F the Masses

The word on the street in the Netherlands is EU consitution. Maybe where you live you haven’t heard, so I’ll briefly tell you about how France voted 55% against the draft of the European Constitution. ‘Course less then 5% probably read it, but nevermind, civic education isn’t a prerequiset in present-day democracy. I’ll let Madame L tell you more about the French case.

But the buzz here in Amsterdam is: you thought the French were rough, the Dutch are going to spit all over the dam thing. Oh yeah, they’re voting (we?) in a referendum wednesday and the No camp is everywhere and everyone is climbing aboard.

Normally I would have nothing against a well-informed and thought out NO vote to such a proposal. The Dutch, like all of Europe in the past 20 years, have seen their beautiful social system dismantled in the name of liberalization. And to ad insult to injury soon most of them will be employed through temp agencies, much like yours truely – if they have a job at all. But what’s happenning here is not a sudden moment of clarity for the electorate. I’ve listened to the opinions, I’ve tapped into the grapevine; this is mass hysteria. This is an angry citizenry who are unable to properly focus their anger. I mean really, who do you complain to about this global economy? It’s like getting angry at the rain.

Therefore I’m pissed. Seems the majority of the French and Dutch want to just lock the doors and step into a time warp with the year set at 1996 or something. Two of the most openminded cultures in the world, hubs of art and science, are falling into a panic. They say politicians are out of touch with the electorate. That’s an easy one. But I suspect the electorate is out of touch with itself, and reality for that matter.

But beyond any of this, as a Portuguese citizen living and working legally within the EU, I feel like these votes are against me. Against the idea that I should travel and work freely. As if my type of life choices are somehow dangerous to them. I can’t help but feel that they don’t see the Europe that I embody. Not a Europe bent on economic domination. But a Union that understands we have alot in common, and that together aims at achieving a good quality of life, beyond your stupid borders.

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Working Culture

I never had much of a full time job in the states. It was more like lots of little ones that kept me running in a million directions at all time. In Portugal I was a full time slob and working with some fantastic people for a very evil corporation. And at the fishtank its a whole different story …. and even though you’re not supposed to talk about work, I gotta say the place where I work is like a family. Well, a family where people occasionally resign and move on… but still.. a family.

So some of the family decided we’d busted our asses for the brains of the netherlands today, and we deserved an evening in the park. Oosterpark to be exact. So we grabbed the left over fancy food from the fancy events of the day, I grabbed my frisbee, and we sat at that park from 6pm to 12am. Toronto’s most famous chef in exile was there; incedentally, he was in the movie PCU or something like that, as — yes — a frisbee player. So of course he and I threw the disc around and he gave me the tips I need to impress the frisbee feminina, if I decide to go that route.

But the best part of that evening was as it was almost pitch black, and the park has few lights, and we decided to play frisbee in the dark. It sounded something like “ok… here it comes bicyclemark…. THUMP… — OWWW MY EAR.” A whole lot of that in between drinks and hysterical laughter.

I mention all this for a higher purpose. Work culture. You probably have some where you live. Maybe you bowl… or have dinners together. Maybe you’ve got a softball team or yearly picnic. Here in Amsterdam, this is how it is for me; a big family of people who are VERY social and can often be found out in the middle of the night together throwing discs at each others’ heads.


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Yuppy World

I’m doing the evening jog with my Team Kelme neon cycling shirt, and I’m heading in the direction of my beloved JavaEiland. I love the side which has no houses and is just a patch of grass, benches, and beautiful views. It’s wonderfully peaceful. As I stand there, all I normally hear are boats passing by, wind, and the occasional jogger.

Well today as I’m getting closer to “my end” of the island I see a huge white wall cutting it in half. Preventing me to get to my peaceful side. I can just barely see over the white temporary wall and the private security goons, but there’s no mistaking the gigantic three mast state-of-the-art Royal Navy supership. I also see people dressed in fancy clothes, and cameras, and red carpets. I look at the security goon and I say in Dutch — “This is my park! This is public!” And either because my accent is horrible or because he doesn’t care, he ignores me.

But then a truely Amsterdam moment occurred. An old man, probably around 75 years old, rides up to me and says in Dutch — “Looks like they’ve taken away our public space? It’s a royal navy ship… British.. see that flag.. and this flag.. and notice that this whole ship is automated. Automatic sails.. no crew necessary. Isn’t that rediculous?”

I was in complete agreement with him. And we swapped stories of what we like to do in this open space. I spoke of running and Taekwondo, he spoke of sitting on a bench in the sun and just thinking. I knew right there I had met a great human.

I asked about the Afrika Squat, which has been in a struggle to not be torn down by fancy developers for the past few years. He bowed his head in defeat, “They lost… they all lost. Everythings being torn down. Who knows where they’ll go. It’s all new buildings going up. Each one taller then the next, and none of them are being rented.”

We spoke in-depth about all the new buildings and apartments going up which no normal person could ever afford. As you can imagine, I’d throw in my two cents about how people are being driven out and cities only cater to the wealthy. But the wonderful part was, besides that he never once flinched at my dutch conversation about economics, the way he began to point to all the surrounding neighborhoods. Amsterdam North, JavaEiland, Centrum,…. he spoke of the ship building industry of the Netherlands in the 60’s and 70’s. He pointed to band new luxery housing and how you used to see hoardes of shipbuilders in overalls and heavy gloves in that area. I swear I saw a tear in his eye as he told me of more plans they have to build along the waterfront. “It’s unbelievable how fast things change young man…. and it’s even more unbelievable when you think about the few people that benefit from these changes.”

Ms. Thingk is back to blogging and back in DC. She reminded me of this issue. About how DC is getting popular, no the average person can’t possibly afford to live there. Hooray for progress.

—–Oh, and a sidenote — he said he hoped to speak with me again one day as Im jogging by him in deep thought on his favorite bench. That is, if they don’t sell it off before then.

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Utrecht and Back

It happens few and far between, but I found myself heading out to another fine city in the netherlands, late at night, for a party! A Portuguese party no less, where you can walk around and speak Portuguese to everyone and don’t worry, cause they speak it. At this same party, the Dutch are relegated to a corner where, for once, they are the minority in our republic of Portuguese-Transplanted. If you’re doing any tourism in the Netherlands anytime soon, don’t miss a journey to lovely Utrecht. Much smaller than Amsterdam, but brimming with life and history stuff.

On the train ride home, being prevented from dosing off by the annoying choral group that decided 3am is a good time to rehearse the highest pitch music you can imagine…. I started thinking of impeachment. That’s just what came to mind.

When oh when will there be enough evidence unearthed. Evidence that this government in the White House has deliberately manipulated the public, mismanaged resources, and abused the power of that office. Clinton got a BJ and they almost tore him to shreds, W bombs two countries to the stone age, gets all his old buddies nice government contracts, and takes the country on the modern-day crusades…. isn’t there enough to Bring on the Beef?

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