– Alice in Wonderland.
Read Part I of the Adventuress Diaries – I Survived the Apocalypse in Amsterdam, Netherlands here.
The characters of De Kaskantine were the most intriguing part of the already interesting De Kaskantine saga. Aside from the mysterious Menno, who at times reminded us of a vampire with his penchant for sleeping in tight confined spaces and hiding underneath piles of clothes when he wanted to hide from responsibility (or maybe daylight?), there was also Rodney, Jason, and Ira.
Rodney was one of our “ship-mates” as he lived in one of the other shipping containers. Even though Rodney was older he seemed like a cool guy. He was a DJ on underground Dutch radio and he had a slew of young DJ wannabes under his wing who would come visit and hold parties at the De Kaskantine site while we were there. Rodney was also De Kaskantine’s resident weed dealer.
Next there was Jason, a Californian who lives in Bohemia, who was the project manager of De Kaskantine. Jason was competent and intelligent almost to the point of genius, yet he often overestimated other’s abilities and had difficulties giving easy-to-understand directions to those of us without genius level intelligence. Once Jason tasked me with doing electrical wiring (I’ve had no electrical experience in my life) and another time he tasked me with rebuilding a rocket stove, another task that I had no business being a part of. Although now I thank him for having faith in me to at least let me try.
Finally there was Ira. We actually didn’t meet Ira until our second day, as he had had an emotional breakdown the week before we arrived and announced that he was leaving the project. Ira seemed to have had a change of heart as he came back all smiles. This seemed to be a reoccurring theme with the emotionally volatile but very likable Ira.
Ira was the designated cook of De Kaskantine. Ira hailed from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America, and his specialty was Suriname cuisine with its penchant for cassava, ginger, and spice. Ira was also a Rastafarian who had a penchant for 90’s R&B and smoking spliff’s (marijuana cigarettes) – as he would always announce, “Guess what time it is? It’s spliff-o-clock!” as he would prepare a spliff while pumping out 90’s era Erykah Badu on his boom box.
Ira was probably one of our favorite characters of De Kaskantine as he took us on a tour of Amsterdam where he showed us his favorite Caribbean-Japanese vegan restaurant and took us on a nice stroll through Amsterdam. “Oh look, the Red Light District has gotten redder.” He announced on our nighttime stroll.
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.”
Working at De Kaskantine was a combination of fun and frustrating, although the longer we stayed the more it became the latter. We helped with everything from putting up metal panels in the shipping container that would be the kitchen to scavenging materials to use from the abandoned ING building. During the early weeks I spent a majority of my time washing dishes “post-apocalyptic” style, which meant I washed dishes outside with a hose. We also helped at three of the rave style parties De Kaskantine held at its site with me serving as a bartender (which I was terrible at) and my adventure partner serving as the bouncer (which he was also terrible at).
Progress also went slower than expected, as De Kaskantine 2.0, as it was rechristened, was due to open while we were there. Unfortunately, the slow progress and inconsistent help meant that opening day kept getting pushed back. While there was tons of interest in the De Kaskantine project, there seemed to be inconsistent help from volunteers, including us, especially as our stay began to wind down and we found ourselves overwhelmed with the scope of the project and uncomfortable with our living situation, especially as it got colder. Menno did make sure we were away in a warm place during one of the coldest nights of the year, as his sister Carla let us stay at her beautiful home in Zandvoort. It was a nice respite from post-apocalyptic living.
Our living situation did eventually improve as we upgraded from the shipping container to our very own tiny-home built by my adventure partner from a small adjoined shed. Still, post-apocalyptic living took a toll. The chilly Amsterdam winter and living in a shipping container all combined to give me a terrible fever and chills. However, the best of post-apocalyptic living was saved for last, as a few days before we were due to go back to the States the entire De Kaskantine camp was struck with the norovirus. If you don’t know what norovirus is, it’s just awful, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Just imagine suffering through “vomit-rrhea” where you can’t hold anything down and you just feel like a miserable bag of human flesh. That’s the norovirus for you.
“Travel is still the most intense form of learning”
By the time we left De Kaskantine some definite progress had been made. The rocket stove was fully functional and was even used to make amazing wood-fired pizzas. The shipping container kitchen was almost fully insulated and appliances were ready to be installed. And some painting and sprucing up of De Kaskantine meant it was beginning to look more like a quaint urban café. While we never saw the grand opening of De Kaskantine, we could never forget our time there, or the characters that entered our lives during our three weeks there. We also couldn’t forget the experience we gained. I had learned to use a screw gun for the first time and I had even tried my hand at bar tending for the first time in my life.
While we were looking forward to going home and getting back to the comfortable amenities of regular showers, toilets, and indoor heating, we were also sad to be leaving the people of De Kaskantine who took us in and showed us some “post-apocalyptic” hospitality in our “pre-apocalyptic world”.
Want to find out more about the De Kaskantine project? Click here.