Hello all and welcome to another week of People & Pints! This weekend I was lucky enough to host my great friends Ambrey and Maddie in Amsterdam. I was disappointed that the weather was quite gloomy but my friends enjoyed the trip nonetheless. Ambrey and Maddie are also from Boston College–though they are studying in Paris and Heidelberg, respectively. In light of the tragedy in Paris this weekend, I was very happy Ambrey was here in Amsterdam and, though we were pretty shaken at first, we continued to enjoy the few days together; it did prove a strange endeavor to have a fun time while still thinking about the terrible event that had taken place. We decided to push on with our weekend and explore the city together, attempting to dodge the rain and shelter ourselves from the wind. And, of course, enjoy some beer.
I became friends with Ambrey and Maddie through our time at The Gavel (Hence the pun in the title! Get it? Ok.) and we chatted quite a bit about writing and the upcoming elections for the position of Editor-in-Chief. Ambrey has also been working on a blog during her time abroad and we talked about some of our struggles. “A lot of times I push it off so the things I want to write about kind of pile up.” I agreed with her but Ambrey said she enjoyed that People & Pints has a “theme.” I admitted that it does help keep me on a weekly schedule. Maddie teased me about the blog, “are we going to be the people for People & Pints?!” “We’ll see,” I said, laughing. Maddie later revealed that she had read all of my posts, which was a sweet surprise. One effect of People & Pints, Maddie suggested, was just an overall increase in her interest of beer, which I realized was subconsciously part of my goal. “I do hope people find it more interesting, not just about drinking.” I offered Ambrey and Maddie some practical information about craft beer throughout the weekend but it was more fun to just enjoy the beer together and talk.
Now that I had the People for the blog, we had to find the Pints. I decided to take Ambrey and Maddie to Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Although I had been several times before, I thought that ‘t IJ would be a very clear representation of the craft beer experience in Amsterdam. The bar was packed but we managed to get our drinks and find space to chat. I ordered the IJwit, a delicious wheat beer.The commercial description from ‘t IJ labels it “a delicious thirst-quencher” and I agree it is incredibly refreshing. The IJwit was light in color but flavorful with notes of orange, lemon and coriander.
Our conversation became a bit sober, though, as we began to discuss the realities of the Paris attacks. When we first heard about the attacks we were preparing to go to a party for the night. We were getting ready when Ambrey very matter-of-factly stated, “There’s been a shooting in Paris.” I remember initially thinking it was probably a small scale shooting. But we quickly continued to receive information and each of us, with our eyes focused on our phones, reported whatever news we could. “It happened outside of the soccer stadium.” “There are hostages.” “They don’t know who is responsible.” Then we started asking the hard questions about our friends’ safety. “Is Tyler safe?” “Did you hear from Evan?” It took some time but eventually we found out everyone was ok. We had confirmed that friends and fellow students were safe but it was still strange to consider the proximity of the attack. We contemplated the response of France and whether or not Ambrey would have trouble returning to Paris. Paris was of course not the only city attacked; Beirut had also been targeted. But we were more struck by the immediacy of being within the continent. “We’re in Europe at a pretty crazy time,” I stated. Ambrey and Maddie agreed. Eventually we transitioned to more lighthearted topics like recapping our previous night at the club and our plans for dinner.
One revelation for Ambrey and Maddie was the delicious food we enjoyed. We sampled some homemade stroopwafels and our friend Elise led us to some of her favorite poffertjes. Elise was hosting another friend from BC, Kara, and they joined in on most of the activities of the weekend. Our guests were ultimately very charmed by the great food available. However, much of what they saw of Amsterdam was not exactly a surprise. Ambrey and Maddie elaborated that they both were expecting the weather to be cold and that bikes would be very prevalent. Moreover, when we later took a tour of the Red Light District, though it was a unique experience, Maddie said that she was relatively aware that it would be “tame” and “not too crazy.” I was indeed glad that Ambrey and Maddie weren’t in shock or appalled of this reality of Amsterdam. More importantly, I was just happy that they were enjoying the city I have been calling home.
Throughout the weekend we chatted about returning to Boston and how we were missing aspects of being in the US. We each have been enjoying our abroad experiences but, as Ambrey aptly noted, “the United States just has more convenience.” Both Maddie and I agreed that certain things were much easier in the United States, like getting sick or talking with family and friends. We also expressed our anxiety about returning to “real life” at various points. Although we spent a good deal of time joking, eating and drinking beer, we did discuss serious things like classes, internships and relationships.
The weekend ended on a pretty interesting note, having begun on a shocking one. Maddie left early Sunday morning but Ambrey stayed until the evening. In the remaining time, Ambrey and I joined Elise and Kara to witness the arrival of Sinterklaas in Amsterdam. Young, blonde, excited Dutch children lined the canals as we watched boatloads of Zwarte Pieten and finally Sinterklaas himself. The Netherlands’ version of Saint Nick or Santa Claus has his own helpers: Black Peters. I was aware of the character thanks to The Office but it was very strange to see Dutch people dressed in black face welcoming Sinterklaas as children excitedly cheered and mimicked the mildly racist costume. I was told that the role of Zwarte Piet–a moorish slave boy–had persisted, despite some complaints of racism, with minor changes and a stance that sites tradition, not prejudice. Apparently the story had changed to claim that Zwarte Piet’s face was just covered in soot from the chimneys, which is a bit of a hard sell. It was certainly a unique experience, if not a bit uncomfortable.
Eventually I had to say goodbye to Ambrey too–after some jokes about the Sinterklaas events. I reiterated that I was glad she had left Paris on this particular weekend and Ambrey agreed, departing into Centraal Station for her train back home. I walked to my apartment thinking about the strange dichotomy of having fun with the knowledge of a tragedy in the background. I had felt guilty at certain points throughout the weekend but I did enjoy spending time with Ambrey and Maddie. The events of the weekend were scary but it reminded me to still enjoy fun times with great friend; I was very aware of the immediacy of tragedy but also about being with great people: laughing, talking and drinking delicious beer.
Featured Image via Flickr