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Amsterdam: Human warmth

In some ways, in some places, life goes on - just a little bit further apart than before. In the streets of Amsterdam, Vera Vrijmoeth finds the ordinariness dazzling and warming.

Photo by Vera Vrijmoeth

Walking through Amsterdam on a sunny Sunday afternoon, it is easy to forget what is going on. The canals reflect the radiant sunlight, trams pass by and people fill up the streets and parks. This is not how I imagined disaster. Living through this crisis, that may well end up in history books, I notice how large the contrast is between the news and what I experience out and about when I leave the house every few days.

Photos by Vera Vrijmoeth

Reading the newspapers, the latest scientific publications and listening to lectures on the unequal effects on societies, my body fills with sadness and grief. Outside there is little to remind you of the 900 Dutch citizens and 36,000 people globally who have already fallen victim to the virus. On the streets of Amsterdam, changes only slowly creep in. Whereas a week ago it was just a little quieter than normal, now new 1.5-meter social habits seem to emerge in subtle ways. It is in the small stuff: the occasional Deliveroo biker with a mask, the way oncoming pedestrians evade me with a little more determination and radius than normal and in the way old people chitchat with their acquaintances at a 2-meter distance.

Photos by Vera Vrijmoeth

In the Vondelpark, individuals take in some fresh air. Friends take runs together, occasionally mindlessly coming closer together, only to correct themselves when it gets to the 1-meter kind of out of hand. Sometimes I imagine kindness flowing in between the people in the park. The distance seems to disappear at these fleeting moments. The now rare in-person interactions somehow seem warmer, more genuine. It fills me with warmth and hope. So big is the contrast between the news, the real horror of what is still to come, and the hope that simple human exchanges on the streets carry with them. Apparently, those conflicting feelings can coexist, at the same time. It boggles and amazes me. Just like a beam of sunlight.

Photo by Vera Vrijmoeth

This story was shared by Vera Vrijmoeth who lives in Amsterdam.

How do you experience living in your city under Coronavirus? Share your story and join us to Spread stories, not the virus.

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