The first of May is here and I feel all the anticipation for my favorite month ahead. Not only is the weather forecast for the next week pure sunshine and warmth, but the month concludes with my 30th birthday.
After nearly two months of building up a new life in Portland, things are finally starting to take shape. Slowly, but surely. In an attempt to focus less on how life-turned-upside-down this all has been and more on everything that lies ahead, I am making a monthly list of three things to help the settling in process move ahead and make each month a little sweeter. Plus, I love lists.
1. Furnish our apartment
On May 15, Marcus and I will move into our new apartment! We are beyond excited and can only hope that our shipment from Amsterdam will have finally arrived by that point. After living in half-furnished apartments for the last eight years, we finally get to start investing in our own items. First up: a bed, dining room table, and comfy chairs for the living room.
2. Sign up for a library card
Libraries are magical places. The libraries in Amsterdam had a small selection of English-language books, but nothing worthy of a membership. I’ve either purchased or borrowed from friends all the books I’ve read since 2005. I can’t wait to go to the library again.
3. Join a yoga studio
I have been practicing yoga independently for years. It started out during the wintertime in my high-rise apartment in Seoul when I came across a great video series. I’m looking forward to trying out a few studios and hopefully finding a good one in my neighborhood.
What do you hope the month of May brings?
It’s official. After nearly seven years in Amsterdam, I am heading home. The move has been in the works for a while now, but the tangible reality of it is really emotional. It hasn’t always been easy, but this little country has been good to me.
In July 2006, I arrived in the Netherlands with two suitcases in hand. It was my first time stepping foot in the country, enticed by a full scholarship for a two-year Master’s of Arts program. The first year was a rollercoaster as I adjusted to living in Europe, a mix of awe at the beauty of the city and confusion as I wondered where my place was in the world. I had lived in Seoul the year before and, although I loved my family, I didn’t want to live in America. A year into my studies, I wondered if Amsterdam was the place for me. At the height of wanderlust, I imagined moving next to Berlin or Paris. And then…
In September 2007, I met Marcus. A sweet German who had lived in Amsterdam for two years, played music, worked with technology, and is the epitome of stability and love. When I received my diploma in June 2008, I couldn’t imagine leaving him and decided to stay. I entered the Dutch workforce in August 2008, building my career and an amazing network.
Moving to a new apartment. German lessons. A job offer from World Press Photo. Traveling the world. An engagement. A wedding. And then it was 2013.
The two suitcases I arrived with in 2006 have evolved into five cubic meters to be packed in a transatlantic shipping container. I now have my MA degree, a solid professional career, friends from all parts of the world, and an amazing husband. And somehow, despite the distance, I am closer to my family than ever. I don’t mean to make it sound easy. There were moments of tears and frustration, times of loneliness and wondering if I would make it along the way. But I did.
A new life awaits in Portland and there are so many details to arrange before the end of February. But for now, I am going to enjoy these last days with the city that has brought so much to my life.
On the last day of our trip home, Marcus and I went for a walk with my parents in Hoyt Arboretum, nestled above downtown Portland. The temperatures had dropped significantly during our visit, turning the bright autumn colors a duller, winter version. We wandered over the hills as the late-afternoon air turned cool. Finally when our fingers were numb, we headed for dinner at Serratto and then back to Amsterdam in the morning.
Oregon is beautiful in all seasons, but autumn just might be my favorite. After my trip to Casablanca, I returned to Amsterdam for a few days before departing for Portland. The occasion was my father’s 60th birthday, which we celebrated with abandon. My father declared his birthday a season and has been celebrating the past several months with fishing trips to Bend and explorations of hidden lakes. We take birthdays seriously in my family.
The actual celebration of his birthday lasted about three days, starting with a large party on Saturday, complete with live music and an array of baked goods by yours truly. On Sunday, my parents, Marcus, and I went on a long walk through the orange-leaved trees in surprisingly warm weather. We wore summer clothing and sat outside, drinking lemonade and eating watermelon. On Monday – my dad’s actual birthday – we turned in our ballots, went book shopping, and gathered around the table for a family dinner. I’m thankful for such a wonderful family, a dad who has humor and wisdom, and especially for the love of nature he has inspired in each of us, which comes in especially useful each time I return home to Oregon.
Above, a few images from Instagram (clockwise): sunset over the Willamette River taken while hanging out with my two sweet nieces; the sun shining on the leaves of a maple tree in my parent’s garden; the Stayton-Jordan covered bridge; and the view from the Wildwood trail at Hoyt Arboretum.
The first morning I was in Portland, my sister Alyssa and I began the day at the Farmers Market at PSU. She lives downtown and we woke early enough to scout out our breakfast from individual vendors. Chocolate milk, strawberries, and Bavarian-style croissants. Finished off with coffee at Stumptown.
Even with all the impressive markets we have in Amsterdam, there was something special about this market. Perhaps it was the fact that I hadn’t been to a Portland farmers market in years. I also appreciated the space that allowed for people to walk uncrowded. My sister also knew many of the vendors, like the bread bakers who are trying to learn German. Such a perfect start to my trip home.
A beautiful art installation in the Portland International Airport by artist Sayuri Sasaki Hemann. Handmade jellyfish are suspended in a large-scale aquarium. The project aims to ‘create a dialogue between viewers about context and displacement and about the unexpected.’
The jellyfish are styled after the Sky Jelly, A Midsummer’s Night Dream (real name!), Portland Rain, Electric Moss Jellyfish, Magic Jelly, Moonlight Parade, and Sunset Jelly. I would love to unexpectedly come across this work while headed to a flight.
Photos by The Weaver House
New Year’s Eve was such a fantastic night that, 12 days later, I still want to share some photos. The evening started with an early dinner at Jake’s Grill followed by a 7pm performance by Pink Martini at the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall in downtown Portland. A NYE tradition, it was my second time attending the show, a wonderful mix of favorite songs and Christmas songs.
After the show, my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law, Marcus and I headed over to the Benson Hotel for music and a masquerade. Dancing in masks was actually a bit tricky, but we rang in the New Year with style. Shortly after midnight, I petitioned that we head outside for a Berlin-style, on-the-street celebration. Maybe even fireworks? It wasn’t how we imagined and we reached the hotel sooner than expected. Which was when we grabbed our champagne and headed out to enjoy the fire on the terrace. How did you celebrate?