Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Edam: the perfect Dutch town.

Frank and I had dinner in Edam (where the cheese is from). The town is beautiful. Canals and flowers everywhere. The buildings were mostly a pretty pink brick. We parked on the outskirts and walked into the center.

Along the street from the car park into the center was a wide canal. On the opposite bank were beautiful gardens and buildings (see pictures above and to the right). Apparently you can be served tea in the two gazebo-style buildings along the canal.

After going over a bridge over the canal pictured above, we found ourselves in the "commercial" area of town. It was a narrow street, with pretty shops (closed unfortunately) on either side. Flower-covered banners were strewn across the street.

After rounding a corner to the right, we approached what seemed to be the older area of Edam. Everywhere we looked was picturesque.

Frank has an eye for picking out old architecture. I can't remember precisely when this building was constructed, but I believe it was in the 1600's.

This was the restaurant, one of Frank's favorites - he has the phone number programmed into his mobile phone. I liked it, but Frank was less pleased with his dish. There is a small, but peaceful looking hotel above. When I return to the Netherlands, I'd stay here and take the bus into Amsterdam.

This was the patio to the restaurant. Isn't it pretty? Unfortunately, they were not serving dinner on the terrace.

On the walk back, we went over a bridge crossing a lock running right between two houses. I snapped this picture so you could see the lock primarily. Also, notice the beautiful gardens.

This is a picture of the same scene, but if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see a bird almost in the water almost in the center of the picture.

Frank took this shot - I am not sure what he was trying to frame. It is on the same bridge as the two photos above.

A short stop in Holysloot *Corrected*

After leaving Ransdorp, we drove to the village of Holysloot, where Frank lived for a short while a few years ago. The village is very small - maybe 30 houses. At the time Frank resided there it had no commercial establishments.

However, there is now a cafe where, for no good reason, I snapped a picture of Frank reading a map.

Frank lived in this little yellow house. Ordinances prohibit "sprawl" so houses are built close together - sometimes two to a lot. Frank found the town too remote and because he didn't make the effort to be social with the town's inhabitants, he felt isolated.

It is rural - a field of sheep is directly across the road. I would find a village like this peaceful to do research or write a book, but I wouldn't enjoy it for long periods of time either.

Most of the houses in the town were like this. Tight together, but very neat, tidy and pretty.

I found this to be the most interesting house in the entire town. The old church had been converted to a residence. The interior was rather modern with an open stairwell and loft.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The view from on high - the Church at Ransdorp

On Saturday, Frank took me on a day trip out into the countryside. The first stop was the church tower in Ransdorp (built in the 1500s) so we could see the view. As you can see, the Netherlands is completely flat so if you want to see a view, you've got to climb a tall building, which typically are church towers.

This one was very steep. It had a tight, circular staircase with no rail. You had to hold on to the rope and hope that you could hang on if you lost your footing until you could regain it. Luckily, I didn't fall!

I took photographs in all directions, both from the first "platform" about halfway up and then from the very top of the tower. You could see all the way to the eastern shore of the country in one direction to the towers in Amsterdam in the other.

You can really see why the cheese is so fantastic here. Green pastures and cows in all directions. The Netherlands is land reclaimed from the sea (it is built on a delta like New Orleans) so it is very fertile.

Your cliches really are tired.

The Oude Kerk (Old Church) in Amsterdam has some choir stalls that are very unique for a protestant church. The Oude Kerk was originally a catholic church, but during the reformation was transformed into a protestant one. An "iconoclasm" took place in the Oude Kerk on September 26, 1566 (fn. 1). Remarkably, the images, dating back to 1480, carved into the back of the choir stalls survived.

You'll be surprised that some of the same things you say today have been being said over and over again for the past 527 years.

This first image represents, "Money doesn't fall out of my arse." Your current expression is probably something like, "Money doesn't grow on trees."

This one represents two people living under one roof. It means to say that we tend to gather people around us who think like we do.

This one is "Sail when the wind allows." It means anything is easier when you have good help (or community).

This one is "Money is not worth anything in death." Your current expression is probably something more like, "You can't take it with you."

This one is "You can't yawn wider than an oven door." It means, don't try the impossible.

This one is, "Don't beat your head against a brick wall."

This one shows a man who can't decide between two chairs so he is sitting uncomfortably on the floor. Our current version is "Sitting on the fence is really uncomfortable."

Fn. 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iconoclasm

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Another Global Justice Group posting...

Just a heads-up that I made another posting on the Global Justice Group blog about recent news reports.

You can read it at http://globaljusticegroup.blogspot.com/2007/07/dont-you-wonder-why-this-even-needs.html.

A warning however that this one is a bit political so if you will be offended, skip reading it.

Pancakes are not alone at lunch

It is interesting how different societies will eat the same foods at different meals.

In the Netherlands (and France as well), omelets are more a lunch food than breakfast fare. I went to a cafe at lunch a week or so ago - it was cold and raining outside (as usual) and I wanted something warm, but was tired of tomato soup. I ended up ordering an omelet, which is typically accompanied by a salad. I think that if you served someone an omelet and salad for lunch in the US, you would be regarded as very strange, indeed.

However, I am lucky. There is a nice cafe around the corner from my apartment with a very friendly proprietor who indulges my wish for an omelet for breakfast on Sunday mornings and will serve me one accompanied by brown toast instead of the salad.

The other thing that most cafes in Amsterdam seem to have is a juice press to make fresh-squeezed orange juice. You'll even see crates of oranges stacked up next to the bar. Another item is mint tea made with fresh mint leaves. It is wonderful and so soothing.

Local junk-mail management

When Frank and I were walking to his car on Saturday, I asked him about these stickers that are on all of the mailbox slots in Amsterdam. Some say Nee and Nee in orange (see left) and some say Nee and Ja in both orange and green (see right). I couldn't figure out what these stickers were for.

Frank told me that these stickers let the postman know if that resident will accept "unaddressed mail" and "magazines." Each residence can designate no or yes to either one. I should have asked him more about the "magazine" designation because if the resident subscribed to a periodical, one would assume it would be addressed to them. I'm wondering if he meant "brochures" or some other kind of unsolicited "magazine." I'll find out and let you know.

Kelly's Version of Heaven: The Markets

For those of you who don't know, my eldest sister Kelly is a gourmet cook. If Kelly ever comes to Amsterdam - or pretty much anywhere in Europe save England - she'll have to rent an apartment with a kitchen to take advantage of the markets.

I already posted about the Albert Cuyp market (see previous post), which runs Monday through Saturday. Near my apartment, every Saturday morning, there is an organic food market in the square in front of the church. I like this market better than the Albert Cuyp market because it doesn't have the drug store and cheap clothing stalls, etc. It seems much more like a neighborhood market. It has flowers, fruits, vegetables, and also farmers selling locally produced honey and cheeses. There even was a whole stall for different varieties of mushrooms (see picture).

I really don't understand why traditional Dutch food is only a step-above British fare because the farmers markets are fantastic.*

*Note: More comptemporary food in the Netherlands is very enjoyable.

*Updated* Placeholder Posts *Updated*

The placeholder posts for the Van Gogh museum and Rijkesmuseum and Rembrandt's House and Anne Frank House have been updated / created. Look down the list on the right and you will see them noted with an *updated*

I also updated the post titled, "How's this for sporty..." and also corrected a small detail in my "Walk with Frank" post and my "Sunday Morning Book Orgy" post.

Sliding up the U-Curve of Cultural Adaptation

They say whenever one spends any significant length of time in a another culture, one goes through various stages of adjustment: Honeymoon, Hostility, Humor, At Home (fn. 1). The phases' titles signify what they entail: Fascination, anger, etc.

Since I've been here, I've been conscious of my mindset as I didn't want to waste any significant length of time in the "hostility" phase. This blog was partially a structure for that. I knew that if I could keep myself "fascinated" by the differences instead of making them wrong, I could use my time here valuably.

Last week, I went to dinner with Frank on Wednesday night. By the time I got home, I felt tired, frustrated and misunderstood. Important note here: This had nothing to do with Frank. I could have been talking to any non-American, non-liberal, capitalist and have been plunged into the same amount of despair.

The material I have been studying (terrorism, international human rights, the death penalty and women's rights) are difficult subjects to handle. Some of it entails graphic descriptions of government's cruelty to their citizens, to other country's citizens and man's individual cruelty to fellow men (and women). Honestly, horrific is too mild a word to describe it. Some of the material is downright gut-wrenching.

I think that what has enabled me to study these things in the past without any significant melt-down is that I have been able to talk to my friends about it, discuss it, discuss how I feel about it, and also have had the things around me that stabilize me - whether it is my own bed, Marlo, or simply existing in a world that I know and understand. I have been here, studying material that is unsettling, without an environment that settles me. Does that make any sense?

Then, I went to school on Thursday and had a frustrating interaction with a younger classmate (blond, and talks like a valley-girl in a high-pitched voice) who insists that, despite what studies report, teenage girls don't dumb themselves down when studying with boys. However, the only thing she used to support her argument was her own "feelings." I'm sitting there thinking, but not expressing, "How do you think you ended up talking like that!?!?!" Pretty much, I was just being a righteous bitch, which carried on throughout the afternoon and evening.

On my way home from school, I waited at a street corner for the walk light to turn green. I started crossing the cross-walk when a car, without waiting for me to cross, began to turn right into the cross-walk. That really pissed me off. While this place is very pedestrian friendly in terms of layout, walks seem like just one big game of "chicken" between bicyclist-bicyclist, bicyclist-pedestrian, bike-car, and car-pedestrian. If you hesitate at all because you want to make sure they see you and are going to stop, they take it as a sign that they can "take" the right of way, even though it is not theirs to take. I doubt that there is a word in Dutch for "yield."

So, I spent Thursday evening in my apartment feeling miserable and sorry for myself. I did set a deadline, however, that by the time I woke up on Friday, I was going to get back on top of things. Unfortunately, I woke up on Friday morning with a headache so it took me until about 2:00 to really feel myself again. Once I did, I buckled down and read a lot of the material to get ahead, etc.

Then, yesterday, Frank came and took me driving around from village to village in the countryside to see what it is like outside the city. I'm very happy he did because it enabled me to become interested again in a postive way of how things are different here. I snapped photo after photo of one picturesque scene after another. I'll be doing some more posts about that in the next couple of days. It was a very relaxing and restorative day. He took good care of me.

If you are ever going to spend a signficant length of time in another place, it is valuable to be aware of the stages of cultural adaptation so that you can make the most of your time abroad. When you consider what a great opportunity it is - and how rare - it is important to seize every moment of it.

Fn. 1: http://www.freshmanseminar.appstate.edu/Faculty/Fac_Manual/Transitions/U_Curve.htm

For those who are interested...

I posted a commentary on current news reports in my Global Justice Group blog, titled, "The logic of a double-shot decaf nonfat mocha with whip."

If you want to read it, you can access it at: http://globaljusticegroup.blogspot.com/2007/07/logic-of-double-shot-decaf-nonfat-mocha.html

Friday, July 27, 2007

Warning: Pot can make you crazy.

There was an article published last week in the British Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, reporting that even infrequent marijuana use can increase a person's risk of psychosis or "serious mental illness" by 40%. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19980923/

Considering my previous posts about the "legality" (it is in quotes because it is technically not legal) of marijuana in the Netherlands, I figured that I should post this as well in the interest of "Fair and Balanced" journalism.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Same words, different meanings

Sometimes the same words in two different language can cause confusion in conversation. I don't mean like when the British use the word "boot" to mean a "trunk" of a car because it is apparent in a short matter of time that both parties are not talking about the same thing. Sometimes, there are more sublte issues of confusion and disagreement when a word is used in the same context in both languages, but have slightly different meanings.

When I was sixteen years old, I lived in France for a year. At one point, my French mother and I were talking about religion and she called the Mormon church a "culte." I was offended on behalf of my Mormon friends and tried to explain to her that in the United States, the Mormon church isn't considered a "culte." We didn't connect on the meaning, mostly because I was an obstinate teenager committed to being offended.

Today, I was walking to school and saw this sign pointing the way to the "Eglise Wallone" (Wallonne Church). I was looking at the sign's usage of the word "culte" and realized that it must have a different meaning than I thought twenty years ago. So, thanks again to the Internet, I came back here and researched the etimology of the word in French.*

The world "culte" in French does not mean the same thing as in English as a derogatory term to imply a group worshiping an unworthy idol or figure. In French, it has a few different usages - one being a group / sect / splinter group of a Religious order. For example, Protestantism is a "culte" of Christianity. Also, it connotes going to church. As in "We are going to "culte" (church) on Sunday." This differs from "l'eglise" which means the building, not an activity. It also means "worship" as in "Worship at 11:00 a.m.," which is what the sign above says.

Live and learn.

*Mom, you might find this interesting. Go to http://www.lexilogos.com/francais_langue_dictionnaires.htm and put in any word in French. You can then select what you'd like to do - search the etimology, synonyms, antonyms, etc.

Dr. Evil and Mini-Me

Just kidding...

The other day, I saw a teeny-tiny DHL delivery truck and today I was able to get a picture to show you all. You can tell how little the small one is by referencing the man standing behind it. When I walked by the man, I would estimate that he was a little over 6 feet tall. I also got a picture of a "regular" one so they do have bigger trucks here. What I noticed about this one is that the driver behind the big truck was just waiting patiently for him to move (more about that in a subsequent post).

I thought my dad would find this interesting.

I saw this vehicle on my way to school this morning and stopped to ask the driver about it. He didn't speak much English, but I took notes and then found more information on the Internet.

This car is made by Ligier Automobiles, a French company. Guy Ligier was a Formula One racer and later Formula One team owner. He started the company, which is now owned by Piaggio. This particular model is in their "Fun Range" line, and is called the "Be Two." Is not considered a car, but is a "quadricycle." According to the owner, drivers do not need a drivers' license to operate the vehicle. However, according to the website, the driver needs to be at least 16 years old and have a class B1 license (I don't know what that is).

The driver also told me that the vehicle is powered by a two-cycle engine made by Lamborghini, however the website does not verify this. The maximum allowable speed is 45 mph, although the driver informs me that it will go faster than that. It weighs 340 kg, which is 748 lbs. It gets 45 mpg.

Also, I updated the post titled "How's this for sporty?" because I got more information about the little gray car.

Information on Guy Ligier: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Ligier
Information on Ligier Automobiles Company: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligier
Ligier official website in English: http://www.ligier-automobiles.com/site/uk/gamme_fun/gamme_fun.htm#

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The commute home.

I snapped this picture because it caught my eye as significant and different (I know, I know - what isn't different here?) to see a flight attendant lugging her bags home as a pedestrian. Well, maybe they do in New York and other cities where people don't have vehicles similar to Amsterdam, but for a Seattlite, it was noteworthy to me.

I have been walking a lot here. I walk at least 15-20 minutes each way to school. Most days on the way home I take a diversion and walk a long way in a different direction to see new things. Today on my way home from spending the day with my classmate, Ami, I found the Red Light District, Old Church and the New Church as well. Of course, there are walks to the grocery store and to the markets. I have only taken a tram on two different days (roundtrip) and taxis three times, one of which was to move into my new apartment. Unfortunately, I don't think that all this walking has resulted in much weight loss - it probably has only served to offset the cheese and occasional chocolate that has found its way into my diet.

Evil lurks just 'round the corner.

Evil lurks just 'round the corner. Of course, which evil depends on the direction you are facing.

I walked a new way and ended up walking through Amsterdam's Red Light District, which I had not been to yet. I was surprised to all of a sudden find myself in the middle of the district, surrounded by sex shops and prostitutes in windows. A block away, I was in a nice residential district. I can see why the Rick Steves' guidebook says that the Red Light District is one area to avoid walking through at night. I walked through at 6:00 p.m. and it was certainly filled with unsavory characters. I didn't take any pictures of the prostitutes in their windows because there are signs prohibiting pictures, which I understand.

I took this first picture because I was struck by the scene of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in the background just one block away down the small street, which is filled with prostitute windows, coffeeshops and sex shops (notice all the red lights). You might have to click on the picture to enlarge it to really see the scene.

Perhaps this is a commentary of the loss of the Church's influence, which in the sixteenth century Netherlands was very strong. During that time, the Netherlands was one of the centers of the protestant reformation.* The second picture was taken practically from the steps of the Oude Kerk of a coffeeshop and sex shop almost side-by-side across the Oudekerksplein (Old Church Square). When I walked past them, I found that the coffeeshop is called "The Old Church Coffeeshop." It must be a difficult scene for the priests (or whatever they are called in the Reformed Church) and congregants to pass as they go into their church for services.

*For more information about the Reformation see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Reformation. One interesting sidenote is that the Reformation led to the Thirty Years War in Europe. This war ended with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which established the notion the nation-state and its sovereignty within its geographical boundries. This is the basic foundation that all international law is based upon.