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The benefits of alcohol

I went to a family (in law) get together last weekend. It was the first time I met many of them and I felt quite welcome.

However, looking back on the evening later, I realized there had been several awkward moments and slightly tense exchanges. Everything was resolved quickly, as the general atmosphere was good and there was genuine love present.

civilized wine drinking
…or not.

I came to the conclusion once again that most of the irritated glances and insensitive remarks had one thing at its core: alcohol.

This morning, as I strolled through my news and blog apps, I stumbled upon several alcohol related stories, finally ending up at this one, describing the health benefits of wine.

And I couldn’t help but cringe… No matter how intellectual people get about what “good wine” is and what foods you can (or can’t) combine it with, the conclusion for me is always the same: it is poison.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are situations in which alcohol can be used for good; as a disinfectant for example. I also know alcohol acts as an anticoagulant, which I suppose can be positive for some people. I guess snake venom and plant toxins have been used for medicinal purposes since the beginning of time, so why would alcohol be any different?

The thing is that most articles and blogs I read about the benefits of wine (or other alcoholic beverages), to me, are just sorry attempts of drinkers trying to justify a bad habit. I truly believe more bad comes of it than good and hardly any drinker consumes their poison to a degree that is beneficial to their bodies, let alone their spirit (no pun intended).

coca cola harmless

If I ever were to bring this up at a party (risking acute ostricization or eviction to pariaville) I imagine one of the reactions I would get, would be “That Coca-Cola you are drinking isn’t exactly good for you either”, which would absolutely be true.

I was going to say that drinking Coca-Cola may harm my health but at least it doesn’t turn me into a shitty person, but I guess diabetes can make you kind of moody too, so I’ll have to rethink that one…

But you catch my drift. Alcohol is not cool. It’s not good for your body, your self-esteem or the general atmosphere in the room, and I think you know it too.

 

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Mind Cleanup

We are nearing the year’s halfway-point, which is a good time to take a few steps back and look at the bigger picture that is coming to life. We are the painters. What are we creating?

emoji reading newspaper-smiley

Thanks for the coffee, Yemen.

Amsterdam will be hosting the biggest coffee convention, World of Coffee, later this month. According to some accounts, coffee’s origins lie in Yemen. As one of the most troubled (to put it mildly) countries in the world, many western countries (including the Netherlands) provide Yemen with aid in all sorts of ways.

Earlier this week, an article in Dutch newspaper het Parool was brought to my attention that described the troublesome trip that Yemeni coffee farmers had made to the embassy in Jordan, in order to be able to attend the coffee convention. Representing their country and their coffee at such an international event, would not only boost their confidence but perhaps also the production and trade in Yemen. Sadly their visitor’s visa were denied by Dutch authorities. So much for lending a helping hand…

A similar feeling of disappointment and frustration was shared and described well by fellow blogger Glenn Redus in his post When hopeless people keep fighting.

Society of shame through loyalty

Another article from the same newspaper brought me new insights on intercultural communication and how different people from different cultures react to guilt.

The article describes how a child that breaks something in kindergarten is asked “Did you do this” and if the child answers with yes, it is rewarded by not being punished and receives praise for being honest. When the same child applies the lesson from kindergarten at home, a parent from a different culture may expect a different reaction from their child. When a child looks a parent in the face and says “Yes, I broke the vase”, this may be interpreted as shameless, causing the punishment to be more severe instead of less. The “right way” to admit guilt would then perhaps be to lower your head and say nothing… The article proceeds to explain why these are valuable lessons for law enforcers and social workers. It was an angle I had never thought of.

Body language

#worldpeace #bodylanguage #faketan #USA #answeringquestions #smileandwave #dumbblonde

If you had only the hashtags above to go on, what would you think we would be talking about?

I just realized they would apply to the Miss America competition as much as they do to the G7 summit. Adding the “dumb blonde”-hashtag may even refer more to the Drumpf than to any Miss America contestant…

The news about the exclusion of the swimsuit round from future miss America competitions has surely reached most of you..? I don’t think anyone really understands what the point of this decision was but it sure did cause a commotion.

And to summarize the G7 summit (or the G6 + 1 summit, as some have been calling it), all you really need is the legendary picture below.

donald-trump-angela-merkel-g7-summit

mirror

My parents stayed at my place for four days, which was plenty… We had all sorts of constructive and enlightening conversations that will need some following up on at a later stage.

An interesting conversation I had with my dad, was about his brother and sister. My dad was telling me he felt he needed to reach out to them, as they had all dealt with their own personal health issues and he wanted to let them know that he cared. He admitted he was a bit hesitant to do so, as my uncle always “claims to know more than his doctors” and “refuses to follow their advice or take the pills he has been prescribed”. The irony of the fact that this is pretty much a summary of himself, was lost on him at first. When laughingly, I told my boyfriend about this conversation, he said “it’s always the traits you recognize in yourself that annoy you the most”.

I’ve been trying to apply that hypothesis on myself the last few days. There are many things, particularly about my parents that drive me completely up the wall. Which traits of my own am I secretly recognizing in them…? I haven’t figured it out yet, to be honest. Perhaps it’ll resurface in a future mind cleanup.

Yesterday, I made a really simple but surprisingly yummy bulgur-based tabouleh salad, with the ingredients below.

170 bulgur

1 bell pepper

1 red onion

fresh mint

fresh coriander / cilantro

Fresh parsley


Lettuce mix

Gyros pork strips (optional)

You basically just prepare the bulgur, according to instructions on the packet, fry the pork strips (if you choose to include them) and mix all the other ingredients (chopped up, of course) together and voila! A wonderful meal, that I encourage to make “too much” of, as the leftovers make a great take-to-work lunch.

Wow, I just posted a recipe on my blog… Never thought that would happen… LOL.

Unnecessarily blessed

These thoughts were prompted by Pernille Ripp’s blog about her once-in-a-lifetime experience of flying first class on an intercontinental flight. It reminded her how some people are “given more because [they] had more to begin with”. And it’s true.

growing up woman

As we say in Dutch, “I’ve always held up my own pants”, which means I have always taken care of myself. Having said that, I do live in a country where I had the chance to go to University for a relatively low fee (all though it still hurts) and was able to do so during a time that “the state” still provided students with a small monthly allowance, so that did make a big difference.

All though I always worked during my years as a student, I did have quite a secure safety net, knowing that my parents would have my back if anything went wrong.

I was lucky with the student dorm I had, which was relatively cheap and run by a very reliable housing association. Renting from this association, gave me the possibility to move into a lovely apartment (at a fair and affordable rent) after I finished studying for another couple of years, as I figured out what I was going to do with my life.

A few years later I moved into my current home with my boyfriend, G, that we do pay quite a hefty sum for, but nothing out of the ordinary for the city we live in (but ridiculous really, if you compare it to a comparable house in a different area of the country). We can afford it and still live quite comfortably.

house owner

And now, by no merit of my own whatsoever, I may soon be a living in a house of my own. I mean, an actual house, owned by me (and G).

This “situation” has undeniably sent my score on the scale of privilege soaring through the roof, all though I am still struggling to refer to it as a “blessing”, as many seem to do.

People keep telling me there are several reasons why I should want a house of my own:

  • Renting a house sends your money into the pockets of strangers, whereas owning a house sends your money “into the structure” of the thing you own (and therefore back into your own pockets).
  • It’s an investment for “later”.
  • It gives you stability and a “sense of place”, as you build a home and become part of a neighborhood community.
  • The monthly payments of a mortgage are usually lower than the rent.

This last point is usually the one people throw at me first, but because it bugs me the most, I put it last.

And the part I really really really hate, is the part where I have to admit that someone is giving me money (like I said, no merit of my own), making it possible for me to, not only have a house of my own but also pay EVEN LESS than I already do.

And I’m doing just fine! I don’t NEED a lower monthly payment. I can think of so many people that would benefit from this possibility so much more than me.

privilege ladder

Such a sucky system.

And all I can do is say what; Thank you?

I really should be grateful.

And I am.

It’s just…

unjust.

Another discussion the Dutch are failing at

As I was watching TV just now, switching from channel to channel like a 21st century zombie, I came across the following commercial:

It’s a public announcement from the Dutch 4th & 5th of May-committee, that starts out by reminding us we had lost our freedom during 5 years of World War II. The voice over continues by saying that since then, we have passed freedom on from one generation to the next. It’s something that should not be taken for granted and something we are responsible for, together. She finishes off by telling us that on the 4th of May we will be remembering the victims and that on the 5th we will celebrating our freedom. Her final question is: “How will you pass our freedom on?”.

It was only three weeks ago that I wrote about the Dutch national remembrance and celebration day, and the confused guilt trip I have been going through in the wake of it. But while I was watching the above commercial I felt I hadn’t said all I needed to say.

You see, as so many other places in the world, Dutch society is no longer succeeding at hiding it’s true (pretty racist) colors. Some of you may have heard of the discussion we’ve been trying to have about our family friend, “Black Pete”. If it rings no bells, feel free to read an old  blogpost of mine about it.

zwarte pieten en sinterklaas

Some of the same people that are trying to ban Black Pete from the Dutch celebration of Saint Nicholas, have been trying to ask for a more equal representation during the May 4th remembrance.

The point they have been trying to make has to do with a lot of things, but the one they have been speaking about most is the role of the Dutch army during the Indonesian National Revolution, which took place between Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945 and the Dutch recognition of its independence at the end of 1949.

During the two minutes of silence that we hold at 8PM every year, we remember all victims of WWII during the first minute and victims of other wars in the second minute. According to the protesters, we only focus on “white victims” and choose to ignore the victims in Indonesia, for which the Dutch conscience is not completely clean.

remembrance king

A couple of weeks ago, this group of protesters announced they would disturb the two minutes of silence with a noise-demonstration to bring attention to their cause.

Politicians have tried being civil, saying: “If you are protesting to demand respect, you shouldn’t start out by disrespecting others. There is a time and place to discuss and demonstrate, but this isn’t it.”

Just like with the Black Pete discussion though, there was a small window of opportunity for society to defuse the bomb before it went off. You see, the right reaction to a person telling you that you hurt them with something you did (or didn’t do), in my opinion, is: “Really??? I made you feel that way? I had no idea and I am so sorry! Please, join me at my table. Let’s talk.”

I know, I’m naive that way…

FB frames

But I’m seeing friends on Facebook (yepp, I’m still there) putting frames on their profile pictures showing the Dutch flag and stating “I will be silent for 2 minutes”.

For most, it’s probably just a well-intentioned attempt to pay their respects to the dead. It bothers me though, because it’s so much beside the point that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The noise-demonstration is not a protest against being quiet. It is a protest against being ignored, marginalized and disrespected. The fact that you don’t understand why they feel this way, doesn’t make it less right. It just makes you ignorant.

So in their stupor of petrified ignorance my fellow countrymen are only achieving one thing: proving the protesters right.

Jaar van Verzet

Ironically, this year’s theme is “resistance” so we are all being encouraged to stand up for what we believe is right. I think the people that came up with the idea were hoping we would be standing together AGAINST racism, though…  wupps.

 

Mind Cleanup: April 2018

April has been a good month.

Sunny weather

emoji sunshine smiley

We had a some real, genuine sunshine that lasted for almost a week, including a weekend. It’s amazing what sunshine does for one’s spirits. Or at least for mine.

It was also during this beautiful sunny weekend that I sat in my garden for the first time. I mean, I’ve been living in my “new home” for over a year now, so I’ve definitely sat in my garden before, but that was different. Last weekend I just sat there, not to eat, or light a barbecue or whatever. I just closed my eyes and sat in the sun, with my sleeves rolled up and with my blindingly white legs exposed, like fresh solar panels, to charge my batteries. Such bliss!

In our first year, we just let the garden “be” as it felt kind of impolite to just barge in and start pulling out plants, root and all, without getting to know them first… I know, I’m silly that way. But this year, when the sun came out and plantlife started to explode, I decided to be a bit more assertive. So, I’m growing some stuff inside now that will be move to the garden soon.

Also, a nationwide initiative called “mission Stone Break” is encouraging people to take out a row of bricks / tiles in front of their houses and grow something there. It’s a really fun idea, so that is also something I’ve been doing that has been making me quite happy, as well!

In the Lyme Light

Lopen voor Lyme logo

Another sunny day earlier this month (the 14th of April), which luckily wasn’t quite as hot as the lovely garden-sit-Saturday a week later, had me tying up my sunning shoes for “Lopen for Lyme”, a walkathon to raise both money and awareness for Lyme’s disease.

I have half a blogpost sitting in my drafts file, where I explain more about how the day went, which I will try to publish soon. But the short version of the story is: our team raised over 5.000,- and had a wonderful day in a beautiful area. I ran 14 km and felt it in my thighs for three days, but it was totally worth it!

Chance encounters

bird-tree-silhouettes

Another cool thing that happened this past month was an encounter I had on a Saturday at work. Contrary to my usual office duties, I had been assigned a shift in “the store”, which was kind of nice but also something you have to do regularly in order to be able to bring your A game.

So, as I had let my colleague do most of the harder stuff that day, when a guy walked in asking for advice on what to buy for his son, I volunteered. We walked around the store and I did the best I could to help him out and we ended up having a fun chat.

When he had collected all the stuff he needed, I walked him to the cash register and asked if he was a member so that I could give him a discount. He wasn’t completely sure, but he thought he might be, so I offered to look him up in the system. I asked him his last name, and to my complete surprise he said MY NAME!

And to people called Jansen or de Jong (two very common names in the Netherlands) that may not come as a surprise but my name is really uncommon. I have never met another person with my last name that wasn’t a family member, so you can imagine I was dumbfounded, when I heard my last name come from the mouth of this comeplete stranger (and pronounced “the right way”, and everything).

And when I looked at him again, suddenly he reminded me of my uncle. So yes, this guy was a distant relative, who just happened to walk into the store on that one day that I was assigned that shift and that one minute that I decided I would step in to play “personal shopper” for a random customer to alleviate the weight on my colleague’s shoulders.

Luckily it was a really nice guy and when he left the store we agreed we should meet again for a cup of coffee.

Cosmos, you be funny!

Music

emoji music

I’ve been enjoying new music a lot as well, but there is really only one artist that I want to talk about: Janelle Monae.

She is such a force. I can’t even….

I mean, I already loved her “old stuff”, like Tightrope (see below), but the stuff she’s doing now has really carved her name deep into the history books.

Make me Feel, Django Jane, Pynk and I like that are all really different songs but they’re all revolutionary in some way. She reaches back to styles we know well but mixes them up and melts them down to something uniquely hers.

And don’t get me started about her looks. She’s gorgeous, isn’t she?

Yupp, I’m a fan.

Summer of sixty-NO!

It took me a while to get this list together and I still feel it’s incomplete, but since the blog that inspired me is already six months old, I think it’s better to just throw it online and then see what happens later.

Lyle describes how she realized that some of the songs that were good when they first came out but had now passed their expiration date and should really be retired and never taken out again.220px-Bryan_Adams_-_Summer_of_'69.jpg

There are so many songs that I feel the same way about, but one that I really can’t wait for to disappear into oblivion is Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams. It’s not that I got sick of it. I never really liked this song. But for some reason some of my friends keep sharing it on playlists and acting like its something I should feel melancholic about. I don’t.

 Make. it. stop.

The summer of 1969 weren’t “the good old days” for me, nor any of my friends. Our parents maybe; but then again, Bryan Adams means nothing to them.

The rest of my list consists of the following six songs:

  • Deep Blue Something – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Robbie Williams – Angels
  • Lemon Tree – Fools Garden
  • REM – Everybody hurts
  • Last Christmas – Wham!
  • Rihanna – fourfive seconds

There were also two artists that I dislike in general and would like to request to leave the stage and find another occupation, being:

  • Bon Jovi
  • Sam Smith

In the case of Bon Jovi, I think probably don’t hate all of their music. The song that really really really gets to me in all the wrong ways and has ruined their whole repertoire for me, is the slow version of It’s my life. I would crash my car (or bicycle, taking into consideration I don’t actually have a car) if it came on the radio while driving and I wouldn’t be allowed to switch the channel…

Sam Smith is talented, I get that. His voice is…. interesting? But he sings like he’s constantly running out of breath and that high pitch thing he does… Good grief, please don’t.

youre-annoying-stop-it

On the other hand…

Have you guys seen the animated movie Sing? Nothing can move a grown-up to tears quite like a kids’ movie can, amirite?

Firing up my soul force

You know how festive days such as mother’s day and valentine’s day always get responses along the lines of “What’s the point of being nice to your mother / lover once a year? It should be done each and every day or not at all.”?

All though a tad cynical, these people are right, in a way. So are the people that say that emphasizing or reinforcing their love on this given day is an important reminder to not take such a beautiful thing for granted.

A national holiday we have in the Netherlands and that I write a blog about almost every year (see here and here) is our World War II remembrance day (4th of May), followed by Liberation Day (5th of May).

All though I have always payed my respects (two minutes of silence at 8PM) and always did my best to celebrate my freedom consciously, I must admit that lately, I feel like the previously mentioned cynics when it comes to remembrance day…

Every year I make an effort to ask my friends and co-workers what they will do when the clock hits 8 PM on the 4th of May. I always try to remind them that it is not just 2 minutes of “having to be quiet” but that these 2 minutes can be used to explore our own thoughts on the current state of the world and honor those who have died for the freedom we now so easily take for granted.

quote wars Enoch Powell

I always feel fired up and ready to act after liberation day. And then… NOTHING. Maybe I write a blog about my white privilege and dive into a couple of Facebook discussions and call my friends out on their inherent racism… But that’s it.

I feel icky just admitting that. I feel useless and I feel hypocritical. If only the world wasn’t collapsing under the weight of all the racism, bigotry and hate mongering, then I could act as if my help wasn’t needed.

But it is, and so is yours.

It seems the Dutch committee for 4th and 5th of May celebrations agrees that we all need a kick up the ass, and therefore decided the theme of this year’s WWII remembrance should be RESISTANCE. Even more, it has been decided it should be the theme of the whole 2018 calendar year…

Museums are adapting their exhibitions to this year’s theme and special education series are being compiled at schools, where WWII veterans and war heroes are stopping by to tell their stories.

I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but the Dutch year of resistance happens to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. The exact date of his murder was the 4th of April and on this day last week I watched the movie Selma.

The general story line and historical context were not new to me, as I hope it isn’t for anyone else. The film did however contribute to a better understanding on my side about what resistance entails.

It requires courage. It requires perseverance. It requires not taking “no” (or “wait” or “I can’t” or “It’s too hard”) for an answer. It requires caring more about the cause than your own well being.

As Dr King said in his legendary “I have a dream”-speech (which does not feature in the film, btw):

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

So yes; SOUL FORCE!! And now that I come to think about it, I actually wrote a blog about it just last week, only in the version of super woman Valarie Kaur. She didn’t call it Soul Force though. She called it revolutionary love.

And then former American president Jimmy Carter showed up at Stephen Colbert’s late show. Such a sweet and wise man; I had no idea! He reminded me of the willpower it takes to love those that seem undeserving of that love but the importance of doing it anyhow.

It seems my generation’s greatest purpose in life is to achieve inner peace or “zen” or a perpetual state of “Netflix & chill”. These are actually all thing I excel at, but I suddenly realize that being relaxed is making me complacent and -oh the horror-, indifferent.

I need to refuel my inner rage and channel it into something productive and less egocentrical.

Pff… I think I’ve even written about this before… What do I do to get out of this cycle?

I need to start planning some field trips.

Goals for the month of May:

  • Visit at least one exhibition, museum or lecture that fits the “resistance” theme.
  • Make a grumpy looking stranger smile.
  • Think of a good present for my bf’s birthday.
  • Bake a cake and eat it too, but with friends (especially the undeserving ones?). Or maybe it should be humble pie.

To be continued!