Anticipation, back hair, and falafel in Amsterdam

Amsterdam facade upIt was a few degrees below zero in Toronto but I felt fine, and as long as I didn’t spend too much time in the shade I enjoyed my walks. It was a few degrees below zero in Reykjavik but I felt warm enough, and as long as I stayed out of the wind, and I enjoyed my walks.

It was a few degrees above zero in Amsterdam and I was frickin’ freezing, lingered longer indoors and curtailed my walks, though in that city of canals, living history, and global exchange, I enjoyed every step. Was it the humidity? Had I burned off some burrito-bestowed belly insulation already? Was the enthusiasm of being overseas calming into a rhythm?

I don’t know, but I’m glad I had enough traveler enthusiasm to protect me when I walked into my hostel in Amsterdam. Claustrophobic spaces of slowly splintering wood, stale smoke, and a bare florescent bar bulb a high pitch of scream abrading both ear drum and retina.

Welcome back to hostel living.

Amsterdam bicycle storageA scrawny traveler in dingy boxer shorts and back hair was asleep in twisted sheets, 1:30 PM, in a musty room with six metal bunk-beds, four battered lockers, and one window. It was hard to tell if one of the lockers was available, with two bottles of nearly empty hard liquor, an empty plastic bag, and a little plastic box (just the size for drug transport) rattling ominously.

The thought crossed my mind “Am I too old for this?”

I put the bottles, bag, and box next to the overflowing garbage can, slid my backpack in the locker, and went looking for someplace warm to drink a cup of tea.

Amsterdam evening canalI had one last night alone before meeting K at the airport and starting/returning to a whole new/familiar world of living, questions and answers, and relationship. And I was hungry for all of it.

But first the more immediate hunger that defines a substantial percentage of backpacker life. A chain I remember from Spain apparently lives in The Netherlands too, where the felafels are cheap, and you can fill the pita with as much veggie topping as you like. I spoke Dutch with an Indian woman, snow like salt crystals on chairs stacked beside useless outdoor cafes, and the bicycle traffic never stops.

It felt good to be there.