No Room

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected by power, because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.

--Thomas Merton


Blessed Are The Poor

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God--for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.

--Oscar Romero


My Relationship with Tubas

Today I mentioned to a colleage that I play in an orchestra.

He asked, "What instrument do you play?"

I answered, "Clarinet."

He said, "Oh. You know, I picture you more as a tuba kind of person."

I was not offended by this statement, in spite of my clarinet loyalties. Instead, I thought of my brilliant and crazy tuba-playing orange-VW-beetle-driving medical-doctor cousin Katrina, and smiled.

But why the tuba, I now wonder? I am intrigued. If you all have any feedback about this, please feel free to utilize the comments section. I really want to know -- what personality quirks and quibbles does the image of tuba provoke in YOUR mind?

If you want to find out more fun facts regarding clarinet aficianados and tuba enthusiasts, click here ...

and here.


a poem

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
‘Tis the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,--you’re straightaway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

--Emily Dickinson


Yet Another Great Quote

The miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine — which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.

--Wendell Berry


Challenging Words

I believe now, more than ever, that being a part of a contrast-community, building a life that nurtures peace, is our only hope of ending war. True, there are many ways to effect peace in the world besides living in a community. But imagine what kind of resistance could be formed if we would cease to run our lives on the basis of career or income or certain standards of living that involve treating the rest of the world as one giant fuel pump? What if instead we spent our energies and resources building up a common life that needed less and gave more? What would happen if in sharing life together we did away with the usual distinctions that keep people apart and at odds with one another? What if we actually disengaged ourselves from the driving values of material security, professional achievement and social recognition—along with the lifestyle that reinforces them—to create a genuinely alternative existence?

--Charles Moore


Great Quote

Ever tried?
Ever failed?
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.

--Samuel Beckett


Africa: I

What follows is the first of many Africa-stories I hope to tell on this blog. As most of you know, I was honoured to spend 4 weeks in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe over the summer with a group of Dutch Mennonite young folks.

For photos chronicling our adventures, keep checking out my photolog.

I hope to post one new Africa photo per day for the duration of my Africa Story Telling Stint.

Introductions: the Dutch group, plus Martin and Gale

The Dutch Group (including me, the Dutch American) consisted of the following amazing folks:

Michiel, musician and songwriter who also has a degree in business;
Jelien, former psychology student who is now studying the visual arts;
Nelleke, student of urban planning who grew up as a missionary kid in South America;
Margje, studies social work and wears striking purple glasses;
Bas, almost as old as I am, and later in the trip served as our delegate to the Global Youth Summit;
Gerrit, the youngest of us all, an engineering student;
Maaike, student of psychology who has lived in Canada for a year;
Femke, recent graduate in pychology who loves to sing;
Charlotte, psychology student with gorgeous red hair that looks great in braids;*
And ... me.

*Nelleke's blond locks also look great braided.

When we arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa after a lo-o-o-ong flight, we waited in a few lines, got our passports stamped (yippee! stamps in one's passport are so exciting!), and then made our way to the lobby to wait for our guides. After a couple of minutes, Gail found us, and then led us outside to her co-guide Martin and their trusty truck. Gail and Martin work for Boundless Adventures (BA).

BA is, as the site says, "the first Overland operator in South Africa to offer the addition of mountain biking to Overland journeys."

Fortunately for us, not all of their trips feature bikes -- not that I wouldn't enjoy biking across Southern Africa; I would love to go on one of the Cycling Expeditions in the future. But considering the fact that we needed to travel from Johannesburg, South Africa to Livingstone, Zambia in 5 days' time -- well, biking just wasn't an option. So the Boundless Adventures truck became home for us for the first five days of our trip, and I tell you, at the end of those five days, were we ever reluctant to leave it!

(If you scroll down on BA's "About Us" page, you can see a photo of our very truck! Or at least, one that looks just like it.)

Our guides were incredible. Between Martin knowing everything about wildlife, and Gail knowing everything about South African history, and the both of them being camping/cooking experts, we were good to go. We learned an awful lot, and had a great time too.

And with that, the stage is set.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

One of my favorite college professors recently wrote a book called Gum-Dipped: A Daughter Remembers Rubber Town.

I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago. I am not exaggerrating when I say that it filled me with wonder. A review will be forthcoming.


Here's ... Malinda!

My apologies for the month-long hiatus.

I am back, and I'm ready to talk about Africa, the Rubber Industry, and my friend Malinda's blog.

Let's start with the third topic. I would like to introduce you all to Malinda Elizabeth Berry via her dazzling menagerie of blogs, which you can find here.

Malinda is a dear friend from my seminary days at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

She is a brilliant grad student earning her Ph.D. in systematic theology at New York's Union Theological Seminary.

And as for the rest of who Malinda is -- well, her blogs speak for themselves. Feel free to join in on the theological conversations which her site enthusiastically hosts!


Wisdom from Buechner

Listen to your life. I discovered that if you keep your eye peeled to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it, even such a limited and limiting life as the one I was living on Rupert Mountain opened up to extraordinary vistas. Taking your children to school and kissing your wife goodbye. Eating lunch with a friend. Trying to do a decent day's work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace but that God is present in it, always hiddenly, always leaving you to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly....If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.
--Frederick Buechner


Photos Postponed Indefinitely

Because I am having so much trouble posting photos to my blog, I am going to set that endeavor on the back burner for awhile and, instead, concentrate on writing stuff.

However, if you're interested, you can see some of my favorite photos of the Netherlands, Africa, and friends/family back home, because most days I will be posting photos on my newly established PhotoLog. Click on "Jackie's Photos" to the left for today's update.


Polderpalooza: Images

Click Here

if you wish to view the first photo in my photolog!


Shok's Photos Rock My World

Check 'em out!

shok's photolog


Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

Here at Polderpalooza, upcoming blogs will include stories about & photos of my summer trip to Africa;
my Dutch life (including insights re: the Dutch version of checkers!); and my family.

Also coming up: book review-type entries regarding St. Teresa of Avila, and ministries of hospitality.

Stay Tuned!
Beautiful Lydia

Somday I hope to have a photo of Beautiful Lydia here. Right now, I am having trouble posting photos to my blog. But someday ... someday .... *sigh*



The bat is gone. My friends Gerrit Jan and Mirjam came over to help me. (Mirjam is Gerrit Jan's daughter.) They live very close by, so they just hopped on their bikes and were at my place in five minutes. Gerrit Jan brought his net. We very carefully opened the door to my bedroom ... and there was the bat, snug as a bug on a wall, its dark mousy fur and wings contrasting nicely with the bright orange fabric hanging there. Gerrit Jan's first try was a success: the bat (who was probably napping, thinking that it was daytime what with the bright lights in my bedroom and all) was easily caught and even more easily released out my window.


Thanks to Gerrit Jan and Mirjam for their late night assistance. Especially to Gerrit Jan, since it's his birthday, and he left his own party (which I had left fifteen minutes before) to come help me!

There is a bat in my bedroom right now!

Someone is coming over to help me catch it.

I'll post soon, with an update.
Coming Soon

I'm trying to learn how to post photos on my blog.

Hopefully I'll have some up soooon.


Wisdom from St. Augustine

I praise the dance, for it frees people
from the heaviness of matter and binds
the isolated to community.

I praise the dance, which demands everything:
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.

Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people,
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain,
will, or feeling.

Dancing demands a whole person, one who is
firmly anchored in the center of her life, who is
not obsessed by lust for people and things
and the demon of isolation in her own ego.

Dancing demands a freed person, one who vibrates
with the equipoise of all her powers.

I praise the dance.

O woman, learn to dance, or else the angels in heaven
will not know what to do with you.

Note: The original version of this poem speaks of "he" rather than "she" and "man" rather than "woman."
Wisdom from Another Henry

We sleep,
but the loom of life never stops
and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down
is weaving when it comes up tomorrow.

-- Henry Ward Beecher


Waldonian Wisdom

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.
-- Henry David Thoreau


Hoorah for SCUPE!

One of my formative experiences while a student at AMBS

was an off-campus semester I experienced with SCUPE.

I was recently asked to write a promotional letter for the SCUPE program which the SCUPE folks will send off to prospective students, and I had so much fun doing it, I thought I would also post it here. Who knows, maybe you all will find it interesting, even though most of you probably aren't interested in moving to Chicago for a five-month internship! Here it is ...

3 September 2003
Almere, The Netherlands


When I close my eyes and think of Chicago, images cross my mind like snapshots on a screen saver: my dozen piano students at the Bethel Cultural Arts Center on Chicago’s west side, sprinting down the hallway, lesson books clutched in hands eager for learning; my colleagues at the Arts Center, laughing over lunch, working late hours, scrambling together to meet the next grant deadline; my neighbors, faces wrinkled with age, opening their doors to invite me in; the homeless man in the alley next to Dunkin’ Donuts, his nod of recognition as I duck inside for a pre-class snack; the loud ‘amens’ and spontaneous laughter of my classmates; the passion of a prof as she makes yet another good point.

If you are reading this letter, then odds are that you are considering a semester or summer of study and hands-on learning with the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE). I was in just such a position three and a half years ago. In the spring of 2000, I was a seminary student looking to gain some additional practical ministry experience. When I spotted SCUPE’s posters on my seminary’s field education bulletin board, something within me clicked: an interest, a curiosity, a question. Following the nudges of that ‘something’ started me on one of the most satisfying adventures of my life, an adventure that has not yet come to an end.

What exactly did my SCUPE semester entail? Roughly half of my experiences revolved around my classes and classmates: inspiring lectures and gritty discussions about (to name just a few topics) community development, public policy in urban settings, liberation theology, Christology and cultures, the relationship between faith-based organizations and government, the relationship between the church and the ‘powers that be.’ These were classes that demanded much academically, but still managed to be unapologetically practical in their application to our lives and ministries: a pleasing balance of theory and practice. I remember many a night when a few fellow students and I would head down to a local restaurant after class, minds reeling from a particularly riveting lecture or discussion. Those after-class debriefing sessions were almost as important as the classes themselves.

The other half of my SCUPE experiences revolved around my internship at Bethel New Life, Incorporated – a faith-based community development corporation of which the (previously mentioned) Bethel Cultural Arts Center is one ‘arm’. In my 20 hours per week at the Arts Center, I did a little of everything: gave piano lessons to students in the after-school music program; organized an arts group for women transitioning out of homelessness; applied for grants from the state and federal governments; answered telephones; wrote press releases; sold tickets for theatre productions; and attended meetings in which we discussed the Art Center’s hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. I lived on the campus of Bethel New Life, in an apartment building in which all of my neighbors were participants in Bethel’s senior housing program. Most nights when I went to bed, my neighbors could still be found ‘burning the midnight oil’ in our lounge, playing cards or just chatting.

I graduated from the SCUPE program in May of 2001, and soon thereafter, returned to my home seminary in Indiana to finish my studies. But the prophetic urban perspectives I encountered in Chicago continued to burn bright within me, offering me fresh ways to converse with fellow students and engage the local community. The hard questions I had confronted head-on (in class and in my internship experience) were still alive, demanding my attention. Every theological article I read, every biblical text I exegeted, every chapel service I attended looked just a bit different now. My perspective had shifted and broadened. The city had left its imprint upon my soul, and I soon came to realize that I would never be the same.

After graduation, when I was given the opportunity to move to the Netherlands and participate in an urban ministry project in Almere, a city 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam, it was largely my SCUPE experience that gave me the courage to say ‘yes’. Almere is a different city than Chicago, to be sure. Almere is blessed with different gifts, and contends with different challenges. But the principles I learned in SCUPE – principles relating to cross-cultural living, community building, and sound theological analysis – have remained relevant (indeed, they have proved themselves invaluable) in the midst of this cultural transition, guiding me, helping me find my way in a completely new context.

I do not know what the future holds. But whatever path I take, I have no doubt that my SCUPE semester will be there, within me, informing my work and life in unexpected ways. SCUPE isn’t only for those who are certain that they will find their ministerial home in urban settings. (Born and raised on a farm in Ohio, that certainly wasn’t my point of departure upon entering the SCUPE program!) SCUPE is also for those on the journey, seeking the way, eager for a challenge, and ready for an adventure.

I have no regrets about choosing SCUPE. I urge you to consider choosing it as well.


Jackie A. Wyse
SCUPE graduate, 2001

P.S. I am happy to answer your questions about my SCUPE experiences (or SCUPE in general) via e-mail. Feel free to drop me a line at jackie@doopsgezind.nl

P.P.S. One note of clarification: Many different sorts of internships are available through SCUPE. Mine was arts-related, but instead, I could have interned in a homeless shelter, an urban congregation, a network for community organizing, a soup kitchen, or a senior citizens’ home (to name just a few options). The choices are indeed many and varied.
One Cool Blog

My friend and neice Lydia's blog is the coolest thing since cubed ice. Check it out here.


Wisdom from MLK

We are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.


I passed!

Some joyful news: I received word in the mail yesterday that (drum roll, please) ... I passed my Dutch exam! Remember, the one I took exactly 7 weeks ago today and tomorrow?! I wanted to share the good news with all of you. It's a good feeling ... and a time of transition for me. Last year I was half student, half urban ministry worker. This year I am transitioning into full time urban ministry worker. The fact that I passed my exam gives me a sense of closure I was longing for. I need that bit of "finished-ness" in order to feel able to move on into full time work. So I am grateful ... grateful that I passed, but even more than that, grateful that I have been given this opportunity to live and work and study in another culture, a culture that I am finding to be rich, full, and beautiful as well as challenging and perspective-shattering and just utterly different.

If you remember, the exam I took consisted of four parts: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. In order to pass, I needed to score 500 points per part. My results were as follows:

Reading: 632
Listening: 556
Speaking: 574
Writing: 564

I was not surprised that Reading was the strongest: that is the skill that has always come easiest for me. What did surprise me was that Speaking wasn't the weakest, for that was the section of the exam that I dreaded and feared the most. Speaking a new language is one of the scariest things I've ever attempted, especially in the first few months, when it's a big struggle just to come up with a few words to construct a simple sentence. Later, the vocabulary comes easier, but the grammar remains thorny. And the more you learn about grammar, the more you are aware when sentences you utter "just don't sound right." The more you speak a language, and the better you are able to speak it, the more you realize just how far you have yet to go! At least, that's been my experience.

Such is my journey with language learning. But the joys are well worth the struggles it takes to get there. It was exhilarating these past four weeks to travel through Africa with a group of Dutch young adults, to switch from English (the languge with which we spoke to most Africans) to Dutch, and to be able to function adequately in both languages. After awhile, I began to realize that all the English I was speaking was slowly but surely corroding my Dutch grammar ... but I have faith that my return to the NL will have the opposite effect!

In any case, language is powerful. And learning another one is something that has changed me in ways that I am just beginning to understand. When I am speaking in Dutch, my personality is slightly different, I think: more reserved, less gregarious. Part of that is the hesitation and lack of surety inherent in functioning in a second language. But part of that is also Dutch culture rubbing off on me, shaping me, influencing me. A famous Dutch proverb is: "Act normally; that's crazy enough." And this cultural value of sobriety and anti-extravagance shines through the language! In Dutch, it would be exaggerating to say that a sunset is "amazing" or "wondrous" or "fantastic" or "breath-taking." Instead, the sunset is simply "beautiful."

I've read lots of articles and heard lots of sermons about the virtues of simple living. I wonder what we North Americans can learn from the Dutch about the virtues of simple talking?
Out Of Africa

I've been "home" in the NL for 48 hours or so, and do I ever have some stories to tell! Stay tuned for daily blogs tinged with the sunsets of southern Africa.

Oh, and here's a good quote to tide you over until then:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved... --Jack Kerouac


In To Africa

Hey everybody ... after a whirlwind visit with my parents (we had *so* much fun!), I'm off to Africa for the

Mennonite World Conference

and other assorted activities. I'm returning August 20th. So, at the end of August, I'll have lots to blog about. Stay tuned until then. Good summers everyone, and blessings.


Contest for my Loyal Readers

Here is a sentence in Dutch. The first person to translate it correctly will receive a special Dutch something from me in the mail.

Vind je het leuk om mee naar de bioscoop te gaan?

My parents are coming to visit me today! And they are staying for two weeks! Being in Europe with my parents! Yeah! Exciting!
Have you communicated with your furniture today?

So I just finished watching this documentary about the Nashville Christian Music Machine, and one of the featured bands was a group of brothers hailing from southern Alberta, called Jake.

Actually, I guess the name "Jake" has been copyrighted, because for "legal reasons" they have to go by "The Penner Brothers" in the U.S. now. (Jake is a much cooler name, no?) Anyway, from what I heard on the documentary, their music is pretty good ... if I was into boy bands, I'd probably dig it. But the reason I mention them is this ... when interviewed, one of the three Penners said something that had me rolling on the floor and guffawing in amusement:

God can speak through our music.
God can speak through whatever he wants.
If he wanted to, he could even speak through our sofa.

Whoa, dude. Now that's heavy. Next time I need some advice, I know where I'm sittin'.

Now don't get me wrong. I do not disagree with Mr. Penner's theology, per se. Rather, I am endlessly amused by the thought of divine revelation couched in such an ordinary object. Hee hee.

During the documentary I also contracted a severe case of "the creeps" when listening to the monlogues of the prez of Reunion Records.

He as much as admitted that when it comes to the Christian Music Machine (he did not call it that), looks are just as (if not more) important than talent. And later, he asserted that it is not God's will for Christian businesses to fail. At least, it's not God's will for his business to fail! I don't know about all of you, but it's my impression that success and good looks were not necessarily important strategies in Jesus' mission. Come to think of it, did Jesus have anything that resembled a strategy? Or did he just live in love for God and other folks too?

This documentary made me want to boycott Reunion Records, especially after the prez made one of the Penner brothers un-dye his blue hair (it didn't support the image they were marketing). Happily, the band Jake is no longer affiliated with Reunion. So I can still explore Jake's jingles without violating my boycott. Come to think of it, boycotting Reunion Records won't change my life much. Most of the music I've been buying lately is more of the Norah Jones or Van Morrisson or John Denver variety.

Why can't good music just be good music? Why must we box everything up with a nice neat label, shelving it away for future reference?


A Japanese Protest Song
as sung by Pete Seeger in the late '60s
thanks to my friend Frank for sending me the CD

In the place where our old home was destroyed,
We buried the charred bones of our relatives.
Now the white flowers are blooming there.
Now we must never allow,
We must absolutely forbid
Another atom bomb to fall.

Deadly rain gathers poison from the sky,
And the fish carry death in the depths of the sea.
Fishing boats are idle, their owners are blind,
Deadly harvest of two atom bombs.
And landsmen and seamen, you must watch and take care
That the third atom bomb never falls.
A Protest Song

Josie works the counter at the downtown five and dime
Anything at all to help her pass the time
Her mama keeps the baby and grandpa rambles on
About the good times playing in his mind

It’s a hard life livin’ when you’re lonely
It’s a long night sleepin’ alone
It’s a hard time waitin’ for tomorrow
It’s a long, long way home

Josie spends the evening with the people in the pages
Of the paperback she picked up in the store
Or sometimes it’s the TV or she’ll try to write a letter
But they don’t come too often anymore

It’s a hard life livin’ when you’re lonely
It’s a long night sleepin’ alone
It’s a hard time waitin’ for tomorrow
It’s a long, long way home

And I stare at the gray walls before me
And I see her face in the stone
And I try to imagine our baby
And I wish they would let me go home
And I wish they would let me go home
And I wish they would let me go home

from "Prisoners," by John Denver
Holiday Wishes

I wish you all a peace-filled day. And I wish the same for our world.
50% Behind Me

My exam is half done! Happily, I feel good about the reading and listening sections. But the hardest stuff happens tomorrow, when I tackle writing and speaking ...

Oh, and now I have a favorite Dutch band! They are called Blof. However, the "o" in Blof has one of those diagonal slashes through it ... don't know how to do that on my computer. Check 'em out here.

Once you get to the website, click on "persfoto" if you want to see pictures of the band. Click on "band" to see head shots of the musicians. (The links are at the bottom of the site.)

Why is Blof my favorite band? Well, first of all, they are one of the few Dutch bands that sing exclusively in Dutch. (These days, English is everywhere. I find that regretable!) And second of all, I simply dig their tunes! They're mellow, probably too mellow for the tastes of my nephews and neice in Defiance. But hey, mellow can also be hip ... Right Jess, AJ, Lyds? :)

Oh, and FYI -- Blof-with-the-slash-through-the-O is pronounced an awful lot like the English word "bluff." But that's not what it means. What does it mean? No idea. I think it's a Scandinavian word, actually.


Morgen en Overmorgen

Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow I'm taking a big exam in Dutch. If I pass, I will receive a diploma which will enable me to take courses at a Dutch university in the future. I'm a bit nervous. I'll let you all know how it goes. Tomorrow my reading and listening abilities will be tested. The day after I will be tested in speaking and writing.
Audience Participation Requested

So ... what's the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the words: "The Netherlands?" Please comment. I'd love to know.
Wisdom from Vincent

Let us go forward quietly, forever making for the light and lifting up our hearts in the knowledge that we are as others are (and that others are as we are) and that it is right to love one another in the best possible way--believing all things, hoping for all things and enduring all things… And let us not be too troubled by our weaknesses, for even she who has none, has one weakness, namely that she thinks she has none, and anyone who believes herself to be so perfect or wise would do well to become foolish all over again.

--Vincent Van Gogh, modified slightly by me (she's instead of he's, just for the sake of variety)


Turn the Radio Up!

Tonight two colleagues and I spoke (Dutch) on the local radio! I was -- how to put this? -- very nervous. We listened to the recording afterwards, and everyone agreed that it went well. There was plenty of bantering with the interviewer, some good jokes, and best of all, our message got across. All in all, a fun 15 minutes.

What was the topic of the program? A cookbook. Some folks here in the neighborhood (Stedenwijk, it's called) are working together to make a community cookbook featuring not only recipes, but also interviews with (and photos of) the folks who submit the recipes. We're hoping to have lots of different cultures represented -- Morrocan, Surinamese, Iraqi, Dutch, American, etc. It's a very fun, very engaging project! Hopefully in less than a year the book will be complete.

On a personal note, it was a thrilling feeling to be able to utter grammatically coherent sentences in Dutch on the radio! I still have a strong accent, and my pronunciation is not perfect ... but all in all, I was happy to be understandable. I was quite glad to have the support of two native Dutch speakers, who did much more of the actual talking than me. But I was also glad to have the opportunity to give my Dutch a go like this. What a rush!
The Weather

Remember a few months ago, when it was cold and snowy in the States, and warm and balmy here? Remember how you were all jealous of me?

Well, now I'm jealous of you. In the NL, our lovely summer weather has recently taken a turn for the worst. Rain reigns supreme. And I'm walking around outdoors in bluejeans and a flannel shirt in July.


Interesting Dutch Fact #2

In the Netherlands, it is taboo to ask another person how much money she or he makes. In my opinion, this question is also (most of the time) taboo in the States ... However, other questions that are taboo in the States are not-so-taboo here. Here's an example. I play the piano. Here in the NL, immediately after hearing that fact about me, someone asked me if I was good at it or not. And I was expected to simply say "yes" or "no." In the States, such a question, though not impolite, would be slightly taboo, simply because it would put the piano-playing person in the awkward position of either 1) bragging about their abilities (Yes, I am very good!) or 2) admitting their downfalls (No, I'm actually quite terrible.) In the States, we would be more apt to ask a question like: "Do you enjoy it?" or "How long have your played?" or "Do you enjoy performing?" Thus, we would give the person a chance to say something more about their level of piano playing without putting them in the hot seat, so to speak. Not so in the NL, where straightforwardness in conversation is par for the course! Personally, I find it refreshing -- though it was hard to get used to at first.

But back to my initial point ... I find it interesting that money appears to be a somewhat-universally sensitive subject. What is it about money that makes us so uncomfortable? I may have more thoughts on this later. For now, I will let the question dangle.
Interesting Dutch Fact #1

In the Netherlands, most people get an extra month's salary every year. It's called vakantiegeld (vacation money). From what I understand, this extra money -- meant to help folks pay for their vacations -- is an expected and normal benefit in most places of employment. Vacations are an extremely important part of people's lives here in the NL -- taking a 3 or 4 week holiday each year is not out of the ordinary. Plus, there are all of these "extra" national holidays (at least, they feel extra to me!): The day following Christmas, the Monday after Easter, Ascension Day (which this year fell on a Thursday), and the Monday after Pentecost are, for instance, holidays. No one works, and nothing is open.


Good Quotes: Food

I ate and drank slowly as one should (cook fast, eat slowly) and without distractions such as ... conversation or reading. Indeed eating is so pleasant one should even try to suppress thought .... How fortunate we are to be food-consuming animals. Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger.

--Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea. Penguin Books (1978), p. 7.

Note from Jackie: I actually enjoy conversing and eating simultaneously ... but sometimes, food tastes so good that it seems best to sit in silence and do nothing but taste. "Drink water when you're drinking water," I once heard a speaker say. Don't make a grocery list in your head, or analyze a problem you are dealing with, or wonder how you are going to get everything done today. Just drink the water.

Doing one thing at a time is a spiritual discipline perhaps lost on our generation of multi-tasking, efficient people. I know it's often lost on me.


One More Question Re: Aesthetics

Hello folks! I tweaked the Polderpalooza Palette a bit more, and I think I finally got my colours coordinated. Tell me ... to your left, do you see a whole bunch of links in the newly-greened area of your screen? (There should be 21, in case anyone's counting.) These links should show up all the time now since I changed the background color to green. Yes? Is this working???


New Colour Scheme

Hey faithful readers -- I have finally gotten around to workin' with the colour scheme of this here blog, and I have a question for you all. Namely: are all of my links showing up now? Thanks for your most valued input as I seek to make your blogging experience as aesthetically pleasing as possible!


Snip, Clip, & Style

I cut my hair.

Or, to be more accurate, my friend Loes cut my hair. Instead of reaching 3/4 of the way down my back, now my hair reaches one or two inches below my ears.

Those of you who know me well will realize that this is a BIG DEAL.

I love being a shorter-haired person! Long hair was fun while it lasted (for the past 12 years or so). But the times, they are a-changin'. Oh yeah.


More Spellings

Interesting ways that people in the Netherlands have spelled my last name:


My name is actually spelled Wyse. So in America, the most popular misspelling is, of course, Wise.

Why do people spell my name in these creative ways here in the NL? My theory ... in Dutch, when the two letters ij appear side-by-side, they only constitute one sound. We don't really have this sound in English. It's a sound that, from my perspective, is somewhat stuck between the ai in brain and the ee in spleen. It's sort of an ay-eeeeee sound. Well, now come to think of it, that's similar to the way I pronounce the i/y in Wise/Wyse -- when I really give that midwestern dipthong a go of it, anyway! Thus, many Dutch people assume my name is spelled with the letter combination of ij.

Another note: in the Dutch language, there are no silent e's. And s's are always pronounced like s's, never like z's. Two more reasons why my name is a complicated one to spell here, since it features both the silent e and the s-masqerading-as-z phenomenon.

Originally -- hundreds of years ago when my forefolks were still in Germany -- my name was probably spelled Weiss, meaning White. Kind of like Gandalf the White. At least that's what I like to think.

A note to the Schoch's: Here in the Netherlands, your name would be pronounced with both of the ch's as gutterals! (Like in the Scottish Loch or the German Bach.) And the first ch would be prounounced separately from the initial s; thus, your name would begin with an s-sound rather than an sh-sound. Plus, the o would be longer ... Try pronouncing that one!

S - gutteral ch - long o sound - gutteral ch



Happy 20th Birthday to Lydia!

Today is the 20th birthday of Lydia Mae Schoch, a brilliant and creative young woman who just happens to be my neice. Happy Birthday Lydia! Here's a toast to the ending of your 20th year on earth and the beginning of your 21st! *clink clink*
Still Kickin'

Just a note to say I'm still kicking! There is much that I wish to post about. However, I (obviously) haven't been getting around to it. Thus, I have given myself a deadline: June 7. Thus, by June 7, there will be new stuff here. That's a promise!


Question for You Folks

Hello! I have a quick question for those of you who read my blog. To the left of your screen there should be a series of links -- everything from my e-mail address to where I went to college to where I am now. However, sometimes the color of the link matches the color of the background perfectly, thus rendering the link invisible. Right now, are the links visible on your screen, or are they invisible? Do the links work? I would appreciate your feedback below. Thank you.

FYI -- In a couple of days I plan to post about my recent European Road Trip to Prague, Budapest, Munich, and (accidentally) Strasbourg.



Sometimes I feel homesick, what with living across the ocean and all. Thanks to my friend Frank, who recently sent me a couple of Pete Seeger CDs, I have 'discovered' a song (it's an old song, though new to me). This song has become my Official Song to Sing When I'm Feeling Lonely. Wouldn't it be fun if the postal practices described in the lyrics below were a real possibility?! (Note: Though Seeger sang this song on one of the CD's, it's actually a Guthry tune.)

I'm a-gonna wrap myself in paper,
I'm a-gonna daub myself with glue,
Stick some stamps on the top of my head,
I'm a-gonna mail myself to you!

I'm a-gonna tie me up in a little red string,
I'm a-gonna tie blue ribbon too,
Climb up into my mailbox,
I'm a-gonna mail myself to you!

When you find me in your mailbox,
Cut the string and let me out,
Wash the glue off-a my fingers,
Stick some bubble gum in my mouth!

Take me outta my wrapping paper,
Wash the stamps off-a my head,
Pour me full-a some ice cream sodas,
Tuck me into a nice warm bed!

I'm a-gonna wrap myself in paper,
I'm a-gonna daub myself with glue,
Stick some stamps on the top of my head,
I'm a-gonna mail myself to you!

--Woody Guthry



We are now a world at war.

I am speechless and sad.

It is so easy to forget that it is real, this war -- that it is more than the images on our TV screens and the headlines in our newspapers. I think of the people who have died and are dying, who have fled and are fleeing, who are afraid, who are desperate. I think of the people who are courageous and outspoken in the face of real danger. I think of these people -- these people whom I don't know -- and I wonder who they are, what they are facing, what this war means for their daily lives. And as I think of these people -- these absolutely non-hypothetical people -- I pray for the courage to face the reality of war. I pray for continued awareness of how we are all connected, of how one part of the body cannot suffer without the whole body suffering.

Our world is suffering. Can we feel it? Dare we feel it? What will happen if we feel it? How will our lives change?
Cross-Cultural Coordination

Cross-cultural communication is difficult. This fact I was aware of before moving across the ocean last August. But what I never suspected to encounter was the difficulty of a little something called cross-cultural coordination! At least, that's my name for it. What is cross-cultural coordination? Let me put it this way... For those of you who were in marching band as teenagers, remember how difficult it was to walk and play your instrument at the same time? Remember how telling the difference between your right foot and left foot suddenly quadrupled in difficulty? Well, here in the Netherlands, while I'm not required to walk and play my instrument at the same time (unless I'm in the mood for it), I am often required to ride my bike and talk at the same time. This presents a few difficulties, to say the least ...

Let me explain. You see, even without the biking, talking is difficult because when I talk, I'm talking Dutch (which, although it's going quite well, is certainly not something that feels altogether natural to me as of yet). And even without the talking, riding bike is difficult because here in the NL, folks ride their bikes differently than folks in the States. You know how in the States you are taught to ride your bike single file, carefully following the person in front of you, making sure there's plenty of room for other vehicles to pass? Not so here. People ride bikes in clumps, and bikes are extensions of people's bodies. Think of a cluster of teenagers be-bopping around the mall somewhere, laughing, talking, exchanging witty anecdotes and such. Now imagine that they are on bikes -- and yet the ardor of their communication does not diminish, the fluency of their body language does not wane. That's what it's like here. I watch groups of bikers maneuvering effortlessly through narrow streets, somehow avoiding collisions with autos, busses, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and other bikers .... and cheerfully chatting with one another all along the way. I honestly don't know how they do it. When I try to speak Dutch and ride my bike at the same time, I end up in one of two sticky situations. Either 1) it takes me five minutes to utter one sentence in Dutch, because I'm so busy paying attention to all of the other people/bikes/motorcycles/cars, or 2) I speak somewhat fluently while nearly colliding with the aforementioned people or vehicles. Neither situation is ideal, to say the least. It must be quite comical for the Dutch folks who dare to go biking with me! Indeed, who knew that my inability to bike and talk at the same time would give me away as an out-of-towner? But I must say, I am slowly improving: I haven't fallen off my bike in the presence of another human being since last September.



Here in the NL, "Jackie" is not a common name. Thus, people misspell it quite often -- usually, as "Jacky." However, today someone sent me an e-mail with a misspelling I've never before encountered -- "Jaycky."

This does not bother me ... in fact, I find it rather fun.


For Those Who Want to Know More

Some lovely radish websites, for those who wish to dig up info on my most recent favorite vegetable:

radishes: a personal story
radishes: how to grow 'em
Tonight I Cooked

Dinner went well. We had exactly enough food (and I mean exactly!). Afterwards, people lingered, conversing over cups of steaming coffee and tea. It is certainly a good feeling to share a meal with friends, especially considering the fact that I've only lived on this continent for 7 months now.

I also learned something interesting about myself tonight -- I like radishes. I always thought that I was decidedly neutral about them, that they were not offensive to my tastebuds, but that (on the other hand) the thought of eating them didn't make me drool with anticipation. However, I was wrong. I am in fact fond of radishes!

All of this makes me wonder what other foods I avoid out of habit, when in actuality, I might enjoy them. Makes me wonder in what other ways (small or large) I've changed over the years, but haven't yet noticed ...
Tonight I'm Cooking

Every other Thursday we have a community meal at the Inloophuis (the drop-in center in Almere where my work is centered). Tonight my friend Rita and I are cooking. We are preparing:

cole slaw
beef patties
veggie patties
apple crisp (with ice cream)

Gotta go cook now ...


Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. Over the past few years, this day in the Christian year which signals the beginning of Lent has come to mean a lot to me. It reminds me of my own mortality ("You are dust, and to dust you shall return"). This year I wasn't able to attend an Ash Wednesday service, but in previous years, I have been deeply moved by the ritual of ashes as practiced by most liturgical Christian churches. The grit of the ash on my forehead, the smudges on the faces of my brothers and sisters who surround me, the sensation of leaving the service as one literally marked as a Christ follower... And into what do we follow Christ? Well, right now we are following Christ into 40 days of waiting, of silence, of contemplation, of expentancy. But unlike the expectancy of Advent (which results in the joy of new birth and the hope of God-with-us), the expectancy of Lent will yield suffering before it yields joy. The mystery of Lent is the mystery of Christ's suffering. The fruit of Lent is a Cross and a Tomb. And even though we know that the tomb will eventually be emptied and resurrection will eventually set us all free ... even so, Christ's suffering endures for a season. For one holy silent Saturday, God-with-us was with us no longer. That is the reality toward which Lent points, the reality that precedes resurrection.

Did you know that, in the Catholic tradition, the ashes from this year's Ash Wednesday service are made from the palm fronds used in last year's Palm Sunday service? Palm Sunday ... a time far from now, a time full of Christ's presence and the eschatalogical hope of God's Reign, a time when the atmosphere is full of hope, when people are (quite simply) caught up in the excitement of a parade in the streets. Thus there are within Ash Wednesday and within Lent seeds of real hope! But the other side of hope is waiting, and on this far-from-perfect earth, waiting often involves suffering.

This Lent let us especially remember those who suffer most in our world. Those who wait to experience war. Those who wait to wage war. Let us enter into the hope that all war (which ravages the hearts and the bodies of both the war-wagers and those whom war is waged against) will cease, that Lent 2003 will not be a time of death in our world ... but that rather, it will yield life, life which lasts, and peace which nourshes the whole of creation.


I know I'm becoming European because...

...I now prefer fizzy water to tap water! For those of you wondering how this dietary move will affect my health, according to Dr. Trisha Macnair, only my teeth are at risk. Dr. Macnair writes that fizzy water "can ... be bad for your teeth as the carbonation makes it very acidic." All things in moderation!

My personal opinion -- It's not necessarily a good idea to drink fizzy water instead of tap water. But it *is* a good idea to drink fizzy water instead of soda pop! Yes!

For more info on the healthiness of fizzy water, click here.


Something Fun

If you were a dog, what kind of a dog would you be? For the answer, check out this fun little internet survey. (Consider posting your results in the "comment" section below!)

What Kind of a Dog Are You?


Celebrate, Celebrate, Dance to the Music!

Good news, everybody! Today I picked up my Dutch Residence Permit (in Dutch: verblijfsverkunning). I am officially a legal resident of the Netherlands until January 14, 2005! It only took 6 months.... Yahoo!

(Note: I was never here illegally, for those of you who are wondering! My temporary resident permit had me covered for the first half-year or so.)
What is it about the South?

At the beginning of February I spent a week in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, a region in the southwest of the Netherlands and the north of Belgium. I was told that this region has a reputation for "eating, drinking, and being merry" -- more so than the rest of the NL. And my experience confirmed that assertion with gusto! The breads, cheeses, and wines that I sampled in that week were some of the best I've had since arriving in Europe 6 months ago.

Which got me thinking ... what is it about the South? Is it just me, or is it true that places that are labelled "South" often feature people and cultures who characteristically celebrate life and the material world with wild abandon? I think of the stories I've heard about the south of France, about Italy, about African and Central/South American cultures, even about "southern hospitality" in the U.S. And I wonder what is up with those of us from "the North" (whatever that means in our various cultural contexts)... Are we just too cold to throw parties?!

A fitting question for this week, when I hear that many of you in North America are surviving blizzards...


Another Great Quote

We are a spiritually impoverished generation; we search in all the places the Spirit ever flowed in the hope of finding water. But that is a valid impulse. For if the Spirit is living and never dies, he must still be present wherever he once was active. He is like a small but carefully tended spark, ready to flare, glow, and burst into flame the moment he feels the first enkindling breath.
--Edith Stein

More stories of my adventures in the Netherlands coming soon!! Stay tuned...


Great Quotes

The division of one day from the next must be one of the most profound peculiarities of life on this planet. It is, on the whole, a merciful arrangement. We are not condemned to sustained flights of being, but are constantly refreshed by little holidays from ourselves. --Iris Murdoch

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
-- Mark Twain
Care to check out the Dutch Mennonite Church?

Doopsgezind.nl: alle doopsgezinden online!
The Second Snow

Today it's snowing in Almere. (Almere is the Dutch city where I live.) This is only the second time it's snowed here this winter. It's absolutely beautiful. Never mind that most of the flakes are melting upon impact with the ground -- it is their big fluffy descent from the sky that makes me happy as I sit at my computer this afternoon.

One of the things I miss about living in Ohio/Indiana is the winter. Although the Netherlands is known for its ice skating, the climate here is actually quite mild. How I long for days upon days of crisp weather, for the cold air that calls forth the red in everybody's cheeks, for breathing out fog. Those of you shivering in cold Ohio winters right now -- know that I envy you!


Exotic Foods of the Netherlands

One of the most intriguing parts of living in another culture is experiencing that culture’s culinary habits! What follows is a look at bread and chocolate ... in the Dutch paradigm.


The word “boterham,” when translated literally, means “butter-ham.” Perhaps a more accurate translation is “sandwich” – however, a boterham is quite distinctive from the classic American sandwich (two pieces of bread with numerous layers of foodstuffs in between, eaten with one’s hands, no plate required). Rather, a boterham is a single piece of bread with something on top, often (but not always) eaten on a plate with a knife and fork. Boterhammen (the plural of boterham) can be topped with cheese, or meat, or peanut butter, or jam, or chocolate spread, or vegetables, or any other manner of topping. (See hagelslaag, below.)

It is the habit of many Dutch people whom I have met to eat boterhammen for both breakfast and lunch, and then to eat something “warm” for the evening meal. (I have begun to adopt this custom as well, though I still like to have a box of cereal around for days when I wake up feeling hungry for something a little more American!) In earlier years, when more Dutch people were farmers, it is my understanding that the noon meal was traditionally the “warm meal,” often featuring potatoes as one of the main courses. But as the number of people working on farms lessened, and the number of people who had to travel longer distances to work increased, it became gradually more common for the evening meal to be the larger one.

In my opinion, what makes boterhammen so delicious is the high quality of European breads and cheeses. Delicious!


One of most unusual toppings for boterhammen is something called hagelslaag. Hagelslaag looks similar to the chocolate sprinkles we are accustomed to putting on cakes in America, but their flavor is distinctive and not to be found in America. From the first moment I tasted hagelslaag, I was a fan. Indeed, bread sprinkled with little bits of chocolate makes for quite a tasty dessert! (For those less fond of chocolate than I am, fruit-flavored Hagelslaag is also popular here.)


Welcome to PolderpaloozaOnline!

Perhaps this rather bizarre title requires an explanation?! First of all, I live in the Netherlands on a polder -- a piece of land reclaimed from the sea. Second, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a palooza is “a fanciful formation; something outstandingly good of its kind.” Though I have no such expectations for this website (!), I certainly hope that my experience in the Netherlands will possess at least some of the qualities of the palooza. Tune in for periodic musings on one American woman's European adventure...