“Amsterdam, Not What I Had in Mind”
21 Year old Rachel Dierken Couchsurfs right into an abandoned warehouse inhabited by squatters.
Born and raised just outside of Missoula, 25 year old Rachel Dierken gets her pulse checked on airplanes by flight attendants because she sleeps so hard. She once got her foot stuck in the slide of a trombone and she loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends.
This episode of Tell Us Something was recorded in front of a live audience on June 22nd, 2016, at The Wilma in Missoula, MT. 9 storytellers shared their story based on the theme “Bad Advice”.
Today’s podcast comes to us from Rachel Dierken and is titled “Amsterdam, Not What I Had in Mind”. Thank you for listening.
Transcript : Amsterdam, Not What I Had in Mind
When I was 21 I studied abroad in Tartu, Estonia.
I think this is movin’ down real fast!
[Microphone lowers because it was not properly secured. Marc fixes problem. Much laughter.]
Alright. Here we go. So….
When I was 21, I studied abroad in Tartu, Estonia in northeastern Europe, and I made a friend, Brian, from Baltimore. And our friendship was really a rivalry about who is the most badass, him being from Baltimore me being from Montana, obviously superior. And we decided we wanted to go to Amsterdam. We were in Europe and when were we going to go again? So we decided I would do the flights he would do the housing. I booked some kickass tickets, and a friend recommended we should Couchsurf. And, I have a Couchsurfed and it was a very positive experience. Brian never had, but was on board. And he messaged a few people on Couchsurfing and we heard back from 35-year-old British mailman, Simon, who had two couches for us at the end of November when we were planning to go. So. Alright, let’s do it. Amsterdam or bust. So we go to Amsterdam. We get there. And we take our bus all the way out to the outskirts of town, as instructed.
And, you know, there’s some construction sites and it’s an industrial area. But there are some apartment complexes. So off we go to find Simon.
We go into the first apartment, and we don’t see his name on the address, and we’re like, “Okay. It’s fine.”
We go to the next one. After about an hour, we can’t find his name on any of the apartments! So we’re a little nervous, but we’re fine. Y’know. We’re cool. We can handle this. And, we find a public phone and give him a call.
“Hey, Man, we’re at the bus stop. How do we get to your place?”
And he tells us, “Oh, you have to go through the industrial part. The construction site.”
Off we go.
We walked for about five or seven minutes, through warehouses, and we see this empty dilapidated warehouse with the address on it. And, a little nervous, and out walks this guy. With a mohawk and tattoos, and he’s got piercings. Like really punk. Not your Brit sipping tea. It’s Simon, the 35 year old British mailman! So while I’m taking in this abandoned warehouse in this strange person walking towards me, I have this internal monologue.
My father watched “Taken”, the movie with Liam Neeson? The week before I flew. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a movie where his daughter goes to Europe alone is kidnapped?
And I’m going, “Oh shit! My dad’s an elementary school principal and does not have the special set of skills that I’m gonna need of this happens!”
But, I looked to my right, and Brian is there, and there’s no way he’s going to see see me flinch. So we follow Simon into this warehouse.
Turns out, they’re squatting. It’s just: empty warehouse in Amsterdam. Doesn’t have electricity, there’s no plumbing, no heat. But what they make up for, or what they don’t make up for in electricity, they make up for in other Couchsurfers!
There were at least seven other people there that had all been accepted by Simon.
Okay. To be polite, we all you know, go around and introduce ourselves.
And there’s this one girl, and she’s like, “Oh, I’m from Idaho.”
I get super excited! Go to shake her hand, and she stands up, and just: fairy wings!
And I was like, [to self] “Not quite the support I was hoping for, in this environment. Okay. We’re fine.”
And so, it is Amsterdam, and everyone passing around a couple joints. So Brian are like, “Yeah, this’ll calm us down, relax us. Let’s do it!”
So we’re smoking a couple joints, and I don’t know anything about weed, but I know it’s not supposed to be really sweet? And so, after a couple times, it’s kinda like, “This is really sweet what’s going on here?”
And one of the random Couchsurfers goes, “Oh yeah! We put some mushroom honey in that!”
To which, you know, [to self] “Excuse me? You did what now?”
This is exactly where I want to be: squatters house in Amsterdam, with mushrooms! Totally normal! Okay! I’m fine! This is gonna be okay.
And then the girl from Idaho suggested we go out to a concert of the band Portugal the Man, who actually really like. They’re from Portland. They’re familiar. I’m like, “Let’s get out of this environment and go to one I might react to a little better.”
We walked for about an hour and we get to this venue that’s this is old church that they’ve repurposed into a music venue, and it’s really cool scene. But they kept the stained glass windows and I don’t know if this was the building or the drugs but there were some weird demonic imagery! [laughs] [laughter] That didn’t sit too well with me.
But the show was really wonderful. And it calmed us down. You know, we were able to enjoy whatever happened. And then it was time to go back to our home? Abode? I don’t know what to call it.
We went back and Simon, who had not, uh, he didn’t come to the show with us, decided that Brian andI should have our own little space. Which was fine. Except, because there is no heating, we were further from the water heater that they had cut a hole in and put wood to burn, and had about maybe 10 feet of warmth. So that was a little disappointing. But, you know, we didn’t need to be with everybody else, so.
Into our little closet sized room we went. And this room, there were two windows. There was no glass, it was just the, like, plastic construction sheeting kind of covering it up. And again, we’re at the end of November. And Amsterdam, as far as like longitudes, it’s between Calgary and Edmonton, so it’s *really* cold. But, um, the windows are not there. There is a bare mattress on the floor. And a small little table. Because no electricity: they had candles, in a pentagram.
So at this point I’m convinced I’m going to be sacrificed.
But, can’t let Brian see me sweat! Everything’s cool! So I ask him, “Hey Brian, which side do you want?”
And he says, “I want the side closer to the wall. You can sleep by the windows.”
So as I’m putting my coat and my hat and scarf and gloves on, muttering “Chivalry is dead, you Asshole,” you know.
I curl up, and there’s this big lumpy pink blanket with like, David Bowie lightning bolts on it, but I dunno. But it’s all we had so we were going to make do. And Brian went to go take out his contacts in some reflective surface. He found the bathroom I don’t know what the plumbing situation looked like, but they did have a sink which was a mannequin’s leg and a bowl on top.
It, I mean, it, I, no questions.
So Brian came back and he put all of his you know, warm stuff and crawled in next to me, and just goes, “Oh! Ew! Ugh! There’s something here!”
So I grab a candle, ‘cause there’s no light. And I pull back our blanket. And there is a huge pile of nasty vomit!
[huge groans from crowd. laughter]
Just chillin’. Right there. Yeah.
And we’re both just like, “Oh my God!”
I’m secretly thinking, “Karma’s a bitch! You sleep in the vomit! I’ll take the cold window!”
So we grab a little towel, and wipe it off, and put it down, and he sleeps on top of the towel.
And we actually went to sleep and woke up. Alive. No sacrifices took place. But we were broken. And we, we made eye contact and we’re just like, “I can’t, Man! This was the worst thing I’ve ever done! I can’t do it again!”
It was mutual defeat, so, it was okay.
Luckily, there is a guy who went to my university that I met one time, but he was studying abroad in Amsterdam.
Public library Facebooked him, “Hey, Man! Can I sleep on your floor? ‘Cause I slept in vomit in a squatter’s house last night.”
And luckily he was very generous and accepted. But because it was the Thanksgiving weekend his dad and two other friends were there. So, six of us wedged into aone room apartment.
But now that, now whenever I hear someone say, “I’m going to Amsterdam.” I like to say, “Oh, I’ve been to Amsterdam! Might I recommend a hostel?”