Monday, July 24, 2017

Rediscovery

I was surprised that I had a small cry when I took one last look at my dorm building. It was just two weeks after all.

I sat down for a bit in the courtyard, took a deep breath, sent a few good bye messages, and gave my feelings some thought.

Two weeks that I had all to myself. It has been at least five years in which my mind and my heart was just wired to parenting and to work. It has been at least five years that I am always responsible for someone or something. The last two weeks was mine and mine alone. How does one handle that?

At first, I was feeling quite guilty and selfish. I almost did not want to go. But of course, everything was ready. I was the only one who wasn't. 

The first couple of days were disconcerting. The room was quiet. The bed felt too big. The food too healthy. I missed the boys. I missed the noise. I had no friends. 

The days passed. Things became familiar. I took random walks around the city. 

I had time. I can actually stop and just look at a window, or observe people, or look up at the sky. I saw a bee pollinating a flower. I saw people smiling to themselves. I saw people in a rush. I saw swans double dating. I saw children having fun. I heard the birds sing. I had time to just look and relish moments.

I met old friends. I walked the familiar roads of Den Haag. I had a drink at the former Prins. I saw my picture on big TV screens! Naks. 

I made new friends, too. I met great people with interesting backgrounds, brilliant minds, hopeful hearts. It is always a treatI meet people who make me discover new things or think new thoughts. 

It took a while, but we had great fun, too. At least, I'm sure I did. I knew I was in a safe space, and I will be cared for, and I will be allowed to care for them if need be.

My heart was full from the experience of the last two weeks. I finally realized why those quick tears. For the first time in a long time, I felt I was interesting beyond the boring momma. I am more than what I thought I just was. I felt I was doing something for myself and myself alone. 

I felt like Angie again. I actually learned to like myself again.

The last few years, I have been always something else. Mother. Wife. Humanitarian worker. If I did something beyond that, I felt guilty. As if I was reneging on my responsibility. 

These last two weeks made me realize how important "me time" is. I have been running on empty for quite some time now that I have often been quick to anger or resentment. I will leave Netherlands with a full heart (and maybe that is why it is heavy, too.). And I think, with that heart, I will be a better mother, wife, humanitarian worker. And I will know, somewhere beneath those three big things is a woman who still belongs to herself that no one can own. And that she is as important as mother, wife, and humanitarian worker. 

I am glad to have rediscovered her again.

Life is beautiful. Maganda ang buhay.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Delft II aka Jan discovers herring

It took a while before I was able to get back to Delft. There was so much to explore in the Schengen countries that a 20 minute trip to Delft always took a back seat. However, when Jan was finally able to come to the Netherlands after much struggle with getting a visa, we were finally able to go back to Delft.


We did most of the things I did the last time, except get up at Nieuwe Kerk (I wonder why?) and paddle boat. I definitely had to bring Jan to the Oude Kerk where Vermeer was buried. He was, after all, a fine arts graduate.


The leaning tower of the Oude Kerk.

Enlightenment.

In the Nieuwe Kerk, we just pretty much fooled around with the camera, enjoying the beautiful lighting inside.
Turning back against the light?

You can say that pretty much the highlight of this particular trip to Delft was Jan having his first (and most likely last) taste of the infamous raw herring. They say that this was the Dutch version of sashimi. Uh, not quite. I still prefer sashimi but would not shirk from the slimy experience of herring though.

Anyway, I forced Jan into having his try when we passed by the open market. I told him I will share the herring if he feels so iffy about it but he had to eat it just for the full authentic Dutch cuisine experience. Being the sport that he was, Jan agreed. We bought our fresh herring sprinkled with onions and salt. Jan stared at the thing for a while and took a deep breath before plunging the slimy thing into his mouth.
No. He did not like it.

I am, however, quite proud. :)

Inside another Delft church.

The taste of the herring refused to leave his mouth, so Jan and I finally ate our lunch to remove its taste. Being cheapskates, we prepared sandwiches from home to eat during the trip.
Jan seems to be enjoying his sandwich. If memory serves me right, it would be smoked salmon with cheese and lettuce. Fish for the win!


We passed by the part of the town where they sold flowers. Since the day was about to close, the stall owner was selling sun flowers for five euros for a two bunches. I asked Jan to buy some for me, and he did, and it made my day.
The memories of Delft became doubly pleasurable having had the chance to share it with my crazy Pinoy Mafia family and my bestest friend Jan. Remembering Delft would always bring with it the charm of old Europe and the cheer of quiet adventure and the pleasure of friendship.

Monday, October 25, 2010

delft: old netherlands charm

Delft is one of my favorite towns of the Netherlands. I imagine it to be what Netherlands was like 100 to 200 years back. It think it small and quaint and neighborly compared to the Hague. The two times I went there, I always have this light, airy feeling in me. I could not help but love it, even if it is just the town center that I always visit.

It is known for its pottery, inspired by Chinese ceramics. With Holland's intricate canal system, may trade ships would often pass by the country and thus leaving a lot of different world traditions in its doorstep.

My first trip to Delft was with the Pinoy mafia with an almost complete attendance. It was a lazy Thursday afternoon, with every one having some free time on their hands. And oh, we had a free tram ride ticket from the ISS too! We figured, if we were to use our tram tickets, might as well use it for the farthest it can go which was Delft.

So our little sojourn to Delft began!

We we went down near the technical university and right where the open market stalls were. It looked much nicer and merrier than The Hague's own open market. We could not help but be lured by the beautiful colors of fruit and flowers, clothes and chocolates. With our 30 minute market time, there were people with boots, bread and chocolates.
Those strawberries may be small, but they are sweet and succulent. Yum!

Go wild with chocolates! The dark chocolate and the coffee chocolate just bring melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Who cares if they convert to almost Php200.

Just to let people know what Delft is about, an indescribable monument covered with pieced together Delftware ceramics.

Our purpose for this trip was to see Oude Delft or Old Delft. While Ikea was probably a few stops away, we were still new, was in occasional state of giggly disbelief that home was halfway across the globe and wanted to absorb as much of Europe's charm as we can, so our stop had to be old part of town.

The Nieuwe Kerk or New Church was where the House of Oranje-Nassau was buried after the Spaniards captured the original Royal burial grounds in Breda. Prince Wilhelm and Queen Wilhelmina, along with other Dutch royalty, were buried in its hallowed grounds.

More interesting for us was the 356 steps we had to climb up to have a spectacular view of the city. All of us actually paid three euros to suffer loss of breath and tired legs to go up. Despite that, of course we had to pose for photos and pretend it was a breeze!

With our resident athlete, Risa, going up seemed no bother at all. She was as beautiful as ever.

I would say the three euros were very much worth it after experiencing the magnificent view from above.
After we got down, we just had to take a breather and prayed we did not leave anything valuable in the tower because we're not sure if we would go through all the trouble for it. :P

We also went to the Oude Kerk where the reknowned painter of the "Girl with the Pearl Earring," Johannes Vermeer was buried. Delft was his hometown, and like most famous painters, his genius was hardly recognized by his fellows when he was still alive. ("The girl with the pearl earring" can be found in Mauritshuis in the Hague. His other works can be seen in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.)


Farther down town, we found a section where they sold many kinds of flowers. It was just splendid to see all those potted plants in different hues of the rainbow scattered all over the street making the place more vibrant and romantic.

We stopped for coffee at one of the Lonely Planet's guidebook to Netherlands recommendations, Kleywegs' Stads Koffyhuis. It was known for its pannenkoeken or pancakes and its famous Delft Leaning Cup coffee. The drink contained coffee, chocolate, milk foam and cinnamon placed in a leaning cup, much like the Oude Kerk's tower. I got that one and the group shared a couple of pancakes. We wanted the full Kleyweg's experience for less the cost. :P


It was after five when we finished our coffee break. We saw a boat tour and wanted to try paddling through the canal. Rino and Chris successfully talked the person in charge to give us a discount. Since the paddle boat has to be returned by six pm (which was less than an hour's rent), he gave us a few euros discount to use it.

So we paddled nicely along the canals and through the tunnels. It was definitely not easy and getting the paddle boats back before 6 pm was a challenge but we made it!

It was several months before I got back to Delft, but it was as pleasant because I shared the wonderful Delft experience with the hubby that time. :)

All in all, I would find pleasure in going back to Delft again. Maybe to visit Ikea this time and finally get to experience their Swedish meatballs and cheesecake again. But immersing myself in Old Europe through Delft was such a wonderful experience, there is nothing I can say about Delft but magical. :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

john lennon to a music dud

I have never hid the fact that I am a music dud. When it comes to music, I know little nor do I really feel compelled to know more that what comes to me. That's why I am glad to have a husband and friends who have quite a wellspring of music knowledge and appreciation because I learn a lot from them.

But John Lennon were just too big not to be detected by the limited scope of my radar. Like all things related to music, I know little about him. Other than being part of the Beatles, I knew that he was with Yoko Ono and that he was murdered by a fan. But I think the best part about John Lennon was his song Imagine.
Imagine is for any one who wanted war to end, who wanted peace to happen, who wanted people to work together. Sure, it's cliche. But the song just captures the feelings of one hoping for coexistence and a better world. Knowing that song was written by John Lennon was enough for me to have the highest respect for the man.

When the Pinoy Mafia went to Prague, the John Lennon wall was definitely in our itinerary. I did not get to do it with the gang because I spent time with Caryl, my sister-in-law. I thought I will not have the chance to visit the wall any more. Risa, however, was so kind as to join me when I decided to visit the wall on my own (thanks, Risa!).

Can't disagree with the message up there!

And of course, there has to be a line from a Beatle song. This is not the only one, I tell you.

The entire wall was filled with messages from different parts of the globe. There was supposed to be a mural of John Lennon but the numerous tourists and (welcome) vandalism has covered it up throughout the years. But the Imagine superimposed on the peace sign seemed to have survived. I felt chills just leaning on it, like I was connected with the others before me and the others after me who will visit that small space of democracy and expression.
Of course, I had to write on the wall, too. Good thing Risa brought a pen!

Risa and I have left our mark! That little peace sign over my name and "Pinas" below. Risa wrote "love justice." I think we would be both hippies if we were teenagers in the 60's. :P

Happy birthday, John Lennon. Thank you for your beautiful message of love and coexistence. I dare to think the world was a better place because you were in it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cheap travel: Tip # 1

The Pinoy Mafia traveled a lot when we were studying in Netherlands. We made sure we could cover as much of Europe as our Schengen visa and allowance would allow. To stretch our budget, we had to get creative with our resources.

So how do we travel cheap?

First tip: BRING FOOD.

Of course, part of traveling experience is to relish the food of the place you are visiting. A country's food carries with it history, culture and society. Thus, to truly visit a place is to eat its food. However restaurant meals are usually expensive. For those of us with limited budget, it was not advisable to buy in restaurants nor even in kiosks every meal time.

So yes, we brought tupperwares of food whenever we travel. And not just any food, but FOOD. Of course, we had the usual cookies, biscuits and chips. But we also brought rice, adobo flakes, pasta! Imagine how funny we looked whenever we go through the airport inspection. We often laugh at our frugality, but we could not care less either. A traveler's got to do what a traveler's got to do!

Our first group trip in Prague, we spent the night before cooking rice and flaking our adobo. The food lasted us around three meals. As we walked around Praha, we stretched our energies with JB's Euroshopper biscuits. Most of us recycled our water bottles and refilled it with potable tap water. That alone saves us two euros plus we pollute the earth less too.

When M, RM and I went to Groeningen using our Kruidvat train tickets (another cheap travel tip!), M packed fusili pasta which we shared. When we three went to Amsterdam to see the "Starry, Starry Night" exhibition, I brought an entire pack of smoked salmon and half loaf of bread which we shared. I just spent on additional coffee to warm myself from the cold spring weather.


The fusili that M brought to Groeningen
.

Enjoying our meal in the woods of Groeningen.


Having our lunch at Brugges.


And guess what lunch was? Stinky shrimp paste, dried fish and cherry tomatoes.


I am most amused and most proud with the food that we brought along when MT, M, RM and I had our Good Friday visit of Brugges. MT and M are the culprits of that wonderful meal. They brought with them tupperwares of rice, dried fish and shrimp paste. We were asked to bring the tomatoes. Of course, they also brought the complete utensils for our meal.

So there we were along Brugges' river, seated on the benches by the river eating our rice and viand while other tourists were eating their sandwiches and doner. We were laughing at how silly we looked, to be confirmed by the double take or the lingering looks of passers-by. I could imagine what they were thinking, "those people are eating a big meal in the middle of the street! how is that possible?"

Well, trust the Filipino to find a way to save money, use it for travel and still enjoy his rice meal. :P

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fat Kee: All rice!

For Asia, rice is staple. A meal is hardly complete without it. You can even say that rice is probably the tie that binds Asia, not ethnicity nor culture.

So when you are in a continent where rice is just for certain occasions, a satisfactory meal is often made in your own kitchen. But of course, there are days when you just want to have a good meal prepared by someone else for you. So what would be a place with rice, cheap and easy enough to find? Why a Chinese restaurant, of course!

For the Pinoy mafia in the Hague, there is no other Chinese restaurant but FAT KEE! Sure, we tried a couple of other Chinese restos at times (forced by the fact that Fat Kee was full), but it could not compare to the satisfaction of a Fat Kee meal. Ah... my mouth is watering at the mere thought of it.

Mixed vegetables with cuttlefish. Our compromise meal with B, who did not eat meat.

Fat Kee was the mafia's go-to dining place. We went there when exams finished or when essays were submitted or when we had a guest or when we were just hungry and were too lazy to cook. It came to a point when we were there every couple of weeks, whether complete or partial attendance.

The crowd favorite, roast suckling pig!

We ate there too often that we even know the numbers of our orders already. Now I forget everything except 133 for the roast suckling pig, which was standard fare. Knowing the numbers of our orders became essential because our Tagalog-Bisaya-English-Ilocano are pretty useless in a place that speaks Chinese and Dutch.

Our other usual orders would be roast duck, salt and pepper chicken, steamed fish and mixed vegetables with cuttlefish. I'm sure there are several others we would try, but those listed are just too yummy to forget. Of course, we cap the msg/salt-laden meal with Coca-Cola.

The Pinoy mafia's last meal together for 2008 before every one parted for their Christmas vacation. No food was wasted in this photo shoot.

It was like ritual that after bombarding the waiter/waitress with our order and the food would arrive, one would exclaim... "ang dami naman!" "It's too much!" Yet every time, the plates would be clean of food, maybe a bit of sauce or stray vegetable left behind, but generally wiped out. We may be little people (well except for C and B) but our stomachs are as big as our hearts. :P

We would leave Fat Kee with stomachs happily satisfied by a pleasant meal but what truly spices the food up would be the stories, the laughter and even the bickering that occur on the table. While most other people would quietly enjoy their meal, our big round table would be filled with boisterous laughter, loud voices and crazy banter.

Ah, dear Fat Kee... you always do rice to the occasion. :)

photos c/o Maricar

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vredespalais: The Seat of International Law

The Vredespalais or "The Peace Palace" is arguably the most recognizable structure in The Hague. It is home to the International Court of Justice, The Permanent Court of Arbitration and The Hague Academy of International Law (taken from Wikipedia).

The Peace Palace in full view

Just a stone's throw away from the ISS, the Peace Palace was more recognizable and far more impressive the Queen's Residence down at Noordeinde. Probably owing to the fact that it stood by itself, with its own wide expanse of garden, something that was uncommon in the central area of Den Haag.

Most of the buildings in the city stood beside each other, thin and lanky like its Dutch Citizens. I read from "the Undutchables" that this trait of Dutch buildings had much to do with their known frugality. Buildings were taxed according to the land area it stood, thus the Dutch built their homes upward instead of sideways. Therefore, buildings like the Vredespalais was quite rare. This quality literally made it stand out.

It is also my favorite building in the Hague, probably owing to the fact that my room, Dorus 166, has a beautiful view of it.

True to its name, the sight of the Palace like this made me feel a little more at ease at peace especially during rare stretches of studying and constant frenzy of cramming writing a well-researched essay in four days.

When my husband was able to visit me in The Netherlands, we would just sit on the rooftop staring at the building, feeling tranquil and serene. He would smoke a rare cigarette relishing the cool air we never experience here in the Philippines. I sat beside him holding his free hand wishing moments like those would last a bit longer or occur more often.

* * * * *

Every third week of September, on the 21st if I am not mistaken, would be the Day of Peace. This would be the day when the Peace Palace would open a part of the building for public viewing. Other institutions such as the Yugoslav Court and the World Forum would do the same. Of course, I took advantage and signed up. We had a French guy discuss what was going on inside the courts. Interesting stuff! Except I do not remember much of what he said. I did like seeing the Court Justice togas. :P

Beautiful and colorful flowers would bloom in the pocket garden outside the Peace Palace. During March and April, it would be the famous Dutch tulips that would greet tourists who come for a tour of the Palace. The outside of it, that is.

Detail of the Peace Palace gates

It was quite fortunate that friends, L and G, worked in the Palace. They were kind enough to give me a tour of its inner sanctum. I had the chance to see the Jesus Christ statue which was a gift from Brazil (I think) and the polar bear fountain that was a gift from Denmark. I also saw the seats of the countries stitched with their symbols (we don't have a seat). I also had the chance to have lunch in their canteen which served a delicious enough food.

The library was awesome. Nothing much I could have used because most of its contents were law books. It was a good place to study with each table having its own lamp and the entire place was wi-fi. The lay-out was conducive for studying. Unknown to many, it was open to the public. I did try to get in there but discovered that access to the library required a passport and not just a school ID. Bummer right there since I left my passport at the dorm the day I tried.


* * * * *

Memories of the Hague will definitely mean remembering the Peace Palace with it. For some it may mean bigger things like keeping peace in other countries or it may mean justice for the wronged or it may symbolize international balance.

For me, it was simply a respite from a crazy day of school. It gave me moments when I would stare and wonder, "Which room does Dumbledore stay in?" or "Where is the Fat Lady's painting placed?"

The silhouette of the Palace during dusk would be a beautiful picture for me. It allowed me my little magical fantasies. More importantly, it was the reminder that I was far away from home living a childhood dream.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A slice of ISS life: Prins aka Aula C

Aula B is quite known for being the first gathering place of most new ISS students especially for their orientation. Aula B + Aula A = dread. Because it means the student has exams, and ISS exams has always been nerve-wracking.

After having been oriented or disoriented, the student's instinct will be to move on to Aula C, or known to the general public and non-ISS person as the Prins Bar.

My first trip to the Prins after the CYS Welcome. Alem from DS joins fellow CYSers Mel and John.

It is not unusual to find ISS students hanging out at the Prins. Just a stone's throw away from the building and the biggest dorm, going home pissed drunk from Jupiler (or orange juice for my case) is not to difficult for most. A student can just crawl the pedestrian lane while leaving a trail of puke and get to Dorus in less than 20 minutes. If sober enough, five.

Prins Bar has witnessed many birthdays, despedidas and spontaneous get-togethers among ISS students. It bid its first good-bye to Katsuya, with the second floor almost packed to the brim bidding our favorite Japanse boy good-bye. And what a celebration, with four goals achieved the day before his flight.

It has seen ISS women talk Vagina dialogues (the monologues were done in Aula B) with Astha getting a free us girls a free drink from a smitten waiter. The band may have had their best night of audience participation then.

I remember pushing my knee to the limits dancing to Michael Jackson hits with my dear Ethiopian boys Eyob and Zola. But the sight to behold that night was the showdown between Cesarito and Zola. Latin America vs. Africa in dancing. You just don't know who to bet on!

With the Rebel Girls, rebelling against the terrible music playing Graduation Night. Give us our hip-hop, MJ hits and 90's R&B and we give you a show. (photos c/o Vina)

It is often that Prins would have to turn the lights on to shoo away ISS students who refuse to admit the reality that school work are waiting on their desks and that Moodle is waiting for a submission. 2AM is still too early in the night (not the morning) that people find another bar to hang out.

Prins has witnessed friendships blossom over bottles of beer and plates of fries. It has witnessed separations of which no one knows when the reunion will happen. We said "hi" to Prins as strangers and students. Prins bid us goodbye as friends and Masters.

Prins is the true place for "Drink and be merry, for tomorrow we Moodle."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

freedom on two wheels

i've not really had the patience to write a decent travel entry for the past few weeks. i can blame work, but i must say it's all those crazy games in FB that stop me from being creatively productive. i figured, no one reads this blog anyway, why bother.

ah, but thanks to dusty sneakers for asking me for a travel story or two. i am momentarily inspired to take a few moments away from virtual farms, mafias, cafes, restaurants and resorts. i am encouraged to look back and remember wonderful memories of things that i actually experienced.

i couldn't bring myself to write about a place right now. but i do find myself often times, when stuck in traffic or waiting in line, missing Netherlands. particularly, the freedom and mobility of being on a bike. bikes which are every Dutchman's best friend.
i remember the many miles Barney (that purple bike up there) and i traveled while i was in den haag. the countless times we've gone to the schevinengen to enjoy the salty air of the beach and the feel of sand in between my toes (on summer days).

i remember barney and i finding our way by the lake near the shell station at the world forum tramstop. with that beautiful tree adding charm to the already amazing landscape. and after taking in the view and being amused by families sharing moments, we proceed to the westbroek park. there i watch people do different things. from playing soccer or frisbee to riding little boats to just laying down on the grass, enjoying a rare taste of sunshine.

barney has allowed me to feel liberty and freedom. of not being confined inside a car just to get from one place to another. his purple rusty glory has allowed me to experience den haag better. and i have netherlands to thank for that. because them Dutch people love their bikes and they love their freedom.

ah yes, fresh air, two wheels and a sense of adventure. you can go a long way with that. :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Netherlands: A quick pass at Noordeinde

I don't remember what I felt the first morning I woke up in Den Haag. I must have been grumbling because I had to wake up 8.30 AM so we can catch the 9.30 tram for church. I do remember eating the almond biscuit from the ISS welcome package. I silently thanked them for being thoughtful because I wouldn't know where to get breakfast on my first morning.

After church and a quick purchase at C1000, Kaira took the group to Centrum where the shops we have to know about are located. To get to the Centrum, we had to pass through Noordeinde, which means North End. Every Dutch city must have Noordeinde street. Anyway, the street is reputed to be the most expensive in Netherlands.

Empty! And does not impress me as expensive but what do I know?

There were still a few people after lunch. Dutch people tend to take their Sunday mornings easy and many shops open after church. Quite different from the busy Manila that I am used to.

We saw this armor by one of the shops and of course, being first timers in a European country, we just had to take a picture! I imagined old Europe with their royalty and knights, though these were imagery I would associate with UK and not Netherlands. Maybe it was not supposed to represent Dutch culture anyways, but it was my first few signs that I was indeed walking the streets of Europe.


We passed by the Queen's palace which surprised me with its simplicity. The White House and 10 Downing Street have always struck me as grand and elaborate. This was our first sign of how practical the Dutch were. I actually was impressed with its simple facade. I thought, was this the reason why Noordeinde was considered the most expensive street in Holland? It could be the Scapa store across or the antique stores along the road. I still don't know.
Across was a statue whom I assumed was one of the Kings or Princes of Orange. I am embarrassed to discover that after 15 months, I fail to verify who he was. But I do like looking at it everytime I walked Noordeinde.

A carriage passed by and I was thrilled to see the drivers in top hats and waist coats! I assume the other one would be the footman/doorman. I was quite amazed by the size of their horses! They looked so healthy and well-fed compared to the puny and thin Philippine horses we have. That carriage seemed to weigh nothing them. I was a bit surprised though that these horses can just drop their "bombs" on the street, which can sometimes be a problem at night. And "it" can be as BIG as they are. Euw.

More horses! This time with the polite (poh-lee-teh) or police. I love it. No carbon emissions (probably methane ones if the horse had a bad meal. :P). They also go on bike sometimes. They do drive cars but smaller alleys, they cover with horses.

These images reminded me that I was in a place entirely different from my own. A place which fascinated and thrilled me to no end. This street became my comfort zone for 15 months, having walked solo or with friends to and from the ISS and the dorm to wherever. :)