Earlier in the week, I had a couple stop my wife and me on the street and ask for directions. They had a nice large tourist map and some sort of red dot on the map which I believe was their destination. We turned them 180 degrees to the right (or maybe to the left), pointed, gestured, and then watched them stroll happily down the street.
Over the past few months I've attended a few events at the Amsterdam Language Cafe to spend an evening with other locals drinking a beer or two and practicing Dutch. As barely a beginner+, it is a very humbling and frustrating experience for me. I can usually make it past the first hour but when the conversation moves past the usual questions and the organised events start, it is much much harder for me to keep up. On top of that, jokes fly over my head, I make zero jokes (and I'm usually very funny) and just end up just smiling a lot.
I came here a year ago still working for the same US-based company and the same co-workers I've worked with remotely for several years. It was easy. It is easy. Last week a pair of Syrian refugees, a mother and her daughter with similar Dutch skills as me attended the Language Cafe. They kept asking everyone "what it was that made them happy". Their bravery to interact and put themselves out there was great to witness.
Now here's the embarrassing part - almost exactly a year ago I sat on a train coming back from Germany into Amsterdam. The train was late and it was very dark when we finally pulled into Centraal. Before that I sat on my seat listening to four Syrian refugees talking about their web development skills to another passenger. And that is a stretch - I'm only sure that two of them could speak English. I couldn't help but wonder what the heck they were going to do when they got off the train. When we finally did depart, I stopped and watched. A volunteer with a sign was there to great them with water and welcome packets in hand. She gathered them up and walked them away.
It was then (yes, a year ago) that I felt inspired do something to help. I didn't do anything until just this week and finally donated to a local charity called Dutch Refugee Council. It's been a long time coming to fulfil my promise to myself. I never said the promise out-loud or wrote it down, but I knew it was there in the back of my head somewhere. I give thanks to all the good folks I met last week that inspired me to finally make good on that promise.
Paul in Amsterdam.