There’s an Aap for That

Clean Marketing
Walking down Biltstraat this afternoon, G was the first to notice this promo for the upcoming release of The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If you look closely, you’ll see the head of an ape with the film title beneath it. They seem to have done a bit of reverse stenciling, by powercleaning the sidewalk to create the image and text, rather than dirtying it with paint or chalk. I’ve always kind of liked this form of graffiti.

The advert reminded us of a bit of standup that Australian comedian Kitty Flanagan did about The Planet of the Apes and the difficulty in subtitling or dubbing the film in French. The French don’t seem to distinguish linguistically between monkeys and apes, which makes one of the scenes in the film hard to translate. The line in the film goes something like, “I’m not a monkey. I’m an ape!” But in French, they use the word singe for both, so you end up with, “I’m not a singe! I’m a singe!” Well, except it would be all in French. (Trust me, I tried to find the video online of Flanagan doing this bit of standup, but I had no luck.)

It turns out, the Dutch are no better. Ape and monkey are both aap in Dutch. It’s a good thing the Dutch don’t dub foreign-language films. I’m dying to see the subtitles for that scene, though. “Ik ben geen aap. Ik ben een aap!” Talk about lost in translation!

Thoughts for Thursday

Daily Scenery

  • I entered a photo contest through Expatica the other week with this photo and I found out today that I won! Many thanks to my friends for voting, especially considering how difficult/unclear the whole process was. My prize is a T-shirt and having my photo entered into a drawing to be included in the I Am Not A Tourist expat fair in October. The latter is the reason I entered.
  • It turns out we have color codes for bad weather here. A Code Geel (Code Yellow) was announced today for the region of Utrecht, meaning that there’s a chance of dangerous weather with high winds and heavy rain. The wind hasn’t seemed too bad, but we’ve had pretty much non-stop rain today. It looks like we’ve got more to look forward to through the weekend. It’s particularly frustrating, as I was hoping to visit the Maliebaanfestival this weekend. At least it runs through the 20th, so hopefully we’ll get a nice day in there somewhere.
  • I’ve done a few Tweets in Dutch the past couple of days. Extremely slow Progress! Whether they were right is another matter, but I did get responses to them without any corrections. (That may have had more to do with the 140-character limit.) One of the tweets had to do with a search for food coloring. From what Google translate would have me believe, the word for food coloring is levensmiddelenkleurstof. It’s times like this I really miss McCormick!
  • Is there any topic you’d like me to write about? Any questions y’all might have, about me, being an expat, or just life general life in the Netherlands?

Amerikaans Burger

The other evening, we were talking with a friend who is a university student. He was telling us about an exam he took for an American politics course he was taking. The course seemed to be an overview of the basics of the government system, along with how it has been used over the years, politically and culturally. I think they covered everything from Thanksgiving and battles with the Native Americans to Vietnam and the shifting morals through the 1990s and today.

I learned two things in discussing this exam with our friend. One, you can take an exam over at the end of the summer here if you’re not sure you did well enough the first time around. I would have liked that option on a few end-of-year exams when I was at university. Two, I realized that despite being an Amerikaans Burger (American citizen. No, really! Burger, in Dutch, means citizen! My ID card says Amerikaans Burger on it!), I would probably not have passed this exam. It’s not that I don’t know my own history; I know my fair share and did well in my US History courses, but when it comes down to being tested on specifics, it’s easy to realize just how much information we forget. There were also whole sections and essays on My Antonia, by Willa Cather, a book I’ve heard of, but never read. I almost feel like I should read it now. My friend said not to bother.

A bit of history I do remember is the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the toll it took on James Brady, Reagan’s Press Secretary. He was one of three people shot and was permanently disabled, as a result. He has since become a strong proponent of gun control. On March 30 this year, he was invited to the White House for a meeting with Press Secretary Jay Carney on the 30th anniversary of the shooting. While there, President Obama joined them all briefly.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

If you’re wondering why I’m posting about this, it’s because of the gentleman in the background in the tan-colored suit. He’s a friend and fellow Tulane University alum. We didn’t know each other at Tulane — I think he started the year I graduated — but we met when I was living in NY and attended the Tulane alumni meetings. He was very active in the NY alumni branch and is just an all-around nice person. He’s now in DC, still active in Tulane alumni work, but also working to secure greater gun control. It’s nice to see a friend and fellow Tulanian doing good work. Pretty cool that he got to meet the president, too!

And in honor of all of this, we’re having burgers for dinner tonight, hopefully grilled outdoors to take advantage of the lovely weather! Enjoy your weekend!

Mix and Match

This is a grab bag of a posting; random things that have crossed my mind but most aren’t enough for a whole post to themselves. So, in no particular order …
House Made of Boat
Kiwidutch has an interesting post up about house boats (woonboten) in Amsterdam, so I thought I’d post a photo of one of the house boats near us here in Utrecht. They’re not as common here as in Amsterdam, but there are a couple of them around.

Irish Pub
Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Not being Irish, it’s not a big deal to me, but I figured it was worth a posting on Trippist, since we’ve got two Irish pubs here in town. Hopefully, they don’t turn their beer green, though. That’s always seemed like an abomination to me. I knew I had taken a photo of Mick O’Connells in the past, but it turns out I hadn’t uploaded it to Flickr, so I spent a lot of time digging through my photo files to find it. I could have sworn I’d also taken a photo of O’Leary’s Pub at some point, but damned if I can find it. So, since I spent so much time finding this photo, I figured I’d share it here, too. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to any of you with Irish connections.

Finally, if you have any interest in the Netherlands, you really should read the blog Amy in NL. She always comes up with really fascinating topics. One of the most recent ones is on the Dutch connection with Japan, a surprisingly old connection. It turns out the Japanese word for coffee is derived from the Dutch word koffe as a result of this long-standing connection. She also includes some links to relief sites to help after the horrible disaster that continues to unfold.

I would also like to recommend that you stop by the Handmade Europe shop on Etsy right now, since they have a Europe for Charity shop set up with all proceeds going to Japan via Architecture for Humanity.

Living the Fairy Tale

Swans in the Oudegracht
Look! Those big white birds in the canal are swans. Honest-to-goodness swans! And yes, that’s a 13th century castle, Stadskasteel Oudaen, in the background on the left. (Sorry it’s not the best of photos, but it was done with the camera phone rather than my real camera.) It’s all a bit like a fairy tale setting, and yet this is what I passed by on my way to one of the tokos (Asian market) to pick up some black beans and okra for tonight’s dinner.

The morning had started dark and rainy, with the threat of snow in the forecast. By 9:30 this morning, it was still quite dark out and I was wondering if my plans for dinner might have to change, since I didn’t feel like heading to the other side of town in the rain just for two items. Fortunately, the weather cleared and I had a nice little walk to do my shopping. I like to cut through Neude and across the Oudegracht, and down Zakkendagerssteeg to get to Vredenburg, where the toko is. It’s a scenic walk and on a Wednesday morning, it wasn’t crowded at all. That’s when I saw the swans. We see swans occasionally in the various canals, but it’s just rare enough that it’s still fun to stop and admire them when they do make an appearance.

I still had to visit the regular grocery store after picking up my harder-to-find ingredients at the toko, so I headed back the way I came and this time, I finally stopped at the oliebollen kraam (oliebollen are a sort of sweet fried dough that’s sold mainly during the holidays from special stalls). I’ve been wanting some for ages, but kept resisting when I’d pass the stall at Neude. I had hoped to get some at the Christmas market we went to this weekend, but they were sold out when I finally decided to get some. So today, I decided it was time. No more resisting. I would give in to their fried siren song!
Oliebollen
The first winter we were here, I didn’t really know much about oliebollen, so I never tried them. The second year, I’d heard about them, but just bought the ones from the grocery store. This year, I finally bought some from an actual stall, and I managed the entire transaction in Dutch. Simple though it was, there were a few unexpected moments, but I understood! I think that was almost as pleasurable as the warm oliebollen themselves. I’ve still got a long way to go with the language, but positive moments like that are an encouragement.

By the time I eventually made it home, not only was it not raining or snowing, but it was actually sunny! Almost blindingly so at times. I couldn’t resist this quick shot of that glorious Dutch light glinting off the wet brick pavement, while casting shadows from the bushes. All in all, it was a surprisingly nice outing.
Dutch Light

Numbers, Dutch Style

Achtentwintig
A few weeks ago, the tv series Fringe (which you should all be watching) started off an episode with various people gathered around radios, listening for certain numbers. The first numbers we heard? They were in Dutch! If you’ve seen the episode, you will remember the reactions the characters had upon hearing the numbers: heads clutched between hands in agony. Technically, it wasn’t that the numbers were in Dutch that caused the pain, although when I first began learning Dutch numbers, I must admit I probably looked the same at times!

Back when I was learning French in high school, I remember thinking that the French way of counting the 90s was bizarre: four twenty ten (four times twenty plus 10). Why make it more difficult than it needs to be! Then I discovered how the Dutch do two-digit numbers. Take 28 for example, as seen in the address in the photo. In English, you would say twenty-eight. In Dutch, it’s “eight and twenty”. Any number from 21 to 99 (excluding 30, 40, etc.) is done this way: eenentwintig (21), negenennegentig (99). It makes sense, and I still prefer it to the French mathematics, but it does take some getting used to.

The difference can also lead to confusion when translated. As an English speaker, when I mentally translate the numbers, it’s not uncommon for me to hear achtentwintig (28), but transpose it to 82 in my head. The Dutch have the same problem sometimes when trying to say a number in English. For them sixty-three can become 36. It’s all a matter of perspective.

This is one of those things that can be frustrating, but can also be interesting. It’s one of those little differences that I enjoy … unless I’m trying to keep a lot of numbers straight at one time!

Cheese, Sausage and New York

File this posting under random thoughts and observations.

I’ve noticed this year that I’ve seen a LOT of people here (usually student-age) wearing the famous I [Heart] NY t-shirts. It seems too prevalent and too much of a fashion thing to be just the result of a lot of tourism to NYC. The other night, while pointing out to G yet another person sporting one of the shirts, he reminded me that the Dutch do have a special connection to NY. I guess those early Dutch expats were sending back t-shirts to their relatives here in the Netherlands with an I [heart] NA(msterdam) logo, the same way American expats now send back wooden clogs to the family members back home.

Yeah, the whole conversation was much funnier in person.

Speaking of jokes getting lost in translation …
Going through my Twitter feed this morning (I finally got the new Twitter!), I saw a link to this humorous “grilled cheesus” t-shirt. Funny stuff, but I realized that I kind of missed the joke about “The Goude News” upon first reading. Sure, if you pronounce Gouda the English way (gooda), it makes sense and it’s funny. If you pronounce it the Dutch way, you miss something. (If you go to the Wiki page for Gouda, you can listen to the Dutch pronunciation.)

As the famous saying goes, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I know just enough Dutch now to ruin certain jokes for me. Don’t even get me started on this season’s first episode of The Simpsons and their references to Den Haag (The Hague) and such. I guess it was a bit like the Flight of the Conchords‘ joke in that episode when they referenced the Wellington Botanical Gardens. Sometimes jokes work best when you’re not so well-informed! (And in the case of this whole paragraph, if you don’t know what the person is talking about, the whole thing gets confusing. Apologies.)

On the other hand, Dutch pronunciation, when heard by an English-speaker, can be both eye-opening and amusing. We learned about Vocking sausage/meats/liverworst the other night. One of our Dutch friends had a bit of fun with us on that one. Let’s just say that the V in Dutch often has more of an F sound, and leave the rest to your own imagination. I do try to keep this blog somewhat clean. My parents might be reading. ūüėČ That said, I do recommend Vocking if you’re here in Utrecht. Very tasty! I gather it’s only really available in the Utrecht region, though, as the owner wants to keep it strictly an Utrecht thing.

Language At The Table

Help!

I’m trying a new interactive website to help with my Dutch lessons, and I’m starting from scratch to try to get a review of some basics as well as learn some basics I haven’t covered before. Today I’m working on prepositions, as well as the concept of stuff/people sitting at the table or being on the table (among other examples). I’m getting nit-picky and confused, though.

Question #1:
De bloemen staan op de tafel.

Het eten staat op tafel.

Why is de used in the first example (op de tafel), but not in the second (op tafel)? Is there a rule that explains this?

Question #2:
When do items stand on the table versus sit on the table (or any other surface)? E.g.,
De koffie staat op (de) tafel.
vs
De koffie zit op de tafel.

Are both correct? Is one used more than the other? Do I use “de” at all?

I’m trying to look up the answer in some of my other sources, but sometimes it does help to have a person do some explaining, as well. Any explanation will be greatly appreciated.

Spice Trade

Kruiden
I love to cook and I’m always adding herbs and spices to just about anything I cook. They may usually be dried and preground, which proper chefs would say is a no-no, but I figure this is less of a waste, not to mention easier to track down. When I moved here, I had to rebuild my spice shelf. That meant learning some new names for old favorites. Most are fairly easy to figure out, but I thought I’d share a list of some of my mainstays in case anyone else suddenly needs a translation.

Kruiden | Herbs/Spices

Kerrie | Curry
Kurkuma |  Turmeric
Kardemom Poeder  |   Cardamom Powder
Knoflook Poeder  |   Garlic Powder
Koriander  |   Coriander
Kaneel  |  Cinnamon
Komijnzaad  |   Cumin Seed
Kruidnagel   |  Clove
Uienpoeder   |  Onion Powder
Basilicum |  Basil
Peterselie  |   Parsley
Nootmuskaat  |   Nutmeg
Gember   |  Ginger
Salie  |   Sage
Tijm   |  Thyme
Rozemarijn  |   Rosemary
Paprika   |  Paprika
Laurierblad  |  Bay Leaves
Oregano   |  Oregano
Serehpoeder (Gemalen Citroengras)  | Lemongrass Powder
Zout    |   Salt
Zwarte Pepper  |  Black Peper

Student Un-Greening

Quadrant
I had a bit of a eureka moment last night as I was discussing the student societies here in town with a local and he described the initiation as ontgroening. I was happy to realize that I had both properly heard the Dutch word and that I was able to understand the meaning of it. Ont is a Dutch prefix similar to the English un- prefix. Groen is the Dutch word for green. So ontgroening literally translates to ungreening. When you consider that someone young/inexperienced is considered green, an initiation process makes sense, because they are un-greening this person.

All of that is a long way of saying that the students are back in town. Today begins the UIT2010 (Utrechtse Introductie Tijd/Utrecht Introduction Time). We’ve been watching parent/child combos unloading cars all weekend as they move in to their new homes. Now the parties begin. I’ve been hearing music and a lot more voices all afternoon and they’ll be continuing all week. The various student organizations near us have been dropping off various explanatory letters to let us know the full schedule of events. Forewarned is forearmed, I guess!

All sorts of inflatable figures, pools and stages are going up over on Lucasbolwerk. The photo above is from our first year here when they had a ferris wheel. I’ll be heading out tomorrow to get shots of the latest fun and games. Hopefully it remains just fun and games. Every year, a few students die as a result of the unofficial hazing. Some of the student associations here, although often mixed-gender, are similar to the fraternities and sororities in the U.S., with many of the same pros and cons of each. I enjoyed the open parties when I was at university, but never did like the idea of actually joining. Some of us had a running joke about a fake sorority, using the Greek letters to serve as an acronym for something along the lines of not giving a damn about joining. I’m hoping some of my friends will remember what the pseudo sorority name was, because it’s starting to drive me crazy.

So if you’re heading off to your first year at university, congratulations and good luck, and don’t do anything stupid! Oh, and buy used books and use protection if you’re having sex. That was the advice I received (and followed).