Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, and perhaps it is due to the richness of this particular experience, which one can never separate from a purely physical sensation of place.  I have been inspired beyond belief by Greenpeace International, Greenpeace’s global headquarters, moved to a state of bliss watching the blossoming springtime flowers beyond the glistening, shimmering canal waters with arched brickwork and boats illuminating character.  Everything I have heard about European cities lined with small and delicious markets, every corner packed with local colors, flavors and people, amazing fresh bread and gouda cheese and pesto and olives and meat and fruit and flowers — it is all here, everywhere, filling my senses with joy!

I arrived Tuesday morning at 8am after a long but wonderful flight (emergency exit rows, endless movie options and an exhausted body made for a surprisingly enjoyable sky cruise).  All three other coordinators and myself found our way with 27 students through the train and bus stations to our lovely hostel in Zeeburg to drop our stuff and rent 31 bikes.  There is no better way to see this magnificent city than from a bike!!  We spent the day with Dutch Greenpeace volunteers and staff at the Greenpeace Sirius ship.  We were all bleary eyed and sleepy but managed to stay awak all day to facilitate a smooth time change adjustement.

Wednesday and Thursday we spent the day at Greenpeace International, a phenomenal day of campaign briefings.  It took all 31 of us an hour and a half to bike to the office, winding through the city along the canals and through Vondel Park’s glorious bird songs and bright tulips and tree blossoms.  About 80% of Greenpeace International is comprised of people from all over the world, so we had briefings from campaigners from Africa, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Pakistan, Germany, Canada….and others I’m sure.  We learned about Sustainable Agriculture and GMOs, Oceans, Climate Change and Energy, the road to Copenhagen to get the US signed onto a climate treaty, Forests threatened by soy and cattle in the Amazon, Toxics from the tech world, etc.  I learned of a new campaign focusing on cattle and soy production in the Amazon which is coming out in May, and I am very excited about the possibility of working on it.  This and the Sustainable Ag campaign interest me immensely and I dream to some day be blessed enough to work for Greenpeace on these issues.  Each and every day I spend with Greenpeace I find myself more and more excited by the prospects of staying with such an incredible international organization.  Leaving the office, we headed out into the 70 degree afternoon magic, biking through Vondel park, in full bloom, with hundreds of people cruising on bikes and picnic-ing.  The smells and general high energy of that glorious park still lingers in my mind.  Later that evening the coordinators and I biked all around the city, ending up eating dinner on a boat in the water called the End of the World. We visited the Red Light District and a local coffee shop, quite a unique experience indeed.

Today, Friday, through Sunday the students have free time with no scheduled activities which means that I have an opportunity to explore this lovely city and beyond! Kristin (my SF GOT coordinator partner) and I spent the entire day roaming the city and it was one of the most enjoyable days of my life.  I mean, I’ve had a lot of those no doubt, but the reason today was so epic is because Kristin and I have both traveled the world independently and just know how to do it in style. We’re both spontaneous, fun, flexible, adventurous and know how to have a damn good time. We wandered through Amsterdam’s largest market (fruits and veggies, other local culinary delights like frites with mayo, fruit shakes, olives, cheeses, meat, etc. plus clothes of all sorts, art, and Holland prizes of all shapes and sizes) with a few students and I bought some awesome gifts for peeps. Then we had a most delicious coffee in an adorable shop on Leidseplein, the main square in town. Then we went to a secret word of mouth only canal ride tour. We brought olives, gouda, fresh mozarella, pesto, a french baguette, Italian champagne, and a spliff on the boat. Our guide, Neil, was from Vancouver, Canada and we shared the ride with folks from all over the world who were clearly jealous that they did not come as prepared.  But we shared our goodies, of course, to everyone’s excitement. We were able to experience Amsterdam from the splendid view of the canals, winding through the city gliding on water, seeing the most amazing house boats with hundreds of plants, books, hammoc’s, etc. and I decided that my new goal in life is to LIVE on a house boat!!!! How flippin amazing would that be?! They all have so much character and are so small and simple yet lovely! So after some local history and too much pleasure, really, from the food and eye candy, we left a generous donation to the non-profit canal boat tour organization and hopped back on our red bikes (named La Pinta and La Santa Maria, mine and Kristin’s respectively) and cruised to the flower market. We drank some white wine, sat by the water, soaked in the sunshine after some earlier sprinkles, and then fell in love with tulips for an hour.

Tomorrow is a 50 mile bike ride trip to Utrecht, a small village outside of the city, to explore, and Sunday we’re biking to 60 hectares of tulips outside of the city. Monday we spend the day at Greenpeace Netherlands (there is a local office in addition to the international HQ) visiting their warehouse and office.

Feeling extremely happy, grateful, and of course so invigorated and enthusiastic about living abroad as always.  Maybe I can drag Pete along one of these days ; )

Love and tulips!!!!