You Only Live Once

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:


Things I'll Miss About Holland 4

Only in this country can one happen upon a bright orange mangled-up bike draped serenely across a flower bed within walking distance of the train station.


This is what saying good-bye looks like.


Romance on Psalm 137

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
of Babylon
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.


Tormented by Visions of Flight

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.


Stichting Aap

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.

Prairie Dogs! They had been purchased as pets and proceeded to bite everything in sight to smithereens, including their owner's finger. Cute they are, but domesticated they are not meant to be.

An ape, enjoying his territory.

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.


Worth a Thousand


Poll the Audience

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.

5. ???


This is a honeybush...

...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?