Sad songs series #2 – feat. ADELE!

During my daily-blog-challenge in August I dedicated one blog to the sad songs I listen to, even when I’m in a good mood (or maybe especially then!). My moody playlist has been expanding lately, and instead of keeping them all to myself I decided to share some of my new additions in a new episode of the sad song series.

And now that the internet has recovered from its epileptic attack, following Adele’s announcement and release of new material, I might as well throw it in here as well. I’m actually surprised she still has so much pain to put in this song, as her life seems to be going quite well (to some people’s horror, as we had become convinced she could only channel her musical genius after break ups). Good on ya, mama!

Please enjoy my top 5 of sad songs, suitable to sing along to even during the happiest of times!

Adele – Hello

Asa – dead again

Jarryd James – Do you remember

Baby queens – red lights

Aaron Krause – Recreational

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Beware of the Chinaman (and his money)!

argument shadowsThe other day I had a disagreement with one of my best friends, let’s refer to her as Annie, that lasted no more than ten minutes but has been bothering me ever since. I’m not sure if it’s fair to play the Frisian card, but after digesting my annoyance with her for a couple of days I am tended to do just that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Friesland. I spent the greatest part of my teen years there and am always happy to go back. However, it is also a very unforgiving place. Not only is the wide emptiness of its landscape overwhelming to city slickers, but it’s harshness can also be felt in its people.

The blow up
I’m sure this disagreement I had with Annie will sound incredibly silly to many of you and you wouldn’t even be wrong. But bare with me, I’ll lift it to a more abstract level further on that might (or might not) make it sound less petty. If you’re not in the mood to read about a childish disagreement between two grown women, skip ahead to the analysis, down by the Snoopy cartoon. I totally would. 😉

Anyway, it started out with us chatting about soccer, and SC Heerenveen more specifically. They haven’t been doing so well lately and on top of that the club’s board of directors is struggling with internal conflicts and childish name calling.

While I was chatting with Annie one of the members of the board, Mr Hettinga, resigned. In his announcement he said his position had been put up for discussion and he felt there was no longer enough support for him to be able to stay on. He also described threats he had received in recent days but he felt the final straw break the camel’s when angry “fans” had come to express their anger at his home and threatened his family.

I must admit, Annie is way more into the daily hustle and bustle of the club and often has more inside information than I do. She told me he was ruining the club and that if he had had his way there would have been no more Heerenveen. She said his resignation only demonstrated he had no true heart for the club and that his complaints about his safety reaffirmed he was self centered and a coward on top of that . My reaction was, “What the hell were supporters doing at his house!?”.

So how had he been damaging the club? Was he stealing money? Was he involved in some gambling scam? Was he selling off our best players with no profit for the club?

No, the issue was that he had dared speak to a Chinese company, who had shown interest in investing in the club…

Annie sent me the links of several newspaper articles to back her story up, but the more she showed me, the more I disagreed with her.

argument disagree rightI told her I was mostly disappointed in the fact that heerenveen fans were starting to behave like hooligans and that that was more damaging for the club than a guy discussing the possibilities for foreign investors.

She told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and that if Hettinga would have had his way there would have ended Heerenveen. She didn’t say “Heerenveen as we know it”. She was literally convinced the club would be wiped off the face of the planet…

I expressed my doubts about this. I told her that ruining the club was not in the interest of an investor. They want profit. I reminded her Heerenveen, like so many soccer clubs, had been struggling financially. Even though we may not like to see it that way the club is actually a business and if an investor offers to pump money into it, you would be irresponsible to NOT consider it.

When she noticed I didn’t share her hatred for mr Hettinga nor her fear for the Chinese, she made a quick attempt to change the subject. However, I wasn’t ready to let it go just yet.

And that’s when she exploded. She let all the sarcastic bile out of the bag and said something along the lines of “I guess you don’t care about the club anyway so why don’t you just hand in your membership card straight away and request a Cambuur membership card”. To understand how serious this remark is, you may want to read back the blog I wrote about the rivalry between these two clubs.

In short she was calling me a traitor…

Her reaction was so strong that it startled me. At the same time it made me giggle because it was so bloody ridiculous! I asked her, jokingly, if I should barricade my house now that I had dared disagree with her and her beloved newspaper (notorious for its crappy journalism, but I didn’t tell her that). She said maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea and might give some of those hooligans a call. We both laughed, but with clenched teeth…argument snoopy

Analysis
So…. What was this really about and why did I feel the urge to write about it here? After thinking on it for a while I decided you can boil it down to one word:

Xenophobia.

Such an ugly trait. Narrow minded and based on fear.

My friend Annie and I were raised very differently and we get along both despite and because of our differences. She is a farmer’s daughter and was the first one in her direct family to get on a plane. Her family were only OK with it because it was with me, and I understood the world. We have traveled long and far together, which is why it pains me to see I have not been able to rid her of this ridiculous fear of the unknown.

I have compared Frisians to hobbits before and I think the comparison still fits in this context. I believe it was Bilbo who wrote to his nephew:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Frisians have a similar attitude towards traveling. It’s mostly something you hear about from those black sheep in the family that dared wander beyond the border, where you can no longer see the town’s church tower. It’s endearing, in a way. But when it translates to wariness and mistrust of all things foreign, it becomes not only annoying but also dangerous. It makes a community close up like a clam or a fearful hedgehog with its spikes all out.

It impedes them from seeing beauty in new places. And even if they saw it, half of them would never dare admit it. It gives me a nasty taste in my mouth to think that my great friend can not overcome such pettiness and I guess I am disappointed I didn’t influence her as much as I thought I did.

And at the same time… It’s what I love about her. She’s strong willed and unapolagetic and I’m pretty sure next time we meet we’ll give each other a punch and a hug and continue on as we always did, because as the Chinese say:

Chinese proverb friends 1

Righteousness with a vengeance

Newschannel Euronews has an item they show in between programs called “no comment“. It always shows images of some event but with no commentary. No translation. No explanation. Just images. For a couple of minutes you get to decide what is going on and if you think that’s OK or not. I always thought it was kind of cool. Perhaps it’s the closest you can get to objective journalism.

If the internet taught me anything though, it is that there is no such thing as “the truth”, nor is anybody ever completely impartial. The fact that the camera is pointing this way and not that can change the whole story. I try to be conscious of this fact when I read / watch any narrative.

This morning however, the internet gave me a shocker when I encountered the image seen below, among the likes of one of my FB friends. It really took me a while to process what I was seeing and reading and my initial reaction was anger. I asked the person who had liked the image (and he’s a family member, for crying out loud!) if he really believed this to be true. I asked him this, with the intention of deleting him from my account and from my life if he declared to my (cyber)face that he stood behind this statement.

FB Jews

I felt offended. Personally. I felt the legacy of my grandparents was being spat on and I couldn’t believe people were giving such a message a thumbs up. I felt it was unfair to hold me accountable for something that happened long before I was born. I felt it was wrong to put the Nazi horrors in the same sentence with what is happening in Palestine as if these things are somehow related. I hated the fact that I was being asked to disagree with Germans killing jews but to condone jews killing muslims (or vice versa for that matter).

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit I am trying to see if I can find the nuance in there somewhere, but I’m finding it quite difficult. All I can come up with is that I do understand that everyone has the right to defend themselves. My inner Ghandi however keeps popping out and poking at me with his walking stick and repeating his famous quote like a mantra:

eye_for_eye_500

UPDATE: Nuance found! I also decided to change the title of this blog and share a bit of the discussion I had on FB with the people that posted the controversial image.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, actually, and I still feel that the way this South African jewish organization formulated their message was way too strong., -and I can’t believe I am actually going to admit it,- BUT, I do understand where they were coming from now.

In their very elaborate response to my angry, slightly defensive rant, they asked me to bare two things in mind:

1. The Allies were fighting the German/Italian/Japanese Axis not because of what Hitler was doing to the Jews but because they were invading other countries.
2. The incredibly brave individuals who put their lives on the line to save Jews during the Holocaust were a minuscule minority.

I can’t deny any of this. It’s painful and it’s true.

The thing is, that I actually do believe that the world stood by and watched atrocities happen for way too long. Individuals breathed a sigh of relief as the horrors passed by their front doors (in other words, they were not jewish) and politicians dared not speak up and risk turning up on the losing end.

The world was stunned, like a deer in headlights. There was no protocol for this. No precedents or lessons learnt from previous occurrences that we could fall back on. We were slow to act. There must have been denial and heaps of mixed messages, making it so difficult to take a strong stand for the masses.

So yes, that surviving jews held grudges for the world’s passiveness: I get it… We didn’t step up until the Nazis started making life difficult for the rest of us, the non-jews. That’s offensive and no apology or compensation will ever mend those wounds.

But I don’t see us giving the Tutsi’s in Rwanda a free pass, nor have I heard them ask for one (or have they…? not even sure about that one, as the world cared even less about what happened to them than the jews’ ordeal and I haven’t really heard of them since)…

Another thing that has been bugging me is how this statement is not about the world not allowing jews to stand up for themselves. This whole image, without mentioning it ONCE, is actually about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I always struggle with political correctness here. Can you use Jew as a synonym for Israeli? I can imagine there are many jews that would disagree. Or non jews, for that matter. As a matter of fact, I know quite a few muslims that have no issues with jews or their faith, but do whole heartedly dislike Israelis. And then there are those referred to as zionists, who are the one’s that believe in and actually persue “the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland

So in that sense, the first sentence in the image above refers to jews, but the second one refers to Israeli’s and more specifically, the zionists who are trying to establish their so called homeland on somebody else’s homeland.

So my conclusion is, I get it, but I still don’t think it’s OK at all…. but feel free to disagree!

Odd jobs – #3

In a previous blog I told you about my job at a car dealership after which I travelled to Ecuador for a couple of months to recharge my battery and re-calibrate my compass. I came back to Holland with a smile on my face but very little money in my pocket. That was OK for a while but after a month or two it started to get worrying… For a second I thought my colleagues had been right when they called me crazy for quitting my job in economically trying times.

BelastingdienstI pressed on, wrote and called, smiled and presented myself the best I could and finally got a job at our government’s most unpopular institution: de Belastingdienst , aka the tax office. My mother was very pleased to hear I had landed a government job and was convinced I was finally set for life.

From the moment I set foot in that office all the rebellious fibres of my personality acted up. We were treated like unruly children in my opinion, which in turn made me want to behave like one.

I was required to sign in and out by writing my name on a form on our supervisor’s desk every day. The fact that we also had a keycard to enter the building and they therefore already knew when we arrived and left, was irrelevant. The one time I arrived on time, forgot to sign the paper but went straight to work (usually before everyone else had finished their coffee corner chats), I was registered as being too late. This drove me nuts. Especially after the train was delayed later that week and I received an official warning for being late so often. After the third time the employment agency would be informed and my chances of getting my contract renewed would be slim.

It was all so puzzling to me. I remember this one time I was working on a tax return request and wanted to finish it before I went home. The working hours were from 8AM to 4:30PM and when I hadn’t joined the queue at the exit by 4:32 my supervisor came over and said this behavior was not appreciated because now he had to stay longer too… O.o It felt like I had travelled to another country and had not yet learned the language and customs.

I had never felt such reluctance to go to work in the mornings and you can imagine the relief I felt when I had found (and was accepted for) a job elsewhere. All though the list of negatives goes on and on, I will try to make a list of things that I learned from the 3 months I spent here.

  • Humor is an awesome coping mechanism, but it is important for me to keep checking myself and step on the break when my jokes become too sarcastic/cynical as it may be perceived as bullying by some.
  • More boundaries do not necessarily create more discipline.
  • Some big institutions “don’t even know on the front side that they’re alive on the back side”, as we say in Dutch.
  • I do not do well in an environment where “why” is a dirty word.
  • Your parents don’t always know what’s good for you.
  • When the annoyances from work seep into your out-of-office time, it is time to grab a parachute and jump.

Let me be your Teddybear

“Stones or Beatles?”

I imagine this was a very relevant question back in the days when my parents were in their prime. My dad was most definitely a Stones kind of guy and I think until this day it is the music that excites him the most. So when I read yesterday’s daily prompt I new immediately what to write.

I remember discovering new music myself and wanting to share it with my parents, after which they put on a song of their own to show me. We would then go back and forth like this for a while, until my dad would get too rowdy and my mom would get annoyed by the fact he wasn’t putting everything back in alphabetical order.

All though I could name several songs that are intertwined with my childhood memories, there are two songs in particular that I associate with my father.

The first one is inevitably by the Rolling Stones. I never fully appreciated these guys and I’m sure some of this has to do with these memories. It is the music he would play the loudest, despite the LPs being slightly scratched. It is also the music that was guaranteed to put a frown on my mother’s face within seconds and lead to a riot in the house if it lasted too long. I gave my dad Rolling Stones CDs to replace his old records but he always went back to the (to my ears) horrible monophonic sounds from his LP records (and he still does).

Aside from Satisfaction the song he loves the most is most definitely Wild Horses. It is one of the songs I appreciate up to a certain degree as well, all though I must admit I often prefer to listen to a cover by someone else than the original. It’s also at the top of the list to be played at his funeral some day. Can you imagine that?

The second song is quite different. Sung by the king of rock n roll, albeit a lesser known song by him: Teddybear.

It’s quite an endearing song, isn’t it?

The combination of these two songs pretty much sums my father’s personality. He is as much the passionate trouble maker who will not let himself be dragged away even by the wildest horses, as he is the teddybear that wants to be loved unconditionally.

Hopelessly homeless

The other night, at about 4 am there was a bit of a ruckus outside my bedroom window that woke me up.

I live in an alley with a popular bar on the corner and it was Friday night, so I didn’t think much of it at first. People often leave their bikes in my alley and sometimes have trouble finding it again after a couple of beers and I guess that’s fine. I also understand that you want to evaluate everything you saw with your friends and have a good giggle about it after a good night out.

oscarThis particular occasion was different though, as I started smelling a foul smell at some point and heard some more stumbling and crashing that had me sitting up in my bed for the second time that night. I knew it must be one of my neighborhood bums fighting his demons. It’s happened before and usually, when I step out, they apologize and promise they’ll keep it down.

This particular homeless person, let’s call him Oscar, was new to me and there was no apology when he saw my sleepy face peaking at him. I know most of them by appearance, as the shelter is quite close to my house and they often hang around a bit before they’re allowed in. I know enough about alcoholics to recognize in a split second when someone is beyond reasoning, and that was definitely the case with Oscar on this particular night.

Oscar had rolled someone’s garbage container into my alley and had tipped it over. He was emptying its contents onto the street while cursing to himself about the system and how he had been wronged by this person and that. I asked him what he was doing and he barely looked up. I saw that this was not the right time (or outfit) to be taking on Oscar, so I closed my door, lighted up some incense in my bedroom and plugged my ears with some soothing music and tried to go back to sleep.

Shortly after I crawled back to bed, I heard a car pull into my alley and I knew it was the police… I felt bad for Oscar, because I had decided not to call the police on this guy because I thought he had enough to deal with already. Apparently not all my neighbors could be so forgiving at these hours. I couldn’t resist, so I put my bath robe back on and went to my door. The police asked him the same thing I had asked, and this time he answered:

I’m putting up my tent here, can’t you see?! I wanted to go to the shelter, but they wouldn’t let me in! I don’t understand why not, don’t I have a right to stay somewhere? This is my country too! They treated me like an animal, so I took their bin and now I’m trying to clean it out so I can sleep.

angerHe was so angry. So troubled. The police told him to put the trash back in the bin and he reacted with more anger. It’s all he had to give them at that point.

Why should I listen to you? So you can take me down to the station? Check my name, I have no debts, no criminal record, I just want a place to sleep!

I wanted to say something to him, but I didn’t know how or what. One of the policemen saw me at the door and ordered me to go back inside. Oscar glared at me and I know he thought I was the one that had called them.

I wanted to tell him it wasn’t me. I wanted him to know that I would have let him sleep in my alley, even beside my door if he had only kept it down… I wanted him to know that I didn’t judge him for his current state, nor for the fact he had no home to go to. I knew he was only here because the shelter didn’t have room for him, or because he wasn’t able to collect the couple of euros needed to pay to stay there. I wanted him to feel I saw him as a full fledged person, not an animal or any lesser being.

When the dust had settled (all though the smell lingered for a bit) and silence took over in my alley once again, it took me a while to fall back asleep. I wondered if the one that called the police was actually the only one that had done him a favor as he now probably had a place to spend the night…