The Stolen Bike: A Rite of Passage

The expatriate life can be a tricky, emotional journey. If you're like me, with strong family and friend ties to the land from which you came, it often feels as if you're caught between two worlds. I seem to go back and forth between being ecstatic to live in Amsterdam and missing Minnesota to the point where my heart aches.

You see, on one hand, Amsterdam is most certainly my home. In late August 2013, I became an registered Amsterdammer (you may recall the post written excitedly after mijn verblijfsvergunning is ingewilligd). I've since planted roots by personalizing our flat, starting a job, and paying taxes here among other things. All the signs point to the fact that Amsterdam is my home, and most days I feel this way too.

On the other hand, I have moments when I wonder what exactly I'm doing here, and why I chose to move an ocean away from so many that I love (I'm pretty sure that just returning from a week in Florida with my family has something to do with these feelings rising to the surface). While I have become accustomed to the many differences between my old home and my new home, I don't necessarily feel that I fit in with Dutch culture and have realized that I'll never fully feel like a Dutch woman

Yes, being an expatriate has its ups and downs. And yesterday, I experienced a combination of both feelings in the event I'm now referring to as "The Stolen Bike: A Rite of Passage." As I'm sure you know, Amsterdam is full of bicycles. In fact, the data I find tells me that there are as many bikes as people, if not more, in Amsterdam proper. That said, I'm not sure why bicycle theft is such a problem since the research indicates everyone already has a bike, but unfortunately it is, and unfortunately I'm not immune to it.

My first bike in Amsterdam got me safely to my first wedding,
but ended up costing more money and causing more trouble than it was worth.

About two months ago, I purchased a brand new, shiny bike to replace the used bike that was starting to give me more trouble than it was worth. My goodness, how I loved my new ride. It was an omafiets (direct translation: grandma bicycle) which means that it had pedal brakes and no gears ... just an average yet beautiful street bike like the one your grandmother rode when she was young (or something like that). 

This empty space on the sidewalk is where my bike should be.

Imagine my disappointment when the husband and I walked down the stairs with a picnic in tow to find an empty sidewalk where my bike should have been. I was incredibly bummed. Not only were we no longer going to be able to ride to the Amstelpark and enjoy a picnic in the sun surrounded by budding flowers, but my beloved bicycle was gone. And probably forever.

It was then, well actually it was after a few tears were shed, that the husband tried to spin the event in a positive light (I think my gratitude project is having an effect on him as well). He shared the story of when his bike was stolen a few years back, he reminded me of our other friend's bike that was stolen a few months ago, and both stories then caused me to remember another friend who had her bike stolen this week. He helped me realize that as much as a stolen bike really, truly sucks, I have now gone through the Amsterdam rite of passage to become a true Amsterdammer. It's just too bad that I'm now an Amsterdammer without a bicycle.

So here I am, about to spend my afternoon looking for a new bike and reflecting to see if there is a lesson I can take away from this (a lesson besides the fact that it's probably a good idea to lock my bike to a rack instead of just to itself). What I'm finding is that no matter how comfortable I may feel some days, there are bound to be other days when I feel out of place. As happy as I am to be starting a marriage with the love of my life, there will always be part of me that misses my other loves across the ocean. The lows will continue to accompany the highs, but what matters most is how I choose to view the events that happen to me. So today, I choose to feel like a true Amsterdammer, to find a new set of wheels to take me where I need to go, and to enjoy my life as an expatriate.

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