Thursday, December 15, 2005

Physical Challenge

You want one of the most ultimate physical challenges ever? Get a classic bike and go to Holland. You will often encounter 20-30 mph winds coming from every direction on any given day. You may ride in that headwind for a good 5 minutes until you begin to think, and even KNOW, that you can walk faster than you are actually pedaling. But, oh, you approach a corner where you have to turn right. You think, "yay, I will FINALLY have some easy riding because the wind won't be coming from this direction!" Think again. The wind is coming from every which direction and at the same, if not at higher speeds, and with more powerful gusts than before! Complicate that with a bit of rain. Want more of a challenge? Add a torrential downpour where not only your clothes become damp, but completely saturated. Furthermore, do that within a 30-minute period of time. Expect that you will need to throw your clothes into a friend's dryer so that you don't freeze to death just so that you can brave the next ride to another destination yet again. More? Random hail. Yes, it's wonderful--Mother Earth at its best.

For the strong willed who crave even more of a challenge-- try doing this after a few will then have achieved what I have done only week after week, for months....and will continue to do for more than a year to come.

I CHALLENGE you! Do you think you're ready? I doubt it....

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Does he honestly think the Holocaust didn't happen? How utterly despicable and flabbergasting. Oh wait, the sky is purple too...

Monday, December 05, 2005


The Dutch celebrate Christmas on the 25th, but the giving and opening of gifts is celebrated on 5 December, which is also known as Sinterklaas. The story is that Sinterklaas lives in Spain and comes to the Netherlands by steamboat each year with his 'zwarte' (black) helpers to give gifts. For more information on the tradition, go to Food like pepernoten (small hard or chewy gingerbread type cookies), speculaas (a softer gingerbread cake-like food commonly with an almond paste in the middle), marzipan, and chocolate letters are popular holiday snacks.

*Above photo is the traditional way Sint goes through the towns--on his white horse with Zwarte Pieten surrounding him.

You also write poems, as if written by Sinterklaas, for each of the people receiving gifts from you. The poems tend to tease the recipient, as well as give hints about the gift. The wrapp
ing and giving of presents is a chore in itself since you don't usually just wrap each gift as is. It is common to incorporate some tricks in the packages, like putting the gift in multiple boxes, wrapping it several times, making the gift impossible to get into, making the box itself into some kind of object, writing clues on notes to where else the gift may be hidden, etc., etc. It's great fun and sure to make you chuckle. Most people in my MA program participated in a Sinterklaas event where we each drew a name (like Secret Santa) and bought a gift for that person. To our surprise, two of our classmates dressed up as Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet; Sinterklaas played by Herman, one of our Dutch classmates, and Zwarte Piet by Pieter who is Dutch-Canadian. I've included photos from this party below.

I also went to Marnix's family's home to celebrate Sinterklaas with them. They treated me as one of their own giving me an abundance of gifts including a nice 55-piece set of kitchenware, which I need for my new apartment that I will move into in January (pictures of that to come later). After opening each gift, you say "Danku Sinterklaasje," meaning Thank You Sint! You don't usually put who the present is from on the gift. We had a really fun time and honestly never stopped eating. Marnix has a great family and I am so happy they invited me! :o)

Opening my 55-piece kitchen set I got from Sinterklaas (wink, wink) at Marnix's parent's home. It was a great gift since I need it for my new apartment!

Pieter as Zwarte Piet tossing pepernoten upon entrance. He was my SecretSint.

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

Denis (one of my future roommates) with Piet

Reading my Sinterklaas poem from Ida with a smirk on my face. It was hilarious!!

Me and my Macedonian, Ida. :o)

Most of the MA group.

Front center is Denis(Slovakia); to his left in white sweater is Richard (Polish-Canadian); to right in green shirt is Shiska(Indonesia); Sinterklaas, or Herman we know him; right of Sinterklaas with pink shirt is Evelyn(Dutch, but is essentially from Switzerland); me; in front of me is Alexis; to right of me in green sweater is Alina(Romanian-American); above Alina is Kanako(Japan); to left of Kanako is Zwarte Piet also known as Pieter(Dutch-Canadian); to left of Pieter is Daniel(Brazilian and male version of myself); to his left in plaid sweater is Hans(Dutch); he has his arm around Bokhtar(Tajikistan); in front of him is Brian(American and my other future roommate); in orange is Ida(Macedonian as mentioned above); in purple sweater is Difang(China).