Before I came here to Amsterdam I did a lot of research on the city. I spoke to people who had been. I spoke to my sister who has lived here for 2 years. I read about the city on line. I did my homework. In the United States, I am often surprised many places don’t accommodate people of size. I am always surprised at my doctor’s office that all the chairs in the waiting room have arms. I was surprised at jury duty that all the chairs had arms. Certainly, I am not the largest person to serve on jury duty. I know I am not my doctor’s largest patient. Yet, those places are uncomfortable for me so, they must be uncomfortable for other people. Am I the only one who complains or thinks about this? I can’t imagine I am.
I was informed that, undoubtedly, I would be the largest person I would see here in Holland. So, far that has been the case. I have seen some plump women but no one close to my size. I was warned that people would stare as well. In the US, I experience that a lot. I shop at a Trader Joe’s near my apartment that is in a predominantly Russian neighborhood. I have found that many of the older Russian women are fascinated by me. They will stare and nudge whoever they are with to have them stare as well. I had a very funny experience at Canter’s Deli a while back. There were three older women sitting in a booth. They couldn’t stop talking about me. The part that was funny was I think they thought they were whispering. They were not. They were very loud and couldn’t stop talking about me. When we got up to leave I stood in front of their table and said, “I could hear you and that was not very nice.” They were definitely shocked. Maybe I should have left it alone. I don’t know that at their age they were going to learn some great life lesson from me. At first, I felt good about speaking up. Then later I felt bad about it. Not about what they were saying, that was their problem. But that the last thing I wanted to do was hurt their feelings.
I had another experience many years ago in a shoe store. It was one of those self-serve shoe stores with many aisles of shoes and shoe boxes. I came around a corner and standing before was a young boy around 6 years old. He stood and looked up at me with his mouth agape. He smiled and looked up at me and said, “Wow. You are SOO big!” I said, “Yes, I am.” Then he said, “My grandpa is big too…why are you so big?!” So, I told him, “You know how some people are big and some people are small and some people are different colors? Well, I am big.” He giggled. Not in a judgmental way but like he had learned something wonderful…like about dinosaurs or the universe. Then he started to walk towards me. I think he wanted to touch me. Just then his mother came around the corner and found him. It was a really beautiful moment.
In the US, my size is definitely a consideration. I have found here it is a much bigger consideration in that everything is so small. I know my photos aren’t doing the severity of how small everything is justice. There is no scale comparison. At the party the other night I had to use the restroom. I asked where it was and literally burst out laughing when I opened the door. It was smaller than most peoples hall closets. I opened the door and was greeted by a small toilet attached to the wall with a tiny sink hanging over the lip of the toilet. How in the world could a man stand at the toilet? Maybe if he stood in the hallway… I straddled the pocket sized toilet with both of my hips touching each side of the bathroom. My belly was just shy of touching the sink. I closed the door and stood there chuckling. I pulled my pants down and sat. Luckily, I realized I was sitting on my pants. Had I not noticed it could have been one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
Yesterday, I walked over to the little bread shop and then to the Albert Heijn (the grocery store) and picked up some things. We had a lovely lunch of fresh bread and cheese and gorgeous tomatoes and cucumbers. Then Sima and I set out to find items for their Halloween costumes. Then Ben met us in the Dam. It was interesting being in the square in front of the Queen’s palace without the carnival. It was nice to see the difference but I was sad the poffergie guy wasn’t there. I still think about them.
When Sima and Ben were talking about us going to dinner last night, to either the Thai place they like or the Italian restaurant they like, they considered that both places were very small and tight. We opted for the Italian restaurant. It was ridiculously small by US standards. In fact, there is no way a US Fire Marshall would have allowed those tables and that many people to be inside. In the US, maybe 10 people would have been “allowed” to be in the space and there were at least 25 people packed in there. You sit shoulder to shoulder with people. The food was unbelievable. They put down some hot, crusty bread with little pots of garlic butter, a sun dried tomato and pesto tapenade and some of the most amazing green olives I have ever tasted in my life. I asked the waiter what they were and he said, “Olives.” Then I asked, “What kind?” To which he responded, “Green.” Yeah, that wasn’t what I wanted to know. I wanted to know what kind. I could see they were green but they were also buttery and tart without too much vinegar flavor. I ordered penne with pesto and smoked chicken. Sima ordered truffle ravioli that were insanely rich and delicious. Ben ordered lamb that came with salad and oven roasted potatoes. I am sorry I didn’t take pictures of the food as it was visually stunning.
Another thing I have noticed here is the food is served so hot. Ben says it isn’t always this way. My experience so far has been that not only does my food come molten but it stays that way. The roof of my mouth has been burned beyond recognition by the lava filled bitterballen. Even Ben’s potatoes last night were ridiculously hot and retained their heat for most of the meal. At one point, I felt like a little kid. I popped a piece of potato into my mouth and quickly spit it into my hands. Of course, at that moment Sima looked up at me. I apologized. It was either that or burn a hole in the roof of my mouth. Interestingly enough, I find my coffee gets cold very quickly. More interesting than that is the crazy amount of coffee I have been drinking.
Now it is Friday around 1p. The sun is peaking out through the cold cloudy sky. Sima is at her salon for the day. Ben is at work. I am going to walk around today. I found a yarn shop on line that should be an interesting walk. There is so much I want to see and do and I have made my peace that I won’t be able to get to everything. It will just be a good excuse to come back another time.