Executive Board Minutes for October 2018

Approved Executive Board Minutes

October 15, 2018

Meeting Attendees: Rhonda, Christine RH, Catie, Carol, Robin, Julie, Christine C, Amy

Meeting Start Time: 11:20 a.m.

  1. Approval of the Minutes of the previous meeting
    1. Amy made motion to approve, Christine seconded, unanimously approved. 
  2. Approval of New Associate Members
  3. Officer Reports
    1. President - Rhonda
      1. Discussed the last GM & At Night — good turnout for both.
      2. Halloween - 10/31 5pm-7ish pm
        1. Need more help
        2. We have a couple of games - Cornhole and Jennifer Barnett’s family is bringing a game
        3. Lighting? (No power source so need to battery-powered)
          1. Carol will research lights
        4. Music - Amy can bring along w/ a spooky playlist
        5. Craft?
        6. We all should reach out to one or two people we know & ask for help
        7. Rhonda has a bunch of donated candy
        8. Rhonda will bring AWCA banner
      3. Nov Holiday Fair & budget for extra room.
        1. Amstel has said “IF the room’s available at the last minute, we can use it for free. But if we want to reserve it ahead of time, it will cost €1250”
        2. Discussed spending the money to do this. We’re charging for the tables but we would come out at a loss. However, the point of this is a service to the community & community-building and not to be a money-making endeavor.
        3. Robin will look at the budget & make a recommendation of where the money can come from and then the board will vote.
        4. We have 19 vendors and may have a few more. Amy will ask the toy store on Elandsgracht.
        5. We’re inviting the ISA American Parents Community moms from it.
      4. Secretary and Newcomers role. (see #2 below under Parliamentarian)
      5. AWCA T-shirts update
        1. Looked at samples
          1. Need to give specific instructions on logo placement -- not in a good spot on all the styles/sizes
          2. We’re not happy with the quality of the fabric
          3. Printer is willing to print on demand but with current quality of shirt our cost is €20 a shirt
      6. Scholarships
        1. Board members’ kids can apply but committee members’ kids can not.
    2. Treasurer - Robin/Anne
      1. Review guidelines on spending with in people’s committees
        1. Robin suggested that we create a policy that any single charge over €50 has to be approved by the VP over that committee. We’ll put this in the Volunteer Handbook.
      2. Robin gave a financial update
    3. Vice President - Christine
      1. Holiday fair - discussed under President’s agenda
      2. Ideas for speakers that I should really pursue.
        1. Discussed ideas
    4. VP Internal Communications & Secretary - Amy
      1. Web person - need a page for Donors/Sponsors ads (Gala & Luncheon sponsor benefits)
        1. Agree that this page will be in our Member Pages section
        2. We discussed the need for someone to own the relationships with the Donors & delivering on the benefits - but what section of the org does this role fall under?
        3. Robin looked at Web budget - we have €1000
      2. Budget for more website work by Cat (see attachment 1)
      3. GDPR Compliance Update (see attachment 1)
      4. Updates from meeting with Tulip Talk editor
        1. Discussed stock photography - will ask Katie to research & propose
        2. Discussed and agreed that blog post submissions should come from members only
    5. VP External Communications - Carol
      1. Web person-  need updates to bene partners page - Discussed under #1 on VP Internal agenda above
      2. ASICS event
        1. Offering to host a free event for our members, Tues 11/27, Wed 11/28, Fri 11/30 - it was decided to hold the event Tues, 11/27 as a combo Zumba class and DJ/shopping/snacks party.  
        2. ASICS would provide all of it.
        3. “Fitness & Fun”
      3. Vendor Fair November- potential vendors from Expat Fair
        1. Discussed earlier
      4. ANBI docs for 501c research (Lauren, Carol)
      5. Member survey from Phyllis
        1. Add some rating scales about how welcome they felt initially, how easy it was to find info, etc
        2. Offer option to add name & email address and “do you want to be contacted about your feedback?”
    6. VP Membership - Catie/Ingrid
      1. New, renewing & canceled member update (see attachment 2)
        1. 269 Members right now
        2. Catie surprised that we haven’t gotten more new members from ExPat fair. Got 40+ names, 6 registrations so far, 4 of which have paid.
      2. New name tag organization, more volunteers to staff the check-in table for the GM -  check-in is smoother.
      3. Still many inquiries about trouble paying on the website. Will require more work to figure out exactly what is going on.
        1. We need to update the UI of the website so it’s not so confusing
      4. New item: A lot of old accounts on the site that haven’t been members in a long time that should be deleted; We discussed that we need to do this and agreed that it will be done one year after an account has reached its end of term.
    7. Philanthropy - Julie/Kristin
      1. Share Your Gifts for Good update
        1. Decided to send a reminder email; Discussed videoing Rhonda signing up to post on Facebook to show members how to do it.
      2. Scholarship update
        1. Discussed earlier under President’s agenda
      3. Community service opportunity for women & children’s shelter, for November meeting(s): battery-powered nightlights for children suffering from nightmares & Christmas gifts for all children (30-40) in shelters
        1. Discussed having a table for both of these things at the November Fair
        2. Double check on the commitment of 30-40? What if we don’t have enough takers?
    8. Parliamentarian - Beth/Christine
      1. Sponsorship commitments fulfillment
        1. Christine Rigby-Hall has agreed to handle the Facebook postings for the 10 June events donors since she was the VP in charge of the events / offers.  
      2. Board roles and optimization
        1. Everyone reflect on their role & responsibilities, write down what’s working well & what’s not working well. Is there anything we’re doing that’s not necessary?
        2. Is the board doing things that aren’t mapping to our goals?
        3. We need to tap more volunteers.
          1. Committee for end of year Luncheon
          2. Tapping specific people personally is more effective.
        4. Add a section to Tulip Talk about open volunteer roles
  4. Chairwomen/Committee Reports
  5. Old Business
  6. New Business
    1. Focus on Philanthropy team for the next Tulip Talk
      1. Christina Collins, etc,
      2. Mention that we need someone to lead Scholarships
      3. A one-liner from each of the Scholarship winners
    2. Amy proposed we consider changing the names of our member categories from “Full” and “Associate” to something else. Both are actually full members, it’s just distinguishing between US Citizens vs not. We’ll brainstorm ideas.
    3. Discussed proposing a New Member registration fee of €15, includes the shopping tote, bookmark with tips; Welcome to Dutch life class (that we want to start up at some point)
    4. Discussed ideas around incentivizing paying dues in a more timely manner because it’s a lot of overhead for the team; We’ve never increased our dues. Discussed €90 until August 15 then €100; But then still a €15 reg fee? Will discuss at next meeting.
  1. Schedule next meeting: Monday, November 12, 10 am at Carol’s house


Meeting adjourned: 3:22pm

 

Letter from the Tulip Talk Editor

Dear Tulip Talk Readers,

And…it’s a wrap: my last issue as the editor of Tulip Talk. I’ll be repatriating to Boston in mid-January (brrr). Thank you all for your support and input this past year as Tulip Talk evolved with us. Your positive comments and generous contributions mean more than you know. I have truly enjoyed this role and will miss it — and all of you — terribly.

I’m leaving Tulip Talk in the capable hands of Katie Thisdell. Katie is a journalist, writer, and editor with experience in WordPress and InDesign. Katie will be supported by two copy editors, veteran Catie Mohin and our newest team member, Marcie Asplin. I am grateful for their hard work and expertise, but even so, I will be heavily involved in the next two issues to make sure the transition goes smoothly.

This issue’s theme, giving thanks and giving back, sums up my thoughts perfectly. I’m thankful that I found this club, which has been a godsend. Like so many of you, I gave up my job to trail my husband here. When I arrived, I knew no one. I joined the AWCA, and as I attended coffees, lunches, meetings, and outings, I found a whole community of kindred spirits. In no time, I had some wonderful friends. They made all the difference.

Still, I needed a purpose. I volunteered as book group leader and copy editor for the printed Tulip Talk. About a year ago, I took on the role of editor for the new digital Tulip Talk. Both roles — in my book group and as editor —have satisfied my desire to work within a team, to use and improve my skills, to be challenged, to be creative, and to be needed. Yes, I’ve put a lot of work into these roles, but I’ve received so much more than I’ve given.

My three years here have gone faster than pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day. But it’s been absolutely delicious, and I’ve savored every bite. I encourage you to do the same. Get involved. Socialize. Volunteer. Take advantage of this amazing community in this amazing place. It really is something special.

Warmly,

Danielle Tomich

Minutes: Executive Board Meeting, March 28, 2018

These minutes have been approved by the Executive Board.

Present: Beth van Amerongen, Martha Canning, Kristin DeLong, Robin Ford, Lauren Mescon, Audrey Mezas, Christine Rigby-Hall

I. Officer Reports

A. Treasurer - Robin

1. Budget - We need to create the budget to be approved at the May meeting. A lot of this will be done over email. It was discussed that we want to have a percentage of individual budgets which require board approval if spent on one event.

2. Andaz spend requirement - We met our spend at the Andaz this year.

B. Vice President - Christine

1. April 9 GM and April 10 At Night meetings both have speakers. Beth will be the Board Member present for At Night.

2. Christine has a committee and had a meeting for the June Luncheon. They are asking for donations from our vendors and members for the luncheon raffle.

C. VP Programs - Audrey

1. New club meeting location - The board voted online and Audrey is negotiating to bring the price down and to see if we can get a two-year contract.

D. VP Membership - Kristin

1. We have 283 members currently. Kristin is going to send a survey to our new members to assess how we are doing welcoming newcomers.

E. VP Communications/Secretary - Beth

1. PR - We discussed how we want to be represented as a club. Beth will get with Phyllis to assess where she is in her planning. Beth will get with Rhonda and Phyllis to revamp the flyer which was created for promoting the club at ISA. The board agreed that we need one flyer from AWCA. We need better communication with the board and PR. Beth will speak with Phyllis to create regular reports.

II. Chairwomen/Committee Reports

A. Nominating Committee - Lauren

1. The process is going well. Jennifer has received 52 proxies. Beth will be sending the proxy to the members again in the coming week.

III.  New Business

A. Opijnen - The board decided several years ago that our obligations to Opijnen would be officially recorded in our Bylaws. All the U.S. soldiers in The Netherlands are buried in Margraten with a few exceptions, including Opijnen. If the graves are not properly honored, the U.S. government can transfer them to Margraten. Our obligation is for the president to speak, and we pay for and place a wreath. Martha will look at the procedure to amend Bylaws so we can do so at the May meeting.

B. New regulations on communications for the EU - Beth needs to check with Cat Conner to find out what they are and what steps the club needs to take.

IV. Schedule next meeting - Monday, April 23, 12:30 p.m. at Robin’s house

Minutes: Executive Board Meeting, April 23, 2018 (draft)

This is a draft. The minutes have not yet been approved by the Executive Board.

Present: Beth van Amerongen, Martha Canning, Robin Ford, Audrey Mezas, Christine Rigby-Hall

The meeting was called to order at 12:50 p.m.

I. Approval of the Minutes of the previous meeting - the minutes were approved as presented.

II. Approval of New Associate Members/Member Report - Kristin reported via email that we currently have 287 members. There were not any Associate Member applications for approval this month.

III.  Officer Reports

A. Treasurer - Robin

1. The club computer crashed. We might need to consider a new purchasing a new one, as the current one is quite old.

2. Our membership income is over budget by more than €2,000 because more members joined than predicted.

3. Many budget areas are behind in spending. It was discussed that the spending needs to be distributed more throughout the year. The Amsterdam and Haarlem Reps are hoping to use their entire budgets for the end of year celebration. The volunteer handbook currently discourages more than 20% of a budget area to be spent on one event. The board discussed changing the verbiage to require board approval for a single event costing more than 20% of a budget, to encourage a more even distribution of club funded activities throughout the year. This will be clearly stated in the proposed budget for 2018-19.

4. There is money in the FAWCO budget after reimbursing the FAWCO reps for their registration fees for the Interim Meeting. Robin will reach out to others who attended to get their receipts and distribute the remaining funds proportionately between the day and full attendees.

5. Robin is in the process of preparing the budget for the 2018-19 club year. She will be sending it to the board to be approved via email so that it can be presented in the May Tulip Talk. It will be voted on at the May General Meeting.

B. Secretary - Beth

1. Beth shared her discussion with PR chairwoman, Phyllis Larkin, including the one-page handout she recommends. It was agreed we need a promotional postcard. Mimi van Amerongen will do the graphic design and the board will proof it for content before it is printed. The board discussed other materials to promote our club, such as pens and reusable totes. There is money in the PR budget to cover these. Beth will look ordering the items mentioned.

2. The Organizational Chart was reviewed and modified to represent the new positions and job descriptions. Beth will send a draft to the board to review prior to posting on the website.

C. Vice President - Christine

1. May Speakers - Valerie Russell will speak at the General Meeting about her experiences in Jordan. Sandra Cabrera will speak At Night about life as the U.S. Consul General’s wife and Expat mom.

2. June Luncheon and At Night Party - Most Executive Board members will be attending both events. The planning for both is well underway. Christine has been collecting donations for the scholarship raffles.

3. Peter den Tek, our April GM Speaker, asked us to endorse his Sky of Hope project. Christine is awaiting more information as to what it entails.

D. VP Programs - Audrey

1. Audrey reviewed the current proposal for next year’s meeting place with the board. Input was given which she will attempt to include in the final contract. When a final document is ready, Martha will sign it and an announcement will be made to the club.

E. VP Membership - Kristin

1. Kristin will not be at the May meeting for managing our new members. She will reach out to incoming Membership VPs, Ingrid and Catie to see if they can help out.

IV. Chairwomen/Committee Reports

A. Gala - Kristin

1. The gala committee has disbanded; however, thank you notes still need to be written to donors and sponsors. Martha will work with Kristin on this.

V. Next meeting - The final Executive Board Meeting of the year will include both the outgoing and incoming boards. It was proposed to do either June 6 or 7 for lunch or for dinner. Beth will conduct a Doodle Survey with all involved to determine the best date. The current board will then come up with a location on the WhatsApp group.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:50 p.m.

Exclusive Film Course by American University Professor Offered

Professor Robert Klaeger. Photo: Pace University

 

You can get so much more from a film if you know what to look for.

Find out how at this special three-session film course given by Professor Emeritus Robert Klaeger, former media and communications chair at Pace University in New York. In his 41 years at Pace, Bob taught all aspects of film and filmmaking for over three decades. Bob’s well-received course is filled with humor, information and surprising new discoveries.

AWCA member Ems Magnus and her husband Glen Kendall attended one of Bob’s sessions at a family gathering and were so enthusiastic that they invited Bob to come to Amsterdam and share his knowledge with their friends and family here. They look forward to sharing this unique event with you.

Space is limited; please reserve early. Tickets will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Partners and friends are welcome.

 

Location:
Lab 111, Arie Biemondstraat 111

 

Cost per person:*
€40 for all three sessions
€20 per session (if one or two only)

 

Registration:
Please reserve a place by sending payment to IBAN: NL31ABNA0545635187 in the name of E. Magnus/G. Kendall. Please state “Bob Film” in the payment reference, and send us an email confirming your remittance (with dates attending if less than full series).

 

Course Schedule:
(All sessions are in English and the films do not have Dutch subtitles.)  

Session 1: Tuesday,
June 5,
6:30 p.m.

Introduction to film: How to enhance your understanding & enjoyment of films.

Session 2: Tuesday,
June 12, 6:30 p.m. 

Watch an important, enjoyable film with Bob’s commentary illustrating points from his first lecture.

Session 3: Tuesday,
June 19,
6:30 p.m.
Watch another film with commentary; conclusion.


Program for each session:

6:30 p.m. Refreshments
7-9:30 p.m. Program
9:30-10:30 p.m Drinks, bites and informal conversation

 

 


*to help defray costs for the venue, drinks, and snacks

AWCA Blog Guidelines

North, South, East and West: Stepping Out of My Bubble in Amsterdam

by Suzanne Vine
originally published Nov. 3, 2017 on Suzanne Vine's Amsterdam

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

In September, I passed my three-year milestone in Amsterdam. Expat years are kind of like dog years, so three years makes me a very elderly expat, indeed. In those three long years, I like to think I have discovered a lot of the city. I like to think I've gotten out of my neighborhood and explored. I like to think some of you are still reading along.

This post gives me the chance to share some of what I have discovered on my journeys and weigh in on the experience of living here for three years. In the end, I may not have much wisdom to share, but I can tell you where to get a good cup of coffee.

Feel free to share this post with your visitors so we all don't have to reinvent the recommendation-wheel every time family and friends come to stay. I purposely left out all tips for the center of town. Most expats already know that part of town and can steer their visitors to the right spots for food, drink, and sightseeing. Frankly, you can just walk up and down the canals and find your own favorite places without much fuss...you and the crowds who visit Amsterdam. I'm going to sound like a cranky Dutch native, but we avoid the center as much as possible during the summer months. Even in the three years since we arrived, I see more and more tourists and hear less and less Dutch spoken. The city seems to be trying to strike a balance between accommodating the tourists — and their money — and keeping the charm of Amsterdam alive and well. Some would say the balance is tipping towards the tourist dollars right now.

A quick geography lesson for those of you who are new or don't live here: Amsterdam is composed of different neighborhoods. Like many of the neighborhoods in New York City — well, actually in Manhattan with its Upper West and Lower East Sides, etc. — the names of the neighborhoods are mostly directions with actual names for some of the neighborhoods tucked inside those big areas. So here we have North (Noord), South (Zuid), East (Oost), West (West). and The Center (Het Centrum), but also de Pijp, and The Museum Quarter (Museumplein). 

It seems like every map you look at divides the city in different ways. Some leave it in big chunks (North, South, East, and West) and some include the names of the neighborhoods. No wonder I get lost so often.

Old South. Like many in the expat community, I live in Oud Zuid, or Old South. Here's the great part about living in our hood: we are a few short blocks to Vondelpark, Amsterdam's Central Park. We're also a few short blocks to the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum (home to the Vermeers and the Rembrandts you want to see), and the Stedelijk, the modern art museum. We're also only a short walk from the elegant concert hall, Het Concertgebouw. And we have taken full advantage and seen lots and lots of concerts. We never seemed to do that when we were only a short train ride away from New York City.

You can see a real Picasso sculpture in Vondelpark. I'm always surprised that no hooligans have ever taken a can of spray paint to it. Maybe even they have limits.

My husband Peter and I often have moments when we shake our heads in amazement that we are actually living here. Mine often come when I look up at the majestic Rijksmuseum. How did we get so lucky to live so close by? Or to live here at all?

I took this photo during the Women's March, where for once Museumplein, the square surrounding the museums, was packed with protestors, not tourists taking selfies.

I love the quiet side of the museum, where the bikes outnumber the people.

Now, what's the downside of living in my part of town? For one, it can feel like a bubble. A very tony, one-dimensional bubble. The one "regular" store here - a hardware store - just closed its doors. It will be replaced by yet another "bougie" boutique selling overpriced clothes that appeal to someone, I suppose. That someone is definitely not me. The other downside is that there isn't much culinary diversity. You can find Italian food or Dutch bistro-style restaurants, but where is the Thai? The Vietnamese? The Lebanese? And where are the good coffee spots? That's a problem. So to find what I need, I have to get out and about.

The Dutch pride themselves on being a society of equals. When we came to look for apartments before we moved here, the relocation person told us that there weren't any super-rich here. Then who lives in those houses along the canal near the apartments she was showing us, I asked. The answer? Drug dealers. 

I can assure you that not all the fancy houses in Amsterdam are inhabited by drug lords.

North. So, let's get out of the bubble, shall we? First, we head to Noord, the North. This part of the city is a little out-of-the-way. You have to hop on a ferry behind Central Station to get there unless you have a car. They are talking about building a new bridge that will allow you to bike from behind the station, but I've learned that there can be lots and lots of talk before any shovel breaks ground, so I'll believe it when I see it. For now, take your bike right on the ferry. Once in the North, I recommend heading out to a giant oasis called Het Twiske. You can bring your lunch and have a picnic. You will feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.

When my son Ben was here for a visit, we went straight to the motherland for our picnic provisions: a place called Piqniq, in the Jordaan, a neighborhood in the center of the city. Worth every penny. Gluten-free bread available, making this picnicker a very happy camper.

On the way back from your bike ride through Noord, you can stop for coffee at The Coffee Virus. Very good coffee. Not so good English. Here's a sentence from their website: "We are very ambitious. Actively we look to expand and spread our positive virus at other inspiring locations were [Note: Yup, you read that right], creatively, we adapt to our surrounding." One job idea I have is to help businesses rewrite their "English" into words that make sense. An English Fixer. They really need my help here. 

Although not inside the city limits of the North, once you are up there, you can visit some quaint villages like Marken, and some touristy ones like Volendam.

If you're really feeling like a tourist, you, too, can get in costume and transport yourself back in time, Volendam-style. Let's just say that my daughter Rachel deeply regretted joining me on an outing with the American Women's Club that day.

Ben felt slightly better about our bike ride to Marken, but for some reason, he refused the opportunity to put his face into the your-face-here board set up near the lighthouse.

Another place to visit that's north of my bubble is The Zaanse Schans, a colonial Williamsburg-style village where you can step back in time and see what 18th and 19th-century life was really like. One of my expat friends took every single one of her visitors there, but I actually ventured there for the first time in April. It was a grey, windy day, raw even by the usual standards, so the crowds were somewhat thinner. I can't imagine taking this trip on in the height of the tourist crush in the summer. But we actually enjoyed the tour inside a windmill and the photo ops. Ah, April in the Netherlands. The wind sure kept those windmills busy.

Let's face it: you want to see windmills when you come to the Netherlands. A trip to Zaanse Schans gives you a lot of bang for your buck. You take a short bus ride from Central Station and you're face to face with a whole army of them. I've heard that most Dutch people have never been there.

I don't think the guys inside the windmill - still a working sawmill - had ever seen the likes of our friend Pierre. They did their best to answer all of his questions.

East. Let's head East, shall we? This is a neighborhood where, unlike places like Zaanse Schans, Dutch people do live, and do go for dinner and coffee. The area has changed a lot in the past few years. I think even the Dutch would agree that it has become gentrified. You still see many women wearing hijabs, but now you also see tons of young people in search of good food, and lots of new restaurants to lure them in. And then there's me: an expat who is looking to get out of the bubble and take a bike ride for a bit before settling in with a coffee and a book, or a notebook. Some of my favorite Amsterdam places are in OostCoffee BruRum Babaand Roostwhere there's a book exchange wall. You can take a book if you forget yours, and bring it home. For keeps. They even have some good books in English. Good coffee is a big reason this uptown girl likes to get out of the white bread world of the Old South neighborhood.

The burger craze has hit Amsterdam hard. Smokin' Barrels makes a burger that any American restaurant would be proud to call its own. And, oh, those fries!

In addition to good coffee, you can find some good food. There's Smokin' Barrels, where my friend Vera's daughter Rosanne worked until the wee hours, and De Biertuinwhere you can find yourself older than the other customers' parents. Lest you think all I do is eat and drink, I can also recommend The Tropenmuseuma museum "about people." According to the website, "From Africa to West and Southeast Asia, from New Guinea to Latin America: come to the Tropenmuseum and discover that, despite cultural differences, we are all essentially the same." I'm not sure if that's really true, but it's a lovely little museum with interesting exhibits. This museum is one place which doesn't call Dutch colonizing "exploring" but rather, uses the word "slavery" and the Dutch in the same sentence. Imagine that.

This exhibit about the history of music was fantastic. How could I not be excited about an exhibit that included my favorite musical genre? One can never get enough of this funky stuff.

While you are in this neck of the woods, you can visit Czar Peterstraat, recently voted the nicest shopping street in Amsterdam. And that was before De Pindakaaswinkel, the store selling one thing and one thing only — peanut butter in various flavors — moved in. I discovered the rest of the street when I went in search of the store one afternoon. It's worth wandering around there.

West. Finally, let's head to the West, another area of town that has changed a lot in the past five years or so. You will certainly see more "diversity" out there than in my neighborhood, including many Muslim faces. But as the rents around the city rise and rise, there are more pockets of gentrification. I think of the West as the Brooklyn of Amsterdam. For the coffee fans, try White Label Coffee or Lot Sixty One. White Label is still wedged among kebab joints and inexpensive chain stores, but I'm guessing the neighborhood will soon change. Lot Sixty One now has a line down the block on weekends. Sigh. When we first moved here, I discovered this place — like so many others in this post — while walking with my dog Casey. I knew about four people in Amsterdam, and Peter was one of them. I could always go West (my version of Downtown) and find someplace cozy, or gezellig, as the Dutch say.

Now to really get out of the bubble, you have to go to the Nieuw West, or New West. There you can find some tucked-away gems, like De Cantina. What's not to love about a place where you can read in a hammock, or sit in an old hippie car with your coffee or tea? Note to my expat friends wondering how I find these places: I didn't find this one. Rachel did, on a list of Top 5 Secret Spots in Amsterdam. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone.

This little plant shop, Wildernis, is in Oud West, Amsterdam West. It might as well be in the Wild West to some expats who don't venture there often. You can buy all sorts of plants, and, of course, a cup of coffee or tea after exerting yourself with your plant shopping.

So what has changed about Amsterdam in my three years here? Many would say the expats are responsible for one big change: higher and higher rents. You can't blame those rising rent prices and gentrification solely on the American expats, as one recent local news broadcaster tried to do. He also blamed us for the piles of garbage and the noise. We are definitely not taking credit for those, dear Amsterdam. Of course, many of us do come with big pocketbooks and our American values, like huge kitchens and multiple bathrooms, and the Dutch real estate market is certainly trying to oblige. But we aren't the only ones moving into previously affordable areas and turning them into posh hideouts. For selfish reasons, I want Amsterdam to gentrify, but just enough. I still want to discover places that don't feel like they are part of the bubble.

But let's face it, fancy coffee is a sure sign that a neighborhood is changing over. The city is certainly getting gussied up. Everywhere you look there is construction. Everywhere. Why can't they finish one project before they tear up the streets somewhere else? It's like when kids have to take out every different Lego set all at once and leave them strewn around and mixed up, instead of cleaning up the ones they are finished with before moving on to a new set. The city is as likely to follow my suggestion about finishing one project at a time as kids are likely to follow an organized Lego play routine. But a girl can dream, can't she?

I recently finished a novel called Euphoria, by Lily King. As it so often happens when I read, one passage seemed to be calling out to me, to be exactly what I have been thinking about as I wrote this post. The character Nell - based on the anthropologist Margaret Mead - is describing her favorite part of her fieldwork. She says, "It's that moment about two months in when you think you've finally got a handle on the place. Suddenly it feels within your grasp. It's a delusion — you've only been there eight weeks — and it's followed by the complete despair of ever understanding anything. But at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It's the briefest, purest euphoria." If you substitute her two months for my three years, you will know how I feel.  Sometimes it's euphoria: I can't believe we actually live here! We are so lucky! I think I understand the Dutch and their ways. And then the next moment, it's despair: I'll never really fit in. I'm so far away from home. Where is home, exactly?

I'll end our journey through Amsterdam with a photo of my Dad, taken in 1948 when he visited the Netherlands. He came to Europe on a ship with his father. The overseas trip was a gift for graduating from medical school. The little girls in the photo, I assume, actually dressed that way, unlike the people who dress up to amuse the tourists nowadays. When my dad visited, the world was still a huge place, where people in one part of the world lived very differently from people in another. These days, the world feels like a much smaller place, with H&M and Starbucks uniting us no matter which corner we call home. I often think about how much my dad would have loved to hear about (and read about) my adventures here.  

I didn't crop out the sides of the photo because I love those jagged edges.

In answer to one question we're often asked: No, we don't know how much longer we will stay here. For now, I'm happy to live in my expat land-of-limbo. I'm beyond grateful to have the chance to travel around the city, without the stress and all-consuming schedule of teaching. This move has given me the gift of time, as has Peter, who is, for now, singlehandedly holding down the retirement-fund fort. Thank you, Peter.

I'll close with a quick farewell to a musical part of my past: the late Tom Petty in the Traveling Wilburys: "Maybe somewhere down the road aways, you'll think of me, wonder where I am these days."

I wonder where I'll be, too — somewhere down the road.