What About Identity?

Maybe, for me, there is no such thing as a national identity. Maybe I just have my personal identity, that is formed by all the influences in my life. Where my ancestor were born, where my parent were born, where I was born and grew up, where I live and have lived. And more importantly, the people in my life I interact with and the experiences gathered by living, travelling, reading, watching, talking. My identity is very personal, and maybe more importantly, cannot be taken away from me. It can be influenced by events, experiences, people; but that all will be filtered by that what has formed me and my identity until now. But then, how do I feel. Do I feel Dutch, Moluccan, French? And where is home? When I’m in The Netherlands, I don’t feel really at home. I feel comfortable, and it all feels very familiar, but home is where I live. And that’s Paris. Actually, it’s quite simple: I feel me. And I am open to new experiences and new places. And I bring my Dutch touch wherever I go, but it also has now a little French flair.

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No Stove Party Food

Bacon-Cheesrolls being preparedWe’ve been living in our Paris appartment now for almost a year, and still we do not have a stove. So I haven’t used my amateur chef skills in a while. This all becomes quite interesting when you want to prepare fingerfood for a little birthday bash. All bites involving cooking are out of play, so I had to come up with something new, apart form the regular Tuna spread, olive tapenade and a selection of french cheeses. Fortunately, it worked out pretty well. I came up with these, simple to make bacon-goat cheese rolls.

The recipe is quite simple. You’ll need streaky bacon slices, goat’s cheese (a little roll), parsely, rosemary, olive oil and vinegar. Chop up the parsely and put it in a bowl. Add a bit of rosemary, a splash of vinegar and a little olive oil. Then put in the goat’s cheese and mix it all up with your hand, creating a smooth paste. Take the streaky bacon slices and cut them in half. Make little rolls of the cheese paste, about as wide as the bacon and a little thinner than your finger. Roll these in the bacon slices and you’re ready to eat.

But the most loved by the guests was the pepper-feta spread. To make it you’ll need a blender. You put in a clove of garlic, a touch of olive oil and vinegar, a yellow bell pepper (paprika) – preferrably roasted and peeled, two chili peppers out of a jar, and diced feta. Close the blender and hit the on-switch. Let it blend until you have a nice grainy-smooth paste. Put it in a nice dish to present and have your favourite type of bread next to it to put it on.

Snapshots of Lutetia – Fancy Street (Sign)

Avenue Mercedes

Earlier, I have already mentioned my curiosity about street names and how they can teach you about the history of a city or country. The streetname signs are also worth noting in Paris. They form one of the Parisian icons, to the extent that you can even buy refigerator magnets of the typical sign with the name of your favourite street. The street sign depicted here is from the 16th arrondissement, one of Paris’ more plush neighbourhoods. And I think it shows from the sign, which is not the archetypical Parisian sign, placed below this one. It consists of blue and gold mosaique tiles, and it is not the only street that has a sign like this. There are a couple of them. Does anybody know the history behind these other type of signs? Is it maybe because this used to be a different town?

Snapshots of Lutetia – Metro Passy

Metro Passy

Paris is not the City of Seven Hills. Although there is a rumour that it is, like Rome, built on seven hills. Nevertheless, Paris has its hilly sides. Most obvious, of course, is Montmartre. But also in the 16th arrondissement, Paris has a hilly streak. Especially at metro station Passy this becomes very obvious. This is where metro line 6 comes above ground to cross the Seine on the Bir Hakeim bridge. And it actually comes above ground at the station, of which one end is in the hill, and the other elevated from the ground.

Are International Conversations Bad For Our Language Skills?

As has been argued many times when the use of sms/texting language made
its growth sprint, language is a living thing, that is a tool for
getting a message across. The message being the most important thing,
language can be considered as a wrapper. This wrapper serves to ensure
that the audience, or intended receiver of your message, is able to
process it. One of the main criteria for a language hence, is whether
the audience understands it. And with is where it gets interesting.
Somehow, somewhere, English became the de facto international language
of use. But it is now used by more non-native than native speakers. And
that means that the international English is being influenced by other
languages. Even to such an effect that some have already declared it a
language of its own: Panglish. One with its own grammar and idiom.
Whether that is completely true, I am not sure. But what I do think, is
that a good knowledge of the basics of grammar of your native language,
helps you to properly construct your message and thus communicate
effectively. And having just a beginner’s level clue about the native
language of the other participants in a conversation, surely helps you
to understand their English. For most of what we say in our second
language, is based on the grammar rules of our native language.

So, in my opinion, to have effective communication in international
groups, it is imperitive to focus on understanding the content. And
having basic language skills in other languages make it even easier.

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Snapshots of Lutetia – The Raven And The Fox

Statue of De La Fontaine

Today was a beautiful day for a little tour on the Velib. And using the Velib is ideal for just roaming Paris without a detailed plan. It’s sort of facilitating serendipities to come your way. And of course, in Paris, a serendipity is just around every corner. For this Tour de Pâcques, it’s the statue of Jean de La Fontaine in the Jardins du Ranelagh. It’s a very nice parc, and the statue portrays De La Fontaine and two famous characters out of one of his fables: the Raven and the Fox.

Twittiquette: To Follow Back, Or Not To Follow Back

Recently, I saw a sudden growth in the number of followers on Twitter. With that growth, a new phase of my adventures in Twitterville dawned. To follow back, or not to follow back,  is the question to of the rite of passage. There are those that find it to be part of the Twittiquette to follow back all those that follow you. On the other side of the divide, the main idea is to follow those who tweet tweets that interest you. For the Twittiquettes, the main thing is courtesy. And another leading principle is that if you do not follow everything, you might miss that one pearl. The more updates in your timeline, the bigger the chance of finding something of interest. For the selective crowd, the main issue is to find those that have the best tweet-of-interest ratio*. The selective crowd does not like to look for needles in a haystack, and the leading principle is that tweets of interest will quickly get retweeted into their own timelines.

To me, there is value in both sides. Courtesy is certainly one of them, and the number of Tweeps I gathered around me is not that big yet. But after a few days, I started leaning more to the selective crowd point of view. With only following 70 friends, my timeline was already so fast-moving that I could no longer manage to read all tweets. Fortunately, I read @JesseNewhart‘s article on how to effectively follow a lot of people. And to be quite honest: some of the people following me, however much I love them for doing so, did not tweet very much of interest to me. I mainly use Twitter to find webpearls, and to share them. To discuss on topics that interest me, with of course the occasional personal shout into space about my personal boredom. And although I have a very broad range of interest, not everything interests me. So, I came up with my selection approach. Whenever someone starts to follow me, I look at the timeline. I read her or his short bio, click on the link, if provided, to have a look at the blog behind it. And based on that, totally influenced by the mood-of-the-moment, I decide to follow back or not to follow back. If I break Twittiquette with that, that’s too bad. And if you decide to unfollow me based on that, that’s fine. I think you should only follow me, if what I have to Tweet interests or inspires you. Otherwise, I see no reason.

If I offend you with not following back, please believe me that by no means do I intend to do so. It can be better seen as me not having the intellectual capacity to see how wonderful you actually are, yet. I am not offended by people that do not follow me back. There might be cases in which I see it as a challenge to improve my tweet-of-interest ratio.
* Tweet-of-interest ratio: Number of interesting tweets divided by the total number of tweets.

A Beautiful City Behind The Dunes

Let’s just say for a moment that I am a tourist and would like to visit The Hague. I have heard about this Dutch city on the news, because of the Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court, for which the United States have passed a law also known as The Hague Invasion Act. From what people have told me, it is a nice city to visit, with multiple points of interest for all sorts of travellers: art, dance, beach, history, nice bars, good restaurants and a fishing port. So, to me, it sounds appealing enough.

But one day, while flying back to Paris from a business trip, I take up the in-flight magazine and find an advertorial in it for that beautiful city behind the dunes*. It’s typical municipal promo talk; it reads like it has been written by a junior public servant, who was told to write like one of those cool travel writers and has his half successful results reviewed by some senior public servants who missed all those nice and interesting facts about their city, that were consequently added to the text to their satisfaction, rendering it into a boring list of boring facts written in a boring style. Seriously, what should a visitor that has to be lured to The Hague for its beaches care that they are 11 kilometers long? I want to know where the cool beach bars are! Or where I can watch the sun sink into the sea on a romantic evening with my m/gl, while drinking a nice glass of champagne. And why mention just a few bars and restaurants, that appeal to a certain crowd. Give me link to a website rating the bars and restaurants, and I will make up my own mind. Okay, mentioning the Maurits Huis museum is worth it, as it is worth mentioning the Municipal Museum. But why not mention the important collection of Mondriaans work on display there? Not that I like him, but it is probably the most important selection of his work in the world. But again, give me a website that lists the museums, and I will find one myself. Another thing is the picture of the new elevated tram track. Why?! It is not that special. Most big cities have elevated tracks, and on top of that a properly working metro system, which still is missing in The Hague.

This advertorial portrays The Hague as a provincial village pretending to be the big cosmopolitan city that it actually almost is. So, why should I, the tourist who maybe wants to visit this city care so much about this? Because I am not that tourist. I was born and raised in The Hague. It is my home town; a place that is great to visit, vibrant and full of interesting places for all sorts of visitors. And yes, we are proud to be the city of international justice. But when the city’s public service ‘promotes’ it in this sad way, it makes me sad. Why write this truly boring advertorial and pay for a spread in a magazine to publish it, only to show yourself as a small minded village pretending to be cosmopolitan? Why not ask some ‘in’ people to describe their The Hague experience and combine those stories to a promotional spread. To show the diversity of the city, and the different attraction, the ‘secret’ spots. And put a link to a website where you can find bar and restaurant tips, places to see, events going on on the date of your visit? And put up a facebook the hague tourist community, and a twitter page, retweeting all tweets about the city and promoting current events using the #thehague hashtag? A less public servant approach than the @gemeentedenhaag account, that is aimed at the Dutch speaking citizens of The Hague. It is so easy! Please, dear city council of The Hague: consider this a free advise!

For those who intend to visit The Hague: good spots for a romantic evening on the beach are just north of the Hague, close to Wassenaar, or just south of Scheveningen Port. One of my favorite museums in The Hague is the Literary Museum, close to the central train station. And don’t forget to check out the local free nightlife magazines for tips on live music from local band. The Hague has one of the most vibrant music scenes in The Netherlands. And if I was to give one tip on a restaurant, it would be Bogor. But please visit Dutch restaurant site Ien’s for recent user generated ratings and tips.

* Phrase from a very famous and well-liked (in The Hague) song , called O, O, Den Haag.