I woke up extra early on my first full day in Europe to be sure I got to my cat-sitting assignment on time. It was some distance outside the city in the opposite direction of where my hotel was located, plus I needed to secure a taxi for the last part of the trip, and I was skeptical they’d be in abundant supply early on a Sunday morning. Luckily, I found a single, lonely cab waiting outside the Arena train station. The driver, Abdul, after some discussion and examination of my Google maps (which Laura had advised me to print out and bring along for reference to prevent being driven on a ‘scenic route’) realized he’d been to the area quite recently, and as we sped along, give me a long explanation of the proper way to get there (assuaging any fears of overinflated trips costs).
The area overall was very rural – the air scented with cow; a different sort of critter in each field lining the crazily narrow road. I had asked if it was some sort of odd, one way only loop – nope, Abdul replied – just a single lane for the cars, which must negotiate around each other as the situation arises and approach narrow bridges with caution – bordered on each side with a bike lane… funny that bikes are allocated a lane each for either direction, but the cars are left to their own devices!
We ended up at my destination a bit early, so I had Abdul drop me off at the corner to wait. There was a small café on the end of the little row of three houses I’d arrived at, so I snuck into a seat on their outdoor terrace until it was time to go ring the doorbell. I approached the house, rang, and waited…. And rang again, and waited some more. Knocked after another interval on the door itself. Then knocked on the door glass, thinking perhaps I’d not been loud enough.
I was a bit nervous at this point that I’d arrived at the wrong place – and jeez, I’d be really late getting to the right location if a cab had to come pick me up and redirect me! – but I eventually noticed movement in an upstairs window and called out a cheery ‘Good morning!’ until the figure came over (I was praying it wasn’t going to prove to be a random Nederlander who would stare down in puzzlement at this particularly bold, noisy trespasser). But no, it was Laura, whose husband, Gray, came out in short order to help me in with my bags – turns out they don’t really use the front foyer, and the doorball isn’t all that loud.
So, I’d suspected for some time from our written communications that Laura wasn’t Dutch – not only was her English perfect, but she used colloquialisms that only an American (or possibly a Brit) would – and sure enough, I was right: Laura hails from the midwest and her husband from California. They were a super cool couple, right around my age – had I met them at a cocktail party, I’d have surely suggested getting together again socially in the future; they were really fun and pleasant to chat with. I was also amused to note various items around their house indicating they had some of the same slightly out-there health ideas that I do – an ultra high powered VitaMix blender, an alkaline water machine, supplements from Dr. Mercola…. Gray showed me how to work the grill, TV, and coffee machine; Laura gave me a tutorial on cat care, and by about 2pm everyone had headed off to Schiphol to catch their respective flights and I was left alone to investigate my temporary new digs.
The house was located right on the Amstel river – there was a deck off the back of the house, and then BAM – water. Ducks and boats full of Nederlanders basking in the rare sun (yes, I brought the Florida sunshine along with me, just as I did when I went to D.C. in May and the temps skyrocketed 20 degrees, rendering the entire contents of my luggage far too warm to wear) floated past in a nearly uninterrupted stream. Bikes whizzed by on the road bordering the other side of the river, including frequent herds of spandex-clad racers, out doing training runs in the country. It was peaceful and green, and the constant flow of human transit visible from my workspace on the dining table kept me from feeling too isolated, an effect the country sometimes has on this now de facto city dweller.