The 17 Year Anniversary

It is not a particularly round number nor is it a sacred number in any culture I’ve ever learned about in my travels, but this week begins my 17th year as a resident of the Netherlands. 16 years ago this month, I arrived with 50 kilos of luggage from Portugal with a simple idea, be a graduate student in this country that I knew very little about. I’d love to say I remember it as if it were yesterday, but you try remembering stuff from 16 years ago, especially in a city that is constantly renovating, repurposing, and changing things. The buildings might look the same, the people might even do many of the same things, but you can bet life has changed and I’ve been a witness to those changes.

Meanwhile my own life has gone through phases, the ups and downs that make up many a life. If you had asked me what my life would look like at the start of my 17th year way back when I first arrived, I would not have been able to answer. Incidentally, some things never change, I still can’t tell you what my life will look like in 17 years. Sometimes not knowing gets to me, but thankfully, most of the time, I’m thrilled to still not know what is around the corner. I mean other than old age.

This website started just before the big move, back in a little apartment in Lisbon, as I packed my things and said goodbye to a city I thought I could not be without. In the end it is this city, Amsterdam, which has been my constant over the course of almost two decades. At the time the idea was to let people read my observations, and in some form, that is what we still do here. After two years of writing,  I started doing it in audio form, not yet fully understanding what this odd hobby that myself and a few dozen people around the world were doing (podcasting) was going to become; a mass audience phenomenon. In between I kept writing. Kept taking the pictures and posting them. Even threw in some videos for fun. Sites like Facebook and twitter, for better or for worse, would all come along much later. Back in 2002 this was a personal space to share with you the public, and if you were there you know how special it was. It wasn’t just about moving your life to a new city and telling others about it, it was about sharing life experiences and discussing what was going on around us — be it in the place where we live or on the other side of the world. No issue too big and absolutely no issue too small.

The European Communication crew, ISHSS U of Amsterdam, Fall of 2002.

Of course, like Amsterdam, the internet has changed. Writing, recording, on the internet, has become so commonplace that it goes mostly unnoticed and will be buried behind other content within seconds. In some ways so too do some moments in this city. I watched today, in honour of this anniversary, as new students arrived at the U of Amsterdam, ready to do their study abroad or their first year as grad students. The conversations were so familiar, yet I felt invisible. I imagined school as a VHS tape, and these students’ arrival as someone taping over something. Over and over this happens with every new group. The tape doesn’t get grainy or lose quality for them, but perhaps it does for me… as many names, places, and moments, have faded over time.

Regardless, I’m still here, and life is still interesting. Just as it was back in late August 2002. Happy anniversary to me in Amsterdam, and happy anniversary to this crazy website. Long may we all carry on!

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Mike Spine: A Socio-Musical Journey

avatar Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Moderator Amazon Wishlist Icon
avatar Mike Spine Guest

A few months ago Mike Spine and Barbara Luna played a show in Amsterdam that I was fortunate enough to attend. As a bonus, Mike came over for a kitchen table conversation. In this conversation we look at his own path as both an educator and a musician and what he has learned along the way.

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CTRP483 How Podcasts Evolved; A Conversation with Martin of Stocktown Chronicles

avatar Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Moderator Amazon Wishlist Icon
avatar Martin Co-Moderator

Made my way up to Stockholm to spend quality time with my pal Martin of the Stocktown Chronicles Podcast. Together we sat back, drank tea, and discussed what we’ve seen emerge and change in podcasting since the very first days.  Sit back, turn up the volume, and emerse yourself in this conversation.

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One Year Since My Tahrir

Towards Tahrir, Nov. 2012
Towards Tahrir, Nov. 2012

One year ago this week it was Chris and I running around the streets of Cairo, getting a crash course in revolution from some of the most passionate, charming, and welcoming people one could ever have the good fortune of meeting in this life. From our home base in western feeling Zamalek, to our front office between the hallowed walls of Café Riche in Downtown, everyday we went to school with pen, paper, and microphone. Incredibly, the very three weeks that we were in town coincided with the reawakening of a movement, to finish what they had started back in 2011.  For two outsiders eager to learn at any hour of the day It was nerve wracking, it was confusing, it was beautiful.

One year later the loud voices of observers from all walks of life and all corners of the world would shout me down and say it was and has been a terrible year for Egypt, and we were witnessing just another chapter in a story filled with tragedy.  While those voices might be louder and considered more credible than my own, I would still say to them – what I experienced in Egypt in the autumn of 2012 was a thing of tremendous beauty.  I saw old and young walking arm in arm through the streets without fear, singing, chanting, smiling and inviting their neighbors to join them.  I saw families camped out in the middle of this world famous square, sharing food, telling stories, and exchanging warm greetings. Every time we turned a corner we were greeted as welcomed visitors, people eager to show us and have us relay to the world – this is Egypt, we are glad you are here.

When I think back on those wonderful weeks in Egypt, among so many great interviews worth listening to again and again, my favorite has to be Fouad and the boys, three friends sitting with us at an outdoor café in Downtown Cairo. Telling the story of what has been happening and Egypt and what it all means to them personally. Putting things in perspective, especially in that big-picture perspective of life, death, and everything in between.

A lot has changed since those fateful days of November in Egypt.  Lots more lives have been lost and terrible crimes have been committed.  But anytime I see one of those simple conclusions in the press, or hear that blowhard at the bar spout off about how Egypt has jumped off the deep end, I remember what I experienced and the lessons I learned from some very special observers that live the reality everyday, including at this very moment. And I take solace in the fact that there is always more to this story, it isn’t all just one way, and oh the fantastic people you could meet if you were there right now.

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