Yesterday I was roaming the streets of Amsterdam with the goal in mind to interview a couple of inhabitants. I watched several people passing by but it looked as if they were not really in the mood for an interview. It was a saturday morning and people were either doing their groceries or were in a hurry, on their way to somebody or something, trying to catch a bus or a train. So after a while I felt quite discouraged and was almost giving up for this day.
But then I met a very nice couple, a father called Sinew and his daughter called Dhairjee, who were living in Amsterdam for approximately 40 years now. At first the daughter told me that they were a bit in a hurry but they agreed to let me ask a couple of questions about their life in Amsterdam and a very nice small conversation started.
They were originally from Surinam and were now living separately in a neighbourhood called the ‘Indische Buurt’ in the eastern part of Amsterdam.
A neighboorhood where I lived for more than ten years. I had a very unpleasant experience there. After I had moved in to my apartment I was mugged after three months. So that definitely set the tone! The guy that robbed me said that he wanted my money, but probably to be friendly, that he did not want all of it. He put something sharp on my groin so I looked in my wallet and saw two notes. One of 100 guilders and one 25 ( this was all before the euro). Because he did not want all of my money I took out the 25-note. He was not really happy with the amount and now the strange thing happened that he gave me back my 25-note and said that he wanted the other note. So I gave him that and then he quickly went away.
Now this neighboorhood has been cleaned up a lot (new houses and restaurants and bars, etcetera). Dhairjee and Sinew told me that they felt safe now ( people had been breaking in to the apartment of Sinew some ten years ago). Sometimes Dhairjee has to go to work at 6.00 o’clock and a lot of the times she sees policemen patroll the neighboorhood and this gives her a safe feeling.
Dhairjee told me that she feels very much at home now in Amsterdam. If she visits other cities she always feels a bit out of place and when she goes back to Amsterdam it is really like a sort of homecoming!
But the city is changing rapidly, especially these last years. ‘A lot of new houses, different nationalities, more visitors’, Dhairjee told me. Sometimes she does not feel very at ease in the centre of town because different groups of men who are visiting Amsterdam are adressing her not in a very nice way.
If they visit the center of Amsterdam they walk or take the tram. Dhairjee likes to walk around a bit, go to the cinema and goes out for dinner. Ocassionally she visits a museum. She definitly does not like musicals!
There are a lot of options to do the groceries in their neighboorhood but they prefer to go to the market called ‘De Dappermarkt’. And this was what they were going to do so I thanked them and we said goodbye. Dhairjee told me that she did not like me taking a photograph of the both of them so I don’t have any picture of them.
Later I met mrs. Helen but she was in a hurry and gave me her card so that I could ask her a couple of things some other time. Fortunately I could take a photograph of her so that is the one you will see at the top of this post.
Amsterdam, 13th of October 2018.
Addendum 27th of November 2018:
I had a talk with mrs. Helen and this is the result:
She is the owner of a Beauty Nails & Hair Institute on the Wittenburgerkade 141. I watched her at work and I must say that she looked like a real craftswoman to me. Her enterprise has the judicial form of a foundation. Helen is working together with the city of Amsterdam to help trainees find a place to learn things of her trade and help people who are out of work and for whom it is difficult to find a new job.
Right now the city government is changing the whole appearance of the street and it will become definetly nicer in the future according to her opinion. With more space for pedestrians and bikers. It will look more like a boulevard.
Helen has a circle of clients in Amsterdam as well as outside the city. She is approaching them via social media and customers speak about their good experience and by doing so new customers come into her institute.
At the moment Helen is not living in Amsterdam though she lived in town for a number of years. She likes the city but at the moment the city centre is very crowded and she prefers a more natural environment for children to grow up with. Although her children are big now she prefers to stay in a smaller place. For her it is good to work and live in different places.
Because of her busy job Helen does not have to time to wander through the city but what she likes best about Amsterdam is the fact that that there are so many different people here. She likes to watch them and make contact with them from time to time.
It is autumn now in Amsterdam and Helen is happy that we have four seasons in Amsterdam, all with their own charm!