bunnyfish adventures

did you think I was dead?
November 1, 2009, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Dutch culture, school | Tags: , ,

Things are moving quite quickly these days, but I thought to share my instantaneous amusement.  As there are coincidental meetings and relationships between people, sometimes seemingly meaningless things in your life become prevalent by meeting each other.

Background #1: Last week, in order to make my trial cup of decaffeinated coffee more drinkable, I added some cocoa powder.  I bought it last year based off of the box art, because I couldn’t read anything in the grocery store anyway.

Background #2: My major project for the semester (IDP) involves re-designing the registration process so that it is smoother and the involved tools can be arranged to accommodate specific purposes.  Registration in the most general sense is the introduction or the prelude to something greater: an event, a membership, a service or experience.  Sometimes in registering you will have to register for other things, and you must wait for those to go through before moving on.


The Point: Mulling over this reminded me of recursive functions, when in the definition of such a function it calls on itself, and then it must wait until at some point, things are known and we can finish off the to-do list and move on.  Since it’s been some years since 6.001, I thought I would look up “iteration” and “recursion” before using these terms in our report.  The first thing I see under recursion is my cocoa powder.  It also ends up to be the name: the Droste effect.

So it ends up that my box of cocoa is kind of famous, and somewhat related to IDP.  Cool.

minor accomplishment
June 6, 2009, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Dutch culture | Tags: ,

Last night I gave Lu a ride on my bike!  A minor breakthrough in bicycle culture immersion.

who hate yeh?
February 21, 2009, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Dutch culture | Tags: , , ,

Dutch class is going better (I actually like it!  Except for the tests…), but I feel more confident in writing and reading than speaking.  My favorite lessons are the ones that involve food, since that was my main exposure to Dutch before I started taking class.

But sometimes I’m still immature and think little things are funny.  Audio clips are borrowed from the text.

Hoe heet jij? = What’s your name? (But is closer to “Cómo te llamas?” in that another way to ask in Dutch is “Wat is jouw naam?”)

donker = dark.  You can hear it in this example sentence that means “The days become shorter: it gets dark earlier.”
De dagen worden korter: het wordt vroeg donker

vaak = often.  The sentence below means “We ask these sorts of questions often.”
Dit soort vragen stellen we vaak.

verblijfsvergunning = residence permit.  It’s the longest word I’ve seen in the text.

Wat jammer = “What a pity”

And there’s no word for cereal.  It doesn’t really exist.

And my friend Daniël told me there’s no word for “race.”  They made up a verb “racen,” but before borrowing that from English, there was no way (or reason?) to have a word for competitively riding anything.  Just “snel rijden,” which is to “ride fast.”

That could explain why it’s so easy to pass people on the way to school.  But sometimes they’re more concerned with doing other things.

I know it shouldn't be surprising, but seeing people hold hands while biking is still kind of cute.

I know it shouldn't be surprising, but seeing people hold hands while biking is still kind of cute.

Hoe heet jij?
January 29, 2009, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Dutch culture, school | Tags:

I started taking Dutch classes this week.  Nederlands voor buitenlanders (foreigners), using the Delftse Methode (“Delft Method,” woo-hoo).  This is the third thing I’ve found Delft to be known for, following (1) pottery, and (2) the technical university.

The strange thing is that the “method” is just self-study based on memorization.  They want you to read the text with the audio recording so often that you know it without the book.  We have class two times a week, with a computer test before each class that is based off of software from 2001, and the test feels just as old and inflexible.  I got 0 out of 4 words correct on one question, because I entered in a telephone number with the wrong formatting.

The class, at least, is for conversation.  At tonight’s class, the teacher was already speaking all Dutch.  I wouldn’t feel so bad if this Polish guy didn’t already start improvising and carrying on conversations with the teacher during class.  The balance is tipped out of place: I thought the class would be a safe haven to practice with people who are equally shitty at the language.  I think I would be happier if we did something normal like split up in pairs to practice.

The “method” also seems to emphasize how small children don’t need lessons or tapes to learn a language, that they just listen and figure it out.  This means we haven’t learned any grammar, nor did they go over pronunciations.  I bought a different book before coming here that was immensely helpful by just deconstructing the pronunciations.  Look, you can stop rubbing it in that “kleine kinderen luisteren wel goed,” and “ze leren zonder lessen en zonder cassettes,” but maybe my brain works a little differently now that I’m 20 years older.  I already looked up a language tree before starting, all the other languages I have tried to learn (Spanish, Mandarin) are farther away from Dutch than English.  Unfortunate.

And I’m wondering if what they decide to teach you reflects anything.  We’ve learned about introducing our names, where we’re from, how old we are, where we live, the days of the week, when we have class, explaining why we want to learn Dutch and how, and that children kick our asses in learning new languages…  But not a simple “How are you?”

Dutch dishwashing
November 25, 2008, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Dutch culture | Tags:
DA dinner 2008.11.19 - 16

DA dinner 2008.11.19 – 16

I forgot to comment on how the Dutch wash dishes. They have this plastic bin that they put in the sink, fill it with hot water and lots of detergent (this is key). Then they put everything in the bin, scrub it, and leave it to dry, like in this picture.

This may be related to how they refill beers at bars. You give your glass to the bartenders, they dunk it upside down in a sink onto some vertical scrubbers mounted to a base, and then fill it again without rinsing. Sometimes it’s best not to think too hard about these things, I guess.

a story of sinterklaas
November 25, 2008, 1:36 am
Filed under: Dutch culture | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I first heard about Sinterklaas from Marlous and Jur when I went to Amsterdam (in the early ages of this blog!).  In a nutshell, here’s how it goes:

Sintaklaas sails into various ports in the Netherlands on a steamboat from Spain in November.  The actual holiday is celebrated December 5th, but it takes Sintaklaas time to visit all the cities, so there are various festivals for his arrival beforehand, like the one I saw on Saturday.

intocht sinterklaas

He has helpers called “Black Pete” (Zwarte Piet) who were originally devils, thus the dark skin.  They are the ones that go around delivering presents to the good children, since Sinterklaas can’t do it alone.  (Man, that Dutch rationality.)  Shoes are laid out so that presents can be left in there as well.  And then the bad kids are taken away by the zwarte pieten to Spain to work for Sinterklaas.

The grown-ups exchange gifts that have poems written by the sender that are intended to rip you a new one in the name of good fun.

There are various treats around this time, including gingerbread-ish anise-ish mini-cookies (kruidnoten and pepernoten) and biscuits (speculaas), giant chocolate letters for the first letter of your name, and marzipan figurines.

And here are some variations from the above that I’ve heard or read:

  • The bad children are thrown in Zwarte Piet’s sack (that otherwise carries presents) and are taken back to Spain.
  • The bad children are thrown in Zwarte Piet’s sack and beaten. (Jeroen, Belgium)
  • To make Black Petes more racially palatable, the story of their skin color was changed to their being dirty from coming down the chimney.  But why wouldn’t the clothing also be dirty?  (Insert laundry detergent ad here.)
  • To make Black Petes even more racially palatable, they tried to have multi-colored Petes one year, like Fruit Loops.  It was so successful that they changed it back to all-black the following year.  (Wikipedia)

But to end on a good note, I’ll mention Sverre’s childhood experience with the Norwegian version of Santa.  Basically his parents had an agreement with the neighbors to take turns getting dressed as Santa and going to each other’s doors to deliver presents to the kids.  This way, you really wonder when Santa comes to the door and both your parents are inside of the house.  And his sleigh and reindeer are parked at the way end of the street, out of sight, because he can’t bring them everywhere.

To this day, he still doesn’t know which neighbors came to his door.  (Or were they neighbors after all?)