Humans of Amsterdam Oost: A Series of Street Profiles by the Journalism Class of 2021/22

This is an article in collaboration with the Journalism class of 2021/22, who have sent in their submissions for an assignment inspired by Humans of New York.

Collage by Mari Managadze

Quinten (28) – “Three weeks ago, I was in Berlin at a festival that this old roommate of mine organised. At some point, I was talking to a girl there who suddenly said ‘I’m supposed to do a dance performance tonight, but I don’t feel well at all, so I think I’m just going to go to sleep in a bit. We’ll just have to cut that part out; it is what it is’. Jokingly, I told her ‘Could I not just do it for you?’ She said: ‘Wait would you actually want to do that?’ So, I replied ‘Well, I have no idea what I need to do but sure.’ She immediately got the theatre director, or whatever he was, who explained the idea a bit, although it was mostly free interpretation.

That night I unexpectedly performed in front of 200 people, which is not that many I suppose, but I did find it insanely scary. Afterwards, however, I really enjoyed doing it. It was a very weird performance though. I had to be a combination of a shrimp and a butterfly while the background music played ‘whoop that ass’. It made no sense at all, but I am really proud of myself for doing it.”

Recorded by Lenka Simic

Photo by Lenka Simic

Aart (58) – “I grew up in the other part of Holland. In the East. I have lived here now for 15 years, but I also lived here in the period when I first came to Amsterdam. That was like 1988. It was a totally different place back then. There were shops, but not like what is going on now. Gentrification, they call it.

I never really got educated. First of all, I thought I would die very young, so I couldn’t really be bothered. I never had that much of a career thing, so I always kind of did my own things. I’ve been cooking a lot, worked at a coffeeshop for 10 years, that kind of stuff. You have good times and you have bad times like everybody else. I’m not that interested in a lot of money, so that’s pretty lucky I think. When I was young, I was always hitchhiking through the whole of Europe. But these things, you can’t do them as well anymore. Now travelling is so cheap, you can take a plane everywhere you want.

I love to walk around Oost. I really like to go to the other side but now they are building big skyscrapers there. It is a bit of a pity, because when I started to live here, that was my main thing, I really loved all these quirky places everywhere. You just had to go out for a walk. Even the park was a bit like a forest. I could walk there on my own. Nobody in the park.
They call it the Golden Age of Amsterdam now and it’s true in a certain way… Because all the houses look much prettier, and everything is much more done. You don’t see squats anymore. The whole life that wasn’t all centred around money has disappeared out of town.

There are things happening, lots of things, but at the end of the day, it’s still okay. I’m really happy to live here. Things change, you know. You change, and the way you look at things… we are kind of this generation who never wanted to grow old. It’s also part of it.”

Recorded by Marcell Bárdos

Photo by Marcell Bárdos

Tosca (28) – I came to Amsterdam just to study art, but I have been living here 7 years already. I am originally from Utrecht where most of my family lives. I can now say that I wouldn’t go back to Utrecht, my home, because I am fond of the range of international people here and the array of art you can find in Amsterdam’s streets. I am currently doing a Master in Contemporary Art and I live with three other flatmates. Secretly, I would love to escape to the countryside and live in a house surrounded by nature on my very own. Although I do like Amsterdam, I wish to travel again. I am hoping to go back to my second favorite place in the world: Australia. I fell in love with the country when I did an exchange there. Nonetheless, some places in Amsterdam do make me want to stay. Mezrab, for instance, this down to earth cultural center in Piet Heinkade where they host story telling events and offer exquisite soups. Another place I appreciate is a café called Motion Coffee because it has the best chai in the city and it saved me while writing my bachelor’s thesis. Lastly, I of course cannot forget my favorite yoga classes at Movements Yoga that light up my day. These hidden gems will always hold a special place in my heart.

Recorded by Sophie Bourdoncle

Photo by Sophie Bourdoncle

Erik (52) – “Going to East Germany as a child to visit my father’s family was thrilling. They lived in Thuringia. In a small village near Gera. My father had come to the Netherlands as a child. That’s why he was still allowed to enter and we were able to go visit every year. For the visa, my father had to exchange more Westmarks every day than he was able to spend. It was even a lot for Western standards. Everyone in the family earned about the same amount. That was beautiful and weird at the same time.

It was always a feast when we visited – with cake and all that goes with it. They only had very little, but what they gave us felt like a lot. I remember the atmosphere of warmth and gratitude. But also the cynicism with which my family talked about the government. Always in the form of sharp jokes, as long as no one else was listening. The climate of fear that the Stasi spread – I really felt it.

When East Germany collapsed, of course I was very happy for them, but all those childhood memories became, well, memories. We thought our relatives would come visit more often now that the borders were open. But they only came a few times, maybe it was just not in their mentality to travel anymore. Even the close family bond was suddenly gone. Only my dad would sometimes go back – for old times’ sake. Crazy, now that I think about it, maybe it was the closed border that kept us so close.”

Recorded by Levin Stamm

Photo by Levin Stamm

Erik (64) – “I work in mental health; I am a therapist. For 42 years now. What I like about my job is meeting people, hearing their stories and background. Most of the time they share a lot, so you know the people, their family, the stories of their family. You are not friends, but it feels like it. It is not only a therapy for them because I share about myself too to make it safe for them. I have this patient who started therapy when she was 26, after a stillbirth. They thought she had an anxiety disorder but when I met her two years ago, I thought it was something else, not a personality disorder. And she was actually diagnosed with autism, at the age of 52! She is now working and very happy. I am going to have to stop seeing her soon, but I am very proud of her. Sometimes it’s hard because you’ve learned to love them a little, but at some point, it’s necessary to stop seeing them.

It can also be overwhelming to hear people’s stories, when they are suicidal for instance, but you must maintain a distance and stay professional. I think it is difficult to talk about problems in normal life and everyone tries to be strong. But there are traumatic experiences, and that is why it is necessary to talk about them. I share a lot with my friends and family because I know how important it is.”

Recorded by Rosalie Klein

Photo by Rosalie Klein

Orb (29) – “My name is Orb, although it used to be Rob. I introduce myself like this now because it is my, let’s call it, ‘inner persona’, which I am currently investigating. I am a professional dancer in the transition of ‘dancing differently’. I graduated from the Amsterdam Dance Centre in 2014. I went to audition at many academies in the country and I decided to go here since the director could help me get in. I had no diploma from high school and the transition was easier here.

I never wanted to dance – dance found me. It sounds very cliché, but it is true. Dance has shown me what my body is capable of doing. It has shown me the beauty in my everyday movements and in the world’s movements. When you think of dance you think of a studio, but it is also ‘alive movement’.

The Dance Centre was very commercial, most people there just want to end up in musicals. I was always a bit in the background, I did not yet know what I wanted to do with dance. Because of the pandemic there was not much work for dancers, so I started to write a lot. Now I would like to continue diving into a new study as a psychotherapist. This is basically dancing through the unconscious. Essentially, how does a human move through life? What is someone’s life choreography? Why do you choose certain things and what kind of patterns are your dreams, based on your personal symbols and motifs in life? I have been really busy with this lately, and I am slowly trying to make it work into a professional career. So far it is just free-lancer writing. For my future I just want to stay very curious, dancing through the depths and heights of the world. Daring to dream wherever you are.”

Recorded by Blanca González

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