Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Diploma ABC (Nederland = Waterland)

And in every region
the voice of the water,
telling of endless disaster,
is heard and feared
(by Marsman)

Photo: Bram Pater

In the very cold night of 31st January 1953 a storm caused by the Northwestern wind elevated the tides on the North Atlantic see to a high record breaking the dikes in the province of Zeeland in the south of the Netherlands and causing a disastrous flood. Lots of victims were made in England, in Belgium, in Germany and specially in Holland. A total of 1836 Dutch citizens died and more than 100.000 had to be evacuated. The damage to the infrastructure, cattle and buildings was enormous.
Map above: areas affected during the 1953 floods

You can see some 24 images about this tragedy clicking here.

After the 1953 disaster there were lots of important consequences and improvements for the nation, such as the Delta Project (enormous dykes and sluices that are a tourist attraction and which Dutch hosts produly show visitors from abroad).

"Yet, every Dutch heart still misses a beat when, with a storm on the way, the radio news announces limited dyke surveillance. "
the extract above is from the book "The Low Sky, Understanding the Dutch (The book that makes the Netherlands familiar)"; by Han van Der Horst, chapter II "Utilitarian", page 99. One of my ever favourite books about the Netherlands.

A very beautiful Dutch film made in 2009 is De Storm, a fictional story within the historical context of the 1953 flood. Plot: when her farmhouse is destroyed by the flood, teenage mother Julia gets separated from her baby boy, whom she kept hidden in a box. She is saved from drowning by a young air force lieutenant, who agrees to go help looking for Julia's little son. A near-hopeless quest ensues. If you wish to know more about the 1953 flood tragedy and this important part of Dutch history then I highly recommend you to watch this film.
I have mentioned before in this blog that I live in a village with lots and lots of islands, and children use to swim in the canals during spring and summer time. My oldest child was always attracted to water, boats, bridges and that makes me VERY nervous. Even when we are with him in the swimming pools of hotels or my parent's swimming pool in Brazil my heart misses a beat (or two).

Up to last year, everytime I used to invite a child to play with my son the mother asked me whether I lived "nearby water" and informed me that her son "...didn't have the diploma A yet". I informed that no, I didn't live near a body of water and... what is this story of diplomas ? "It is a swimming certificate. He cannot swim properly yet", they added.


Since last year, for his own protection and survival my son has been busy with an intensive swimming course in Haarlem. Finally last weekend he had an exam in an olympic swimming pool and was approved. The kids had to spring "like a pencil" into the water, go through a hole in a plastic under water, float for 15seconds, and swim 50m with the four styles... actually a pretty long list of things to be performed and focused on survival in water. The kids must also swim wearing clothes (a t-shirt, bermudas and plastic shoes) for a part of the test. I've read that the rules for the acquisiton of diplomas B and C are even more difficult and the kids must swim in a more refined way. Not only that, the kids must swim with long sleeves, trousers and shoes for diploma B and thick winter clothes and shoes for diploma C.

During the exam last weekend one could feel the anxiety and happiness of the parents watching their kids. At the end, all of them were called to receive their diplomas. The coaches then put some loud music on and started to clap hands while walking cheerfully around the swimming pool with the kids, hands up in the air, singing the following song:

Opa, oma ik heb mijn diploma
Papa, mama kijk ik heb mijn A
Broertje, zusje krig ik nou een kusje ?
Ik heb mijn diploma
Hieperdepiep Hoera !

And let's go for diploma B and C !!! Then my child is going to be super safe in water and I will be more relaxed. My second child is also going to start swimming lessons as soon as she becomes 5.

Then my heart will not miss a beat.


Leti said...

I love this post, Anita!

Anita said...

Leti: I wish you all success in the NL. You are very passionate and your love story made me cry !!

mub said...

I wasn't sure I'd be able to follow that movie when it came out, but I might be slightly more confident in my abilities now. Plus, if I could find it on DVD maybe it would have subtitles!

I need to try to read The Low Sky again. It seems like a really interesting book but it's written in such a way that I have a hard time getting into it.

I'm glad your son got his swimming diploma! My husband says getting his was a horrible experience for him *L*

Anita said...

Yeah, I have to read it again. It can be very dense in some parts. The swimming lessons were very tough, the teachers are very strict. I can imagine that your husband is sort of traumatized about the experience. But now they do the exams in a more festive way!

angela said...

I bet your heart will still miss a beat, but not in the same way. Maybe pride, but also hope that they will be ready if something happens...

Anita said...

Angela: You are absolutelly right !

Lu_Russa said...

Anita querida, como a Páscoa é comemorada na Holanda ? tem o lance do chocolate tbém?


Anita said...

Oi Lu, clica na etiqueta "Easter".Tem muita coisa sobre Pascoa desde o ano passado.
Claro, rola ovo tambem.

Aledys Ver said...

I had no idea what the swimming diploma entailed - this has been most interesting!
I think it'd be a good idea to include this diploma in the "inburgeringpakket" for new comers. I wouldn't be able to do many of the things you listed for the swimming test!!

Anita said...

Aledys: and they learn also about rescueing people !!

GardenofDaisies said...

When I was a little girl, (about 8 years old) I read a story called "The Tide In the Attic", about the the big flood in the Netherlands. That book made a huge impression on me.

Anita said...

Indeed, many people had to wait for rescue on the top of their houses but because it was freezing cold when help arrived it was already too late.
Thanks for passing by !!