31 March 2011

What happens when you don't watch television?

Matthijs and I don't really watch television - so how do we waste our time and unwind? Mostly we play games together - but sometimes we do other random things, like finding the quirks in national anthems (the cause was my last blog which featured the Dutch national anthem). A little searching on wikipedia and you bump quickly into the following:

Did you know that Canada has an inuit version of the Canadian anthem? And that there were lyric changes made in 1990 (more than 20 years ago - and I still don't know them [and never see them]?)

Or do you know how often the American anthem is sung poorly? Not surprising - since only the best singers have both a range from a b flat (just below middle c) to a high f and can make the strange jumps between notes necessary to sing it well.

Yet, as unsingable as the American anthem is, the Belgian one is probably worse - not because of all the jumps - but because of all the random short and long notes. Even Matthijs couldn't sightread that one!

Or have you noticed how exceptionally Calvinistic the Hungarian anthem is in its talking about how they've suffered enough for their sins?

Or that the Ukrainian anthem is one of the best anthems to have for football (soccer) games? It's definitely better than the British's "God save the queen."

Or what about the Polish anthem with its rather optimistic viewpoint that Poland starts somewhere in Italy?

I guess television is also entertaining, but a random evening with little immediate cause appeals to me more :) 

Anyone have other suggestions to add to this list of anthem quirkiness?

28 March 2011

Singing the Dutch Anthem (Wilhelmus) in Chapel

In our desire to read through the entire Bible in the community, every book gets read in chapel. With some of the Old Testament books, this can get a bit hard at times on the chapel-goers. The last little while has been Chronicles. The entire first nine chapters are only lists of names - and they're generally not short chapters. Every once in awhile some information is given about a name, but since that generally involves an unknown place name, this doesn't make too much of a difference.

Matthijs and I read at home the daily reading a couple of times, and the highlight was probably noticing that 1 Chronicles 7 seems to suggest that Izrahiah has 5 sons but there are only 4 listed. As much as I believe that every part of the Bible is important and place there for a reason (and there is something rather impressive about all the names listed there - names of people who have been part of God's plan for generations after generations), this doesn't exactly seem like the ideal reading to begin one's day. It's hard to figure out what would be spiritually edifying in the passage.

And yet as we moved on to the next section of Chronicles, the section on the heroes, the person leading chapel made a great link. He had us sing the Dutch Anthem (the Wilhelmus) in connection with reading. The Dutch anthem, at least in comparison to the Canadian and American anthems, has always seemed a bit odd to me. The first stanza is as follows:
"William of Nassau
am I, of German (Dutch?) blood.
Loyal to the fatherland
I will remain until I die.
A prince of Orange
am I, free and fearless.
The king of Spain
I have always honoured."
(Copied from wikipedia, where you can find more verses and a history of it).

As much as the following stanzas do talk about fearing God and being good to one's subjects, it's not exactly something that seems fitting for in church. And yet, the connection of the anthem to David is rather obvious, as illustrated by the eighth stanza (again taken from wikipedia):
"Like David, who was forced to flee
from Saul, the tyrant.
I had to sigh,
as did many other nobles.
But God raised him,
relieving him of despair,
and gave him a kingdom
very great in Israel."

The singing of the anthem helps us remember the honour we have for our dutch forefathers. Making the connection to the heroes of the Bible helps make us aware of the meaning behind the names listed - and makes it a little easier to read this section of the Bible with more awe and wonder, even when it sometimes feels long and boring.

27 March 2011

I miss the laughter

Although Matthijs and I laugh together a lot, I still miss the laughter that comes with living in community. There's something about putting so many different people together that simply creates the sort of strange situations that make me laugh (like the random drunk tourist, the way people relate (or don't relate!) to each other, and community weekends). As interesting as Matthijs is and as crazy as our cat is, life here in Den Haag just doesn't quite compare to the adventure inherent in being part of a community.

I hadn't expected to miss the laughter. I had expected to miss the people and being close to them; I had expected to miss the structure and daily prayers; and I had expected Den Haag to be different than Amsterdam. But the realization of how much I missed the laughter came to me so unexpectedly the other day that it made me cry.

And I longed to be able to return to making jokes about how often my pregnant friend needed to stop before making it to their house on the fifth floor - although now that they've had a little boy (yay!!!), it'd be jokes about how tired their visitors are when they arrive and what crazy ideas they have about getting the whole family (inclusive baby and daughter) up and down the stairs in the best way :)

10 March 2011

It's complicated

In its categories for relationships, Facebook has one entitled "It's complicated." When a monk friend of mine used that to describe his relationship status, I had to laugh: it definitely seemed fitting!

I just hadn't expected it also to be fitting for my relationship with the community. But at the moment, it seems that "it's complicated" is probably the best way to describe things. That I deeply care about those involved in the community and that I want the community to flourish has not changed. Nor has my desire to be involved in the growth and well-being of the community and those participating in it. But somewhere along the way, the relationship got complicated - and I don't entirely have words for how to talk about it, at least not in a way that I want to on this blog. And it has also meant that I haven't had the words to share my wonder and joy in living community, things that I miss talking about.

The role of community in my life is thus overshadowed by other things, the most significant being Matthijs's place in my life. Academics, Christianity, relationships and freelancing stuff play also a huge role, but my frequent mentioning of Matthijs feels nonetheless fitting - what with us still being newlyweds, after all.

09 March 2011

The woman with the cat

I generally don't give money to people on the street, and I'm not entirely sure if that's a good thing.

I just don't think giving money is all that helpful. In Amsterdam, there are lots of places where people can receive help and assistence - including from the community (see the website). For me being able to participate in what the community is doing to reach out to homeless and undocumented folks in various ways (social work, coffee, a place of quiet, medical care, a home) is to me a positive and effective way to help those in need. And I know that Oudezijds100 isn't the only place in the Netherlands where people looking for help can find it. I know the system isn't perfect, but it seems that there are here a significant number of ways of helping people out that are more likely to be effective than handing out money on the street.

But this past weekend, I was in Belgium, and I don't know how the system there works - or what kind of 'more effective' means of help there are. All I know is my standard policy of not giving out money, and I'm not sure of it anymore.

On Friday evening in Antwerp, I noticed an older woman carrying a cat and quite a bit more stuff. My attention turned to her, wondering if I ought to ask her if I could help her carry anything. She noticed my attention and asked for change. I was surprised by the question, responding that I didn't have any (which I was pretty sure I didn't, although I could have asked Matthijs, who most likely had some). She seemed embarassed, and it felt like an awkward moment. I think both of us were surprised by her question: I, because I had thought I had recognized in her a need, but it hadn't been one of money, and she, because she did not appear as if this was something she did often.

The question for help, and the woman with the cat, have stayed with me. And I regret not having given her something. I hope and pray that someone will respond to her ask for help better than I did. And I wonder if I ought to re-think my 'standard policy' of not giving to random strangers.

07 March 2011

Weekend in Gent

This past weekend Matthijs and I went to Gent, delighting in a weekend away to spend lots of time together and explore a new city. Unfortunately, we both managed to forget our cameras (oeps!): so no pictures of us as a happy couple in Gent. Instead, I'll give you lots of links so you can get a feel for our trip. The first link is to earlier pictures that I have of Gent: ones taken when I had been in the Netherlands and posted on this blog. I must admit to remembering almost nothing of that original visit - except the picture of me in the Meat Market (that and the wonderful conversation I had with Tarcizion in a random courtyard, which Matthijs and I found again, much to my delight!)

This past weekend we walked around a lot, and so most of the pictures available from Google Images are now familiar to us. And what did we do for the rest?
- visited a number of churches (my favourite being Sint-Niklaas, I think - although St Bavo's Cathedral is probably the most impressive),
- went on a boat trip (not recommended - it might be because I've been spoiled by too many Amsterdam canal trips with the community's local captain, but I have to say that the trip in Gent was rather dull),
- stayed at a cosy and inexpensive little bed and breakfast,
- ate random belgian food (we don't recommend the strange raspberry candy and the apple pie was more cake than pie, but the pastry was great - as was our dinner in this random purple building across from the City Museum), and
- visited the Design Museum and the City Museum. The design museum was pretty good, but, as you can already see from the website, the City Museum was amazing (and this is from somebody who prefers not to visit museums too frequently!), and
- we relaxed and talked lots.

We'd recommend the trip :)
We came home tired but content, filled with a sense that we now not only know Gent better but also know each other better, too.

03 March 2011

love shows itself in many different ways

This morning at breakfast, I acknowledged to Matthijs that I had taken things out of proportion during our discussion the night before. Matthijs responded by telling me that he thought I did have a point.

And in those words to each other, I saw a glimpse of our love for each other - imperfect, with both of us admitting to making mistakes in how we relate to each other - but still with a strong desire to listen well to the other person.

And I also saw our conversation this morning as a sign that our communicating with each other keeps getting better - that we are learning better to speak and act in a way that is honest to who each of us is while also stepping back and trying to hear what the other person is hearing. And we are growing us a couple - getting more used to wondering what will help us both as a couple and as individuals to flourish.

It surprised me that this conversation was what made me think of our love for each other. Love shows itself in so many different ways, so why would I see this conversation as a sign? Perhaps because it is this conversation on top of so many other things - the laughter, the tea being made at breakfast, the supper to come home to, the games we play together, and all of the conversations - all signs of a love that continues to grow.