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Doe eens gewoon 18 January 2012

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Travelling.
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Sometimes, being a person speaking more than one language, makes you able to see its quirks from the outside. Once you speak a second language well (read: extremely well), you might even start using plays on words as humour. Sometimes, you’ll be able to make jokes that native speakers will never even have thought of, because they are too close to the language.

For example, in Norway, when you thank someone, and want to express extra gratitude, you say “Tusen takk”, meaning “Thousand thanks” or, in better English – “a thousand thank yous”.

Growing up with this saying, you might never question it, it’s what you and others always say. My dad, however, thought it was a funny quirk, and used to respond with “five hundred is enough”, completely baffling the speaker, who didn’t know what he referred to. This made for many an awkward “ddaaaaaa-aaad!” moment on my part, especially during my teenage years.

Interestingly, I do tend to say similar things myself; using the meaning of words to find humour in life. At least I crack myself up, despite no one else getting the joke, right? I am sure if I ever have kids, there will be lots of “mmuuuuu-uum! Gah!” (And not just due to my horrid sense of ‘humour’, I swear.)

I have made plays on words for as long as I can remember; I am obviously more of a chip off the old dad-block than I have been willing to admit.

Whenever I used to chuck a tantrum as a teenager, my mother would say “doe eens gewoon”, which is a Dutch term meaning “act normal”. In essence, “doe eens gewoon” means “chill out, stop making a mountain out of a mole heap, you are overreacting, you are being abnormal” all in one.

My usual response to this term used to be “dit IS gewoon!” (“this IS normal for me!”) and storm out. Not really a very rational response, but you know… teenagers.

Speaking a number of languages thus not only gives you an excellent opportunity to communicate with a much larger number of people in their native language, but it also makes you see those languages in relation to each other.

Languages fascinate me; how did “being normal” become such a lofty goal in the Netherlands? What does that say about the people there?

Or as my dad still says:

“Doe maar gewoon, dat is al gek genoeg.” (Just act normal, that is already weird enough).

Shootin’ up Life 13 October 2010

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I love this series of photographs. What a find.

Beneath Contempt 22 March 2010

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beneath contempt

– Peter Balkenende, Dutch Prime Minister

This is possibly the best description I have heard of the recent comments by retired General John J. Sheehan that the presence of gay Dutch soldiers contributed to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. And I stand 100% behind that description. What a deplorable thing to say.

There are many reasons why the UN Peace Keeping force failed to prevent the massacre in 1995. Google it if you must.

Here is the transcript of the enquiry where the comments were made (courtesy of Foreign Policy Magazine):

General John Sheehan: “That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The case in point that I’m referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs. The battalion was under- strength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone polls, marched the Muslims off and executed them. That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II.
Senator Carl Levin: Did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?
General Sheehan: It was a combination.
Senator Levin: But did they tell you that? That’s my question.
General Sheehan: Yes.
Senator Levin: They did.
General Sheehan: They included that as part of the problem.
Senator Levin: That there were gay soldiers among the Dutch.
General Sheehan: That the combination was the liberalization of the military, a net effect of basically social engineering….
Senator Levin: And can you tell us what Dutch officers you talked to who said that Srebrenica was in part caused because there were gay soldiers in the Dutch army?
General Sheehan: Chief of staff of the army, who was fired by the parliament because they couldn’t find anybody else to blame.

Borstplaat 2 December 2009

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Sinterklaas.
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The Dutch celebrate their Christmas like other countries on 25 December every year. However, this celebration has traditionally been present free (although it is becoming more popular now to receive presents then as well.)

When I was little, we would receive presents on 5 December, to celebrate Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas. So, as my advent calendar entries for the next couple of days, I will focus on the delights that are Sinterklaas goodies.

For the uninitiated, a bit of background may be worthwhile.

The Dutch love their sugar. Therefore, the Christmas treats that I am about to reveal to you must not be indulged by the fainthearted. Because, as you will see, why would you want to interfere with the deliciousness that is sugar by adding other ingredients?

You have been warned.

Borstplaat/ Suikerbeestjes

250 g sugar (cane sugar if available)
5 tbs double cream
2 tbs water
food essence (vanilla, lemon, raspberry), cocoa powder or instant coffee


1. Mix the sugar, water and cream in a saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil.

2. Boil for 5 minutes. When a drop of the mixture hardens in cold water, the mixture is done. Remove from the heat.

3. Add the taste of choice.

4. Grease the figurines you will be using thoroughly, then pour the mixture into them. Cool.