Hutspot, herring and happiness!

It’s the fourth day of Blogtober and I have published a blog only once (but this will be two, as soon as I press the button).

A bad start? Maybe.

Leiden-geuzen

But I have a good excuse. I live in a Dutch town called Leiden, which explodes every year around the 3rd of October, when the siege and relief of the city is commemorated and celebrated. It’s a actually a very interesting history that you can read more about here.

The 3 October festival is something kids and grownups from Leiden and surroundings save up for all year in every sense. People go CRAZY!

There is a huge funfair with rides and attractions throughout the city center. There are several parades, food everywhere and a fireworks show at the end. The traditional dishes, for historical reasons, are herring on white bread and “hutspot”, which is a dish made of mashed potatoes, carrots, onions and a sort of beef stew.

masher.jpg
A masher; kitchen tool to mash potatoes with.

This year we celebrated by eating hutspot in our new neighborhood. About a dozen volunteers had made their take on the meal and a jury of local restaurant chefs decided which version would take home the golden “masher”. The winner ended up being an adventurous neighbor that decided to flavor the hutspot up with some asian spices.  Yummy!

Besides being a super handsome and historically interesting city, Leiden is also has the oldest University of the country, which the city was gifted by Prince William of Orange for the city’s perseverance, suffering and bravery during the Spanish sieges in the 16th century.

For students and outsiders, the 3 October festival is something they love to hate and hate to love. Most straight out hate it and flee the city, as the University closes its doors during these days anyhow.

kermis leiden.jpg

After having learned the hard way that trying to get from A to B was futile during these two days of local insanity, I embraced the celebration and am now a big fan, which is actually surprising considering I am not a drinker and the whole city is completely WASTEDDDDD for two whole days.

So, I am in doubt if I should recommend coming to Leiden during the beginning of October or not… In the end it’s actually about personal preferences. You have to be able to see and hear the beauty of it all, amidst rowdy crowds, flashing lights, annoyingly repetitive funfair music (and all other types of music) and stale beer. I love it!

Read more about the festival here.

 

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It’ll always be NO until you ask.

I just heard about this video on my early morning radio show of choice, and all though it’s a couple of years old, I had never seen it before. I never even really cared much for Billy Joel, but this is really awesome, for so many reasons. It’s just a nice feel good story to start my Sunday morning with. Enjoy and let it give you courage to go after your own dream!

Insane asylum seeking

Last week I went to a meeting about language coaches for refugees in Leiden, the town I live in. I heard that in the month of August between 70 and 80 refugees received their residence permit and were assigned a home here. This is the same amount that was granted a new home in the first 6 months of 2014.

inburgeringscursusThis rise in numbers is partially because there are more people arriving and partially because the asylum process has been streamlined so that more requests can be evaluated in a smaller amount of time. Each person that receives a residence permit must do a so called “inburgerings cursus” which boils down to a course that helps someone become a Dutch citizen. This involves a language course as well as lessons about our culture and customs. At the end of this course, every person must take (and pass) an exam.

Each new resident must attend language classes once a week and is assigned a language coach to practice with for about an hour a week on top of that. A language coach is always a volunteer that does this beside their regular job. It is therefore most common for a language coach to be assigned just one person. You can imagine that if in one month there are more than seventy new people starting their citizenship education, there is a great need for more language coaches.

During the meeting I went to last week there were about 15 new candidates. Their motives varied from wanting to do something practical to compensate for their very theoretical study at the university, to expanding their CV with something different. Some had already worked in schools and wished to find a new challenge in the education of foreigners. Others were just lonely and wished to get back in touch with society and remember what it felt like to be needed (this last part is my own interpretation).

I was quite surprised that besides me there was only one other person that said they were sick of watching the news and feeling helpless. I don’t say this to humblebrag, I promise. I have a genuine feeling of urgency to do something but with no clue about where to start. I for one am sick of feeling so powerless. Also it is just starting to feel wrong to voice my opinion about something that I only know about through the colored stories of the media. It’s time to see it for myself and to know that no matter what side I choose I will be able to look myself in the eye at the end of it.

refugee-word-cloud

But I must admit I do feel torn. Just the other day I started deleting “friends” from Facebook that have voiced opinions that I find discriminatory or unbalanced, to say the least. I am sure there are still some rotten apples in my list as not everyone voices their opinions on the web. One of the people I deleted is a girl I used to babysit. She is in her twenties now and has recently gotten married. She posted a video of refugees showing someone around the camp they were staying in, pleading for better conditions. She commented something along the lines of: “What did you expect, a five star hotel? If you don’t like it, go back home, you ungrateful a**holes!”. The fact that these people’s home may very well be reduced to rubble, went unnoticed to her.

I deleted her immediately, especially after I noticed she had re-posted it from a page that sympathizes with our very own, well known and homegrown right hand populist; Geert Wilders. It did stick with me for a while though… Especially since I did kind of agree with her… These worked up men were pointing at everything that was supposedly wrong with their conditions and showing the camera how muddy it was and how few toilets there were but in reality, it wasn’t all that bad… Sure, the weather was shitty, but who can you blame for that? It was a temporary solution for an overwhelming situation that was absolutely better than nothing. Nobody was starving neither from hunger nor cold. I only dared admit this to myself after I had deleted her from my account.

[The video in question, which I had embedded in this post on right this spot is no longer online, but since I believe we’ve all seen and heard about these type of situations I decided not to replace it. | 29-08-2016]

These men… All men… So so agitated. And for what? I hate mobs like this. They scare me. Men stirring each other up in this aimless frenzy. Running around, pumping adrenaline through their veins and some crazy idea that they will get their way if they just push hard enough. They seek out confrontation hoping it will help their plight, if only they manage to show the world something shocking. It sickens me and I find it very difficult to find sympathy for these people. I know they do not represent the majority, but it is inevitable that some problems will arise with these new citizens. And what if they’re not satisfied with what we have to offer? How much are we willing to give in to accommodate them?

Anyhow, I am now on the list of volunteers of the local refugeework organisation. I will be attending some classes of my own before I get assigned a new resident of my town, most probably from Syria and help him or her in the next step of their long journey to become a European citizen. I can’t wait to find out more and report about my experiences both to myself as to you.

The R is back

August, where did you go?? I wrote you a promise and I must confess I did not fully deliver.

I promised you 31 blogs, 31 pieces of fruit, 5 jogs and one bucketlist item. I pretty much failed at ticking every single box. The final score is:

  • 26 blogs
  • no clue, didn’t keep track of the fruit but I’d say I did eat more than usual but definitely not every day.
  • I did go to the gym every week but did not go out for a run every week. I think it was three times this month and once went to work by bike.
  • I added three items to my bucketlist, CHECK!

Now, fun as it was, I will definitely not keep on trying to squeeze my brain like an orange for inspiration and forcing myself to look at my computer screen on days that I would much rather go to bed early. I did however very much enjoy pushing myself a bit and reading back the results at the end of the week. I saw the view count on my blog go up a bit and did definitely notice that the more you write, the easier it becomes.

Some of the things I posted were definitely easy cop-outs and may not stay online forever, but they still served their purpose.

Now that September has crept up on me with the first autumn rains, I have decided to make some new goals. Definitely not as ambitious as posting a blog a day, but inspiring stuff nonetheless. Between now and August 2016 I will

  • donate my hair to charity
  • learn bee-keeping
  • volunteer at refugee foundation
  • go back to donating blood regularly after my 6 month hiatus due to trip oversees.
  • blog about all the above and more
  • get back into photography and post the results
  • strike some (let’s say at least three?) of the items off my bucketlist

So, I am ready take on this final quarter of 2015 and get some things done. Onwards we go!

Heal the world

Imagine walking through the desert. It’s hot. You’re thirsty. You see something glistening in the sand… Is it water? A mirror? Is it your imagination playing tricks on you? No, it is actually your lucky day and you’ve just stumbled upon of those super rare genie bearing lamps! What were you doing out here in the desert anyhow and why are these things always found in the middle of nowhere? Nevermind… Quick quick, rub it and see how many wishes you’ve been granted….

POOF! A genie! But not just any genie… This one went to University! That’s Dr. Genie for you! And you get ONE wish. A very specific one too, it’s all in the small lettering at the bottom of the page, I assure you… The bill will be sent to you in a couple of weeks. Now please sign here…

The instructions: You may name any disease or ailment, physical or psychological and the world will be rid of it.

Such a precious wish. But it’s just the one, so you must choose wisely!

There are so many diseases cutting valuable lives short. So many wonderful people being taken from their loved ones. Sure, some of them are probably ass holes but they still didn’t deserve to die like that, right? According to this list the top ten deadliest diseases are:

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Still, I would not name any of these diseases to be annihilated because I am one of those horrible beings that believes people need to die at some point. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy losing people, I cry at funerals and hope those I love live as long and prosperly as possible. My dad has (had) at least three of the ailments from that top ten list and I’m glad they didn’t kill him (yet).

Making these diseases disappear will decrease mortality rates and only increase the world’s population. Sure, It will prevent some individual’s personal losses and hypothetical traumas. They will not thank me though. They will not value the no-longer-dying person more, nor will they make the most of the time they have just won. They probably never even knew their time was running short. And even if they did, you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone anyway. They might never value life like they would have if they’d had lost their mother, brother, father or child to that mortal disease.

Now that all of you think I am a horrible person I could go on and say that I wish to rid the world of hatred, or I could go full blown hypocrite and say that I will eradicate cynicism but I’m not here to troll.

The ailment that I wish to wipe out is depression. I’m sure some will say this doesn’t qualify as a disease, but I disagree. Seeing people I love suffer from depression is the worst thing. I have never been depressed myself and am quite certain I never will be touched by this dark demon but I do see its shadows in my environment every now and then. It’s horrible horrible horrible.

It’s a disease that doesn’t kill you, but makes being alive feel pointless. All the beauty of the world is lost to those suffering from it. No “I love you” ever enters their heart, no matter how often you say it. They still feel worthless and alone, no matter how tight you hug them. I hate that bloody disease and would ask the genie if I could give that wretched black mut of a dog one last kick in the balls before he blasts it off the planet.

Men are funnier than women

Isn’t that just a wonderful thing to say? I have no idea who William James was, or if he had a last name at all, but I like him already… I totally agree! Or not, because I must admit sometimes I lean abit towards the bizar with my sense of humor; the hysterically absurd if you will. Some might prefer to call it retarded or obscene. I don’t care, as long as it makes me chuckle.

Earlier this month I read a blog that touched the subject of humor, something I find extremely important. Being a woman however, I do know that I can’t get away with everything in this respect. This specific blog even went so far as to say that being funny might influence my chance of reproducing (long story short and very much simplified, for the full story do check out the original blog on Evolutionist X)

I must confess I don’t particularly like watching female comedians myself. I’m sure the ladies on stage are extremely funny to be around and great company on a night out, but as comedians they always seem to either try too hard or completely miss the mark. Or both.

Many comedians thrive on jokes at their own expense. So Eddy Murphy and Chris Rock make jokes about black people, Jerry Seinfeld and Jon Stewart make jokes about jews, Tim Minchin and Conan O’Brien make jokes about gingers. They touch taboos, say things we may have thought at some point but didn’t dare say because of its political incorrectness.

So yes, female comedians make jokes about women but for some reason, I just don’t find that amusing for very long. Why not? Is it because all taboos surrounding women have already been busted open? Does nothing women do or say shock us anymore? Are pussy jokes getting old, stale and unoriginal? Or is it because I find many jokeworthy traits women have extremely annoying in real life? I can’t put my finger on it!

SO, are men indeed funnier than woman? Hell no! They just don’t do well on stage, for some reason (all though they are getting better lately). The best jokes are the spontaneous, quick and clever ones in my opinion anyway, so to hell with stand up comedy. Humor is the biggest turn on in the world and I don’t buy for a second that men don’t find that attractive in women.

Sure, I know funny women (especially the sarcastic ones) may be considered “a bit much” by some. I also happen to know some men absolutely hate being verbally outgunned  (which makes it that much more amusing to do, if the right crowd is there to witness it) and some prefer the doe-eyed giggly kind of girl. That’s totally fine, to each their own.

Mission Impossible – Cocoa protocol

choco protocol

Have you every heard of the Harkin-Engel protocol before? It is often referred to as the cocoa protocol. Never heard of it? Me either, even though it involves the world’s favorite snack: chocolate.

This protocol is “an international agreement aimed at ending the worst forms of child labor and forced labor in the production of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate”, according to wikipedia. The two initiators of this agreement were Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel. The protocol was signed in September 2001.

choco childlabour

In 2004 investigative journalist from the Dutch TV program “Keuringsdienst van Waarde” found out that non of the major chocolate producers were complying with the rules formulated in the agreement. As they themselves were regular chocolate consumers, they feared they might be contributing to the problem. One of the journalists, Teun van de Keuken, then ate one more chocolate bar and then turned himself in, confessing he was a knowing accessory to child slavery.

The indictment was not accepted by the court of law after which they appealed to a higher court to reconsider. This drew great media attention to their case and re-opened the discussion about slavery and especially the exploitation of children in the cacao sector. In the end, Teun van de Keuken was not convicted due to lack of evidence.

This was not the end of it though… Teun realized he couldn’t beat them, so decided he should join them instead. So that’s what he did. He started his own brand of chocolate, guaranteed to be slavery-free, and named it Tony’s Chocolonely.

Ofcourse they were sued by other chocolate companies stating they couldn’t guarantee their chocolate was 100% child labor free either. In 2007 a Dutch judge decided in favor of Tony’s Chocolonely and stated they had demonstrated sufficiently they their chocolate was indeed being produced without slavery or child labor playing a role.

And the best part is that Tony’s chocolate bars are really tasty! They started out with only milk and dark varieties but have expanded their selection in recent years, now including:

The classics:

  • melk (milk)
  • puur (dark)
  • melk hazelnoot (milk hazelnut)
  • melk noga (milk nougat)
  • melk caramel zeezout (milk caramel sea salt)

The exclusives:

  • melk coffee crunch (milk coffee crunch)
  • puur meringue kers (dark meringue cherry)
  • puur sinaasappel rozemarijn (dark orange rosemary)

Special editions:

  • melk pecan marshmallow (no translation needed)
  • melk rabarber crumble  (milk rubarb crumble)

The ones that are written in chocolate are the ones I have already tried. My favorite is the one with caramel and sea salt. I actually just opened a bar of milk pecan coco, which is a special edition from a previous month and it’s pretty darn good. Not as coconutty as I would’ve thought, but real nice. And guilt free! 😀