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I have officially been in the Netherlands for a full year. I arrived on December 5, 2010 with little to no idea of what I was in for. Here I am a year later and couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. When I signed the contract and decided to pick up and move, I figured that if I hated it (the city, the job, whatever) I could do anything for a year and it would at least look good on my resume.

In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have expected how truly great this year would be. I thoroughly enjoy my job and am excited to go to work most days. The travel isn’t getting old yet and the list of places I want to visit only seems to grow. And as I’ve said before, I feel like I’ve met great people and made lifelong friends.

The day I arrived seems so long ago. I remember being shown around my apartment, unpacking and getting settled in, taking that first trip to the grocery store where I had no idea what was what. A whole new world had just opened up. What a great feeling that was even if it was more than just a little scary. Then I moved from the suburbs into the center of Amsterdam and what a great decision that was. Living in the thick of it makes meeting people and getting out so much easier.

I’ve enjoyed sunny days on a boat cruising the canals with snacks and sparkling wine. I’ve traveled to 18 countries, spending extra time in 11 of them and sailed the Mediterranean. I’ve ridden my bike all over the city, getting lost more than once, but finding something beautiful or interesting every time. I’ve helped “move “a refrigerator out the second story window of a canal house. I’ve completed a beginners Dutch course. I feel like I may have done more in a year than in the previous 31.5. Wow what a year.

And what better way to mark the anniversary than with a photo of me and the Zwarte Pieten who visited our office today for Sinterklaas. The fact that these two Dutch girls are in black face is a whole other blog post. I’ll let your mind wander in the meantime.

Zwarte Piet taking me to Spain