31 december 2006

‘Passion’ or ‘End of Year Thoughts’

Yesterday I was at a party called ‘GeniusSouls – Meeting the best minds of your generation’ organised by Generatie 7080. Several genius souls presented their thoughts on what they thought were the prominent characteristics of our generation. I listened to several of them and the one that jumped above the mowing field (haha) was Leiden’s own debutant writer Thomas Blondeau (one again sees, not all good is from Amsterdam!). Thomas talked about Passion being the prominent feature/virus of the past 30 years. Not the internet, not other new ways of communication, no, Passion. Everything we do these days, has to be because we like doing it. Every person we are with, we must be with because we have an intense Passion for them. Forget ‘useful’ or ‘contributing’, we can only do stuff because we feel it is written in the stars that we should do it. He could not answer whether pursuing our Passions was good or bad, he merely recognized Passion as one of the main motivating factors of our existence.

And now that I come to think of it, this past year has definitely been my year of Passion. Not the my-bed-has-not-been-empty-for-more-than-a-week kind of Passion. No, in that department of the concept of Passion, I have been in outright starvation. Maybe the three months I spent in Japan are a good excuse ;). But, as in matters of Passion you are the only judge in deciding whether you lived up to them, I can say that in all other departments of (my?) Passion I have performed pretty well.

It actually all started long before the beginning of 2006. One of Pete’s manifestations turned out to need an immediate shutdown due to heavy malfunctioning, upon which I decided that from then on Passion would be the leading guideline I was going to live my life by. And as one cannot turn all aspects of one’s life into a Passionate enterprise in a second, it took a while for things to materialize. Looking back on 2006, this year has been the best manifestation of my Passion up until now, definitely!

Study-wise this year brought me some of the best teachers I have ever had. Be it Sebastiaan van der Lubben, Paul Nieuwenburg or Henk Dekker in the Political Science department or my thesis supervisor Chris Goto-Jones in the Japanology department, very Passionate, inspiring people (why only men though?). I also found that realising that this is probably my last year in Academia, propels me into higher states of motivation than ever. Working Passionately on my Japanese language skills and knowledge of Japanese politics again while in Tokyo was incredible fun, too!

Extracurricular activities-wise things have been pretty good too. I managed to scale down on my activities in the field of talking university staff into changing their policies, which has been liberating! These tasks (sometimes they really did feel as ‘tasks’) have been supplanted by De Publieke Zaak and De Slinger, activities which I picked up after moving to Amsterdam. Thinking about and directly doing things contributing to Dutch society has proven to be a Passionate enterprise. I also enjoyed organizing the Faculty of Arts symposium “Cultuur Tegen de Muur” very much. It was so inspiring to listen to scholars’ talks about their Passions. And, although it absolutely does not feel as something extracurricular, our own little reading society LDLG has turned out to be extremely gratifying!

People-wise this year has been the most Passionate ever. The year began with making new friends during two weeks of UNISCA in January and going skiing with one of these friends in March. During the sudden three months in Tokyo that followed, I had so many wonderful moments with the Sakamoto’s and my Japanese and Dutch friends that I learned that having a small social circle and a loving family is really enough to make me happy. Determined to put this new knowledge into practice when back in the Netherlands, I have tried to strengthen the relationships with people that I feel Passionate about. This worked out very well in Spain with Jesus, Lydia and Okasan’s family, and later in Holland with Sakura. Family, old friends, new friends (this year has brought so many new friends!), I wish I could thank them all for the love, friendship and inspiring talks we shared.

Passion as a guiding principle? For me it turned out to be a good one for 2006 and I plan on continuing to use it in 2007. I guess it all depends on what your Passions are and what you direct them at to determine whether Passion is a good or a bad guiding principle. But since it is making me pretty happy, why not just stick to it?

01/01/07 3:53 edit: I had fun tonight, yeah! Happy New Year to you all, make the most of it!

30 december 2006


Everybody meet Pete. It's time for him to face the world, shed all the different personalities he has taken on and realise that he has a choice: be an independent individual or disappear from the surface of this planet altogether. Life has not been easy for Pete. From the early days of his existence he has had to adapt to all sorts of different circumstances. Metropolises, little villages, competitive student towns and even virtual locations, Pete was the man for the job! His unrelenting back ensured that he could handle all of them. Due to the great variety of personalities he had to internalise Pete's character remained quite shallow, however. The most prominent of Pete's features were an immensely accommodating love, an ability to show up only when necessary and the capacity to stick to listening uncritically. This made Pete not really that useful to others, but with his easy presence he kind of got them addicted to his attention. Recently not only the addicted, but also Pete himself have realised that his continuing presence is not bearing that much actual fruit. Together they have therefore agreed that Pete should leave his castle to move either upwards into the vast unknown territories which can be explored in this galaxy or downwards into the beautiful place we call our Earth. Bye Pete.

23 december 2006

Interview: Al Jazeera's Wadah Kanfar

A couple of days off from studying and other things on my to-do-list are put to use by my body to throw out the semi-flu that had been right under the surface for a couple of weeks. In other words, no reading books in coffee bars for me today, I am at home, with an ear- and throatache. It has its charms, definitely. Seeing my bed for longer than 8 hours is kind of nice, and I have actually watched two dvds in 24 hours, which has not happened for ages. The best thing, however, is that I was able to watch the tv-programmes that I have wanted to watch all week: a discussion in Buitenhof with two prominent Dutchmen on current developments in politics AND Joris Luyendijk's interview with Al Jazeera's General Director Mr. Wadah Kanfar. Very interesting to learn more about the man behind the channel that is in the news a lot, but that I did not know so much about. Check it out! ;)

('Wereldgasten' had to cut out the clips Kanfar had selected due to copyrights, so the programme has been divided into 11 parts.)

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11

15 december 2006


"Paradoxically cities bring enormous amounts of people together on a small surface, but also keep them apart. Flaneurs set themselves the goal of creating a renewed sense of community spirit, or like Baudelaire said: "Being away from home while feeling at home everywhere". To reach this mindset flaneurs approach the world with an open view."

(Click on the image to enlarge, it's in Dutch unfortunately ;)
For the poem check http://www.muurgedichten.nl/baudelaire.html

(Source: Intermediair 30 November 2006)

7 december 2006

The Weather Today

25 november 2006


(Vrij Nederland 25 November 2006)

23 november 2006


Struggling with thoughts
on how complicated the world has become
on how constrained I feel by those who went before me
by what they did, knew, wrote and thought
on how I think I need to know all that
I myself can speak out

How everything I write down feels unfounded
and therefore untrue
There is, or I feel, this great dilemma
Between knowing the world, people and books
and knowing myself

I feel this great thirst for knowledge
but while trying to drink, to absorb
I can’t help
but let my thoughts slip
to the matters of the heart
not the mind
to the craving to love and to be loved

Can all the knowledge in the world
be reduced
to loving and not loving?
to love and fear?

This idea seems to be at such a distance
from everyday life
something sometimes thought of
when a space appears
between the priorities of the day

But no,
my mind naturally flows to that which it craves
making it the top priority
And because it matters so much,
It is also made hard to deal with
and sensitive
very sensitive

While succumbing to these thoughts
not knowing what to think first
or do first
There is this small child
Finding his way
through the shrubs on his playground
his friends at a distance

I wave at him
after looking at me a few times while I walk on
He waves back

10 november 2006


Inspiration has been absent in my mind these past couple of weeks. At the moment it has returned, but other matters are higher on the list of things that it is needed for. For now, some (not very good) pictures of the Faculty of Arts symposium I co-organised and which took place on November 3rd.

7 oktober 2006


Enige tijd geleden werd ik door een studiegenoot herinnerd aan de waarde van komkommers. Tijdens een college politicologie zat hij er een te eten. Een kleine. En hij vroeg of ik er ook een wilde. Natuurlijk, best lekker zo'n komkommer. Nu vraag ik nog wel eens aan hem of hij toevallig niet zo'n ding bij zich heeft als ik m tegen kom. Om nou zelf komkommers mee naar college te gaan slepen gaat me iets te ver, maar als het me wordt aangeboden, geen probleem!

En blijkbaar straal ik dat uit. Toen ik vannacht na een lange invalsessie bij Camino om 03:50 uit de nachtbus stapte en naar huis liep, stapte ik bij mij in de straat in voortvarende tred voorbij een grote zwarte meneer. Het volgende deed zich voor:

"Hey meisje, ik heb hier een komkommer voor je."

Owjee, dacht ik.. wat gebeurt er nu?!

"Ja, want ik kom net van een feestje en ze hebben me twee komkommers meegegeven."

"Wil je 'm hebben?"

Een seconde lang hadden de twee dubbelfrismannetje op mijn schouders ruzie. De een zei "Hallo, je bent toch niet gek? Het is verdorie vier uur 's nachts, deze man is overduidelijk niet meer helemaal helder en dit is niet echt een goede wijk. Overweeg je nu serieus om een komkommer van hem aan te nemen?", en de ander zei "Ach, chelle, die aardige man biedt je een komkommer aan, hij wil aardig zijn, aardigheid moet met aardigheid beloond worden, neem maar aan!".

Het laatste dubbelfrismannetje won.

30 september 2006

Smalltalk in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a city I kind of avoided visiting when Sakura was here the last week. Not because I don't like it, I actually always feel very comfortable there as the people seem to be more easygoing than in Amsterdam, but it is just a big city that I don't know very well and that does not have the well-known touristspots like our capital. Yesterday evening however, Iris and I dressed up for a night of what was supposed to be doing what we like to do a lot, dancing, in Rotterdam.

The evening turned out a little different than we planned it as the crowd waiting to get into the Thalia Lounge wasn't really the crowd we wanted to dance with. We decided to sell our tickets to the guys behind us and went to de Beurs. There the crowd wasn't much better, but still we had a few drinks. It was getting late, but on the way home we decided to step inside de Witte Aap (?!) where we spent another two hours talking to some fairly interesting people.

The thing I really wanted to jot down here was the content of a talk that I had with a guy in De Beurs. After discussing several clubs in Rotterdam he said that some places are a lot more friendly than others and this is because of the average education level of the guests. His thesis was that the higher the level the less open and friendly to strangers people tend to be. So for example in De Beurs where a lot of university students go, people do not easily talk to strangers (except when they are hitting on them), in his opinion because the higher the educational level, the bigger the ego... :)

I was sort of surprised by his remarks especially because I have experienced the same thing a few times myself. I mostly measure friendliness in clubs by the way women act towards each other in toilets for example. Some time ago I was at a party in Leiden's City Hall and I was completely surprised by the friendly remarks I got from the other girls in the toilet. Why was I so surprised? Well, probably because this doesn't happen that often in the student places I normally go to.

Did this guy and I discover a Law of Friendliness in Clubs or are we just talking nonsense?! Any other opinions on this?

Anyways, Rotterdam was fun, I should go there more often! Also because they put girls in traffic lights there ;)

26 september 2006


My friend Sakura from Japan with whom I spent many nights chatting when I was in Tokyo last spring, was in the Netherlands for the past 6 days. We saw a lot of wonderful cities, landscapes and nature.. Nederland is mooi! (click on the thumbs to enlarge..)

And now, back to the books :)

10 september 2006


An experience I had last week keeps popping up in my mind, so apparently there is a need to do something with it which means to write about it.

Last Monday my beautiful Leiden University (to which I certainly harbour a strong ‘patriotic’ sentiment) held a ceremony to open the new academic year. Officially there was no need for me to be there as I am no longer a member of the Faculty of Arts Council or the University Council. But as there would be a prominent guest speaker, Mr. Alexander Rinnooy Kan, I decided to go anyway. The whole thing was sort of disappointing; except for the physics demonstration at the end the ceremony was filled with the ‘Choosing Talent’, ‘Going for excellence’ rhetoric I have been hearing for years now. While I was discussing the need for action instead of words with some friends, the following happened.

I saw a first year male student stealing a teaspoon.

No, it wasn’t a cup, it wasn’t a coffee pot, it weren’t even many teaspoons. It was just one teaspoon. And I was shocked. And at the same time I was shocked that I was shocked. Still I felt an immense need to go and tell this guy that he was violating the property of my beautiful university and that this wasn’t the way he, as a student of this university, could behave. And as somehow I often need to listen to my feelings, I decided to walk up this boy and tell him what I thought. “Come on, it’s just a teaspoon.” he said. “Yes, it’s a teaspoon and it isn’t yours so put it back.” I replied. And he did.

The funny thing was that even though my friends told me that I did the right thing and that more people should avoid others acting like this, I felt ashamed about sticking to my principles. In a city in which it is not more than normal that students steal traffic signs, student association beer glasses and the like, I of all people had to go and tell a boy off about stealing a teaspoon.

The following days I thought about the teaspoon a lot. I realised it wasn’t about the size of the object, but about the fact that I do not think people should steal, small or big. Even if nobody sees it and there is no chance of being caught, I think stealing is wrong. But why make such a fuss about just a teaspoon? Well just because. Maybe it’s one of the things from my protestant upbringing that stuck. The eighth commandment doesn’t say “thou shalt not steal” for nothing.

Thinking about Christian morality made me think of Prime Minister Balkenende’s initiative to try to let the Dutch discuss “Values and Norms” a while ago. Because of reasons I don’t know he didn’t really pursue this. Probably because it was done away with as “a Harry Potter look-a-like’s attempt to teach the people how to act” by the media. This is a pity, as I kind of like the old saying that one should not act in a way that one does not want to be treated by others. Why? Because I think this is the only way we can live together in harmoniously. Moraalridder? Mierenneuker? (morality knight?! / quibbler).. Sure. But still, is there really another way in which we can live together in a peaceful way on this small piece of land if we don’t abide by this principle? I don’t think so.

2 september 2006

Burned Hand Break

This week I managed to burn my right hand. It's not very bad, but typing kind of hurts. And as I have had below pictures waiting to be published here anyway, this is as good a time as ever! A view of where I grew up, beautiful Lage Zwaluwe and surroundings, my Heimat ;)

22 augustus 2006

Royal visit, tag-along Dutch press get Japanese media play

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006

Karuizawa, Japan (ANP) Japanese media have reported a rare private trip to Japan by Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his family -- and Dutch reporters who converged in the country to cover the visit -- with a sense of curiosity.

In its electronic edition Thursday, Asahi a left-leaning Japanese newspaper, said an official reason for Crown Princess Maxima's trip to the Japan is to convalesce, but the visit is more likely to be "an escape."

The paper said the 35-year-old Crown Princess has been under pressure due to the need to give birth to a male, who would be next in line to the throne after Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, but they have only two daughters, Princess Amalia and Princess Alexia.

Princess Amalia, 2, cannot become the reigning queen under the current male-only Royal succession law.

The paper suggested that given the Crown Princess' unsuccessful track record at changing the conservative Royal court, her latest recuperation abroad may be her final chance for self-emancipation.

Meanwhile, the Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper with a national circulation, paid attention to Dutch reporters on the front page of its Friday edition, saying they have come to the central Japanese city of Karuizawa in throngs to catch a glimpse at the Crown Prince's family.

On Friday, the family visited the Royal Stables near the castle with Emperor Akihito and other members of the Japanese imperial family for a photo session. The event was open to the media.

De Yomiuri's electronic edition doubted that Dutch journalists would have a better opportunity to see the royal couple because the imperial palace they are staying at is hidden from public view.

Japanese newspapers, including Nihon Keizai Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun, all ran big photos of Friday's event in their Saturday editions.

In its photo caption, Yomiuri said, "The Dutch have shown great interest in the Royal holidays because the Crown Prince's family rarely appears in public."

Yomiuri Shimbun, in its Saturday edition, referred to a rumor apparently circulating in Japan that Crown Princess Maxima wants to see a "Japanese specialist" during her trip to consult about her condition. A Dutch newspaper reporter quoted in the article called the rumor unfounded.

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and family will stay in Japan until Aug. 30 and return to The Hague the following day.

Sometimes one needs to see things from the other side to see the differences...

Source: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20060822f1.html

20 augustus 2006

Summer in Rainy Amsterdam

August is turning out to pour back on us every drop of water that evaporated in hot and beautiful July. Today I visited my friend Marije and on the way back I decided not to take the bus. I walked home and played tourist in Amsterdam. Nice afternoon... :) (click on the image to enlarge!)