09 April 2010

What I Learned in Nederland

Songs learned...
A friend named Hein, that I met at our local library, challenged me to learn two Dutch songs (first and third below), as a way to improve my language skills. An other friend, Nico, suggested the last song, and then things really got out of hand.

1. Ode aan Maastricht by Benny Neyman.

Srdan Kekanovic, of Music without Borders, suggested that he and I perform this song at our next borrel (cocktail party), with him on the guitar and me singing. This created so much amusement that we were asked to do the "act" again and again.

2. Anna Paulowna by Rob de Nijs.

Then Srdan suggested that he and I perform, as before, this song for our colleague Helga de Goede on her birthday. He knew that Helga had been born and raised in the tiny town of Anna Paulowna in North Holland.

3. Malle Babbe, written by Boudewijn de Groot and Lennaert Nijgh.

The song became a "top ten" hit in 1975, as arranged and sung by Rob de Nijs. Malle Babbe is also a painting by the Dutch Baroque artist Frans Hals, also from Haarlem, created between 1633 and 1635. Research in the Netherlands municipality of Haarlem showed that a real Malle Babbe actually existed. She was included in a list of residents of a work house (Het Dolhuys), which served as a host for the mentally ill. Around 1642, Pieter Hals, a son of Frans Hals, was also in this work house. Hals and this Malle Babbe had probably already met by this time, as she was a known personality in Haarlem, although none other of her biographical details survive.

4. 15 Miljoen Mensen by Fluitsma and Van Tijn, advertiser Frank Pels.

The song was originally designed as a commercial for Postbank NV. The commercial, featuring well known and lesser-known Dutch artists, including Herman Brood and Bettine Vriesekoop, acquired great fame and the song appeared as a single. Eventually, it became a number 1 hit in the Top 40.

Words learned…

I began trying to read Dutch newspaper soon after arriving, just because I found them so interesting and also because you can learn so much more about Dutch culture, especially in a small town like Alkmaar, if you do.

1. Best newspaper: De Telegraaf.

2. Best magazine: Hollands Diep.

TNT Post Mercur Lancering best magazine of the year (2007). Received a complimentary copy of the August 2009 issue featuring film director Pedro Almodóvar during the Provadja's showing of Los Abrazos Rotos. One hundred sixty-five pages, the "thickest" standard size magazine I could find at our local library.

Books read...

I began reading Dutch literature at the beginning of my second year, as a more interesting way to learn Dutch, and "I just had to find out what was in those books." The first and last authors are two well known Dutch writers of the 20th century.

1. Twee vrouwen by Harry Mulisch.

Appeared in 1975 as a daring Dutch novel. It was the chosen book for the Nederland Leest 2008. Nederland Leest is an annual event that takes place in October and November and is organized by the Stichting Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek (CPNB). Nederland Leest first appeared in 2006, and the event is based on an American initiative called "One Book, One City."

2. Spitzen by Thomas Rosenboom.

The 2004 Boekenweekgeschenk: A well-known Dutch or Flemish writer is asked to write a book, usually a novella, called the Boekenweekgeschenk (book week gift). The Boekenweekgeschenk is given by book shops upon the purchase of books in the Dutch language or when someone becomes a member of a library.

3. Oeroeg by Hella S. Haasse, classic Dutch literature written in 1948 and the chosen book for the Nederland Leest 2009.

Movies seen...

In two years I have seen 23 films at our local "film house" Provadja. Many of these films had won recent awards at the Cannes Film Festival and were of French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Belgian, and other origins. They were sub-titled in Dutch, except for the Dutch films that had no sub-titles. This posed quite a challenge for a person that knew only English, but after learning a little Dutch I dove right in. As a side note, I know the girlfriend of the “Program Director” for the Provadje, with whom I discuss these films with frequently to see whether of not “I got it.”

1. De laatste dagen van Emma Blank (2009).

Directed by Alex van Warmerdam. With Alex van Warmerdam, Gene Bervoets, Annet Malherbe. A woman living in a large country home drives her servants to mutiny.

2. Los abrazos rotos (2009).

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. With Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo. Harry Caine, a blind writer, reaches this moment in time when he has to heal.

3. Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009).

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. A man and his friends come up with an intricate and original plan to destroy two big weapons manufacturers.

What else did I learn in Nederland...

Ice skating, on hockey and the more difficult touring skates. "Fietsen!" Dutch bicycling is an art of its own, the posture is so important for style and watching out for the other twenty or so bicycles coming at you from all directions is a must.

Tot ziens,


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