Angels & Olive Oil

Some say angels aren’t real, but I have come across too many of them to not believe.

Let me tell you about the time I washed dishes in Amsterdam. It sounds random, I know.

The story begins the moment I decided to keep dreaming. It might sound cliche and vague, but if you need encouragement to keep dreaming and fulfilling those dreams, then I think it’s worth the read.

This one time, in my thirties, I had what I truly believed was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I had “stumbled” upon the perfect job! It was so perfect that it wouldn’t be work; it would be an amazing, challenging, fun, exhilarating experience, and hopefully a positive contribution to society. Sounds great, right? It is!

The interview was in Amsterdam and it had to be done in person. Making the decision to go was scary because I kept overanalyzing and feeling guilty about leaving my family for however long it took me to interview, get the job, and begin the process of moving us there.

After much vacillation, I decided not to go. I told myself I was at peace with that decision and that was that.

The decision was quickly eating at me. It felt….wrong and life-altering in an oppressive way.

After a very brief discussion with my husband I decided to take the chance and go to the interview.

Everything happened very fast from that moment. Three people I love, but didn’t think would care either way about me pursuing this opportunity, were ecstatic to hear that I changed my mind and I was going.

I thought about how we all have our part(s) to play in this life, and that maybe me taking this path was bigger than me. It was a humbling thought, and it encouraged me to trust in the process and live my dream.

Things simply started working together when I made the decision. This isn’t the first time, of course. (Check out my Mt. Kilimanjaro story)

We found a last minute flight (I don’t usually roll like that), I had 20 minutes to pack my luggage for… two weeks? Three months? Forever? I even found a hostel that seemed really amazing.

When I got to Amsterdam and settled in what turned out to be a beautiful, clean & conveniently situated hostel, it felt so right to be there! I met people from different countries and listened to their stories. So many stories of hope & dreams pursued. Stories of triumphs and tears. I got myself prepared for the interview and since I hadn’t heard back from the recruiter in a day or so, I walked to their office to… you know, show up in person and be like… “Surprise! I made it! You said I could interview if I were here and here I am!”

Well, the office sign was there, but when I saw that no one was there, I called the recruiter, and they advised me they already submitted other candidates to the client, and they wouldn’t be able to submit my application. They didn’t think I was actually coming. I didn’t think they couldn’t submit my application:

I thought they simply didn’t believe in possibility the same way I do.

I walked myself the hour plus, back to the tram I had taken. I could have found something closer, but if I was going to live here…. if I was going to find other work here, I thought I should t take the opportunity to walk.

Hearing that I wouldn’t be interviewing for the job was interesting to deal with. I was still high off of an optimistic force, and the let down wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I mean, here I was, you know? And the job wasn’t going to be there. Had I made a mistake? Thankfully, the whole thing didn’t depress me. I felt happy that I had made the decision to build on my dream, and I was still hopeful that they would call me; there was still time.

A couple of days before this event I had gone to run an errand that took me across a part of town I hadn’t yet seen. This is when I walked by Salvatore Pizzeria. I walked in, looking for a slice of pizza. Salvatore greeted me in Italian, and I gladly responded in kind. As they only had whole pizzas I said I would be back. He joked and said “Ritornano sempre!” (they always come back)

The day after the interview I went to photograph the town and thought about Salvatore’s. It felt important to keep my word to them, so I went there after some hours of taking pictures.

When I got there, an older Italian gentleman began making my pizza. I asked to charge my phone and sat down. Salvatore walked in and asked how I was doing. I told him about my interview & that I had been walking around photographing and looking for work for the remaining days in Amsterdam. He then told me his friend was looking for a waiter and a dishwasher, and went looking for her contact information. When he couldn’t find it, Salvatore asked me if I could wait ten minutes. I said “sure!” He got on his scooter, went to his friend, got her phone number and told her my situation. He came back, gave me the information and told me to go see her as soon as possible.

Well, come right on up my alley of dreams & possibilities, why don’t you?!

I was beyond thankful for what Salvatore had done. It was a simple gesture that he made without want for anything in return. I understood it and it’s how I usually roll.

I mean, his name is Salvatore, but we don’t always act like our name.

We took a picture and off I went.

Salvatore told me to go see Sandra.

To see Sandra I went.

Sandra was cool. Relaxed. Having a little espresso outdoors with the head chef before the afternoon guests arrived. After asking citizenship questions they offered me the opportunity to try out for either one of the positions, and this is how I began washing dishes at Ciro…Passami L’Olio.

I chose dishes because it’s a high energy task and you have to work fast. It’s a consistently busy role that challenges you, and allows for quiet time. I used that time to look inside myself and I swear I smiled the whole first two days that I was there; every time I thought about how I was washing dishes in Europe, having come from America via Africa via Europe… I thought about society and the roles we deem successful and useful, and the ones we disregard and disrespect. I came to Europe and was having my own “live, love, laugh” experience, having found a vast part of it in washing dishes. One thing about this place, Ciro, is the understanding and love that you could feel while there. The food is phenomenal, the humor was hilarious, the Italian was like a sweet memory being played out in real life. I was loving it. And they did pay me.

Unfortunately, because of an injury I sustained this year, I couldn’t continue washing dishes at Ciro’s. I had given my word and it felt like my body was betraying me & my word.

If nothing else came of being at Ciro’s for a few days, besides meeting some amazing people, it’s that I was reminded that I am not the only dreamer. We have to live our dreams and make them become our realities. At Ciro’s they reinforced in me the belief that love for a fellow human and giving a complete stranger a chance, even if they are only going to be around for a few days, is an act that can be invaluable and life-changing.

To some, all this might seem like happenstance.

To me, this is one of myriad stories that we can hear from dreamers everywhere.

When I came back to the U.S. I was happy to have gone and seen. I know if I hadn’t done it I would have asked myself that everlasting “what if?”, and that is not a fun open-ended question with which to live.

Thank you for reading to the end.

Keep dreaming!

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