My TEDxAmsterdam experience

Do you watch TED talks online? I do, and I love them. So in the months leading up to our big move, I was thrilled to find out about TEDxAmsterdam. Just like attending Dutch Design Week, getting involved in TEDxAmsterdam was something that I had my eye on from afar. I told myself: when I get there, I’m going to do that.
“That” meant applying for a spot on the volunteers’ team in July, via a short form on the TEDxAms website, and hearing back from Salmaan, the head of the volunteers’ team, three weeks before the big event on November 25. 
“That”meant showing up at Amsterdam’s Stadsschouwburg (city theater) a week before the event to meet the volunteers, be briefed on our tasks and take a tour of the theater. I love the performing arts and the Stadsschouwburg (yes, I stumble a bit when I type that), dating back to 1894, is one of Amsterdam’s oldest performing arts venues. I loved being able to go backstage and all around this historic building.

“That” meant getting my own TEDxAmsterdam t-shirt to wear on the day of the event. Yay for swag!

Photo courtesy of Mariana Oud

“That” meant packing away my happy smiley Filipino self for a few hours to man the doors of the main hall, where over 300 guests (including VIPs) would be seated, and channel the door bitch I never knew I had within me. I thought being an usherette (or hoofdzaal, as they say in Dutch) would be the perfect use of my genetic impulse for friendliness and hospitality. Boy, was I wrong.

Between people trying to sneak in with wineglasses or food, people trying to sneak in where they weren’t allowed to sit, people trying to worm their way in after the sessions had started, I had to steel myself to just say NO! It meant being firm, not listening to people wheedling, bargaining and throwing their (perceived) weight around, and possibly even being (gasp) disliked. But you know what? It was worth it.

Read why, after the jump!


I got to see some inspiring talks and watch some amazing musical performances. I got to see the view from the stage that only the speakers see, toy with a camera that Nat Geo and Discovery use to shoot their footage, and gawk at a real (uncannily human) android.

And I got to meet a lot of really great people. For a person starting a new life in a new country, this was the best part of my TEDxAmsterdam experience. It was intimidating and at times frustrating being the only person there who didn’t speak Dutch. Sure, I’ve learned een beetje (a bit) over the past few months, but trying to follow animated conversations with the language skills of a one year-old can really mess with your head.

I know I probably looked like I was frowning a lot, because I was always concentrating hard on trying to understand what people were saying. There were times I would just have to grit my teeth and wait for an opportunity to jump into the conversation—thankfully, usually because another volunteer would gently remind everyone that we had an English speaker in the room.

But the times when I did get to join in the backstage conversations… well, those were some of the most inspiring and enjoyable moments of my whole day. If working harder at Dutch is what it takes to plug into life here, befriend people like these, and tap into a wellspring of people who are positive, passionate, smart and interesting, then I want to do it. Because I’m going to be here for a while.

Photo courtesy of Salmaan Sana

Talking to people from the volunteers’ team really took me back to what I love most about being in a different country: meeting people, and seeing that there’s more than one way to live your life. Through the people I’ve met on my travels, I’ve learned that we don’t have to do things just the way we were brought up to do, or live the way we’re told to. I don’t reject my upbringing at all, but I love the freedom and inspiration that one can gain from seeing the many different ways people around the world live their lives.

That was my TEDxAmsterdam: more than just ideas worth sharing, an experience worth repeating. 

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MangoJuiced: Fave talks from TEDxAmsterdam

Searching for inspiration? TED has it in spades—that’s why I’ve been watching TED talks online for two years, and why I volunteered for TEDxAmsterdam. This is the volunteers’ team onstage at the end of this year’s conference: can you find me on the extreme left?

TEDxAmsterdam_Jan-Jaap_Heine_9048
Photo: Jan-Jaap Heine/TEDxAmsterdam on Flickr 

This week on MangoJuiced, I share three of my favorite talks from TEDxAmsterdam. I’ll blog about my experience behind the scenes—or more appropriately, in front of the doors—very soon. In the meantime, click over to MangoJuiced for the talks and the full post… and enjoy!

MangoJuiced is a webzine for anything and everything that interests women—from fashion and family, to pop culture and beauty, to travel and lifestyle. Follow MangoJuiced on Twitter and Facebook… and don’t forget to check back in for a new post from me every week!
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