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?

Foto Vrijdag 2.35 (Ontgroening Explained)

Contrast [Day 236/365]
I’m kind of cheating, since I’ve already posted this photo in another posting, but I really do like it. Plus, I’ve got more information about this whole unusual student tradition.

The other evening we were sitting on the terrace of the Potdeksel, trying to wring out the last bit of gezellig from the too-short terras seizoen, when I saw a well-dressed young man approaching the cafĂ©’s entrance. Recognizing the morning suit and the red and white ribbon on the lapel, I threw shyness to the wind and decided to ask this lone student just what the hell they’re always doing a few times a year early in the morning. A bit surprised, but happily enough he answered a few of my on-the-spot questions.

They do represent Unitas, one of the student societies here in Utrecht. The early-morning event I’ve witnessed for the past few years is an introduction/initiation for new students. The students in the morning suits — and it’s sherry that they’re drinking, not champagne — are there to essentially keep the new students in line and quiet. That was an easier job on the rainy Thursday morning than on the sunny Saturday morning. As to why the older students dress up so formally, he didn’t really know specifically why they do it, but they are, in fact, the only student association here in Utrecht that does so. The white blankets I saw this year are to neatly gather up the various items that the students will be donating to the association. The students have to provide their own white sheet, and there is a list of items to be donated, including the candles and plates and toilet paper I saw. As they make their way down the street and are eventually allowed to enter in to the back entrance of the association, they deposit their bundled items into boxes during the check-in process.

It turns out that they spend the rest of the day doing various initiation activities, and even camp out — rain or shine — later that evening. That probably explains the number of yoga mats and sleeping bags I’ve seen each year. Supposedly, the students at Unitas are fairly good in their initiation process, not going to the extremes that can cause injury to the initiates. That’s certainly nice to hear.

I didn’t want to take up too much of his time, so I limited my questions, but it was nice to get some confirmation on what I’d figured out over the past three years and to learn a few more details. It was nice of him to take a few minutes and explain it all to the curious buitenlanders.

You Provide the Q …

and I’ll provide the A. Inspired by another blogger — a couple of them, actually — if you’ve got any questions about Utrecht or about me, I’ll try to answer them. Or, if you’re one of the regular visitors here who never comments, simply drop me a comment and let me know what brings you back here or what you’d like to see more of in my blog. I’m curious about the visitors I get!

Why yes, this is my way of getting a post churned out without having any real content. I’m feeling a bit better today, but still coughing and generally wiped out. Tomorrow, you can look forward to another statue-themed Photo Friday. That is if I’m not killed between now and then by two cats currently chasing each other around me!

Quiz Night

Mijn Vasje
Since moving here, we’ve participated in a few quiz nights that have been held at the Potdeksel. They’ve always been special occasion evenings rather than a regular event. However, that is changing with the introduction of the Murphy’s Quiz Night, held the first Tuesday of every month. This week was the inaugural quiz night and even though we were a bit tired, we still went and managed to hold our own.

The first time I participated in a quiz night at the Potdeksel, I was on the winning team. Of course, I was also paired up that evening with Kris, the son of the owner of the bar. That helped tremendously, although I held my own on the musical rounds. The second time, G and I were paired up and we came in third out of eight teams. Not too shabby for a couple of expats, considering all of the other teams were Dutch and the quiz was in Dutch. This week, G and I were paired up again and we tied with another team for fourth place out of six teams. If only we could have remembered James Taylor’s name, we would have had fourth place all to ourselves. Still, once again we managed to beat at least one Dutch team. We were also the smallest team, having only the two of us, while all of the other teams had three members or more.

The quizzes are in Dutch, but it helps that we know the quiz master, who is kind enough to translate for us when we’re completely clueless — which is often. The questions themselves were a mix of subjects, such as politics, sports, television and geography. There was also one music round. I think the question I got correct that surprised me the most was the colors of the Angola flag. I have no idea how I knew it — and I can’t tell you specifically what the flag looks like — but I was positive that the colors were red, black and yellow. Funny the things you know without realizing!