All 144 entries tagged 2006

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December 30, 2006

Blijvend verbazend

Deze wereld, en meer specifiek, dit jaar, blijft tot aan het einde verbazen. In de korte periode van de afgelopen twee dagen vlogen me drie opvallende nieuwsberichten in het oor.

Om te beginnen dat Radiohead kennelijk niet voorkomt in de Top 2000 a-go-go. Hoe kan dat? Hoe kan het anno bijna 2007 niet duidelijk zijn voor het stemmende publiek welke diensten deze Engelse band ons bewezen heeft?

Ten tweede, de binnenval in Somalië van het Ethiopische leger om de daar in een hoekje gedrukte interim-regering te ondersteunen. Het zoveelste stammenconflict met internationale repercussies? Een korte bliksemactie voor de Ethiopische staatsveiligheid op de valreep van het nieuwe jaar? De Ethiopische regering heeft inmiddels beloofd tot het bittere einde door te vechten. Een aardige beleidsverandering. Als we andere bronnen mogen geloven, bewapende de Ethiopische regering eerder de Islamitische rechters die ze nu aanvallen strategisch tegen buurland Eritrea. Daarna besloten ze de Islamisten enkel te bevechten tot ze als macht ongevaarlijk zouden zijn. Ethiopië wordt blijkbaar steeds ambitieuzer in de regio.

Tenslotte, de terechtstelling van Saddam Hoessein. Terwijl in Den Haag en op andere plekken in de wereld in de laatste jaren met moeite een proces op gang is gekomen van een internationaal rechtssysteem met een menselijk gezicht, dat langzame en moeizame, maar duidelijke successen boekte, werd in Irak in korte tijd de meestbesproken schurk en ex-dictator van dit moment moeiteloos ter dood veroordeeld, met ruggesteun van de VS en weinig kritiek van de rest van de wereld. Minister Zalm zei dat we het toch ook maar niet al te bijzonder moeten vinden: “In heel veel landen, bijvoorbeeld ook in de VS, wordt de doodstraf nog gewoon uitgevoerd.”

Anno bijna 2007 blijft deze wereld mij verrassen. Bent u verbaasd?

December 27, 2006

Can't You Sleep?

“You have just gone to bed. You’re in familiar surroundings, nestling inside sheets and blankets that are steeped in your own smells and memories; your head has found the pocket of softness in the middle of your pillow; you’re lying on your side and as you curl your legs up against your stomach, your forhead tilts forward, and the cold side of the pillow cools your face: soon, very soon, you’ll fall asleep and, in the darkness that engulfs you, you’ll forget everything – everything.

“You’ll forget it all: the cruel power of your superiors, the thoughtless things you wish you’d never said, the stupidities, the unfinished work, the lack of consideration, the betrayals, the injustices, the indifference, those who’ve blamed you, those who will blame you, your financial troubles, the rush of time, the endless waits, the things and people forever beyond your reach, your loneliness, your shame, your defeats, your wretchedness, your pain, and the catastrophes – all those catastrophes – in just a few minutes you’ll forget them all. The prospect comforts you. Patiently you wait.”

From: Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book.

December 26, 2006

Best End of Year Wishes to Everyone!

PiromusicaChristmas has passed, some days I have spent quietly but happily at home with my family and a good friend.

And now the big countdown has started. This year counts only five more days – days, I hope, everybody will be spending tranquilly and doing whatever they want to be doing! Also, these days are a good opportunity to look at the past years and count your blessings (and failures, but that’s less fun).

End on a happy note, finish matters that need to be finished, and I wish to everyone that they may enter the new year with fresh aspirations and in good health. (And keep on visiting my blog!)

My best wishes to everyone are accompanied by a picture of the piromusica an anual great fireworks spectacle organised in Barcelona earlier this year.

December 22, 2006

Dark Days, Cold Days

View from my backgarden 22 dec 2006I came home from Barcelona yesterday. It’s a great change coming back to my village from the sparkling metropole; there are a great deal fewer christmas lights, and as we drove into the village some street lights were not even working. If BCN is ++ on a scale of christmas lights, then Eemnes must be 0 or -. It’s dark earlier as well here.

The photo shows the view from the back of our house at half four in the afternoon. Not very exciting. We are counting down the days towards christmas, although there won’t be any ice skating involved as five years ago, it will still be a good one, I think.

December 19, 2006

Catalanism: The Language

Catalan nationalism“Utilitza la llengua”, “this university discriminates the language”, “en Català”. They are but a few signs of fierce militance around my university´s campus which to me come across as grossly exaggerated.

After three months and a half here I feel I can speak with at least some expertise on matters of society here in Catalunya. After all, it´s a matter that we, Erasmus students, come across with all the time, and discuss even more.

Militant Catalanism seems to express itself mostly in constantly claiming and reclaiming language-rights for the Catalan-speaking majority. Not such a bad thing, I hear you say, and in principle I agree. The point, however, is that bilinguality rights are continually marginalised, not such a great thing for those who speak really only one of the two official languages, Spanish.

My Argentinean housemates don´t have a single good word for the language. They find it ugly and go around speaking only Spanish, managing to do so with a little force here and there. I chose to take a semester of (freely offered) language classes, nonetheless making only small progress.

Despite my good-will and attempts, however, I encounter fairly little understanding. When I do group work in my class, there are still students who send me (and only me) emails in Catalan, which I just can´t understand completely. My housemate Mario, who has a Catalan girlfriend, complains that his girlfriend´s social circle doesn´t make the least effort to accommodate his lack of Catalan by changing the language. This contrary to us, he argues, who all spoke English when a friend of mine came to visit. Fair enough to me, even more so because Spanish is not nearly as drastic a language change for Catalan speakers.

Classes at the university are taught in two languages, some in Catalan, others in Castellano. Still, at times a Castellano-speaking teacher, in the heat of a debate, turns to Catalan. Meanwhile, students, as a standard rule, address their professors in Catalan.

So, in this context: why all this unnecessary militance? Why this great hatred of biligualism? One voice in my head says that locals are just not very interested in foreigners here, another says that can´t be generally true. Then, do they all hate speaking Spanish? After all the time I´ve spent here, the Catalans still owe me the answer.

Photo: Catalan nationalist marches in February of this year.

December 18, 2006

Floating, Drowning, When Learning a New Language

Those who learn a new language invariably enter shady and absurd areas when trying to express themselves as they would in their own language. And I’m still confronted with that truth on a near-daily basis.

When I began to live in English-speaking communities, I would at times say something which resulted in looks of surprise or just blank looks with a response like: “That just doesn’t work, you can’t say that in English”, even at times when I was really convinced I used the right forms of speech and realised I had always up to that point been saying that particular thing incorrectly. For I don’t know how long, for example, I was sure that hideous and gorgeous meant their metrical opposites, so in my world hideous would mean gorgeous and vice versa. This conviction was so strong that when I realised things were actually the opposite, my whole sense of significance revolted against this change. For me, “gorgeous” could not mean a pretty thing anymore.

Now that I’m much older and wiser and never actually have such problems anymore with my English, I’m beginning to notice old worn-in mistakes in my Spanish. The example that I noticed today was my use of cuando (meaning “when”) and cuanto (“how much”). And believe me, even though it’s natural, you feel pretty stupid sitting on a rush hour train, saying something like “so how much is S. going to invite her to the Christmas dinner?”, only to realise your mistake 5 minutes later.

December 14, 2006

Genealogy of a European Family

Writing about web page

Familiewapen Hillebrandt, ca. 1832My uncle started a project last year that seems to be growing by the day.

When exactly it was that he started digging into our family history, I am not sure. But I was somewhat drawn into it because of the fact that I study history and furthermore because of my natural taste for interesting stories, even more so, of course, when it involves me and those related to me by ties of blood.

My uncle, whose name I carry too, wanted to figure out how far he could trace back our family´s surname, the enigmatic Hillebrandt line. At first sight it appears a German surname, even though any look at our near past shows no evidence of us coming from Germany.

Soon my uncle came to us with some stories talking about an Austrian branch of Hillebrandts, which is said to be a relatively common name there, as opposed to the Netherlands, where Hildebrands, and Hilderbrands are more common. There even exists a quite famous (German) opera singer going through life by the name of Oskar Hillebrandt.

But these leads appeared to be false alarm. My uncle kept on sending me emails on an irregular basis with strings of information handed to him from various sources, institutes, mysterious individuals with similar interests addressing him by his first name, and from towns scattered all over the country. Rumours had it that the Hillebrandts might have a northern and southern branch, with empoverished nobility residing in France. Other versions spoke of a mercenary soldier from England coming to the east of the Netherlands in the late middle ages in aid of German protestant princes.

Other, already confirmed, but left aside branches of the family from grandmother´s side have shown us a greatgrandfather who acted as the Netherlands´ governor in Surinam, while his father was a relatively renowned anabaptist preacher in the south of the country.

Months passed, and the emails became increasingly difficult to follow. Arguments seemed obviously flawed, but upon questions of their content, my doubts were refuted with yet less comprehensible strings of names, dates, places. The project was growing out of proportions that I would be able to follow from a distance.

And then today, I received the webpage that I am adding with this entry. I am there in the list, born 1984. Among a list of familiars, many of whom I have never heard, many of whom I feel I have nothing in common. They came from all over the country, and from other countries. And yet, they were all my family, and my only real origin of descent.

December 12, 2006

…En nog meer politiek…

Follow-up to Een worp met de dobbelsteen from Scribbles of a Dutch/Polishman

Balkenende - BosDeze verkiezingen blijken toch een lijk uit de bezemkast te halen… In een eerder bericht (zien link bij deze post) waarin ik trachtte de verkiezingsuitslag te voorspellen, sprak ik al over het feit dat of het CDA, of de PvdA, of de VVD flink in moesten gaan boeten.

Nu de VVD met zoveel verlies en het gekonkel met Verdonk een beetje buiten de boot is gevallen, lijkt het erop dat zij in elk geval geen concessies gaan doen over de te varen koers. En nu bovendien ook de SP buiten de coalitie lijkt te worden gehouden, zullen ook zij een gemakkelijke termijn in de o-zo bekende en steeds comfortabelere oppositiebankjes tegemoet gaan.

Nu komt het dus weer aan op op het CDA en de PvdA en hun onderlinge meningsverschillen, en ik weet niet hoe Balkenende het doet, maar hij lijkt aardig goede kaarten in zijn handen te hebben. En zodoende zullen we ongetwijfeld snel te horen krijgen dat we wederom een nieuwe termijn gematigd neoliberalisme tegemoet gaan.

December 11, 2006

Less Than Two Weeks and Quite a Lot of Work

Only ten more days to go before I´m flying home to the Netherlands for a two-week Christmas break. I have told myself that this time I will do absolutely nothing more than chilling out, but a last minute overview might just make that a slightly optimistic estimate.

Where does that stereotype of fun-loving somewhat unproductive Spanish people come from? Here at the Universitat Autònoma they keep us running the rat race quite effectively! Or maybe it´s just the Catalan thing… the other day someone told me that Catalonia by itself is Europe´s third most productive region, and I´m starting to believe it more and more. Did you know for example Chupa Chups lollypops come from Barcelona?

So now I have to find the time to read two major texts and write a total of some ten pages about them, as well as hold a presentation for Catalan and to start sorting out my hopelessly mixed-up lecture notes for political economics (notes in no less than 4 languages!) and I´d also better start understanding Spanish politics before the exam in January. And believe me, all the infighting and conspiring-against-the-party´s-first-man has brought about a fascinating number of political parties… ERC, PSOE, AP, PP, CiU, * sigh *.

December 10, 2006

Volver a Valencia

Ik bij het waterZes dagen alweer dat ik voor het laatst op mijn blog schreef. In de tussentijd ben ik na anderhalf jaar teruggegaan naar Valencia, en vandaag gesterkt teruggekomen in mijn geloof dat ik wel goed zit in Barcelona.

Het weer was geweldig bij aankomst op donderdag, en ook de reis is, ondanks de 350 km afstand, redelijk comfortabel te maken in vier uur met de bus. De hele tijd totaan zaterdag werden we vergast op een bijna vlekkeloos blauwe lucht en de verademing van minder toeristen en meer vriendelijke, Spaanssprekende lokale bevolking. Mario, mijn Duitse huisgenoot-sinds-een-week en fiere medereiziger tijdens deze trip, was zelfs zo onder de indruk van het grote cultuurverschil op zo’n kleine afstand dat hij het liefste was gebleven.

In best korte tijd hebben al met al heel wat gezien en gedaan. Ik ben teruggeweest in de drie memorabele cafe’s waar ik ook in maart 2005 was. Terugkomen naar vertrouwde plekjes in buitenlandse steden is altijd een leuke activiteit en ik was blij te zien dat ze nagenoeg niets veranderd waren. Verder hebben we de echte paella (origineel uit deze stad) geprobeerd, aan het strand, en de uitgedroogde oude rivierbedding die langs het centrum loopt een groot deel doorgelopen. In deze bedding zijn nu parken, sportvelden en speeltuinen aangelegd, met als spectakelstuk bij de monding een nieuw futuristisch museumgedeelte. Anderhalf jaar geleden werd eraan gewerkt, nu is bijna alles klaar en opengesteld. Al met al genoeg te zien en te doen, Valencia is duidelijk klaar voor het evenementenjaar 2007 waarin ze o.a. de Americas Cup voor winnaar Zwitserland gaan organiseren.

En toch was ik weer blij om naar de nukkige grote stad Barcelona terug te keren, against all odds. Valencia is kleiner, toch voel ik me vertrouwder in Barcelona. In Valencia kom je bekenden op straat tegen en als je uitgaat, toch hou ik er juist van in de massa van Barcelona op te gaan. De mensen in Valencia zijn merkbaar opener en hartelijker. Toch voelde ik toen ik een paar Catalanen aansprak op het station en een soort arrogante lange neus Franse-stijl als antwoord kreeg: “ah, ik ben weer bijna thuis”.

Museum area, ValenciaFuturisme in Valencia

Placa de la Reina, ValenciaPlaca de la reina van bovenaf gezien.

Klik ook hier om meer foto’s te zien van ons reisje.

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