Warholian Giraffes

Warhol Giraffe
Did you know that giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as humans? I saw that bit of trivia this afternoon and decided today would be a good day to post this picture of what I like to call Warholian Giraffes. This piece of art caught my eye and I couldn’t resist a quick snap. I may end up creating my own elephant or flamingo version at some point.

As for giraffes, they, like us, have seven vertebrae. The difference is that theirs can be as long as 10 inches and they’re more flexible than ours because theirs aren’t connected in the same way. I bet you weren’t expecting to learn giraffe trivia from an Utrecht blog, but after all, Utrecht is known as the city of “kennis en cultuur” (knowledge and culture) and that’s exactly what you get with this post!

Different Donderdag: Trivia

I was reading a blog post the other day that I’d found through someone’s link on Twitter. It was an interesting look at how living abroad, no matter how short a time, can change you, or at least make you aware of things in a new way. I got to this part and felt a particular recognition:

For me, the second noticeable change was the gradual realization that, as knowledgeable as I thought I was, I didn’t know anything about anything, relatively speaking. Politics, history, culture, personality types, food, relationships, language… I was a rank amateur in nearly every way.

We’ve participated in our fair share of quiz nights since being here. The ones we go to are all in Dutch, although we’re lucky to have translations provided when needed. I can generally hold my own in an American game of Trivial Pursuit and as the writer said, I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person. However, once you start doing quizzes in another country, you start to learn just how specific to a location your knowledge probably is. I’d had a hint of this when playing G (a native of Italy) in a game of (American) Trivial Pursuit. He commented on how much of the trivia is related to things that are specifically American.

Playing trivia games here makes me realize that while I might know a fair bit about general European history, I’m sorely lacking in the finer details which make up general trivia here. Plus, I’m missing all of the general entertainment trivia: music, books, films, actors, etc. When you no longer have the same frame of reference, it can be harder to relate, be it to the person or to an experience. It’s easy to feel left out or simply stupid. After failing to know something seemingly simple or trivial, I often want to cry out in my own defense that “I’m not stupid in my home country! Promise!”

It may seem trivial to be concerned about a lack of trivia knowledge, but it’s often these small differences that can drive home the fact that you’re “not in Kansas anymore”. Try not to focus on how little you know anymore. You’re not stupid. You’ve just got different experiences and frames of reference. Instead, try to remember at least one little trivia bit that you didn’t know before. We do monthly quiz nights and I often miss tons of questions, simply because I’m not Dutch or even European and don’t have the background to know these things, but I try to remember the answer to at least one question and then go look up more info when I get home. After all, you weren’t born knowing the trivia you do know from your home country. It takes years to gather all that useless information. Don’t expect to know everything about your new country, either. Just take it in stride. Eventually, that random bit of knowledge that you’ve picked up will come in handy or seem impressive someday, maybe when you least expect it!

Paas Bunnies

Easter is coming up and one of the newer cafés on Voorstraat has a fun window display that I thought I’d share. Here’s a bit of mildly curious trivia for my American readers. The Dutch word for easter is paas, just like the brand of dye sold for coloring easter eggs. For what it’s worth, the Palm sign in the window refers to a beer, not the easter palms.

Nutmeg on My Mind

Nootmuskaat [Day 68/365]
The other night, we were watching a food travel program about Grenada and it’s growth, use, and export of nutmeg (nootmuskaat in Dutch). We learned quite a bit about a spice we take for granted. I didn’t realize it was such an important part of Grenada’s history and economy. I also didn’t really understand how it grew. It seems it grows in a fruit, technically as a seed rather than a nut, and the nutmeg itself is encase in mace. It’s the only fruit/tree that produces two separate spices. I was surprised by the mace, too, because it’s a spice I know of, but had never seen in its natural form, particularly when it’s fresh and looks like a lacy red plastic!

There’s a Dutch connection to all of this. The Netherlands and Germany are the biggest importers of crushed/ground nutmeg and mace. Considering the Dutch mercantile/trade history, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that much of the nutmeg that is imported into the Netherlands is then exported to the US. The Dutch have a long history with the spice, through their Dutch East India Company.They led the way in nutmeg trade in the 17th century, going up against the Portuguese and British for control of the market. This is an interesting article about the Dutch relationship to the spice and the desire to control its export, as well as history on how this little seed played a part in the Dutch deals over Manhattan.

Nowadays, the Dutch still use a lot of nutmeg, both in sweet dishes like the appeltaart, as well as more savory dishes, such as Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and my favorite use, spinach.

Trivial Pursuits

Last night was Quiz Night once again at the Potdeksel. G and I managed to maintain our track record of coming in second to last, always beating at least one all-Dutch team (usually made up of more people than our lonely two). The fact that we can beat an all-Dutch team is a big deal, because the quiz is done in Dutch (although we can get translations) and more importantly, many of the questions are about Dutch topics (tv hosts, radio DJs, athletes).

Still, we do learn things on occasion. Here are two facts we learned last night, which might come in handy if you’re ever playing a Dutch-themed game of trivia.

  • The capital of Aruba is Oranjestad, which basically translates to Orange City. Did you know that Aruba, along with the Netherlands Antilles, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands? (I knew the last part; it was the capital of Aruba that we didn’t know.)
  • We also learned that the first castle that Queen Beatrix purchased when she moved out on her own was Drakesteijn. It’s actually here in the province of Utrecht! She purchased it in 1959 and took up residence in 1963, a few years before her marriage. There’s some renovation work being done on it, I gather, so there’s speculation she may move back there when she eventually abdicates the throne to Prince Willem-Alexander. It’s really quite an interesting castle; octagonally shaped with its own moat. It’s like a very tiny island.

And Seven Ran …

Last night was Quiz Night again at the Potdeksel. As I’ve mentioned before, the quiz is in Dutch, unlike some of the other quiz night’s in town, although we’re fortunate that René is the quiz master, so he’s kind enough to translate when we don’t quite understand some of the questions. We can sometimes get the basic words, but lose the meaning due to the word order, so we’re making progress with understanding the language, but are a still quite a ways off from understanding properly.

There were seven teams competing last night and in the end, we came out sixth for the evening. Not too shabby, since we still beat some natives. Although I suspect that was due more to the fact that we’ve got at least four years on the two who lost, so we were able to do slightly better on the music round, which was songs from the 1980s last night. Despite my love of ’80s music, I still didn’t do too well on that round.

Today I was supposed to go clothes shopping with Merian, but unfortunately I was laid out with a severe headache today. I’m feeling better now; just a bit of a dull ache. Much better though than the piercing pain I had earlier today. I guess pride really does come before a fall. 😉