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Connect offers information to help familiarize international residents with the practical and commercial aspects of living in the Northern Netherlands, and organizes events and activities to provide social, cultural, & educational support.

Connect International serves the international community in the provinces Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, and Noord Holland.


Supported by an international staff and Board of Directors, Connect International provides quality relocation services, personal expatriate support, and professional business opportunities.



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2 / Connecting Worlds


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The theme for the Autumn issue of the Connections, and last in the magical year, 2012, is - Cross Border Issues. We include articles from the ‘home’ front: the Dutch Polder Model (page 5), and Zwarte Piet (page 9). On the flip side of the coin, these are then contrasted by a look at intercultural encounters from the educational foundation ‘Sterke Verhalen’ (‘Strong Stories’), written by Tjitske Zuiderbaan (page 16), the experiences of Rachel Heller’s travels to Burundi, Africa (page 18), and Margaret Metsala’s realization of one of her life’s ambitions, in a trip to Borneo (page 19). On page 10, ever interested in entrepreneurial spirits, we highlight the businesses of two of Connect’s members, under the heading of ‘Enterprising Entrepreneurs’. Why did they choose to start up for themselves, what problems did they encounter, and how are their businesses faring at present, in the still shaky climate?

Mauritian-born, Corinne Laan’s passion for travel was stimulated from an early age, by her uncle. These days, ‘Thousands of miles from Paradise’ she has started up her own business, and is resident in The Netherlands, which you can read on page 13. Andrea Kullek treats us to another one of her short stories, on page 15: ‘Cerrado.’ A story with a Spanish flavour, set in Salamanca. With one of his super illustrative frog paintings, “Schroevendraaier” (Screwdriver), adorning this issue’s cover, the featured artist, Jasper Oostland, takes us into a world filled with colourful animals. All are perfectly rendered and with expressive charachterful faces and often in recognizable or amusing situations. Finally, here at Connect, we wish you an enjoyable festive season and brilliant start to the New Year in 2013. Alison Day

“No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.” - Mahatma Gandhi Jasper Oostland





Thousands of miles from Paradise

Sterke Verhalen (Strong Stories)

Workshop: Make Your own Soap

4 Contact: Head Office: Hereweg 106, Room 1.06, 9711LM Groningen Telephone: 050 7440087 Email: / Website: Alkmaar Office: Bovenweg 121, 1834 CD Sint Pancras Tel: 06 25394234 Email:



Publication Team: Editor & Publication Design: Alison Day Assistant Editor: Margaret Metsala Contributers to This Issue: Karen Prowse, Margaret Metsala, Alison Day, Anne de Graaf-Bridges, Tjitske Zuiderbaan, Andrea Kullek, Rachel Heller, Jannet Terpstra, Traci White, Jude Jarvis, Stephanie Fermour, Pedro Pereira Agosti.

Connecting Worlds / 3

When you give a friend or loved one a gift, you are saying without words “I really care about you�. A handmade gift shows so much more than a gift from a department store or gift certificate. It shows you carefully chose something that you love, that was created with love and that will be loved and cherished for years to come. Hi, my name is Stephanie and I moved from the UK to the Netherlands three years ago to join my Dutch boyfriend (the things we do for love!). Living in a new country I was a bit lost and unsure what to do with myself, so with the motivation and support of my boyfriend I took the opportunity to establish my own company: Toastie Studio. I have two aspects to my company; during the day I work as a Freelance Web Developer, and in the evening and weekends I enjoy designing a range of colourful and whimsical toys and gifts for kids.

design and make websites and blogs for other creative people and start-up businesses. As an owner of a start-up business, I understand the importance of getting your name out there and reaching your clients, and use that knowledge to help other entrepreneurs build up an Internet presence. To learn more about my work as a Freelance Web Developer please visit my website at and feel free to contact me.

I began my handmade business by designing a collection of colourful and fun soft fleece cushions, featuring anything from cupcakes and princesses to dinosaurs and pirates. I also do commissioned pieces, such as cartoon characters. Over time I expanded my range and now sew a whole assortment of items for children. My latest addition is a range of felt fairy wings that contain no wire edging, making them safer for little children, and keep them from getting all bent up. I also sew soft animal toys and dolls, bags and accessories, room decorations and also fruity scented fun soap pieces, to make bath time more fun! I sell my handmade creations through the online market place Etsy. Etsy is predominately sellers from the USA and Canada, but has an ever-growing group of sellers from the Nether-

The vet that comes to your home!

- Consultations - Vaccinations - Nail and beak clipping - Microchipping - Flea and worm products - Blood and urine analyses - Behavioural advice - Nutritional advice - Operations (including routine neuterings) - Emergencies (as far as possible) - 24-hour nursing care for inpatients

For more information visit our website: or call us on 064317224

4 / Connecting Worlds

lands and the rest of Europe. You can visit my Etsy shop at If you would like to see my creations in person I will be attending Diezijn Leuk, a Hip en Handgemaakt Markt (handmade craft fair) in Groningen vismarkt on 4th November. I find selling at craft fairs a wonderful experience; it is so rewarding to meet customers face to face, talk about my passion for handmade and my creations. So, if you visit the market be sure to come past my stand! In addition to selling my handmade creations I am organizing a special crafty event for Connect International members. On Sunday 25th November I will be holding a soap-making workshop at the Connect offices. I will share with you the different techniques to make your own soaps, including scenting, colouring, moulds and packaging. You will have the chance to make four different kinds of soap bars and make lovely packaging to wrap them up beautifully, so you can give them to loved ones this Christmas (or keep them for yourself!) After the workshop I will also give out extra information on the best places to buy supplies for if you are interested in making more soaps at home. For further details on the workshop please visit the Connect International website ( Although I love handcrafts and sewing, I actually studied Computing at University in the UK. I take my creative personality and use it to

Stephanie Fermour

The International Primary School Groningen is a department (about 90 pupils) with a Dutch primary school and a Leonardo school. We aim to fulfill the educational needs of multicultural English and non-English speaking pupils between the ages of 4 & 11. The curriculum is British based with an International bias (IPC). Lessons are given by qualified English speaking teachers. For further contact: Mr T. Wiegman, Headmaster. GSV International Primary School Groningen Sweelincklaan 4, 9722 JV Groningen T: 050-5270818, E:,



Model of

The notion of getting along to get by is deeply ingrained in the Dutch psyche. The Dutch are world famous for their reputation of tolerance, which has been a crucial mentality for the country to even exist. Although the polder model refers to an economic agreement reached in 1982, the notion of consensus and collaborative governance is pervasive throughout Dutch history, culture, and modern government coalition formation. Anyone who has lived in the Netherlands for a while knows about the polders that literally built the country, and keep our feet dry, and how much pride the Dutch take in declaring that “God created the world, but the Dutch made the Netherlands.” This is true in the physical nation-building sense: the dykes, dams, canals, windmills and, eventually, water boards have been the ongoing great Dutch project which ensures that the country stays above water. In my personal experience, the polder model of required consensus can feel somewhat confounding and counterproductive during formulation, but ensures a level of thoroughness that renders the final product nearly infallible. Over the past year, the members of the non-profit group Stichting Didi and I have spent hours coming up with a draaiboek, a term which I have found almost impossible to translate but is to my mind the physical embodiment of the polder model. The goal has been to submit the draaiboek for subsidy applications for a photo project in Nepal. We have spent months preparing this document to be used not as the applications themselves, but before even applying for anything. On the other end of this process, I am very glad to have such complete documentation of the goals, funding, background and evolution of the project we are collaborating on, but I must admit, when the process was just beginning one year ago, I was despairing at the prospect of so much time ahead of us to prepare for a project which, as


far as I was concerned, was extremely simple. Coming from a background of daily journalism, the notion of anything taking a full year to see through to completion sounded like the opposite of productivity to me. I was much more accustomed to just springing into action as soon as you have an idea, and the normal gestation period was 24 hours. Going from that to the Dutch style of each invested member sharing their thoughts and playing a role took some adjusting, but the security of having an entire group of people working toward the same goal and supporting each other was a major change, but also an improvement over going it alone. For some historical background, the first example of Dutch collaborative water management was nearly 900 years ago in Utrecht, in 1122, with the damming of the Kromme Rijn, and the first official water board was founded in 1255. They are among the oldest government entities, and the water boards are still vital today, keeping the water at bay. The water boards are one component of the larger Dutch water management system, which more famously includes the reclaiming of land from the sea to make it inhabitable and fit for cultivation. Throughout Dutch history and with some notable modern examples, the polders have been alternately flooded and dried based on the ecological and, in some cases, political conditions of the country: infamously, the retreating Nazis flooded the Wierengermeer polder in 1945, and there is debate currently surrounding the partial flooding of the Hedwige polder in Zeeland to appease Belgian interests. The location and route of the water is inherently political, and each decision to dramatically change the landscape impacts thousands. Since the official founding of the water boards, the Dutch have had a role in their own fate as far as water goes, and this notion was central to the Wassenaar Agreement in 1982. It was a feat of social engineering; an intervention which, in

the same manner that the polders ensured safer living conditions for the Dutch, sought to ensure an egalitarian labor market. According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), “the Agreement combined wage restraint with a redistribution of labour to combat (youth) unemployment and enhance competitive power.” “The unions promised to deliver pay restraint, including more decentralised wage bargaining, in exchange for a new emphasis on jobs,” according to The Economist feature on the Dutch financial success in 2002, titled “Model Makers.” Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Netherlands enjoyed prosperity and virtually unchecked growth, which many world leaders dubbed a “Dutch miracle” and was a level of success nearly unparalleled through the rest of Europe. A couple of years earlier, in 1980, a political party which went on to be a part of every governing coalition for the next 14 years was founded in this time period of newfound commitment to collaboration. The Christian Democratic Appeal was a hybrid party of similarly religious parties, which were the remnants of the Dutch pillar system: the Anti-Revolutionary Party, the Christian Historic Union, and the Roman-Catholic State Party. Their explicit raison d'etre was consensus: “They noticed that they were of the same mind on issues, and that they could achieve more if they worked together,” according to the history page of the CDA site. In 1994, the CDA’s streak turned purple when the PvdA, VVD and D66 founded a new coalition, and it was widely described as a fine example of the polder model in action in politics. The requirement for consensus is built into the Dutch governing bodies: It is in fact illegal for any party to have more than 50 percent of the seats in parliament, thus mandating a coalition government. However, these coalitions have, like clockwork, fallen nearly annually for much of the past two decades, due in many cases to a single perceived crack in a unified front across the parties. The most recent coalition, between the VVD and CDA, was only able to tenuously exist due to unofficial support by the populist PVV, whose social priorities were hardly an example of consensus. The PVV, essentially just Geert Wilders, understood the degree of influence he held over the coalition and used it indiscriminately, single-handedly bringing down budget negotiations and therefore the coalition. Leading up to the elections in September, the most recent polls show that the Socialist Party has enjoyed the biggest swell in support over the summer, which could be seen as a swing back closer to the polder model and the Dutch returning to what has literally kept them afloat for hundreds of years: consensus.

Traci White

Connecting Worlds 5 /

October 2012


Mon 1

Tue 2

Wed 3










CNH Story Time 10.00- 11.00 @ Jayne HardistyRoggeband, Barsingerhorn

Beaded Necklace Workshop 14.00 - 17.00 @ Connect Office Groningen



Robert Cray 20.30 Oosterpoort, Gron Cost: €29,00

CONNECT Walk & Talk 13.00 - 13.00 Stadspark, Groningen




Film Club: 1984 15.00 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €10.00


Fatoumata Diawara 20.30 Oosterpoort, Gron Cost: €16,91


Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three 20.00 Oosterpoort, Gron Cost: €15,00



CONNECT Writer’s Circle 19.00 - 21.00 @ TBA

CNH Kids & Coffee 09.00 - 11.30 @ Sarah Bakker-Caine Alkmaar

24 Scorpio Begins


The Toy Dolls 70’s Punk 20.00 Oosterpoort, Gron Cost: €18,00

CNH Play Afternoon 14.00 - 16.30 @ Sarah Dekker Flynn, Oudorp


CONNECT DVD Night TBA @ See Website

13 ABBA Mania Music Show 20.00 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €33.50

CNH for Coffee 20.00 @ Caroline Larkin Alkmaar

Groningen, Alkmaar Enschede, Utrecht Amsterdam



CNH Kids & Coffee 09.00 - 11.30 @ Robyn Res-Thomas Uitgeest

Matthias Goerne


CONNECT Coffee Morning 10.30-12.30 @ V & D La Place Groningen




Matthias Goerne & Alexander Schmalcz 'The baritone of the 21st century' 20.15 Oosterpoort, Gron Cost: €28,00

CONNECT Coffee Morning 10.30-12.30 @ V & D La Place Groningen

20 CNH Z!N!N 20.00 @ Houttil 14 1811 JM Alkmaar School Autumn

Holidays to 28/10 (Primary/High School)




The Steve Miller Band 20.30 Oosterpoort, Gron Cost: €52,58


CONNECT Quiz Night 20.00 - 23.00 @ Café de Koffer Groningen

School Begins Again

(Primary/High School)


The Toy Dolls



(Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe) CONNECT COFFEE MORNING Date: 5, 19 October Time: 10.30 - 12.30 hrs Place: @ La Place, V & D, Groningen Cost: Whatever you choose to eat or drink. CONNECT WRITERS CIRCLE Date: 17 October Time: 19.00 - 21.00 hrs Place: See website CONNECT Walk & Talk Walks & talks for nature (& dogs) Date: 14 October Time: 13.00 - 15.00 hrs Place: Stadspark, Groningen CONNECT Beaded Necklace Workshop Date: 14 October Time: 14.00 - 17.00 hrs Place: Connect Office, Groningen

6 / Activities & Events


CNH FOR COFFEE Date: 12 October Time: 20.00 hrs Place: @ Caroline Larkin, Alkmaar

CONNECT DVD NIGHT Date: 12 October Time: TBA Place: See website

CNH KIDS & COFFEE Date: 5, 17 October Time: 09.00 - 11.30 hrs Place: @ Robyn Res-Thomas, Uitgeest (5), Sarah Bakker-Caine, Alkmaar (17).

Date: 31 October Time: 20.00 - 23.00 Place: Café de Koffer

CONNECT KIDS CLUB Once a month - see website for details CONNECT BOOK CLUB

Once a month - see website for details

CNH (Noord Holland) CNH STORY TIME Date: 10 October Time: 10.00-11.00 hrs Place: @ Jayne Hardisty-Roggeband, Barsingerhorn

CNH Z!N!N A chance to meet old friends and make new ones… Date: 20 October Time: 20.00 Place: @ Houttil 14, 1811 JM Alkmaar CNH PLAY AFTERNOON Date: 24, October Time: 14.00 - 16.30 hrs Place: @ Sarah Dekker Flynn, Oudorp

November 2012




Wed Día de los Muertos






CONNECT Coffee Morning 10.30-12.30 @ V & D La Place Groningen

Día de los Muertos (Origin: Mexican)

Sat 3

CNH Kids & Coffee 09.00 - 11.30 @ Bobbi Jo DubelaarRoush, Uitgeest


Levedeliefde Intro dance for Youth (6+) 14.30 City Theatre, Groningen Cost: from €6,24







Diwali (Hindu)

Milow Pop-Folk 20.30 City Theatre Groningen Cost: €25,00

CONNECT Walk & Talk 13.00 - 15.00 @ Stadspark Groningen





CNH Kids & Coffee 09.00 - 11.30 @ Anna Parker Alkmaar


CONNECT MOON Writer’s Circle 19.00 - 21.00 @ TBA CNH Play Afternoon 14.00 - 16.30 @ Kinderparadijs, Koggenland, Hensbroek



CONNECT DVD Night TBA @ See Website


Tanguarda Tango Music 20.30 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €15,46


10 Latin Dance Night 20.00 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €34,74

Thanksgiving (USA)

CONNECT Coffee Morning 10.30-12.30 @ V & D La Place Groningen


17 Fourplay (Jazz ) 20.30 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €25,00

24 Paul Lewis (Piano) 20.15 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €28,04

Sagittarius Begins

CNH Book Club 20.00 @ Jackie Demoitie Grootschermer


Mariza(Fado) 20.30 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €33,40


CNH for Coffee 20.00 @ Bobbi Jo Dubelaar-Roush Uitgeest



Aspects of Love Joop van den Ende (21 & 22 Nov) 20.30 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €39,90

Don McLean 20.30 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €38,18


James Farm Jazz-Rock-Soul-Electro 20.00 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €24,50

CNH Story Time 10.00- 11.00 @ – Jo Wolfert, Oudorp

St Maarten’s Day (Netherlands)



CNH Kids & Coffee (Elouise’s B’day) 09.00 - 11.30 @ Narelle Hoogendijk-Kelsey Noord Scharwoude

Groningen, Alkmaar Enschede, Utrecht Amsterdam


CONNECT Writer’s Circle 19.00 - 21.00 @ TBA


Peking Acrobats (China) 20.00 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €32,50

Momix Botanica 29 & 30 Nov Acrobatic Dance 20.15 City Theatre, Gron. Cost: from €12,45

30 CONNECT Coffee Morning 10.30-12.30 @ V & D La Place Groningen St Andrews Day (Christian) - NOT ALL EVENTS CAN BE LISTED AT THE TIME OF PRINTING


(Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe) CONNECT COFFEE MORNING Date: 2, 16, 30 November Time: 10.30 - 12.30 hrs Place: La Place, V & D Groningen Cost: Whatever you choose to eat or drink. CONNECT WRITERS CIRCLE Date: 7, 28 November Time: 19.00 - 21.00 hrs Place: See website CONNECT Walk & Talk Walks & talks for nature (& dogs) Date: 18 November Time: 13.00 - 15.00 hrs Place: Stadspark, Groningen CONNECT INT. QUIZ NIGHT

Date: 28 November Time: 20.00 - 23.00 Place: Café de Koffer

CONNECT BOOK CLUB Once a month - see website for details

7 / Activities & Events


Date: 9 November Time: TBA Place: See website

CONNECT KIDS CLUB Once a month - see website for details


(Noord Holland)

CNH CHARITY BOOK SALE KWF Kankerbestrijding Date: 2 November Time: 20.00 Place: @ Anne de Graaf-Bridges CNH CONNECT FOR COFFEE Date: 9 November Time: 20.00 Place: @ Bobbi Jo Dubelaar-Roush Uitgeest CNH STORY TIME Date: 14 November Time: 10.00 - 11.00 Place: @ Jo Wolfert, Oudorp

CNH KIDS & COFFEE Date: 2, 7, 21 November Time: 09.00 - 11.30 Place: @ Bobbi Jo Dubelaar-Roush, Uitgeest (2), Narelle Hoogendijk-Kelsey, Noord Scharwoude (7), Anna Parker, Alkmaar (21). CNH PLAY AFTERNOON Date: November Time: 14.00 - 16.30 Place: Kinderparadijs, Koggenland Hensbroek: Cost: € 6.50 per child CNH BOOK CLUB Date: 21 November Time: 20.00 Place: @ Jackie Demoitie, Grootschermer Book: TBA

December 2012 30










New Year’s Eve

De Dijk 20.30 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €20,93





Coffee Classic 11.30 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €8,91

9-16 Hanukkah (Jewish)


CONNECT Walk & Talk (Dog Club) 13.00 - 15.00 @ Stadspark Groningen

Grootkoor Friesland Christmas Concert 15.00 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €22,30






7 DansClick (Dance) 20.15 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €15,50

Lunch Concert 12.00 (Classical) Oosterpoort, Café Groningen Cost: FREE

Groningen, Alkmaar Enschede, Utrecht Amsterdam


Sinterklaas (Netherlands)



19 CONNECT Writer’s Circle 19.00 - 21.00 @ TBA

Brodsky Quartet (British) 20.15 Oosterpoort, Gron. Cost: €28,04

Dansgroep Amsterdam 20.15 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €17,55


CONNECT Coffee Morning 10.30-12.30 @ V & D La Place Groningen



CNH Kids & Coffee 09.00 - 11.30 @ Sarah Dekker Flynn, Oudorp


CNH Kid’s Party 14:30-17:30 @ Narelle Hoogendijk-Kelsey Noord Scharwoude


CONNECT DVD Night TBA @ See Website


Lunch Concert 12.00 (Classical) Oosterpoort, Café Groningen Cost: FREE

CNH Kids & Coffee 19.30 ADULT’S Party @ Sarah Dekker Flynn Oudorp

Grootkoor Friesland Christmas Concert 20.00 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €22,30

22 Capricorn Begins

Winter Solstice

School Christmas

Holidays to 06/01/13 (Primary/High School)


25 Christmas Eve

26 Christmas Day

CONNECT Quiz Night 20.00 - 23.00 @ Café de Koffer Groningen



Ballet van Tatarstan The Nutcracker 20.00 De Lawei, City Theatre Drachten Cost: €31,00


CONNECT MOON Coffee Morning 10.30-12.30 @ V & D La Place Groningen

29 Racoon 20.30 Oosterpoort Groningen Cost: € 23,16

Racoon 20.30 Oosterpoort Groningen Cost: € 23,16




(Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe) CONNECT COFFEE MORNING Date: 14, 28 December Time: 10.30 - 12.30 hrs Place: La Place, Vroom & Dreesman Groningen Cost: Whatever you choose to eat or drink. CONNECT WRITERS CIRCLE Date: 18 December Time: 19.00 - 21.00 hrs Place: See website CONNECT Walk & Talk Walks & talks for nature (& dogs) Date: 16 December Time: 13.00 - 15.00 hrs Place: Stadspark, Groningen CONNECT QUIZ NIGHT


Date: 7 December Time: TBA Place: See website

CONNECT KIDS CLUB Once a month - see website for details CONNECT BOOK CLUB Once a month - see website for details


CNH KIDS PARTY Date: 12 December Time: 14.30 - 17.30 Place: @ Narelle Hoogendijk-Kelsey, Noord Scharwoude Don’t forget to bring Santa’s Presents! CNH ADULT’S PARTY Date: 15 December Time: 19.30 Place: @ Sarah Dekker Flynn, Oudorp

(Noord Holland)

CNH FOR KIDS & COFFEE Date: 7 December Time: 20.00 Place: @ Sarah Dekker Flynn, Oudorp

Date: 26 December Time: 20.00 - 23.00 Place: Café de Koffer

Activities & Events / 8




Moving abroad is a big adventure: a new country, a new language, and new friends. These things are expected and often looked forward to. But what about those things that we don’t expect to change? As a Brit moving to the Netherlands I wasn’t expecting a huge cultural change; we’re all Western Europeans, after all. I was about to be proven wrong.

When I first arrived in September, I had to get used to the fact that the Dutch are taller, blunter and less concerned with queuing than the English. By the time November was over, I thought that there was nothing more that could surprise me about my new country of residence. That was because no one had thought to warn me about Sinterklaas. Saint Nicholas’ Eve takes place on 5 December and is the main gift-giving day during the Christmas season. Sinterklass arrives in the Netherlands by steam boat from Spain and parades through the streets on his dappledgrey horse Amerigo. The festivities are generally aimed at young children who receive small presents and candy while adults and older children tend, nowadays, to celebrate Christ mas on 25 December. Having spent the four years prior to moving to the Netherlands living in Germany, I was used to the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas like we do in England; and the tradition of Sinterklaas was not unlike that of Saint Nicholas in Germany. Just as Santa has his elves, Saint Nicholas is often accompanied by his companion servant Knecht Ruprecht. Because of this I was expecting Sinterklaas to also have a helper, What I wasn’t prepared for was who that helper is and, especially, his appearance. In the Netherlands Sinterklaas’ helper is called Zwarte Piet. Originally he was responsible for punishing any naughty children with a lump of coal, or (if they were particularly bad) by stuffing them into a burlap sack and taking them back to Madrid to live with him. Over the years this has changed and now his role is to distribute sweets and small presents. While his role has changed, his appearance hasn’t. His

name translates as Black Peter, and it’s certainly an accurate description. Zwarte Piet is, supposedly, a moor from Madrid, Spain. Yet his appearance is more like that of a golliwog, a (now mostly banned) soft toy that has been criticised for caricaturing the appearance of Africans in a negative manner. So far, so bad. But to make matters worse Zwarte Piet always seems to be played by a white man with his face blacked up and wearing an afro wig. It is hard to see Zwarte Piet without being reminded of Al Jolson or some other blackface/minstrel act that has long since ceased to be performed because of the offence it causes to the public. The Dutch, however, see no such problems. During December it is impossible to go anywhere without seeing at least one advert using the image of Zwarte Piet, or someone made up to look like him. The first time I saw three very blonde women with black faces I was horrified; now I am just uncomfortable. It seems that I’m not alone. In talking to other ex-pats about their first experiences with Zwarte Piet the thoughts that I heard most were concerns that it was racist, or setting a bad example to children. He is a throwback to a time when people were less tolerant, when it was acceptable to belittle an entire race because they looked different to us. When speaking to Dutch people and even a few long-term ex-pats, however, I got the opposite response. They could not see what was racist about Zwarte Piet, or why I reacted the way I did. As far as anybody who had lived in the Netherlands for more than a few years was concerned, Zwarte Piet was not a problem. He is Sinterklaas’ helper and a friend to children; not anything to be concerned about. A friend tried

to tell me that his face was black with soot from climbing down chimneys. But, in that case why was his face not smudged black in some places and white in others? Then I was told that there were several Zwarte Piets symbolising all the colours of the rainbow. The problem with this explanation was that I’d only ever seen Piet in one colour: black. And if this were true then why did we only ever hear of Zwarte Piet and not Groene Piet, or Rode Piet? Finally, my friend gave up, telling me that Zwarte Piet was only a racist symbol because I’d made him one. That couldn’t be right, could it? Zwarte Piet was a caricature, and an outdated and offensive one at that. If someone dressed up in that manner in England, America, or many other places people would be appalled. Yet here in the Netherlands he was celebrated as part of the Christmas tradition. How could that be right? And how was it okay for Dutch children to be brought up to think that this was acceptable? Although most Dutch people do not see Zwarte Piet as racist, or discriminatory, some do. In the former Dutch colony of Suriname, moves have been made to stop his appearances as it is insulting to the black community there. In the Netherlands there is also a growing movement calling for the character to be banned. For a while there was an attempt to replace him with the rainbow-coloured Pieten I had been told about, although this was not successful. Last year there were protests against Zwarte Piet with people wearing t-shirts labelling him a racist. There are no easy answers either for or against Zwarte Piet, but the longer I live here the less offensive I find him. He is in many respects a good role model in that he only has positive attributes, such as generosity and helpfulness, and I have yet to see him have a negative effect with regards to racism. In fact it could be argued that he promotes tolerance by being such a positive figure in a child’s life. This year will be my third December in the Netherlands and the third time I encounter Zwarte Piet. While I can’t say I am totally comfortable with his appearance, I am slowly coming to accept Piet, Zwarte or otherwise. Perhaps it is time for me to accept that he is only a racist character because that is how I have chosen to view him. Perhaps it is time for me to put aside my prejudices and stop being so negative about an otherwise innocuous part of the season. I hope that this year I can finally remove the racial baggage I have applied to Zwarte Piet and enjoy the holiday for what it is: a time for celebration and family. Jude Jarvis

Connecting Worlds / 9

ENTERPRISING ENTREPRENEURS Though Traci White and Erin Stallings grew up within 20 miles of each other in America, they didn’t meet until they had both made another city across the ocean their adopted home. While every expatriate has a unique and often long story of exactly how they got there, theirs had a “weird synchronicity.” They both studied abroad at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (the RUG) and both fell in love with the student city. Since being granted visas to live and work here, both women have started their own businesses.

Erin Stallings: English Editor

How did you end up in Groningen? I came here in 2002 as an exchange student and immediately loved the Netherlands, Groningen in particular. I came back for a second time in 2005, as a grad student and stayed for six months. Finally, in late 2010, I took all my money and moved here. I came over on the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty and got a visa to start my business! Soon after arriving, I met my now-husband René. So now, I’m staying for good! How has your experience been as a business owner?

Traci White: Traci White Media

How did you end up in Groningen? In 2005, I decided to spend a semester abroad and applied to a few places in the Netherlands. I didn’t know much about the country aside from Rembrandt, Van Gogh, windmills and gay rights. I quickly fell in love with the lifestyle and the ability to bike everywhere. I also fell in love with a Dutch guy; we were classmates in an English literature class. We dated long distance from North Carolina to the Netherlands for five years, and I finally moved here in 2011. How has your experience been as a business owner?

It’s been exciting setting up my own business. Location isn’t an issue, seeing as my business is online; I have clients all over the country. As an editor for 10 years in the United States, I worked for companies or agencies. Now, as an entrepreneur the feeling is very different—I love the freedom that comes with it

I love being a photojournalist—it’s exciting to do a wide range of things in a given day. Once a staff photographer (for five years) at various US newspapers, it’s been strange going from the reliable structure of assignments, to a situation where I have to generate business. As a foreigner and a new freelancer, I have to do a lot of self-promotion and legwork to build momentum.

Tell us about the international nature of your work.

Tell us about the international nature of your work.

Being international is an asset, particularly a native English speaker; I have an edge over a lot of people with a university education alone, as they lack the practical experience; this is especially helpful for informal projects. Although most of my work at present is with Dutch clients, I would like to work with more international companies.

From the start, I quickly realized that working with other internationals was a good fit. My style is candid and journalistically focused. I’ve found that it is more accepted by expats than by Dutch people in the north. Expats tend to support one another’s businesses and although I like working with Dutch clients, I have a special place in my heart for international families, especially weddings.

Do you feel that the Netherlands is a good environment for entrepreneurs? Setting up a business in the Netherlands has been quite easy and there’s a lot of support for ZZPers (zelfstandig zonder personeel, or a one-person business). The Kamer van Koophandel (Chamber of Commerce) has been very helpful. Whilst I was setting up my business, I really couldn’t speak any Dutch, so I was lucky that they were willing to work with me in English. I like the freedom of owning my own business—I like that my time is my own and I can choose to take on interesting projects. I also enjoy the Dutch working environment that values free time; we’re not so focused here on work to the exclusion of everything else. What differences are there in your work in the U.S. as opposed to here?

What should people know about Traci White Media? My business has two branches. Traci White Weddings is the biggest—I do lifestyle photography: especially portraits and weddings. Traci White Photo is the other part, which covers photojournalistic and documentary work. Examples, of clients I’ve worked with are Amnesty International in the north and I’m currently working on a documentary project with Stichting Didi (a non-profit that supports women’s empowerment in Nepal). I approach both sides of my business with a natural style that is reflective of the situation and that documents what’s there. I try to capture the atmosphere of the event and my goal is to make a truthful representation of what is going on, whether at a wedding or in journalism.

Dutch English speakers make very specific errors that I have to look out for: word order and prepositions can be nutty here! No one ever uses possessives. For example, they’ll write “We went to the house of Erin,” as opposed to, “Erin’s house.” The reasons for these mistakes are obvious when you learn a little about Dutch, as well as editing their writing.

What sort of differences do you find in working with Dutch and international clients?

I also get a lot less push-back here than I did from my American clients; people are more defensive about their writing when it’s their native language. My Dutch clients are more open to suggestions because they don’t expect to know everything, which is really nice.

Clients who seek me out are already drawn to my candid style; they want pictures that are more fun and natural, and trust that I will cover the day.

10 / Connecting Worlds

Wedding traditions are extremely different: it’s less fussy here. The Dutch are more focused on celebrating the two people rather than the event. Erin Stallings & Traci White

Looking for an

International Church?

all nations, all ages, all backgrounds‌ ‌.. one God Vondelpad 2, Gomarus College 10 am 0592-543450 Connecting Worlds / 11

Expats used to work here on the basis of a project, which means for a definite period of time. It is relevant that the employer is not able to affect the date of expiry of your contract. In other words, the period of time has to be objectively determined; otherwise the contract changes into one for an indefinite period.

A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO DUTCH LABOUR LAW When you come to the Netherlands to work here, there are some things you need to know about your employment contract. In this introduction I will explain some rules about contracts in Dutch labour law. First, check if Dutch labour law is applicable to your employment contract. If you work with a Dutch company and you live here, normally Dutch law is applicable. If you work for a foreign company, Dutch labour law might be applicable on the basis of international treaties (like EVO/Rome 1 Verordening, Detacheringsrictlijn). In Dutch labour law there are two kinds of employment contracts: 1. for a definite period of time 2. for an indefinite period of time.

Connect Office NOW IN

Groningen City Center In May 2012, Connect International moved to a new office at Herestraat 106 in the city center of Groningen. The new office is located in the front corner of the first floor in the Van Elmpthuis building (room 1.06) on the corner of the Herestraat and the Herebinnensingel.

If you have three contracts within 36 months of time, the fourth contract will automatically be one for an indefinite period. The same will occur if you’ve worked 36 months plus one day for the same employer. If you have different employers, but your work has stayed the same, the employers are supposed to be each others successors. For example, if you have started working for an employment agency and next for the company itself while the work you are doing stays the same. This construction might lead to the conclusion that instead of what is agreed, there will be a contract for an indefinite period of time. The contract will end automatically at the end of the agreed period. A contract for a definite period of time can only be terminated interim, if that is agreed. In that case your employer needs permission to dismiss you before the ending of the contract. If you have a contract for an indefinite period of time it can only end: • with your permission in an agreement (beeïndigingsovereenkomst); • by your resignation (at the end of the month, with observation of a certain time, normally one month); • by a judgment of the kantonrechter (ontbindingsprocedure); • in some cases by permission of the UWV Werkbedrijf (toestemmingsprocedure).

from 10:00 to 14:00 hrs, Monday through Friday. One of our staff will always be present and ready to assist! So, why not drop by to browse the display rack of information, take a book to read from our library of English Books, peruse past (and present) Connections articles, or just chat with our staff to become better connected with the Northern Netherlands?

The central location is more accessible for visitors since it is situated close to the main train/bus station and lies within the canal ring of Groningen. Beginning 1 October 2012, the Connect office will be open for anyone to stop by with questions, problems, or just to meet up,

Van Elmpthuis and the Launch Café This 1930 Art Deco red-brick building was designed by Groninger architect A. Th. Van Elmpt initially for the use by the FrieschGroningsche Hypotheekbank. It remained a bank for many years (and still has the original bank vault off of one of the meeting rooms), and was later also used for as offices for the police. Hanzevast BV now owns the building and restored it to its former grandeur, removing the non-original features. Now, many different companies rent office space in this unique building. On the ground floor is the Launch Café, an innovative office space solution for consultants and entrepreneurs organized by YEAH! (Young Entrepreneurs Are Here!). The Launch Café concept offers flexible work places from

12 / Business & Finance

09.00-18:00 hrs weekdays, free wireless internet, coffee/tea, and a place to receive guests or clients for a monthly subscription cost of €100. If one only needs to use the facilities for a day or two, or part of a day, rather than on a daily basis, then the new Guest Card allows a one-day access for €15, or a Mini Guest Card for 2 hrs access for €8. The Launch Café also offers fixed desk space for start-up companies, which includes all the above plus 24/7 building access, use of meeting rooms, a postal address, and printing and copy possibilities, for €250 per month. All prices are excluding VAT. If interested in learning more, go to:, or stop by on a Wednesday morning at 10:00 hrs for a tour. Karen Prowse

If you work for governmental organizations, the University, the Hanzehogeschool or for the UMCG, there are other rules which apply to your contract. Some of these contain exceptions to the rules for contracts for a definite period of time or have other procedures for dismissal. Either way, it is a good idea to check your rights if you are confronted with a situation of (possible) dismissal; especially, if you can receive a financial compensation and/or unemployment benefits. A financial compensation can be achieved if the dismissal is not culpable. It depends also on the procedure which is followed. Unemployment benefits are paid by the organization, UWV, or by your employer. Jannet Terpstra (Lawyer at BoutOveres Advocaten)

We look forward to welcoming you and hope to see you in the office soon! Supported in part by our partners: Province Groningen, Provincie Provincie Drenthe, N.V. NOM, ABN AMRO Bank, and Nijestee

Friesland, GasTerra,





Paradise Europe and the east coast of Africa. Little snippets of his adventures and the pictures on the postcards would feed my imagination and curiosity better than any book I’ve ever read, I think. I suppose looking back, I knew then that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up explore the world. My very own adventure began in the late 80’s… destination England. I spent a whole year exploring England before starting my nursing studies. I was fascinated by its history, so much history I thought; the land of Shakespeare, kings and queens. I love everything about England, except the weather! It did not take me long to fall in love with the beautiful county of Devon, and that’s where I stayed for a while making it my home. In 1997, I qualified as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse/ Health Visitor. Working with mothers and gorgeous babies became my passion. So much so, that I forgot my other passion of travelling. But that does not mean that I did not travel at all. Of course I did. I took short trips, one to Paris and to Amsterdam, after that I went a little further to Barbados and then much further, backpacking in Australia; here I almost stayed, but that is another story… I was born on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean; a true paradise retreat some would say with its stunning sandy beaches, exotic wildlife and tropical forest. As a child, the history of the island which I loved the most, was that the island was used by pirates and that the dodo once roamed free. My passion for travelling began at an early age. I remember vividly the postcards and small parcels my uncle would send me. In the 70’s, my uncle, a true hippie with only his small backpack and guitar, was travelling across

who follows her heart and her passion. I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to continue working with mothers and babies. The idea to start up my own business came one evening over dinner. I started building it up slowly; at first, I offered baby massage classes and over the years have expanded my services to include childbirth preparation classes, as well as prenatal and postnatal support. In 2009, I became a mother myself, and with it came a whole new perspective on life and a priorities change. Now as a busy mom of two boys, my feet are firmly on the ground and looking very much forward to the future. My backpack is now in the attic, gathering dust, waiting patiently for the next adventure… If you would like to contact Corinne, you can do so via her website:

A few years passed, and finally Scotland was calling. It was time for another giant move all the way north to the stunningly beautiful city of Edinburgh. What can I say about Edinburgh? I could easily have stayed there forever, but forever was not part of my vocabulary. A few years later, a move to mainland Europe took me to Germany, before I finally came to the Netherlands in 2005. The main challenge coming to the Netherlands was the language. I spent the first few months learning Dutch and then came the challenge of finding a new job. I’ve always been someone

Corinne Laan

Business & Finance / 13

KIVA is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. Learn more:

ISG Supports KIVA At the International School Groningen students have been supporting a microcredit organization called Kiva: by making a difference. In July pupils from MYP1-3 and TTO2 (pupils aged 11� which consisted of different workshops. The workshops included activities such as card making, gardening, painting, yarn, repairing bikes, living statues, artistic bottles, photography, clearing the local rivers and making bracelets. Each group was given the task to make a minimum profit of 30 euros and that profit was

then given to Kiva who in turn would make loans to people setting up small businesses. Our DP students (aged 16-18) have taken on the task of reinvesting loans for Kiva. More information about the project: mer_Project_2012 Also, students from MYP4 made a facebook page and you can see what we have been up to by checking out our Facebook page at: Pedro Pereira Agosti

Kiva goes back to school with education loans around the world Did you know that Kiva is offering education loans in 15 countries through 20 Field Partners? Helping students and their parents pay for tuition, school fees, uniforms, computers, books, pencils and more, these loans are building the next generation of global leaders. They also give Kiva lenders the opportunity to make a tangible difference in people's lives. Kiva Blog Update, 6/9/12

speeches after applying their newly gained knowledge and were gently critiqued by Barbara and the audience. The topics of the presented speeches varied in form and content. The owner of a company practiced his 30-second-elevator pitch on how to acquire future clients, two new graduates introduced themselves to a HR person accentuating their assets to the company, a writer addressed a publisher and promoted her series of novels, a career coach offered her services, a PhD student practiced how to present her research work, one speaker gave a short summary of her favorite book and another one presented her project about how to help refugees.


Secrets of Professional Speaking by Barbara Rogoski

On Tuesday, 4 September about 25 members of Connect International and newcomers gathered in the new office on the Herestraat in Groningen, eager to improve their Public Speaking Skills with Barbara Rogoski of Successful Speaker Now. In a light and entertaining manner, Barbara Rogoski started the workshop by outlining her

14 / Education & Culture

"8 Public Speaking Mistakes Not To Make" in order to become a great speaker and to deliver the ultimate speech, regardless of the content or the audience. After a short break the practical part began. There was no shortage of volunteers who, with lots of supporting applause, took the opportunity to take the stage. They presented their

With a lot of insight, Barbara gave instant feedback by making suggestions on how to better capture the audience and control the room. She reminded the speakers of the importance of stage presence by using strong body language and by keeping eye contact with everybody in the audience. Every speaker got time and opportunity to include the tips in his or her speech and practice until it was right. We are all grateful to Barbara for having shared her expertise with us at Connect International and wish her success with her company! Andrea Kullek

Cerrado "Let's get out of here", I hissed to the others when I saw the Señora coming into view. She was agitated, arms thrashing the air violently. Oh my god, I thought. She has seen it and I felt my face redden with embarrassment; I didn't mean to do it, but my Spanish wasn't advanced enough to confess to what I had done. "Lo siento mucho, really lo siento mucho", I kept apologizing. But the Señora didn’t seem to listening. She raised her arms again and again and made an odd downward gesture. I know, I know, I groaned inwardly. "Honestly, lo siento", I mumbled. I was mortified...

She certainly looked it. She was beautiful and very feminine looking in her tight dress that accentuated her slim body and distracted the male majority of the class. Not discouraged by the blank looks, she vivaciously hopped up and down in front of us to make us understand, her sleek brown hair dancing a feisty dance. Unlike our teacher we were craving our siesta, and were utterly relieved when the bell rang announcing the end of our first day’s torture. We had dragged our tired and starved bodies out of the school, onto the street and into the blazing sun, before we realized we didn't know where we could find food. Aimlessly, we walked down one street after another, ready to storm into the next bodega we could find, but the streets looked desolate. In fact, the whole city seemed deserted, shutters closed, doors shut, shops locked tight; no car engine roaring, no chirping birds, no dog barked, not even a fly to annoyingly buzz around one's face. All around us everything was tinted ochre: houses painted in yellowish colours; cars covered in sand; patches of burned grass and dusty streets. The intense heat made the air shimmer, paralyzing our every movement. An eerie silence weighed heavily around us and it seemed that the inhabitants had fled not only the heat, but the city too—Salamanca was sleeping its siesta. Eventually we found a bodega, and sought refuge in the cool and semi dark space of the Spanish bar. A middle-aged woman came


tapas ta tapas p tapas 15 / Education & Culture

rushing towards us, unleashing a torrent of Spanish words of which we didn't understand a syllable. Then, with compassion the Señora looked at us, and quickly appraised the situation. With incessant chatter she served us huge glasses of deliciously cold cerveza and a variety of traditional tapas. Although they were just little appetizers of meat, fish, seafood, eggs and vegetables, the quantity we were served filled us all the same. Satisfied we smacked our lips and rubbed our bellies. Before leaving, one by one, we each paid a visit to the toilet. When my turn came, I entered the tiled space and noticed that one of my fellow students had left something behind. “Thank you”, I grunted and cursed under my breath. Hurriedly I grabbed the old fashioned cord and pulled resolutely; nothing. I tried again, and again, but to no avail; it wouldn’t flush. “What now?” I thought, feeling very uneasy. Leave it to the next of our group to deal with? Not necessary, as I was the last one. Luckily, we had already paid the bill, so I would say a quick good bye to the Señora, and then run for my life. Awkwardly, I rejoined the others and was greeted by a round of smirks. "Let's get out of here", I hissed to the others when I saw the Señora appear. She was very agitated and was gesturing wildly. Oh my god, she had seen it! I felt my face redden with embarrassment as the Señora looked directly at me. I wished the ground would open and swallow me up. "Lo siento mucho, lo siento mucho", I kept apologizing in my first-day Spanish. The Señora continued shouting, a spray of saliva omitting from her mouth with the force of her incomprehensible words. With frustration she raised both her hands and shook them wildly, and gestured downwards. “I know, I know”, I groaned inwardly. We should have flushed, but it didn't work. "No functiona", I tried, and was momentarily pleased how Spanish it sounded. But Señora shook her head in clear disagreement. With a livid look on her face, she threateningly advanced on me. I backed away until I felt the

Cerrada tapas

as tapas s



tapas tapas

cold stone wall against my back. None of my classmates made any attempt to rescue me, and I was close to tears. I wished I could express that I had been brought up well and really didn't want to leave the toilet in that state. A new round of Spanish words was being fired at me. I paused. Did I just make out the word ‘Closet’? “Yes”, I wanted to scream, “I admit! But Dios mío, it was just a wee-wee”, as my distress turned to anger. It was just not right to treat me like a criminal for that, at least not me alone. I looked at my friends and was satisfied to see they were finally looking as guilty as me. "Closset! Cerradamañana", the Señora shouted. Hold on a moment. Did I just recognize another word? Did she say ‘mañana’? But that means tomorrow! Bewildered I strained my brains. What about tomorrow? I looked again at the Señora and now she didn't appear to be so angry after all. As if in slow motion it started to dawn on me. Cerrada means closed. And the forceful gesture she continuously made with her hands? Would it be possible? Was she not talking about the toilet incident after all? Could it be? Was she trying to say something altogether different? I took the three words plus the gesture and frantically tried to puzzle them into one meaning. Was ‘Closet’ possibly her poor attempt for the English word of closed? But that would make "Closed tomorrow closed". And her hands were not pulling the imaginary cord of flush but closing the shop front‘s rollin grille? My eyes widened and slowly comprehension became visible on my face; slowly my facial muscles started to relax, and Señora’s mouth widened into a broad smile—of pride—she had made the foreigner understand.

Andrea Kullek


Our class had finally ended and the long awaited afternoon started. It had been hot and stuffy inside the classroom and even without any movement, our clothes stuck unpleasantly to our bodies. It was our first day at the Spanish Intensive Class at the University of Salamanca and all eight of us were total beginners. But Laura our teacher had no mercy. Although barely 1,60 cm tall, she exuded the energy of a bull, fighting a group of torros; for hours we were the target of her incessant questions and exercise drills. “What is wrong with her”, I thought indignantly? “Why isn’t she more relaxed and Mediterranean?”

tapas tapas España t a p a s Salamanca tapas tapas tapas t a p a s cerveza tapas tapas tapas bodega



Intercultural Encounters

Powerful stories from all over the globe Intercultural Encounters, is what the educational project Sterke Verhalen is all about. Jure Vrkic fled his homeland Yugoslavia 19 years ago, because he did not want to betray his principles. Jure is now one of the guest speakers of the foundation Sterke Verhalen. “With this project you confront children with current affairs. War can occur everywhere. Children cannot imagine that they would have to run without being able to take anything with them. This still goes on as we speak.” Another guest speaker, Bianco Bolumba, who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1983, thinks the project has a positive effect: “We say, children always tell the truth. If we want to change the world, we have to start with the children.”

happy, even with little food and sharing toys and clothes with our siblings.” Cultural differences What struck Inonge most when she first came to Holland was the fact that people in public did not greet each other, or talk to each other. Bianco, on the other hand, found everything really clean and neat. The roads were divided into car, bicycle, and pedestrian lanes. It was organized; there were no mountains and plenty of beautiful blonde girls. Jure thought it was cold when he first arrived on a warm June day. At first he thought the Dutch were understanding and helpful, but during his procedure, he felt like they were working against him. “They couldn't or wouldn't understand me. You are in a position that you are fighting for something that you are not entitled to. You can arrange everything, but subconsciously you get the message: you don't belong here.” Yet Jure still believes Holland to be more tolerant then Yugoslavia. The Foundation: Stichting Sterke Verhalen The foundation consists of a board of three, an intern and a group of enthusiastic volunteers that are deployed at intercultural events. Marjan Wolynski (treasurer, secretary) owns Jezelf, a company for training, workshops and therapy. She has been involved for 5 years. “The project keeps inspiring me. I like the encounter and the interaction and you get immediate results. When people get to know each other, they can laugh about their prejudice. Every person has its own story, not only the guest speaker, but the audience as well.”

Marjan Wolynski & Jure Vrkic

The foundation aims to organize intercultural encounters in an informal way. Marjan Wolynski and Johan Brokken are the project managers. “We want to learn from other cultures and get to know them. Knowledge transfer is the basis of your view on society and the relations within it. Grammar School and High schools, as well as private organizations can hire a guest speaker to talk about a certain theme, topic, or country. We work with trained international guest speakers and dramatization; drama challenges, stimulates and confronts people. It helps to create a realistic picture.” Trauma Jure Vrkic found out the hard way about societal relations. He did not agree with the conflicts in his country and stood up for his beliefs. “If you don't agree, you don't belong anymore. People don't talk to you; they paint certain signs on your house. You don't get served in the shops. They even come to your house, picking out stuff they want. They know you are in danger and eventually will have to leave.” Talking about his trauma, as he calls his flight, helps him deal with it. He still gets emotional over a response at his guest lectures. “The children always ask: ‘Have you ever killed anyone?’ ‘Are people that bad over there?’ ‘Do you want to return?’ But I would have to pick 1 of the 6 states that make out the former Yugoslavia now, and go through another procedure. I live where ever I am, and that is how I finally feel at home here.' Unknown, unloved Through lack of contact and knowledge of each other’s cultures and habits, we become prejudiced. Marjan and Johan hope to influence integration in a positive way; by having guest speakers from many backgrounds create awareness. ”We are convinced of the surplus value of a multicultural society and believe that encounters with our guest speakers will ultimately change peoples' behaviour.” Bianco

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Bolumba already influenced a 13-year-old girl's firm belief that refugees always lie, because her father told her so. Bianco managed to convince her that he was telling her the truth and so changed her view on refugees. Stories from Afar In 1994, the project was designed by COS Groningen (present NoordBaak) as Verhalen van Ver (Stories from Afar). A project to acquaint certain target groups with a speaker from a different culture. The formula still works, but the guest lectures are more interactive nowadays. Because NoordBaak focusses on sustainability, Sterke Verhalen was placed in a separate foundation in 2011. Of Boers and Tolerance Inonge Anandale volunteered at Verhalen van Ver because she wanted to practice and improve her Dutch; she originally came to Holland for love. Inonge studied marketing, and first heard about Holland when she met her now Dutch husband, who did research in a local hospital in Zambia. It was then that she found out that most of the Boers in South Africa, who had a lot to do with Apartheid, originated from Holland. But prejudice actually exists everywhere. “In Zambia it is prohibited to be gay, and I thought this was right, but I had never met any overtly gay people over there. In Dutch class, I met a Brazilian refugee; it moved me that his parents did not want him, but that total strangers in a faraway country took him in. Now I have learned to accept gay people and because of the Dutch, my own tolerance has increased.” About Dutch tolerance towards coloured people, however, she is more cautious. “Many people have negative ideas about foreigners. They think everyone is a refugee and Africa is a bad place. People only know Africa from the images on television: the poverty stricken kids, and the famine. They are pleasantly surprised to find out that we too are

Johan Brokken (chair) owns Verus Lutum, a company that works with training, workshops, project management, acting and theatre making. “Intercultural encounter and engagement is part of who I am.” More Information If you want to know more about the Stichting Sterke Verhalen, or if you want to hire a guest speaker for an event, please feel free to contact Marjan Wolynski on: 0316-465 411-69, or check out the website Tjitske Zuiderbaan

Montessori Preschool Groningen A Small International English Language Montessori Preschool For Children Ages 2-4

A place where your child can bloom Take a look!

Frogs etc. Jasper Oostland It is a series of brightly coloured cards depicting a variety of animals, which have been attracting my attention for a while. Each has its own story, and is illustrated to incorporate realism, in the accuracy of their detailed rendering, plus a hint of the world of cartoon in their personification. Although frogs seem to be in the majority, it is the card with a bird wearing a top hat tilted at a rakish angle, that becomes the deciding factor in my contacting the artist; beady eyes, long pointy beak and an intense stare invite the viewer to choose one of the three upturned cups on the table in front of the bird, in a gamble, to reveal what’s hiding underneath. These are the creations of artist Jasper Oostland who lives and works in Groningen. I arrive at his house on a rare sunny day in June; a house filled with large windows, which results in an overall bright, airy feel, and is the perfect residence for an artist. Because his studio is situated in the attic, we head upstairs. White walls, windows on two sides, jars filled with brushes awaiting action, and enormous pots of acrylic paint stand resolutely on a table. Nearby, is an easel with his latest work in progress; there’s a lot of bright pink happening in this work, and from the outlines I can just make out a car and a flamingo. The easel has an ingenious feature - the addition of a rotary centre. This allows the current work to be turned a full 360 degrees, allowing complete ease of access to the entire picture whilst it is worked upon. A former student of the art school, Minerva, in Groningen, Jasper studied illustration with an emphasis on technique. Studying the use of light, its source and application, is an important part in creating the 3-D realism of the animals. To my question about his colour usage, he says it is something that he uses intuitively. Each work starts with a wash of background colour upon which the animals are brought to life through a series of painted layers progressing from dark to light. As he talks he passes me an

When it comes to inspiration he researches photos in books or images from the Internet, for the accurate depiction he needs. As for what comes first, it is more or less spontaneous sometimes it’s the animal and sometimes the object. Ideas also come from association or a particular pose, and these are worked out further in a sketchbook.

amazingly detailed picture of a large grey rhino, standing wistfully next to a delicate pink rose in a glass vase. The equally bright pink background is one of his experiments; in this case how to make pink work on pink. Other little tricks and details he puts in his work are expressly done to leave something for the viewer to discover. The abundance of frogs in his work, often in everyday situations, leads me to ask firstly, if he is the frog, and secondly, if the variety of situations the frog finds himself in, is maybe a tongue in cheek social comment. To the former he says he is not, as far as he is aware, the frog, although sometimes, according to his girlfriend, he can have a particular stance or expression that reminds her of a frog. As for a deep and meaningful message or social comment, he says there isn’t one, he likes frogs, and in particular tree frogs because they have a lot of character; they have great hands with padded fingers that can hold things and expressive eyes.

These days it is very important for artists to be active with self-promotion if they want public attention. Jasper seems to have this under control: he has an up to date website; makes use of social media (find him on Facebook); exhibits regularly; sells work online – both originals and giclées; uses Chat Roulette, a website where you can watch him paint live. Also, by every exhibition he places a large pile of cards depicting one of his works and including his contact details. As he says: “People keep them and pin them up.” This continual visibility has led to 20% of his work being commission based, and, as a result, he finds himself in the enviable position of having enough work for a year. When asked if he has any dreams for the future, he says that at the moment he is quite happy with the status quo, but maybe a book, a little more structured organization of his business as a whole, and, as the father of two young daughters under five, a little more sleep wouldn’t go amiss. If you would like to see Jasper’s work, why not visit the library in Groningen, where he is currently exhibiting a selection of works. It runs from 5th September 2012 to 4th January 2013.

Alison Day (

Education & Culture / 17



than pavement, where you have to drive at a earth, where the dust flies when a car drives by. The cars are generally SUVs, but most people walk, often carrying goods on their heads. On our drive, we saw quite a contrast between the wealthier neighborhoods, with huge houses surrounded by high walls, complete with armed guards at the gates, and the poor neighborhoods, which were not much more that shantytowns. The buildings have thatched or corrugated metal roofs, and have clearly seen better days. The whitewash or paint, if there ever was any, is faded and the doorways and windows have crumbled, showing the earthen walls underneath the paint. Sometimes there are no windows, just square openings on the dark interior. There were quite a few buildings that, like the hotel, had bright area lights on high walls topped with barbed wire.


Rachel Heller traveled in the summer of 2009 to Burundi (sub-Saharan Africa) to work on a volunteer project for three weeks. We’ve excerpted parts of Rachel’s blog, with permission, to paint a picture of her experiences outside of the project.


The hotel is about what I expected: basically clean but worn out around the edges. What’s a little disturbing is the height of the wall around it, and the lengths of barbed wire coils attached to the top. They say that criminality is a problem here. Apparently, it’s the best hotel in Kirundo, though, of course, it doesn’t live up to western standards. I have a toilet that flushes. I have electricity, though it went out the first night we were here. I was quite surprised to find a quite modern air conditioner – the kind with a digital remote to operate it – and it works, at least when there is electricity! I have running water, except this morning when the hotel’s water tank was empty. There’s warm water in the sink, but not in the shower. The bed is comfortable, though the mosquito net over it has a big hole right over my head. There’s no light next to the bed, so if I want to read I have to use a flashlight (or a candle if the lights have gone out). My room is big and empty and barren.


We drove around the city one afternoon. The roads vary enormously: from perfectly smooth, newly-paved, to roads that are more pothole crawl to avoid real damage to the car, to bare

18 / Leisure & Travel

Of course, there are lots of smells here, as anywhere. On a bus, you won’t be able to escape the strong body odor, mixed with the caustic smell of the black smoke that invariably belches from all of the cars and buses. In a market, the pungent odor of the piles of dried fish mixes with the smell of 20 different curry powders, the sweet aroma of fresh papayas or mangos and the sickening stink of freshly-killed ox or goat meat. In a village, the dominant smell is smoke, from the cooking fires that burn all day, mixed with a distant occasional whiff of the nearby latrines.


Social status seems to be a big issue in Burundi. There is a big difference between the poorest to richest here. It’s visible in lots of ways. Only wealthy people get fat and have stylish glasses and shoes. Their clothes are neat and clean, quite an achievement in such a dusty area. Rich women wear tailored dresses that are attractive and sophisticated looking, and sport sometimes quite ornate hairdos, with hair extensions and complicated braids.

Social status is also expressed in how people behave towards each other. Those with a higher status seem to be positively scornful of those with a lower status. We were invited to have lunch with the manager of this hotel, and were horrified at the way he clapped his hands to summon waiters and ordered them about. Burundians ordering food in the hotel’s restaurant have a similar attitude. Even the teachers we are training, whose pay is remarkably low (I’ve heard it’s about 83 euros per month!), don’t do their own cooking. They hire a servant at about 6 euros per month to do the cooking, cleaning, laundering (by hand, of course) and ironing. One of the teachers explained this to us: they’re uneducated so it’s the only job they can get. Given this consciousness of status, the Burundians often seem puzzled by our behavior. The women who serve in the hotel’s restaurant seem very uncomfortable with our attempts to be friendly to them. Likewise, the teachers we’re training keep stepping in to “protect” us from the street children who constantly follow us around. When we all piled out of our van and entered a church, two rows of pews magically cleared for us. I understand what a spectacle the group of us presented as we walked in there, but that deference to whites is some thing I distinctly don’t like here. I think what it comes down to, is that whites just don’t fit comfortably into the existing social scale. They don’t know where to place us. Given that we’re so wealthy, compared to them, we belong, in their view, at the top of the scale. At the same time, we don’t behave the way we’re “supposed” to, which makes them distinctly uncomfortable.

Most of the poorer women are dressed alike: tops of all sizes and shapes, but always worn and faded, ill-fitting, and often with the sleeves cut to allow for the women’s muscular upper arms, skirts in a bright, multi-colored pattern, wrapped around the waist and hanging to about mid-calf; and bare feet, or perhaps a pair of worn flip-flops or plastic sandals. Their hair is cropped very close to their heads, almost shaved. The men wear pants or shorts: again, worn and faded and ill-fitting. Sometimes a length of rope holds them up. The tee-shirts the men wear are often a surprise: Nike or DKNY or the NY Mets. Some men have sunglasses or a watch. The watches often don’t work, but are simply worn as a sign of status.

Rachel Heller

Steamy Borneo to Breezy Bali Hans and I had planned the trip of a lifetime—An adventure divided between the wilds of Borneo and a relaxing tour of Bali.

SARAWAK - Kuching

In Kuching we stepped outside for the first time since leaving chilly Amsterdam. The Borneo heat and humidity hit like a wall and we could only manage a short stroll along the riverfront. The next day, we plunged in to the first jungle adventure in Bako National Park; it was a dream come true.

asked Tony, our guide, who the headhunters hunted and he answered, “Us”. He explained that he was from the rival Dayak tribe! In the evening we enjoyed Iban dance and music, and tasted delicious tuak, a local rice wine. The Iban were hospitable and we understood one another well enough, despite the language barrier. An Iban guide demonstrated rubber tapping and we did target practice with a blowpipe. We learned about useful plants, and visited traditional grave sites.

Our first hike was only 600 metres. We were drenched in sweat, dutifully keeping our fluids up by drinking litres of water. Fortunately, many of Borneo’s famed wildlife species were in this range. The park headquarters was a prime viewing area.

Longhouse Batang Ai The boatman expertly navigated the longboat upriver through the shallow turbid waters to the Iban longhouse. The river curved through the great shadowy rainforest dripping with liana vines and cascades of birds’ nest ferns, and past thickets of bamboo. We visited the Chief’s home, saw his grandfather’s headdress and learned that headhunting was still practised in his day. We

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park: Lets Find Nemo! The mesmerizing underwater world could occupy me for months, but I only had a day. I snorkeled and dove down repeatedly to get a close look at reef fish in all colours, anemones, nudibranches and corals. Nemo and all his friends were there! There was one magic moment too when schools of fish surrounded me and we swam together. Sukau The Kinabatangan River has one of the richest wildlife habitats in Borneo, with riverbanks frequented by pygmy elephants and crocodiles, and lined with forests sheltering monkeys and hornbills. We saw more orang utans in the wild than in the rehabilitation centre at Sepilok as well as a long list of exciting wildlife sightings.

Evening fell with a red and gold sunset over the South China Sea. After dark we joined a walk to see nocturnal life. A flying lemur looked down from a tree trunk and there were fireflies, poison frogs and centipedes. Focusing his flashlight on a centipede clinging to a rock wall, a guide said, “If this bites you, you’ll cry for hours”. The next day we made a strenuous climb to a sparsely vegetated sandstone plateau where nepenthes grew. The sun was blazing. After lunch, we climbed another forested hill known for proboscis monkeys, with shade and a magnificent view.

ing and there were two of them! After lunch at the hot springs, and a walk in the rainforest canopy, we hopped into a 4 X 4 for a bumpy ride to see them. Lucky for us that they exude their rotten carcass scent only at night—it was breathtaking enough to see these rarities!

SABAH - Kota Kinabalu Hans cracked the urban traffic code while exploring chaotic Kota Kinabalu. I wasn’t joking when I said I wanted a taxi, but Hans pointed to the malfunctioning pedestrian signal behind us and said, “When that one’s green, we can go”, so we forged ahead against a red light and it worked out just fine. Visiting the town centre and the handicraft market was well worth the walk, especially for the memorable fresh seafood dinner at the night market. Mount Kinabalu Sunrise and a Malaysian Lesson We rose before dawn. Mists blanketed the lowlands, and treed ridges rose above the mist like islands, over a vista which stretched over to Mount Kinabalu’s dark slopes waiting for the sun.

Tiger Leech—Screech! Tiger leeches stretch out from the leaves of low plants to catch a meal from passing animals. So, for a jungle hike, it was necessary to wear pants tucked into leechproof socks. We managed to fend off the ones that got onto our clothes, but our guide was unlucky and was bitten! Sandakan - Borneo’s Wild West Sandakan has a Heritage Trail and Park commemorating the Sandakan Death March of World War 2. It also has a picturesque water village, with an exceptional seafood restaurant. This was our last stop in Borneo, and we flew from here to Kuala Lumpur, eager for the next stage of our adventure in Bali. Margaret Metsala

On the way, our guide showed us a tree with fruit resembling apples. He explained how deadly poisonous the entire tree was: One “apple” could kill, and if this tree was to burn, the smoke would stop a person’s heart. The sunrise slowly transformed the landscape, as the first rays brightened the peak of great Mount Kinabalu. Within minutes the entire flank of the mountain was bathed in a golden glow, and we turned back toward the longhouse, past cinnamon trees and flocks of birds. Along the way, our guide reached for a fruit in a tree, exclaiming, “An apple!”... and I replied, “Oh, a poison one”, and he turned back smiling; we had learned a lesson, Malaysian-style. Rafflesia, Poring Hot Springs Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, was bloom-

Leisure & Travel / 19


37 connections autumn2012  
37 connections autumn2012