Interactive Art

I spent a good chunk of yesterday looking through the website for the Festival an de Werf and found some events that even I, with my limited Dutch, could enjoy. I also found an event with which I was already familiar: Tantôt, aka, the strange robot-type figure I’d seen on Saturday at the bloemenmarkt (flower market). I still wasn’t exactly sure what I would be seeing, based on the description I’d read, but since it was free and nearby at De Neude, I figured why not go.

According to the schedule, Tantôt would be on at 9:30 p.m., so we headed over to see just what exactly Tantôt was. It turned out to be a time-lapse film done to make it appear as if Tantôt is moving on his own — with the occasional bit of transport help — around Utrecht. He starts off in front of the post office there in the Neude, where we were watching the film, moves on to an area that I’m drawing a blank on, then to the bloemenmarkt, and then to one of the canals.

When I realized it was a film that we’d be seeing, I had to laugh when I realized I’d inadvertently become a part of the performance when I’d stopped to take the picture the day before. Of course, I got the picture as they were moving the figure, so depending on how long a pause they made to do the adjustment, I may not actually be in the film. To see the short film for yourself, click here.

From Clocks to Organs

Dance Hall Days

Last week, while Amy was here in town, I had the perfect opportunity to be a tourist and finally go see the famous National Museum from Musical Clocks to Street Organs (Nationaal Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement). It’s one of the Utrecht museums that is always recommended, by both locals and travel guides.

I now understand why it comes so highly recommended! The museum is housed in an old church and retains a lot of the Gothic architectural elements, but in a light, bright, cheerful manner. Tours are offered every hour and come in English and Dutch. I definitely recommend the tour, so that you can hear many of the music boxes and organs in action, since most require the guide to work them. You can read the informational cards and look at the other pieces on display while the guide performs the tour in the other language or after the tour when you’re free to wander around again on your own.

It’s incredible to see the detail put into these musical pieces, be it the decoration or the mechanization. From the smallest of music boxes to the massive wall organs used in dance halls (as seen in the photo above), it’s incredible to see the craftsmanship and artistry. They have a special Haydn exhibit going on now, including a piece left just as Haydn himself programmed it.

One bit of history that I got a kick out of was the fact that the larger street organs became fairly popular in the Netherlands, to a large degree because of the flat terrain here, which enabled the pieces to be pushed around town.

Starting Point

My Dutch language skills are still pretty much in their infancy, although I can string together the occasional sentence. However, I realized I was able to understands bits and pieces of the tour when the guide was speaking in Dutch. (On a side note, I was particularly impressed with his Gs.  Beautifully pronounced — and something I don’t think I will ever be able to do so well and with such ease.) One of the words I was excited to realize I recognized was smartlappen. I was familiar with the word due to the Smartlappen Festival held annually in town. The word came up during the history part of the tour, when some of the early songs performed on the chest organs were discussed.

After the official tour was over, Amy and I headed upstairs to see some of the other pieces in the museum’s collection. One piece of particular interest was a royal cart that ran over a track on the floor. The track had the same cutouts as the organ songbooks in order to produce the sounds. When the cart was pedalled down the track, music played. The cart was designed for children, but I think it helps to have a bit of weight in the cart to get a fuller sound. One or two small children didn’t seem to create quite as big a sound. Amy, being on the shorter side, decided to give it a go. Then I tried getting in. Suddenly, I felt so Dutch! My legs were too long! I was too tall! The pedals came up too high for me to be able to put my feet down without my knees getting in the way of the bar across the center, so I had to sit with my legs stretched out and held up, while Amy pedalled us down the track! It was great fun!

Ride and Play

So, to recap, definitely visit the museum — one block over from the Oude Gracht — and more importantly, take one of the guided tours. You’ll be so happy you did!

Stop Inburgering Me!

(the building where I had to go for my appointment on Monday)

A couple of weeks ago, I got a folder in the mail from the Gemeente Utrecht (city offices sort of thing). That’s rarely a good thing anywhere, so I was apprehensive opening it. Sure enough, there was a letter telling me I was invited to begin the inburgering program (Dutch integration program) with an appointment at 10:15 on 5 January.

At first glance, you might not think that’s such a big deal. In fact, it might seem like a good thing — but it’s not. It’s an intensive, expensive program culminating in six 1-hour exams or more, with questions covering more than just history and politics. I’ve heard of questions involving discussion of how to build a shed, along with topics about childbirth, as well. Not to mention various other requirements involving reports or role-playing that are too convoluted to go into here.

Needless to say, I didn’t want to do this program. I also was under the impression that I did not have to do it, because of G being an EU citizen and the fact that I was admitted into the country as his partner. Of course, tracking down official information is not so easy. Ultimately, though, I read enough to make me pretty positive that under EU law, as a partner of an EU citizen, I was covered under the freedom of movement law, making me exempt from the inburgering program.

Despite being fairly positive, I was still a bit nervous this morning when it came time to head off for my interview. All the worrying was in vain, as it has always been when it comes to anything regarding immigration here. Everyone is always very friendly, kind and helpful, and the woman I met with didn’t seem to have any issue when I said that I didn’t think I was required to do the program. She looked at my residence card — which says essentially that I have the same rights as an EU citizen — and that was that. She made a copy of my card and passport, just for the records, and explained that they generally send the letter out to everyone who isn’t an EU citizen themselves, but that I wasn’t their target. As long as G and I don’t break up, I don’t have to do the program.

Ultimately, if I wanted to become a Dutch citizen, I’d have to at least pass some sort of exam, although the program isn’t actually mandatory. As it stands, after five years, I will have almost all of the benefits of being a Dutch citizen, without actually having to become one, per the IND (immigration) officer I met with when we first moved.

So, I didn’t have to use any of my examples to show that I’m trying to assimilate and integrate already. I didn’t have to explain how we came in fourth — out of eight teams — at the Christmas Eve Quiz, beating at least eight other actual Dutch people. I didn’t have to explain how we’d taken part in Sinterklaas this year and even written poems (even if they were in English). I didn’t have to give my scores at sjoelen. I didn’t even have to pull out my ace and sing along to Utrecht Mijn Stad!

Utereg het mooist van allemaal!

Culturele Zondag

Stunten Op De Miniramp
Originally uploaded by indigo_jones

It’s that time of the month again: Cultural Sunday! Sadly, the weather isn’t really cooperating for parts of it. Fortunately, there are many indoor events, as well. I suspect with the approach of autumn/winter, more of the events will be indoors.

As our Dutch is still limited to discussion of broken heels and zippers and the occasional elephant, it’s a bit difficult to follow the Cultural Sunday website, but I managed to find out that there was some dancing going on at the Stadsschouwburg (the theater on the next street over from us). We headed over around noon and got to see some local students performing various routines of poppin’ and lockin’ and breakdancing and freestyle, along with a bit of rapping and singing. It was pretty fun, actually. They’re offering workshops throughout the day, as well, if you want to learn to do some of the dance styles, including krumping. As hilarious as it would have been for G and I to try, we decided not to. We’ll save the dancing for Pippo.

We came home and had lunch and then it was Pippo’s turn for a bit of culture. He and I headed over to the Neude to see the skateboarding that was scheduled. Sadly, as you can see from the photo, there wasn’t much action. Actually, there was none at all. The rain wasn’t playing nice. Pippo and I got a bit damp and didn’t get to see any skating, but Pippo didn’t seem to mind. He’ll take any excuse for an outing.

There are other concerts going on around the city, as well as art exhibits, stand-up comedy and more, but I think we’ve had our fill for the day. Next month’s event is coming soon. It’s 9 November and the theme is kinderkunstdag (children’s art day). That might be closer to our language level!