Amsterdam for Introverts

Hello friends! I spent this weekend in the lovely city of Amsterdam, and wrote all about it here: https://deargodson.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/amsterdam/

But here, on my introvert-y blog, is where I tell you about how to be an introvert in this city full of life.

First of all, do the typical introvert stuff during the day when you have tons of energy. Go to the Rijksmuseum and wander around in quietness. Then enjoy a peaceful coffee–but not in a coffee shop. Those sell drugs. Try a “cafe” instead.

A paddleboat may sound nice and calm, but there are many speedy boats that might give you anxiety. Oh, and speaking of speed, watch out for the bikes. Follow the traffic laws to a T, and don’t cross the street without looking both ways for silent bikes and motorcycles that come out of nowhere. Keep in mind, sometimes the lanes go onto the sidewalk as well. Really, nowhere is safe from bikes.

Looking for a quiet experience that will blow you away? Two words: Anne Frank.

Finally, I suggest steering clear of the red light district. Even on a guided tour, the area is loud, bustling, bright, and overall not made for an introvert.

While Amsterdam has quite the nightlife for extroverts, there is also plenty for introverts as well, from the high-culture shows like ballet to the more niche shows like The Amsterdam Dungeon, there is something for everybody.

Enjoy a nice, quiet, lovely, amazing time in this beautiful city:)

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Pretending to be an extrovert

There are occasions throughout life when being an introvert is not ideal. A semester abroad is one of those times.

Since the Boston airport I’ve been chatting with people, joining groups on a whim, striking up conversations, and sustaining small talk. It’s been exhausting, but also really nice. I went from having no friends and being really nervous to having plenty of friends and lots of travel plans.

Throughout the week I kept bonding with whomever I could. It’s been difficult but lovely, and it became easier the more I did it. I think it’s good to be able to pretend to be an extrovert.

However, it is not a mask I can wear for too long. Thank goodness for no-class Mondays! I spent today, everyone’s first day of class, on a solo bike ride down a lovely Dutch bike trail. I saw some cute animals along the way, like two horses, some cows, some sheep, and even a small herd of deer that someone had kept as farm animals (or pets? I’m not sure). Then I got back to my room I share with two other girls, and it was empty. What a rarity! I caught up on my YouTube shows and ate a few Stroopwafels, allowing myself to unwind.

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I was impressed with my ability to make friends in such a hectic, crazy, beautiful, wonderful place. I feel like I’ve already grown as a person while in the Netherlands, and it’s only been four days!

More importantly, I can see now where I may have gone wrong before, like with high school and the beginning of college. There are some introverts here, I can tell. They sit alone at meals, they don’t talk before class. I realize now that seeming shut off to the world like that can make one seem unappealing to befriend. A bit of reservedness is fine, but appearing too introverted can, I would say, be a bad thing.

Perhaps when one can’t be alone, one should embrace company. Nothing is wrong with reading at night, or a solo-stroll around the grounds, or any other time alone, but when I must be with people I will BE with people. Openly, honestly, 100%.

Basically, I don’t feel the need to hide myself anymore. And I feel good about that.

Kids

I have the three most adorable younger cousins I could possibly ask for. Aged 5, 3, and 8 months, they are one of the things I will miss most during my three months away.

Today, the oldest (and most emotional) found out that I was leaving.

“No you’re not,” he said after my dad told him. I was unaware we were telling them, just sitting on the floor with the baby. “I’m gonna ask my dad.”

“I promise you, she is.”

I told him to be excited! I was going to stay in a castle! He told me castles didn’t exist, they were just pretend.

I told him I wouldn’t be gone long, and I’d be back before Christmas. Soon I got him to stop crying. He said it was OK as long as I was going in a plane instead of a car.

I love those kids so much. It hurts me to hurt them.

 

Whenever I see them, I leave either wanting to have kids immediately or never ever wanting a child, ever. I’m twenty. These feelings are probably rather natural.

I certainly don’t want a kid now. I’m too young, I’m too immature. I certainly want to be settled down with a stable job before even thinking about kids. However, a time in which I’m stable is likely not too far off.

I think being an introverted, anxiety-prone parent must be difficult. I would never get time alone, and I’d never get time to work on hobbies (or writing!). I want to travel and eat in nice restaurants and have nice clothes and sleep through the night, and it feels like kids take that away.

On the other hand, I love kids. I love teaching, I love reading to them, I love hearing their stories, I love showing them new things. I love them a lot.

I guess the deal is that I know I would be a good mother to a child. But it may not be good for me. I would give everything I have to it, but would have no energy left for myself, and I think it’s fair to not be ready for that.

Then again, what do I know? Like I said, I’m only twenty. There are probably plenty of parents and non-parents alike reading this and shaking their heads at my innocence, at my ignorance.

Ah, well. This is all a problem for Future Tina to figure out. Right now, Present Tina only has to worry about my job and preparing for Europe.

 

I really hate hurting him though. I know, little buddy, it’s hard to leave someone you love. But it’s not that long. And it will be easier than you think.

Flowers and wine

Today is my birthday! Yay! And tomorrow is Easter! Happy Easter, if you celebrate!

I’m running around crazy this weekend so I asked my boyfriend Colin to write another guest post, since his post last week got great feedback. He’s planning on starting his blog, Voices Walking, at the beginning of April. He’ll start along with the A-Z Challenge (which I’m also doing), so these guest posts are his way of testing the water of the blogosphere before diving in.

Tomorrow I’m doing one of those chain blog post question things, but regular Playground posting will resume on Monday. Without further ado, Colin’s post about his trek through the Mexican jungle, Flowers and Wine:

 

Last summer I watched a documentary called “Somme,” about new sommeliers training for their exam by testing each other’s palates and aptitude at describing the flavors hidden within each wine. Watching these people with seemingly superhuman aptitudes to taste and smell, I was inspired: I wanted to be like them, something about the sheer depth of knowledge and carefully honed senses made me tremble with envy. How could one possibly embark on a journey like this? When I can barely taste the difference between a red and a white, how could I cultivate a palate to match the excitement that sparkled in the sommeliers’ eyes for their craft?

I recently met someone else with that same joy, that sparkle in the eyes and the inability to sit still and not explore a new flavor. While in a botany class, hiking through the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, I felt an immediate desire to learn how to savor each and every plant around me, thanks to the bright-eyed excitement of our professor. Having that joy in your work, coupled with the skill of knowing deeply every secret in a fern’s leaves, is deeply infectious to me. It makes me want to learn, to have that same passion. Watching him identify a plant was just like watching a master savor a taste of wine. He would look the plant up and down, drinking in the intricacies of the shape and texture through his hand lens. Next, he would tear up a leaf and smell deeply whatever odor it excreted, and bite into the stalk with the same tentativeness of a sommelier moving on from the swirl to the first delicate sip. The sommelier lists the characteristics and pinpoints the exact variety of wine. The botanist does the same.

How do you develop this precision, this deep understanding of your craft? Luckily, I was blessed with an insight into the process, that was the point of this class after all, and my professor pushed us hard to understand the work behind such a passion. We had to understand the structure of plants, how they grow and reproduce. After that we had to know all the characteristics plants could keep, in order to differentiate between different groups and families. From there, we got to start our business in the cloud forests of Oaxaca, armed with a basic understanding of how plants work. We used all our senses to identify these plants, learning more families as we went on. We used broad stokes at first, but with time we got more precise, learning a few genera and species by the end. But in general, we were learning to taste a Merlot, but we weren’t pinpointing flavors, nor were we learning to taste the manufacturer or the region of production. Nevertheless, I loved learning, even on such a surface level, the skills required to place a plant in the Solanaceae or the Cucurbitaceae, the nightshade and squash families, respectively. It felt as though I was gaining a skill! And because of that I continue to find the specifics immensely beautiful, the small things people spend so much time honing their skills to identify out of sheer passion.

When I turn off the documentary or return from the forest, however… Those passions seem to fade. I study geography and global studies, two very open ending subjects in the all-too-often unspecific social sciences. Too few of my compatriots spend time to learn things. My school professes to teach students how to “think,” but how can one think when you aren’t required to know the details behind your hypothesis? The sommelier has his wine and the botanist his plants, but what do I have? One day I hope to find the specific thing that I can push myself to study and know inside and out. I’ll keep on looking, studying how the world works, and praying that one day I will be drawn to a subject less wide, but as deep as the sea.

Comforting Moon (Guest Post)

My boyfriend Colin is on a study abroad program in Oaxaca, Mexico. An introvert himself, he wrote this guest post about how being in Mexico gave him the confidence and drive to connect with people he normally wouldn’t have.

If you like this guest post, please leave a comment or email Colin at crugg129@gmail.com. He’s thinking about starting his own blog, so any feedback will be welcome. Enjoy!

Comforting Moon

When you look at the stars you can forget where you are. You can look up past the stars into the darkness, the same midnight blue around the world, and be comforted. That is, until the little differences start to build up, the new constellations or the angle of the moon, and again you feel alone.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, the moon waxes vertically, so that all I can see is an ever-thickening canoe, distinct from the classic DreamWorks chair. The people here eat chapulines (grasshoppers), put ketchup in their beer, and consistently arrive at least a half-hour late for any scheduled meeting. The worst cultural quirk one has to overcome is the infuriating habit people here have, upon being asked for directions, of instructing you on an imaginary pathway when they have never heard of the place you are seeking, all for the purpose of being polite. These are the small differences that weigh on you. Nothing revolutionary, but enough to weigh you down and make you question why you came: culture shock.

How do you overcome it? For me it was the simple act of discussion. When you talk to a Oaxacan beyond the obligatory “tell me about Oaxaca,” they rarely discuss the subtleties of munching on a cricket or the need to throw toilet paper in a trashcan so as to not clog the toilet. These are things that they do, not things that they are, just as Americans are a bit more complex than cheese-whiz, to-go coffee, and a bizarre desire to flaunt red, white, and blue.

When you talk to a Oaxacan, they often cease to be a Oaxacan to become a person. My host mother in the city, Martha, likes to travel and loves to tell stories about her children. My Spanish teacher, Miguel, studied geology for a semester in Oregon, and when his girlfriend at the time broke up with him his roommate helped him to discover Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. When you look past all the little differences, the customs that mean hardly anything, the placement of the stars, you realize that we are all the same. The comfort of a familiar midnight blue is the comfort of a shared humanity.

So then why do we travel? Why did I go far from home, learn a new language, and waste money to talk to people who are deep down the same as people back home in the Northeastern United States? After much thought, it can be put simply: to gain new perspectives. When you have to learn a new language, you not only have to work hard to be understood, but you also have to talk to strangers. People you would never have spoken to otherwise. You have to look for that deep blue sky somewhere under the new words and alien accent, because you’ll never learn French by talking to a Frenchman. Only from a person who speaks French. So now, I, the same boy who never raised his hand in class and murmured awkwardly as classmates introduced themselves to me, have begun to initiate conversations with complete strangers. I can talk about myself, not for myself but to connect with someone else and feel the humanity that they share with me. I can only hope that upon returning to my English-speaking homeland that this new perspective holds. Everyone is more than just their title. A brief connection can help you forget the strange angle of the moon.

Time Zones, and a Big! announcement

Hello, friends. It just recently came to my attention that my WordPress clock was off for some reason, so things have been posting willy-nilly at random hours. I’m sorry if an email about my blog woke you up at like, three in the morning. I fixed my clock and now things should be posting at better hours…according to Eastern United States times, anyway.

It’s always a bit mind-boggling when I think about how people are living at different hours–even in different dates!–across the world right now. Having to accommodate for time zone changes is something I’ll have to get used to…in my semester abroad.

Surprise!

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This fall, I’ll be studying at Kasteel Well, shown above, a literal castle that my school owns in the town of Well in the Netherlands. I’ll get to visit several countries while there, all while taking a Travel Writing course.

What does this mean for Introvert Playground? Not much change. I’ll still be posting about the introvert life, but now it will include how to travel as an introvert. I’ll also be posting bits about the trip separately.

I’m very excited! It’s really the first thing I have to look forward to in a long time. It’s a well-earned break, that will help me expand my horizons and learn more about the world that I have only discovered a small portion of.

Also, fellow introverts, where should I go? The weekends are free for us to travel to any country we want in Europe. Any suggestions? Any little, hole-in-the-wall places, lesser-known cities, hidden museums, exciting locales, fun outdoor hikes I may not find myself?

I hope you’re excited as I am! I depart in September, so it won’t be for awhile, but I’m still glad I get to bring you on this journey with me, and document it day-by-day for the future. Much better than a hap-hazard Facebook photo album, no?

In the meantime, share your favorite places, and travel tips for introverts. I’m working on an introvert travel guide to post here.

Love much!

Christina

>70

Well, finally, there’s less than 70 days left until my boyfriend comes home from Mexico. I count the days in every way possible, fitting them into weeks, months, hours, sets of ten, sets of 12…Just trying desperately to put them in a form that makes it seem shorter. Today my focus is on dividing it into an improper fraction of months and days—two months and nine days. I can do nine days, and after nine days I’ll only have 2 months to go, and the day after that I’ll only have 1 month, 3 weeks, and 6 days.

January was hard, because I looked at the calendar and saw April 16 four months away. It gets closer every day, but the days pass so slowly. My semester will be two weeks away from being over. I’ll have been at the Globe for four months. My godson will be five months old. Lent and Easter will have come and passed. I’ll have my birthday. So much will happen in the next two months and nine days. But I don’t care. I would rather skip them all and go right to April 16.

My suitemate said he doesn’t like rushing through things, and I don’t either, really. But when the day to day is rather plain, and all I want to do is be with my boyfriend, I can’t help but wish I had that remote from Click. Fast forward, 2x.

I feel like I have things to do, but I don’t. The two-classes life, along with an 8 hr work day with less than 8 hrs of work leaves me with plenty of free time to count calendar days. It starts to look like a map. A quest, from February to April.

I know I shouldn’t dwell on it…but that’s hard to do. After all, I’m not the one trekking the rainforests of Oaxaca, I’m sitting in a cubicle all day.

We go to different colleges, so yes, we’ve been in a long distance relationship, so to speak, for awhile. It’s just that this distance is much greater, and there aren’t any visits in between. In many ways, it’s better, because he’s much happier there than in Vermont, and we do talk a bit every day. And it’s making us a stronger couple.

I’m asking my parents to send me abroad in the fall, but these hard months are one reason why, if they say no, it won’t be the end of the world…too much.