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Our House

With a little help from Amsterdam

The content of the following text will be a bit different from the ones published until now. I hope you won’t mind this change of style. Greetings to you all! Nicole


When I first came to Amsterdam I felt this place was full of hope and promises for me. I decided that this place would have been the right choice to forget my past and learn to live again.

Some simple ideas motivated me: changing country can help you to start from zero; helping the others you also help yourself.

Then I came here in September. After some bright days, Autumn came, with its wonderful warm colours. And it also brought me the discover that I was totally wrong: my past is still with me, even more than the present, in the space of my room, in the hours of my sleepless nights… Helping the others I feel just exhausted, empty, with no energy and light to give to other people, nor for myself.

I guess the problem comes from my years of reclusion, which characterized all my childhood and part of my youth. Raised in a strict conservative catholic family, I had to spend most of my time at home, school and church, because going out with friends, having fun, was not allowed to a good catholic maid. Being often alone, and closed between four walls, I had to find my tactic to survive, to steel to life at least some of its colours. And I found this way. It was my secret, my way to breathe and to find sense in a sad existence. I just found out how to intensify every single experience I had the chance to live. I had to be satisfied with the crumbles that life could give me and I really did.

The colours of the trees, the nuances of the daylight, the flavours of spices, the perfume of flowers, were something so strong for me that I could live of these sensations feeling that I had a full and complete life.

This made me incredibly sensitive, too much sensitive and reactive to every new input I get from the world that surrounds me. I never considered this as a problem, until the day I left home. Then I realized I was different from other people: the sensations and emotions to which the others were completely used, were thousands times stronger than the ones that for me were striking. I was fragile and weird, unable to face life and its facts as normal people do. My vocabulary was not the vocabulary of other people, I didn’t put the same meaning in the same words.

Luckily, during the years of my university I had good friends around me, who helped me a lot to live without feeling too much isolated.

But now Amsterdam has made me face my weakness, my being different. Amsterdam had the power to make me feel completely alone, stabbed a knife in my heart, breaking my knees and throwing me down to the floor. Now in my life everything seems to have exploded.

I came to this city feeling exactly as a small fox would feel in a wild jungle. This jungle made me discover that weed is not always a pure and innocent thing, as I used to think; it destroyed all my faith in humankind making me discover that in this city freedom is so much important that they expose persons behind windows, as animals in cages. It made me know people who have no house, look into their eyes, touch their hands and link their sorrow to my own.

My pain became something extreme. I lost control of myself and of my tears or smiles. In the past I used to cry sometimes, when something seemed very beautiful to me. The beauty of life will always be something incredibly touching for me. But now every single image this city brings to me is full of meaning and pain, fills my eyes with cry.

Amsterdam for me is the face of all the visitors of our drop in centres. Amsterdam is also the beauty of its canals, sailed by ducks and swans, in which the sun shines as in mirrors. Amsterdam is the colour of the Asian eyes of a wise and beautiful twin, this city has made me find. Amsterdam sounds in all the clear and pure voices of the guys I met praying at the Taizé evenings. Amsterdam is the face of a person I desired to know, and that I have lost because of my present lack of balance, putting a river of senseless words between us.

Amsterdam broke me, with its mixture of beauty and cruelty, destroying me in many small pieces. Can we make of these pieces a person again? Now that I have touched the bottom, I have the chance to rise up and start again. It is a challenge, it is not going to be easy. I have to learn completely again how to live. But I can’t learn this alone. I need her to be with me, the city of Amsterdam, with all the things she represents to me. She broke me and destroyed me. She can rebuild me and make me complete again. If I will face this mirror of pain that Amsterdam has been for me until now. If I will resist the permanent temptation to run away. Will we manage to build me again? Who shall stay will see. Inshallah.