Monday, May 31, 2010

Possible to be: 'Dutch' and Muslim?

The New York Times does a pretty thorough job at explaining the challenges facing those of non Dutch decent currently living in the Netherlands:

'Europe lags far behind the United States in its ability to craft a truly multi-ethnic society, to turn newcomers into citizens. European countries, by this reckoning, are prisoners of their old racial or nationalistic identities '

Muslims, Jews, Turkish, Moroccans, and Dutchies. Could the first four still maintain that identity, and still be Dutch? Of course they can. But there's one problem. (Some) 'Native' Dutch people don't agree.

'Over the formative centuries of European history the two words that most succinctly signaled “other,” “foreign” or “enemy” were these: “Jew” and “Turk.” Crudely unpacking them, “Turk” meant Muslim, Arab, infidel, the threat from without; a Jew was the enemy within, someone who, even if born and raised in your hometown, was part of another political as well as religious entity...'

'“Jew” and “Turk” were in fact constructs Europeans used to help define their own identity: that which we are not.'

Which just goes back to that current question on the Dutch political scene: 'Who are we as a people?'

Unlike the rest of Europe, the Dutch have never been a tribe or a clan. They created their land. And then one day, around 1813-15: poof! The United Netherlands had a King. Bestowing royalty to a land that, at one time, didn't even exist. What Dutch people don't realize is that it's not just going to be 'Dutch' people anymore. Newsflash: it's 2010! And that's somethings (some) Dutch don't like, or even understand. The United States' immigration and naturalization story is a bit different: In the United States, 'newcomers internalize the ways of their adopted land and apply them with an intensity that natives may have lost... the problems in the Netherlands today mostly stem from the fact that the Dutch don’t read their own history and aren’t aware of their traditions, including both pioneering the notion of tolerance and trying to define its appropriate limits. If they did understand, he says, they would apply their own laws.'

All this, because I have just moved into the Indische Buurt, in the east of Amsterdam. And as the 'Dutch' would say: Het is heel multiculti. (English: It is very multicultural) And I love that. I feel at home among diversity. It must be the American in me.

Friday, May 28, 2010

'The Fish', by Picasso:

Since Amsterdam has finally decided to warm up and join the rest of the northern hemisphere, and foray into what we call 'spring'. My favorite spot in Vondelpark is back in action. Which is the most lovely field of grass, situated right next to 'The Fish' by Picasso. Which I have previously professed my love for: here and here. Here's to hoping the sun sticks around. I'm longing for the days of t-shirts and shorts. Spring, where are you?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Growing Up in Amsterdam:


I do not understand the Dutch saying: 'Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg.' That is, 'Act normal, that's crazy enough already'... in English. Seems a bit forced into a cohesiveness to me. And makes for some damn boring tendencies in the country. But Amsterdam... and the Netherlands really are two different countries within one another. It's quite surprising to me, when I'm told stories about how people in other parts of the Netherlands dislike coming to Amsterdam, or: the BigBadCity. And yes I'm well traveled within and well versed about, Limburg. I'm also familiar with how international the province is, hence a lesser connection to the rest of the country. Interesting country the Netherlands is. Amsterdam is so tiny. I really love it though. I really couldn't imagine living anywhere else. I must get the Dutch down though. It's getting there. I understand almost all (ok, so about 65% in reality) of spoken and written Dutch. It's the speaking thing. I can speak if I want to. It's like when you back a raccoon into a corner (that I ever would do such a thing, Amanda), and have to provoke it to get a response. People can speak to me in Dutch, and it comes out in English.

This used to amaze me when I would someone speak to another Dutchie, in Dutch, only to hear the second Dutchie respond in English (usually to make sure their American friend didn't feel left out. Always appreciated). 'How do they do that?', I would ask myself. What it is, is that I'm slowly becoming bilingual. Yes, I say bilingual because even though two years of high school Spanish count for something, it also sort of doesn't. So technically, Dutch is my first, second language. And I love learning new knowledge that lets me see the world from a new point of view. I can feel myself hitting a milestone again. Emotionally and physically. My body is pretty much at the height and weight it will be for the rest of my life more or less (and good thing it's in shape and never gets too blobby).

Today I move out of this very minuscule Jordaan apartment (the sink leaks on you when you do the dishes, the washer is in the kitchen, and is broken, and full of stinky water, there is no real bed or couch, and our front door is just tall enough for an eight year old–we however, are not eight years old, and must duck to enter), and into our own. We cannot wait. But other than that. The view from this place was fab. I used to have a very large affection (and sort of still do) for the brand of Abercrombie & Fitch–for quite a long time. It really helped shape who I am. I worked there, actually. And made me much more outgoing. It wasn't just work–it was like being part of a club that instantly elevated you. And I met one of my best friends there. Imagine that. What did she say to me the very first time we spoke, you ask?: (As she attended to her appearance while standing in front of a mirror with no shame, and proceeded to explain.) 'I'm the most vain person you'll ever meet.'

As a young teenager I completely bought into their marketing scheme of American Classic, New England teenage-perfection, which I longed for–while growing up far far away from New England. Which was cleverly exhibited in their 'must be 18 or over to buy' mag-a-log, the AF QuarterlyThe 18+ was because, the USA has this whole ordeal with nudity. It's almost as if the naked human body is a horrendous sight or something, and must never been seen without clothes–the way it's censored in the USA. Ever notice, with these sorts of things, that most people who have absolutely no problem with it, never say anything at all, while it's always the overtly conservative members of society that feel the need to speak up? And this mag-a-log was packed with nudity. Generate controversy to create a buzz? Check! Of course a few issues have made it across the ocean with me to Amsterdam.


And I loved the music that would play on the in-store CD's, had every mp3 (and even the in-store original mixes from 2004-2006). I was obsessed. Little did I know all that interest in the mag-a-log and the beautiful scantily clad American youth photographed by Bruce Weber hanging everywhere, and the company's obsessive placement of everything within the store, (which is the perfect environment for an obsessive natured person, like myself) would actually lead to an interest in branding (read: graphic design); storytelling (read: writing); the making of places (read: design). And dance music, which still pumps me up. All in all, I need to find more new music, more often. (And since originally writing this two nights ago, I have!) The Netherlands is a great place for live music. And I need to start seeing live (dance) music more often, too. I simply love to dance.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Muiden, the Netherlands:

Muiden, just east of Amsterdam, is always a great stop on the way back to the city, for some bitterballen and beer... I mean wine. Muiden is beautiful, and if you can, go. The terraces are fabulous. It's close enough to the Indische Buurt, that I sometimes even cycle there on sunny summer days.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Moving Out of the Jordaan:

So much to say. So much to write down. But when? Maybe this weekend? Maybe now? I am moving out of the Jordaan. As beautiful as it is from the street from inside the houses; it is small, cramped and claustrophobic–with very few (readily available) places to park your bike outside your door (please take note Gemeente Centrum). However, on the flip side: there is an abundance of cute ass canals, copious amounts of cafes and boutiques, Ijscupje, Burgermeester (lekker!), the best (and cheap!) take-away Thai food in the city, one of the city's only lesbian bars, and the ever unexpected waiting just around every corner. I have also decided that I enjoy the area of the Jordaan above Rozengracht much more than the area below... it is more quaint, quieter, less filled with tourists (tourists, take note! this is the area of the Jordaan you want to be in!). I am moving out of the Jordaan in just eight days, to the Indische Buurt. Land of multiple languages, foreigners and people of non Dutch decent/buitenlanders (gasp!), and endless parking for my bike(s). Renovations on our new house are almost complete. Though there is a lack of canals in Amsterdam East; he great thing about the Indische Buurt, is that the Eastern Docklands, or the Oostelijk Havengebeid, in Dutch (full of great architecture and that famous and overtly published Dutch urban planning of the 90s and early 2000s), is just around the corner. Could this possibly be the world's best city?