Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Free to love and choose



'In the Netherlands is democracy to be compared with love, the Dutch have known it for so long that they tend to take it for granted and hardly could remember the first time they got touched by it. In Africa is democracy scarce, and the Africans still desire it as a new love needed to be conquered' - 
Alphonse Muambi.

A friend of mine posted this quote on his Facebook post last Wednesday, when elections were held in Holland. I realised how true this statement was and decided to document my experience voting. It wasn't very spectacular as it was a 2 minute walk to the nearby sports centre serving as a voting station. Having been reminded of the fact that many people in the world do not have the freedom to vote, to do it safely or to vote for the party they prefer, made me enjoy it even more so. What a luxury! Many people around me seemed to wonder why I wanted to take pictures of everything. The reason was to show you what freedom looks like. Voila!



Election card ready for my on my mom's fridge

All I need to vote!

Propaganda as seen from my mom's window


Voting here


Voting station


Committed citizens


Choices, choices


And my vote goes to...


All the votes safely locked up


Off you go
Even though the results were better than last time, I still was disappointed. But hey, that's what democracies are for. 'De meeste stemmen gelden' (the majority of votes count) is what we say in Dutch...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A day without music is a day wasted

Colombia, and especially its Carribean coast (and Cali, Colombia's Capital of salsa), is the place to go if you like to dance. There is music everywhere. Literally, EVERYWHERE. Every car, house, bar, shops brings a different kind of tune: vallenato, salsa, merengue, bachata, reggaeton, cumbia, hip hop, house even. This leads me to dance uncontrollably all day long. I just can't help myself! Here's a glimpse of what Colombia sounds like:

Vallenato
To me vallenato is Colombia's equivalent of Dangdut (to which I have not even dedicated a blogpost yet!) and what we in Holland call smartlappen or levensliederen (croon songs). The songs are catchy and sentimental. It's popular music, or music for the working class. The themes is usually romantic, the lyrics often speak of lost loves. Lots of the Colombians I meet here don't like it (but all my neighbors so far definetely do). Even though I wouldn't want to listen to it all the time, I kind of like it (a lot). One of the things I like is that the accordeon is important instrument for vallenato and that the songs are sung straight from the heart. I will soon try to sing a song (like I did in Vietnam).


Salsa
On every street corner you can hear a salsa tune, often it´ll be one by Joe Arroyo, Cartagena's pride. This song always make the clubs explode - people in general all sing along to all the songs, no matter whether they can sing or not. I kid you not: the neighbor is playing this song as we speak, or well, as I am typing this - at twelve thirty at night on a Thursday, I might add.


Reggaeton
Many taxi driver's listen to radio Tropicana and will have reggaeton playing in their car. The lyrics are mostly very offensive to women or just disgusting (or both), but oh, is it fun to dance to this!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Solution to fear of failure: just don't do anything

Or Struggling to manage myself (part 4)

It has already been more than five months since I arrived in Cartagena (and I am getting ready to go back to Holland for a few months). During this time I have studied Spanish and now I can actually get around pretty well - if only I get these people of the coast to articulate their consonants. I am meeting a lot of interesting people, am working on NGO toolkit, and on some interesting other projects. I have explored Colombian culture, observed and wrote about it. I'm planning a Fifteen Minutes of Fame event and have started another blog with my friend Laura.

But I had many more things on my wish list, most of them having to do with making videos and writing articles for the NGO toolkit website. I want to work together with local NGO's and of course offer them my services - I do need to make a living too. A few months ago, I realised I had frozen in the face of fear. This theme is nothing new for me, as you know. This time I hadn't realised it straight away, since I thought I was already facing my fears going to an unknown land to learn the language. The real fear is of course in putting myself out there. It is fear of failure, of looking ridiculous. 

This very funny talk by Larry Smith focuses on this particular fear. For many people having this fear means they never end up having a great career, or even taking the leap to try to have one. I fooled myself in thinking I was already there, because I faced many of the excuses I was telling myself not to go for it. Also, I do watch Steve Jobs' commencement speech a lot. However, even though I know what my passion is and am taking the leap, the battle has just begun...


Great quote from this talk: "I would pursue a great career, but I value human relations more than accomplishment. [...] I will not sacrifce them  on the altar of great accomplishment. Do you think it's approprate to take children and use them as a shield?".

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How Marc Anthony taught me Spanish


Learning a new language is not fun. At least not for people like me who don´t enjoy learning by doing. Yes, yes, I know doing as in trying as in making mistakes and even failing is part of the learning process. Be that as it is, I still do not like it. Five months ago I started to learn Spanish in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. It has been a long journey, but at the moment I am actually quite satisfied with my level of Spanish. I did not completely start from scratch as I had studied latin in high school, did a Spanish course when I was 18, spent a month in Mexico a few years ago and had a few hours of Spanish class before departure.   

What I hadn't realized though is that I had an entire vocabulary at my disposal: the vocabulary of love. As I love salsa music, I have listened to certain albums a zillion times. As a teenager, it was Gloria Estefan's 'Mi tierra' album. For a few years now, I've been really into the Mexican singer Julieta Venegas. But how much as I´d like to deny it, it was Marc Anthony who taught me to speak Spanish. I still remember bying the Celos CD (remember those?) at a record store in Hawai´i and listening to it over and over again. Of course, at the time I did not realize it would pay off years later when actively learning Spanish. So, thank you Marc! 




I have to add that here in Colombia it is not a bad thing to like Marc Anthony.  Every hour you can hear one of his songs being played somewhere in Cartagena. So, here I can sing along without feeling ashamed. At last. Thank you, Colombia!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A stack of me

How journaling helps me make sense of my world
                                 12 journals in 17 years
For as long as I can remember I have been writing. First in what we call 'poesie albums' in Holland, which were friendship albums where you'd write a nice poem for a friend and paste a drawing of a cat next to it. When I was about 13 years old, I got my first journal for my birthday. It was pink and had one of those tiny locks on it - the ones that you can pick with a paperclip. I wrote about the things that kept me busy: boys, school, girlfriends, my family, my dreams for the future. Basically, in all the years since, not much has changed. I still write about the same things, albeit in a slightly different way. Or so, I tell myself.

These journals are harder to find these days - luckily I have a stash!
For the past ten years, I have always used notebooks which were sold at Chinese stores in Amsterdam. I have them in all different colors. Up until now, no other notebook is accepted - this is one of the few things I am extremely picky about. 

It's been said that people with journals tend to be more successfull (really, it's been said!). I'm not sure that is really the case, but I do believe that writing a journal helps personal development. After writing the same negative crap to yourself over and over again, there has to be a point were you realise (and I did, and do, all the time) that it's time to change course.

People always ask me if I write everyday, which I don't. I don't think it's necessary to keep a log of all the things that happened in my life. It's more important to take time to reflect on those things that are that important that I feel like writing about them. Having a rhythym for writing (at least every week, for instance) does help.

'This journal belongs to Amis Boersma, others are NOT allowed to read this'
I (and yes, it's very Oprah) often take time to be grateful for the things that happen in my life. I write down specific events or people I am happy with and I do find that overall I am happier now than before. I am more at easy with how my life is. In a way, my journal carries me through the good and the bad.

Would I want you to be able to read my journals after I am gone? I'm not sure. The crazy talk is better disregarded - and there's quite a lot of that. So, maybe if you only read the gratitude parts, yes. For now, I'll just stick to being grateful for yet another day on this planet.

Keeping a journal supports personal development

Friday, May 11, 2012

New goal: to always live near to a mango tree


This week I created a new goal for myself: from now on I want to spend most of my time living next to a mango tree. From my balcony of my apartment in a cosy neighborhood near to Cartagena's old center, I can almost reach for a big, soon-to-be ripe mango. Spending some time reading in the hammock last Saturday, I witnessed how about ten different groups of boys threw pieces of wood, stone or whatever else they could grab at the tree, hoping to hit a few mangos to the ground. The downstairs neighbor (officially named 'Cascarrabias' or grouch by his upstairs neighbors) seemed to be calling the police the other day to make an official complaint. Interestingly the mango tree is not even his. It's on the street and is public property. 

Blogging in the hammock while monitoring mango movement
Just now (as I am writing this) a boy asked me if he could have a go at the tree, to which I invitingly said yes. But Mr. Cascarrabias (obviously) did not agree and sent the boy scurrying off on his bike. When coming home today, there was a man in the three with a huge bag filling it up with mangos. The mango I have had my eye on is still there. But how do I get it? If it falls down, it will land on hostile territory - unless with some divine intervention it is blown a meter to the left towards the entrance of our humble abode. If only I'd have time to keep my eye on the mango all day, I may be able to get a hold of it... But well, I guess I just have to live with the fact that the mango I see so well and so desire, will never be mine. However, the guy in the tree offered to sell me some, so maybe I still stand a chance... 

There it is, the mango I desire...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's in a name? There's a whole lot in mine!

Last week I went to the immigration office here in Cartagena to get my tourist visa extended with another 90 days (yes, no way I am leaving this place if I don't have to). I was asked to fill out a form which had several interesting boxes to fill out such as hair color and distinguishing physical features. My friend Marcela suggested 'freckles', but I decided to leave it blank - which in turn made the officer ask me if I had any tattoos (don't worry, mom, I still didn't get one). The best box however was  SUEDONIMO/NICKNAME. I also didn't fill this one out, but it did made me think of the different names and nicknames I have. It reminded me of the book 'The Namesake' in which the main character has different names adjusted to the different stages of his life. 


I love my name. Thanks, mom and dad, for giving it to me. I have loved it ever since I can remember. I have loved telling people how it means 'Sweet' in my mom's mother tongue, Sundanese, spoken on West Java, Indonesia. But how vividly do I remember the day that some annoying Indo (mixed Indonesian-Dutch), giving me ride home after a party, told me that no, it didn't mean 'sweet', it meant 'smelly of fish'. I decided to ignore his comment, but had to face the truth when I started studying Indonesian and was surrounded by non-Sundanese Indonesians all the time. Yes, in Indonesian it does really mean 'smelly of fish'.

This discovery led me to improvise with my name: In Indonesia (everywhere outside of West Java) I now go by the name Ami. It took me a while, but now I can switch gears between Amis and Ami with ease. I respond to anything that could possibly be my name, even 'Amice' (which is how frat boys address one another in Holland). Amish is a bridge too far, but a few people have made the mistake. Anne-mies or Anne-Marlies have been tried as well. Those I just pretend not to have heard.

Aampje
Then there are the real nicknames. You'd think there's not a lot to do with a four-letter name like mine, but you'd be surprised! I guess I just have lots of creative people around me, because my nicknames are many. My mom, my sisters, my little brothers and my close friends call me Aam, or Aampje. My eldest sister sometimes calls me Mango after learning that Aam means mango in an Indian dialect that of high school friends speaks. My big brother calls me Plaam or something else which I will not mention here on this blog. A nephew used to always call me Misa. My first digital nickname was Amsi (amsi@dds.nl was my first email address), thanks to my geeky first boyfriend. In Indonesia some of my close friends got rid of the A and just call me Mi. No one calls me 'I' (as in Bee), thank god! Someone (let me add this was in the US) did think my name was 'Is' (an 'Ease'), thinking I had said "I am Is" as opposed to "I'm Amis". Yeah. A primary school teacher called me 'Bami' (when I was younger I looked more Asian, I guess). Is very that politically incorrect? Two of my friends call me 'Mies' (which is a very old fashioned Dutch name). One of my best friends calls me Mavis or Mave, but I am not actually sure how that started. I think it was supposed to be my stage name... Then there are a few people that call me by my second name 'Agung' and some other friends call me Boersma. I in turn call them by their last names too (De Vries!).
Amisita
The latest nickname I obtained is 'Amistad' (Spanish for friendship). Marcela started this new trend and says it in the way that my grandmother calls my uncle by his full name 'Benno Peter Boersma' - usually when scolding him. I awarded myself the nickname Amisita while dreaming about going to South America and use it with pleasure here. 

In every nickname a different part of me is represented. Some go unused for years and pop up when I meet an old friend. Some change users, depending on the people I hang out with most. I'd say the possibilities to improvise more with my name are about to be depleted, but who knows what more is to come... For now, I'll explore being Amisita 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big butts - the side effects of Colombian cuisine

The past weeks in Cartagena have been jam-packed with new sensations. I am learning more Spanish everyday (have gone through all forms of verb conjugations and am now in the phase of complete and utter confusion about which tense to use), I am making friends and soaking up as much of Colombian culture as I possibly can. Of course I have tasted lots and lots of food by now. The streets here are filled with the sound of music and scents of great food. Food is certainly taken seriously here. They like it big here in Colombia. Everything, including butts (they sell push up panties to make butts look bigger!) and bellies (Colombian men drink too much beer). While I lost weight when I was living in Indonesia, I will really have to pay attention not to gain too much weight here. The diet consist mostly of carbohydrates and is very greasy. The frightening part is that it's very tasty...

Who wants lobster for lunch?
For breakfast many people here (as in Indonesia) eat fried salty snacks (Ieeugh!) with a cup of very sweet black coffee on the side. I still go for  the sweet option; yoghurt or a caffe con leche with cake. 

Sweet coffee with milk and cake
Lunch is a huge meal, often including a soup, a main course consisting of meat or fish and something sweet for desert, and often a drink. Besides meat and rice, you will find (often fried) platano (tropical banana) and potatoes on your plate here. Tasty and very filling. For about 3 euros you'll be full and ready for a siesta.

Mote de queso - cheese soup made with cheese from the coast
Fish with coconut rice and platano
Three course lunch for 3 euros
If you are hungry again in the afternoon (dinner is often eaten quite late - for Dutch standards at least), you can go for an arepa: mais dough filled with meat and eggs, which is briefly fried (see picture below). The best arepas of Cartagena can be found at Dora's on Calle Tumbamuertos, in between my language school and Casa Nativa (my second home here). My friend Sara hypothesized that there may be a relation between breast size and the amount of arepas women eat. Now we shout out 'Arepas!' when we see a fine rack passing us by.

With all this food, it surprises me that not more people are obese here. Vegetables do not seem to have priority here.  I'll keep you posted on the state of my weight and arteries - if I'm not too busy eating, that is.

Bollo de mazorca - maisdough with local (very salty) cheese
Arepa filled with egg and meat

Friday, March 16, 2012

The joys of sleeping together

Besides learning Spanish (getting better every day), my first weeks in Cartagena can be captured in three words: Friendship, food and fiesta. I'll blog about all of these topics sooner or later, but I'll start with friendship for now. 
New friends
Up until two week ago I had never stayed at a hostel before. You know me, I don't like funny smells and those drunk backpackers seem to create quite a lot of those. On my holidays I usually traveled with someone, which made sharing a private room a better option. When on the road for work, I got to stay in (sometimes very) nice hotel rooms. Before departure my friend Sebastian told me that sleeping at a hostel is one of those things you have to have tried at least once in your life."Bucket list it" he told me.

Not intending to actually put it on my bucket list, I set off for a very nice little hotel in Cartagena. I spent my first nights there while looking for long-term accommodation. As I didn't find any as fast as I'd hoped, I ended up checking into a hostel: Casa Nativa. The owners advertise it as being a calm and clean place, which it is. Not only that, it's cozy and has a great family cat. The price for a bed is higher than elsewhere so as to attract a less (smelly and) drunk crowd. Three days ago, after spending almost two weeks there, I checked out of the hostel and in to my new temporary home (a room in a fantastic apartment). With pain. Yes. I seriously liked staying at the hostel. The bunkbeds have charming curtains that provide some privacy and a big locker to store your stuff. My introduction to new people in the dorm would often be "So, I hear we're sleeping together tonight" (I know, my sense of humor is not to be appreciated by everyone). Travis' response was the best: "But we've only just met".

Casa Nativa owners, Marcela and Mitzy, on the doorstep
The pros of 'sleeping together' in bunk beds definitely outweighed the cons: I have met so many interesting, fun and sweet people! It's been a great experience. I've shared the dorm with an Argentinian, a Colombian, two Canadians, an Englishman, an American and a Swedish girl. I've had huge Colombian lunches, was given a tango lesson, went dancing at cafe Havana, saw amazing sunsets on the old city wall, tried my first shots of aguardiente, was taught the expression 'se le corre el shampoo' (meaning someone is out of his mind), got to know a lot of new music, cooked an Indonesian dinner and mostly laughed a lot.

Cafe Havana
Sunset with Travis, Amy and Richard
The people I've met told me stories of their travels and life back home: about Parque Tayrona (which I too will visit), about Carnival in Rio, about balconies in Cuba, about the stress at their busy jobs (and leaving that job to start a hostel), about the cats that are waiting for them at home, about teaching poor women basic hairdressing skills (see cutting borders), about the experience of traveling alone, about learning languages and so much more.

We've fantasized about staying here for good and starting an ice cream shop/Indonesian restaurant in one of the many houses for sale here. Some of us will stay here a bit longer and other will go back to their lives back home. I think I'm doing pretty good at crossing off items from my bucket list.

“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cartagena: Que chevere!

For four days now I have had the pleasure of being a guest of the beautiful city of Cartagena. It's truly amazing! The city breathes history, which makes you want to explore - with salsa music playing in the background and the weather... well, let's not even talk about the weather.
Getsemani
First the citizens, then the tourists
The first days, I stayed in the backpacker part of town, Getsemani. Even though this neighborhood is nicer than most tourist traps, it also has a stench of dirt and prostitution. While I have breakfast, I actually see a tourist stepping into a cab with two hookers - this was at 8 AM! As I enjoy my muesli, tourists, unwashed and with messy hair, come out of their hostels to smoke a cigarette or to quickly run to the supermarket for a healthy breakfast of Sisi and chocolate bars. A salesman shouts out 'Paaaaapayaa' as he pushes his cart filled with tropical fruits ahead. An old garbage collector sings a beautiful song and seems to be followed by unexpected admirers. The sidewalk is suddenly busier behind and around him. An old woman begs, a young man tries to sell white hats. The man whose car has been blocking my view for ten minutes is asked by a (well-armed) policeman to move. The man yells something to the staff of the restaurant and drives off moping. A fine morning in Getsemani.

Papaya seller
Quite the location for a benetton store...
Yesterday I moved to the historic city, which is what Cartagena is know for. Despite the fact that I now sleep in a hostel (as opposed to my Getsemani nights where I stayed at a more luxurious little hotel), I cannot stop grinning: I am here! Every street corner provides a photo op. These Spanish and Italian architects in the late fifteen hundreds really did a good job; it's breathtaking. And it's not as swamped with tourists as I had expected it to be. Still remembering the streets of (other Unesco world heritage sites) San Gimignano, Hoi An and Luang Prabang (which I also loved, so maybe you shouldn't take me seriously on all of this), I was ready to brace for hawkers and hordes of sunburnt American retirees. But no! The city is thriving, with both tourists (from abroad and Colombia itself) and university students. Cartagena's international film festival was free for the first time this year and was so popular that I didn't get to see any movies (despite having waited in the burning sun for half an hour, booh). There were a lot of groovy young Cartagenans in the queue with me. I will report as a further explore the historic center.

Film festival head quarters
Open air film screening
View from my hostel
Of course there is a lot more to the city, of which I had my first taste today. I was invited to lunch at a friend's house (arroz con pollo, which means rice with chicken - very tasty!) in a neighborhood twenty minutes outside the center and got to see a more lively and real part of Cartagena. While the local beautician worked on our nails, I discussed food, cultural differences, men and family with my host, her sister and their ninety-year-old mother. Granny's eyes lit up while she talked about how there are no cars around and people dance on the streets when the party is on. Did I say we (mostly they) spoke in Spanish?

The feet lady knows it all
Granny speaks in a pace that makes it easy for me to understand
*"Que chevere" means "awesome"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The only risk is wanting to stay

"Say hello to Tanja" (a Dutch girl that joined the FARC) and "You'll probably meet a Colombian guy and stay there for ever" is what people have told me upon hearing I was off to Cartagena, Colombia. The Colombian Tourism Board uses the slogan 'The only risk is wanting to stay' and I can say that after being here a couple days, I can very well see why. Still jet-lagged and slightly overwhelmed, I share with you my very first impressions. 

What needs to be said: I feel safe. I figured I would, since I had read that Colombia has changed a lot over the years. But since everyone, literally everyone, got a funny look on their face and a doubtful yet polite tone of voice when I mentioned my destination ("Ah, isn't that a bit dangerous?"), I also turned slightly worried. Of course, I will stay cautious (Don't worry, mom and dad), but I am glad I feel comfortable walking around in Cartagena on my own.

My (very) temporary home in Cartagena
What else can I tell you?

The population is very diverse; people come in all colors and sizes, all types and styles. In Bogota, I saw a lot of indigenous people, with fair skins and red cheeks, that almost look Mongolian. Here, on the coast there are more black people with a Caribbean attitude. I am so used at picking out the bules (Westerners in Indonesia), that here I haven't quite figured out who the tourists are - since the white people can just as easily be Colombian. Also, I've seen lots of people kiss and cuddle. Maybe because it was a chilly and rainy day this Sunday in Bogota (or maybe they do it all the time) lots of people were holding hands, snuggling up on the bus and stroking each other's cheeks. It's not only young couples, no, also old married couples seem to still be on their honeymoon.

Colombians like football as much as the Dutch do
In the past two days, I have learned quite a lot of new words (thanks to Paola), such as 'CosteƱos', the people from the coast. The taxi driver that took me to the airport in Bogota told me I should look out for those flirty CosteƱos. Yesterday, I realized he wasn't joking, when talking to the bartender at the place where I had breakfast. He looked at me as if he could see right through my clothes and made me blush with the way he gave me back my change. I am so Dutch. So, it's true what they say about latinos then. Well, the same can be said for latinas, I guess. I have seen some miraculously pretty looking women (not as many as I expected though), but I am mostly impressed with the way women carry themselves. Be they fat or old, or both, many dress up, wear a see-through blouse and high-heels and cheer up their wrinkled faces with a dash of red lipstick. And, they get away with it! Sorry, I don't have pictures yet ;)

My hosts in Bogota, Paola and Julian, eating 'rujak' in the park
Sorry to bring up Indonesia again, but some things here in Colombia remind me of my second home on the other side of the world. There is a fancy busway system in Bogota, called TransMilenio, which resembles the TransJakarta bus service (even though the TransMilenio seemed a bit safer and better organised). Colombians also love Milo (Chocolate milk), they eat grated cheese on fruits (Yuck! Indonesians eat it on everything too) and eat young mango with salt (rujak!). You can buy phone credit in little shops that look exactly like 'wartels'. There are enough resemblances to make me feel at home, and enough differences to keep me curious. I'm off to explore Cartagena (and take some more pictures), and will keep you posted!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Spreading the word: watch these videos!

When I am enthusiastic about something (anything!), I just cannot keep it to myself. This means I sometimes blabber too much, but mostly it means that I quickly spread the word about cool stuff (or well, cool stuff in my world). Often a friend tells me about a book, album or video, I like it and end up telling everyone - as if I was the first one to find out about it. Since I can be quite convincing, many an artist would be happy to have me as a fan (like the Cape Verdian singer Mayra Andrade for instance. I am crazy about her music and have made all my friends listen to it). For the record: Thanks friends, for allowing me to spread your word ;)

It happens (not very often anymore) that I meet people that haven't heard of TED yet. Or they haven't watched the superb videos that are my favorites. So, I figured it was time to put them all together. Not only so you can all enjoy them, but also so that I can always find them when I need them.

Why these particular videos? Well, there are videos that I can just keep on watching over and over again. Every time I do, they will provide me with a new insight, reaffirm a pledge I made to myself - but forgot along the way - or just cheer me up. Some have already been featured in a separate post or deserve to be at some other point in time. The sunscreen song actually doesn't really fit in this list (since it's not a talk), but as it never seizes to make me happy, it's here anyway. Enjoy and let me know which one you like best!

The Sunscreen song lifts a bad mood and makes a good mood last

Read more here

Steve Jobs reminds us to never settle and stay hungry for life

Read more here

Marc Bezos urges us not to wait for a big moment to become a hero


Randy Pausch teaches us to dream big

Read more here

Neil Pasricha talks about the three A's of Awesome

Read more here

Salman Khan inspires us to think outside the box


Philip Zimbardo explains the secrets of time (with great drawings!)

Read more here

Alain De Botton shows us what atheists can learn from religion

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Home is where the heart is

Eight lessons learned from not having a homebase

Hotelroom in Ubud, Indonesia
Last year was quite a turbulent year. After living in Indonesia for 18 months, I took off for Vietnam and Malaysia. Since August I have been in Amsterdam (and one month in Jakarta), warmly welcomed by the hospitality of my awesome friends and family. Through the seven places that I've inhibited in the past six months, I got to know my hosts a whole lot better. In case, you were considering to live in between houses for a while, I thought I'd share some of the things I learned along the way.

Esther and Anthony's house in Jakarta


Jakarta living room


1. My friends are Green
They are a lot greener than me, that's for sure. Most are really trying to keep their ecological footprints small by using environmental friendly cleaning products and separating their trash (not just at the Greenpeace household). Thumbs up, girls!

2. In Amsterdam, the East is the place to be
However grateful I am to my friends in Ijburg and Tuindorp, nothing compares to the booming Indische buurt. It's a vibrant mixed neighborhood, where can buy anything from baklava and humus, to ecological fairtrade coffee from Peru and spices for cooking up an Indonesian meal. And I have to admit: maybe part of the charm also lies in the fact that all streets are names after Indonesian islands or cities.

3. It's all about the vibe
I do not need a home that has my name on the door as long as I can feel at home somewhere else. Be it a big and funky place (like the one in Ijburg) or a small and cosy apartment in the city, what matters is that the place is decorated with love. 

My mom's spiritual table
There's always space for more guests at my mom's dining table

4. Music makes my world go round
There should always be a cable for playing my music on the speakers. The first thing I did in most places was to plug my computer onto the stereo and play some of my music. Doing a little dance, without a doubt, makes me settle in straight away.

Apartment number 7

5. A good bag makes the difference 
When living this way, it's necessary to have a sturdy bag. Since I am dragging my suitcase around, I have started appreciating it even more. The Tatoinka stroller/backpack I bought five years a go still serves me well. 

6. Cats make for great companions
The cats in my life deserve yet another separate blogpost, but I will just mention here that I have loved living with Persil, Bagus and Ries.

Persil and me
Bagus and Ries
7. Cleaning is something you can excell in
When you live this way, moving from one place to another, you end up cleaning a lot. I have scrubbed many a kitchen lately. The least I could do is leave the places I lived it cleaner than ever!

8. Home is where the heart is
Thank you, dear hosts, for providing me with great places to stay!

Where are my belongings, you may wonder. Well, they are in my mom's basement...

Thank you, mommy, for storing my stuff!