Always the loudest man in the room, the widest smile, the best stories, the worst jokes, the biggest heart, and the most full of life. I just can’t stop thinking about Otto. Impossible to wrap my head around his hasty exit.
Happy in The Hague
I’ve been living in The Hague (Den Haag) for more than 5 months now (whoa, what?!). It’s been enough time for me to experience a pleasant evolution of sentiment about my circumstances and surroundings. What started as a disappointed exodus from Amsterdam has turned into a delighted embrace of Agga (what the cool kids are calling it, apparently).
I first moved here out of necessity. A lack of affordable (and also bearable) options in Amsterdam led me to look outside of the city. And it didn’t take me long to find a cute little place in The Hague that was in a modest price range.
My newly adopted city was a mere 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam, which I convinced myself was nothing compared to my former daily commute by subway from East Flatbush, Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. I could get back and forth to Amsterdam with ease, even daily if I wanted. And I thought I might want to. I had friends, favorite restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, and seemingly places to be in Amsterdam. In order to tolerate life in this new city, I would surely have to make frequent trips back to the only city that mattered. Continue reading
Your family tree is waiting
And it might be getting impatient. Now is the time!
Lost histories and forgotten ancestors just shouldn’t be a thing. So I’m in the business of getting family trees started. Check out the new pages of Black Girl Gone, Seeking Ancestors, to learn about my family history research services. And once you’re ready for some answers of your own, let’s get started on your family tree.
Special offer for Black Girl Gone readers! Blog subscribers: receive a 10% discount if you submit a research request before August 31, 2014
Also, I remain committed to the powerful benefits of genealogy for young people with my nonprofit, Ancestors unKnown. (Stay tuned for an exciting reboot over there that’s coming soon.)
The opposite of dormant
I’ve been working on my online life, improving and monitoring my use of the sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. With a budding business, I’m finally starting to take all the social media advice seriously (apparently the craze has some staying power). And since all of these sites have the power to be linked and synced – to a creepy, “I’ll Be Watching You” degree, it made sense to toss my personal accounts into the revamped and monitored mix.
After signing up for one of the social media usage/measurement programs, most of sites reported decent effort, as if they said, “We see you’re trying. And we appreciate the effort.” But my dear, sweet blog – the one that’s been with me longer than most – sat at the end of the report: “Dormant.”
“Not true,” I thought. In fact, I think about the blog almost everyday. Continue reading
Register? Who, me?
Immigration matters? Uh, no thanks. Not interested.
Well, that’s been my approach pretty much the entire time I’ve been here. I was a student back in 2011. So when I moved from the U.S. to the Netherlands, the University handled everything with very little input from me. Aside from a bunch of fees and a delay when I first arrived, it was a pretty mindless process. From my residency status to my city registration, they had it covered. I received my registration details in the mail. I barely understood the purpose. And I just had to show up with my passport and smile (or not) to receive my residence permit card.
For once, I was basking in the glow of privilege.* Continue reading
Keys that fit
Have you ever had trouble getting a key to turn a lock? Sometimes a key will go into the slot pretty easily, confirming you have the right one. But no matter how aggressive you are with the right turn and jiggle maneuver, the thing won’t budge. You turn it upside down. You adjust its depth. You try other keys. But you know you have the right key – the one that won’t turn.
Then you take a second to breathe. Frustration subsides. Your grip loosens. And suddenly, as if you were imagining the countless seconds of resistance, the key finds its groove. The lock turns with ease.
Fears, doubts, inspirations and pink Cadillacs
I may have made some mistakes. But isn’t there some sort of saying about life being about taking risks, making a mess of things, and somehow coming out on top – or happier – or wiser – or some shit like that? If not, such a saying should exist.
I was in the U.S. for a couple of months a little while ago. I traveled quite a bit while there, getting to see lots (though not all) of the important people, including my Mom. It was at my Mom’s when I started to have some doubts about returning to Amsterdam. In a safe refuge where I was fed, emotionally supported, and understood the language spoken, I wondered if it was time to close the chapter and wrap up the fantasy of living in the Netherlands.Perhaps all signs were directing me back to a stable and U.S.-based reality.
Bugging the elders
To save money, I’ve been staying with an older woman who lives in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. As I mentioned before, she’s 82 and delightful. And we’ve spent hours talking. Our topics range from her time in the Air Force, dating life (hers and mine), racism in the South, racism in the North, the children we both love (but never birthed), and memories of childhood.
Her honesty is refreshing. And I’m happy that she likes me. I was even shown a picture of her single nephew who’s about my age, with the slightest hints of our future together (though she doubts he’ll ever marry).
But there’s just this one thing that came up recently: Continue reading
Pro: Freedom to roam
I complained in my last post about not having a stable place to live. Well, technically I’m still homeless. And I stand by my complaints. But sometimes the bright side of a bad situation turns out to be the point of it all. In this case, once I was able to recognize that bright side, I realized it’s what I’ve been wanting all along: freedom.
Stability would be cool. Eventually I want to have all of my stuff in one place. And I’d like to eliminate that uncertain pause when people ask me where I live. But in the meantime, what have I been complaining about? This is the perfect time to take advantage of my life with no leash. As you may know, I thrive on opportunities to pick up and go wherever, whenever. So I trashed that rising anxiety and purchased another plane ticket.
Con: not having a home
One of the major disadvantages to this quirky lifestyle I’ve created for myself is home instability. When everything else is up in the air, not having a stable address just might be the worst part. It’s probably the thing that would deter most people from choosing this route. And I don’t blame them.
Occasionally I look back on some of my former apartments and try to remember what it felt like to be at home. Places where I could have stayed for much longer. But they rarely kept me for more than 3 years. There was the cute, oddly-shaped Oakland apartment with the red door. I had a sliver of a view of Lake Merritt, a private entrance, and a back door, all of which made me think I was doing something. In Philadelphia I had the nicest and cheapest (in retrospect) apartment, with a huge porch, two floors, a gigantic bedroom, and a view of one of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants. Forget about everything else that may have been upsetting me at those times…they were the good ‘ole days! I had a lease, some keys, and immediate access to all of my belongings.
Today, well, not so much. Continue reading