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Moving, part two (electric boogaloo)


The classical musicians moved, and in April 2020 the new neighbors moved in. I was made aware of this fact by loud, frat party like screetching: a house warming party on Sunday evening, that lasted until 02:30. Yes, in the middle of that same “no really, two week tops”-pandemic. They did keep the windows open though. The entire street, possibly neighborhood, heard it, and nobody said anything. So I ended up meeting my new neighbors at 02:30 on a Monday, while they were drunk, while I was wearing a Very Grown Up blue hooded bathrobe, and asking them if they could “please, tone it down”.

Of course I hoped that this was just a bad start, and told myself that things would turn out fine, but they didn’t. For two years, there was Noise. During the day, but also during the night. Not always, but often. These apartments were built in 1931, of course they are on the noisy side. But if you then remove parts of the internal structure, have neither a floor nor curtains, and hardly any furniture, the noisiness is truly horrific. I completely understand that two student aged women don’t want to invest thousands of euros to have a floor put in. What I do not understand, is why the rental agency rents out an unfurnished apartment without floors to two people of student age. Being able to literally understand everything your neighbors say and hear everything they do: T.M.I. and annoying. The squealing like you’re being stabbed (which turned out to be enthusiasm during a board game) at 03:00 however, woke me up at night in a panic, after which I couldn’t sleep anymore. The noise went right through my 27dB reducing ear buds. The neighbors however were not willing to be accommodating in any way, so I was forced to write letters to the rental agency, who – as expected – didn’t really do anything. I lived in a constant state of stress, even if they were quiet, as I never knew when the noise would start again. All of this happened in the middle of the pandemic, with me already living in terror, dear-in-headlights-style, stuck inside the house, with no place to go. I am of course overly sensitive, and have an acquired brain injury due to the stroke I suffered. They are young. It is completely normal to imitate a pig being slaughtered at 03:00. I am just an ancient loser who needs to move to an normal neighborhood for adults… oh, wait.

There was less noise after the second letter, and it has to be said: at night it was mostly quiet. There was a lull in the pandemic, and life started to look up a bit. The pandemic would soon be over, and then I would finally get to interact with all the nice neighbors that I had already met briefly. I would finally be living in A Real Neighborhood, where you know your neighbors and accept each other’s packages. Our student neighbors would probably be moving to a less boring neighborhood soon. In a couple of years I wouldn’t even remember this episode, and have a great time living here.

But then something else happened. A situation in which the other party was in the capital-W-Wrong, but in which I let the whole thing slide, as to not disturb the peace. Because I immediately realised that, despite being 100% in the right, I could not “win”. It was still the pandemic, I had lost a significant part of my eye sight (which later turned out to be a stress related accommodation spasm), I was not in “fighting shape”. And on top of that the sad reality is that as a foreign woman who rents, there’s no going up against a Dutch cishet post-Boomerdude who’s an owner. In hindsight, this was the beginning of the end for me. Despite putting on a brave face and stoically pretending it wasn’t bothering me, it did. At some point, a kind of “truce” was reached, but the thought “Maybe this is not the place where you’re going to stay forever” flashed through my mind regularly.

What also didn’t help, was the continuous remodeling. It also was very difficult to get the apartment to heat up in the winter, and cool down in the summer. There was near constant BBQ/fire pit smoke during the summer, which meant I couldn’t take an evening walk through the neighborhood without smelling like charred tortured animal. It also meant I couldn’t open my windows to let the apartment cool off at night. This frustrated me to no end. How hard is it to take other people into consideration? Why was I again being forced to raise adults? Why are there so many assholes living in this neighborhood? In winter, the smoke from the wet wood being burned would literally take my breath away, and force me to keep every door and window hermetically closed. The fact that people threw literally anything and everything into their “allesbranders” (= multi fuel stove, literally “everything burner” in Dutch) resulted in an air quality that I’m sure broke environmental laws. Sometimes there would be loud screeching and squealing in the courtyard, as that is apparently the only way people know how to party these days. Except for me (“It’s one thirty, I would like to get some sleep, could you please tone it down?”) nobody else ever said anything. Apparently, nobody is bothered by anything ever. Or they’re just afraid to say something about it and be deemed “not cool”.

Making contact with people within the neighborhood also turned out to be hard, but that was really due to the pandemic. I did have nice interactions with neighbors I met at a 6 ft distance, but there was no way to expand any relationships, because we were all stuck indoors. The yearly neighborhood party was cancelled two years in a row, and there were no other neighborhood activities where people could meet.

I went back to university to do a minor in Architectural History, which was a great distraction. The war in Ukraine started. In a neighborhood where nobody is bothered by anything ever, there strangely enough were some complaints about pigeons. While this time I wasn’t bothered in the slightest (I love pigeons!), I decided to try and manage the “pigeon problem”, as they were living on my balcony. The only reason I did this, was again to not disturb the (fragile) peace, to not be “difficult”, to try to not get kicked out of the “in group” before even being in the group. The neighbor on the courtyard side however decided that the only way to get rid of the pigeons was by putting up a huge amount of glittery streamers, which – spoiler! – does not work. The only thing that happened, was that in summer, I was forced to close all my curtains on the courtyard side at 16:30 to be able to see something on my screen. I was afraid to bring this up, because… there was no point.

At the end of the academic year I got great news: the student neighbors were moving! Only once they were gone, did I realise how stressed out this whole situation had made me. A couple of weeks later, I was admitted to urgent care due to being severely dehydrated, and my medications were switched up. The new academic year started off… not so great. I myself also wasn’t feeling so great, not physically, not mentally. Then a discussion started on the group app. It was about the pigeons. Four(!) fun animals who are just trying to live their lives despite being terrorized for by a group of people who apparently have nothing better to do. Want to know why? Because, I shit you not, these people are bothered by the pigeons flapping their wings. Some people have war in their countries, and other people bother me with complaints about four harmless pigeons. I wrote a letter pointing out the absolute absurdity of this situation, and removed myself from the group app. No hard feelings (or at least that’s what I told them), but group apps to me are for exchanging messages like “Your parcel was delivered here” or “We’re away for the weekend, our catsitter will be coming by”, and not to have Big Discussions. Not in general, but definitely not about four fucking pigeons.

I immediately knew that this was the last straw, that no matter how hard I kept telling myself that things were going to change and get better, they just weren’t. So while having a big cry, I started looking for a new apartment. Thankfully, I am super privileged, because I am married to someone who makes such ridiculous amounts of money that we were able to find a new apartment in Amsterdam in no time. The new apartment is so new that we are the first tenants, it has triple glazing, is sound proofed according to the 2012 rules, and has floor heating and cooling. And I am thankful. Very thankful.

I am also angry. Very angry. That an apartment where you don’t hear your neighbors breathe, and where you don’t freeze in winter or overheat in summer is only available to the (super) rich. That money rules everything around me. But I’m also angry that I am an ancient loser, who can’t deal with the noise, the cold, the heat, the smoke, the frat house style racket, and the Judge Judy-style discussions about those four poor pigeons. That I, despite my best efforts, will have to leave those pigeons behind, because there’s no way of placing them anywhere else. That I’ll have to leave this apartment, my dream apartment, with the perfect layout. The apartment that is absolutely perfect when it’s quiet, when everybody has fucked off godknowswhere, when there’s a two week period of no remodels, when I can hear the pigeons being pigeons on the balcony. The apartment that, after years of being neglected slumlord style, will be sold off, and remodeled into one of those apartments that all look the same.

I am angry that I will have to leave this neighborhood, with the neighbor from across the street with whom I have great conversations and who always waves at me enthusiastically. With the other neighbor who walks her Maine Coon and who I always enjoy talking to. With the friendly neighbor who speaks my language. With the hairdressing salon where I am a regular. With the hilarious older neighbors who have lived here for 30 to 50 years, that I met at the neighborhood party this year. With the lady who joined me in watching the marathon when it came through our neighborhood, who didn’t know any of the runners, but cheered “my” runners on like they were her best friends. With the vet who has kept Willa alive up to now. With the catsitter who loves Willa, and vice versa.

I’m crying while I write this, as I have been crying every day for months. I have described this situation as having finally, after many, many years, found the partner of your dreams, and then slowly realizing that they drink 13 beers a day, and that that, no matter how much you love the person, and no matter how you try to downplay the excessive drinking, this turns out to be an unsurmountable barrier to having a healthy relationship. It feels like romantic heartbreak. It feels like failure.

It could have been perfect, goddammit. I really didn’t want much: just regular neighbors that you can have a chat with once in a while, no noise disturbances, no student style bullshit, not having to raise adults, not having to write letters complaining about noise, no constant remodeling, no pigeon haters, no smoke nuisance, and a decent rental agency that maintains their fucking properties. And while were at it: I also didn’t want assholes and (their) coke dealers. But yeah, this is Amsterdam, and you should be thankful you have a roof over your head. And if all these things bother you, you’re an ancient loser who should move to a normal neighborhood for adults. So with heavy heart, in a week and a half I’ll be moving to Buitenveldert.




I am moving. For anyone thinking: “But wait, didn’t you move into this place like three years ago?” Yes, I did. And I was planning to stay here forever, as this was my absolute dream house in my dream neighborhood. Sadly, that dream has turned into a bit of a nightmare.

But let’s start at the very beginning. In 1998, I got my own apartment on The Island. 43m2 (about 462 square feet) all to myself. I was so happy! Sure, it was a bit noisy, and sure, we (the 10 of us that lived in the apartment block) were living next door to student housing, so we did hear parties a couple of times a year. But hey, we’re in Amsterdam: you should be thankful to have a roof over your head.

After about 7 years however, things started to change: our apartments were incorporated into student housing. As soon as someone with a “regular” contract moved, the apartment was rented out to a student. This led to a high turnover of neighbors. It was also around this time that people stopped introducing themselves upon moving in. Part of it had to do with the fact that they weren’t going to live there for long: it takes at least two to three years to be able to rent these apartments because of the wait list, and as soon as you’re graduated, you have to move again. Part of it was also a change in the type of people who were still able to afford studying in Amsterdam. Let’s just say that the percentage of assholes increased significantly. There were of course still nice people who introduced themselves, but the number of people who have lived above me, but who I’ve never met, far outweighs them. For a while, I would make the effort to introduce myself to every new neighbor, but at some point I got sick and tired of walking up 4 flights of stairs to be met with complete indifference, so I gave up.

With the increase in the number of students in our apartment building, the noise complaints became more frequent, and more intense. I know there’s people going: “But they’re young! You have to accept that! If it bothers you, you should move to a real home in a normal neighborhood for adults, you ancient loser!” And while I agree with this to a degree, there’s of course a huge difference between an announced party until 01:30 on a Friday or Saturday a couple of times a year, and unannounced “parties” that consist of yelling, squealing and singing until 06:30 on a random weeknight. And I’m not even going to talk about that one time they decided to do a full blown hazing ritual in the apartment above me on a Thursday night.

A bit about me being an ancient loser in/next to student housing: here in Amsterdam, if you are eligible for a rent controlled apartment, you have to register to Woningnet, where listings are posted that you can respond to. Depending on your situation, there’s certain types of homes you’re allowed to rent. A single person for example, is only allowed to rent a one bedroom apartment. Depending on your income, there’s also a maximum price you’re allowed to pay, as there is a maximum to the refund you can get. It’s a whole system designed to try to get everybody into a home most suited for their situation, basically. In the years that I lived in my old apartment, the prices of rent controlled apartments of course also went up. I did check regularly, only to come to the sad conclusion that with my income at the time, I had little to no options. And even if I was able to afford a more expensive apartment: I am definitely not going to pay twice as much for an apartment that is in a worse condition than the one I was living in, in a less enjoyable neighborhood. On top of that: when I moved into my apartment, it was a “real home” with a regular lease, it was only turned into student housing about seven years later: I had the legal right to live there. In hindsight, our rental agency should have offered “the oldies” like me, who still had a regular lease, a different place to live when they converted our apartments into student housing, but they didn’t.

So I had to make the best of it. As years went on, this became harder and harder. At some point, I was done meeting my new neighbors for the first time in front of their door at 02:30 while wearing my hooded tiger robe, while asking them if they could “please, tone it down”. In those moments, the desperation drove me to tears, but what could I do? I needed to be thankful that I had a roof over my head. And I was. Of course it was exhausting to keep trailing after the rental agency to get them to fix things, like the smoke alarm that would ring at all hours for no reason at all, but again: a roof. Over my head. Thankful. And despite how it sounds, I really did love my place. It was a nice apartment, in a neighborhood that was fine, and for large parts of the year, living there was, honestly, fine.

Then, a couple of things happened in short succession: they started works on the outside of our building. To cut time, they worked on both sides of the building simultaneously. Every day from 07:00 to 17:00 they would sand and chisel, and the whole building would shake and tremble non-stop. In those days I was in the middle of trying to finally finish my @!#$ BA degree in English, and being already overworked and exhausted, I could not handle this. I got so stressed out that “not sleeping well” became “sleeping 14 hours a week max”, with most of those 14 hours of sleep happening during the weekend. More often than not, I went to class and did exams and presentations on zero hours of sleep. I would study for 36 hours on end to get things done, only with 20 minute naps in between, and those were usually because I would just fall asleep on my keyboard. It was my “Get a BA or die trying” period, and as we all know, I nearly did “die trying”.

After my stroke, I noticed that I was more sensitive to noise. I also noticed that the little patience I used to have, in general, but specifically for unnecessary loud racket at all hours, was gone. And when in the following years my living room flooded twice, and they LOST my (only!) living room window during repairs, meaning that I had to live in the dark for 9 1/2 weeks, I was done.

Thankfully this time, there was a solution: I was going to get married, and we would both be moving into a new home. I checked Funda (the real estate website for non-rent controlled apartments and places that are for sale) and in the beginning of September, I found my absolute dream apartment. I sent an email to the person I was going to marry, titled “This is where we’re going to live”, despite knowing that it was months before we were going to be able to move, so not gonna happen. This apartment was located in the Watergraafsmeer neighborhood. It is a very green, quiet, residential neighborhood, with mostly families and older people living there.

The first time I ended up there, was in 2005. At that time in my life, everything kinda totally sucked, and I felt like a huge loser. I remember seeing the Voltaplein for the first time and thinking: “I wish I could live here. That would mean I made something of my life. Then I wouldn’t be this huge loser anymore”. Knowing that I would never be able to live there, I cried biking all the way back home to my apartment, and told myself I just needed to be thankful that I had a roof over my head. Can you imagine how ECSTATIC I was when, a mere 14 years later, I did end up being able to move to the Watergraafsmeer? To that dream apartment that was miraculously re-listed at the exact moment we started looking for a home? That was located so close to the Voltaplein, that I can see it from my living room?

Things started off great: the neigbors around us were friendly, and the neigbors next to us turned out to be classical musicians. I had finally finished my BA in English, my old student loans were paid off, I was married, I lived in the Watergraafsmeer in my dream apartment: things were looking up! Of course, there was some remodeling going on on the other side of the street, but oh well, that would be done soon. I had more space, an office with doors to a balcony looking onto a courtyard. We even had pigeons!

Then the pandemic started. We would be in lock down for two weeks.


Part two will be posted tomorrow, 10 february 2023.


The Studies (part 2)


Part 1 can be read here

It didn’t take long for me to realise that “Not doing a damn thing ever again” was harder than it seemed. Especially when it became apparent that this pandemic was going to last longer than the predicted two weeks, I had to come to term with the fact that “Never doing anything again” is just not a sustainable long term plan.

Maybe this would have been different if I had lots of children, a huge extended family and a gigantic amount of friends, but I don’t. Then again, even if I did, most people have other things to do with their lives than entertaining somebody who’s decided to never do anything ever again. If I wanted to or not, I had to figure out what I was going to be doing with my life.

Thinking of something new to do wasn’t easy, as I am a person of limited interests: cats, classical ballet, zines and other magazines, exhibitions, concerts, ceramics, and Funda (an online real estate market place); that’s pretty much it.

What also didn’t help, was me being near-catatonic with fear that I would catch Covid and end up severely sick. Despite all this, I finished up a large work related project, and had a fit of insanity where I joined a writing group. Twice. Let’s just call it a relapse. I also took a couple of online classes to try and keep myself together.

Thirteen months into this two week pandemic, I finally got my first vaccine. Turns out thinking about your future is a lot easier when you’re not constantly fearing for your life.

And so it happened that while reading the weekly ARCAM newsletter, I thought: “If I could do my life over again, I’d become an architectural historian”. Despite being quite certain that you’d have to had studied architecture to be able to do that, I did a google search. It turned out that my English BA wasn’t so useless after all: I just needed to do a minor in Architecture and Construction to be eligible to do an Architectural History MA. Another option was to do a General History pre-master, but I was afraid that that would not give me sufficient specific architectural knowledge to do the MA.

The decision to do the Architecture and Construction minor seems to be a good one: I’ve already passed three out of five classes, currently finishing up class number four before starting class number five in two weeks. This study year is moving at the speed of light, partly because the 8-8-4 system remains a very tight schedule, even part time, but also because… everything is organized? I am not spending 40 to 60 percent of my time trying to manage the logistics of my studies, I can just dedicate myself to the content. What’s also different, is that, after a life of unsuccessful overachieving, I nowadays do the bare minimum. Though that’s still taking a bit of getting used to.