Europe 2017: From Hostel to Home (Concluding Thoughts on Amsterdam)

(Written June 6th)

It just finished raining outside the room I have to myself at a beautiful resort-style tennis club. I’m back in Ukraine, this time for a yet-to-be-determined duration, to help coach the Under-20 national women’s basketball team.

The transition from life in Amsterdam to life here has been swift and complete. I very much miss my friends at Shelter Jordan and would love to see them again someday. Here are a few of the overall highlights from my time there:


On one of my first evenings at the Shelter, a few of my new compatriots casually mentioned a desire to join another couple friends from the sister location and go bouldering. Naturally, my interest was piqued.

Mid-trip navigating.

However, as evening and the time we were supposed to meet the other group approached, logistical problems erupted. I didn’t have a bike (principle means of transport for the long-term shelter staff), so we tried to ride with two of us on one bike but to no avail. One staff member didn’t have the right apparel. Another had never been bouldering. We were already very late. No one knew where the gym was. Consternation abounded. But a near-heroic string of creative solutions managed to get us on the road, all equipped with reasonable gear, bikes, and excited anticipation.

It turned into a near-magical night of riding through Amsterdam, meeting new friends, experiencing the bike-ferry, bouldering at a chique gym overlooking a part of Amsterdam’s main harbor (I believe), and a chance to get to know a few of my fellows at Shelter Jordan.

New Friends

Getting to live hostel life meant rubbing shoulders with not only an incredibly diverse group of staff volunteers but a revolving door of interesting guests as well. I made friends from Norway, Australia, Brazil, Wales, Korea, London, Canada, and from all over the States, just to name a few. Every day was another chance to meet travelers and hear their stories. A few of my favorite memories include spending time with one friend in particular who will hopefully come visit Chicago in November. We visited the Anne Frank museum together, went on a canal tour, explored the city, and also enjoyed plenty of time back at the hostel playing cards and hanging out.

We of course didn't think to take a picture until after the sun went down... Just imagine a group of smiling, sweaty people.

On two separate occasions, we got a couple of diverse groups of guests and staff to walk a few minutes to a nearby park to play basketball in the pleasant cool of the evening.

Another memorable evening consisted of riding bikes over to our sister location and participating in an open mic. On my last evening in Amsterdam, we also introduced a whole group of friends to Tim Tam Slamming, an almost hallowed ritual in my book. Our official teacher was none other than one of our Australian staff members herself, a true authority in the exercise. It was a hoot of a time. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask and we’ll do it together sometime.)

Sites of Amsterdam

We spent our days cleaning the shelter, but were usually finished by mid-afternoon. This left plenty of time to explore Amsterdam’s attractions.

An incredible Cathedral in Haarlem.

I mentioned the Anne Frank house and museum and boat tour of the canals already. I also explored flower and flea markets, the nearby city of Haarlem where Corrie Ten Boom lived with her family, attended Hillsong Amsterdam one Sunday, visited Dam Square, went on a walking tour, and ran enough to get a feel for Amsterdam’s beauty and charm.

Flower markets abound.

I visited cheese shops and Cathedrals. I played basketball with random guys in front of the I Amsterdam sign. I attended a food truck festival with a friend.

What a treasure to get to live life in Amsterdam with a group of fantastic people.

On to Ukraine

And now here I sit, in a scenario a world apart from the two weeks I just experienced in Amsterdam. This leg of the journey will definitely be more challenging — I have already experienced a spiritually and emotionally taxing first 24 hours. But God is enough.

Will post more soon,


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