Everybody from work I bump into asks how I am liking retirement. The short answer is that I love it. What’s not to like? Getting up at your leisure, enjoying your first coffee of the day in peace and quiet and then determining what else you want to do that day. It is a luxury that I only now appreciate to the full extent, after experiencing this marvellous gift for a couple of months short of a year. It took a few months to completely relax and to let the world of work fade into the background.

I decided that was the time to retire and I set the process in working at the end of 2015. The sale of my home of 15 years would provide me with substantial more than I paid for it and allowed me to pay off my debts. Leading up to the day of retirement, I first took my vacation days for an extended stay at my borrowed, second home in Mexico.
I was enrolled in an on-line writing course with UBC that started in the new year. I worked from the roof top mirador (literally: view point) in the sun. I wrote the outline of my third novel with the smell of Mexico in my nose. I returned to Canada in mid-March.


On March 1, 2016 I put up my home for sale and sold it within three days for above-asking price, with a couple of offers on the go. I was lucky for it was the right time in the real estate market. After paying off my debts, I had enough left over to put an offer on a home in Mexico the following week, in the quaint village where I have been visiting for a number of years. I had been looking for years while asking the locals about anything available that I might be able to afford.
Until this year, I wasn’t able to move on actually buying. My offer (significantly below asking) was accepted. Houses do not sell quickly in Ajijic and it had been for sale for some years, while the winter rentals provided a nice income for the owners in the meantime. How could I lose?


The photo is blurry, because the ladies were jumping,  trying to avoid the cucarachas they imagined climbing up to their legs. I had not fumigated the casa before our arrival and there were some of these Mexican creatures running around when we arrived.

I spent two weeks in June in my Mexican village together with two of my friends to take possession of my new home and to get things organised with the caretaker. My home there is larger and more beautiful than anything I owned in Canada, although it is still simple, built and decorated Mexican style.
In November I made the trip again and I will stay here till spring 2017. The weather is perfect to me, between 22 and 27 degrees with cooler nights, sunny most days or at least for part of the day.


A year of not working, what is that like?

My home in Kelowna in the strata complex was not as restful as expected, with a new problem of second hand smoke from all the smoking neighbours penetrating my digs to a significant level throughout the day. I was glad to lock my door and leave for Mexico.
My days here in Mexico and in Kelowna have evolved into a general routine. I work through the mornings on my book manuscript and writing stories. Then I shop for my daily groceries. It feels like I have returned to the rhythm of my home country in the Netherlands with daily shopping for what you need and not anything more. Stockpiling is a waste and not necessary.


Here in Mexico I have a small tienda (shop) across from me, and three more around the corner; the baker brings daily fresh bolillos (buns) to the shops. By 11 a.m. these are sold out and the lunch preparations already started everywhere. Many small shops and restaurants offer food for low prices, and most shops have their specialities. No need to make your own tortillas, others will do that for you, and every day fresh. Beans, or refried beans in small or larger containers, tamales and empenadas, or for the Gringos more usual fare. Hamburgesas are everywhere available. From 2-4 most shops close for a rest. I have come to appreciate a little snooze at siesta time.


The afternoon here starts after 4 p.m. and are really evenings, as it gets dark after 6:00. Most people work till 7 p.m. after which their dinner time starts. I generally am a bit earlier, and I take most meals at home.


Mexican families in my neighbourhood enjoy their leisure time in the streets, half on their narrow sidewalks, and half inside, with kids playing on the streets. The children are out late, but by 10 p.m. all is quiet. At fiesta times it is not unusual to see a group start a small fire on the cobblestones in the street, to chase the cooler night air away while socializing, sitting on the sidewalk, or on plastic chairs, or just standing around, while the kids are playing.




The toro and the Zacayas are important symbols of the culture. The bull fighters are the Charros who represent courage and agility and form an integral part of the community. Some cities still have bullfights. In Ajijic the bull does not get killed or injured. During the last fiesta the previous year, too many kids had entered the bull pen, so the event was cancelled.

Sometimes I am out in the evening to see the procession for a fiesta when there is one going on, or go for a walk along the malecon (boulevard that borders the lake) or I stroll around on the plaza in the centre of town, where all roads lead to. I meet some friends/acquaintances and chat for a minute in the street. I meet new people while having a coffee at the coffeeshop, or a margarita-rocas at the Music Box pub. When at home, I watch my TV news and a movie on my Apple gadget in the evenings.


Chapala malecon

Occasional visitors are staying at my place the odd time. We try to do various activities in town and in the region. My last visitor and I have visited the hot springs and pools in the next town over, San Juan de Cosala, and went for a change of scenery to the larger town of Chapala a few times, where I also paid my tax bill for the year—less than the price of a dress. (I now pay my own bills, since I lost my house manager; she found me too demanding and since I am not going to rent out the place in winter, that was just as well.)
For the first time, I went with my friend for a spell at the casino located between the two towns, where a modern mall with food court and a Wal-mart outlet across the road attracts a different kind of clientele, mostly young people and gringos. We even found a Danish bakery there with a breakfast and lunch deli that sold excellent sour-dough bread.

It is easy to get around without car. The local bus in Mexico costs 7 pesos (CAD .50), and the express bus 10 pesos. The latter will go to Guadalajara, which costs more. The local bus runs every half hour and more often at rush hour.
Local agencies offer day tours in the area for about $30 for nearby trips that include a guide who speaks English. For longer trips including hotel around the state of Jalisco you pay more of course, such as to the Monarch buttefly sanctuary.


Guadalajara’s oldest church in Centro

My visiting friend and I took a trip to Tlaquepaque and Tonala, old towns that have been absorbed by the city of Guadalajara and are famous for their craftsmanship. We visited the workshop (taller) of a well-known, ageing ceramic artist who also took up painting. His family runs the front of his casa where they sell tacos and other Mexican delights.
On this trip we were granted an exclusive visit to a vast warehouse full of decorative metal products where we could purchase anything, if so desired. The trip then brought us to a glass worksop where recycled glass was used to make decorative as well as functional products.
Everything you saw in that home decor store in the US, Canada, or Europe was most likely made in Tonala, although China has started to copy its products, so look for the Hecho en Mexico sign.


Salvador Vasquez’ depiction of a Spanish ruler.

My real work is the writing work in which I can determine my own pace. My manuscript for a third novel is now in advanced stage and I am polishing it up, to be ready for the agents I will meet at the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference in February, just in case they ask me to send some of my work.

Occasionally I meet others here in the streets, as some gringos on vacation seem nicer here than at home and more open for a chat and making a connection, although many gringos at first walk by you with their noses in the air and hardly bother to greet you back. I found that those who live here full time are nice, and the Canadians are definitively nicer than the Americans here, generally speaking. But then again, I might be biased.


The patio where I work.

I have gone to another dimension, here in retirement. The life of work is so far behind me that I can’t believe it has only been a year. The nervous tension caused by expectations of others and the demands of supervisors and the conventions of social control are such an invisible environmental pressure that it takes to be completely away from it for an extended time before it even hits home what it was that made one feel tense.

Being away from my country makes it more obvious that the secret of successful retirement is finding a comfortable environment. The living is very easy in Mexico. Live and let live. Everybody leaves me alone, unless I indicate I seek connections. My neighbours know me and say hello and chat when I chat, although with my limited knowledge of Spanish it won’t be a long talk.


The odd creepy feeling comes over me and then I check where it comes from. Mostly it is from warnings from others that have taken up the media prejudice against Mexico: Is it safe there? That in the USA more attacks and more shootings occurred in which the general public was the victim than in Mexico from violence between the cartels is an inconvenient fact that most ignore.
It took a while to find out that the collection of youth gathering most nights in front of my home, are just that: Friends who gather, have a drink, or smoke up some, and quietly spend time together, talking. They remember their friend, Cleo, who killed himself some years back. His name is on the pedestal of the statue that forms a small altar for the Virgen de Guadalupe. They politely return my greetings when I arrive at my place when they are there.

I feel great.The first year of my retirement has been a success.

Posted in apartment and condo living; smoking, architecture, Babyboomer, Dealing with aging and dating, Diversity issues, Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Global immigration, International politics, Mental health, Mexican life, Relocation to mexico, Retirement, single women, travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


TRUMP’S ELECTION has a lot of people very worried, with good reason. History repeats itself for those who will not learn from it.This is how Germany got in over its head about 83 years ago. It may serve as a warning.



American Eagle


When Hitler got the majority of the German electorate behind his policies, his actions up till then were not all that alarming. After all, he got there legitimately. Only in hindsight seemed his actions to have unavoidably lead to the mass extinction of the victims of this white supremacist, xenophobic dictator.



German Eagle

Except to his targets–the Jewish Germans–who knew very well by the day that his chancellorship started in February 1933 that their lives might be in danger. On April 1, 1933, Hitler implemented a national boycott of Jewish businesses, followed by the introduction of the ”Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” of April 7, 1933, which was one of the first laws to persecute Jews by excluding them from state service.




Only the smart ones left the country then, which wasn’t all that easy to do. In those days of economic depression and political turmoil, an exit permit and immigration approval from other nations were hard to come by. Borders were not as permeable as they currently are in the modern European Community. Many thought it wouldn’t be as bad and the hateful talk was just bluster.

The composer Kurt Weil had left the country, and Hannah Arendt, the strong feminist philosopher of fame (who wrote her controversial book about the trial of Albert Eichmann in Jerusalem), both were examples of those who saw the writing on the wall.

(Movie Margarethe von Trotta: Hannah Arend)




Hannah Arendt



Margarethe von Trotta


Hitler promised his supporters economic prosperity, reminding the Germans of their history, when the once-great German Empire under the Habsburg dynasty ruled the world. He was going to make Germany great again, making sure that all Germans would get a share in the wealth. He was a nationalist: Germany first–then the rest of the world.


German nazis demonstrating.

Hitler called himself a socialist–all Germans would share in the nation’s wealth. But the socialist varnish soon disappeared, when he started blaming the communists (the Marxists=the Jews) for the troubles in Germany, and for losing World War I, calling them disloyal and a danger to the unity of the nation, thus marking the targets for his followers’ distrust and anger. An overwhelmingly Caucasian population ate it up. In a world full of white skin, the ideal Germanic Übermensch (according to Hitler) had blond hair, and bleu eyes, although Hitler fell short in that category himself.

Disappointment with the disastrous results of the lost war–only fifteen years prior– was fresh in people’s memory, its humiliating defeat still on everybody’s mind. Many fathers had become invalid, if not dead. The ‘common folk’ were sensitive to future losses. All Germans in 1933 desperately needed a win.


images-3.jpegWir Sind Die Schrittmacher — we are making strides (in Germany)


In the USA (and in other industrialized nations), many whites  recently lost their job,  as the economy became globalized.  They see Trump as their hero, who promises to get back lost industries, although the largest section of Trump voters apparently were those with average income of $75,000. They have indeed something to lose, but maybe not what they think they will lose.

The war in Vietnam was a disaster, so was the Iraq initiative to depose Saddam Hussein, and now Afghanistan and in Syria against the IS rebels. The US army doesn’t seem able to win anymore. Trump says that Putin is a hero, he is a strong man, we like him, if only we had such a leader we could win. Those seem to be acceptable views, although short-sighted thoughts, and  it does indicate what sort of a man Trump is: Violence demands violence, and take what you want.


images-4.jpegIn the thirties Americans were willing to take any job.


Hitler started a massive infrastructure rebuilding program, just like the new USA president-elect Trump announced he will start. With shared private-public funding of mass projects, Hitler indeed managed to give the economy a jolt.

Trump will undoubtedly favour his own corporations and friends’ businesses with massive tax breaks for working on those projects.

Hitler was not an educated politician, but a frustrated failed artist, rejected twice by the Art Academy, a labourer. He was an immigrant from Austria who was homeless for a while, until he joined the German army as an Austrian. He saw a bit of war, but was mostly stationed behind the front lines, although he obtained an iron cross for having been in WW1.

Working his way up rather quickly to a political appointment  through his way of convincing and inspiring others, he became the German Chancellor. He then appointed a master of indoctrination and propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who further administered the poison pill to the German Volk, to great effect, as we all know.

Hitler collected loyal followers around him  who would blindly follow his orders and to make the laws needed to advance Hitler’s agenda.

Doesn’t this sound like Trump’s assignment of Stephen Bannon as his propaganda minister?


The masses were no problem for Hitler, and were already inspired by Hitler’s national pride-inciting speeches, delivered in rambling rants and raves that just hit the spot with listeners, to raise their blind admiration. Sounds familiar?

It was a politically restless time after WWI, when the German nation had become a republic; a few coups were attempted. After another attempted coup in August 1934, Hitler convinced the cabinet to enact a law abolishing the office of president, combining its powers with those of the chancellor. Hitler thus became head of state, as well as head of government and was formally named leader and chancellor.

As head of state, Hitler became supreme commander of the armed forces. Hitler disbanded the German parliament, when he was sure he could get away with it, effectively making Germany a dictatorship.

One would think that German citizens would protest, and that indeed happened to an extent, coming from the intellectuals on the left of the political spectrum, i.e. communists, socialists, educators and artists, and from Jewish circles, the latter often fitting more than one category. However, the protestors had been effectively  made ineffective in their protest by the propaganda ministry; those that persisted, just got arrested.

images-2.jpegRecent demonstrations in Germany against the rise of white supremacy.


Why did the Jewish generate such hate? What was that about?  Many non-Europeans might not know how the Jewish in Europe got their ‘special’ position of outliers in the community. History is conveniently forgotten. Many private citizens, church officials and governments have played a role that wasn’t always nice. It also took a long while before the Jewish themselves believed, no–hoped–it wouldn’t come to this, counting on the presence of rational thinking in others.

It’s a long story, that needs to be explored, but the short version: During the advance of Christianity all over Europe, the Christian religious leadership pointed to the Jewish as the original murderers of Christ. Religion is what ruled the masses, with the priests as the puppet masters. Blindly following religious leaders is not a recent invention.

We all know the story of Christ, who was a Jewish pacifist born in the old territory on the Mediterranean Sea (later called Palestine) that was occupied by the Roman Empire. Jesus Christ, exposed the religious leadership of being in cahoots with the Roman oppressors-occupiers of the Palestinian-Judean lands. Christ paid for his rebellion with his life. After his religious leadership turned him over to the occupying force, he was crucified by the Romans. He became the martyr for the Christian rebel movement that later got established as the main religion in Europe.

As we all know, governing authorities seem to more easily ‘manage’ the masses when providing them with a target and a focus for hate, gladly stirring up emotions, to distract the attention away from the real issues that the leadership doesn’t want to be scrutinized on.

After the start of Christianity, the believers of the Jewish religion (including those non-practicing), were officially banned from all official trade unions (guilds) in the cities of Europe; they could not attend universities, were not eligible for charity, and so on. They were relegated to the edges of European society.

But the the Jewish Diaspora in Europe successfully survived by reinventing themselves, specializing in trades outside of the established trade organizations (e.g. in the arts, as diamond cutters, in commerce, money lending, etc.), forming their own organizations and charities, favouring their own from within their community, once established. Their successes for instance in banking and the arts irked many non-Jewish, then and now. Anti-Semitism among the non-Jewish has continued over the centuries to this day, and not only in Europe.

After World War 1, the Allied had regained the Palestine territory from the Syrian Ottoman empire and it came under mandate of the British through the League of Nations (forerunner of the UN).

After WW2, Palestine became the place Jewish Europeans, who had survived the extermination camps, settled. They still held Palestine in their memory as their original homeland from many centuries ago. The Europeans had demonstrated they didn’t care for the Jewish citizens, so not much attachment to that place lingered, so many survivors elected to move to the land that was historically promised according to their religion. Others immigrated to America, Canada and Australia.

The battle for legitimacy as a Jewish nation then started in Palestine. The Allied conveniently had disregarded Palestine’s then-population, an Arab tribe (originally related to the Jewish brethren that had left the territory centuries earlier). Like the other Arab tribes of the Middle East, they had turned to Islam at the time the Europeans turned to Christianity.


Back to 1934.

Besides the Jewish German intellectuals, the non-Jewish intellectuals  also read the writing on the wall, and soon withdrew from all criticism on the Hitler government. Fit was made clear that one had to choose, for or against the Nazis: there was no middle ground. Most intellectuals had abandoned their Jewish friends and colleagues already by 1934.

Hitler made all kinds of laws with the help of his gang of administrators. Human principles or international laws didn’t count anymore. Hitler started early on with excluding certain segments of the population, with the acceptance of the general population. He pushed the buttons of fear and loathing in the population that were so well developed in his speeches: against criminals, anti-German elements, those that only misuse the national resources and have no right to those benefits, traitors to the national cause.


Trump calls them Mexicans, criminals, terrorists, and Muslims. Media reports told of how he also used coded words for Jewish Americans, raising the acceptance of anti-Semitism in the USA. He figured about 3 million criminal Mexicans are in the US. What was their crime?

Being Mexican and working for decades, paying taxes and having children cannot be a crime. How come not any of the previous elected governments didn’t address the undocumented issue earlier in the game, when it was known where they lived without a permit to stay, as they were already paying taxes to the tune of billions of dollars? The US governments didn’t want to miss out on those and needed the labourers. It’s as easy as that.  Ans that the Mexicans and others from Central and South America take the jobs at a lesser pay that the local Americans don’t want to do, just like the European Jewish took the niche markets, and made a success of themselves.

Envy is the green eyed monster that destroys.

Hitler’s National-Socialists were nationalist first. As the national anthem states: Germany over the World (Deutschland über Alles in der Welt).

Trump defies a category; he acts under the Republican banner, but what is he really? He found a good banner to fly under, and the Republican leadership hastily accepted him as their ticket to staying in power. Trump certainly is a nationalist, “making America great again”, the greatest country in the world, many Americans believe right now.

Hitler’s ‘socialist’ identity only pertained to the white supremacists themselves, who shared in the wealth–for a while at least, when the economic miracle lasted. When he started deporting the Jewish Germans, the invalids, the Roma, gays and the mentally ill, it was too late.

He first annexed various territories to his Reich, followed by the invasion of many other nations, with disastrous results for all of Europe and the world. Hitler started his march through eastern Europe in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, six years after his appointment as Chancellor (=Prime Minister equivalent). Another six years later, in 1945 all of Europe was in shambles.

Will the world have to look forward to a similar fate with Trump’s election? Will he act with bluster and actual military interventions to international upsets (the middle east, and the Baltic nations come to mind) and thus invite retaliation, plunging the world into another global military conflict? Will he set back the US democracy and cause the undoing of the American Constitution?

Past this site in your browser to see a convincing video.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Week of Disasters




Today is the morning after Remembrance Day, the end of the week of disasters and of crying my eyes out–a Saturday. Even the heavens are soaking us with an intense downpour in this early hour, the light diffuse and the sound of water on metal roof trying to wash all sadness out of our system.






I cried for all those hit hard by the choice of half of the electorate for leading our neighbouring nation, the elected man who loudly announces his Hitleresque thoughts on anyone different from him. The future looks bleak for them and us. Will we face a repeat of history that I barely escaped then? The echo of war, not so long ago, reverberates.

The memories are still there, laid down in documents and drawings of resistance during 1940-1945.


At The Source Of Resistance, The struggle of the town of Ommen against the German occupation 1940-1945. Drawings by Jef Last, editor.



I cried for my father, for my ignorance all those years of who he was, for his life and his troubles from five imminently important years, none of which his children knew. Only when children wish to know–after our fathers are long gone–can we face up to the truth. I wished I had known then, but our parents didn’t speak about their fear, hurt and failure. He is the one with the pipe.



Seventy years passed and truth looks different now, anger and hurt has shifted; survivors pain and guilt died with the dead. All suffered under Hitler, some more so than others, each survivor finding a way for dealing with their realities in an infinite number of ways, from bad to good and everything in between.

Below a sheet of food vouchers from the distribution services, necessary to ensure that  every family got at least some food, as long as stocks lasted. Aardappelen-potatoes, Algemeen–general, Boter–butter, Melk–milk.


I cried for my lost generation, turning from dreamy and ignorant love children to desperately holding on to what they amassed. I cried for our poet with the heartbreaking voice singing goodbye so eloquently for the last years, warning us it will all come to this. I cried for my youth that has unavoidably died with his death.


Grieving, the pain of necessary healing, something we would like to avoid. Nevertheless, we need to feel it, just to become and stay human–complete.


My wish for the coming year is not to escape, but to use all emotions involved in that process, identify them, and then to hold on to strength, to become stronger, so we can stay human and truthful.


This statue in Amsterdam of the Dock worker was erected in remembrance of the wildcat strike of the workers in February 1941 against the treatment of our Jewish Dutch by the German occupational authority. The strike started in the docks of Amsterdam and was instigated by local communist leaders. The Dutch government had already prohibited the Communist Party before the German invasion,  because of the party’s criticism on the government that was interpreted as anti-Dutch and a threat to the stability of the country!

The real danger was not the Dutch communist party, but the neighbouring nation and its Nazi leader who already loudly announced his plans then to have an army and fight for its right, making the nation great again, planning to overrun the continent.

Lest we forget…..







Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



Finally, I also have become the victim of an unscrupulous swindler in the home clean air industry, in spite of thinking of myself as an educated, alert senior citizen.


I stay home much of my day as a writer and a retired person, so I value my indoor environment. As most of my friends will know, I have been bothered by the second hand smoke of various types coming from the other residents around me in the townhouse complex. Since the building was constructed 20 years ago, the used air exhaust and fresh air intakes are insufficient, but cannot be easily remedied without breaking holes in the roof, for which the strata council will not give permission.


To determine what to do about this air quality problem in my home, I contacted the City of Kelowna’s on-line service on air quality issues a month ago. The City of Kelowna responder called me and provided me with a phone number for a consult with a specialist. When I called, the consultant said he would do a home inspection and made an appointment. It turned out this was not a City employee, as I initially assumed.


The man who turned out to be the sole owner/operator of an independent company for home inspections, spent an hour or so discussing the issues with me. The Assure Property Solutions business was licensed by Consumers Protection BC according to its website. He talked about allergens and moulds. I made it clear to him that second hand smoke was the issue and that the air quality should be tested for smoke particles. I explicitly told him that I was not interested in allergens and pollens. We talked about an hour about all possible ways how smoke comes into the building and to improve the HVAC situation with its poor air quality.


When smoke entered my home right that moment through my cold air return grate, he recommended it would be a good time to test right then, so I agreed, first asking the price, then giving him the go-ahead. For a total bill of $729.75, an amount I could not afford to just throw away on a pensioner’s income, he would give me the evidence that I needed to stop the air quality issue. Totally worth it.

Strangely, he would not give me a receipt, although he insisted I would pay right then by email transfer, waiting for me to complete that. He would not provide a receipt, but said he would enclose it with the test results. I should have caught on right then, but didn’t.


I received the test results by email some days later with the receipt attached. The test used were exclusively meant for molds and spores. No ability to test for second hand smoke with its particles was possible with this test, or even included in the list of compounds and volatiles to be measured. I would not have paid, had I seen the receipt on the day of the tests that described mold tests. I objected in writing by email and requested a refund for the testing fees, as he had not delivered the test I asked for ($400). No reply.


Surprise, surprise, only after I contacted the Assure Property Solutions company man in writing to tell him I was going to involve others, he finally replied–14 days after the testing day. He denied he had sold me the wrong tests and denied all responsibility for his advice to have the test completed for my concerns of second hand smoke. He was not willing to reimburse me the testing fees and considered his business with me completed.


I contacted the City of Kelowna on line and advised that their recommended home inspection company is untrustworthy. As I did not get a reply, I saw a City employee in person at city hall for air quality, almost a week after the testing day, and spoke about the problem. She advised through Bylaw Services to contact the Better Business Bureau. Alas, Assure Property Services is not affiliated with that consumer protection company.  Later, that same day, I received an emailed reply confirming that the City of Kelowna cannot be responsible for their employees’ recommendations. This unreliable business is testing home air quality under false pretenses, recommended by the City. I am still not any closer to knowing how much smoke I am breathing in, and paid out $729.75 to a swindler, recommended by the City of Kelowna.


After my first contact with the Assure Property Solutions contractor, I had sent an on-line complaint to the Consumer Protection BC with whom the Assure Property Solutions was registered. Then two weeks after that, I spoke to somebody there. I heard that my concern doesn’t fall within their mandate. They strictly apply the BUSINESS PRACTICES AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT to the home inspection part of the services Assure Property Solutions provides. Any other services, air testing etc. is not included. So much for consumer protection.


I had another contact by email from the Assure Property Solutions contractor to offer me a phone call to straighten out the problem. This man denied what he had actually said in person during the testing, and conveniently did not remember that I explicitly told him not  to be interested in testing of mold and allergens. History is the best predictor of future actions, I thought, so I declined a phone call from him and said to send me an email if he has an offer. I repeated by request for reimbursement of the testing fees of $400. I assured him he could keep his (steep) consulting fee of $295.

Of course, I have no further offer received since….


I must walk around with my age on my face: Here is a senior, lets try to get her money. Fortunately, I will be off to Mexico soon for a few months, leaving this air quality conundrum behind.

Then again, REAL big problems I don’t have, like they have now in the USA! Where there’s smoke, there IS fire.

Posted in apartment and condo living; smoking, Babyboomer, Dealing with aging and dating, drug use., Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Global immigration, Green living, Kelowna event, Strata Living, Uncategorized, victims, Writing life | 3 Comments


The last Fortnight of a working life


One can only spend so much time listening to the radio with headphones on, reading emails, soliciting work from colleagues, and trying to come up with something to do, before boredom sets in. I wrote this story while listening to the radio show Definitely Not The Opera with Sook Yin Lee life broadcast from Saskatoon while texting on WhatsApp with my girlfriend in Amsterdam, sitting at my desk trying to be busy, doing what’s expected from a good civil servant. What’s to complain about, you ask? I hate boredom, can’t stand it; I want–no, need–to be busy!



I have become an inconvenient employee at the end of my work life, caught up with all the work available within and outside the parameters of my job description, looking desperately to fill my day with useful activities. My new supervisor further restricted the scope of my activities, and anyway, she is too busy catching up with her new role to wreck her brain on finding something for me to do.


Sure, purely for something to do, I could try to decorate an ugly Christmas sweater at work with sewn-on applications, so I can wear one–a request from upper management in an attempt to spread some holiday cheer—but no, that’s not me. I already decorated my office with last year’s stuff, but this year my window is squeaky-clean as well, because I have lots of time to cover for the failing janitor. You see, I am on the count down, with fourteen days until retirement, after a working life of 50+ years that started full time and full speed at age nineteen. With a bit of luck I get to be retired for another 20 years joining the silver wave.



Not many of my personal items are left to pack, as I dismantled my 2.5×5 meter spot—half the size of a prison cell, but more comfortable—that I occupied for the last  stretch of my working life. Half of my waking hours are spent at work, and yet the space was hard to make personal at the best of times. After my re-assignment, two years ago, I didn’t bother anymore with making the space mine: it was just a station on the way out. Like in the movies, I want to walk out on my last day of work with just one banker’s box and a smile on my face.



The R word is on everybody’s lips these days. Most often, the  voice of the lucky ones, close to that hallowed status, contain tones of anticipated liberation, while others can only yearn, calculating how many more years until freedom will come to them. Sometimes, questions and concerns arise about falling into an abyss without work. “What are you going to do all day?”


Yes, what? Travel, of course, and being away, and then travel to warm spots again.

But, first what I will do after I wake up, is not getting into get-ready-for-work mode, unless I chose to do so for an event that is not-work. I have no illusions of sleeping in with a cat (the little one in the photo, the black one has died) that is allowed in my bedroom and wakes me mornings with a gentle tap on my closed eyes, my mouth or nose. When I don’t respond, she drags a bit of claw over my skull, enough to be uncomfortable. Once or twice she has taken my nose between her four canines and the rest of the thirty teeth, luckily with not enough force to break my skin, just to warn me it is time to feed her. This week I noticed some tiny, crusty claw marks on my arm, with skin less sensitive, so I did not wake up. I must have been warm and sleeping heavily when she was ready to get up.


The coffee ritual is my daily treat already now, so why change a good thing? I ground my own coffee and brew a cup in my expresso maker. I enjoy it with my toast, religiously protecting this quiet time at the start of my day. After retirement, I might even take a second cup!


Next, I will read the newspaper on my iPad App, a luxury I allow myself on weekends only, but now any day I want to. Can we still call it a newspaper when no paper is involved?


I used to think this national paper was for conservatives, or least the centre/right in the Canadian political spectrum, and I was progressive, so what happened? Had I possibly become conservative over the years? Or did the nation’s conservatives turn ultra conservative, so that my paper needed to object and turn more progressive? Whichever the case might be, it turned out the Globe and Mail is the only national paper that I can stomach.


Harper made Canada look so intolerant with much finger pointing, finding targets for derision in women and members of non-Caucasian groups that I started to feel I should leave this country again. I was very happy that Harper and his crew of ultra conservatives-bordering-on-neo-fascists were thrown out of government. Hurray for common sense! As someone with definitive interests in politics, I just might volunteer with the upcoming preparations for changes in our electoral system, now that I have time on my hands.


But,  as a writer, my real job in retirement will be writing a third novel and entered a course to that purpose through UBC on line by Nancy Lee and Annabel Lyon, BC authors of novels that I enjoyed. I am excited and can’t wait to start this new phase of my life.



My office in Ajijic. Mexico


I will enrol in Spanish lessons. Habla Espanol? and hopefully will make new friends, away from work. img_0453





These photos are of local women and girls for a campaign to eat healthier, as so many in Mexico are overweight, threatening their health, mostly due to the vast amounts of pop and sugary snacks, not indigenous to their culture.


Next time I will write about the first year of retirement.

Please, rate this blog post at the top.  I welcome any comments you may have.

Posted in Author circles, Babyboomer, Creative fiction, Dealing with aging and dating, Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Global immigration, Green living, memoir writing, Mexican life, Publishing, Relocation to mexico, Retirement, Short story, travel, Uncategorized, Writing life | Leave a comment

READY TO KILL YOUR NEIGHBOUR? Strata No-Smoking Policies


In strata complexes all around the nation a battle is going on to make strata buildings smoke free. Stratas are considered private residences, as opposed to public buildings, which house businesses or government services.

Neighbours are not talking to each other. Lines are drawn, the dividing line  the tolerance or intolerance for  smoke in your private space.

Smokers say:
“Oh, just put a fan on your deck if you don’t want any smoke. Live and let live.”
“My deck is my space, and nobody can tell me what to do in my own house.”
“I can’t walk, so I need to smoke on my deck, because I don’t want to smoke inside.”

Non-smokers say:
“Why should I inhale your  smoke that you don’t want to inhale inside your home?”
“What makes you so special that trumps my right to clean air in my own home?”
“I have the right to enjoy my place without you polluting it.”

The British Columbia Tobacco Control Act and Regulations has formulated the policies for public building in B.C. for smokers. This act is already in effect and enforced for many years for public buildings. Evidence of it is that we can see smokers huddle at some distance from doors by an ashtray on a stand, or some kind of cement pillar with a dish filled with sand and cigarette butts. Included in the Act is that smokers need to stay away from open doors, air intakes, and entrances, at a distance to prevent smoke from seeping into buildings through those openings. More restrictions make smokers aware of their habit and maybe that they better make an effort to stop smoking.



It so happens that I live in a strata building; my unit is  is located adjacent to the breezeway. The dryer and stove hood vents are located in that corridor, as well as the fresh air intakes for the forced air heating/cooling.
Most units in my complex are in a two-unit stacked arrangement in blocks of four units, separated by a breezeway. Most decks are situated in that same line.
Except two decks at two different locations  in my block that are built right over the corridor in the breezeway, hanging in space half-way between the ground and the roof.  Those decks are only connected at two sides—to the wall of their respective unit and to the wall of their neighbouring unit across the corridor.



In my case I got the bad fortune to have a smoking neighbour. The “floating” deck of that smoking neighbour is completely open to the front and back.The smoke from the 2 smoking occupants of that unit rises to the ceiling of the breezeway, where the intake vents and exhaust outlets are located. The “fresh” air intake is intended to lead outside air into the furnace, so it can burn properly. When the furnace is not blowing heated air, outside air just rises passively, entering the furnace and just sits there.

That is exactly what happens. The passive air intake fills my duct system with the neighbours smoke. I do not use the A/C and when I can’t avoid it anymore (because it gets hot in the Okanagan Valley), the collected smoke gets blown throughout my home. The same happens when I turn on the heating.



My home stinks like a smokers den. The one neighbour who is at home full time, reading on her deck, seems to be a chain smoker and also smokes marijuana in the afternoons. I am so annoyed because I have given up that habit since my late twenties and chose not to smoke—anything. Period.

Strata councils have a duty to address breaches of the Bylaws with the occupants. The Bylaw breached is: Causing a nuisance that prevents another resident from enjoying their unit.
Since the previous summer I have tried to remedy this smoking issue. I sent a message to the strata council. I have approached the neighbours myself personally and made them aware of my problem with smoke; the problem subsided then for a while.

This year the problem was back in full force. The difference is that this year I am retired from my day job in a public building and am no longer protected from unwanted smoke.
I now work from home. The smoke hits my nose starting at 9:30 and doesn’t let up until I go to bed. It doesn’t matter if inside or outside, as my deck is exposed via the outside as well.

At the last two AGMs the council of my strata complex has made motions to make the whole complex non-smoking. The motion was clumsily formulated, put forward inadequately, and ultimately was defeated. I am left to find my own solutions, as the neighbour continues to smoke herself into the grave.

People don’t like change, and certainly not if it would interfere with their freedoms: What other residents do in their own homes is their problem.

Other stratas have successfully initiated new Bylaws that address the nuisance issue from smoking. One strategy could be to introduce the restrictions step by step, rather then make the whole strata complex non smoking.

The simplest strategy would be to get in line with the already existing overall smoking restrictions in the province by the B.C. Tobacco Control Act and Regulations, and adopt that law for the strata residences. It needs to be spelled out in the Bylaw addressing the nuisance use of residence that the balconies and decks are included in that Bylaw.




Bylaw 3:
Use of property and Strata KAS 1424 Bylaw # 3. RE: Balconies and Decks:
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY: Smoking is prohibited within 3 meters of the exterior perimeter of the townhouse building, specifically including all windows, doorways, air intakes and balconies. For the present time smoking continues to be permitted within individual residential units.

In this case smoking on all balconies is prohibited. As it concerns a new Bylaw or an amendment to an existing Bylaw, the owners need to ratify this addition at the AGM.

My strata’s council has been unsuccessful in stopping the neighbours’ nuisance. The neighbours and I have been working on a costly solution that might address most of the nuisance problem. I installed a screen on the side of my deck that is exposed to my neighbours’ smoke, entering my deck from along the gable of the building.
My neighbours are installing a same screen along the back of their deck, to stop the smoke from reaching the air intake.

The manufacturer claims that the screen material stops 95% of all air flow from going through. I sure hope so, as I am paying half of the costs of my neighbours’ screen, as well as my own.


Good fences make good neighbours, they say. That applies to strata complexes as well.


Having similar problems? Look up on line what you can do about it. Please, rate and pass on if you think someone else might like this post.

Posted in apartment and condo living; smoking, architecture, Babyboomer, Diversity issues, drug use., Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Green living, Kelowna event, latest news items, Retirement, Strata Living, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


image[2]Canadian troops in Holland

Canadian troops entering a small town, liberating the Netherlands (in Dalfsen)


Seventy years after the end of World War II at the height of summer, the Van Noorden family got together on a typical Dutch day with rain drops and fleeting sunshine taking turns in short bursts, making it difficult for the hosts to determine where to stage the seating arrangements.

The habit of meeting had slowly grown over the years and became more formalized after the matriarch, Frieda, passed away at age 89, ten years after her husband, Kaleb, expired from a massive heart attack. If not for Frieda’s birthday, nobody would ever meet again, as Frieda and Kaleb’s offspring were not all that close; even some resentment from childhood years lingered.  However, nobody was yet prepared to let the family fall apart with Frieda’s death and become another alienated family—so many extended family members had died already, alone and estranged.

From then onwards, the Van Noorden relatives met bi-annually: brothers and sisters and their offspring. Recently, after the sudden death of one cousin, (most cousins had attended her funeral after years of alienation), they decided to have a reunion day for the cousins as well. So one day was allocated to the children, and the next day, the cousins on mother’s side would meet.

Kaleb’s relatives were strangers; nobody had met all of Kaleb’s eleven siblings, or even remembered their names.  All members of the war generation had long gone; only stories were left now. The one member who missed most of these gatherings was living in Canada, Wilhelmina, but this time in 2015, she was present.

World War II, a significant event in all of the world’s history, certainly had overshadowed the Van Noorden family. War had already caused a split between twin brother Franz and his sister Frieda during the years of German occupation, although it was unclear to most of the second generation–just children then, or not even born—how and why that happened. It took for them to grow into old age to want to explore those years with each other, finally wondering what kind of people their parents really had been and by extension, why they themselves had become who they are. Betrayal, loyalty, secrecy, and collaboration with the enemy were subjects too sensitive for open discussion. Secrecy had continued after the war; nobody wanted to talk much about those years.



Rotterdam, main harbour city in the west Netherlands after the “Blitzkrieg” 1940.

After the war, life had continued with social changes of tremendous impact for the Dutch. Many disappeared to Canada longing for a clean slate elsewhere, thus escaping the bleak years of rebuilding. Some of the emigrants had been on the wrong side of the war: collaborators with the enemy. Others were women who had met these strapping young Canucks and Yankees and had fallen in love over a liberation libation. Some were left behind, pregnant. Many children with overseas’ fathers were born post war: illegitimate children, as they were called then and some children followed decades later, on a quest to find their dad after their parent’s passion had weakened, but blood ties still pulled.

The Dutch nation felt that they owed their freedom, and even their lives sometimes, to the allied troops:  Canadians and Americans soldiers that liberated the towns and villages in hard-won battles, losing many lives doing it, and cementing Dutch loyalty in post war times.

No surprise then that the youngest of the post war generation, Wilhelmina Van Noorden, left for Canada with her parents’ blessing, to join a Canadian young man she had met on a vacation in that northern land. She was born four years after the war; her name signified a nation’s strong emotional connection to the Dutch royal house and Queen Wilhelmina whose family had been in exile in Canada and had been the Dutch national symbol of strength and loyalty during the German occupation.



Dresden bombed flat near the end of war in 1945, with more civilians dead than Nagasaki and Hiroshima put together. 

War is a strange paradigm for life; it had never been real to Wilhelmina, although it overshadowed her life, nevertheless. In grade school her post war generation was extensively educated on the perils of discrimination and intolerance with examples of what had happened during WWII. At a young age Wilhelmina saw photos and movies of live skeletons with hollow eyes that had survived the concentration camps—people that were Jewish, homosexual, developmentally delayed, or otherwise disabled or punishable in the eyes of the Nazi-German administration.  These survivors, originating not only from Germany, but also from the Nazi-occupied territories including the Netherlands, had been shipped into cattle rail cars and brought to near-extinction in German extermination camps, transfer and forced labour camps.  The children were shown in grainy black-and white videos and photos piles as high a house, made up of millions of bones of the actually exterminated—six million persons gone–and piles of suitcases, and boots, and hair to be used for pillow fill, and large open dug outs with emaciated bodies, not even covered by dirt, as the last of the German staff had fled. Actual ovens burned many people in a very organized manner. She even saw photos of lampshades made of human skin, and basins full of gold ripped from mouths.

All of the atrocious facts of that particular war were scary mysteries to Wilhelmina; how could this have existed? How could people let that happen to other people, to children, to their neighbours and their close friends? For Wilhelmina it was like a Grimm’s tale of horror and indeed, like many other children, she was traumatized for life, because it wasn’t just a story. In adolescence she became a pacifist, flirted with communism, and rejected conformism passionately. She did not readily accept her parents’ limits when the limits made no sense. She excelled in high school academically, but battled the authorities, which cost her with extra years to learn to comply. She left home and parental control as soon as she could.

As an adult, Wilhelmina became a passionate advocate for the lost and vulnerable, unable to become anything else under the brutal post-war education that lasted for years, and probably still carries on today in present-day Holland in a similar nothing-to-hide vein. The intent and motivation could be explained, sure. After the war, children embodied their parents’ hope for a better future for the nation, for the world. No wonder this generation of children were the love children and despised war: Make love, not war.

The sad part of the Dutch history is that the intent of education was the prevention of future genocide, although probably fuelled by guilt feelings. The Netherlands (and Britain, France, Belgium, the USA, all other nations involved) could have prevented millions of deaths, had they recognized in time what the Nazi regime was up to, and been less politically naïve about the Nazi goals and the Hitler politics, and had they recognized the envious, angry, anti-Semite in themselves, enough to stand up and arm themselves earlier and put aside their differences for the purpose of  peace, and not for  the accumulation of  territory. But somebody had to be blamed for poverty and stock market crash of 1929 and the following depression…

Hitler was successfully elected, and welcomed in the  German speaking neighbouring countries, because  he promised jobs and the restoration of honour and German pride in their nation, and he put the money where his mouth was, with extensive allocation of government money towards infra structure building rods and bridges and  electricity lines (and in secret, war equipment). Unemployment disappeared.


Syria in ruins

Other wars have started since; genocide was repeated. The United Nations had replaced the League of Nations–powerless before de war—which seems equally powerless to stop aggressive invasions without the presence of an impending war. Examples enough:  USA in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia in the Ukraine, Britain in the Falklands, and so on. Those that did not learn, are condemned to repeat history. The Jews of today are Muslims, Mexicans, Koptic Christians, Tootsies, Suni Muslims, fill in the blanks.

There are more people on the move now than after the second world war. Have we,  the human race,  learned anything yet?







Posted in Author circles, Babyboomer, Children, Diversity issues, EU, Global immigration, Immigration, International politics, Parenting, religion, righteousness, the Netherlands, Uncategorized, victims, world issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,100 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 35 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


For the SAIL AMSTERDAM event I coincidentally happened to be in the city for a family reunion weekend; prior to this weekend event I stayed with my sister in Amsterdam. As the only one who emigrated, this trip is an expensive one that I could not make each year. This year I decided to be there, as we are all getting older and some of us already are hitting the eighty-year old bar, scary enough! As a warning to all of us, one of my cousins – just a few years ahead of me – had already passed away by a massive heart infarct. Memento Mori!

2015 trip to Amsterdam 469

SAIL Amsterdam is an event organized by the City of Amsterdam and the SAIL Foundation with its partner, ACE Concept & Events and takes place every five years. The goal as explained on its website:
• Promoting the city and Port of Amsterdam, the North Sea Canal Area and the municipalities within the Area.
• Fostering interest in classic sailing ships, round and flat bottoms, training ships and the like.
• Inspiring enthusiasm in younger audiences in regards to sailing at sea and inland, and also in Dutch seafaring and its history.

Amsterdam has a centuries-old harbour and was the trade centre for all of the Netherlands in its early days, as most would know. The Red Light District adjacent to the harbour in the heart of old Amsterdam is well known across the world, which is a by-product of seamen and other travellers coming to the city for a brief stay and in need of sexual relief after long days away from their usual go-to-girls. The Dutch of course deal with this phenomenon as a matter of fact and out in the open, as with anything. No, no photos here of that; you will just have to visit.

The Netherlands is often called Holland, which are the names of the two most important provinces in the nation (North – and South-Holland), where the astonishingly rich merchants’ home were located on its canals, and where the Rembrandts of that time plied their trade, documenting the wealth and importance of these nouveau riches. The fact is that these are only two of 12 provinces that currently make the nation: the Netherlands started as a republic of seven provinces that were more like merchants’ fiefdoms.
Holland’s history as a seafaring and trading nation is not as pretty as the pretty looks of the city may lead us to believe.
From Wikipedia:
“The Trade Companies were the most feared merchandizing competition around the world, specifically for the trade in spices and, to our shame, also of slaves in its day, as early as the 1600.
The United East Indian Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie; VOC), referred to by the British as the Dutch East India Company, was originally established as a chartered company in 1602, when the Dutch government granted it a 21-year monopoly on Dutch spice trade. It is often considered to have been the first multinational corporation in the world and it was the first company to issue stock. It was a powerful company, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts, negotiate treaties, strike its own coins, and establish colonies.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 377

Statistically, the VOC eclipsed all of its rivals in the Asia trade. Between 1602 and 1796 the VOC sent almost a million Europeans to work in the Asia trade on 4,785 ships, and netted for their efforts more than 2.5 million tons of Asian trade goods
By contrast, the rest of Europe combined sent only 882,412 people from 1500 to 1795, and the fleet of the English (later British) East India Company, the VOC’s nearest competitor, was a distant second to its total traffic with 2,690 ships and a mere one-fifth the tonnage of goods carried by the VOC. The VOC enjoyed huge profits from its spice monopoly through most of the 17th century.
(My addition: little of the wealth was turned over to the local population. When rebellions broke out among the locals, the Dutch army suppressed those in bloody fashion.)

2015 trip to Amsterdam 370

2015 trip to Amsterdam 374

2015 trip to Amsterdam 375

Having been set up in 1602, to profit from the Malukan spice trade, in 1619 the VOC established a capital in the port city of Jayakarta and changed the city name into Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia). Over the next two centuries the Company acquired additional ports as trading bases and safeguarded their interests by taking over surrounding territory. It remained an important trading concern and paid an 18% annual dividend for almost 200 years.
Weighed down by corruption in the late 18th century, the Company went bankrupt and was formally dissolved in 1800.
After their advances in the East, the Dutch merchants went also westwards. From Wikipedia: From On June 3, 1621, it (the West Indian Company) was granted a charter for a trade monopoly in the West Indies (meaning the Caribbean) by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and given jurisdiction over the Atlantic slave trade, Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America. The area where the company could operate consisted of West Africa (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Cape of Good Hope) and the Americas, which included the Pacific Ocean and the eastern part of New Guinea. The intended purpose of the charter was to eliminate competition, particularly Spanish or Portuguese, between the various trading posts established by the merchants. The company became instrumental in the Dutch colonization of the Americas.”

2015 trip to Amsterdam 307

So far Wikipedia; thank you, writers.
In modern times, all major cruise lines stop in the region at the terminal at IJmuiden (the Felison Cruise Terminal) just before the locks of IJmuiden, which form the connection between the Noord Zee North Sea) kanaal (canal) and the Noord Zee. To enter the waterways, ships have to go through locks, as the level of all inner waterways in the Netherlands are tightly controlled, so the tides and extreme climates have no effect. The North Sea Canal is 272 meters wide and 20 km long (11 nautical miles).

2015 trip to Amsterdam 186

2015 trip to Amsterdam 181

2015 trip to Amsterdam 182

Like most, also the Dutch got smart at their peril, through a severe flood in 1953 that caused many deaths: dyke breaks after extreme windstorms and a flash tide flooded the country in its south west corner. The Dutch invented extreme ways in controlling the water in response top this national disaster. I still remember the trucks going door to door to collect clothing and bedding and other donations for the victims; although I was a four year old, I was crying over having to part with my beautiful, wool cape.
Anybody interested in the ingeneering feats should visit the Delta Werken and the Afsluitdijk: engeneering marvels that closed off open the waters connected to the Noord Zee (North Sea) and the large dyke that blocked off the inner sea – IJsselmeer. All ships coming from the North Sea and the Channel must pass through the locks to access the waterways of the hinterland: the nations beyond and the Rijn (Rhine) river.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 362

The terminal in Amsterdam (Passenger Terminal Amsterdam) is fantastically situated in the city centre. Both terminals offer a high level of service and easily meet the requirements that shipping companies place on docks. What’s more, the terminals are located just a short distance from Schiphol Airport. “The good connection with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is ideal from IJmuiden”, explains the captain of the Prinsendam. The surrounding region is another reason for shipping companies to choose Amsterdam and IJmuiden as a port of call. As far as possible, the greatest compliment for the ports was made by the captain of the L’Austral (Compagnie du Ponant): “Sailing into Amsterdam continues to be one of the best experiences for a captain and his passengers.”
The SAIL event has become the maritime event of peaceful and enjoyable social-cultural happenings for locals and visitors alike, with the traditional Tall Ships and other programming in and around the IJ-haven, including a host of big and small events. Quoted from the SAIL website:

2015 trip to Amsterdam 365

“The Port of Amsterdam has been SAIL’s nautical partner from the outset. The inaugural edition of SAIL took place in 1975, organised as part of celebrations marking Amsterdam’s 700th jubilee. Entitled ‘SAIL Amsterdam 700’, the event saw ships from all corners of the world invited to moor in Amsterdam. And they were pleased to make the trip! Over the decades, SAIL has evolved from a celebration for Amsterdam into a celebration for everyone! The ships go on to visit other cities over the world, although this year’s even – the ninth in Amsterdam – was the best ever with the most tall ships visiting since its inception. The SAIL Amsterdam Foundation worked together with SAIL Event Partners for the very first time.”

2015 trip to Amsterdam 376

In the days when Tall Ships remain in Amsterdam harbor, many other events – classic music concerts on the classic ships, pop and jazz shows, special contests for the young, demonstrations by the Dutch Navy, and fireworks shows make Sail Amsterdam a fantastic and unique festivity. Sail Amsterdam is a free event. You may watch the ships’ parade from different spots in the city. All concerts are also free and so is admission to the ships to visit them.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 185

The most fun part of the event for me was to see all those other traditional and heritage ships and smaller boats, and anything that can float and was registered (=allowed to participate in the fleet) cruising along in the waters and accompanying each of the Tall Ships to their mooring spot in the Amsterdam Port. The comparison of a giant engulfed by a large swarm of bees came to mind. Especially fun was watching the one ferry that remained active during the sail-in parade, darting across the IJ between ships and boats, right through the mayhem, to take its passengers across. It must have taken skill to not run over others.
An enormous fleet of flotsam and jetsam was swarming the stars of the event, many starting from the point after the docks of the port of Ijmuiden all the way to their docking sites in Amsterdam Port, a trip of about ½ hour per car. The maximum speed limit for boats on the North Sea Canal, IJ, and IJhaven (Oranjehaven) during the SAIL-In Parade (19 August) was 6 km/h.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 339

The Tall Ships that attended can all be seen on the website of Sail and are spectacular, worthwhile looking at and reminding ourselves of their history.

My sister and I decided last minute that since this event is here, we probably should make an effort to attend. We have not a moment regretted that decision. Actually, she and I went twice. First to see the float of 70 tall ships on their sail-in parade and then to send them off.

We left home early to ensure we even would have a spot to watch from; we crossed the IJ on the ferry with hundreds of others with the same idea, to watch from the island across from Centraal Station. We ended up sitting on the cement, on the terraced patio in front of the Eye building, where we clung onto to a spot on the floor by the waterfront of about 2 square meters, defending our spot against all invaders that begrudged us our first-row seats. We had miscalculated that the Eye might be open and its patio, but it was closed for a private event: for special Burghers only. Well, I guess we were not special.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 293

2015 trip to Amsterdam 213

2015 trip to Amsterdam 291

2015 trip to Amsterdam 214

2015 trip to Amsterdam 281

2015 trip to Amsterdam 2822015 trip to Amsterdam 283


2015 trip to Amsterdam 300

2015 trip to Amsterdam 292

2015 trip to Amsterdam 293

2015 trip to Amsterdam 294

2015 trip to Amsterdam 296

2015 trip to Amsterdam 302

2015 trip to Amsterdam 304

2015 trip to Amsterdam 307

2015 trip to Amsterdam 308

2015 trip to Amsterdam 309

2015 trip to Amsterdam 203

2015 trip to Amsterdam 204

2015 trip to Amsterdam 320

2015 trip to Amsterdam 325

Together with thousands of other celebrants, we sat and sat for hours. This was when we had some snappy responses to those who tried to impinge on our spot (some mother who thought that her brood was special) and we told them to go somewhere else, as this place was full. After 3 hours, when my behind was beginning to feel numb (we had not brought any folding stools, or pillows) the first ships sailed in about 2 PM. The Dutch ship Stad Amsterdam was leading in full sail mode, impressive. Yes, it made my breath halt in my throat and my heart fill up with pride, against my expectations, as I am pretty much a sceptic on nationalistic feelings. I even have Canadian citizenship now, but – you can’t take Holland out of the woman.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 329

2015 trip to Amsterdam 333

2015 trip to Amsterdam 334

2015 trip to Amsterdam 340

2015 trip to Amsterdam 352

2015 trip to Amsterdam 356

2015 trip to Amsterdam 362

Hours later ships were still coming in, 70 ships in all — a very large number at that pace of 6 km/hr. By this time at 6 PM my body protested and we went off to eat and sit in a real chair on the patio of a restaurant, further down the waterfront. From here we saw the tail of the Sail-in while eating and drinking in comfort.
The sun was off and on hiding behind the clouds during the day and it had spattered a bit with some drops earlier, but now the sun was out steady. We walked along the ships docked already at this side of the IJ and had a little chat with the sailors on the Tarangini from India, officers by the looks of their uniforms and proud of it! They were very open to chatting; the pleasure was mutual.

My second time was when the ships were all moored off a day or two later. A good friend of mine and I went to visit the ships to take in the sights and enjoy the atmosphere; some ships were open for visitors. As there was no line-up to get on as with other ships, we happened to visit the ……. . bumping into the captain, a short, thin man in his early fifties, the size of my friend, not more than 5 feet 2 or so. His relatives were visiting, apparently his wife and some others, children included. He was sure a proud man, but completely remaining in his role.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 404

2015 trip to Amsterdam 378

2015 trip to Amsterdam 386

2015 trip to Amsterdam 415

2015 trip to Amsterdam 376

2015 trip to Amsterdam 367

2015 trip to Amsterdam 368

2015 trip to Amsterdam 379

2015 trip to Amsterdam 382

2015 trip to Amsterdam 3832015 trip to Amsterdam 405


2015 trip to Amsterdam 395

2015 trip to Amsterdam 408

2015 trip to Amsterdam 413

2015 trip to Amsterdam 409

2015 trip to Amsterdam 418

2015 trip to Amsterdam 390

2015 trip to Amsterdam 426

2015 trip to Amsterdam 456

On the front deck of the ship a statue of the virgin-mother Maria was temporarily attached to the steering house, with a protective roof made of fresh flowers.

I held the camera over my head (portholes were too high for me to have a peek) and snap a photo from the kitchen, curious what it might look like, and saw later that the cook was making some treats.

Other ships were having private parties for invited guest only. It was a lively evening and at the end of every day, fireworks.
There was plenty to eat and drink at mobile kitchens with instant patios and at existing cafes on the various quays that hosted the ships. To my embarrassment I have to say that we did not go any further than the first quay with the Bim Huis concert hall closest to the Centraal Station, as the event was just too large to see all of the ships and to wander along all of the quays.
In spite of the many visitors, the quays are wide and accommodating and it was very comfortable in my opinion. We had some snacks and some glasses of wine in several locations along the route.
Of course, when in Amsterdam, do as they do and take public transit. Even if you don’t want to, there is no choice: no vehicle traffic is allowed at the event and to all of its venues. Extra ferries were put in service and extra access to walking routes, as all roads were now open for walkers/closed for cars (only emergency vehicles).
It was lovely: it relaxed the general mood and slowed down the crowds who apparently enjoyed it all as much as I did: not one incident or hostile remark from others and only friendly responses. I hope we can do that more in my small city of Kelowna within our city core.2015 trip to Amsterdam 457


2015 trip to Amsterdam 367

The third time, my sister and I sent the tall ships off on departure day. We experienced the wind-down of the event: the crew climbing into the wands, balancing on the beams and tucking in the sails, manoeuvring like fearless trapeze artists to make the ship ready. Captains of different ranks whistling their specific tunes, with crews responding telling us the code. Goodbye bands on deck were playing salsa and mambo to the crowds. Finally, with all hands on deck, and girlfriends dancing on the quay before sailing off, the final goodbyes; there they went, to a next port and new loves….

2015 trip to Amsterdam 456

2015 trip to Amsterdam 458

2015 trip to Amsterdam 459

2015 trip to Amsterdam 460

2015 trip to Amsterdam 461

2015 trip to Amsterdam 402

2015 trip to Amsterdam 469

2015 trip to Amsterdam 422

On that day, the crowds were stupendous, and even the Crowd Management officials had trouble keeping things moving along. By sheer luck we had elected to have a beer and escape the crowds a bit, by withdrawing at a patio table of a café on the quay, right across from the ships that were a lot of fun to watch a few moments later. These ships had brought their own bands: the South American Guayas from Ecuador and its neighbour the Arc Gloria from Columbia.
The crews visibly enjoyed the spectacle and all the attention from the crowd, especially from the young nubile maidens that were lined up on the quay and were handing them flowers, papers with addresses, kisses, etc. Oh, how I wished to have been young…I would have been there in that line-up. We saw the responses from the young handsome sailors, joshing with each other while standing on board at the “all hands on deck” signal, just as cute as anything in their pride of their conquests, and this sceptic – me – loved seeing that. Oh, the promise of love is international and universal…

It was overall a very festive and unusual atmosphere in Amsterdam, in spite of the sometimes overwhelming crowds and the slow pace of everything, much like a big family party, as if we all knew each other. It brought the world together over ships from Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Ecuador, Colombia, Poland, USA, Chili, Russia, Czech Republic, Sierra Leone, India, and Australia.

If there was any discord, it might have been the presence of the Chilean ship Esmeralda, under protest of former prisoners and their relatives who were picketing and has a banner strung in front of the ship; with the question: Where are our relatives2015 trip to Amsterdam 423?


2015 trip to Amsterdam 389

2015 trip to Amsterdam 469

2015 trip to Amsterdam 470

2015 trip to Amsterdam 471

2015 trip to Amsterdam 472

2015 trip to Amsterdam 473

2015 trip to Amsterdam 474

2015 trip to Amsterdam 475

The Esmeralda was notorious for having been an instrument of the Pinochet regime that had thrown over the democratic government of president Allende (of course we all know, aided by the American CIA) and on which many political prisoners were tortured and killed, to never been seen again.
Of course, our marine force enjoys the free advertising by SAIL although no visible signs are offered. Sailing also engulfs military interests and right in the harbour is the Ship Museum. Quite a few of the Tall Ships participating were training ships, run by countries, no doubt subsidized by their governments, I am sure, and indirectly used as an enticement to “join the marines”. Although sailing is not any longer part of current warfare, military training, precision and quick follow through on commands were obvious, necessary to operate the ships and keep them functional.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 421

2015 trip to Amsterdam 416

2015 trip to Amsterdam 400

2015 trip to Amsterdam 397

The old Port of Amsterdam is lined with many old buildings along the quays where ships were unloaded and loaded; these three-story packing houses were storage facilities in the olden days, but now have been converted, or were rebuilt, to modern apartments – of course a very desirable spot to live, and not cheap. It area has become a gentrified area with new restaurants and other shops appearing, such as Jamie Oliver’s place, called NINE.

All in all I enjoyed Sail very much, even with all the crowds.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment



Park Guell

2015 trip to Amsterdam 619

2015 trip to Amsterdam 639

2015 trip to Amsterdam 640

2015 trip to Amsterdam 627

2015 trip to Amsterdam 637

Park Guell was started in 1900 outside of Barcelona as a development for homes, to allow for people to live in a new suburb that was planned for the expansion of Barcelona; the city’s walls had been torn down some fifty years earlier. The new neighbourhood, yet in the middle of nowhere, was called the ‘Eixample’ and was designed by engineer Ildefons Cerda, as an addition to fast growing Barcelona, to accommodate a new city with a modern attitude, effective, healthier and fairer than the old city, in the spirit of the Modernist movement.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 622

At the time, the city had about half a million residents and was fast growing with the expansion of industry, and on the search for a new image as a nationalist, Catalan region in an expansionary mood — reborn. The architect Antoni Gaudi fit very well with this vision and he embodied all that was Modernism. The parallel movements elsewhere in Europe were Liberty, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, and Sezession. Modernism went beyond architecture and art, also encompassing the language, literature and music. In architecture, forms derived from nature became the model for both structural and ornamental facets of construction.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 624

2015 trip to Amsterdam 625

2015 trip to Amsterdam 626

Gaudi went very much farther in his expression of modernism and art nouveau by being modern, but not denouncing tradition. He used the Catalan vault and old craft styles, but also was taking an interest in the expressive potential of iron. Specific to Gaudi was his extremely religious bend, as a Roman Catholic devout man. His final life’s work was of course the Basilica I Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia. His nick name became “God’s Architect”.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 536

The Eixample neighbourhood expanded rapidly, and was especially liked by the bourgeoisie who settled there, with industrial development on its outskirts occupied by modern industries. The clean slate nature of the development provide opportunities for architects for using the new modernist styles. Most of Gaudi’s buildings are found in this neighbourhood.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 547

This is a photo of the Sagrada Familia model of how the weight of the roof would exert pressure on the walls and pillars. The model is upside down, to use gravity to measure the weight.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 546

Instead of drawing his construction plans and blue prints for a building, he preferred to create them as a three dimensional scale model and adjusted the details as he conceived them.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 636

2015 trip to Amsterdam 641

2015 trip to Amsterdam 642

2015 trip to Amsterdam 643

2015 trip to Amsterdam 644

2015 trip to Amsterdam 645

2015 trip to Amsterdam 646

He used the Park Guell in that way as well, and used various styles of traditional building to construct the galleries of local rock, but with a twist. He played around with the regular style of building a large space covered by a roof in traditional Gothic, Roman and Greek construction, where symmetry and upright pillars that supported a roof, were the basic forms. Gaudi, however, made the pillars slanted and leaning in opposite directions, even the roofs were leaning, everything seems out of its natural position, and yet, it works and the end product, the building, is solid. Gaudi was advancing construction theory and architecture with leaps and even maybe light years ahead.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 633

2015 trip to Amsterdam 634

2015 trip to Amsterdam 635

2015 trip to Amsterdam 647

Unfortunately, Park Guell failed as an urbanisation project in the new development of Eixample, as it was too far away from the city for commuters, transportation was an issue, it was located in dry, desert country, without vegetation or reliable water sources, in short, too much of a challenge. The developer built one home, the model home so to speak. It stood empty and was not sold. Eventually, Gaudi moved in with his ailing mother and a cousin. He was said to have received one male friend occasionally. The house is now a museum with furniture designed by Gaudi.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 628

2015 trip to Amsterdam 630

2015 trip to Amsterdam 632

2015 trip to Amsterdam 629

To protect him and his company from prying eyes, he constructed an arbour with vines, to protect from view and create privacy.

Eventually, one more house was constructed where private owners still live there now. The hill was irrigated and planted with drought resistant trees and shrubs. It would be a lovely place to live now.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 649

2015 trip to Amsterdam 650

2015 trip to Amsterdam 651

2015 trip to Amsterdam 666

In one area, on the highest spot in the park, a replica Mount of Golgotha is located with the three crosses, as a warning to remember the religious tenet of Christianity, the crucifixion of Jesus to relieve the sins of the world.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 652

2015 trip to Amsterdam 670

Gaudi was a proud Catalan and believed that Mediterranean people were gifted with creativity, originality and an innate sense for art and design. I would have to agree with him. He created the custom of using discarded pottery for the art form of mosaic.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 655

2015 trip to Amsterdam 656 2015 trip to Amsterdam 657

2015 trip to Amsterdam 659

2015 trip to Amsterdam 660

2015 trip to Amsterdam 661

This was the arch of the wave, a realistic expression of the surf: a liquid wave — in stone.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 662

The statue of mother earth.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 693

2015 trip to Amsterdam 694

2015 trip to Amsterdam 696

Park entrance, and the staircase with the large mosaic dragon (icon in the city’s emblem) and open mouth of the snake.  The snake carries on into the design in the seats on the patio above.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 674

2015 trip to Amsterdam 685

2015 trip to Amsterdam 684

As the weather is brilliantly sunny and people seek shade and shelter from the blazing sun, the galleries all through the park are not only decorative, but very functional. The gallery behind the park entrance is made of pillars supporting a roof and is the largest gallery of pillars. It is part of the entrance stairway and is covered by a terrace, where I could easily envision community parties and receptions taking place, with a great view of the city and the park.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 672

2015 trip to Amsterdam 671

2015 trip to Amsterdam 667

2015 trip to Amsterdam 665

2015 trip to Amsterdam 664

2015 trip to Amsterdam 663

2015 trip to Amsterdam 675

The seats of the bench that lines the edges of the roof top all around are ergonomically designed, have drain holes in the back rest which collect the water and drain it through pipes that are hidden in the pillars underneath, carrying the water to large cisterns—in case it rains. The water can be filtered and used.  It is also used to fill the pond at the bottom of the stairs.

The gallery below is a palace in its size although it is not used for anything at this time, other than marvelling about its feel of space and coolness, and its construction. Also here in this gallery, not simply a set of straight pillars holding a roof. No, the lean is obvious when physically there, but hard to catch in photos.  The opposing forces of the pillars are creating a brilliant protection overheard.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 676

2015 trip to Amsterdam 678

2015 trip to Amsterdam 680

2015 trip to Amsterdam 681

2015 trip to Amsterdam 682

2015 trip to Amsterdam 684

2015 trip to Amsterdam 685

From the patio on the roof, a staircase winds down to the central plaza of the entrance. Two smaller houses are flanking the entrance: real fairy tale homes, with each a mushroom on its roof: one poisonous, the other edible, but oh, so alike. Only someone who knows about nature and mushrooms could tell the difference…A  grotto with fresh water  is also located at the entrance.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 686

2015 trip to Amsterdam 698

2015 trip to Amsterdam 695

2015 trip to Amsterdam 701

2015 trip to Amsterdam 702

2015 trip to Amsterdam 703

2015 trip to Amsterdam 705

2015 trip to Amsterdam 704

2015 trip to Amsterdam 706

2015 trip to Amsterdam 707

2015 trip to Amsterdam 708

2015 trip to Amsterdam 709

2015 trip to Amsterdam 711

2015 trip to Amsterdam 713

2015 trip to Amsterdam 710

2015 trip to Amsterdam 712

From this location, the entrance can be best admired with its staircase, as the main event amidst the competing multitude of visuals to take in.

2015 trip to Amsterdam 688

2015 trip to Amsterdam 687

2015 trip to Amsterdam 697

2015 trip to Amsterdam 696

2015 trip to Amsterdam 693

2015 trip to Amsterdam 691

2015 trip to Amsterdam 689

2015 trip to Amsterdam 694

2015 trip to Amsterdam 699

2015 trip to Amsterdam 700

After all of this in the hot summer sun, I have to admit I was pretty wiped. I didn’t mount the stairs to see the inside of the fairy tale house.  I just sat and have a coffee, overwhelmed by the genius of Gaudi and his outrageous creativity….that’s when my travel companion snapped me…

b 3


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment