Day 2 found me waking up for the second straight morning on an airplane. I had between 6 and 8 hours of sleep combined over both nights. The plane pulled into Schipol airport near Amsterdam about 8am. My luggage took a while to come off the conveyor belt and I was starting to sweat a little. I turned my bag over two days earlier and I had a spare pressed shirt in my backpack on the off-chance that bag would not arrive. I would have been underdressed for my 1pm meeting and I am sure the people I was meeting with would have understood, and a well starched clean white t-shirt would have made me feel at least a little comfortable and somewhat refreshed.
I have my rituals at Schipol airport. If you are meeting someone at that airport, the best place to find each other is the big red and white checkered box. Even if I am running very late, I take a moment at this spot to just sit and take the moment in and just check in with God and myself. It’s a sitting place for me, much like the boardwalk in Long Beach, New York, or the Castle in Nyon. I sit and think and people watch as time permits.
Once done sitting, I bought my train tickets for the day. The first ticket would get me into Amsterdam, the second to get me to and from Nijmegen. I had cash ready because I knew from experience that the train station in Amsterdam only takes cash and credit cards with chips.
It amazes me sometimes just how I fall into the routine of grabbing the train at the airport and getting where I need to go in the Netherlands. I have the same thing in New York and London, it’s just automatic. Even if someone wants to arrange transportation for me, I decline, just so I can get my train rides.
It was a short ride to Amsterdam from the airport. Amsterdam Central looked pretty much the same way it did when the family and I were there last in 2009, except now apparently, it’s in black and white.
I hauled my suitcase to the outside of the station and struggled to decide how to get to my hotel. I could have taken a tram for a few euros, grabbed a cab for ten euros or walked. Given the light drizzle, the obvious choice would have been a cab. If I had anyone else with me, I would have taken a cab. I walked; that’s what I do in Amsterdam and in Europe. I have a roller computer bag that I only use for two to four weeks a year while in Europe. I bought it in 2006 and I have worn through TWO sets of wheels. I am brutal on luggage. I can also be a bit brutal on my travel companions, but that’s a tale for another time.
My hotel wasn’t but 10 minutes away by car and the fact that I was hauling a suitcase over uneven European streets and it was raining (slightly) didn’t really matter.
Maybe it was the exhaustion.
Maybe it was the fact that I would only be alone for two full days on this two-week trip and I could make a decision without having to be considerate of others.
Maybe it was that I love to experience Amsterdam from the ground?
Maybe it was just that I had a few hours to kill before I had to be on the other side of the country.
Maybe it’s all of that mixed in with a little bit of crazy. Who cares? I walked in the rain.
I stayed at an inexpensive little hotel on the companies’ approved list. One must be a good corporate soldier sometimes. Luckily, they had a room available for early check in. I napped for 20 minutes with a wake up call and two alarms set just in case. By 11am I was up, showered prepped and ready to go for my meeting on the other side of the country. The hotel called me a cab and I was back to Amsterdam Central in a flash.
I walked into the train station and as luck would have it, there was an 11:17am train heading directly to Nijmegen and I got on just before it pulled out.
It was a 90 minute train ride. The Netherlands hadn’t changed much since I was here last. My train had mostly students on it. People got on the train and off, it reminded me of a play to a certain extent with characters moving on and off the stage, each playing a role in the journey.
I fell asleep momentarily maybe a half-dozen times on the train ride. I was tired and torn between closing my eyes and seeing the Netherlands again. I hadn’t been to this country in winter since 2006 and it distinctively bare trees took me back to that first visit.
As the train pulled into Nijmegen, I was picked up and taken to my meeting. It was 1pm and I hadn’t eaten anything yet. Carbs are my enemy on the first day in Europe, they can turn off my brain if I am not careful.
After my meeting I was picked up by a former colleague and generally cool person. We headed back to Nijmegen and headed down by the river banks. We walked along the river and found a place to have a beverage. Then after a while, we found a place to have dinner. I love hanging out with Europeans, especially the Dutch. They are pretty easy-going and easy to talk to. They know how to sit a spell and enjoy a good meal. I think we spent about 4-5 fun hours together before we said goodbye at the train station.
The truth is that I feel very comfortable in the Netherlands. I feel more comfortable than I do in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland or anywhere else I have spent substantial amounts of time. I have only one person there that I would consider a friend, but I really believe I could pick up, settle in the Netherlands and be content there for the rest of my life, the place just makes sense to me.
The train ride home was uneventful. The first train out of Nijmegen went back to the airport. From there I caught another train back to Amsterdam Central. It was late and I was tired, so I took a cab back to my hotel. I really wanted to walk though.
I got back to my hotel about 10pm, called home to say good night and settled in for the evening. The second day was over and there were 10 more to go before I got to go home.
There was some street noise throughout the night, but I had no trouble sleeping. I was looking forward to the next day. It was a day I had been looking forward to for nearly a year.
To be continued…..