Sunday, November 29, 2009

Zwarte Piet (wiedewiedewiet...)

De Bijenkorf department store, Amsterdam

Zwarte Piet, wiedewiedewiet
Ik hoor je wel maar ik zie je niet

Friday, November 27, 2009

Break Time [Nieuwkomers]

Let me introduce you my new colleagues (medestudenten).
All smart foreigners who wish to bring their Dutch into a higher level.
Above: Rachel (Canada) and Piia (Finland) eat and listen to Marina (Ukraine).

Joyce (Brazil), Hong (China) and Gloria (Indonesia) pay lots of attention as well...

Barbara (Poland) and Dimitrios (Greece).

Being goofy again ! C'mon darling, you cannot hide forever...

Show me your eyes...

Beatrice (France), Donald (USA) and Ehsan (Iran).

These are the new arrivals.
And we talk and talk and talk... Foreigners and specially foreign students have a lot of stress, Gosh ! We enjoy a lot these minutes together, at least I DO. Everyone is serious about getting the proficiency in Dutch in order to pursue studies or work in the NL. The rest of the group - Charlotte, Aziza, Magda, Tatjana... - was somehere else (where were you guys?). Our teacher does not join us during the break, of course not. But you can find him here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Readers of this blog probably already know that in Holland one of the most popular celebrations during December month is the one of Sinterklaas. It is celebrated on the 5th of December, but practically during the whole month of November you can already watch TV programmes about him. My children specially like to watch Het Sinter Klaas Journaal (see photo below). The photo is from site

Provavelmente os leitores do Brasil e especialmente de Portugal já ouviram dizer que uma das celebraçõees mais famosas na Holanda é a festa de Sinterklaas, tradicionalmente celebrada na noite do 5 de dezembro. Cerca de três semanas antes da data já há muito festejo no país e um dos programas mais populares na TV 'e o "Jornal do Sinter Klaas" com apresentadora, entrevistas, novelinhas e tudo mais. Vejam a foto da apresentadora do tal jornal aí embaixo:

This is at one of the local schools (photo above). It is important to mention that the whole mythology around Sinterklaas in Holland did NOT merge with Christmas. They affirm that the figure of Sinter Klaas was distorted by Americans when they developed the figure of Santa Claus. Santa Claus also exists in Holland during the end of December, they call it with desdain "The Christmas Man" (de Kerst Man) and is ignored by grown ups and children. He is rather an exotic, decorative North American holiday character. Dutch people claim their Sinterklaas is "the real guy"!

When you start searching about Nicholas' life you discover he was a bishop born in Turkey. In the Dutch story he comes from Spain (Madrid, especifically) in a steam boat with his Moorish assistants and lots of presents for Dutch kids. Spanish people and Madrileños living in Holland get very surprised about knowing that, for they have never heard of it. Now, how much of "the real guy" is it ?
Some mothers and I spent a couple of hours during one evening last week busy with decorating the school rooms and common areas. You see the result on the photos of this post. I think one of the moms did it very well on the door above. She quickly made a drawing and then painted the glass (above) while other moms were hanging fake presents from the ceiling or wraping real presents from the school for the children.

And this is mischievous Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). In old stories of Sinterklaas from the XIX century he is presented as a Moor from south Europe, with Middle Ages clothes. Later he acquired an African appearance. He is NOT a slave NOR a servant, he is rather an employee. It is impossible for Sinterklaas to deliver all little presents to all children, he is very old therefore he needs lots of help with that.

Others say that Zwarte Piet is black because he has to go into chimneys in order to bring presents.

A figura nas fotos acima e' o Pedro Negro (em holandes "Zwarte Piet). Em estorias holandesas do seculo XIX ele era descrito como um personagem do sul da Europa, um mouro. Mais tarde passou a ser descrito como um africano com roupas medievais. Ele e' alegre, atrapalhado e trabalha para o S. Nicolau. Outros dizem que o Zwarte Piet se chama assim porque tem que descer pela chaminé com os presentinhos e por isso fica com a cara suja de fuligem.
A colleague of mine, also Brazilian, once told me he found (and still finds) the whole story and symbols very weird. Years, many years ago he had just arrived in Holland, never had heard of St. Klaas or Black Peter and was riding a bike in Amsterdam. He suddenly spotted a bunch of flashy dressed guys who were doing crazy in the streets: de Black Peter (s). He got so surprised, that he crashed with his bike and all into two of them. He ended up spending that evening in the hospital. This colleague of mine has since then acquired an absolute aversion to Black Peters.
And of course you have to place in your shoes also some carrots for Sinterklaas' horse: Amerigo. Dutch parents must check whether their (older) children have made some marks in the carrots. They will do it in order to check later whether the carrots were put back into the fridge.

Photo above: Amerigo, Sinterklaas and a Zwarte Piet. And: no, they do not arrive in Holland in a red car. They arrive in a steam boat all the way from Spain, remember ? If you wish to know more about the very controversial character of Black Peter click here. What I find curious is that the people playing Zwarte Piet do not make their faces just "dirty". They are blue eyed people with super black faces and red, exaggerated lips. It was a bit of cultural shock for me. Many foreigners of all ethnicities living in Holland detest the symbologies of Sinter Klaas and Zwarte Piet. I wonder what Americans people think of all that !
And if you a bad boy or girl during the year... "Traditionally, if a child had been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten would stuff the child in a sack and threaten to beat it with a broom or a stick. Then all the naughty children, in sacks, were said to be taken back with Sinterklaas to Spain (it is believed that Sinterklaas comes from Spain, where he returns at the end of the night)." Wish to know more about Sinter Klaas ? Click then here for the whole story on Wikipedia.

Yes, my little girl can also make some pics with her fake camera made in China !
Essa é a minha baixinha. Como eu estou sempre fazendo fotos, ela anda tirando umas fotos minhas com a camera de plástico dela, made in China. Fofa, fofa, muito fofa. Espero que tenham gostado da explicação rasteira sobre a celebração do Sinter Klaas. Acho que apesar das origens da estória se perderem no passado, a celebração tenta resgatar uma parte do mito. E é mais original que o Papai Noel gorducho de shopping center, pura invencionice de americanos. Nos próximos posts tem muito mais de St. Klaas nas vitrines de pastelarias e tortas, aguardem.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Am Just Regular

Would you like to know the definition of a mother-in-law ? She is a woman who has spent at least the last 20 years of her life raising a boy that another woman (younger and immature) snatches from her in 20 minutes.
For those who cannot believe it: I have a wonderful relation with my mother-in-law. She has softned my life here in Holland. She has had a positive and supportive attitude about my decisions and deeds. Today she spent some time with my kids while I had to do some studying. FANTASTISCH !!!!

Hubby has spent the weekend in Madrid with friends. Ok, I have spent many weekends away with colleagues and such. But I have always considered it was NOT my leisure time, just for the record.

I would like so much to thank other bloggers who have domonstrated their appreciation to my hobby becoming a follower of the "Greetings...". It stimulates me even more making my notes and posting my photos around here. OBRIGADAAAAA !!!! I hope it becomes 50 by to the end of this year.

I have already made some photos that are Sinter Klaas related. I hope to be posting here soon. We will be celebrating it on 6th December at my place. By "we" I mean: my little family, parents -in-law and sister-in-law with her family. The last two years we have celebrated it with a cheese fondue. First some pies and traditional sweets in the afternoon. I think it is not so spectacular having bread and slappe kaas (Swiss readers skip this post). I am a Brazilian who likes to spend hours and hours with preparations in order to bring 2000 samba dancers into the avenue. But maybe I will go for it, the cheese and a green salad. It is a sign that I do not want to be (cough, cough, cough) arrogant. Doe normaal. They appreciate when you are practicing "regular" skills, like anyone else. Uuuuh !


Why did I post that photo above ? I feel that I am walking a lonely road. The road is a safe one. No wolves, no big suprises. I know where the road goes to up to February 2010.
But then it is a mystery.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Onderweg [Along the Way]

Today at the end of my Dutch lesson the teacher provided us with the lyrics of this song: Onderweg, from the group Abel. We had to fill in the blanks some missing words. It was a light listening exercise. I remembered this song immediately, I have been hearing it for years and years. Btw, memorizing lyrics is always a pleasurable thing to do when you are learning a foreign language. Plus... I have to confess that I quite fall for Joris' Breda accent and his soft "g". Better than the GRRRAW, GRRAUW, GRRAW you hear in the North Holland. You can watch and listen to the video clicking here.

Onderweg was for 17 weeks in the Dutch Top 40, 6 weeks of whick it was number 1. The single was number 4 in the Top 40 list during the year 2000. The main character describes a route he makes, while leaving home, taking a bus and then a train. And at the same time he remembers about the good times with a black haired girl he loved/still loves. But he finally reaches the sad conclusion that they are too different and maybe were not made for each other.
In the videoclip you see Birgit Schuurman, nowadays a known (well "known"... everything is relative) Dutch singer and actress. She is actually half Dutch half Chinese, and sister of very well known sex symbol and bad haired actress Katia Schuurman.

Ik doe de deur dicht
Straten lijken te huilen
Wolken lijken te vluchten
Ik stap de bus in
Mensen lijken te kijken
Maar ik wil ze ontwijken
Voordat ze mij zien

Het is allang verleden tijd
Dat je mijn verjaardag niet vergat
Je onvoorwaardelijk koos voor mij

Ik zie de velden
Langs mij heen gaan huizen
Het is stil achter de ruiten
Wie kan mij zien ?
In blauw verlichte treinen
Je hart is zo dicht bij me
Maar het klopt niet

Het is allang verleden tijd
Je zwarte haren en je lach
Dat je heel de wereld voor mij was
Het zit nog veel te diep in mij
Dat ik mocht delen wat jij had
Je door m'n haren ging en zei:

Je kent mijn stem niet
Wie ik ben is wat je nu ziet
Wil je dansen met illusies in gedachten ?
Ben je verder dan het heden ?
Wil je terug naar je verleden ?
Zegt je dat iets ?

Het is allang verleden tijd
Rode wijn op het terras
Dat je heel de wereld voor mij was
Het zit nog veel te diep in mij
Maar ik vergat hoe jij me zag
Dat ik zo anders ben dan jij

Ik loop de straat in
Maar het zal me nooit verwarmen
Omdat het mij niet kan omarmen
Wie zou mij zien
Het liefst zou ik willen schreeuwen
Ik zou oneindig willen schreeuwen
Maar het gaat niet
Jij bent niet alleen van mij
'K kan de wereld laten zien
Dat het zo beter is misschien

Het is allang verleden tijd
Dat ik vergat hoe jij me zag
Dat ik zo anders ben dan jij

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"It ain't good if it is not Dutch"

I took this picture at my children's school. At the toilet door you see, translated word by word from Dutch into English: "Forget the door not close to do". It doesn't make much sense, does it ? The idea is of course: "Do not forget to close the door".
The word order is Dutch can be puzzling for beginners in the language. I would formulate the sentence: "Vergeet het niet de deur dicht te doen". I would even consider the sentence on the door grammatically wrong. But after so many years and exposition to the language I then accept the crazy Dutch logic (clogic). Forget the door not close to do. Forget the door not close to do. Oh, forget it !!

On the second and third pictures of this post you see a fridge. It is called in Dutch a "cool box/cabinet" (koel-kast). "Koe" means also "cow". Because this fridge is at school and the main purpose is the storage of milk for the children, somebody has made a joke about it: a cowcabinet.

At the moment I am following an intensive Dutch for foreigners course at the UvA. It is for students from the UvA who need tho follow a course at the university and therefore be proficient in the language. I think it is the best course for foreigners in the NL. I will get my NT2 - II right after the course, so that I can place it in my curriculum vitae. We have more than 20h of homework per week, must write lots of written compositions and I must watch more to the news on TV. I can read anything I want it Dutch - because reading is a passive skill. But will I be able to write anything perfectly according to the crazy Dutch order (the logic of the cloggies) ?
Well, this post is just to inform the readers that I will be blogging up to February to a minimum. Maybe a pair of photos from Sinter Klaas and then Christimas. I am also making a lot of research about the job market and applying for jobs. And the day only has 24 for everyone. No exceptions.
Wish me luck !

Friday, November 13, 2009

Finally !

How long does it take to adapt to another country ?
One year ? Ten years ? A whole life ?
After reading this post I realized I have a thick skin as a foreigner.
I plan to have my own B&B in Brazil when I retire - lately I have been considering maybe before that. Let's see how the job market will be next year. I hope to get a very nice job in 2010!
Just like everyone in the Brazilian press and my old colleagues, I am still TOO critical about Brazil. Its disgusting politicians, the huge social differences, some aspects of the culture, the violence of big cities. I just love the people though. Food, sparkling weather, open spaces, easy relations. Freedom, freedom.

Curious about The Economist ? The whole article is here.
In Portuguese you can read Paulo Moreira Leite's amazing post here.
Or Ms. Buchala's post here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Create your Own Vaccine

Photo: ANP / Olaf Kraak

Since before 1st November I have been planning the organization of my home. Because I was working 4 days a week, certain things were being neglected at home. I had a messy wardrobe, some photo albums needed to be completed, my leather shoes needed a good polish, many objects were out of place and so on. But when 1st November arrived I just could accomplish certain tasks during the first two or three days of unemployment. One child got sick on the 4th November, and now it is my youngest one. The common seasonal flu paid a visit to us. My youngest one still coughs A LOT and keeps us awake during the nights, but she is in a cheerful mood and takes vitamines (and therefore eats well). Hopefully nobody will be sick next week when I start an intensive course for two months.

Holland has bought enough vaccination for the whole population against the Mexican flu. Two dosis for each citizen. They assume it will be arriving during the winter in Holland. But I would NOT like to have my kids vaccinated against it - the influenza A virus subtype H1N1 (also popular known as "swine influenza" or "Mexican flu") in the case they get the symptoms. There is mercury in it, and formaldehydes - which are cancer causing agents. We just do not know the side effects of this kind of vaccine nor whether you are specifically suffering from the Mexican flu.

And why is the media amplifying so much the story ? In Brazil parents are not sending their children to school after July vacations. The media is spreading FEAR. Ten cases of the disease and then they say that millions might die of it. Everything is getting out of proportion when we read about H1N1 virus.

Doubts, doubts, doubts. I try to focus on the healthy aspects of life and ban my fears.

Anyway, check this video for the fun.

Amanda van Mulligen has also a nice post about it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

St. Martin's Day

11 November is de dag
Dat mijn lichtje branden mag...

Amsterdam, 11 november 1954.
Collectie AHF / Ben van Meerendonk
negative number AHF 12900

Today my kids are going to celebrate St. Martin's. Traditionally it is celebrated in the evening of November 11 in some parts of the Netherlands, in a very small part of Belgium (mainly in the east of the Dutch-speaking Flanders), and I have heard that also in most areas of Germany and Austria. Basically goes as follows: children go through the streets with paper lanterns and candles, and sing songs about St. Martin. In return, they get candies and maybe fruit (tangerines mostly). There is always one or two parents with the group of children. Here some photos from paper lanterns kids at school made themselves:

This evening, my husband will walk around the block with our kids and maybe kids from the neighbours. He knocks at the doors, kids start into singing and then they get some chocolate. Each year they learn at school more songs and more variations. I will stay home to offer the kids knocking at my door some muffins.

I just added little pieces of apricots and grenadine seeds to a traditional muffin recipe. I think the kids will like it !
Jip & Janneke, 11 november

Mushroom Pie

I had mentioned on the post of last Monday that I had prepared a wonderful quiche with mushrooms and smoked bacon. Now here on this post I am going to tell you how to prepare that. (I am going through a domestic period these last two weeks so my posts here have been more about food... This will change soon. Next week I will be on a daily basis in Amsterdam so hopefully there will be more posts about culture and expositions. Fingers crossed !). And now you have the photos:

First, you clean 250g champignons well. Do not wash them, because they are like sponges. Just use a towel paper and/or a brush specifically for that. Then you just get your favourite Quiche Lorraine recipe you picked up on the net (or somehere else) and add mushies. Hahahaha ! I know, you probably think this is cheating but I am in a hurry now. See you on the next post !

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dutch Comfort Food: Griesmeel Pudding

Or in other words: semolina pudding. It is sooo easy, unbelievable ! I have had it a couple of times by my in-laws and finally decided to prepare it. Not the most sophisticated thing on Earth, but why not give it a try ?

You will need:
1 liter milk
1 little sachet of vanille sugar (=1tb spoon)
100g griesmeel (=10 tablespoon)
75g sugar
pinch of salt

Wet a pudding bowl with cold water and pop it in the fridge. Gather the ingredients.
Pour the milk in a pan and start cooking. Add the griesmeel, vanilla sugar, sugar and salt and mix well. Let it cook while stirring (3 minutes) until it thickens. Pour delicately the mix in the pudding bowl from the fridge. Let the pudding cool down back in the fridge. You can serve the pudding with fruitcompote or your favourite fruit sauce. Eet smakelijk !

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ann's Amarelinha

Esta semana estou no blog da Ann Moeller o "Amarelinha" na categoria "Criando Brasileirinhos Mundo Afora". Eu falo sobre como é minha experiência de ser mãe brasileira na Holanda. A Ann é uma engenheira brasileira casada com um polonês e mora há 20 anos em Londres, onde criam seus filhos. Outras mães brasileiras pelo mundo falam sobre como vivenciam a maternidade no estrangeiro, vale a pena dar uma passada pelo blog dela. Obrigada pelo convite, Ann !

Mushies !!

I decided to post here today a good selection of some of my preferred photos with mushrooms. Some of the photos were made while we were wondering in parks or recreation areas. I still didn't spot this year the classic red with white dots (Amanita Muscaria). My children were disappointed. I guess I will make for them cooked eggs topped by a half tomatoes and mayonnaise drops. I snatched the first photo on this post from the wikipedia page. All the rest was made by me.

I have made some research and discovered this one above is called "Tinder Fungi". They have been used as fire starters.
This one above reminds me of the Alien from "The Little Shop of Horrors" !

The blond above is my sister-in-law. She works since recently as a "Guide through the nature" on a voluntary basis, in the Monnickendam area. Last Sunday was her first day in the function and she did it great, really. She did not forget her text nor lots of figures, made questions to the group, showed us photos of animals and had some pots with seeds and plants with her. She also had some mini mirrors in her backpack so that the participants - especially the children- could, for example, look under the mushies and check how their shapes were.

The area my sister-in-law was guiding us through was a large area in North-Holland (large for Dutch terms, everything is relative). Part of it is left without human interference, so that nature can do its own way. It surprised me then when I found this willow tree adorned with feathers: probably a group came in the Saturday evening and arranged some (magic?) ritual. Check below:

Tartufo, cogumelo, paddestoel, fungi, champignon... More than 60.000 species are found in the nature.
All this Sunday after watching so many mushrooms my husband and I decided to prepare for dinner a quiche with lots of onions & garlic, mushies and smoked bacon. I will be posting the photos soon (hopefully). I wish you all a nice week !