26 September 2011

Dive in

The words painted on the front window of the Amsterdam used bookstore-
"In 't oude boek kunt Ghij lesen hoe de nieuwe mens zal wezen.
Dus wandelaar loop hier niet voorbij en koop dit out boek van mij."

My friend, Paul* translated this for me:

In the olde book thou can read
How the new man will come to be
So walker do not pass by
And buy this old book from me.

He further clarified, "The first two lines are deliberately made to appear like old text. Ghij is medieval Dutch for you and mensch is the old spelling for mens. The same goes for the s in lesen and wesen which are now spelled using a z.

The store wants you to buy their second hand books because you can read how to become a new person from old books."

It seems so "Dutch" to find these proverbs and maxims, like those I am familiar with in  Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack. I read while growing up in rural America. I liked the safe, non-in-your-face way to observe suggestions for being a better human being, or at least ideas for how to better treat others in society, and therefore be a more acceptable member of society. Many ideas were loaded with humor (my opinion).

*Paul's incredible photos can be accessed via Flickr- bones_nl.

These books were selected for the sidewalk rack in front of this southside used bookstore. Check out the titles:  Munch, zelf koranlezen, 3 Verhalen, De islam in een notendop: wat iedereen over de islam moet weten, De zoete leugen of de mythe van de schoonheid, de kussenjongen van hofdame Onogoro, Wisseling van de wacht, Rembrandt, Klimt. 

Art, beauty, society and culture- check.

11 September 2011

Classic American

We went to the beach at Hoek van Holland. I was cognizant of the fact that 9/11 anniversary activities would be happening all over America. I intentionally did not read the New York Times, look at my Facebook page, nor open my Gmail today as I was sure the war message and national pride would be etched into any remembrance event or publication of the day.

As we were walking the beach, we stumbled upon an American Car Club classic car show. Even though 10 years have passed, and I have moved abroad, it seemed like yesterday when I saw the first American flag waving in the darkened sky; a flood of memories from 9/11 hit me.

Another reminder that avoidance is not a workable strategy.

The American car and the American flag. Symbols of nationalism and pride. Too bad they've become associated with corporate greed, excess, competition, aggression and war. It's no surprise finding these symbols with a nostalgic bent in Holland, a country where capitalism found its early roots.

Living in Holland, I rarely see SUV's, pick-up trucks and American flags. But today, on a day that I was not desiring to reflect on America- I was given a full dose of them. It felt very odd watching these young Dutch boys oggling over the old cars and middle-aged Dutch men dressed in Elvis lives t-shirts. Elvis images, fuzzy dice and 1950's model cars lined the street.

My dad was fond of Chevrolet cars. We had a couple Bel Air models in the early years of our family life in rural Iowa.

Saw this on the back of an Impala as we walked away.  "Bad to the Bone"

When I returned home, I looked up more information about this event. I discovered the American Car Club has regular car shows which invite owners of these classic vehicles to participate. This particular event was titled "Sun Set Boulevard"- highlighting Amerikaanse Old Timers.

The video - 9/11 The Day That Changed the World  (9/11 De Dag Die De Wereld Veranderde)
It is about the moments of the morning of 9/11 in the U.S. and comments related to the nations leaders and their response to what was happening. I am not sure who funded and created the video. I do know that I have a visceral reaction to Former Vice President Dick Cheney when later he publicly stated- "This wasn't just a criminal act of a small handful of individuals, . . .it was an act of war. It deserved to be and needed to be treated as an act of war." (Dit was niet zomaar een misdaad van een handjevol mensen. Het was een oorlogsdaad. Het moest worden aangepakt als een oorlogshandeling.)

Those words, ideas and the succession of actions related to those words are what have drawn the U.S. into unnecessary and seemingly unending wars since.

Deborah Loewer- chief Situation Room- White House reflected upon the day by saying,  "On 9/11, the events that transpired that day, to our nation, were absolutely inconceivable. Those events changed our nation, they changed our American people."

I personally believe the government's leaders at that time could have responded much differently and changed the world for the better. I will forever consider Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeldt to be the provocateurs and agents of war. I reject the actions of those that invoked malicious intent and executed the plans of destruction on the twin towers and the pentagon that awful day. The government's response, however is equally unforgivable. I support those that agree these former leaders should be held accountable and involved in direct investigation.

08 September 2011

I needed to paint...

I foolishly parted with my art supplies when I left the States. I asked Gabi if she had some acrylics. Within seconds of the question, these items materialized in front of me. No acrylics, but plenty o' tools to play with. Glad I asked.

04 March 2011

I love Paris in the springtime...

A week in Paris in the springtime is just plain good for the soul. I caught this woman in a spontaneous open arm appreciation for the sun on this warm March day. Absolutely wonderful day to be in Paris.

A tour through the Cite dela Musique introduced me to amazing architecture and historical collections.

La Defense is the modern side of this classic European city.

A view from the steps of Palais Garnier

19 February 2011

Visiting Regina in Vienna

I was very fortunate to visit our friend Regina in Vienna, Austria. It was bitter cold, but the hospitality and the warmth of her friendship and home made the visit oh, so wonderful.

The Vienna Opera House

Stephensdom Cathedral

The Wusterpratel Amusement Park

Station Volkstheater

The Hundertwasserhaus

17 February 2011

The second revolution

I come from the United States. I am a citizen impacted by the entirety of its good and bad along with the past and the present. So when there is public unrest back in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin it is difficult to sit here in Europe without feeling the ripple. Protests and rallies against the new state Governor's proposal to end collective bargaining has unleashed anger and the willingness of people to remain neutral. They are standing up and speaking out against the new proposals to bust up the unions, to silence employee voices and opportunities for negotiation as it slices income and benefits.

If I were in Madison, I would be involved in the protests and engaged in acts of civil disobedience. If I were still working in my public service position beyond my recent 14 years in that city, I would have been in the present struggle alongside my colleagues. As it is, only my retirement money is still tied to the state retirement fund. The current state administration is preparing to dig into that also. But much more is at stake for all citizens of the country.

The educated know that the United States was built ground-up by the people that sacrificed a great deal to break away from a monarchy and tyrrany to secure freedoms some 235 years ago. The years since the formation of the national government has witnessed an imbalance of power in the three branches. The initial intent was to assure that no single person or group would have too much authority or control. The ever-changing composition of the legislative bodies in each of the 50 states also determines the bills proposed by the legislators dependent on which party is in control. The years have also presented a widening chasm between the two major political parties of the United States. And on top of all of this, there is a widening gap between classes in the country. The working class and poor have greater difficulty keeping pace with the demands of the various levels and types of leadership.

Having grown up in the working class as a farmer, I have rubbed elbows with other farmers, factory workers, educators and those in various layers of city and state employment, i.e. the laborers that forged the infrastructure which enhances the quality of life for the estimated U.S. population now over 307 million people. The majority of laborers it appears desire a simple life, a decent livlihood and quality of life for their families.

If we were to strip away the money and the facade, we would see the steel, the brick and mortar that was laid by millions of laborers. The labor forces' flag might look like this(photo courtesy of Karin Van Bragt) - illustrating the true grit that was hammered and welded into these United States to support the basic necessities of life.

Today, the livelihood of these workers sons and daughters has been formally threatened.

And finally, after decades of cumulative oppression, the people are revolting.

From Wisconsin to Ohio, from Florida to New Jersey the beginning of what could be the second American Revolution is taking shape. It is my personal wish that once and for all, the citizens can reclaim the roots of goodness and wrangle with this beast of greed that has grown in the publics' slumber. It's time to slash it's jugular and drain the money out of its veins. Pride, greed and power are destroying the best of the United States. The general population is finally starting to connect the dots and see the truth, and they're not going to let the monster chew them up.

A capitalistic economy has regenerated institutions that the people in the first revolution revolted against.

As you recall in the first revolution, the people rejected the oligarchies and control of the monarchy to develop a government responsible to the will of the people. In 2011, the people of the United States are standing up to their state governments and refusing to accept the newly elected leaders' threats, misguided policies and legislation. They are speaking out against the destructive conditions proposed by these puppet boy tyrants who we are funded and directed by corporate greed.

It is the will of the people to have full participation, fair representation and open involvement in matters that affect our livelihood. We have been taught how to honor those that have fought for our freedoms, and are getting a lesson in how to fight for and secure these freedoms.

Now that I live in the Netherlands, a country which many economic historians considered the first thoroughly capitalist country, I am immersed in experiential education. The distinctions of capitalism and the common market race through my head as I sit down to compare the two. As we know, the Netherlands abandoned the trappings of capitalism post-World War II for inclusion in the common market. The comparisons of economic systems and types of governance help me understand
what America needs to abandon to move forward. 

Just for today, I am comforted by the connection of social media to my friends in my hometown. I am honored by those individuals willing to stand up and speak the truth. I continue to write letters and speak out when I see untruths written in local media. Tonight I shall have have a silent vigil from abroad. Power to the people.

    collective voices disrupt the darkness, illuminate oppression and speak truth to power

04 February 2011

Wat spreekt u?

This is the classroom where 18 of us meet each week to study the Dutch language called Nederlands. I love that we are such a multinational mix. There are two students from Greece, two from Turkey. The rest of us are individuals from: Romania, Senegal, Albania, Poland, Morocco, Pakistan, Austria, Cape Verde, The Philippines, Russia, Nigeria, and Canada. Ornella, from Italy is in this photo looking back into my camera. As you know, I'm from the United States.

In after-class conversations, I have gathered that most of my classmates have lived in the Netherlands for about two years and have decided to finally learn the language. A couple students have confided that even though they have master's degrees from the local Erasmus University (where English is spoken), they are not able to obtain employment locally without speaking the language, so here they are- sitting in class with me.

After three weeks together, the group is slowly starting to mingle outside of class. It's an immersion language class. That means the instructor speaks only the Dutch language throughout the entire class period. The strategy is designed to get us tuned in to hearing the spoken language early and then later addressing grammar and key words.

Having acquired my certification to teach English as a Foreign Language directly before moving to Rotterdam, I am humbled to take on the student role and overlook situations that I would have approached differently. BUT- I must say that I would have chosen to get us interacting in pairs early on and intentionally structured situations for us to speak the language in conversations with each other, thus creating an active learning experience. I would definitely facilitate lessons with more student-to-student interaction, and avoid student frustration by asking them to go to a chalkboard and write a word or sentence that is spoken aloud.

Listening to a foreign word and sentence and then writing what you think you heard is not an effective way to gain confidence or proficiency when learning a new language. Especially if it is followed up by the teacher going to the board and erasing what the student wrote and asking the student to try again in front of the group until they get it correct. The grimaces and looks of frustration on the faces of my classmates indicate that they are in agreement. I have always been an advocate of student-centered learning and presenting exercises and practice that enhances success and builds confidence.

For now I have structured my intake of the material on my own terms. One classmate has agreed to schedule conversation practice with me prior to each class period. This makes all the difference. It may be the case that this specific instructor is unaware of modern-day teaching methodologies instructor. It's my first interaction with the education system in the Netherlands. I'll register with a different instructor for Level 2 and see if the situation changes.

The upside to all of this is that there are only 20 classes left. On April 14 I will have completed the first level in a series of three. By then I hope to at least be able to pronounce the letter "G"- the Dutch way. It's a sound that comes from the very back of the roof of our mouths. Sounds like you're gargling. It's clearly not a usual phoneme in English, so yes- Glenn, the Canadian and I are having the greater difficulty with this.

I love riding my bicycle to class everyday. The location of this renovated classroom in an old Dutch building is great. My backpack in this photo indicates where I sit twice a week for a total of four hours. I love the afternoon sunshine streaming in on my face during class. And yes, I am sitting up front because I'm the type of person that can get easily distracted. I have learned that being close to the action keeps my attention from drifting into daydreams or doodling. Some things do not change with age. But I am proof that a middle-aged person can learn a new language.

02 February 2011


“In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us.”  - Virginia Woolf

29 January 2011

de Maria van Jessekerk

Gothic revival architecture of the Roman Catholic Church in Delft (a 20 minute train ride northwest of where I live). Built in 1875-1882. A beautiful pipe organ fills the rear upper deck.

's middags in Delft

                   Click on photo to see a larger version

The haze of cooled air rises slowly up and over the canal. The barista steps out to smoke a cigarette. Life in the street flows gently like the rhythmic pattern of smooth-worn cobblestones on this easy Dutch Sunday.

28 January 2011

The wheel stands alone

This is not what you want to see when you return to your parked bicycle!

Living in the Netherlands, I have learned that you have to use an expensive lock to fasten your frame and front tire to a city bike rack while simultaneously applying the built-in rear-wheel lock, and then pray that your bike is not the next target. I am aware of a smart tactic that Amersfoort police are using to confront this growing problem. They are planting"bait" bikes secretly equipped with tracking devices in various places around town. Their intent is to track and  find these bicycle thieves. Sad to see that thieves easily ran off with the frame of someone's bike as shown in this photo of a lone front wheel left behind on this bustling canal street in Delft.

27 January 2011

Anna Blaman (1905-1960) a memorial

Now this is my kind of memorial. Sculptor Maria Rossen designed this monument with the assistance of Arild Veld. It was unveiled at a ceremony on Sept. 24, 2010; the 50th anniversary of the Dutch writer's death. The motorcycle monument is located on Heemraadssingel, across the street from the Rotterdamse Volksuniversiteit, where I am enrolled in a Nederlands (Dutch) language course.

The motorcycle monument, titled: "eenzaam avontuur" (Solitary Adventure) memorializes the post-war writer known to have a passion for motorcycle riding, personal autonomy and authenticity. In the 1940's this gained her attention, but the publishing of her book "Eenzaam Avontuur " (1948) garnered the attention of the Catholic Church's moral monitoring machine. Journalists and members of the book trade, along with the church thrust the book into a February 8, 1949 mock tribunal, "Het Boekentribunaal". They exaggerated the book's flaws and lashed out at its scandalous gay eroticism. Overall, it appeared to be an ugly media situation that got out of hand, bringing her public humiliation. Shortly after this debacle, an unruffled City of Amsterdam judged the book's merit and awarded Blaman the 1949 literature prize. In literary circles, the book has since been regarded as a Dutch classic with Blaman named winner of the 1956 P.C. Hooftprijs (Dutch national prize for literature). Her bibliography credits her with 13 books.

Anna Blaman was the pen name for Johanna Petronella Vrugt. Blaman is short for van Ben Liever Als Man (I'm a better man). Johanna was a teacher from 1926 up to 1934, but chronic poor health reportedly limited her abilities, and in 1935 she resigned her teaching position. Following a brief period of work as an assistant at a gas station and having to deal with a mis-diagnosis of kidney disease, she remained unemployed and focused on writing poetry and fiction. Her real debut was the novel "Romance in Work" (1939). Writing provided her the opportunity to re-enroll at the university and in 1945 she received her degree in French language. This opened many avenues where she spent her summers on the Parisian southcoast immersing herself also in the waters of French existentialism.

In the gaps between Rotterdam, Paris and Amsterdam, where her lesbian lover lived, Johanna forged her identity, but it was her beloved Rotterdam where she returned to live. She was committed to the repair of the war-torn city and her formerly disgraced reputation. Johanna invested in the reconstruction of Rotterdam and in 1952, with W. A. Wagener and A. J. Teychine, she founded the Stakenburg Circle of Authors. She translated for the Rotterdam Theatre, worked as a dramaturge for Rotterdamse Comedie and taught at the Nederlandse Amateur Theatre Union.

In 1955, six months after the publishing of her book, "On Life and Death" Johanna suffered a heart attack. Reportedly her health improved, but she was subsequently forced to live at a moderate pace, and remained in her childhood home, living off the proceeds of her book sales and lectures. In 1960, at the early age of 55, Johanna died from the effects of a cerebral embolism.

Don't waste your time looking for her grave. It was "cleared out in 1990". As you see in this video link below, the museum director places a rose under a tree because Johanna's grave "is no more"; and he goes on to say that "she (her work) must not be forgotten. He offers a commitment to get her books available in the stores again-as noted in this Literary museum video clip. Someone knows the truth about why her grave cannot be found. Perhaps Ram Horna, who organized the 2010 Anna Blaman Year activities can unearth the information related to the mystery and we'll be reading about it over this next year- or at least, that's my hope!

It is brilliant that sculptor Rossen uses this object, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, in memorial to the spirit of Anna Blaman; an object often associated with brazen, independent, men. I can only imagine that when Johanna rode her motorcycle through the war-torn streets of Rotterdam in the late 1940's, she turned many heads. Some journalists and biographers have commented that she lived the lonely, unhappy, yet flamboyant life of a lesbian writer. Whether these descriptions and pieces of information are truth or fiction, this memorial gives Johanna the freedom to ride forever in legend as Anna Blaman- "Ben Liever Als Man".

For specific details and more about the work of this Dutch author, please refer to the newly formed Anna Blaman Society or her current champion, Ram Horna.

*I am grateful for Lilian Dana's language translation and Gabi Helfert's editorial assistance.

26 January 2011


The Marines Memorial in Rotterdam, NL is a WWII war memorial designed to remind us of Rotterdam's share of the Marine Corps that in May 1940 died defending this Dutch city and the Meuse bridges. Near this site in Oostplein, 112 Dutch soldiers were killed when their barracks was bombed.

On this particular day, flowers were placed at the base of the monument in honor of a marine that recently died. There was no name card for the deceased, may he rest in peace.

Sculptor: Titus Leeser  Unveiled on July 5, 1963 by Prince Bernhard.

A video clip of the Marine Corps (Korps Marinier) monument. The Marine Corps is the oldest entity of the Royal Navy, established in Holland in 1665 (as engraved on the base of this monument)

I chose to extend the beauty of the memorial flowers by sharing them with you today.
Click on any of the four below to view the images.

Yellow Bouquet

Pink Bouquet

White Bouquet

Red Bouquet

25 January 2011

De Drie Koornbloemen

De Drie Koornbloemen, in Schiedam, Zuid Holland

The sails of the oldest existing windmill in town - De Drie Koornbloemen (The Three Cornflowers) still turn on a regular basis, but just for show. Built in 1770; it is the only windmill in Schiedam with a miller’s house attached to it. The municipality purchased the mill in 1976 and renovated it's interior. In 1999 the miller's house was restored and now a "volunteer miller", Rens Franks lives there with his wife. The Schiedam Windmills Foundation mission is dedicated to the preservation and management of the windmill heritage in the city. The foundation was created In 1981 and has a reported membership of 18 people ranging in age from 15 to 72.

24 January 2011

"Dost not see. A monstrous giant of infamous repute"

Following my Dutch language class today, the adventure began. I caught a train to Schiedam in search of the real Dutch Mills. The first that came into view was de Noord , the tallest mill in the world (de hoogste molen ter wereld - 33,3 m). For the last 35 years, the mill has been home to Restaurant De Noordmolen

Of the 20 mills originally built in Schiedam in the early 1800's only 5 remain. RIP Don Quixote- "Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all - -to see life as it is and not as it should be".

02 January 2011

Essalam Mosque

The Essalam Mosque, located in Rotterdam is the largest in the Netherlands and one of the largest in Western Europe. The Mosque has opened its doors to the general public. It has taken many years to build it and the structure has forged through a rough beginning.

Frankly, I am engaged in continuous new learning on the similarities of other human beings and focus less on myself. Living in Rotterdam has helped in my learning process. The local residents I have interacted with and their contributions to Rotterdam are simply beautiful. Rotterdam is a dynamic city with a blending of traditional cultures and people with rapid growth of immigration of people from a variety of cultures and post-war architecture changing the face of the city.

My heart breaks to witness the endless polarization, fighting, loss of life, destruction of properties and the raping of land with misinformation, in the name of religion or some notion of supremacy. It is beyond belief what untruths and hate some self-absorbed 'leaders' and legislators choose to promulgate in regional and national media outlets. They are often fueled by greed, outrageous amounts of money and ignorant people lost in fundamental ideologies. These misguided people would rather stir hatred and confusion and keep the masses poor and struggling for basic living resources so that their personal agendas can take root. Not much different than the western European Dark Ages.

I have committed myself to meet more Muslims that live here. I will. I had to read a lot to understand more about their religion to see what similarities they have with mine. In basic terms I understand that a Muslim is a person who believes the Qur'an  (the religious text of Islam) 'is the verbal divine guidance and moral direction for mankind'. A Muslim is a follower of Islam, (the religion). Nearly a quarter of the world's population are Muslims, or people that follow the practices of Islam.

"Islam is currently one of the 'hottest' topics in the public arena in the Netherlands. The debates about Islam in the Netherlands are interwoven with the discussion on integration and acculturation of immigrants, since the majority of the non-Western immigrants in the Netherlands are Muslim. . . Statistics, as presented in this project report,
At Home in Europe show that 13% of the Rotterdam population, or 80,000 persons are Muslim. The largest of these communities are predominantly from Turkish and Moroccan backgrounds (75%) and approximately two-thirds of these groups are Dutch citizens. There are also Surinamese, Pakistani, Bosnian and Indonesian Muslim communities in Rotterdam. Almost 50% of the Muslims in Rotterdam were born in the Netherlands and are second-generation."

01 January 2011

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar from Rotterdam.

It's 01/01/11

I shot this view from the 8th floor of my apartment building overlooking de Maas (the river on the banks of Rotterdam that leads to the North Sea)

26 December 2010

walking to the sea

Walking along the North Sea on a warm December day in Scheveningen, Zuid Holland- I now understand why the Dutch Masters painted such dramatic cloud formations in their art work. The clouds are really like this!

25 December 2010

het Kurhaus

het Kurhaus on the North Sea.  This historic building in Scheveningen is occupied by the Steigenberger Hotel. It has gone through some major transformations since the current structure was designed and renovated after a major fire in 1886. When I started walking out onto the beach and looked back at this majestic building, I had to stop for a minute and take it all in. Massive structures like this are eye-catching in their unfamiliarity. It had a sort of carnival feel. Later, while walking around the space, I saw more of the features of this resort community inclusive of spa, casino, ice rink, shopping mall, hotels and rows of restaurants and entertainment outlets. I'll return in the summer to see how the space comes to life with the beach crowd.

26 November 2010

The Almost Thanksgiving Dinner

When you grow up in the States, Thanksgiving is a national holiday that takes on distinct meaning depending on your family and their traditions. It was my first Thanksgiving away from "home". I decided to create a holiday celebration here. But of course since the actual day was not honored with a day off from work in the Netherlands, and many guests had commitments late in November, so we chose November 13 as the date to accommodate our guests' schedules. 

Yesterday we hosted 11 guests (4 Dutch, 2 German and 5 Americans) in our home.  Made for some interesting table conversation regarding favorite foods, holiday celebrations and other unique national traditions. Each brought a dish (from a starter suggestion list) and it was a superb meal (see below). It also helped us Americans in Rotterdam not miss our familiar holiday celebrations so much.

I sent the following introduction to our guests not familiar with the holiday-
For the non-Americans in the bunch, a short intro. to "Thanksgiving"... Basically said, the Pilgrims (English Dissenters) fled England for the "calm and tolerance" of Holland and later moved to North America to establish a new colony on their own in search religious and political freedom. (No wonder they are still fighting in the states over it today).   The Pilgrims (not to be confused with Puritans), landed in what is known today as Plymouth, Massachusetts.  The holiday has it's ties to 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest.  (The early stories of the Pilgrims have connection to Amsterdam and Leiden). 

It wasn't until 1789 that George Washington created the first Thanksgiving Day.  You can read Wikipedia for ALL that transpired up to the present day celebration  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(United_States).  

But for brevity sake... (trust me when I say this day is far from its religious beginnings).  The modern day Thanksgiving is a day when friends and family come together, (heavy travel time in the US), enjoy a huge harvest meal, (eat and drink a lot) attend or watch parades, some watch football (yes, the REAL football) with laughter and joy for being together.  I am grateful that we will be together.  So we shall commence the celebration tomorrow (since calendar conflicts prevented the actual American holiday). 

It is only fitting that the American Expats and the Dutch gather.

On the officially recognized US holiday (November 25) it was just an ordinary Thursday here-  sunny, very brisk air but sans snow.  It was forecasted, but the snowstorm decided to stall out until Saturday. Wow, it was such a wonderful celebration- one I'll treasure for a long time!

The "Almost Thanksgiving" Dinner Menu
(November 13, 2010)  
5:30pm - Apertif
6:00pm - Dinner (avondmaaltijd)
Board/card games to follow (bring a favorite)
Joey and Gabi's house
(final food prep; for kitchen time @ 4:30pm)

Beverages:  (Dranken)
Prosecco for toast (Prosecco)
Beer with meal (Bier)
Red Wine with meal (Rode Wijn)
French Pressed Coffee and Tea with Dessert (koffie)
Carbonated water) available throughout (Spa rood)

Main Course: (Hoofdgerect)
Chicken Slices (got organic Kipboetjes t since I could not find turkey in the meat markets)
Sage/celery Dressing (selderij dressing)
Garlic Mashed Potatoes  (knoflook)
Brussel Sprouts (spruijes)
Salad  (salade)
Fresh fruit mix (vers fruit)
Lemon glazed carrots with rucola (citroen geglaceerde worteljes)

Accompaniments: (Begeleidingen)
Dinner Rolls (brood)
Butter (boter)
Cranberry sauce  (cranberrysaus)
Cornbread with cheddar and onions  (misbrood met cheddar en uien)

Desserts:  (Nagerecten)
Pumpkin Pie (Poempentaart)
Lemon Tart  (Citroentaart)
Whipped Cream  (Slagroom)

*Dutch translations are the best I have for now. Give me some compassion, I'm still learning the language.

20 November 2010


 A Bicycle in the Netherlands...

When going shopping you just need to remember where you parked your bicycle. I am thankful for those who actually stop along the path to take a call from a mobile phone. A growing number of riders do not and pose a hazard to self and others. I need attentive riders on the lanes with me.


Two common sightings in the Netherlands:

You guessed it - Graffiti and Bicycles


Winter weather conditions do not stop urban riders from being on the bike path.


Economic reasons may be a strong reason to live on a boat in the canal. Owning a bicycle for your urban travel is a great idea for transportation around town. (And if you guessed that orange is the national color- you would be correct!)


No one wears a helmet and it is common to see
mothers wheeling their children in carts attached
to their bicycles or on carriers behind their seat.
Older children are often seen riding hand in hand
with their mothers along the wide bike paths.


Riders of all ages take to the streets all day and night to various destinations. You have to have a good eye for other riders and anticipate their moves when you are on the street.


Many people ride their bicycles to work, school and to nearby cities. This view from the train station illustrates that a number of people ride their bicycles to the station and use the park n' ride system. At the end of the day, it's quite a scene watching people returning from their day's activities to find their bike for the ride back home.


Pretty accurate and timely suggestions in this resource:

Buying a bike is one of the first things to do when you arrive in The Netherlands.
Without a bike, you just wouldn’t be Dutch at all (there are more bikes here per capita than anywhere else in the world except China) and you’d be missing out on a cheap, easy and fun way to get around. After all, you can do anything on a bicycle. Just watch the locals.
There they are, talking on the phone, driving the kids home from school and balancing a TV on the back all at the same time. Star-crossed lovers cycle effortlessly while holding hands by the canals. Perky teenagers pop wheelies on impossibly heavy bikes.
Your primer to buying a Dutch bike…
What to get: Unless you have a lot of cash to spend, the basic theme is always the same. Dutch bikes tend to be heavy, retro-looking affairs with 1-3 gears, a big seat and handlebars that let you sit upright as you ride. They might not have handlebar operated brakes and the most common ones go by the name Omafiets(or Opafiets for men) – literally ‘Grandma Bike’. It’s something like the Cadillac of bicycles, a real cruiser, and the weight doesn’t matter so much on the flat land of Holland.

A back rack is generally included with the bike and if you’re willing to splash out you can get a Bakfiets – a bike with a large wooden cargo area in front for carrying children and groceries around. These bikes in particular hold their value and are always in demand.
At the same time as you buy your bike, pick up the best lock you can find. Bike theft is practically a national sport and having at least one bike stolen is almost a rite of passage here. The little lock that comes standard with most Dutch bikes and fixes the back wheel in one place just isn’t enough, especially for the big cities like Amsterdam or The Hague. Happily there are guarded bike parking areas in the cities but with the generally small house size, you may not be able to store your bike inside at night.
The cost: New bikes start around €150 euros but can, of course, easily top €1,000 if you want something fancy. Contrary to what you  might expect, the used selection in bike shops isn’t great and when you do find a few used bikes in stock the price tends to be heftier than you’d expect – generally around €150-200.
Where to buy: A great way to find a used bike is to scour the classified ads online at Marktplats (the Dutch version of eBay) and posters at places like your local grocery store. Find out where the local second hand store is – they often have great buys. That’s where we ended up getting our bikes, for €75 each and with a 6 month guarantee! Ask your friends and colleagues too if they know of any bikes for sale and ask if the local police department will be holding an auction anytime soon.

06 November 2010

Dutch Clouds - from both sides now

It's funny that when I was young and living in the open farmlands of Iowa in the heart of America, you could find me on lazy summer days, stretched out, lying on my back on fresh mown hay, watching clouds come and go. As I got older and had access to the library with art books filled with world famous paintings, you would find me flipping in dimly lit corners of the building thumbing through pages of works by the Dutch Masters.

I distinctly remember how I marveled at the cloud formations they painted. They were images from a world that was for me- far away in a place called Holland. Painters put their brush to canvas and recreated the vision of what I used to think were simply exaggerations of clouds. They weren't anything like clouds I knew.

That was then.

Now that I live in Zuid Holland, the clouds I see from my urban home in the heart of Rotterdam look no different than the clouds those Dutch Masters painted.  Everything else between then and now has changed.

Joni Mitchell's song, Both Sides Now could be no more appropriate to illustrate my situation.

Living along the harbor gives me front row seat to watch the clouds build to a glorious crescendo before massing and dumping rain over the region.  The steady breezes along the harbor from the ocean help the clouds to dissipate just as quickly as they form. Nothing less than miraculous. Clouds and life's illusions!

I found a couple videos that give a view of Dutch Clouds today in the Netherlands.
VIDEO 1 - Dutch clouds much like those frequently seen overhead.
VIDEO 2 - Dutch clouds with a little waltz music.

Below is a photo timeline I created of a Dutch cloud bank that formed above the building across the street from my home.  This was from a period of about 20 minutes. 

Joni Mitchell - BOTH SIDES NOW

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev'ry fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now 
From win and lose and still somehow 
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
I've looked at life from both sides now 
From up and down, and still somehow 
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
Jacques Brel - Mijn Vlakke Land