Those who know me well know that I am not a cake snob. Although there's nothing like cake (or brownies) made from scratch, some of their boxed siblings are not to be sneered at. My most recent discovery? These brownies. Put two tablespoons of the mix into a small bowl and add a tablespoon of vanilla yoghurt, stir well, microwave on high for one minute and ~ abracadabra! ~ a single serving of chocolate-y fugde-y pudding-like brownie goodness. And, wonder of wonders, if you go here you'll see that this mix is even available in my little hometown of Archbold, Ohio! Who knew?
On a related note: I recently invested in a Mr. Bento lunch jar, and it is rocking my lunchtime world. Put warmed up leftovers in the two larger containers, and they stay warm for 4-6 hours! Put fruit or veg or dessert in the two smaller containers, and they stay at room temp, even though they are stored within the lunch jar in very close proximity to the warmed-up items. Oh, the wonders of insulation! Today I made a single-serving brownie in one of the smaller containers (I let it cool before packing my lunch jar so as not to disrupt the delicate temperature balance). The other containers held a cut-up apple, leftover casserole and leftover noodles. Yummy and much more fiscally responsible than spending upwards of $8 at the student union.
PS -- if you think I'm excited about my Mr. Bento, just take a look at these folks!
|You Are a Red Crayon|
Your world is colored with bright, vivid, wild colors.
You have a deep, complex personality - and you are always expressing something about yourself.
Bold and dominant, you are a natural leader. You have an energy that is intense... and sometimes overwhelming.
Your reaction to everything tends to be strong. You are the master of love-hate relationships.
Your color wheel opposite is green. Green people are way too mellow to understand what drives your energy.
Comments about the accuracy of the above description are indeed welcome. :-)
1. In the near future, Emory is going to become an iTunes university.
2. Prominent figures who will be coming to Emory this semester include Barbara Kingsolver, Elaine Pagels and the Dalai Lama.
3. Tip: arrive at your classroom 20 minutes before teaching. Take time to yawn, do (basic) yoga, or massage your jaw muscles. Vocal/body warm-ups -- as well as good posture -- are essential unless you want to strain your voice 15 minutes into the period. (This strikes me as good advice for preachers too, especially those in smaller congregations who don't use mics.)
4. It is common for undergrads at Emory to make collaborative multimedia blogs as assignments for class. Who knew?
5. There is much more that I hope to check out at Emory, including their Women's Center, theatre offerings, and the current special exhibit at the Carlos Museum.
1. According to (nearly) everyone who addressed us today, the most important thing you learn in grad school is time management.
2. "Sweet tea" in the South takes "sweet" to a whole 'nother level. I thought my mom's iced tea was as sweet as it could get; not so!
3. There's a student who looks exactly like David Duchovny. I am neither kidding nor exaggerating. Crooked smile, mysterious eyes, well-defined jaw line: Fox Mulder all the way.
4. One of the best ways to discourage plagiarism is to give your students assignments which are as specific as all-get-out.
5. It is possible for a biostatistician, a behavioral psychologist, and a biblical scholar to come up with a course on sustainability that might actually be teachable.
Today is my first day of school. I'll blog more tonight to let you know how it was.
Oh yeah, and the boat rocked! I'll blog about that too in the coming days and weeks.
Click here for an interesting discussion on the environmental benefits/detriments of slow travel. I must be honest, my motivation for traveling slowly had lots to do with the uniqueness of the experience, the dearth of cheap flights this month, and the fact that I can take 100 kg of baggage plus my bike along with me and less to do with my concern for Planet Earth. However, Planet Earth is potentially the most important of all considerations when considering how (fast) to travel. Oh, and here's a great FAQ regarding freighter travel.
OK, who among you hasn't wanted to try this?
Last week we had our final gathering of the kids' club at the inloophuis before the commencement of summer vacation. We followed our usual pattern of:
1. gathering: sitting in a circle and chatting for a bit about whatever blows our hair back
2. reading a story related to the day's theme
3. doing something creative, usually involving markers, paint, scissors, glue
4. playing games, indoor or outdoor, depending on the weather
The spontaneous hand-painting occurred during phase 3, obviously.
During phase 4, we went outside. The kids wanted to play "War." In spite of my Mennonite reservations, I did not protest, for I must admit, I was curious as to what sort of cultural phenomenon I was about to witness. (Does this make me a bad missionary, or a good one?) The children proceeded to use sidewalk chalk to draw out a map of five "countries" on the blacktop (I believe they were Holland, Belguim, Germany, Amsterdam and Almere -- the distinction between countries and cities wasn't entirely clear for all participants). Then the kids took turns dropping a piece of chalk onto their five-part map. Then everyone, except the person upon whose country the chalk had landed, started to run around chaotically. The remaining person waited a bit before yelling: STOP! The runners froze. If the non-runner could stre-e-e-e-etch out and touch one of the others while her feet were still safely within the boundaries of her own country, then the tagged runner had to draw a chalk circle around her feet: that encircled area thus became a new "territory" belonging to the conquering country (ruled by the stretchy person). This process was repeated several times. Then everyone gathered back for another go at chalk-dropping. All in all, an interesting game, reflective of the Netherlands' colonial past, no? We only played it for 10 minutes before surrendering (no pun intended) our piece of blacktop to the older, tougher soccer crowd -- but they were kind enough to wait until we were ready to leave before taking over. So I'm not sure how the game ends: I assume the one with the most territory wins.
Here's a few photos of War:
St. John of the Cross wrote this in response to Psalm 137. My friend Frank sent it to me in response to a post I wrote on artifacts at the British Museum. There is a longing-for-home in this poem which speaks to my uprooted soul, although I am confused as to which home it is for which I am longing. Perhaps it's Home-with-a-capital-H that this poem speaks of, longed for in some way by all creatures.
By the rivers
I sat down weeping,
there on the ground.
And remembering you,
O Zion, whom I loved,
in that sweet memory
I wept even more.
I took off my feastday clothes
and put on my working ones;
I hung on the green willows
all the joy I had in song,
putting it aside for that
which I hoped for in you.
There love wounded me
and took away my heart.
I begged love to kill me
since it had so wounded me;
I threw myself in its fire
knowing it burned,
excusing now the young bird
that would die in the fire.
I was dying in myself,
breathing in you alone.
I died within myself for you
and for you I revived,
because the memory of you
gave life and took it away.
The strangers among whom
I was captive rejoiced;
they asked me to sing
what I sang in Zion:
Sing us a song from Zion,
let's hear how it sounds.
I said: How can I sing,
in a strange land where I weep
for Zion, sing of the happiness
that I had there?
I would be forgetting her
if I rejoiced in a strange land.
May the tongue I speak with
cling to my palate
if I forget you
in this land where I am.
Zion, by the green branches
Babylon holds out to me,
may my right hand be forgotten
(that I so loved when home in you)
if I do not remember you,
my greatest joy,
or celebrate one feastday,
or feast at all without you.
O Daughter of Babylon,
miserable and wretched!
Blessed is he
in whom I have trusted,
for he will punish you
as you have me;
and he will gather his little ones
and me, who wept because of you,
at the rock who is Christ
for whom I abandoned you.
EDITED TO ADD: The only part of the poem that rubs me the wrong way is that Babylon is personified as a "daughter" whom the poet asks God to punish. However, I do not hold this against St. John -- he was in a long line of saints and theologians who personfied Babylon as a female -- and I hope you don't either.
Take a listen to the closing number from the concerts given by my choir, the VU Kamerkoor, this weekend: Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine by Eric Whitacre. We sang in two stunning churches: the Pieterskerk in Utrecht (more than 950 years old and with acoustics that don't quit) and the Domincuskerk in Amsterdam (a mere 114 years old). That's not an experience I am likely to repeat in the US anytime soon!
To the left: the poster advertising our concerts, which featured choral works which didn't exist yet 10 years ago. New music. Of the 8 pieces we sung, two were accompanied by organ, one by a CD soundtrack, and the rest were acapella.
I shall miss this choir, along with my orchestras. I am planning to audition for musical groups at Emory; I hope they are as rewarding as the ones I am leaving behind.
Last week my co-volunteers and I at Inloophuis de Ruimte visited Stichting Aap, a sanctuary for 'exotic animals' -- most of whom have been abused or mistreated and some of whom were purchased by well-meaning folks wanting a unique pet who later realized that these animals were never meant to live in enclosed spaces. This charitable organization gives the animals medical attention, resocializes them, and when possible, places them in refuges/reserves all over the world. The animals received by Stichting Aap are too traumatized to ever function in the wild.
Evening snack. Yum!
Stichting Aap is located in my own lovely town of Almere, and they are working at opening another 'branch' in Spain. As far as I know, they are unique in Europe, and perhaps in all the world, in terms of the kind of work they do and the kind of animals for whom they do it.
So when I relocate to the other side of the pond, what should I do with the title of this blog, seeing as I will no longer be living on a polder but will (hopefully) still be living life to the palooza-est?
My options are as follows:
1. Don't change it. A polder is, more than anything, a state of mind.
2. Change to: Georgiapalooza. Rolls easily off the tongue.
3. Change to: Atlantapalooza. Because the whole 6-syllable thing is kinda cool.
4. Change to: Something that starts with P and is relevant to my new life as a PhD student in Hebrew Bible at Emory in Atlanta... 'cause I'm rather attached to the alliterative effect of my current title.
...and it makes a mighty fine tea (see my 'sipped in 2007' sidebar).
On a related note, sometimes I make myself a nice, warm, inviting cup of tea or a sweetly steaming cup of coffee and I set it down on the kitchen counter or the living room side table to cool. Then I proceed to forget all about it until hours later, when it's as lukewarm as all get out. Does anyone else have this problem?
... to visit Jackie!
Or, less egocentrically, to visit the tulips, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Europe more generally.
In the past 2 months I've enjoyed visits from...
Adam Nofziger, whom I've known since we were both in the nursery at Lockport Mennonite Church. Here we are enjoying those infamously yummy Flemish fries (with mayo and peanut sauce).
Seminary friends Tanya and Kevin Kurtz Lehman -- here they are, looking fabulous nearby a fantastic gelato shop which is itself close to the Albert Cuyp market.
And most recently: Aunt Janice and Faye in a truly Dutch moment. They are in the south of France currently, and will be returning with their friend Alice tomorrow night for another 2 days/3 nights in the NL before heading back to North America.
Visitors are fun! I hope people still come to visit me when I live in Atlanta, which I fear may be slightly less exciting than living near Amsterdam. Except for my Dutch friends, of course, for whom Atlanta will be the much more exotic of the two locations!
Playing clarinet in two wind ensembles, the Symfonish Blaasorkest ATH and the Waterlands Blazers Ensemble.
Thanks to Fabchannel, everyone can enjoy the ATH's latest concert here, in which we accompany Ge Reinders, a folk singer from Limburgh (one of the Netherlands' provinces). When Ge talks, it's in Dutch; when he sings, it's in Limburgs, a dialect of Dutch. I'm sitting right behind him in the video...
What a lovely Saturday today has been so far. This morning, a friend unexpectedly stopped by for a cup of coffee. Then I walked to the city center to run some errands and get a haircut and some groceries. The weather is fine (16C/61F - how symmetrical!) and it seems that everybody in the city is outdoors enjoying it. I ran into several folks that I know in town, in spite of the fact that more than 180,000 people live in this city. These past five years, I have experienced anew that cities don't have to be places of anonymity: there is community here. Days like today make it difficult to leave the Netherlands. I am rooted here. I know people and they know me. Even so, the process of uprooting has already begun: one box of books has already arrived in the US ahead of me, six more are on their way, and I'm looking into tickets back (I may be traveling by boat!). I have two and half more months of Dutch life ahead of me. I plan to enjoy every moment -- well, maybe not every moment, considering the hours of writing left to be done on my thesis. But I'll do my best.
Oh, in case anyone doesn't know: I'm going to be moving to Atlanta in August to study here within this department. Even in the midst of feeling wistful about leaving the NL, I am looking forward to settling in there.
P.S. The title for this blog post was inspired by/stolen from these folks.
P.P.S. Photo Credit: Ryan Miller of Mennonite Mission Network.
Well, the penultimate London tidbit to share with you all is my discovery of this London shop, which may perhaps be my favorite place to shop for clothes on earth! (I'm speaking of the shop on Oxford Street, specifically.) There, I indulged in the tunic pictured above. Here in the Netherlands, I like to shop here for clothes and here for everything else.
Where oh where will I shop when I move back to US in just a few months?!? I must focus on the positive: the US beats Europe hands-down when it comes to affordable second-hand stores. So: I will shop at Goodwill. Yes!
Some board games are more dangerous than others. If you dare play War on Terror, you may end up with Evil plastered all over your forehead. In London, some friends and I spent several hours one Sunday figuring this game out. If I gave board games stars, I would give this one 3 out of 4. Recommended as an entertaining way to get educated about the crazy turn our world has taken. Apparently, WoT's creators, who are peaceniks from Cambridge, have been banned from some game conventions because of the controversy surrounding WoT. Read The Guardian's coverage of the game here.
Please excuse this interruption of the 12-part London series.
I just want to point out my nifty new search widget entitled 'on my bookshelf ' (scroll down, on the right).
Go ahead, search my library. You know you want to!
I bought two books while in London, received one as a gift and borrowed another.
The first book I bought from Metanoia Books, the book shop affiliated with the London Mennonite Centre, where I was staying: and that book is The Human Being by Walter Wink. The human being Wink writes about is none other than Jesus. This promises to be a provocative book which builds on Wink's Powers Trilogy but ventures beyond what some would consider acceptable Christology. I've only read one chapter, but am already intrigued. As soon as I finish (and the title of the book subsequently appears on one of my new sidebars!), I'll let you know what I think.
The second book I bought for a fiver at a second-hand book market near the Thames: and that book is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson. It's actually a compendium containing the first three books of a 10 book series (only 7 of which are currently published). My friend Vic recommended this series to me as some of his favorite books of all time, so I couldn't help but snap this volume up when I discovered it at the market.
The third book Vic gave to me. It is one of his own: Sign of the Manipogo. (It's also available on amazon here.) Vic has written two novels, the second of which is as of yet unpublished. I very much look forward to reading them both!
A book which I borrowed from my hosts and read in its entirety was Short Cuts, a collection of short stories upon which the identically titled movie is based, which I blogged about earlier. I recommend the collection of stories just as highly as the film. Raymond Carver exudes brilliance.
While in London I spent a mind-blowing day at the British Museum. Most of the aforementioned mind-blowing occurred while encountering artifacts like this one: an ancient Assyrian relief sculpture depicting Israelite captives playing their harps nearby a grove of trees. (Click to enlarge.)
Viewing this image both awed me and broke my heart. I remembered Psalm 137:
By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (NRSV)
When I first viewed this piece of art last week, I was impressed by how the faith expressed in the Hebrew scriptures was grounded in concrete, earthy experiences - many of which were tragic. Here is a portrayal of Israelite musicians: conquered, captive and marginalized as 'the other'. I could only gaze in sadness and wonder as the real, lived experience behind this artifact (and the psalm) leapt forward, demanding my attention. Today, as I think back to my afternoon in the museum, I wonder about the real, lived experiences of the 'captives' in Western societies. I chose to emigrate to Holland; many immigrants leave their homeland against their will. In what ways are they required to sing their songs in order to 'entertain' the powerful majority? In what ways do we use others to satiate our own 'need' for mirth? By refusing to take seriously those who are different, how do we impoverish our own souls?
While in London I was enthralled by Kathy's stories about her experiences in Israel/Palestine with a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation from 20 November to 1 December 2006. (Krista participated in a similar delegation in January of this year.) Check out photos of Kathy's amazing journey here.
My week in London was filled with good things, some of which were movies. The friends I was visiting (named Vic, Kathy and Janelle -- photo forthcoming) are enthusiastic about films, to put it mildly. Every Saturday, they host a movie night; we watched Half Nelson. Vic's brother Walter references it briefly here, in the inaugural post of the blog authored by both Vic and Walter. A couple of days later, several of us watched Short Cuts, my first Robert Altman film besides Gosford Park. Short Cuts is based on the writing of Raymond Carver, whose short story Cathedral is one of my favorite short stories of all time (although Short Cuts did not draw upon Cathedral). The next day Vic and I went to the cinema to see Inland Empire, which Vic reviews here. Additionally, the lot of us watched several episodes of Northern Exposure on DVD.
My one-sentence reactions to these various cinematographic experiences?
1. I recommend Half Nelson, which I found to be ultimately hopeful and quite funny in places. However, the hope is framed by a postmodern bleakness which some in our group didn't find believable.
2. I highly recommend Short Cuts, which I found equal parts energizing and sobering, and which is a stirring interpretation of Raymond Carver's work.
3. I side with Vic on Inland Empire: I don't regret seeing it, but I wouldn't necessarily see it again (at least not for a very long time). I wouldn't recommend seeing it unless you are in the mood for a (mostly) inaccessible work of art (for art it is!) which (largely) substitutes images and impressions for plot and character. It does have some good quotes, like what Nikki said about the men she had been seeing:
Some men change. Well, they don't change - they reveal. They reveal themselves over time, you know?
4. Northern Exposure is great TV. If you can get your hands on the DVD, watch it.
Tonight I returned from a week's vacation in London. It was fabulous. I have resolved to post 12 times about it, starting now. My deadline is 12 days from now. 12 posts, 12 days. Let's see if I can do it.
The first of the twelve: a photo essay, which I like to call Self-Portrait on Millenium Bridge X4 (aka The Thames and I). Bonus points for non-London readers who can identify Tower Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe and Blackfriars Bridge in the backgrounds.
Self-Portrait, Airborn, Passing Big Ben
I recently purchased a couple of nifty bags designed by this retro Amsterdam company, and this one too. They use mostly vintage fabrics from the 1960's and 70's. Check 'em out. If you're as addicted to bags as I am, these websites should be a treat and a half for you. If you're in the Amsterdam area, be forewarned: the quaint shop on the Haarlemmerstraat that sells both companies' products is closed on Tuesdays and Sundays, even though their website indicates otherwise! If you don't live in the Netherlands, they deliver to your door for fairly reasonable prices.