Monday, May 9, 2011

Sex in Pakistan

No sex education at your school in Pakistan? Can’t talk to your parents about it? See a doctor or get a book to learn about sex, says Dr Syed Mubin Akhtar.

But steer clear of quacks, porn sites and prostitutes, he warns.
Sex education can save you from sexual problems and “a life of sin and disease”, according Dr Syed Mubin Akhtar, Pakistani psychiatrist and sex ed author. The problem is that teachers and parents in his country are often too embarrassed to talk about sex.

Books are the best way to fill the information gap, says Dr Akhtar’s. Not surprisingly he’s quick to plug his own book, Sex education for Muslims - one of the few published on the topic in Pakistan.
You can also ask a doctor for advice, says Dr Akhtar. But you’ll need to look for one who’ll respect you’re privacy, he warns – not all doctors in Pakistan will keep your confidential queries to themselves.
Some may also feel too embarrassed to talk about sex. To keep embarrassment to a minimum, girls should go to female doctors and boys to male doctors, he suggests.


Many people in Pakistan think that hakims – traditional herbalists – are a better option for help with sexual problems than doctors, says Dr Akhtar. Even doctors sometimes refer their patients to them, and they’re easy to find.
But hakims have some muddled ideas about sexual matters, according to Dr Akhtar.
“They say that drops of semen coming out is a very serious disease that saps your bones and body strength,” he says. Only when he went to medical school did the doctor find out that such stories were myths.
Some people go to hakims because they think modern medicine is Western and unethical, says Dr Akhtar. “Hakims follow an old type of medicine,” he argues. “What type of houses would we have if we still built them like people did a thousand years ago?”

Friends and parents aren’t usually great sources of information on sex in Pakistan, says Dr Akhtar. “Friends are often not educated themselves, and parents would be shocked if you brought it up with them.”
You won’t learn much about normal sex from porn movies either, he reckons. “They show abnormal sex most of the time.”
You might be tempted to go to a prostitute to experiment with sex and get in some practice, the doctor says, but it’s not something he would recommend. “You may catch diseases and get feelings of guilt and fear. And of course it’s a sin in Islam.”
Porn is the most google word in Pakistan and Day Opening November 21 2009 is the most 'read article' here on Internations...

Day Opening - May 9

An aurora

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day Opening - May 6

View from the Montserrat (church) in Bogota, Columbia. Many pilgrims walk all the way up...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In Columbia

Yesterday, Wednesday we flew to Panama City with Copa Airlines Columbia. Fantastic flight and Panama an interesting city, one skyscraper after the other. We stayed in a nice comfortable 5 star hotel but due the time not able to visit the Panama Canal. Today we flew with Copa Airlines Columbia to Bogota. And again a full service flight. Copa Airlines is not a huge airlines but one of the best I ever flew with, and that are many...
Even with and 1 1/2 flight you get food, drinks and water. Do you want a whiskey sir?.)
Anyway, we are in Bogota Columbia. Safe and well and enjoy a very nice hotel in the centre.
Both the people in Panama and Columbia, so far, are incredible helpful and nice. And Columbia changed with 10 years ago. It's safe!

Day Opening - May 5

Brickell, Miami (here I lived from 2000-2002

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

From Miami to Panama and to Bogota, Columbia

Today we will fly to Panama and leave 5 beautiful days in Miami behind us. A short stay (1 night) in Panama City to visit the Panama Canal and tomorrow allready on our way to Bogota, Columbia for the last part of our trip. Next posting is from there.

Day Opening - May 4

44

Hair in Avanos

HAIR MUSEUM OF AVANOS

The Hair Museum of Avanos is a bizarre installation crafted by Turkish potter Chez Galip. The way the idea of this museum came to be is truly a unique story. 30 years ago, Chez Galip had a close friend who had to leave the town Avanos, and this made him very upset. To leave him something to remember her by, the woman left Galip with a piece of her hair.
Today the Hair Museum of Avanos features the hair of over 16,000 woman who have visited this one-of-a-kind hair haven. Each piece of hair a woman leaves behind also features an address to identify the piece.
Entrance to the Hair Museum of Avanos is free, and if you happen to be traveling to Turkey, it’s a site you can’t miss.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hamas and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood condem the 'illegal killing of Osama Bin Laden'

The news of the killing of al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden has been received with mixed feelings in the Middle East. In many countries where al-Qaeda is active, the news has been received with a sigh of relief, but there were no open signs of rejoicing. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda sympathisers lament the great loss for the Islamic Jihad.

No official comment has been heard yet from Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden’s homeland, but a senior sheikh, known to be close to the ruling family, appeared on Al-Arabiya satellite TV condemning bin Laden as ruthless killer who tainted the name of Islam. He encouraged good Muslims to show their satisfaction about his killing.

In Yemen, which has been fighting al-Qaeda for more than a decade, a spokesman for the presidency, who preferred to remain anonymous, welcomed the attack on bin Laden and expressed the hope that his death would bring an end to terrorism.
But, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, based in Yemen, lamented the loss of the spiritual leader of Jihadists throughout the world. The organisation told AP that it does not trust US President Barack Obama and that it would wait for independent confirmation of the sad news from Mujahidin brothers in Pakistan. The al-Qaeda spokesman in Yemen said a detailed statement would be made later on the plans of the organisation and the future of Jihad.

Omar Baker, the Syrian pro-Jihad Muslim fundamentalist who was expelled to Lebanon from London five years ago, expected young Muslims in Europe to carry out revenge attacks in Europe. He said that “the region has lost a great leader, I am sad that we have lost bin Laden, but also happy that he attained his wish of dying as a martyr.”
There was a high state of alert in the Iraqi capital Baghdad where security and police leaders fear retaliatory attacks and bombings after the killing of bin Laden. Iraq is the third country where al-Qaeda is widely active and responsible for hundreds of bloody attacks on both civilians and military personnel.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan seized the opportunity to call upon the country’s Islamist Taliban rebels to learn a lesson and stop the violence. He called the killing of Osama an important event for his country.

Israel also expressed its satisfaction at the death of bin Laden. Both president Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu consider it a great victory for democracy and the fight against terrorism worldwide. Meanwhile 
On the internet, fierce battles have been going on since the early morning between friends and foes of bin Laden via websites where al-Qaeda has a considerable influence and following. But many participants also reject bin Laden, arguing that he is an American-made puppet who was killed by the same guys who made him because he wasn’t needed any more. We will have to wait a little longer for responses from other mainstream Islamist movements and political figures in the region.
 

Day Opening - May 2

Port of Miami bridge

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On my way to Miami

I am on my way to Miami, in other words: tomorrow I will fly to Rome and from there to Miami. The first stop in a journey through North and South America.
The 'Turkish' ladies of Alitalia, however f..cked of my trip. As a Dutch I need a visa according to them. Pardon me, I lived and worked there three times and don't need a visa. But what I need is a ESTA number for my trip, which the travel agency had to submit. But they didn't. Costs: and extra 535 USD to travel tomorrow....
Can you imagine? And they even offered me an exit row seat, of course if I pay a certain amount of money...
So I leave his moronic country behind.
I really need some fresh air.

Day Opening - April 28



Today is the 95th birthday of Ferruccio Lamborghini, originally manufacturer of agricultural machines in Italy. He started building sports cars, after being fed up with his malfunctioning Ferrari. The factory is in Sant'Agata Bolognese, nearby its competitor in Modena.
Ferruccio died in 1993, leaving a heritage of legendary sports cars. One of the most known models was the Countach.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day Opening - April 27



Sunset from the garden of the weekend house of my parents, taken this Easter

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Amsterdam Red Light district as an example?!

Amsterdam’s red-light district has attracted many foreign visitors to the city over the centuries. While the authorities in the Dutch capital are clamping down on prostitution, other cities around the world are debating whether to create a prostitution zone along Dutch lines. Could Amsterdam’s red-light district become a successful export product?

Amsterdam would appear to have things well under control when it comes to prostitution. Almost all the city’s prostitutes do business in a single area of 250 by 250 metres, enabling the police to keep tabs on anti-social behaviour, street crime and people trafficking. Meanwhile tourists can enjoy a stroll along the old canals and gawp at the ladies on display amid the legendary red lights and neon signs.
Nowhere in the world is prostitution as extensively regulated as it is in the Netherlands. Under Dutch law, it is a legal profession which requires prostitutes to obtain permits and pay taxes on what they earn.
The Netherlands is a world leader in this respect. In most countries, prostitution (or in any case offering sex for money) is illegal and far more difficult to control. It mainly takes place on the streets or in shady clubs, along darkened roads or on the wrong side of the tracks.

Since things in the Dutch capital are more orderly and mainstream, a growing number of cities are looking at the “Amsterdam model” as an example for creating a prostitution zone. There is already interest from Canada, Spain and Taiwan.
The most advanced plans are in Taiwan, where the government has announced that prostitution will only be permitted in specially allocated red-light zones. Women and men who want to work in brothels in these areas can apply for a permit. Prostitution in massage parlours and coffee houses outside these zones will remain illegal. The Taiwanese government says it hopes this approach will help them combat people trafficking and offer better protection to workers in the sex industry.

In Canada, too, the law on prostitution was recently relaxed. In the city of Toronto, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti proposed setting up a red-light district along the same lines as in Amsterdam. At present, prostitution is spread throughout the city. “It would also be a good thing for Toronto’s economy, as a red-light district will attract tourists,” Mr Mammoliti argues.
Ideally he would like to see the district located on Toronto Island, near the city centre. The suggested location has already sparked a good deal of criticism. Nevertheless, in Toronto it seems like the discussion is more about where rather than whether a red-light district should be created.

In Barcelona, things haven’t quite gone that far. The residents of the Raval district recently raised the alarm about the increase in prostitution on their streets. Raval borders on the famous shopping street Las Ramblas and has for some years been the pitch of mostly African prostitutes offering their services at rock bottom prices. Around the historical market hall La Boqueria, customers are pleasured out in the open in the evening and at night.
Local residents have had enough of these public shenanigans and want the sex workers banished from the streets. One solution could be along Dutch lines, with the prostitutes on display in windows.

While enthusiasm for an Amsterdam-style red-light district is on the increase abroad, the Dutch capital is clamping down on prostitution. Executive Councillor Lodewijk Asscher wants to turn the red-light district into Amsterdam’s calling card, a place where human trafficking and anti-social behaviour are a thing of the past. Around 100 of the district’s 500 prostitutes’ windows have already been closed and there are plans to shut down another 120. Instead of displaying scantily clad hookers, the windows now look in on the studios of young fashion designers and even an independent radio station.
Amsterdam’s red-light clean-up operation is controversial. Mariska Majoor of the city’s Prostitution Information Centre is one of those opposed to it. “These plans have been drafted to combat human trafficking, yet nowhere in the world is prostitution as well-regulated as it is here. Everything is transparent and in full view and the prostitutes are easy to approach. Even tourists are surprised by the measures and think they go against the spirit of the city.”

Day opening - April 26

Milos, Greece

Monday, April 25, 2011

The protests in Syria and the media

Syrian activists are fighting for democracy, but the outside world doesn’t get to hear much about it. The regime cracks down hard on any attempt at communication. This weekend  at least 120 people were killed.


Last week Syrian protesters made a dramatic appeal to the Arabic TV channel Al Jazeera to devote more attention to events in the country. But there’s a reason for the lack of reporting. It’s virtually impossible for journalists to work in Syria.

For one thing, the regime does its best to obstruct journalists. And at the same time ordinary people – whether out of loyalty or fear – talk about activists in the same terms as state television uses. At least, that’s if you can manage to talk to any ordinary people. When we, Ozlem and I, last year tried  to talk with a taxi driver in Aleppo, he simple said that everything was milk and honey in Syria. Yes, our of fear!
De facto: ''you are under pretty heavy pressure, because in principle anyone you talk to can get into a lot of trouble. It’s a worry that leaves you paralysed.”

Syria is ruled with an iron fist by President Bashar al-Assad, aided by a feared security apparatus represented at all levels of society. The protests, which started a month ago in the capital Damascus and spread to other cities, are unparalleled in the country.

The state of emergency imposed in 1963 will not officially have been lifted until President Assad has given his formal assent. But still people are taking to the streets to protest against corruption, poor socio-economic conditions and the secret police, in the hope that their call for democracy will be heard, says Dutch ambassador Dolf Hogewoning in Damascus. And their numbers are growing.
“People are seeing an opportunity to make their voices heard, and increasingly they’re getting the impression they can take to the streets without immediately being severely punished, as they would have been until recently. It’s been going on for a month, and for Syria extremely unusual things have been happening. In general you can say people have thrown off some of their fear.”

The courage has a price. Since the start of the uprising at least 300 people have been killed. Many more have been arrested or have disappeared. During protests in Homs at the beginning of this week an unknown number of people were killed when the security forces opened fire on thousands of protesters.
Last Wednesday it was announced that Syrian dissident Mahmoud Issa had been arrested by the political security service for reporting on events in his city for Al Jazeera.
Syrians expect the West to do more than just condemn the violence, says Marjolein Wijninckx of Dutch peace group IKV-Pax Christi.
“You could think about suspending certain cooperation agreements. For example, between the European Union and Syria there’s the European Neighbourhood Policy. Under the terms of this agreement Syria gets 40 million euros a year. And other countries also have agreements they could suspend.”

There’s no comparison between Syrian activism and Egypt’s mass revolution. It’s not clear how much support there is for the protestors – there are no opinion polls in Syria. The majority of the population say nothing and stay at home. But the Syrian president may well enjoy more support than his former Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak did.
The regime appears to be willing to lift the state of emergency. But Mr Hogewoning says he wonders how much freedom this will bring. Protestors will still need a permit, the ambassador says.
“What they give with one hand they can take away with the other.”
It will be interesting to see how Erdogan will act if Syria 'falls' and Iran will follow as the current AKP government has politically invested heavenly in these countries.... 

Day opening - April 25

dots and stripes

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Homosexuality and sports

Around five percent of the population (world wide) is homosexual. But different rules seem to apply to sport. There are very few well known sports personalities willing to openly admit they are gay. It seems the matter is still too sensitive. 

A Dutch magazine has come up with an idea to make talking about homosexuality easier by using well-known sports people. L'HOMO is a special edition of Linda Magazine. It is the third time the gay glossy has been published. Scantily dressed sports personalities feature on the cover. They tell their story about homosexuality in the world of sport.

Under the title Sons of God, seven sportsmen bare their chests for a photo session. They are footballers Evgeniy Levchenko, Demy de Zeeuw, Kenneth Perez, Ronald de Boer, gymnast Jeffrey Wammes, tennis player John van Lottum and racing car driver Mike Verschuur. Only two of them are actually gay.
In the world of sport, heterosexuality is the norm. It’s an image that is seldom challenged, but are gay sportsmen doing themselves a favour? Owner/Editor Linda de Mol doesn’t think so. She believes revealing your sexuality can even be beneficial. Her slogan for the special edition is: 'Even more gold after coming out'.

Racing car driver Mike Verschuur, who had already come out of the closet, agrees.
“Many fellow drivers – not mentioning any names – told me they were gay too. But they dare not say so in public which is a real pity. Because there is nothing to fear. On the contrary, it has only made me stronger. It’s made me a better driver.”
For gymnast Jeffrey Wammes, the special edition was a perfect opportunity to come out. “There was already a lot of speculation about whether or not I fell for boys or girls. To me it has nothing to do with sport or how I perform. But when I was asked to do this, I made it clear straight away how things were and that’s that.”

Meanwhile we are all waiting for the first footballer to come out, in what is an extremely macho world. Ajax player Demy de Zeeuw doesn’t expect it to happen any time soon.
“It’s very difficult in football. That’s partly because of society. You want to change things, but there are some things that stay the same.”

Day Opening - April 24

a dance in the morning...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day opening - April 23

In Italy (95% of Italian men never opened a was machine...)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Short update - EC etc.

The Turkish government banned blogger/blogspot.com for reasons which are obviously to idiotic to write down here. That was on March the second. earlier this month I was able to get access again, but only for 2 days while I just came back from a short stay in the hospital.
Thanks to Gauri this blog became not dead; the first five weeks she did every day the Day opening and posted my posts next to hear own posts! Many thanks Gauri!
Today it looks like that they have unblocked blogger again, although it remains difficult to reach the site. Lets say and wait.
In the meanwhile, it was obvious that I could not drop on blogs of EC which use blogspot.com. Thanks for dropping 'by'!!
Wish you all a Happy Easter!

Day opening - April 22

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Dutch in Massachusetts

The Dutch in Massachusetts, the USA


It’s an almost forgotten historical Dutch enclave: Whitinsville, Massachusetts. In around 1886 the first Dutchman arrived in the town from the province of Friesland, bringing with him a herd of dairy cows from the Netherlands.


Hans Miersma, 2.06 metres tall, plays basketball for Whitinsville Christian School. Last week, he led his team to victory in the Division 3 championships for smaller schools in the state of Massachusetts. His height and his blond hair leave little doubt as to his Dutch roots. And he’s not alone. His teammates all have typically Dutch surnames: Bloem, Koopman, VandenAkker and Dykstra. His coach is called Bajema, and the school principal is one of the many Vander Baans in and around Whitinsville.


Dutch family tree This Dutch-flavoured slice of small-town America is located just one hour west of Boston. The main street is home to Wiersma insurance, Vander Zicht real estate and the Hamer legal firm. The gravestones at the local cemetery mark the passing of people with Dutch surnames such as Foppema, Miedema, Bangma, Ebbeling and De Vries. It feels like discovering a long-lost branch of the Dutch family tree.


“Our ethnic background is Frisian,” confirms school principal Chris Vander Baan. History teacher Dick VandenBerg explains that around 1886 a man called Jan Bosma from near the Dutch town of Sneek became the first Dutch emigrant to settle in Whitinsville. Bosma brought his Frisian dairy cows with him, to replace local cattle that had succumbed to disease.


Dick VandenBerg recounts: “He described Whitinsville in the letters he sent home and before long around 60 families had followed in his footsteps. There was work for them here in the factory and on the farms.”


Economic emigrants Unlike the wave of emigration to West Michigan in the 19th century, the Dutch emigrants to Whitinsville did not emigrate because of their strict religious beliefs, according to Dick VandenBerg: "The emigration was economically motivated. But of course the church was still an important part of their cultural life. In around 1900 they founded the first Dutch Reformed church in New England right here."


Whitinsville is far less well known than places such as Grand Rapids and Holland in West Michigan, where many descendants and traditions established by Dutch emigrants can still be found.


Devoted to Jesus The first church services in Whitinsville were held in Dutch. It was also the language of tuition for the first pupils to attend the Christian school founded in 1928. Things have changed a lot since then. Whitinsville Christian now teaches around 550 pupils from pre-school to high-school, the majority of whom no longer have a Dutch background. But Dutch surnames continue to dominate the roll call and the school board.


The locals still refer to Whitinsville Christian as the “Dutch School”. It’s seen as something positive, since "the Dutch" in the community are known for being "particularly devoted to Jesus Christ and upholding Christian traditions," says school principal Chris Vander Baan. But the Dutch connection can have an adverse effect, discouraging people from other Christian backgrounds who sometimes think they won’t be welcome. Dutch treat That’s one of the main reasons why Dutch cultural heritage is no longer a major focus at school in Whitinsville. However, there is one notable exception: the pastry filled with ground almonds that is baked and sold as a December school fundraiser. "That’s a real Dutch treat that people from all over the county stand in line for," says Dick VandenBerg.


Dutch DNA is clearly evident in lanky basketball player Hans Miersma. His father John, only a few centimetres shorter, is treasurer of the school board and son of Dutch emigrants from Nunspeet and Leeuwarden. Hans and his three sisters are going on holiday to the Netherlands for the first time this spring. "I’m really curious about the land of my grandparents. I’m proud of my Dutch roots,” smiles Hans. “My dad says everyone there looks like me and for once I won’t tower above everyone in the street."


Day Opening April 2



By Sergey Pospelov

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day Opening April 1


New National Holiday

Thursday night the Dutch Parliament achieved an agreement on the introduction of a new public holiday on the first day of April and will be named Freedom Day, literally translated from the Dutch name VrijDom-dag.

The Dutch Freedom Party insisted on the introduction, to shut up the opposing political parties and social movements which were pleading for a day off to celebrate the end of the islamic fasting period (Ramadan).
Due to the fact that the Freedom Party is supported by a large part of the Dutch voting corps, this seems to be a good consensus for the opposition.

Because it has been agreed on such a short notice in advance, the holiday will be actually celebrated for the first time next year. Public and company offices will be closed, small businesses have the opportunity to stay open to profit from the large number of people celebrating. Still, lots of Dutch are expected to take a day off to celebrate the new holiday.

If this holiday proves to be successful (both socially as well as economically), Wilders' disciples in the European Parliament will discuss the holiday to be introduced within the member states of the EU next year.

Happy Freedom Day, enjoy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

About late day openings, etcetera

Apologies are due for the rather late day openings. One day was skipped. I was functioning rather slow, stuck back on 27th when the clock had ticked and time had moved on. My schedule and plans suffered a lot when I realised after I had posted that post that I had somehow missed one whole day doing none of the things planned for that day..


Been a hectic few days and months, but excuses are just that, excuses. Hans is being missed and the excellent efficience with which he keeps this space alive and interesting deserves an applaud. He would be back pretty soon.


As for today, it's India vs. Pakistan in the World Cup semi-finals. Even for a completely no-sport, no-cricket person like me, this match is something!! India didn't bat as well, hope the bowlers put up a good show.


Over all, life has been pretty interesting by all counts, if only a little slow and demanding. But be patient and stay tuned. :)

March 30


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Problems with water? Call the Dutch!!!

New Orleans' levee fortifications and Dubai's prestigious island project appear to have little in common, until you realise that both rely on Dutch water management expertise. Today's World Water Day reminds us of the importance of handling water masses.
The theme of World Water Day, which is being held in Cape Town, is Water for Cities.

Deltas
More than half the world's population lives in cities. Many of these are below sea level, and hence vulnerable to the effects of climate change, mostly flooding.
The Dutch know what it means to live in a delta - in their case, the confluence of the Rhine, Schelde and Meuse rivers which all flow into the North Sea in the southwest of the country. The Dutch experience has bred generations of experts, and Dutch experts today are helping solve water problems all over the world. They are involved in an estimated 40 percent of all water projects worldwide.
In the Netherlands there are over 2000 companies, research institutes and government offices which are specialised in water-related subjects. They employ 80,000 people who guarantee a turnover of billions of euros. After all, one third of the country is below sea level, so it's no surprise that Dutch history has been shaped by the need to keep the water out.

Tragedy
The great flood of 1953, vividly remembered to this day, killed 1830 people and scores more in neighbouring countries. Over 70,000 people become homeless. The tragedy ultimately led to the Delta Project, with barrages and dikes built to protect the estuaries of the delta in the southwestern Netherlands. It has been called one of the most revolutionary hydrological projects in the world.
The knowledge gathered in the Netherlands is applied at projects like Water Mondial, involving Mozambique, Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam.



When the levee broke - New Orleans, 2005
Photo: Wikimedia

Katrina
The US city of New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, leading to widespread loss of life and enormous damage. Dutch technology is being used to reinforce levees and build storm barriers.
Dutch companies are also involved in the world's biggest dredging project called "The World", consisting of 300 artifical islands to be built off the Dubai coast, depicting the world. The project has been suspended because of the financial crisis.

A Dutch technique for purifying sewage water is being used in Australia, the United States and China. The method involves a special design of hydraulic tank.
And you can't catch them young enough: three Dutch schoolchildren developed a pump which does not just dispense water, but desinfects it, and the jerrycans, when it operates. The pump is being tested in Ghana.

Crown prince

Crown Prince Willem Alexander is representing the Netherlands at the World Water event in South Africa. He said he hopes that World Water Day will make people more aware of water-related problems.
What such awareness can achieve, is illustrated by a few simple figures: the Dutch population has grown by 11 percent since 1990, but water use in that same period increaded by just 1 percent. In 1990 each Dutch citizen used 131 litres per year; by 2009 that had gone down to 119 litres.

-Shared by Hans A H C De Wit

Day Opening March 25

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kader Abdolah, a Dutch Iranian writer

“When I write, I’m on the frontline against dictatorship.” The Iranian-Dutch writer Kader Abdolah, who has just completed his latest historical novel De Koning [The King], sees clear parallels between 19th-century Persia and modern-day Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Only now, he predicts, the regime that follows will be democratic not dictatorial.
“I wanted to write a story about my great-great-grandfather. He served as grand vizier or prime minister during Iran’s industrial revolution in Iran and he was murdered,” explains Kader Abdolah.

“My aim was to write about the vizier, but the shah or king turned out to be a better subject. I suspect the king was more important. In the king, I even discovered myself.”

Abdolah’s new novel De Koning is situated in Iran (formerly Persia), the land of his birth. It was also the setting for his internationally acclaimed book The House of the Mosque in 2005. His focus has now turned to the period of major change in the second half of the 19th century, with the advent of the telegraph, the railways, electricity and state reforms.
The shah or king reluctantly surrendered to technological innovation. But he wanted nothing to do with a parliament and a constitution, despite the urgent appeals from his grand vizier– who ruled the country on his behalf.
Such was his resistance that he ordered the murder of the grand vizier, great-great-grandfather. But eventually, the shah himself perished at the hands of an opponent. This is the tale Abdolah tells in De Koning.

New dictators
Kader Abdolah sees parallels between the past and the present.
“In the shah of yesteryear I discovered the men and their power: Gaddafi, Mubarak, Khomeini.”
Dynasties crumbled as a result of the technological changes at that time, but they were essentially replaced by new dictators. The writer believes that this is where the present parts company with the past.
“Now there is Facebook. These dictatorships are no longer able to hold back freedom of speech. Facebook will remove Gaddafi, Muburak and the ayatollahs, and bring a new kind of democracy.”

Language of censorship
Kader Abdolah himself fled the Iran of the ayatollahs, because his life was in danger as a writer, a journalist and a member of the underground opposition. In 1988 he came to the Netherlands with his family. His own language, Persian, had become the language of censorship and so he resolved to write only in Dutch.
While the reformists in Iran are still being mercilessly combated and suppressed, Kader Abdolah has hope for the future of his homeland:
“Iran is one of the most important democracies in the Middle East. The revolutions in Egypt and Libya are superficial: Mubarak is gone, but the structure of dictatorship remains in Egypt. But in Iran there is a movement that goes right down to the foundations. It may take 30 or 40 years, but democracy will take root in people’s genes. In 20 years’ time, we will have a strong, fully formed democracy in my homeland,” he predicts.

Victory

Abdolah’s work has been translated into many languages. But in Iran, his books are banned. He sees the books he writes as weapons in a battle.
“When I write, I think of the people in Iran who fight against dictatorship. When I write I am on the frontline, in the vanguard against dictatorship. My books can be seen as literature, but they are also the true fight against the ayatollahs.”
The writer has a burning desire to return to his homeland one day. Will Kader Abdolah ever write in his mother tongue again?
“After 22 years I am no longer able to write in Persian. I can’t put my soul into it. I can only produce literature in Dutch. It’s painful, but that’s the turn my life has taken.”

Shared by Hans A.H.C De Wit

March 22



Quebec city in winter by Gaetan Chevalier

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is the ‘old’ Gaddafi back?

In the 1980s Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi sowed death and destruction with attacks on aircraft and a disco in Berlin, and by supporting terrorist groups like the IRA and ETA. Just a few years ago he officially renounced terrorism. Is there a risk that he’ll go back to his old ways and start blowing up planes again?
It’s a possibility the West should take seriously, says Glenn Schoen, terrorism expert with international security firm G4S.”Gaddafi’s got his back to the wall. Diplomatically and economically he can hardly do anything anymore. Militarily his capabilities will soon be limited. And one of the few options open to him to put pressure on the international community remains, of course, terrorism.”

Dissidents
It’s not clear whether Gaddafi now has potential terrorists in other countries. “We do know that the Libyan foreign secret service ESO is still active. Not only at embassies still in the hands of Tripoli, but also beyond. And we know that two months ago he probably sent some more people abroad to keep an eye on Libyan dissidents. So we can assume that he does have a certain capacity to do this, although it will be less than it was a few years ago.”
A Libyan terrorist attack could come in the next few days. “He’ll see when it’s useful to exert counter pressure,” says Glenn Schoen. That might be at the start of allied military action, to stop certain countries from helping the British, French and Americans. It would be a way for Gaddafi to create disunity in the Western world.
The longer the fighting in Libya goes on, the more time Gaddafi has to prepare terrorist attacks, Mr Schoen warns. Western countries should share secret information on the whereabouts of Libyan agents and on the flow of Libyan funds. And they should step up security for potential targets like civil aviation and the embassies of allied countries.

No support
But not everyone is expecting fresh Libyan terrorist attacks. Dutch Libya expert Gerbert van der Aa thinks Gaddafi is now barely capable of carrying out major acts of terrorism against the West. Since Tripoli renounced terrorism, it has not maintained the international terrorist infrastructure it had in place for decades.
What’s more, many Libyan embassies – the bases for Libyan secret agents – have turned against the regime in Tripoli. And embassy personnel who nominally remain loyal to Gaddafi will not be willing to support terrorist attacks, says Mr Van der Aa, who recently wrote a book on the capricious colonel. “There’s a growing feeling at most embassies that they would be very happy for Gaddafi to go. So I don’t think there’s much support for him there.”

Shared by Hans A.H.C De Wit

Day Opening March 20

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Confide, trust and be brave

This is a post that took a long time to make it here. I have no idea how it will shape up, but I feel like writing and I won't stop myself.

In my post some days back, The Unbearable Randonmess of Being, I talked about how women are an inherently strong race. Their strength is of such a unique emotional nature that by default they end up taking a lot more than that is expected of any human, any other male or female in person, at that point in time or situation.

Woman, you are brave and strong, it is in your genes. But do not let this genuine natural benevolence come in your way.

Do you feel you are in a situation you don't deserve to be in?
Do you think you are made for better things, better understanding, love and compassion than what your immediate family spares for you?
Do you think you are unhappy but you can easily adjust to the situation and seek happiness even out of the present, however gloomy or disappointing it may be?
And do you bank on your strength to face sorrow?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, sit back and think. Confide, trust and be brave.

Do not bank on your feminine strength to pull you through sorrow. I know we are a strong race and can see ourselves through hell and fire. But why? Use your strength instead to find joy. Take a call, give priority to your individual well-being and stop gulping down sorrow, inequality or abuse just because you have an infinite capacity to hold your own in such circumstances.

No one will protect your dignity for you. And when you make a truce with the unfairness that is dealt to you, you lower yourself. Day by day, month by month, the compromises you make pile up against your original self-respecting self that was made of iron and steel. And yet, you woman, you are so strong, you find strength in your weakness. You take a deep breath, tell your mind you will see it through, and see it through. Why?

Why? And for whom? For your partner? For your husband who unapologetically prioritizes his work before you, your profession? For your in-laws who expect you to be the good homely homemaker who has swallowed her tongue? For some vague definition of society that will have its own negative opinions if you be brave enough to seek your joy? For your parents whom you do not want to hurt, burden or put through any emotional crisis you are certain you can tackle on your own? No. This is not the way. Woman, I know you will pull through on your own and smile like no one will ever know. But you don't need to. Confide, trust, be brave and move on.

Move on to seek your happiness without any sense of guilt. Woman, why do you think just because you are a woman and because your social position is much more intricately entwined to the smooth functioning of your family, you should continue keeping yourself as the last priority? Woman, why do you feel guilty for seeking happiness? You deserve it just as much as any undeserving chauvinist deserves it. Listen to no one who tries to tell you otherwise.

People will pull you down. They will try to snub you, supress you and keep you 'in your place' ever so subtly that you would not even realise how badly you have been manipulated till you gather the courage to break it all, move away and take in a breath of fresh, free air. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. Or talk to your maid. Talk to anyone who won't judge you. Listen to what they say, tell them you need love and warmth and you are not getting it where you now stand. And unfortunately even if their answer is a stereotypical representation of the downsides of being a woman, don't lose heart. If they tell you to hang on, take in a little more pain because it is likely to stop in future or because it is very likely that you will 'get used to it', tell them to go kick themselves in their butt. Impossible, I know. You can ask me, you know. I would take pleasure doing so.

But woman, listen to me. You be good and be brave. The world is waiting for you. I am waiting for you, to meet someone of my own kind, someone who is not free and happy by default, but who has actively sought her own happiness and self-respect and has gone through the pain and confusion that comes in between seeking happiness and resigning to the status quo.

And years after you have moved on, have gone through pain and discomfort not for some third party, but have consciously undergone the trouble and confusion of breaking away from stereotypes knowing that it is for your own good, no one can stop you from being happy. Use your strength to your own benefit. In our benevolence, we keep using our tolerance for others. For once use it for your own self.

Your strength is for a much more positive reason. To nuture, care, love and honour. Don't make your strength a tool for taking in more than you can take, for acknowledging sorrow and unfairness and yet making it a part and parcel of your life. Your strength, woman, is not a placibo. It is a power pill. Use it such. You are already so amazingly brave. It's now the time to make a conscious decision to 'be' brave. Be brave, woman. Move on.

-Gauri Gharpure

More such reflections on Life Rules

Day Opening March 16



Albino baby girl and her Mwila mother - Angola. By Eric Lafforgue

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day Opening March 11



The shaft-Casa Batlló, Barcelona - Spain. By Trey Ratcliff

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Random deviations or Belated Woman's Day wishes...

We find our safeguard in our little joys and achievements. Over the past few months so many little-nothings have made my life worthwhile. It may not be much, it may not matter to others, but my hours of doing small things, that may, on a more specific level be bracketted into "nothing", have given me immense satisfaction.
March 8 was International Woman's Day. I regret missing out posting something special on that day. But then, isn't every day a celebration for us, men and women alike? I do not understand feminism. Feminists, so to say, cannot function without the support and honour of men. In fact, no one can. The good needs bad, the black needs white, the sweet relies on sour... And man needs woman. Ditto the opposite. Remember Yin-Yang? :)
So this Woman's Day, I sat back and thought a little more than usual. I came to the conclusion that I must honour March 8 to recognise and celebrate the men in my life who have made me the woman I am. My father, my grandfather, brother, friends... Even spare gratitude for those who have been mean. For without chauvinists, how would I learn to value those men who care, respect and honour?
Here's cheers to the celebration of humankind, and not just women...

Day Opening March 10


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Compliments and the Netherlands

"Oh, I’ve had it for ages" or "I got it in a sale" - classic reactions from a Dutch person should they get a pleasant remark about something they’re wearing. The Dutch and compliments are an uneasy match. National Compliments Day - last week, March 1st - aims to change all that.
Hans Poortvliet knows how difficult it is for the Dutch to encourage each other:
"It’s easier for the Dutch to criticise each other than to give each other compliments. It’s not one of our national traits. It’s to do with our Calvinistic nature. There’s nothing wrong with it, except that it’s good to appreciate others. But it doesn’t come naturally to us."

Part of the job
Hans Poortvliet: "Our Calvinistic restraint ensures that we’re sparing with compliments - though daily life
would be more enjoyable if we’d give them more often. ‘You’ve done well’ is rarely heard. And when it is, all too often the reaction is ‘it's just part of my job’."
By contrast, Americans are the complete opposite, says a n US expat, Robert Chesal:

"In the Netherlands you only hear comments when you make a mistake. And if you hear nothing, you take it that everything’s fine. But you don’t get a compliment for it. That’s the way things are here. In America it’s quite different, people are much more generous about complimenting each other."
Self-confident people
Robert Chesal has lived in the Netherlands for nearly 25 years. In that time he hasn't come to have serious doubts about himself, but he has had to get used to the lack of praise here:
"Because we give and receive so many compliments in America, Americans are a confident people.
I felt I could do things reasonably well, so I was not dependent on compliments. I’ve had compliments all my life in America. It took some time before I realised they weren’t given in the Netherlands."
Hans Poortvliet says managers of Dutch businesses would do well to appreciate their employees more, by rewarding them with appreciation and compliments. Especially in these days of an ageing population and consequent likely reduction of the labour force. "Employees love being recognised for their input. The main reason they start losing interest in their job is a lack of appreciation," says Mr Poortvliet, who is a manager himself.
Disturbance
Dutch society seems to have a blind spot when it comes to the way people treat each other. "There is a constant need to be self-confident, but very little drive to value each other," is what sociologist Paul Schnabel told on the subject of the evident lack of courtesy in the Netherlands. He sees a possible solution in the Dutch taking it upon themselves to become more considerate and obliging towards each other. "It sounds banal, but that’s what it’s all about."
Compliments Day
In an attempt to curb Dutch boorishness Hans Poortvliet was the moving force behind National Compliments day on 1st March (now in it’s 9th year) which has as its motto ‘momentje voor een complimentje’ (a little time for a compliment) and 'waardeer en krijg meer' (appreciate and accumulate).
-Hans A.H.C De Wit

March 8