Welcome to Holland! It Rains.



The view from my kitchen window.

The view from my kitchen window.

Today I rode my bike through the streets of Amsterdam for the first time. I’ve been here for a week, but I didn’t do it right away because the seat was so high I couldn’t reach the pedals. The seat has now been lowered as much as possible, but it’s still so high that I sort of have to leap on and off. Apparently this is how it’s supposed to be done anyway, and I’m silly and oh-so-American for having ridden a cruiser around Orange County with a seat so low I can almost stand on the ground while sitting.

So I was trying out my bright green Dutch bike on the street outside the house this afternoon and the neighbor asked if it was my first time on a bicycle. Sufficiently embarrassed, I got a bit of a running start, threw myself onto the seat, and wobbled proudly away. When I realized I actually could do it and was nervous for no reason (like so many times before), I excitedly grabbed the French au pair next door and took off for a ride. Without an umbrella. Or a poncho. Or a jacket.

We rode along the canal that we live on for a while before deciding to stop and do some exploring. Locking our bikes up on a bridge, we set off to wander through the Nine Streets, a charming shopping area full of colorful boutiques and funky cafes. Tiny warning drops started falling so we ducked into a restaurant for lunch and to (I thought) wait out the weather. It didn’t let up. In fact – and to no one’s surprise, I’m sure – it rained harder.

We had no choice but to ride home in the downpour. Andrea didn’t mind. She’s been here a month and was smart enough to bring her poncho. I, on the other hand, have been fooled terribly by the sunny days we’ve had this week, and figured I’d manage to stay dry somehow.

Wrong. Off we rode over the bridges and canals, through the traffic and puddles, the soft but thorough rain stinging my eyes and soaking my hair, until finally pulling up to our front doors. My mascara melted down my cheeks and I was able to wring out my shirt when I removed it inside.

I can’t say it was a fun ride, but it was exhilarating in a way. And riding a bicycle in the rain is totally, undeniably Dutch. I walked into the house – looking like a drowned dog and waddling in my wet jeans like a baby who’s crapped himself – and my house mother said, “Welcome to Holland!” I finished her thought, nodding as a foggy wave of realization showered down on me: “It rains.”

And so it does. But at least I managed to keep my bike upright.


3 Responses to “Welcome to Holland! It Rains.”

  1. 1 Ann Cox - aunt Bee
    September 14, 2008 at 3:37 am

    Hello Shannon – how exciting for you to be in Amsterdam. Grams and I only visited Amsterdam briefly but were quite fascinated and would have lied to have stayed longer. We saw some charming little towns. Your web page is great – as was your page from Italy. Great way to keep in touch. – Love Aunt Bee and Grams

  2. 2 Sara
    September 16, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Mmm those rain drops look like a cozy time from your window.

  3. 3 Dad
    September 21, 2008 at 7:14 am

    A thoroughly splashing introduction to Amsterdam. I am enjoying your blog so much, from the introspective to the simple narration, like the rain, it is neat to see and feel what your are seeing and feeling Blog on.. . . and stay dry. Love Dad

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"Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!" -Henry James, The Art of Fiction
September 2008
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