|Vondel Park 12-3-13|
It’s been a few days now that I have been all wrapped up in scarves, long underwear and thick woolen sweaters, keeping as close to the heater as possible . It’s unusually cold in Amsterdam for the time of the year and going out hasn’t been much of an option. The little time I spent outside didn’t do anything to change my mind. The nearby Vondel Park looks miserably deserted with just a handful of dog owners, the trees obscenely naked without their leaves, at least to someone used to the lush green of the tropics. The cold gnaws at every square centimeter of exposed skin, bites around the eyes, numbs cheeks and lips. My nose feels like it is no longer a part of my body. Despite gloves and triple sock wear, the chill seeps into my extremities and settles into the bones of toes and fingers, an uncomfortable nuisance for which there is no remedy but a hot steaming bath.
I wander streets and canals, regularly stopping at stores that don’t sell anything I’m necessarily interested in, but the blasting heaters at the entrance haul me in. Once inside, the sudden heat is overpowering and it takes a while before scarves are loosened, gloves stored away in pockets, zippers undone, hat taken off, hair teased back in something near-decent. I pass isle by isle, pretending to be interested in Nespresso coffeemakers until fingers and toes are unfrozen again, just to repeat the whole process in reverse.
Once back home, it’s a relief get out of the prison of jackets, legwarmers, mittens and boots. Next to the heater, fingers tingle slowly back into useful body parts while my cheeks start to burn as if on fire. I have lived more than half of my life in Holland and can’t remember to be too bothered by the cold in the past. But now, after sixteen years in the tropics, it most definitively does. Funny though how you forget about what cold actually feels like. Once you learn to live without it, the cold becomes an abstract concept that is hard to imagine. Time after time, on my way to Holland or Canada in wintertime, I convinced myself that an extra long-sleeved shirt and sweater would be more than sufficient. And time after time, a few hours at the air-conditioned airport of San Pedro Sula quickly cured me of that misconception, long before taking off.
But more than the cold and miserable drizzle, what I can really do without, is the greyness of it all. Whether the sky reflects the faces of the people or the other way around, in the end everything is just a big grey soup: people’s clothes, houses, puddles on the streets, miserable looking dogs, the hunched over elderly. Nothing as exciting as fifty shades of grey, just boring grey, grim and grizzly. In Honduras we have those days too, and after only a day or three I get antsy and depressed. But then, always, the clouds make place for a blazing sun and everything is good again. A day later we’ll all complain about the heat, but well, complaints about the weather are universal. Could I ever go back to live in Holland, with six months a year of grey misery? No way!
But just as I’m writing this, the sun comes out. Heavy grey overcast is being replaced by a pale but gorgeous springtime blue. The sun brings out the colours of the brick houses in the street. Through the window it even warms my chilled fingers on the keyboard. It’s probably my imagination, but the buds on the branches before my window all of a sudden look eager to pop. Amsterdam is incredibly beautiful when the sun shines. I think I’m going to pull my old rollerblades out of the closet and go for a spin...