) seem WAY more fun than they actually are. So at that particular moment, I was inexplicably excited about sitting in a kayak. Actually, I think I was more excited about the prospect of going down the river in said kayak, but getting into it was step one.

Fortunately, Jon (who I had only just met) turned out to be as ridiculous as I am, so he was as excited about this idea as I was. So we went to the kayaks. And we crawled into one. And I think we sat there for a good hour, with the very serious intention of actually taking the kayak down the river, but lamenting the fact that we didn’t have an oar. Pretty sure someone was hiding the oars from us, probably because whoever owns the bar is very smart and knows that stupid drunk people will otherwise try to steal their kayaks. (We totally would have stolen that kayak. Totally.)

IMG_0499This is a terrible photo, but it proves the existence of the kayaks and us being in them.

Eventually we got out of the kayak, because sitting in a non-stolen kayak and doing nothing gets pretty boring after a while. But then we were hanging out on the floating dock next to the kayaks, and the Canadians thought it would be funny to untie the floating dock from the thing it was attached to. While Jon and I were on it.

So for a brief moment, a new idea came to be: Let’s take this raft down the river!

IMG_0500Our Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn rafting adventure begins! (Except not.)

We very quickly realized that was a terrible idea and we would probably die, but fortunately there was still one tiny chain keeping us attached to the mainland. (Without which, we were totally fucked, actually. Because, if you can’t tell from the photo, there was no way off the raft at that particular moment.)

But then, as Jon attempted to pull us back using that tiny chain, it snapped. I was completely unaware of this fact, but he began to panic and kept telling me to “Jump! Hurry, jump to the other dock!” while I kept saying “Dude, chill out, you’re overreacting.” Because I just thought he was being a sissy. But apparently, for a brief moment, we almost actually floated away down the river. Which would have been exciting, but then I probably wouldn’t be around to tell you this story, so I’m kind of glad that didn’t happen.

And of course, in the midst of all of this chaos, we continued to drink beer. In fact, despite the fact that we’d just had a near-death experience*, we managed to continue drinking for several hours. And then a wedding party showed up after their reception, which apparently had been at the zoo. We thought a zoo reception was pretty cool, until this guy kept yelling “DO YOU KNOW HOW SCARY IT IS TO BE IN A ZOO AFTER DARK?! THERE ARE BEARS EVERYWHERE.”

It was about this point that I realized I was far too drunk and tired to be having a conversation with someone who has severe bear-phobia and is still suffering PTSD from his nighttime zoo experience. (Frankly, I think he’s an idiot, because I would LOVE to be in a zoo at night. That sounds fucking dope. You could pretend to be a jungle explorer. You could practice your night vision. YOU COULD STEAL A MARMOSET.)

(I promise I wouldn’t actually steal a marmoset. I barely know how to care for myself, let alone a small monkey.)

So, after many failed attempts at conversation with the terrified-of-bears man, we decided to leave. And before we even managed to make it out of the park, the sun was rising.

Leaving a bar at sunrise? That’s some college-level party shit right there. I haven’t done that in years. Mad props to the crazy British/Canadian crew for partying like rockstars.

I am so proud.

 

*Ok, we didn’t actually have a near-death experience. But it could have been a near-death experience if we had floated away. We just didn’t try hard enough.

*****

[Next time: When in Ireland…]

All of the Gin: A Story of My Dad.

DSC_0167 copyThis is how I hook all you gin-lovers. With a super sexy photo of Hendrick’s.

Once upon a time, almost two and a half years ago, I wrote a story about how I got my cousin so drunk while wine tasting that she made a fool of herself in front of the entire family. It is one of my greatest accomplishments. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But I am very proud of it, and it’s a story the family will never forget.

(And before you stop reading because you think I’m a terrible person, please read that other story for some context. Because me getting her drunk was payback for her getting me so drunk I almost missed her brother’s wedding. All is fair in love and war.)

Now back to the point. I never thought I would ever one-up myself on that fun little escapade. But I DID. Because a couple of months ago, I got my Dad so drunk at a gin festival that he made a complete fool of himself. I only wish my cousins had been there to witness the glory, but that is why I am writing this blog. So they can relive it with me!

So here’s how it all went down.

In May, my parents came to visit me in Amsterdam. (For those of you new to blog, I live in Amsterdam! I had only moved a few months prior, so my parents’ visit was their first to Amsterdam and very exciting overall.) They were here for a whopping 9 days, and because my Dad had a conference in the middle of their week here, we couldn’t really take any big side trips. 9 days is a long time to vacation in the same city, so towards the end of their time here, we had already seen and done a lot. So we needed a fun family activity.

Enter: the Amsterdam Gin Festival.

DSC_0160 copyI promise that server isn’t creepy, he just happened to catch me right as I shot this photo.

For the entire week, my mom was completely on board with this plan. “The Gin Festival sounds really fun!” she said. And DUH, of course it would be fun. There would be drinking involved! Also, my mom is amazing and excited about most things that I suggest. She’s the best mom ever.

But I intentionally failed to mention it to my dad for most of the week because I feared he would not be excited. For my whole life, I have never known my dad to be into gin. He loves wine. He loves scotch. He loves cognac (ask the family about that story). But gin? Not a thing he loves, as far as I knew.

But boy was I WRONG.

My dad apparently LOVES gin. Also rum. And jenever. And vermouth.

The whole thing became dangerous very quickly.

So I don’t want to bore you with too many details, but I must set the stage here. Because, honestly, this story only gets better the more you know.

The plan began as follows: We were going to meet my friends, Bex and Luke, at the Gin Festival. We would go early (around 2pm), so we could drink in the middle of the afternoon, and then have dinner and sober up in the evening, so as not to have any hangovers. Because we are pros and know how this works.

So we headed to the ferry terminal. Because it’s Amsterdam, and sometimes you get to a gin festival via a (free!) ferry across the IJ. (It was actually really amazing. First we got on a boat. The boat ride was lovely. And then when we got off the boat, there was gin EVERYWHERE. Fucking YES.)

Bex and Luke were running a little late, so we decided to do some reconnaissance and wander around the festival a bit. There were so many stands, so it was worth taking a few laps to discover what was what.

But that’s where things went wrong. Because my father has the patience of a 5-year-old. So as soon as he saw something he liked, he had to try it. And then he saw something else. And something else. And before Bex and Luke had even arrived, my dad had tried 3 different gins. My mom and I had managed to limit ourselves to just one taste, but somehow my dad wandered off, and when he came back he was babbling about some dude from Brazil who had served him “this incredible rum, seriously you have to try it!”

Oh no.

My mom and I tried to remind him that we were going to be here for several hours, so he should probably pace himself. To which he just waved us off and wandered into the crowd again.

Once my friends arrived, things only got worse. Because of course we all got excited and wanted to try things, and then we completely lost track of my father. At one point, after probably 3 or 4 shots of alcohol in his system, he realized he should probably eat. So he tried to make us all stop drinking and come get food with him. So we went to the food trucks. And we ate. And everything was fine, for a short while.

But then the gin-tasting recommenced. And by that point, all of us were feeling a bit buzzed. But not as buzzed as Dad. I mean, just look at this goofy man:

DSC_0171 copyWhy is he holding up that juniper plant?! We will never know.

Those of you who know my dad know he’s a pretty strange guy. But somehow in spite of this, he manages to charm people. He charmed the “magical Brazilian rum man” so much that he opened a super special-edition rum just so my dad could taste it. And then, even though the gin-makers weren’t actually allowed to sell bottles at the event, he got one of the guys to sell him a bottle completely under the table. So he could take it home to America. “How else am I supposed to get it?” he said.

*Facepalm* (Although to be fair, he had a point.)

By the time we finally left, I think we’d been there for over 5 hours. Which is a long time when you’re drinking straight liquor all day. (Side note: I really love gin, actually, and this festival was DOPE. I am absolutely going back again next year.) So we hopped back on the ferry, where even more hilarity ensued.

First, let me tell you: my dad was quite drunk at this point. In fact, I’ve never seen him in such a state. He was slurring his words so thoroughly that I wasn’t sure we’d even make it home.

So his first move was to try and get Bex and Luke to come over for dinner. They respectfully declined, because they are very smart. Also, they were exhausted.

His second move was to get involved in a ridiculous conversation with an American guy on the ferry who was living in the Netherlands, but planning his wedding to his “true love” back in Kentucky. And they were going to get married this summer and she would move to the Netherlands with him. And it was a really strange story, because they had no money, but they were going to do it anyway because they were so madly in love (I think he may have been reciting a movie…). And at this point, my dad tried to give him €50. My mom and I had to forcibly prevent him from doing so. Because, c’mon dude, that shit is WEIRD. You don’t just hand out cash to strangers!

And his third move was to promptly pass out on the couch in my living room when we arrived back at my apartment. And I mean PASS OUT. He was snoring heavily. It was amazing.

Given that it was only 8pm, and I was hungry, I offered to run to the store for some dinner fixings. When I returned, my mother and I began to dine on a lovely meal of bread and cheese and salami, with a side of salad and even a glass of red wine. (Because she and I were actually not that drunk.) We kept trying to wake up Dad to get him to come eat. After swatting us away multiple times, he made an attempt, took one bite, and went back to the couch to pass out again. It was after 10pm before we could finally get him to actually eat dinner.

The entire day felt like a drunken fairytale. And then we all went to sleep.

This may seem like an anticlimactic ending, but for those of you who have met my dad, you know this entire story is completely unbelievable. I mean, I’ve hardly ever seen the man drunk, let alone slurring-trying-to-give-strangers-money-passed-out-on-the-couch drunk. It was incredible.

And Mom and I will never forget it.

And, dear cousins, if you still don’t believe me after reading this, just ask my mom. She and I still laugh about it. It was absolutely AMAZING. (And maybe let’s pretend I just recounted this story to you instead of putting it on the internet… I don’t think Dad will be very happy with me.)

 

*****

[Next time: I went to an insane festival in Ghent, Belgium. INSANE, I tell you. These Belgians are cray.]

My triumphant return to the mountains (of cheese and beer)

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After living in Amsterdam for two months, I was starting to lose my shit a little bit. I love this city, but the lack of even the tiniest hill has started to wear on me. I don’t handle the flatlands very well.

This doesn’t mean I moved to the wrong place, by any means. It just means I will need to leave about once every 2 months and go see some mountains. Yes, I know. I’m a weirdo. But I happen to be addicted to very tall, pointy rocks. Call me crazy.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go all that far from Amsterdam to find mountains in Europe. Also, Switzerland is BOSS.

I hardly know where to start, because as I think back to those two-and-a-half days I spent in Switzerland, my brain is bombarded by memories of snow (SNOW!), fondue (CHEESE!), beer on the mountainside (BEER! IN THE SNOW!), and trying not to fall off a sledge and tumble down the mountain (DANGER!).

So I will start here: a good friend of mine moved to Geneva last fall. This was all very exciting to me, because we determined that once I moved to Europe (just a few months later) we MUST hang out (duh) and I really needed to be in a place with mountains, so this was all just too convenient.

So I flew to Geneva. Melissa met me at the airport. And then we went out for fondue because HOW COULD WE NOT?! I mean, I’ve never been to Switzerland.* It had to happen.

(I should probably mention here that the fondue was DELICIOUS. I mean, holy shit. Swiss cheese is the fucking bomb, man. Wow.)

The night ended there because we had to get up early (lame).  But not really lame, because on Saturday we caught a 7:30am train to Interlaken. I COULD HARDLY CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT. I still can’t, apparently.

The whole thing was basically magic because Melissa had organized everything. So we got in, dropped our stuff at the hostel (which she had previously arranged, of course), and then went and had a leisurely lunch while overlooking the mountains. So romantic!

And then the REAL shit happened. We went UP one of those mountains. In a gondola. For like, half an hour. It was insane. I’ve never spent so many successive minutes in a gondola. It was truly epic.

And then at the top, we walked into the little ski shop and asked for sledges, just like we had been told to do by the woman in the hostel. And they gave us sledges. With basically zero instructions. And they said “Yeah, you just go down the mountain. Follow the purple signs. It takes about 2 hours.”

2 HOURS?! The whole thing was completely insane. Because…2 hours? How fucking high up were we?? And of course at first we couldn’t even find the purple signs. And then when we did, we realized it was fucking steep, and we had NO CLUE how to actually steer or stop our sledges.

So, as you do in such situations, you get on a sledge, point yourself downwards, and hope you don’t die.

Chester was Melissa’s steed, and he was a gentleman. For the first several kilometers, Chester slowly and steadily steered Melissa down the mountain (i.e. she dragged her heels because she was terrified and didn’t want to fall off a cliff, which is pretty reasonable if you ask me). On the other side was Tony, my very mischievous steed, who led me on a wild ride that involved a lot of yelling, a lot of very sharp corners, a collision with a snowbank, and several intentional falls to avoid going off the edge of the mountain. (All this is to say, I attempted to sledge down the mountain with abandon, and it’s pure blind luck that I’m still here to tell you this story.)

IMG_0019Melissa and Chester on their grand day out.

The best part of all of this was when we were actually stopped by an older Swiss gentleman who was taking a leisurely sledge trip down the mountain (probably a weekly ritual, judging by his skill level). After watching me careen wildly around a corner and nearly fly off a cliff, he asked “So, do you ladies actually know how to stop?” To which we very bluntly replied, “No! We don’t!” And then he rolled his eyes and showed us how. And he suggested we try to be more careful. Our response to this was to burst out laughing because seriously, WTF were we doing sledging down a mountain in the Swiss Alps?

After this we actually started to slowly get the hang of it. The turns became easier, we finally understood which side of the rope to pull when we wanted to go a certain direction, and we became more attuned to the mechanics of slowing down.

But then we arrived at our first crossing. Our very gradual and windy sledging path cut directly across one of the ski routes. So we had to look left for incredibly speedy skiers coming full speed down the mountain, and then make an attempt to cross at a time that would be expedient for both parties. This turned out to be a complete disaster, with our initial attempt to cross being thwarted by a human going 15x our speed towards us, at which point we got up off our sledges, grabbed the ropes, and ran screaming across the ski slope. Because we are classy like that.

And here’s the point where this story actually starts to get relevant: after what seemed like an age of continued sledging down the mountainside (it might have been an hour, in fact), we saw a very simple sign in the snow. It said ‘BEER’ with an arrow pointing to the right.

SALVATION WAS HERE.

We dragged our sledges up a short hill to the ski-in bar and stopped for a drink. Because when there is beer on a mountainside in the Swiss Alps, you literally can’t say no. (At least, I couldn’t. Because this seemed like pure MAGIC. How the fuck do they even get the beer up there?! There are no roads! Just skis! It’s fucking magic, I tell you.)

It was pretty clear that we were being laughed at by all the actual skiers and snowboarders around, because we had no idea what we were doing and we had “parked” our sledges in the ski-drop area like we belonged there. Which, perhaps, we didn’t. But IDGAF. It had to be done.

And then we drank oversized beers. Like you do in Switzerland.

Version 2The biggest beers! The best beers.

So I’m not sure if it was the size of the beer or the altitude (probably a combination of the two), but we were decidedly tipsy after our pit stop. And we had another half hour of sledging ahead of us before we reached the bottom of the slope.

So we continued on in a hilariously inebriated fashion, with many stops for photos (OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY) or (LET’S TAKE A SELFIE!) or (We’re not that drunk, this is still safe. Right?). There was a whole lot of giggling. And for a while there we thought we might be a bit too drunk, until we saw a guy on a sledge collide with his friend such that they both slid off the side of a small cliff, at which point we realized that we were still fine and weren’t that drunk after all.

IMG_0020We’re not that drunk! (No, we are that drunk.)

So the story doesn’t have a very exciting ending, I must admit. We made it down the mountain. No one died (that we’re aware of). And later that night we even managed to go out for what turned out to be a very lovely and authentic Swiss meal. (With wine! See, I told you we weren’t that drunk.)

(Ok. We might have been that drunk.)

*****

*That’s a lie. I had been to Switzerland once. But it was actually a really awful experience, which included a failed attempt at finding dinner (we drank beer instead), sleeping for 7 hours, nearly losing a drone on the mountainside, the smallest pain au chocolat in history, and then finally escaping into Italy. So mostly I try to forget it. (Although the drone story is pretty fucking great. Ask me to tell it to you sometime.)

I really should put things here more often.

IMG_0145Urban beach party! This shit was the jam.

Well, here we are again. Months ago, I recounted the harrowing tale of my new life in Amsterdam. At this point, I’ve forgotten all about that crap. But at the time, it sucked. A whole fucking lot. (Ok, so I haven’t forgotten. The world and particularly the absurd Dutch bureaucracy spent many months telling me to pack up and go back to America. It was infuriating. I might still be a little bit angry.)

BUT. The point is, it’s over now. And guess what? THINGS ARE SO MUCH BETTER! In fact, I feel like I can basically live my life now and the Dutch government isn’t trying to make each day a living hell anymore! So that’s nice. (I’m not being sarcastic. It really is nice!)

But the REAL point is, I’ve been doing so many things and I haven’t written about any of them! It’s a total disaster. (Not the doing things part, just the failing to record it part.) I guess that’s what happens when you live a fast-paced, crazy, completely unreasonable lifestyle.

(I’ve gotta say, I really never expected to be living this kind of life. It’s a bit mad, really. But I love it, so who’s complaining?)

But here’s the kicker: there are two sides to every story. There’s the “my life is insane!” story (in a good way). On this side are some of the absurd things I’ve done over the past many months, such as:

  • Sledding down the side of a mountain in Switzerland while slightly tispy
  • Pouring honey rum into someone’s mouth from the top of a human pyramid 4m tall
  • Watching my father get hilariously hammered at a Gin Festival
  • Climbing on the roof of a building while very intoxicated against the advice of pretty much everybody
  • Drunkenly running around naked in a children’s playground in a London suburb at 3am
  • Falling off my bike while inebriated. Doing it again a month later.

(If you hadn’t noticed, I like synonyms. But also, I promise I’m not always drunk.)

But, you see, there’s also another side to this story. There are all the very sober, very real “my life is insane!” moments that seem to scare the shit out of my non-insane friends. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “Um, you seriously need a vacation” or “WTF are you doing with your life?” or “You’re doing WAY more than one might consider normal” or the horrified stares I get when I say my next weekend at home isn’t for 2 months.

And to all those people, here’s what I have to say: you are right. This is totally unsustainable. I’m addicted to having a completely unreasonable schedule and I don’t know how to stop!

IMG_0029This is my “I am trying to be normal” face. Convincing, right?

But with all the bad comes the good, right? And lately, it feels like the good has been even better and more fun, so I don’t exactly want to stop, despite the fact that I am highly aware I might just drop dead from stress at any moment. But it’s worth it, damnit! #livingontheedge

[Cue: wine. I am drinking it now. Because why should I start being reasonable NOW? That would just be absurd.]

So, instead of listening to all the reasonable people in my life, I am doing EVERYTHING and loving it. Who needs sanity anyway? ALSO, I’ve realized I have a backlog of half-written posts about some of the aforementioned adventures, which I am planning to finish right now. Because, why not? Also, wine.

Get ready. The deluge is coming. And this time, I’m not fucking around.*

*She said for the millionth time.

******************

[Next time, on Christina’s totally unreasonable adventures: I’m about to spend a week in Belgium! Let’s see how much trouble I can get into there.]

The Fight

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Well, it’s been 2 months since I last wrote. I had this whole plan to write about ALL THE THINGS I’ve been doing, and to move into my own place, and to start blogging more regularly, and to bake bread, and everything else.

But then life struck, again. As I predicted in my last post, there were more bumps in the road. Many, many more. Like, a whole shitload of obstacles. I mean, c’mon people. This is getting ridiculous.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details, but let’s just boil it down quickly: I had issues with my residency permit (came through at the last minute, and I only got my social security number thanks to the good graces of my friend Bram). Then had an apartment disaster (landlord pulled the plug 2 days AFTER I was supposed to move in). I was again saved by Bram. (Bram: You are the fucking man.) AND, I still technically have not received a paycheck. (Don’t worry, I will get paid for every single day I’ve worked. But it’s been an epic saga to sort that out. Dutch banks & foreign companies do not mix well.)

And so, 3 months after my arrival in Amsterdam, I was still without my own apartment, still without a paycheck, and still wondering why on earth everything bad seems to happen to ME.

I realize that sounds a bit melodramatic. But in Bram’s words: “Karma has to eventually go the other way, right?” Because seriously, it’s been ridiculous. Nothing has gone smoothly. This whole move has been a massive shitshow.

And yet, here I am. Powering through. Several years ago, this type of situation would have utterly broken me. I would have become depressed, negative, and convinced myself that nothing will ever be good ever again. Hell, I might have given up entirely. Because Amsterdam does seem to be telling me that I should turn around and go back to where I came from. But I refuse. Because I fucking belong here, I just know it.

There is a group of people here in Amsterdam, and I love them. I call them my Friends. They are cool people. They seem genuinely excited to see me when we we hang out. They are happy that I live here now. Many of them have told me exactly that. And that means a ton, and I can’t just leave now. Because I have friends, and I love these friends. I want to see these friendships grow.

I also just went to Spain for a weekend for a frisbee tournament. At the tournament, people would ask when I was going home. I would say “Tuesday. I’m flying home on Tuesday.” Home. Amsterdam. They are the same now. The flight from Barcelona to Amsterdam felt so natural. It was perfect.

And last weekend, I finally moved into my new apartment. I have my own bedroom, and I have a lovely roommate. This week, I’m going to finish unpacking and hang my art on the walls. And it will be real. For the first time since December, I am going to have MY own bedroom, with MY own things in it. Fucking finally.

So no, it hasn’t been easy. It’s been a fight. But I am fighting hard. Because Amsterdam is my home now, damnit.  You can’t get rid of me that easily.

The Turnaround

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I knew this moment would come eventually. The moment when life suddenly felt right-side-up again. The moment when I stopped “trying to be” and started “being” an Amsterdammer. The moment when, sure, life was still scary and different and I’m still not really sure what I’m doing, but that’s just life so who cares where I am when I feel those things?

It’s been a month since my last post, and it’s not because I was lacking things to write about. There are several half-written posts sitting in my drafts folder that I just never managed to finish. That time I went to Carnival in Den Bosch. The fact that I’ve started cooking good food again. All the craft beer I’ve been drinking. That time I biked 50km round-trip to Haarlem and drank at a brewery inside a church.

But I never finished writing those posts because, frankly, it’s hard to write honestly and sound like yourself when you’re not really feeling like yourself. And basically since I arrived in Amsterdam, I’ve felt a bit like a ghost watching myself try to live this new life. But I wasn’t actually living it yet.

There have been many low points, including one night where I sent my boss a very emotional email at 9:30pm because, oddly enough, he was the only person who would really understand the stress and isolation I was feeling at that moment. That was rock bottom. That was when I thought I couldn’t do this. That was when I was sure I had made a horrible mistake by deciding to move to another country to run a mini-company.

But things got better, as they inevitably do. And this weekend marked the turning point. The moment when I remembered why I came here. The moment when I realized that this is what I was meant to do. And I realized that maybe, just maybe, I’m kind of good at it.

DSC_0083 copyThis weekend, we moved into our new office. That may not seem like a big deal, but somehow Saturday symbolized everything that I’ve been envisioning for the company I’m supposed to guide through 2016. I came to Amsterdam so that my company could actually accomplish something new and great. And moving into a new office was the symbolic starting point. Everything leading up to this point was just preparation.

Saturday was one of the most exciting days I’ve ever had at work. I had an amazing crew of people around me who were helpful and supportive and just lovely to spend the whole day with. The move went so incredibly smoothly that I could hardly believe it. There was so much smiling and laughing, and the only truly stressful moment was when I set the alarm off and thought the entire building was going to fall down from the racket. (Oops.) And after the move was done and the space was clean and pretty, we stayed there for hours drinking beers and eating burritos and simply enjoying each other’s company.

And no, my whole life doesn’t revolve around work. But work is the reason I came to this place, and all of a sudden I feel like I can actually live here and do things and be Christina again. This Christina just happens to live in Amsterdam now.

It’s finally real.

Sure, I got sick (again) after the move. And sure, there are still plenty of kinks to work out, and I know there will be many bumps in the road ahead. But right now, I’m sitting in bed drinking red wine (which is apparently good for colds, ha!), and I am so incredibly happy that I hardly know what to do with myself.

Thank you to everyone in Amsterdam, in Europe, in America and elsewhere who has been there for me over the past 6 weeks. I love all of you.

And to the Wrecking/Building/Moving Crew from Saturday: y’all are rockstars. I heart you like whoa.

*****

[Next time…] I actually go back to talking about the things I do best! Drinking, traveling, drinking, eating, and riding my bicycle.

Ain’t no party like a Jungle party…

oerwoudt

Welp, I think I have officially become a European. I went to my first European club party on Saturday. The theme was “The Jungle,” and I actually survived. In fact, I think it was a roaring success. (Get it? Roaring success?? I’m punny.)

Anyway. I was very proud of myself, because I’m not much of a partier, to be totally honest. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love to have a good time. And I’ve certainly had my share of epic evenings. But most of those involved frisbee people at a frisbee party in the middle of a random field outside a major city somewhere in the world, and I can tell you for a fact, it’s rather different from your standard club scene. And the other share of my drunken adventures usually involve sitting at a brewery somewhere and drinking one too many pints.

TL;DR: Going to clubs is just not my thing.

But I have this friend. His name is Bram. And on Saturday, Bram wanted to “PARTAY.” Yes. “ParTAY” with an “AY.”

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See what I mean? He brought a fucking monkey to the party. That’s how serious he was about the whole thing. (Side note: I don’t remember taking that photo. Also, I am a dumb bitch who makes a duck face when she’s drunk. Feel free to judge me. I am judging myself as we speak.)

Now, some of you may be asking how a European clubbing adventure is any different from an American one. So let me fill you in: these people take their clubbing seriously. The whole thing is planned out to a degree of sophistication I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

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First, the place looked fucking tight. They decorated for the occasion. I wish I had a better photo, but hopefully you get the point. There were crazy balloon structures, and awesome lighting, and a GIANT wooden/painted monkey face over the DJ booth. Also, the venue itself is just sweet. American clubs are ugly and underground and boring. This place was fucking sick.

Which brings me to THE THEME. Yes, I know a lot of American clubs do theme nights, of sorts. But it’s usually something dumb like “Ladies Night” or “Payday Friday” or “Tropical Party” (i.e. if you are female please wear a bathing suit so we can see you half naked). Please go fuck yourself, misogynistic club culture. I am not interested in your crap.

And of course, I do see how a jungle theme could lend itself very well to that culture. But here’s the thing: there were very few slutty outfits. I was SO pleasantly surprised at how few people wore revealing or skintight clothing. A lot of people ignored the theme altogether. (I just remembered I own leopard pants and I forgot to wear them. Damn.)

On top of all that wonderful stuff, this particular party had a mission: all proceeds went to support the rebuilding of rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra, because they have been ravaged by forest fires. That shit is awesome. It made the cover fee SO worth it.

We decided to meet at midnight (OMG waaaaay past my bedtime) and party till we couldn’t anymore. It all started fairly tame. I drank some beers. I tried not to feel awkward about the fact that I wore a really bright shirt that glowed in the blacklight and made a lot of people stare at my boobs. Huge mistake.

Then the wrecking crew (Bram & co) arrived and shit got real pretty quickly. I ran around like a crazy person, which is something I tend to do while drunk. I also hate techno music, so I needed to get really drunk in order to dance properly. Apparently ecstasy helps with partying all night, but I am terrified of drugs so I just stuck to beer. (Which proved to be a mistake the next day. Also I got sleepy and ended up leaving at 3am. Like a loser.)

I also may have (with a significant amount of assistance from Bram) accosted a dude who looked exactly like someone else I know and gave him my phone number. I hope he never calls me. I am so awkward in real life.

BUT WHO CARES?! I went clubbing like a European with other Europeans and danced my ass off and got weird and crazy and took part in what might be my favorite polaroid photo of all time:

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Perhaps I could get used to this after all. Also, I wish I had stolen that hat.

*****

[Next time, on Christina’s drunken party adventures] CARNIVAL! It’s like Mardi Gras for Dutch people! (I’m actually serious.)

Living the ‘Dam Life

Hello, world. My name is Christina, and as of yesterday I live in Amsterdam. WTF.

48 hours ago, I left this beautiful place:

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Yep, that’s Seattle. It’s fucking stunning, amirite?? I am missing it a whole lot right now, and I imagine that feeling is going to ebb and flow for quite some time.

I don’t even know how to continue this post. There are so many feelings happening at the moment. Within a matter of 12 hours, I went from being a US resident to being an expat; from being in a country that speaks my language to a country that doesn’t*; from being just “Christina” to “Christina, the American.”

Indeed, there are a lot of feelings. But despite all of the confusion, the trip went unbelievably well. I was expecting all sorts of crazy drama (“Your bags are too heavy!” or “Your bike will cost $10,000 to check!” or “We refuse to let you into the Netherlands because you don’t have the appropriate paperwork!”). But instead, it was so easy that I could hardly believe it. Because seriously, is moving to another country supposed to be this easy?

Let me provide some context: When I arrived at the airport in Seattle, I had a small backpack, a carry-on duffel bag, 2 checked bags, and a GIGANTIC box filled with my deconstructed bicycle. I arrived at the airport nearly 2.5 hours early, because I was worried about this ridiculous baggage situation.

But then, a nice man at the curbside check-in desk offered to help me take all my stuff inside. Then they let me check in at the Priority desk, even though I’m not technically priority. Then the guy charged me $200 less to check my bike than what I had been told on the phone. Then I got a window seat next to a very nice professor. Then during the flight, I went to ask for more wine and the stewardess was SO NICE and we chatted for 10 minutes. Then when I got to Amsterdam, they didn’t ask me any crazy questions at passport control. I got all my luggage, and even with my overflowing cart they didn’t stop me at customs. Then the guy at the cab line was super friendly and loaded all my bags for me. Then the cab driver brought all my bags inside the lobby of the building where I was staying, without me even asking her to. And then I had a room in an apartment and literally EVERYTHING WENT SEAMLESSLY.

IMG_3086The view from my apartment!

It was so overwhelmingly easy that I nearly panicked. Because that’s some crazy shit. It’s not supposed to be that easy, is it?

Now don’t get me wrong. This didn’t mean I was happy and full of giggles and joy. I was exhausted and stressed and terrified and, to be honest, partially worried that I had made a terrible mistake. I just left a place that I adore, with friends that I love and already miss dearly. This is hard.

Yesterday was tough. Lots of jetlag and a nap that I allowed to last way too long; several bouts of crying; a brief jaunt to the grocery store; frantic unpacking; easy pasta dinner; and more sleep (which went poorly…stupid jetlag). But today, I woke up deciding to make myself excited about this town. And so I did all the things I enjoy.

I walked to a cafe and bought myself a coffee. Then I walked into De Pijp and wandered around the shops. I bought myself a French press. I went to Kaas en Zo (roughly translated as “Cheese and Such”) and bought some delicious aged cheese. I went to a beer store and bought some Dutch craft beers (and one Italian beer!). I stocked up on groceries and finished unpacking my bags and made homemade stew and ate dinner while watching Netflix. And now I’m sitting in bed with tea and writing this.

IMG_3098Part of my awesome haul from today.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I was walking down a side street with a backpack full of groceries, and I felt comfortable. In that one moment, it seemed like this was right. Months ago, I asked for this, and I suddenly remembered why. Because I feel comfortable here. Comfortable in a way I never managed to feel anywhere else. I still don’t entirely know why that is, but that’s ok. I’ll just relish it for now.

This doesn’t mean I’m not still sad. I am. I think I will be sad about leaving Seattle for a very long time. I think it’s going to come in waves, and there are days I will regret everything I’ve done. But I know myself well enough to know it’s not over. I have never wanted to stay in one place for long. So who knows. Maybe 5 years from now, I’ll find myself back in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. Those mountains are always calling…

But for now, I am ready to greet Amsterdam with open arms. Because I do WANT to be here, and I want to be excited about it.

So, Amsterdam. What do you say? Want to go on an adventure with me?

 

*Note: Basically everyone in Amsterdam speaks English. But Dutch is still the native language, and that’s how you’ll be addressed unless you immediately dictate otherwise. So no, it’s not difficult to manage, but it sure as hell isn’t an English-speaking country.

*****

[Next time, on Christina’s adventures in Amsterdam: BEER! I am going to drink all of it.]

I am my own Advent Calendar.

opening(Spoiler alert: I do not own this awesome advent calendar. It’s really too bad.)

You know that panicked moment you have when you realize it’s December, and you have failed to accomplish 99% of the things you said you would do this year?

Welp, cue panic. But then, cue my full-on IDGAF attitude, because who cares what day it is, I DO WHAT I WANT. (Translation: I freaked out, but then I talked myself down, because that’s how we crazy people operate.)

But in reality, I’m actually super excited it’s December. For one thing, it’s Kahlua month. Every day during the month of December, I put Kahlua in my coffee. It’s a tradition that began in 2009, and I haven’t looked back since. I don’t really know why this tradition gives me so much joy, but it is literally my FAVORITE thing about this (the most wonderful) time of year.

(I actually just realized I forgot to do it this morning. Crap. Guess I’ll have to have 2 cups tomorrow!)

The second reason I’m excited for December is because, well, ’tis the season for countdowns of sorts. In 2012, I wrote 12 blog posts in the days leading up to Christmas called the “12 Drinks of Christmas.” In 2013, it became the “12 BEERS of Christmas.” In 2014, I was a loser and didn’t do a countdown, but I drank plenty of exciting holiday cocktails with my roommate.

This year, I’ve decided to up the ante. Sure, I could do “12 cocktails” or “12 wines,” but both of those sound a) expensive and b) I don’t know that I could come up with 12 really solid candidates without doing a hell of a lot of research. And who has time for that crap?

So instead of 12 days, I’m going for 25. That’s right. I’m gonna be my own goddamn advent calendar. Starting tonight, straight through until Christmas day, I will drink a different beer* every day. Ideally they will be beers I haven’t tried, and hopefully many of them will be winter or holiday brews. Perhaps I’ll throw a barrel-aged brew or two in there as well. Because ’tis the season, right? Everybody knows that “Be merry” = “Be drunk.”

I have failed at a lot of things in life, but I am determined to succeed in this endeavor. Because it’s the last month of the year. Time for the final push! There’s no time to waste! It’s now or never!

And frankly, it’s my last December in America, and who knows what sort of crazy traditions I’ll get into when I live in Europe next year. Only time will tell…

*There is always a chance that some of the next 25 days will feature not a beer, but some other adult beverage. I maintain that this is allowed, because I’m in charge and I made up all the rules anyway.

**************

[Next time, on Christina’s Drunk Adventures: I’m drinking lots of beer this month! So I’ll probably tell you about it or something.]

Reykjavik parties harder than I do.

Just a few weeks ago I turned 28. And apparently that means I am super old, because shortly after that I went to Iceland and couldn’t keep up with anybody.

Alright, this isn’t 100% true. I did keep up with them one night, but it kind of broke me. There isn’t really anything else to do here except tell you the whole story.

I took a trip to Iceland for 9 days (more on that later). During this trip, I attended a 5-day music festival (more on that later, too). During this festival, I met a lot of awesome people. Seeing as all of us were on vacation, we decided we should probably party like we were on vacation. So on Friday night, we did just that.

[Side note: The whole trip basically consisted of me staying up way past my bedtime and drinking more than I should. But Friday night was particularly epic and demonstrates that I can, in fact, still party like a college kid.]

The night began as the previous two had: concerts. Lots and lots of concerts. We’d been out to a few shows during the day, followed by some “cheap” eats and a brief rest at the hostel. And then it was go time. We headed out to one of the official venues to see more music. I was with a German, a French-Canadian, and a non-French Canadian. Rag-tag crew ftw.

After the first set, Martin (the German) and Marie (the French Canadian) weren’t really feeling the music, so they decided to go to a different venue. But I felt like dancing, so Todd and I stuck around and danced our asses off to some sick electronic music by these guys:

Then we moved on to another venue for some more jams. The performance we went to see was sort of “meh” so we were formulating plans to leave and meet up with others. But then, right at midnight, a new band started playing and it was sort of insane. Live house music? As in, house music with 3 girls singing live over it. And somehow, despite the fact that I don’t even like house music, it was amazing. Perhaps it was because we were already drunk (probably). But regardless of the reason, we dove into the crowd and danced like the crazy drunk people we were, while simultaneously dodging the leather-jacket-wearing 60-yr-old men who were having what appeared to be the time of their lives. Who knew?

Once that ended, the logical choice would have been to call it a night. But no. It’s Friday night. It’s Reykjavik. We’re on fucking VACATION, yo. So we met up with this American girl Kari and hit the bars.

We began to wander the city hoping to find a cool spot to party (aka DANCE). It was kind of an ordeal: this bar didn’t have music, that bar was too full, etc etc. Eventually, after some wandering around in the rain, Todd (who was sans hat or raincoat) said that he really didn’t care where we went but it would be nice if we could just go inside somewhere. This seemed like a reasonable request, so we went into Bravo.

bravo

We had actually attempted to see a show at Bravo earlier that day, but it was super full and a crazy woman on the street wouldn’t stop accosting us, so we left. But when we went inside at 1am, it was pretty empty. Apparently it was still “early” in Reykjavik. WTF.

The DJ inside was totally on point, however, so we stuck around despite the lack of crowds. (Usually no crowds = bad sign, but they were playing early 90s hip-hop, so we legitimately couldn’t leave. It’s a sin to leave a bar that’s playing “No Diggity.”)

Within about 15 minutes of our arrival, the bar was packed. We danced, drank beers, took shots of Brennivin (Icelandic aquavit), and danced some more. We also got an asshole kicked out of the bar after he spilled beer on me and shattered Kari’s full glass of beer. (It made me sad that he was American. He’s giving us all a bad name.)

Despite that unfortunate incident, the three of us were having a blast and probably could have stayed there all night. But around 2am the DJ started switching up his playlist. And very quickly, all he was playing was 80s rock ballads, so it was no longer a viable dance option. I don’t know what it is with Europeans and 80s music, but you really can’t dance to that shit. Sure, you can scream it into the abyss and jump up and down while you’re drunk as fuck, but where’s the fun in that? I need to move my ass, people! And “Don’t Stop Believin'” is just not ass-moving music.

So we grabbed our coats and walked out the door. And there was really only one option.

Kiki.

kiki-queer-bar

There were a number of reasons this was the obvious choice. First, it was directly upstairs from the bar we were already in (too easy!). Second, there was no line (which there had been an hour before). And third, it was a gay bar (which guarantees good music, duh).

Kari and I turned to Todd. “So. Gay bar?” Todd is a trooper, and we were all drunk, so he said “whatever” and we went in.

And we danced. And danced! And DANCED SOME MORE. There was probably more drinking involved as well. I don’t even remember anymore. Here are the things I DO remember:

  • Belting Britney songs with Kari like a pro.
  • So much Lady Gaga. Seriously. So. Much.
  • The crazy gay guy who wouldn’t stop trying to make out with me and Kari. (I still don’t understand this phenomenon.)
  • Todd eventually disappearing.
  • Kari & I realizing Todd had disappeared, and deciding perhaps it was time to go home (around 4am).

We got back to the hostel to find Todd hanging out in the kitchen. So of course, like the responsible people we are, we decided to drink some wine. And hang out more. Because who needs sleep anyway?

And then, just before 6am, we all decided it was probably bedtime.

So here’s the deal. I love to drink and hang out with friends. Sometimes I’ll get too drunk. Maybe I’ll even close out a bar (at 2am in Seattle). But I haven’t stayed out until the wee hours in YEARS. Like, since I was in college.

And of course, I was fucking broken the next day. I slept until noon, woke up to shower and eat breakfast, and then slept again until 4pm. Because I am TOO OLD for this shit. But I don’t care. It was one of the greatest nights I’ve had in a very long time.

So, thank you Iceland, for making this happen. And thank you Kari & Todd for being there while it happened. There’s no way in hell I could do that every weekend, but if I could do it once a year with y’all, I would be most honored.

*************

[Next time, on Christina’s adventures in Iceland: I drank Icelandic beer and saw the Northern Lights! Coincidence???]