My Favorite Hour in the Netherlands

Amsterdam Oost: Retiefstraat

I had already filled up 56 (of an eventual 84) pages worth of my Leuchtturm1917 journal before our family even made it to Amsterdam. So, it felt kind of amazing that I was able to purchase a new journal at just the right time from just the right place: the Linnaeus Bookhandel on the Middenweg, in the neighborhood of Amsterdam where our family used to live. They even had a surprisingly-large selection of Leuchtturm1917 products! I smiled as I stepped out on the sidewalk and spotted my family across the street. I walked over to rejoin them, and then we finished our walk to the Coffee Company.

Amsterdam Oost: Coffee Company

The Coffee Company was the place where I used to take the kids on Saturday mornings, back when we were living in Amsterdam Oost. The Milky Way was no longer on their menu, so I just ordered a latte instead along with one blueberry muffin and one chocolate chip muffin to be shared among the family while we sipped our drinks.

Amsterdam Oost: Retiefstraat

During our time in the Coffee Company, we talked about the strange swirl of emotions that comes with a return to a significant place. And I feel like I did a better job than I usually do when it comes to being succinct and specific in sharing my experiences in young adulthood with my children, who are now entering that same phase of life themselves. There are warm feelings and a fluttering sense of nostalgia in our return to the old neighborhood. But there are also echoes of the queasiness, the confusion, the culture shock, and the overwhelming insecurity that characterized early-parenthood, my first years of being a pastor, and the awkwardness of adjusting to a new culture.

Amsterdam Oost: Hogeweg

Follow-up conversations later in the day with Elliot and Olivia suggested that they really came to understand the complexities in new ways. Cor processed the day’s experiences in his own way. And more than anything else from our time in the Netherlands, these new conversations in this old neighborhood made me profoundly grateful that we had that hour along the Middenweg. Marci drove the point home further, just a little later on, as we walked through the Frankendael Park describing some of the ways that she (and our whole family) would seek out respite from the relentless culture stress by finding quiet places to walk and sit in the forested areas and volkstuinen, where a person could almost imagine one was in a far more rural, more friendly, more “home” like place. The Intratuin garden center was like that, too (especially around Christmastime). So was the Hard Rock Café. And, honestly, the Coffee Company, too.

Amsterdam Oost: Helal et Gida Turkish Market

Our family’s Amsterdam years were a challenging season of life. They stretched us painfully, but they also allowed us to grow. We can’t just be syrupy-sweet, sappy, and sentimental about revisiting Amsterdam. But I’m glad we came to visit the city, even if the experience came with a lot of complicated emotions. It feels like our kids have been given another level of security clearance, and somehow that eases my burden. It was kind of trippy to be back in Amsterdam, where everything was kind of familiar and kind of different but honestly, the familiarity outweighed the foreignness. I was surprised to put my Dutch to the test and see that it’s held up better than expected. I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my marriage (we happened to visit Amsterdam Oost on Marci’s and my 25th Wedding Anniversary). I’m thankful for my unconventional career path. And I’m thankful for where we are now.

This entry was posted in Adolescence, Amsterdam, Amsterdam50, Children, Culture, Culture Shock, Europe, European Missions, Family, Introspection, Middle Age, Nostalgia, Photography, Recreation, The Netherlands, Transition, Travel, Young Adulthood. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *