six months

"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place, I told him, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way again." - Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Six months ago, I said farewell to Amsterdam, my home for nearly seven years and a city that I came to know as my own. It's amazing to receive something so unexpected. The Netherlands. Who knew that I would end up feeling at home in that little country in Northern Europe.

I miss it and I miss who I was there, Carly in Amsterdam. Much has changed, but that's what life does. I am thankful for the experience and the fact that Marcus boarded that one-way flight to Portland with me. If I could bundle up my favorite things about Amsterdam, I'd happily pay an extra baggage fee for these:

The people. My friends, colleagues at World Press Photo, the friendly waitress at our favorite restaurant, the neighbors who safeguarded my packages while I was at work, the Turkish grocer and his family, the Dutch in general. Pragmatic and refreshingly, brutally real.

The lifestyle. Biking everywhere. Coffee with a cookie on the side. Customer service without frills. The rhythm, routine, and slow(er) pace of life. The ease with which you could find yourself in Cologne, Brussels, or Paris. Waking up every Saturday morning to a delivery from De Krat. The Kinderboederij.

The social system. I would happily pay much higher taxes to live in a society that takes care of its people and infrastructure. Where people see themselves as a community rather than isolated individuals that need freedom above all else.

The ongoing sense of wonder. Amsterdam is so beautiful and not a week went by where I didn't stop to appreciate it. The canals, the architecture, the history. As I would ride along, sometimes I just couldn't believe that such a place exists and that I knew all the small alleys and bumps in the road.

There could just as well be a list of things I gladly left behind. Or a list of things in Portland I wouldn't want to give up again. But at this six-month milestone, I'm happy to reflect on what it was and why it meant so much.

one year

This weekend, Marcus and I celebrated our first anniversary! One year ago, we exchanged our vows surrounded by friends and family, full of love in beautiful Amsterdam. We thought our first-year celebration in Portland should be at least half as momentous. There were drinks at Departure (thanks Vanessa!), an amazing dinner at Bamboo Sushi, live music at Brasserie Montmartre, morning coffee at Stumptown, breakfast at Clyde Common, and a trip through the snow to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. And lots of anticipation for the years to come.

On the eve of our anniversary, I received a sweet note from our wedding photographer Chris Spira with a re-edit of one of our favorite shots, (pictured above). I thought it would be a good time to (finally) show some of the small details of our wedding.

Below: Invitations made by Follow Studio, cakes made by my fearless family, the ceremony room at Huize Frankendael, the table setting and my bouquet, the bicycle Marcus rode to the ceremony, vases of flowers and pots of Dutch honey.

All photos by Chris Spira.

farewell Amsterdam

The last post from Amsterdam! It has been an amazing week of meeting with friends, saying farewell to the city, and packing up our lives here in the Netherlands. Seven years. I can't really begin to describe how it feels.

A few days ago, I sent some belated images of a summer s'mores making party to a group of dear friends and then started looking through my Amsterdam photo archive. Here, is a quick collection of some sweet moments over the last years.

We just had an impromptu breakfast of poffertjes with Stefanie & Fiede this morning. The sun is shining and Marcus is calling the taxi to airport. Thank you to all our friends who made the last weeks so special. Until we meet again!

leaving Amsterdam

Amsterdam to Portland It's official. After nearly seven years in Amsterdam, I am heading home. The move has been in the works for a while now, but the tangible reality of it is really emotional. It hasn't always been easy, but this little country has been good to me.

In July 2006, I arrived in the Netherlands with two suitcases in hand. It was my first time stepping foot in the country, enticed by a full scholarship for a two-year Master's of Arts program. The first year was a rollercoaster as I adjusted to living in Europe, a mix of awe at the beauty of the city and confusion as I wondered where my place was in the world. I had lived in Seoul the year before and, although I loved my family, I didn't want to live in America. A year into my studies, I wondered if Amsterdam was the place for me. At the height of wanderlust, I imagined moving next to Berlin or Paris. And then...

In September 2007, I met Marcus. A sweet German who had lived in Amsterdam for two years, played music, worked with technology, and is the epitome of stability and love. When I received my diploma in June 2008, I couldn't imagine leaving him and decided to stay. I entered the Dutch workforce in August 2008, building my career and an amazing network.

Moving to a new apartment. German lessons. A job offer from World Press Photo. Traveling the world. An engagement. A wedding. And then it was 2013.

The two suitcases I arrived with in 2006 have evolved into five cubic meters to be packed in a transatlantic shipping container. I now have my MA degree, a solid professional career, friends from all parts of the world, and an amazing husband. And somehow, despite the distance, I am closer to my family than ever. I don't mean to make it sound easy. There were moments of tears and frustration, times of loneliness and wondering if I would make it along the way. But I did.

A new life awaits in Portland and there are so many details to arrange before the end of February. But for now, I am going to enjoy these last days with the city that has brought so much to my life.

visitors in Amsterdam

The last three weeks have been some of the best of my life. My older sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces arrived from Oregon at the end of March and the days flew by. I took my nieces to Nemo while their parents enjoy Spa Zuiver. We celebrated my youngest niece's third birthday with a boat ride through the canals and pink cupcakes. My sister and I had a girls night out and saw The Hunger Games. My parents arrived, then my cousin, friends and my little sister. We ate together, played games, baked cakes, filled jars of honey, and drank a fantastic bottle of Willamette Valley pinot noir.

And then a wedding! But, more on that later. Today, it's back to reality. I bid my parents farewell this morning. They headed for a Portland-bound plane and I hopped on my bike for a ride to the office. I just want a few more days to linger in the warm memories of family.

here and there

Dutch people often ask me what the weather is like in Oregon and my response is that it is quite similar to Amsterdam. Four distinct seasons with a good dose of rain. Spring in Oregon tends to be unpredictable, while usually very pleasant in the Netherlands. Our weather here turns chaotic, cool, and rainy in the summer, while Oregon is more consistently warm and summery.

The difference between an Oregon spring and a Dutch spring were at there extremes yesterday. At my parents home in the valley, they had a blanket of snow. My mother sent me photos of the white landscape and I rode around Amsterdam with a light coat and sunglasses. I'll take one Dutch spring and one Oregon summer please.

Snowy photo by my cute mother. Spring photos by me.

on the edge of spring

Yesterday was a perfect 'first days of spring' day. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade. Huddled with a book on a terrace wearing a thick scarf and sunglasses. You could almost see the flowers and plants stretching towards the sun. North America already has turned back its clocks, but Europe waits for two more weeks. Fourteen more days of waking up to the half-light of a spring morning.

Photo by marrren

snow days

After almost two weeks with temperatures below freezing, the warm will return next week, thawing the canals and melting away the last drifts of snow. The wintery weather has hit Europe and North Africa (!) hard. In Amsterdam, the frozen canals have everyone bringing out their skates and throwing parties on the ice. Although I conquered my fear of biking on the snow and ice several years ago, I spent the first few days of freeze walking around the city in my trusty Oregon hiking boots, enjoying the quiet of the city and the crunch of the snow beneath my feet.

a year of de krat

It's the end of the year and time to reflect on what has passed. One of my favorite (small) things of 2011 was discovering de krat, a box of local produce delivered to my door each week. Over the last few years, I have become more aware of the origin of my food and the importance of supporting local farmers. I was so happy to discover Amsterdam's version of community-supported agriculture that is abundant in my hometown. Thanks to de krat, my cooking skills and willingness to experiment with new foods and recipes grew exponentially over the last half year. Looking forward to more in 2012.

O Christmas tree

The tree is up, the ornaments are hung, the first presents are wrapped, and the lights are glowing. This will be our first Christmas in Amsterdam – in past years Marcus and I have always visited family in Oregon or Germany – and therefore our first Dutch Christmas tree! Although I don't think it was grown in the Netherlands, Bavaria more likely. It was strange to not cut the tree down ourselves, but we found a cute one at the flower shop around the corner. And probably the smallest tree I have ever had. It makes me so happy to wake up each morning and plug the lights in, casting a warm glow over the living room.

weekend links #44

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed over the last week: 1. Watching this video about translucent tape art in Amsterdam 2. Preparing menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas with inspiration from Sweet Paul (pictured above) 3. Feeling a bit cozier after spotting these socks and this sweater 4. Viewing this infographic comparing education with incarceration in the US 5. Being awed by 2,000 suspended dandelions by Swiss artist Regine Ramseier (pictured below, via colossal) 6. Seeing images of foraging for truffles in Umbria 7. Eating a meal at Proef with Liz, Jenn, Lauren, and Ellen 8. Finding the new digital magazine Contents, with insights about my field of work

Weekend Links #41

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed over the last week: 1. Partaking in the autumn harvest with roasted parsnips (pictured above) 2. Starting to plan the next trip (someday) to Copenhagen a restaurant tips 3. Voting in Time Out's Best of Amsterdam 2011 list and getting new tips 4. Reading the familiar stories of the families in The Mixed Race Project (via allison lehman) 5. Watching the trailer for Pina, a 3-D dance film about the work of choreographer Pina Bausch, by Wim Wenders (embedded below)


autumn cycling

Cycling is not simply a summer affair in Amsterdam. Yet when I see a week of rain ahead on the weather forecast, it takes extra motivation to hop on my two wheels in the morning. Having my rain gear ready (and always with me) makes it easier to bear a drizzle or downpour. My kit includes rain pants, a waterproof jacket, a hat with a brim to keep the water out of my eyes, and always leather or rubber shoes. Suffering through a spot of rain is worth the freedom and pleasure that comes with riding. Here, are a few tips for gear that make cycling in the autumn a breeze.

Above photo via Amsterdamize.

Rain cape by Iva Jean.

Rain booties from Loeffler Randall and a rain hat from Ridlington.

Rainboots, made cuter with Kove leg warmers (via unruly things)

Weekend Links #39

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed over the last week: 1. Spotting a photo of this beautiful work of street art by Remed (via unurth) 2. Buying tickets to see First Aid Kit on 8 December in Amsterdam 3. Planning a short jaunt over to Copenhagen next week 4. Seeing an infographic which visualizes American ancestry, which is largely German (via curiosity counts) 5. Watching Ed van der Elsken's short films of Amsterdam in the '80s (via @Ellenbokkinga)

Weekend Links #36

Weekend Links is a collection of the interesting bits and pieces that I’ve come across on the streets and online. The weekly post is my chance to share with you a few things from the week, in a list compiled during the weekend. I hope you enjoy them as well.

A few things I enjoyed over the last week: 1. Watching this cute video about bicycling 2. Jotting down the ingredients needed to make a Lillet Buttermilk Shake (pictured above) 3. Booking tickets to see David Sedaris at Carré on 25 September 4. Browsing photographer Brennan Linsley's images of Icy Greenland 5. Reading a good reminder of why we should approach official accounts of secret operations with caution 6. Finding a map of Amsterdam West on the site They Draw & Travel, a collection of maps drawn from artists around the world (pictured below)

Amsterdam love

The other day a colleague remarked that she was surprised I could be so positive about the dreary weather of late. Things tend to look good when you have a sunny holiday on the horizon. (photo above by Gijlmar, photo below by B)