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Typical Dutch dinner

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Many new international students say Dutch food is tasteless, cold, with super quick preparation time. Blogger Nadya Karimasari reminisces of her last Dutch dinner with her landlords, which confirmed that not all Dutch dishes are the same.

The Dutch might be good at cycling, but cooking is not their forte. Most of my international friends would confess that they are not a big fan of Dutch food. According to them, Dutch food is tasteless, cold, and prepared in short amounts of time. It was as if the Dutch eat without considering the need to entice their senses. Perhaps this is partly due to the Dutch philosophy of pragmatism, practicality, and frugality, in which the function of food is to fill their tummy and that’s about it. Forget about self-indulging nourishment, the Dutch are too busy and workaholic. Boiled eggs, hard sandwich, and cheese, consumed in a rush. That’s the typical Dutch lunch I observed in the university’s cafeteria. My Dutch friend was surprised that I ate warm food for lunch. ‘Is it normal for you to eat warm food for lunch?’ he asked. Well, what is so abnormal about it?

The day before I flew back to Indonesia for my long-term fieldwork, I had a Dutch dinner with my landlords. I must say it was a typical Dutch dinner, yet it was delicious at the same time. The fact that my landlords are farmers with their own sheep and chickens made their food very special, because the meat was very fresh and comes directly from their farm.

Without hesitation, I asked for seconds because, wow, what a sensational dinner.

We started at 17:00 in the living room, with a glass of iced Bacardi mixed with cola and a slice of lemon. This cocktail reminded them of the Caribbean where they were received with a glass of Cuba Libre. After drinking, we moved to the dining table with a typical Dutch dinner of roasted lamb with rhubarb compote, potatoes and salad. The lamb was only 6 months old, so the meat was very tender, fresh and juicy. Just a little bit of garlic and the perfect timing in the oven made this main course shine. Without hesitation, I asked for seconds because wow, what a sensational dinner.

We ended our dinner with another typical Dutch habit: cheese tasting. My landlords’ collection of cheese, especially old cheese, was put on a cracker, and we tasted each cheese one by one while exchanging funny and heart-warming stories. Every cheese was salty and full of flavour, and I went home with a happy heart and satisfied belly. It was a dinner to be remembered.

Now, whenever my international friends complain about tasteless Dutch food, I’ll silently put on my secretive smile and perhaps recommend they have dinner with my landlord to revise their stereotype.

As seen in Resource online

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Boekenmarkt

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During the Easter holiday, blogger Nadya Karimasari spent her day at the second-hand book bazaar in Wageningen Centrum.

Looking back, it seems weird that I’ve been anticipating the boekenmarkt since the very first time I had heard about it. What did I expect? I knew most books would be in Dutch, a language in which I have no vocabulary other than ‘ik begrijpt u niet’. I also knew that I wouldn’t be buying any, because the books would be most likely collectible antiques or English fiction paperback, which I would not read for the time being – I am staring at you, my beloved piles of research related books and articles.

It’s just the incomprehensible impulse to meet and be surrounded by books, no matter how foreign the written words are.

I marked the date on my calendar, set my alarm very early in the morning, quickly ate a bowl of blueberry yoghurt and granola – which I wouldn’t consider a proper breakfast on any normal occasion. I even skipped my regular ‘Skype Saturday’ morning with my husband in Indonesia so I wouldn’t miss this rare event in Wageningen. I usually have to travel to far-off Amsterdam just to find English second-hand books!

On that cloudy day, I felt a moment of bliss from looking at rows of second-hand book stalls. Where have they all been before? To my surprise, the first stall that I visited was remarkably suitable for my studies – and my wallet. It was a very small collection of an ecology student at Wageningen University, but it comprised the must-have anthropology textbooks. Every single book had to go through a long and thorough examination by me, as I had a difficult time to decide which one not to buy.

With such a high degree of book compatibility between me and the seller, I wondered for a split second what it would be like to see each other more often and having endless conversation about … books? Would it be like what people often said about the comfortable feeling of ‘meeting an old friend’ in a new person?

Like a snap, I was immediately brought back to reality by the sight of a beautiful sound story book that I eventually bought for my son.

more pics: here

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Public Imagination

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Today is general election day in the Netherlands. Blogger Nadya Karimasari writes a commentary from her hometown in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

As a Dutch resident, I am more interested in the upcoming Dutch general election than the previous U.S. election, which ignited wide global attention. Both have quite an intense process leading up to the election, with figures such as Donald Trump and Geert Wilders occupying public discourse with controversial stances and questionable reasoning.

Today reminds me of how living in the Netherlands has taught me what ‘public’ means. Writing from my provincial hometown in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, with very limited manifestation of the ‘public’, I must say that the ‘public’ is not something to be taken for granted. Public parks, very safe public roads with bicycle lanes, public transport, public education for four-year-olds and above, public healthcare, and other public mechanisms are considered ’basics’ in the Netherlands. Hence, it is quite easy to forget that these are actually quite an awesome public achievement. Different individuals with public imagination have been demanding and working together to realise a better quality of life, not only for the benefit of each individual, but also for the greater good of the general public.

But what constitutes the ‘public’ in the dynamic situation of contemporary Dutch? This is where the matter gets a bit more complicated. The public system in the Netherlands taught me that no matter where I come from, no matter what my religion is, no matter how long I have been living in the Netherlands, as long as I pay taxes, I am part of the Dutch public. It is clear, sensible, and reasonable. But it implies that in order to pay taxes, one must have an income, a job. It means that better job provision for people in the working age should be the next agenda point of the public fight.

We will see whether the Dutch opt to have someone like me join and be part of that fight or not. Would they be strategic and adaptive, as the Dutch are famously known to be, will they embrace and take advantage of the current situation in which the Dutch public is becoming merrier, more diverse and colourful? Or will it be the opposite?

picture source: wikimedia

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Holiday Season

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Blogger Nadya Karimasari is in the holiday mood. What about you?

Earlier this month, on the first of December to be exact, I had a date with my son at a restaurant. We sat by the window on the second floor. He really enjoyed looking out on the street down below and pointing to every ‘auto’, ‘fiets’, or ‘bus’ that caught his eye. The food was delicious and we continued to the public library afterwards.

It was a bit slow to walk in the Centrum with my toddler, because he loves to suddenly stop and explore things, or change direction, but we eventually reached the public library nonetheless. During the cold winter, this is the place where my son goes to play, read books, watch videos, meet friends, and roam indoors. Both of us had a great time and enjoyed the day and I, especially, really cherish this kind of moments. My husband had a deadline and was unable to join us. He is an excellent cook, however, so when we arrived home, we had a nice meal too.

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This kind of simple, everyday celebration is important to keep us happy and healthy and sustain our endurance in our long-term, exciting research project that has been coming along well so far. Overall, I encourage taking intermittent breaks, holidays or small celebration every now and then. It does not have to be fancy and you do not need any specific reason to celebrate. You do not need to wait until the end of your study to have a celebration. This kind of happy ritual is a good thing to counter the academic culture that encourages us to work overtime, or using one of my professors’ words: to be ‘systematically overworked’.

By now, most students and staff in Wageningen will probably be in the mood for celebration too. Take the master’s students for example: this may be their last day of exams and they are going to have a break until the first week of January 2017. Al of us might be ready to head off to go home, whether in the Netherlands or abroad, to meet family and enjoy the holidays together. Most of my PhD friends have already gone back to their respective countries. My family is also looking forward to go home, thanks to the secretariat of Sociology and Anthropology of Development: Diana Dupain, Marielle Takes, and Sanne Hannink who took care of our tickets. What a tremendous help!

See you again next year!

PS: Pics of winter holiday dinner with our lovely landlords:

 

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Summer Break

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What’s the thing about summer break? Blogger Nadya writes her observation.

“How was your holiday?” That’s the opening line coming from most of my colleagues these days. The new academic year is around the corner. My next holiday season will be around Christmas and New Year. No wonder people are taking long breaks before summer is over, before being caught up in the demanding, hectic rhythm of academic life.

Dutch people are notorious for being the example of good work-life balance. I don’t know if it’s true or if it is just another stereotype. Dutch people are also known for not having as much stress from work as compared to people from other countries in the world. According to recent estimates, Dutch people in average work 29 hours a week, get around 8.2 hours of sleep every night, and guaranteed a paid vacation.

Holidays are something to be proud of.

Based on my limited observation, for Dutch people, holidays are something to be proud of. Because I am used to how Dutch people perceive summer breaks, I felt surprised when I noticed my office mates from other countries tried to avoid sharing their summer vacation stories. When one of my professors asked about our holidays, the room was suddenly quiet. Everyone started looking at their shoes. I was wondering why. If they were Dutch, they would’ve showed off their amazing holidays right away. They went to Basel, Munich, England, Czech Republic, and Croatia to name a few. Their holiday were really quite something, but instead of being proud, they felt guilty.

When one of my professors asked about our holidays, the room was suddenly quiet.

“I haven’t been working on my research proposal for a long time, that’s why I feel guilty about my holiday,” one of my colleague confessed. “I really don’t get what’s all the fuss about summer break. Apparently, here, summer is such a thing. My friend who went on vacation to the beach abroad was being laughed off by his friends because he didn’t come back with a tan,” added another. “In my country, people just went to see their family and help with errands during holidays, so it’s not a big deal like it is here,” one of them concluded.

I believe such guilt is unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong about enjoying holidays. We should feel normal about enjoying our precious summer breaks. I just wish the vacation continued a little longer.

PS: Summer break for us:

Food glorious food at Ben White’s summer home:

 

Cherry picking:

 

 

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A charming old house

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Dutch people understand the special charm of an old house. The family house that I am renting is more than a century old. I am sitting in the living room, in front of a round wooden table. The fireplace brings a light sizzling sound in the background. The floor is also made from wood and three wide windows are facing the street. Through these windows, my son often watch the thick morning mist slowly fades into thin air.

My landlord is a former sailor and a handyman. He can make a lot of furniture or housing parts by his own hand, no wonder his house is brimming with characteristics and functionality. As a sailor, he has to conquer the volatility of tidal waves, but for sure he has no problem to tame the heart of a woman who is said to be deeper than the sea. While he went for adventures on his boat, his wife enriches her life through adventures on the written world. She is a librarian at WUR. During our housewarming dinner, she speaks the word “free” a lot. She also gave us a dictionary to learn Dutch language.

They defied the stereotypes of Dutch being highly penny-pinching people. When we arrived, they picked us up at Ede-Wageningen station. In the house they’ve already provided every little things, all furniture, all cleaning and cooking utilities, also food, including bread, margarine, milk, yogurt, homemade berry jam, homemade salad dressing, coffee and tea.

They have been living approximately 30 steps away from this house for 25 years, complete with two dogs, a lot of sheep grazing on their large lawn, chickens, and a small “hideaway” self-contained room in front of a nice pond when they want to take a break from their house. With the spring looming, we are going to join them cultivating onions and potatoes. We really enjoy to be into the true rural feel of this place.

After a day at the office, it’s nice to bike home for 30 minutes to the hilly parts of NL, to a place that really feels like home.

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City of Alternative Lifestyle?

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Wageningen prides itself as the city of life science. Blogger Nadya Karimasari found that some people think of it as a city of alternative lifestyle.

It feels like summer in Wageningen. What a relief, especially after a hail rain in late April. Now the weather is more bearable and warm. Cows are finally out and horses too. People are wearing light clothes and soak up the sun. Such a perfect time for liberation day festivities!

During the liberation day, we went to Emmapark. There were a lot of fun and games for kids. My son met some new friends, and I became friends with their mothers.

Having conversation with other moms brings me away from the academic bubble that I’ve been in. One of the mom whom I talked with said Wageningen is not only a city of life science. It is a city of alternative lifestyle. Interesting. How come?

In a time where a lot of farmers went bankrupt, she said, there are still a lot of people who wants to do agriculture in Wageningen. Maybe, in an era where urbanisation is the norm, doing agriculture has become an alternative lifestyle.

Wageningen is the place where people still have a lot of pride to work on the land.

Wageningen is the place where people still have a lot of pride to work on the land. My landlord is one example. He’s seems to appreciate agriculture work more than ‘office’ work. He enjoys cultivating the land, tending his plants and cattle carefully, diligently. He said he doesn’t want to be lazy.

There’s another aspect that makes Wageningen a city of alternative lifestyle. Farming-related organisations and activisms are very common in Wageningen. The mom that I talked with was an activist at ‘Future Farmers’. It’s an organisation that creatively finds ways to tackle the barriers of doing agriculture, especially for new farmers who do not come from an agricultural family, have never done it before and don’t have land inheritance.

Perhaps, being an activist, not necessarily related to agriculture, is the norm here. Even my neighbour who obtained her PhD on ethnobotany works at an organisation that support farmer’s movement. There’s also organisation for young farmers, organic farmers, do-it-yourself activism, and a lot more.

I am just starting to get to know this city. Is it true that Wageningen a city of alternative lifestyle? Are you also part of an organisation or activism? I am all ears.