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!

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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.

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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.)

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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.”

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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).

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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.

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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:

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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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….

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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?


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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.

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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.

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Park Guell

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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The statue of mother earth.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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The city is full of interesting buildings, has large lunch and dinner crowds, has a vibrant night life, with various types of performances in many beautiful venues. The province of Cataluña is fiercely nationalistic and residents like to see themselves as Catalonians first, and secondly as Spaniards. All public signs have the Catalonian language first, then Spanish and third English.

In recent times, the bullfights have ended in Cataluña, the province where Barcelona is located. Bullfighting and the debate about its abolishment was arguably used by political factions as an issue of Catalan’s striving for independence. That is for me a plus, because now I do not have to agonize over whether to condemn it or go see it.
Bullfighting has been an inherent part of the culture and was so much part of the Spanish identity that it was called “fiesta nacional”. The opera Carmen has a toreador in a main role. It also was exported to other Spanish speaking parts of the world in different forms, with or without the bull’s death as end goal: Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and parts of Southern France, and also is practised in Portugal. Public outcry about the cruel nature of the game with the bull (corrida de toros) has finally led to the game’s death in Cataluña. In other parts of the world sparring with the bull or with baby cows (calf roping) is also seen in rodeos and western events all over the world (e.g. Calgary stampede).
The stance of the toreros (charros in Mexico) and the matador (who kills the bull) and their specific costumes were carried on elsewhere, as I recognized it in the costumes of the Mariachi bands in Mexico; the pattern of embroidery along the seams of the very tight pants accentuate the powerful muscles in the legs and buttocks, much to my delight as I watched the Mariachi. The term machismo also is obviously related to Spanish culture; no need to explain.
Now back to modern day Barcelona. We saw a flamenco performance in a beautiful medieval building (16th century), called Palau Dalmases. The group was called Esai Barroc. Two female dancers, a guitarist and a percussionist gave a performance of about an hour and a half, with a glass of something included in the ticket price. It was much different from previous Flamenco performers I have seen, more modern and with improved fluency, accessible for foreigners, but not less dramatic. The dancers were very young.

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After the performance having drinks, while  people watching on one of the many patios seemed mandatory, and very enjoyable in the warm evening. We ended up, I suspect, in a largely gay neighbourhood, on Placa de Palau, as all we saw were gay couples and groups, apart from the pub crawl guided tour of a mixed gender group that loudly went through the area called El Born. A local resident had hung a display from her balcony that read: “SILENCIO, please show respect!”
Barcelona has many squares and unsuspected openings in a street where a patio is created, a true paradise for people watchers and imbibers. I am describing the Barre la Barceloneta and Barre Gotic (neighbourhoods) and El Born where you can stroll for hours and enjoy what you encounter. We stumbled on the opening of an archaeological museum with an exposed dig right in the middle of the talking heads giving their two cents worth, or rather, two reals worth. This was a 20th century fruit market and when they abandoned the market to dig it up for new construction, they found a much older site beneath it from the 18th century.

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We discovered a large park with a boulevard (Parc de la Ciutadella) where on an early evening we saw the locals parading, strolling and recreating – see and be seen – before the evening meal. It reminded me of days gone by in small town Spain where all freshly washed young people went around in circles with under the watchful eyes of their aunt and mothers, and the fathers as well, boys going one way, the girls the other way. That’s where I first smelled that delicious fragrance of the lilies of the valley and Maja soap. The small bright green parakeets were very noisy overhead in the trees, but hard to spot between the greenery.

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In the middle of the park sat a deserted fountain, of which the water had been shut off. Behind it was a building with some rooms that could have been converted to a lovely park retreat. Anyway, it was quiet and nice to see.

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Of course, with the beach right there a five minute walk, we had to spend some time relaxing, swimming and enjoying yet another glass of Cava with patatas bravas, that dish of delicious, crisply fried potatoes with soft insides covered with a very garlicky aioli sauce, ummmmmmm. We wondered what that golden fish in the distance could be. It changed colour from just a metal grey-ish structure to a softly gleaming gold, beautiful, and we did find out later. The bulky guys were the haulers of the lounge beds and parasols, we found out, not very friendly, and ripping us off for the fee that suddenly changed from the quoted 1 Euro to 8 Euro when it was time to pay up.

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Walking towards the casino along a main artery, Calle del Doctor Aiguader, we passed another important venue: Barcelona is also the home of the Barcelona Futbal Club, an important part of the Catalan identity. We happened to walk by one evening on our discovery trip to the casino.

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Barcelona has many modern buildings many of which were built when the World Expo was here. The gas building is a miracle of steel and glass that we liked. Surprisingly an old turret with a Moorish flavour sat next to it.

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We found out that the fish we saw from the downtown beach was part of the casino and its hotel and is located in the Olympic port, created in 1992 for the Olympic Games. The fish is a whale and consists of a metal grate as it where over a metal pole structure, and is completely open to rain and wind.
That area of the city away from the downtown by a 15 minute walk was completely full with local visitors and contained many entertaining ventures, clubs and bars, marvelous beaches with amenities, change rooms and showers, and restaurants, along a very long promenade all along the beach until one reaches the more touristic areas of the city. A poker tournament was happening that weekend. I played the roulette and lost my few Euros in a hurry, as they had no .50 ct chips and I had to play with 5 Euro chips per bet!

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Another day we walked quite aimlessly and always discovered something worthwhile to see.

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We spent one day on visiting Park Guell, pronounce: [gway], with a very soft g and no l. The double ll in Spanish is pronounced as the English y, as in yoke. This park was the creation of Gaudi as well. It was meant to be a modern development out of town for those who wanted peace and quiet and more space in a natural environment. This project completely failed in its goal: only two houses were built of which only one house was sold; eventually, Gaudi moved into the show home with his mother and cousin where she died, looked after in her last years by nuns. Gaudi moved into the workshop of the Sagrada Familia where he spent the last year of his life.

The next post will be about Park Guell, which deserves its own blog posts.

I hope you like the Barcelona you see here in this post, as my travel panion and I went by it and enjoyed it. What you are missing are the sounds, and especially the smells of Barcelona  as fish is plenty and sewers too, which are not the greatest smells on earth, to be frank..

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My travel companion

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This summer I was in Barcelona for a few days to see the sights and especially some of Spanish (Catalan) architect Antoni Gaudi’s buildings. Besides architecture, Gaudi was also skilled in carpentry, glass making, and a locksmith and was the son of a copper smith. He built a number of private homes for the bourgeoisie, such as Casa Calvet, Casa Batllo, and Casa Milo, as well as the cathedral Sagrada Familia.

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The Passion Entrance (West)

Gaudi is a representative of the modernist style of architecture that followed the more classical styles of building starting after World War 1 and before 1970. It also generally includes Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Courbusier, Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus school. European modernists combined morality and social consciousness (e.g. using local materials and local man power, function was important), and were generally associated with left wing politics.
Gaudi combined the Byzantine and Gothic styles and came to his own forms that appear so out of step with anything that had been done before that he has become his own category and is still considered at the top of the profession. He expressed the Christian iconography and his own strong belief in the religion in this temple. He also invented advanced construction in logical designs and built daring structures with new techniques that he had experimented with elsewhere in his buildings.

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The Nativity entrance (East)

Before our arrival in Barcelona, we had bought entry tickets on line, as I had heard that the line-ups are tremendous, so we wanted to avoid wasting our precious time standing in line for hours. Sure, the places are inundated, and rather annoyingly so, with tourists, but since I am one too, who am I to object? There is a goo reason why people flock…
I was accompanied by a like-minded friend from my student days at the Amsterdam Rietveld Academy, so we both are interested in art and beautiful things. We have been friends for ages, so we knew we are compatible in a lot of ways, such as both liking good food and drinks as well!

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Detail of the Nativity Entrance

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The Christmas tree as symbol of nature on top of the Nativity entrance

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Detail of the Passion entrance. The Star Wars-like figures are Roman soldiers,  the man to the left of them has the face of Gaudi.

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Our first goal was the Sagrada Familia, translated: the Family Church. It is a Roman Catholic temple, a church, although this is an understatement: the building is unique, one of kind and truly awe inspiring.Interestingly, Gaudi never had a family himself en lived with his aging mother and a cousin. He was said to have a (male) friend as well.
We both are not religious. Although I was raised in a strict protestant religion, my friend was not raised in any religion and was rather unaware of the symbols and stories of the bible and Christianity. In spite of it, we appreciate any expression of spiritual ecstasy in art and creativity. Gaudi sure knew how to do that! I have not seen such display of ecstasy and virtuosity in construction. He was a genius. The Christian symbolism and details were very well explained by our English speaking guide. The tour lasted 1 ½ hour and was very enlightening; our understanding would have been much less without it. If you think admiring only the outside is enough, you would be wrong. The best parts in my view are inside and seen during day time, so the light that comes in through the fantastic windows can delight the visitor.

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The Sagrada Familia is a work in progress that began in 1866, its design taken over by Gaudi in 1883 and it was only in its beginning stages of construction, after Gaudi was run over by a tram and died on his way to the hospital in 1926. The entrance depicting the Nativity of Jesus was finished by another architect, as well as most of the present building, with the help of many other architects, volunteers and builders. Five generations of Barcelonans have witnessed the construction. It is expected to be completed in 11 years, by 2026. I plan on visiting then again, even if it will be in a wheel chair.

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The slow pace of construction is the result of the condition that the church should be built exclusively from donations, as in the olden days of the start of cathedral building. A useful book to read about that subject is Ken Follett’s work The Pillars of the Earth. The entry fees are allocated towards that construction as well, so the more people attend, the quicker its completion. Unfortunately, parts are already deteriorating, so renovating is also an issue. The parts that are replaced, are kept clearly distinct, so we can see it is not original. This is a condition from the Unesco cultural branch that designated the Sagrada Familia a world heritage site. More detail can be explored on its website

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All light is natural light coming in through coloured glass and  stained glass windows, as well as ingeniously designed windows with built-in skylights.

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The west windows where the afternoon/evening light comes in.

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The idea was to bring nature into the lives of believers and it sure looks like a forest  in which the pillars carry a canopy of exotic medallions as flowers, all of which carry names of saints and disciples.

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As the social aspects are important to builders of the Modernists era, a school annex daycare was also attached and can be seen to the far right of the church.

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Back of the day care building.

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Waving walls of the children’s day care…looks like a fairy tale house.

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The   fourth aisle with the last facade and main entrance being constructed  towards the South.

An interesting detail is that already an apartment building has been constructed on the spot designated for a large set of stairs and a square in front of  that main entrance. The builder knew that this was designated, but apparently had little faith that the church would eventually be completed as per Gaudi’s design.

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One of the towers beside the Passion entrance

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View from the West tower…

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Fruits on top of the south buildings

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The fruit is made of mosaics; symbols of the bounty of nature and creation. If you ask me it looks like something else…

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Jesus up close from behind…..

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Detail from one of the towers….

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Can you believe it! Selfie sticks for sale, so you as visitor can put yourself in the photo with the Sagrada… the mind boggles.

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The North

Belonging means to be accepted by those around you. I finally started to have an inkling what that meant as a new immigrant when I was pregnant. Many people began to be so nice to me, even total strangers, their faces became softer when they met me, something I did initially not relate to being pregnant. I just thought that people here were nicer in this part of the province, the north, as they all had come from somewhere else.

After my daughter’s birth, this trend continued and visitors arrived with gifts. I didn’t know what happened to me, all this attention and concern with us, where did that come from? I felt in the centre of attention, it felt as if in a warm bath. What had I done to deserve this? Slowly it seeped into my awareness what had opened the door. Giving birth was the Open Sesame to the cave of all mothers’ hearts. They remembered, they recalled, they softened.

Simply as a person, a woman, nice or not, there is no easy point of recognition with others, especially when she is a foreigner. Getting to know someone is work, it requires a reason to start it, and a clear goal. The intent is there: be nice, don’t say anything at all if you can’t say anything nice, we are polite, but more was needed to break the shell of my foreignness.

Canadians travel, they share stories of were they are from, and how they got where they are. Without it, there is no shared history. My history is not yours, there were no overlapping points, which made it so much harder for the home grown Canadians.

First Nation Canadians recount their family and tribe relationships when they meet, who are their father, mother, and their grandparents, cousins, from where they came, and where they are going. The drawing of the geno map divines the relation; relationship ensures that their children will be healthy and no blood relatives. Kidnappings were sometimes needed to ensure fresh blood in the tribe, and a new mother for children.

It made sense for me to travel to meet my young man, to have children in this far away, cold country. Three years of struggle followed to find some comfort in this foreign land, to build an existence, until my child was born.
I have no words enough for describing this most unrelenting, life-giving force I have experienced in my life: the creation from my own cells over nine month’s time and its final explosion, the birth of my child.

Birth is an overwhelming event, but almost as important was that the women around me mothered me, supported me, and understood me without words. After my child’s birth, I was beginning to understand other mothers on a sensory and emotional level. They shared their own sorrows and joys with me; we became a sisterhood of women with small children: Moms and Tots.

For six long years I felt the embrace of friendship and shared motherhood with a group of women, until a move was unavoidable and my family left for another province. Friendships had formed that proved to be unaffected by the ravages of distance, although our tots now have become the new Millennials. We became family in spirit, sisters in motherhood, and are preparing for sharing time into old age.

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Why Donald Trump is a True American

Why Donald Trump is a True American.

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The problem of climate change is enormous and you probably think that it’s outside your power to do anything about curbing its progression. Like you, I have only a faint idea how in my personal life I am contributing to the problem.
We joke about our winters getting warmer, we don’t mind that even the summers are hot and drier than usual. Yeah, let Canada become subtropical, that would be a bonus, right? We wouldn’t have to seek the yearly trips to the caribbean islands or Mexico to survive the winters here. Great.

This year the Nay Sayers seem louder than before: even the pope has an opinion about climate change. I wonder what he could do in his daily life? Would he possibly order the priests, cardinals, and bishops out of their rich digs into smaller, existing homes? Would they reduce greenhouse gasses by shutting of the A/C and set the thermostat a few degrees colder in winter? Maybe we could come up with ideas for them, as well as for ourselves…

This spring, as soon as it was warm enough for my hands to grab the handlebars of my bicycle, I started riding my bike to work. I have a touch or arthritis in my hands and feet, so any temperature below 15 usually hurts me. But June was already sunny and warm.

My home is a 15 minute ride away from the office. My ride takes me for a short stretch on a two lane street, with cars going by me in two directions on Rose Aveenue. It crosses two arteries leading to the main drag, Richter and Pandosy. When I arrive at the hospital, I use the lakeside, multi-use corridor of Abbott Street, through the beautiful lakeshore neighbourhood. This is the most enjoyable part of my daily exercise. Flowers and their scents are everywhere while I move leisurely in the shade of the mature trees. At the end of the swanky lane, I cross Harvey Ave with the traffic lights, and after a 100 yards/meters along the side walk, I have arrived.

Motorbike riders also understand the feel of the outside, the smells, the changes in temperature, the wind, it makes one feel more alive, more one with the air and the environment. I arrive alert and awake, having enjoyed the physicality of the brief trip. I can recommend it wholeheartedly to anybody.

All sensations in the city are more noticeable to bikers. The asphalt roads that are exposed to the sun are much hotter, I would guess easily ten degrees hotter than when I am riding under trees in their shade. That makes me think that we should plant more trees along roads and throughout the city. Not only cause trees the temperature to drop in the summer, but the trees would generate more oxygen and take out carbon from the air. Beside, they are living things and are very interesting, always changing with the seasons.

When a car passes me on the street, I notice that the vehicle generates its own heat and intensifies the radiation towards me, making my immediate environment a few degrees hotter. Especially darker coloured cars seem to soak up the heat.
Why would anyone want a black car, knowing this? The driver would have to crank the A/C up to make the inside bearable, not only after it sat parked somewhere and you burn your buns getting in, but also while driving does it soak up the heat. It burns extra gas, as everybody knows. So, get rid of black cars, I say, and choose white and silver cars.

Then there are the car drivers that apparently have never rode a bike. They swerve to pass me, as if I am three feet wide, or will suddenly fall off my bike. Some car drivers even cross the median all the way over to the opposite lane, just to get by me. Of course I could attach a sign to my back: BORN DUTCH ON A BIKE, announcing I am a really competent rider, so they can trust that I am not going to throw myself against their door and scratch up their precious vehicle. They are possibly confused and consider me traffic, like a car. In reality, I only need a foot or so of your lane. If you look closely, you can see that I am a mature woman, and not an unpredictably swerving drug courier.

Yes, there are very polite and sweet people in cars who stop for me while I am standing at the right side of the road (in my bike place, even if there is no bike lane), waiting to cross the road. They are apparently not quite sure what I am: a pedestrian or traffic?
Thank you, I do appreciate you, especially because you don’t have to stop for me; I am traffic, like a car, but smaller.

Did I mention I am saving a significant amount of money by parking my car for these summer months, even my small, silver compact car? I guess in total at least $300 in gas.
I did not contribute to the carbon in the air and hotter temperatures in the street. I exercised my legs, my stomach muscles, and maintained, or even improved my balance. I feel better overall and in a better mood on arrival. I do not spend more time on the road, I dare say, less time than had I taken the car.

What would Kelowna look like, if half of the residents in the inner centre, let’s say a circle within the perimeters of Lakeview Heights, Glenmore Road, Rutland Road, and K.L.O. all went to work by bike? I bet the city would be cooler in more than one way.

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Canada day is coming up. It’s time to evaluate my year of living in my townhouse complex and of being a strata council member. The pool is in full swing, although the new signs that I drafted together with the pool man and completed on May 8, are for some reason not yet ready to be put up around the pool area. Hurray, they at least have arrived, a few days short of two months after the draft was forwarded to the powers that approve and produce signs. No one else has been reinforcing the old rules, so here I am, biting my lip and stopping myself from commenting on the most obvious infractions around the pool.

You ask what could be so bad that I bite my lip? Well, let me get started. In any place there are always some people with a habit of taking over a space without consideration for others, also also in the pool. Such as: one family inviting friends with a number of kids, then hanging a hammock between the only two suitable shade trees, and dragging lounge chairs for each person, thereby occupying one whole side of the pool for them alone.

Parental supervision of their brood is mostly absent, in this millennium of jellyfish parents, who are raising little princes and princesses. Yes, do let your boy of four years old pee on the law. Why bother to take him to the bathroom, or point out to him he should stop and do his number one where he is supposed to? Oh such a darling. I have to watch, like his dad, what a good boy! At least he is not peeing in the pool, thank god.

Also a good parental role model is to let the kids swim alone in the pool. One doesn’t even have to get wet, or put your beer down: just trow a football at them, play fetch/catch, while daddy is standing on shore a fair distance away yelling at the kids.
That other adults are swimming and fearing to get the ball in their face (which happened to me) is no consideration at all. Oh, bully me: I actually dare ask one kid to stay out of my side while I swam my pool lengths.
Although the smaller kids cannot swim yet, that is no problem: just strap them in a life jacket and set them free. Voila, no parent in the pool needed!

This was what happened one afternoon within a one hour window. I only stayed that time for an hour. I waited for the kids to get tired and get out of the pool, but that did not happen, so I cut my swim time short from 30 minutes to 15 and then left.

On other days there were “guests” in the pool without the host (strata occupant) present. So what’s the problem with that? If there are no rules around “guests”, any stranger could use the private pool, as if it was a public pool, but for free! What an opportunity for the wily! We strata residents pay for the privilege of our amenities, handsomely too, I would say, so the rule that guests can only visit the pool in the company of a resident was instated.
The identification of who is who is still a problem, as our strata has 74 units with a lot of people using the pool. It becomes rather difficult to keep strangers out if residents just lend the pool key to their friends. On council we have batted the idea about of introducing resident’s bracelets, similar to what vacation resorts do to secure the pool areas.
Another idea was to hire a sturdy, responsible university student for the high traffic times, on weekends, to check the bracelets, as self-policing does not happen much.
As this is a conservative council, none of those ideas passed.

A year after my start as council member I threw in the towel. I could no longer stand behind the laisser faire attitude of council and the patronizing treatment towards the (2) women that tried to change things. I did no long want to be associated with it.

As a volunteer council, its members are not professionally trained. The dynamics were quite unworkable: one person who had been in there off and on for years, was making the decisions in effect. He did not follow through with council decisions, ignoring them completely, especially if he did not agree with it, and frequently wiping other’s assigned tasks off the table, taking over and changing the course of decisions. Often I thought this person has mental health issues, or at least information processing problems. Of course, I had several run-ins with him: it felt like talking to a wall.
It had been done on council this way for years and there was no need to change, according to the main “boss”, also called the treasurer, with slow responses from the new president and other council members.
During the year, we had one elected president quit who did not deal well with dissenting voices, and another council member quit as well, who supported the president blindly. The new president was more collaborative, but slow, and could not keep up with the bossy treasurer. However, when council finally made a decision, and the execution was delegated to the strata manager, he in turn was very slow in following up on council’s directives. At the time I quit, I heard he had quit as well.

Now I can just be a resident again. Easier said than done! I had already acquired a reputation as the rules enforcer and made enemies, apparently. It amazed me that not everybody admits that we residents, all live under the same rules, adults that signed up to the Bylaws when we moved in. The principle of having Bylaws seems a concept not underwritten by a good segment of the residents.

As a result of my year long council job, my initially friendly neighbour had received some complaints against her and blamed me for all of them, after council had sent her notices. One came from me; other complaints come from different residents. Nevertheless, our happy living together had ended, in fact, although we agreed to be civil. But not her boyfriend. He found it necessary to ring my doorbell each time he arrived. By the time I had reached the door coming from the second floor, there was nobody at my door: he had entered the door next to mine. Oh well, it is bearable. I used to do that trick myself when I was in elementary school together with one or two friends: exciting and naughty!
More recently he stopped doing that, I think because we run into each other a lot, since the May pool opening. We seem to pick the same times to swim in the pool.

Last Saturday, I got the wrath of another resident whose guests I did not recognize as occupants. I struck up a conversation with a youngish man at the BBQ, who was completely killing the chicken breasts by repeatedly poking and cutting the tender meat during the cooking process, to see if it was cooked. I asked if he lived here. He did not; he was together with a pregnant you g woman at the pool. I asked if their host was in the pool as well, and whether I might know her, but no, she was not. I shared with them that one of the pool rules is that the resident should be in the pool with their guests. They called the unit occupant who arrived in a huff, addressing me in an angry tone.

She was also (highly) pregnant. She clarified her absence by saying she is pregnant (really?) and had been at home in this heat, making a salad, and that I had no right asking her guests questions, that she had lived here much longer than I had. She concluded that I was extremely rude for asking questions. I had questioned other guests as well. She left with her guests in a huff.

Over the year on council I noticed that there is a difference between me and born Canadians, in this respect. This must be a cultural thing: we Dutch people seem to share our thoughts easier, even if it may possibly lead to a sort of confrontation. It turns out I was the only council member to EVER question and confront people about obvious infractions of the rules and Bylaws that took place right under our noses.

So, now that I am a private resident again, I feel that I might be a little slower with confronting others with their infractions, but I fear I won’t be able to stop that completely. It is part of who I am. I was been taught in elementary and secondary school in The Netherlands to be a responsible citizen, an active community member, and a social being. Rules are needed to govern societies and keep the peace and order. We have in high school a mandatory year long of Nation Building and Law classes that explains how government works at all levels in the nation.
Besides, that, yup, I am a policeman’s daughter as well. You can’t beat that out of me.

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Semana Santa


SEMANA SANTA is the Spanish phrase for Holy Week, an important week in the life of Roman Catholics around the world and in Ajijic, where the people of this small town in Jalisco, Mexico, reenact the legend of Jesus and the events that led up to his demise. Not that I care much for the religion, but it happens that I am interested in the people and customs of small town Mexico, where I spent quite bit of time, and plan to spend even more time in retirement, coming up for me soon.
The week begins with the Sunday before Easter that is called Palm Sunday. According to legend, the son of the carpenter Joseph and his wife Maria, a man in his early thirties called Jesus of Nazareth (some called him the Son of God), came into town riding on a donkey. He was greeted by his followers with cheers and shouts of joy that their savior had arrived. Some of them waved palm leaves over his head, a custom I suspect in those days meant to honour people, and perhaps to provide some shade?

The country (at one point called Palestine) was occupied by the Roman army at the time, with a Roman governor put in place to rule the city Jerusalem. The Romans had their own religion with multiple gods, while the locals were following the rules as laid down by their forefather, Abraham. The local leaders were generally collaborating with the enemy, including the church leaders of that land, while protecting themselves and their positions. That attitude is nothing unusual throughout the world. For instance, during World War II the Roman Catholic pope collaborated with the German Nazi regimen that was invading country after country. That had the extermination of millions of vulnerable people as a result: the diaspora of Jewish people living in Europe, millions of mentally ill and disabled, the Roma (gypsies), and known homosexuals. Still today, the pope refuses to turn over the perpetrators (priests) of sexual abuse of children. However, the outcome of events long time ago, around 33 BC, when church leaders neglected to stand up for the innocent man, Jesus, had the birth of the largest religion in the world today as its result.

Jesus had been talking about some remarkable theories about himself and promised his followers a future kingdom that was to come soon. He clearly was opposing the practices of the indigenous church leaders–the ruling class of the religion that most locals adhered to. Jesus had also attracted the attention of the Roman occupiers, who saw that he was able to gather with his sermons large crowds of people who talked about miracles performed, with rumours spreading like an oil stain on the ocean that Jesus would save them from the Romans. Was this going to be a rebellion?

Palm Sunday is an evening event in Ajijic. About six at night, the residents of the main route of the event start cleaning their sidewalk and the street, with brooms and pails of water and the occasional hose. Around a half an hour later, a rickety pick-up truck comes by loaded up high beyond the wooden slats with fresh alfalfa hay and young men throw a few bales of hay in front of each house. The residents start spreading the hay and the photo shows the results. One is supposed not to walk on the hay until the actors and the crowds have passed. Within the hour, the hay gets collected and becomes food for the animals.

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The procession starts at the Seis Equinas (six corners) neighbourhood, the oldest part of town with a reputation for authenticity and traditional customs. The priest first needs to bless the bouqets of palm fronts, frequent rosemary twigs and chamomile bushes that are sold for a few pesos along the route by local crafters (or their kids): beautiful bouquets interspersed with woven grass bows, twigs and grain stalks, often with a straw image of Jesus at its centre. The crowd gathers around the priest who blesses the people, and especially their artifacts, to take home and spread their good scents and spiritual powers at home for a few days. Then, the procession travels to the main church in the centre of the town close to the plaza: the donkey with Jesus up front with his disciples, followed by the believers. On arrival at the church, there is a mass for the practicing believers, outside the church while the sun sets.

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Instead of mass, we choose to get an early start on food, and stroll to the plaza where local entrepreneurs in traditional costumes sell tamales, sopas, and other food at the stands. The town plaza is decorated with paper garlands that last just one day and will have disappeared the next morning. All apparently have a nice time, while bands take their turn playing on the band stand in the centre of the plaza, surrounded by tables full with visiting people, and the plaza looks fantastic.

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On the following Thursday, the crowd of believers gathers on the edge of town at dusk, on the site that stands in the gardens of Gethsemane, to witness Jesus struggle with his conscience, anticipating his death. The actors do a good job, although the P.A. system has some challenges. The actor Jesus and the disciples have some conversations that are hard for me to follow in Spanish, although I get the drift (I was raised in a strict religious home).

Jesus gets arrested by Roman soldiers and the the crowd returns to the town them. Jesus gets dragged in front of the Jewish church leaders and the high priest (Caiaphas) who make fun of him and taunt Jesus who does not defend himself. As it was dark and I don’t have the equipment for making good stills of the theatrical scenes in the dark, the rest is left to your imagination. Alternatively, you might watch the videos and photos on line that are readily available if you type in the search box Passion Play in Ajijic.

I attended the next morning, on Good Friday, when the scenes take place in the church plaza, converted to a sort of palace of justice, where Jesus gets charged with treason. The trial takes place under the supervision of Pontious Pilates. The crowd gets a say as well, but by now, Jesus does not look like a king, meek and exhausted, in a dirty robe and soft spoken. The priests and the crowd denounce him and yell that he should be crucified. Following the trial, the cross is hoisted on the actor and a real crown of thorns gets pushed on the actor’s head. ( I did not take photos, as I previously had a blog post about this part.

The actors, crowds and believers now return to the site of the Gethsemane garden that in this scene stands in for the Golgotha hill. This time, I witness the crucifixion (with ropes only)l last time I found the scenes too realistic and I gave up right then.
The actors do a believable job; at some moments I watch with a lump in my throat. The crowds are quiet and respectful; the atmosphere is indeed holy. I have seen that this community effort (with half the town volunteering) year after year, brings the community together. It is a time of togetherness and family reunions.The diaspora of Mexicans living in the US and elsewhere try to go home for Easter. Of course eating and drinking is also part of it, and always music.

I resolved to read the Passion story again once back home, just to read the details of the political maneuvering that took place, so long ago, the fickle crowds that one day want to crown a prince and the next day kill him. The tension between the goals of the oppressors, trying to avoid a rebellion, and the kowtowing church leaders and their struggle for survival, sacrificing an innocent man, while playing to the crowd, is like a Shakespeare drama. The interactions of Jesus with his relatives and his followers, the disciples, and in his trial, lots happening, all with interesting dialogues. Betrayal, love, denunciation, abandonment, grief and death, all the elements of a great story are there. Good for authors to read the story again.

Then back home, I discovered a new series on TV that tells exactly that story, called AD The Bible Continues, that shows the events and the crucifixion and continues with the developments of this Story. In my view the actor playing Jesus is altogether too handsome and beautiful and looks more like a Hollywood story, but to each its own….

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The iPad – first generation.

This iPad I am writing on was released April 3,2010, and is now almost five years old.

Back then, I stood in a very short line of two people at the computer department on that morning’s opening time at my local London Drugs store, my favourite go-to store for just about anything.

Who could know then that this small thing that wasn’t a laptop and responded to touch, would be the start of a whole new generation of tablets and touch generated gadgets? It had a lot of potential, but was unproven at that time, but has proven its worth to me since. I have still only used 48 GB from the 58.1 GB available.

From the first day I loved the little thing. Nobody really knew yet how useful it would be; plenty of people saw many drawbacks for this not-a-desktop computer. It was a toy, they said.

I am really, really happy to have taking the risk and for purchasing my little companion to everywhere. It never has needed repairs and did not break, even when I dropped it, numerous times. The metal back and sides are very sturdy.
For a while I had a rigid plastic, blue clip-on cover for the screen, until I left it behind somewhere at an airport. I have not even bothered replacing it. The transparent vinyl stick-on screen protector seemed to do its job very well. I never have had to replace it yet.

I use my iPad to write short pieces while sitting on my couch, in an airport lounge, or at a hotel, or a cafe, anywhere I want to write. I don’t need a light to see what I am doing. I can read books without bothering anybody else, listen to my music anywhere with ear buds with an excellent quality of sound (I guess also depends on the earbuds), don’t need a wireless connection for my play list, as its battery lasts forever. On my last plane ride it drowned out the crying of the toddler on his mom’s lap beside me with my fave tunes.

When I am at home using my home wifi, answering my email is easy, and even posting on my blog is simple, except for adding photos from somewhere else than from my iPad. So I have ways around that: I look up any photo I want to copy on the internet-Safari first, then save the photo to my iPad.

I took a chance and paid for the top of the line version with option for 3G, in case I would be outside the country without Internet/wifi.
I used that option only on 1 trip to Mexico and bought the Bell sim card for the iPad and put that into the in my tablet with a short term contract, for a month’s duration. It worked great and I felt quite privileged accessing the net, while riding on the ETA bus through Jalisco towards my destination, Guadalajara. The bill came later. I have not repeated that contract, also because most places now seem to have free wifi.

And not to forget, the iPhone had already been developed in 2007 with cellular connectivity, followed by a buying frenzy, which has not stopped yet. Revolutions were video taped on iPhones, criminals as well as the good ones were observed. The demand for Internet wifi and digital data exponentially took off everywhere on the globe with the advance of the iPhone; digital data services are in competition for customers while offering cut rate prices. The date are sent through satellite networks and towers everywhere on the globe at unbelievable reasonable prices (except in Canada, where cell phone rates stay extremely costly for some unknown reason).

Yes, we are connected through our gadgets on a constant basis, all day and all night long, if you stay up late. The gadget has become the biggest time waster in the history of man and woman, and also the biggest time saver, if work needs to be completed at home. It has made an appearance on almost every TV show, even in hospitals and offices, as it is so handy and portable.

The verdict is still out on which side the tablet and iPhone frenzy will end, good or bad for our social life. I only use my iPhone for phoning: I turned off all my data functions and I wait till I am at home to do my Internet accessing and data processing.
I try to limit my time connecting with friends and family through gadgets, I like meeting face to face better, as gadgets quickly can become a substitute. I prefer contact with real people, for which you have to leave the warmth of your cosy home and brace the weather. And for which you have to get off the couch and put some decent clothes on. I fear that isolating oneself with lack of social functionality is too easy to do with spending much time on gadgets.

The first generation iPad had no camera; since that first version, iPads have now all a built-in camera. One can Skype someone now from your iPad, how great is that? For now, I want to go home and see my friends and relatives that are far away through Skype on my home laptop. Skype is fantastic: the FREE alternative to visiting in person. It is imperfect, but great to keep up and talk for a few hours, if so inclined.

A drawback of tablets and smart phones is that people looking down at their iPhone or tablet, regardless of what other activity they are involved in, causing many accidents if they were driving, or walking into cars if a pedestrian. Another drawback is that the headaches are starting, as your head is attached with ligaments and muscles to your body and the strain of extending them for most of the day will cause physical problems.

I am of that generation that feels it is an insult to present company, when you show that others (on your iPhone) are more urgent or important than me, and you have to look and respond immediately. Unless you expect a call to serve at a war, or a riot, or are a first responder of some kind and get that call for your attendance at an accident or a murder, you are NOT excused. Aside from those issues, the iPhone is a great gadget in my book and eases life greatly. I just love watching Netflix on my big screen TV monitor, just so great!

Apple sure changed the social landscape in those five years.

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