[Hey again, second part of this important mail. At the end of the first part, I had just watched the final World Cup game in the Schiphol airport…]
Back in Amsterdam around mid July, we were conceded a few weeks of nice weather, which invariably comes along with party mood. We spent one night cruising the canals of Amsterdam on Kees’ boat to celebrate Ruud’s birthday. One never knows what will happen on a night with Kees. Food and beers, firing an empty coke bottle as a rocket with an air compressor, showing our backsides to tourist boats, being fined by the police for noise and (maybe) illegal boat parking, these were only a few of the elements of the night. Ruud, Sergi and I went twice in a nearby bar to use their facilities. The scene was hilarious and precisely the same both times: Sergi and I would come down the stairs and find Ruud waiting for us with three koejes (little cows), Dutch anise based shots! We took twice the same picture and seeing them next to each other depicts perfectly the evolution of the soiree!
One week later and it was already time for another boat adventure with Kees. This time much more special & unusual: the Gay Pride! We were the Pink Piano Singers, boat number 74 of the official parade! Kees built a grand piano structure, put an electric keyboard in it and painted it pink.
During selected sailing events, Kees sits at the piano and his husband Stefan stands on it and sings. This time around, two other friends joined at the drums and violin, while myself and a bunch of other people (all straight, funnily enough) stood on the boat partying in white dress code!
It is a special feeling to cruise for 5 hours through a 350.000 people crowd watching at you, waving and dancing along. It was so much fun, except for a little detail: it poured down so bad. We danced in the thick rain for all these hours, completely soaked. Fighting the cold was one more reason to shake our bodies! We ended up on the Dutch national TV. Unfortunately, it was shot at the very end of the parade, when we entered the Amstel river. We were absolutely exhausted so we look quite wooden. But the whole experience was lot of fun!
The next major event would occur after two weeks: on the 19th of August, Dana flew over here from the US—yeah, exactly the same Dana that I visited in Tucson in 2006! While my sister was still in Italy, Dani stayed with me. She was of course very jet-lagged, yet I dragged her along to my hectic life. Particularly, a very special happening was to take place those days: the Amsterdam SAIL 2010. Every 5 years, hundreds of old boats from all over the world gather in town for a kermesse which is probably unrivalled in the world. One picture shows you the incessant arrival of boats of all kinds, ages and dimensions, as seen from my office window – there was even a submarine!
We went there twice with Dana. The first was once again on Kees’ boat: we rushed there (I cycled like a daemon Amsterdam-style, while Dani was struggling to keep up – poor baby it was one of her first times on a bike as well!) and we went sailing among all the other boats. The oldest one we could see was a Russian one from 1781! We went back there a few days later, this time at night for the spectacular fireworks show. Everything looks cosier at night. Also check the picture with all the tiny vessels among the majestic Italian ship Amerigo Vespucci.
Dani is still in Holland as I write, and what a nice feeling to have her around again. A characteristic of all the times that we’ve been somewhere together is that no-one is ever a tourist or a guest. Either here or in the US, we welcome and incorporate the other one in our everyday life, with musical dinners, going to work and do grocery shopping. This is a pretty special characteristic and I’m sure this will stay in future meetings as well.
Alright, let’s now go back to myself a bit. The wonderful, few days away trip that I mentioned in the opening has been both effect and cause of a deep transition and change. A mix of factors have lead me to feel less involved in my job, and at this moment my motivation is definitely low. I’m looking forward to these six months off work, as I’ll be able to focus more on myself and, once more, try to understand what the next steps in life should be. There is something that I have already acknowledged: I feel the itch of trying to make a little bit of money independently from my salary. I want to try to be a (very) small scale entrepreneur or whatever you want to call it. I have already a few ideas to start with – I’ll keep you all updated on how the story evolves!
I have to show you another big change that recently occurred. As you’ve read in the beginning, I’ll be hiking the Himalayas in a few days. I had longish hair in Norway and it was so inconvenient during all the treks. So I decided to shave my whole head, which I’d never done before in my life! I wanted to do this as I was back from Italy (mid July), but then I realized that such a decision deserved more attention and it could be exploited for a fun collective get-together. So here is the idea: to throw a big birthday / leaving party at the end of August, and invite everyone to unleash his or her creativity on my head! My birthday is on the 24th – I picked Saturday the 28th and announced the event on Facebook!
It was supposed to happen in a park, but seen the horrible weather we moved it to a house (thanks Sebas and Willy!). So we gathered all together, drank and ate happily, and at some point I sat on a chair with a proper hairdresser setup and about 50 people went nuts on my hair and beard! You can see the process and the before-and-after comparison in the office. Let me know how you like it!
What can I say about the bold head? It was actually very cool to see my skull for the first time in my whole life! It came out it’s not bumpy but rather round, so even better. There’s a scar where hair doesn’t grow, it’s where I had a mole removed some 20 years ago, when such operations were done with a jackhammer. Taking a shower is so much easier, and the time spent drying the hair is simply eliminated. There is one major drawback though: the head feels COLD! During the first days I had to wear some hood or cap all the time! I kinda got used to it now.
Actually, as I write, my big trip is already kind of begun. I am now staying at Carlos’, with also John and Etienne. The situation here is fantastic, we have big dinners every night, there’s always people around and we always make music together. The house is right on one of the most central and beautiful canals of Amsterdam, that you can see in a pic. We live just across the water from the tower there. It’s also just meters away from the office so maximum convenience! The friend I rented my place to moved in at the end of August, he slept on the couch for a few days and on the 1st of September I moved out. Even though I was tired from a few evenings of packing, I was very excited as I closed the door behind me and all my senses were ultra active. It actually felt awesome to be on the road again. I have to close this mail with the story of that very night.
I left the place at about 23:00 with my big backpack and a heavy, heavy suitcase, which was fortunately wheeled. I took the bus to Carlos’, and then I started pushing the suitcase down the street. Those of you who know the streets of Amsterdam are surely familiar with the loud mess that the process involves – plus it was night and the silence around me was complete. At some point, four people on a bench 20 meters ahead of me turned around and looked at me in the dark. They stood up and started walking towards me! I felt a bit unsure what to do, but they turned out to be four international students just arrived in town, two guys and two girls. “Do you need help?”, they asked. I thanked them and assured that I was doing just fine, but they nonetheless pulled my bag off the ground and started carrying it all together! So kind and cute, they reminded me the dwarfs of Snow White! We got to the front door, but they were not satisfied yet: they carried the bag all the way up the stairs! You should have seen John’s face when I entered the house with these four random guys that I had just met few minutes before! We had a drink and a chat for maybe 20 minutes till they left. I was overwhelmed by emotions. I felt electric, full of energy and wide awake, to the point that, despite the time, I decided to walk home to get my bike. And so I did, ending up in bed around 2:30.
What an incredible, unexpected first night on the road it was. As the wise John remarked, for these encounters and situations to happen you just have to quit routine. The last thing I said to thank the four helpful kids is that if every one of my days off the track is going to be as blessed, than the path will be all downhill.