The people living rough

His greeting was answered with barely recognisable answers. Voices raw, lips unable to form the letters and words properly anymore, the group hanging around in the park had brought damage to themselves by consuming copious amounts of alcohol and drugs, and living rough. He was a relative newcomer to the group, his voice and lips still able to produce a proper ‘hello’.

The group brought much needed connections, how strange that may sound for people who live on the streets. But think about it: living rough means you have the need to find a place to sleep every day. One that’s dry, and from where you’re not chased by angry owners. Which leads to the theme of safety. Connections, or at least belonging to a group, means some sort of protection. In any city around the world, the ones living rough lead tribal lives.
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These times – a micro story

Landscape with mountains - Just like a Bob Ross painting

Just like a Bob Ross painting

The mountains ahead looked like they were painted by Bob Ross. Maybe you know him, he’s the guy who did these painting courses on tv. Incredibly skilled, a true craftsman. He clearly knew how to paint, even though his paintings wouldn’t probably be the ones you’d hang in your living room. Or anywhere else in your home. Or office. But still, it was amazing how with a only a few hand movements and a brush, he could create worlds in seconds. Inspiring, really. While looking at the mountains in the distance, how the intensity of their greys fade in the distance, the ones closer a bit darker than the ones that are clearly further away, you can almost hear his iconic voice, talking about where these little mountains live, and how you should push the paint right into the fabric of your canvas.
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42 years, 4 months and 8 days – a micro story

Calm water in the old port

Calm water in the port

Wind sweeps up the waves, that are crashing hard on the barriers protecting the old port. They do their jobs, these barriers, as the water inside of them is as tranquil as ever. Alexis stares at his float, waiting. Tourists see the beauty of it, and take photographs of the old man fishing. He doesn’t notice, his eyes and attention fixed, for now, on the float. It doesn’t move. Even if it did, he wouldn’t care very much. He’s not waiting for the fish to take his baitless hook in their mouths. He will buy a fish at the market later, to bring home for his wife to cook. As he has done basically everyday for, well, as long as he can remember.
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Old habits – a micro story

rakiandicestory

Old habits die hard, he noticed. Even though they seem to be forgotten, the live on, under the surface. Hidden. But it only takes a small gesture, to make them come out of hiding. He didn’t want to offend the local culture, and it was so long ago. It won’t be a problem. At least, that’s what he thought when he reached to pick up the small carafe the waitress customarily had brought after their dinner. As he pulled the stop and tipped the carafe to fill the tiny glasses with raki, his long forgotten habit was awakened. Without thinking he raised the glass, looked around the table, and downed it in one quick, aggresive move. Before he knew it, the carafe was empty. Four shot glasses of the stuff had made him a bit dizzy, but aching for more.
He noticed the glance of his long time friend, but chose to ignore it. Not drinking hadn’t been a problem for so many years, so it wouldn’t be now.
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A cup of Hugo-tea

She looks at her watch, not for the first time in the past ten seconds, and takes another sip of her tea, which she finished what seems am eternity ago, but can’t be more than five minutes. Or can it? Five more minutes. Maybe he thought it was at nine, not eight. Maybe it was at nine, and she was mistaken. Five more minutes, maybe ten. Then she would give up. On tonight, on him and on online dating. This was not the first time she was checking her watch every other second, and take sips from empty cups.
Again, her eyes scan the cafe.
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Now that I’m in town, anyway – a micro story

“Now that I’m in town, anyway..” she said. And she meant it. She was in town, so it shouldn’t be too much too ask for her to get her mother that shirt which was on sale. Just so as it never was too much too ask. Not when it was up to her. She loved helping people out, especially her mother. So, now that she was in town, she would take that tram, then a bus, and then walk for about half an hour to get to the store where this shirt her mother needed was on sale. Of course she would. She always did. As said, she loved helping people. Whenever they called her, she would answer, and say things like “now that I’m in town, anyway…”. It was on the other side of the phone, where the evil happened. Because the people around her, especially her mother, knew how much she loved to help. In stead of going to get a shirt on sale themselves, they’d wait until they knew she was in town. Or going in that general direction. Then they’d call her, and mention it to her. Not simply ask her. Just mention that they had seen something they’d like to have from a store in town. And she would fall for it, and go out of her way to get it. Just like today. The shirt her mother had seen in one of those door-to-door magazines last week was probably sold out. But she had an appointment at the clinic today, for her chronic back pain. The clinic was in town, or more precise, within the city limits, on the outskirts. But, well, it was in the city, wasn’t it.

The tram was running a bit late, so she almost missed the bus. It was already at the stop, and she was a couple of meters away. She started running, waving a bit. She did not want to wait 20 minutes. Her back hurted, more than it usually did. In the clinic they had run some tests. They were actually surprised that there was no-one with her, to bring her home. Her back hunted so much, she couldn’t really turn her head.

As she was running for the bus, she never saw the truck coming up behind her. She crossed the street. The truck driver didn’t have a chance. It was too late to brake.

Degree of disruption – MOOCs change how people earn degrees

Recently, I heard about an event at a business school, where MOOCs were discussed. The person I spoke with had attended this – closed – event, and mentioned how the experts had come to the conclusion that currently business schools and their degrees (yes, indeed: MBA) were not really threatened by MOOCs, and that no-one was yet giving out MOOC-based degrees. Oh, and no, it certainly wasn’t going to be the higher education world that was going to disrupt this status quo. The disruptions was going to come from the outside. The tone struck me as if they had added something like “in the distant future”.

Well, I couldn’t agree less. Currently, it seems there is still a big gap between the free education offered through MOOCs, and getting a tangible, old-fashioned (and in many cases expensive) diploma, with the right to call yourself MBA, or MSc. or any other hard-earned title. Don’t get me wrong: if you do the work, you deserve to show it off. But, what is already changing, is that MOOCs are becoming part of that work load.
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Use MOOCs to pick the right school

September has just started, and in many countries, that means schools have started, too. For everybody who has the fortune to attend school, that is, but especially for those who are in their final year of secondary education, and are looking ahead to the next step. For many students, and their parents, this year will be about choosing which college or university to go to or apply for.

Picking the right school to go to, is not the easiest task. There are many factors that can play a role: family tradition, vicinity, place in rankings, job perspective, topics offered and so on. Many, if not all of these, are based on the opinion of others about these school. Maybe the parents have attended themselves, so they have a certain experience and inside knowledge, but much can change between their school years, and next year.
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What is really so disruptive about MOOCs?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are getting quite the attention. Through platforms like Coursera, edX and Iversity, top class academic institutions are delivering their education for free. And they indeed have massive enrollment. So, it’s no wonder that MOOCs have been billed as disruptors of higher education. They’re opening up higher education to the masses.

However, there has been some critiques. Those showing up are mostly the already educated, and only relatively few complete the courses. Another critique is that some MOOCs are simply putting the off-line courses online. But, it’s still early days. MOOC providers – platforms and schools – are still learning how to best utilize this phenomenon.
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Guys should step up, and be feminists, too

Last week, Emma Watson appealed to guys to stand up for equal rights. It was a great and empathic speech in which she did that, and I was, and am, inspired. Seriously, what kind of world do I let my son grow up in, where people do not have the same rights when they are born in a certain place, in a certain gender, in a certain ethnic group or grow up to have a certain sexual orientation, religious belief system or whatever factor you can use to distinguish one person from another. Gender is just one of those factor, but maybe the biggest one. It’s the one factor that roughly splits humanity in two. Tackling this is the best first step we can take.

As a parent, I’m really astonished how early a child gets confronted with gender stereotyping. Apart from the blue and pink clothes, for me one of the most present ways are those little pictograms used in public places. Okay, I’m really fine with a different restroom for women and men. I appreciate how that’s both practical and comfortable. But what about the rooms where you can change your child’s diaper. Why on earth is that so often indicated by a pictogram indicating a mother and a child? It’s not only gender stereotyping, it’s teaching children from the very beginning that caring for a child is a mother’s role. How can we expect them to appreciate the need for equal rights, if their dads are apparently not even supposed to change their diapers?


Follow Arjan’s board MeforShe – dads are stepping up on Pinterest.

Another example I recently came across, were a few priority seats in an airport terminal. They were located closest to the gate, reserved for mothers and their children. Again, this shows that only mothers are supposed to have the need to sit down with their children in a crowded airport to calm them down, feed them or just let them rest a bit. Fathers are not even supposed to be near them.

There are more examples like these. Much more. Maybe it’s not the most striking set of examples of how we can achieve equal rights, but I believe it’s one that counts and can easily be addressed.

It’s like I wrote earlier: dads should not do the dishes more often, dads should be more present in the lives of their children. And society, for example through the use of pictograms, should support them in that, embrace their presence, and not time and again ridicule it, or exclude dads from parenting.

Stepping up is easy to do. It starts by going to the HeforShe website, and take the HeforShe commitment.