Sunday, 28 September 2008

Tilburg Culinair Festival

I have been in this city for almost 2 months now and I have not seen anything close to cultural [less you call pubs cultural]. I have seen the brief carnival-like parade on the first Sunday that I was here, but it was only for a short moment. I have been intending to visit some of the museums here but I haven’t gotten the time or energy to cycle all the way there.

However, on this night, Minh, Marcos, and I went to the Tilburg Culinair, a once-in-a-year festival with music, food and drink [they even organized a big club-/disco-like tent for partying. It’s an opportunity to taste a selection of dishes from some of the most expensive/famous restaurants in Tilburg, for a fairly cheap price [considering the high quality of meals].
On the familiar location on the William Square, the visitors enjoyed special dishes of top restaurants from Tilburg and surroundings.

William Square is a square that lies in front of the City Hall [a castle like building in the town centre]. It’s supposed to be the tastiest festival in town! We had our fun, going to four different restaurant huts [which are set up in a real classy restaurant style/ambiance], and having sampled 4 different meals: Mussels, Chinese teriyaki chicken, Lobster, and Lamb [which was extremely good]. It was a very small portion, but in the end it was just to taste and have fun.

At least I experienced this cultural event in time, and it was well worth the little money I spend on meals. Next up, museums!

For more pictures please see:

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Hofstede Conference

Since I've started studying a bit of management and the business world, since I was in France, and while I was in Finland, and even now in the classes in the Netherlands, there has been mention of the Five cultural dimensions of Hofstede. Geert Hofstede's study demonstrated that there are national and regional cultural groupings that affect the behaviour of societies and organizations, and that are very persistent across time. These groupings include: Small vs. Large Power Distance, Individualism vs. collectivism, Masculinity vs. femininity, Uncertainty avoidance, Long vs. short term orientation.

I am not exaggerating, this guys is famous in business and Information Technology, and he has come up several times in discussions; for example the designer of any website needs to consider these factors if it is to be successful on a global scale. In any case, the guy is famous, quoted in several articles, books, and classes, and what's great is that he is a member of the faculty of the university that I attend [Tilburg University]; what's even greater is that I saw his lecture and I actually met him! I have the picture to prove it!

Anwyay, this was an exciting day for us, we had lunch with ING Bank, and several lectures on Trust. It was a seminar organised by ASSET student organisation and included Mr. Geert Hofstede as a closing presenter. It really is amazing to see in real life the person who's work you studied for the past year or so.

For more pictures see:

Media Poisoning in Europe...

When I came to Europe, I thought it would be a whole new world with new perspectives, and it is. Concerning the people, I thought they would be a lot more intelligent and open-minded, and they are. However, there are certain times where I begin to doubt this open mindedness, which is purely due to their lack of knowledge about the truth or mal-knowledge, mis-communication, or poisoning by the media. [Please do not take this as a religious/racial/ethnic argument, but merely as an observation from my view]. I can give several examples to clarify what I’m trying to say:

Anne Frank Museum: at the Anne Frank museum, there was a small room with several videos on religious controversies playing, around the room, where several buttons, where the audience could enter their votes on whether they agree or not; [It's called Free2choose]. I was appalled by the reaction of the audience to some of the issues. A simple thing like "should policemen/women be allowed to wear religious attire on duty [for example a turban]", the majority said No. I for one, see no problem in allowing a Sikh policeman to wear a turban on duty, however, this audience had no idea of how important this could be to that individual. Of course certain issues definitely conflict with fundamental human rights or the safety of the society, but I see no way how a turban can affect society negatively [in terms of security]. As a matter of fact, the majority of the crowd was giving answers that went against the particular religion/religious right in question. Question after question they were simply saying if they were closed minded; The focal factor here is freedom of speech and so they have the right to express their opinion; perhaps I am closed minded for not seeing it from their perspectives, but from my perspective they had no compassion what so ever about the religious sect in focus. A friend later reassured me that the majority were probably tourist [being that it was a museum], and not Dutch [who we perceive to be fairly open minded and tolerant].

Pakistan: There have been several occasions where this came up. Usually, when one hears the country name, they associate it with a bad situation, or war, or unrest, when in reality it's a completely different situation, or something deeper than what the media spawns it to be. I may not be well qualified to discuss such a topic, but from what I’ve heard from my two Pakistani friends: it is not what the media sells it to be. Once, one of my Pakistani friends went to the city-hall on Eid, the lady there said "oh you're from Pakistan", he immediately thought she was going to wish him a happy Eid, however she said "yeh the situation is bad there, I hear". I went to city-hall on another day and the lady looked and me and asked me "Hello Jevin, you're from Pakistan huh?” trying to guess. [Now I’ve been asked several times if I’m Indian - and I am to a certain extent and due to ancestry - but I’ve never been specifically mistaken to be Pakistani] I don't know where she got this idea from. But in all, I guess everyone has been scared and scarred by the September 11th attacks, and ever since the the world has been paranoid and delusional about terrorists and inherently religion and race.

My whole point to this is that people, in general, around the world, not only in Europe, sometimes tend to get into the trap and habit of generalizing, assuming, and misjudging things and people. All I ask is to not be so gullible toward the media, look more into things, step back and look at it from a wider perspective, be compassionate toward other human beings, it's hard for us as immigrant minorities living in Europe. People always look at me differently, but it's not always bad. I always remember in Czech when I was the only dark skinned person on the train and everyone was looking at me. Later on [recently] a Lithuanian girl told me that they don't really see much dark skinned people around in Eastern Europe. There's always a rational explanation for most sane things in life.

Please again, do not see this as a negative experience on my part or my stay here in Europe, it's just and observation on some trends in society on the whole.

Student Sounds

Student Sounds is a concept that was launched in September 2005, the idea is to give students in Tilburg a great party for a small amount of money. Furthermore the focus should be on decoration and famous artists that play music that is popular among students [my kind of music: trance/dance/house]. It's a huge party that sells out every year! And it's not all hype, they stick to their word, it is an insane, pumping party, with lots of students, music and drinks [beers are a bit expensive].

This year, Ida Engberg, a Swedish Female DJ performed. As some random dutch girls in the crowd shouted to me:

We know she's beautiful and talented, but we can't understand why all the guys go crazy over her when she performs.

I guess they have a lot to learn about guys; This girl is beautiful, I don't know if she's talented but she looks really good turning those switches! Of course Wasiq and I had to go up close to take pictures with her. But seriously, she is talented with some hardcore styles in her portfolio. The night was wicked, with Marcos, Salman, Wasiq, Ken, Minh and myself; we even saw Korhan [our roommate], and Rusmir.

The greatest event for the night, was a system error event with the DJ visualization software, haha, this Microsoft, always giving problems, everywhere. I'm so glad I got this picture!

LedStudio.exe has encountered a problem. If you were in the middle of something, your information might be lost. Please tell Microsoft about this problem.

Duh! Of course I was in the middle of something! One of the biggest student parties in Tilburg! Haha.

For more pictures, see:

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Autumn Arrives: Leaves' Fall

Wow, I don't believe ever in my life have I stepped back to admire the beauty of Autumn. Well of course the only times I experienced it before now was last year and 4 years back in New York [since Trinidad doesn't have the four seasons]. However, I never noticed how pretty it can be, this dynamic and elaborate artwork by nature that brings brightness to the day in spite of the harsh and bitter winds of the upcoming winter. It feels really playful when you walk through the thick natural heaps of leaves alongside the streets, dragging your feet and kicking them to scatter.

Here are some trees outside of my window that turned from light green to bright yellow, and then to florescent red in a matter of a couple of days. The sunsets have been heart-warming as well; once, we took chairs and sat on our balcony [being on the highest floor] just to watch it. There were three balloons in the distance; apparently its popular to go ballooning when the weather is nice, but it's quite expensive [150 euros per person for 1 hour]. Ah-well, soon we will have to be saying "farewell fall, and welcome winter".

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Helen's Birthday: Integration

So in trying to integrate a bit with the Dutch, we attended Helen's Birthday party. Helen is a friend of Ken's, she's half Chinese, half Dutch, half German, half Indonesian, etc, etc. It was a good party, but we didn't integrate as much as we hoped, except with Helen [although we did integrate with others to a certain extent]. It's difficult with this different culture, and especially the language to get into the circle of conversations that occur at a party or anywhere for that matter. And it's not only in The Netherlands; we've been trying to figure out this complex dance of communication and integration ever since France, and then Finland. It's not that I am averse to integration or incapable of it, or that the other person is as well, but it's just a simple the fact that integration is a difficult process and takes TIME - which is what we don't have. It's like a speed dating process for us when it comes to making friends, we simply get to know them and then we move on the the next country [in this case]. How does one get from a simple hello-goodbye relationship to something more substantial and wholesome - a friendship? Is it that they don't want to get close to us since we leave so soon? Do they see our attempts at friendship superficial? Is it that they are shy and we have to make the first move? Is it that they see us as segregated and amongst our selves all the time and that it's difficult to enter the circle? Is it the language? Or is it that they are purely internationally averse and would rather stick with what they're accustomed to?

Friday, 19 September 2008

The Efteling: Theme-Park

I always thought that it would be fun to go to an amusement park with friends [after all it's supposed to be 'amusing']. All the times I went before were with family. There just so happened to be one very close by to Tilburg [Kaatsheuvel], and one of the largest and most popular themed-parks in The Netherlands; one of the leading theme parks in Europe; and one of the oldest theme parks in the world! It is called The Efteling and it appeals to both young and old with its cultural, romantic, nostalgic and fairy-tale themes and its variety of amusement rides. [No, it really is themed; you hear this fairy-tale music everywhere!]. So a group of us from IMMIT got together and decided to visit the park. The weather was lovely, the entertainment was end-less, and the day was in all enjoyable, worthy and awesome to the max!

There were a rides ranging from simple and romantic rides, the fairy-tale garden/forest where we saw most of our favourites like sleeping beauty and snow white; to brutally scary rollercoaster rides. I have to admit that I was pretty scared at the beginning, with my fear of heights and all, but at the end of the day, I felt like I had overcome my greatest fears. The thing is with roller-coasters, is that they look scary and big, but most of that fear comes from not knowing what is coming; as long as you take it once, the second time becomes a trill, and you keep on wanting more and more, like a drug-user, except you become a trill-seeker. Also you come to realise that it's only for about 30-40 seconds.

So at the end of the day, I was a rollercoaster-expert, waiting for the next freefall event, we even took the Python rollercoaster [with three 360 degree loops and 1 full twist] 4 times! The Flying Dutchman was good too, a mix of a rollercoaster ride and a water-ride, ending with a huge splash into water! It was a tiring but also relaxing day, spending time with people you know, just strolling through the park, and we did end up covering most of it [although it's huge].

For more pictures see:

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Tilburg University: Secret Places of Escape

So I've been going around the campus, trying to discover all it's hidden wonders and facilities. There's so much that students miss out on, or that they pass by every day without noticing, with their heads down in the ground or in their books. The Zwijsen Building, and the Esplanade Restaurant are some of the more prominent but less visited locations at the university.

Esplanade is a really nice cafe, with cheap beer, a rustic design [with shelves of books behind the bar], and a terrace, where students can just go to chill out, relax, or have a graduation dinner party. The Zwijsen Building, is somewhat in the center of campus, and from the outside looks somewhat robotic, futuristic and apathetic, however it is the University Meditation Building [who has this??], and from the inside it's quite warm, quiet and peaceful: conducive to meditation, prayer, relaxation, and silence.

Also recently discovered were the artistic interior designs of the liberal arts building, including the room which I call the funky room since it has really cool colourful chairs, lamps and sofas, where you can just lie down and do some heavy group work and discussions ;). The beautiful lake near the cafeteria and the semi-panoramic views from the 12th floor of K building, just complete the school's natural ambiance and induces relaxation.

For more pictures see:

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Amsterdam & de Zaanse Schans

Although I had been in Amsterdam for two weeks before, I decided to go on an excursion to Amsterdam this weekend. The Deal was awesome: 24 euros, for transport to and from Amsterdam [already a good deal], a tour of a windmill village [de Zaanse Schans], the Anne Frank museum, a canal tour [the best way to see the city: through the water], free time and a tour of the red light district. The day was really enjoyable, especially the exposure to the traditional dutch things like windmills, cheese, wooden shoes [clogs], cows, and houses [architecture].

This is the description that ESN gave, and it was nothing short of the truth:
Explore Holland with ESN! Our first excursion will take you to the capital of the Netherlands: Amsterdam. The city is known for its historic port, the Rijksmuseum, the red-light district (de Wallen) and the liberal coffeeshops. We will start at de Zaanse Schans, which has a collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses and where you can see how cheese and the wooden clogs are made. Afterwards we will go to Amsterdam, where we will go on a canal tour to see Amsterdam from the canals and visit the famous Anne-Frankhouse. Of course there will also be free time for you to explore Amsterdam on your own. We will finish our excursion with a tour through the Red-Light District in the evening. Subscription is required at our office. Costs are 24 euros with ESN-card and 26 euros without ESN-card (any "visits" in the Red-Light District are not included).

For more pictures see:

Thursday, 11 September 2008


The student association known as MAK organized a student Bar-B-Que this Thursday [September 11th :S]. Although it was 5 euros, it turned out to be really successful, and worthy [with 2 beers, food, and four samples of four different types of meat included]. There was a DJ, sound system, toilets, and light effects all well organized in the middle of a forest!

Yep, it was held deep in a forest close-by school. The forest is very beautiful, 'naturistic', and decorated with sculpture art [scattered about the scenery]. The weather turned out to be ok too, and in the end there was extra sausages [for free], we had our beers that we brought from home ;). Marcos and I had lots of fun with Justina, Raminta and some other friends figuring out our way out through the dark forest.

Of course the after party was at Philip and Cul-de-Sac.

For more pictures see:

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Inside the US Presidential Election

Today I found myself attending a Nexus seminar [presentation/discussion] entitled "Inside the US Presidential Election". However, before entering Europe, I had no knowledge, understanding, and more so, no interests what-so-ever in politics of the US, or even my own country for that matter. As stated in one of my initial posts:

This experience in fact opens the mind and expands the perspectives of any person. There becomes a growing international awareness, and concern is emergent for global issues that were once ignored.

It is true, and I do feel more genuine interests evolving in me concerning politics, law, economics [or more generally, these global issues], and other topics that were once considered boring to me.

I still came out of the session confused as ever, but the US politics is known to be very complex with a lot of social, economic, personal, and environmental events and factors influencing it. I did learn some things however; and hey, at least I got to meet someone famous in the process! The speech was delivered by Sidney Blumenthal who is Senior Adviser to Senator Hillary Clinton and former Assistant and Senior Adviser to President Bill Clinton. He is among the world's most prominent experts on nowadays American politics and journalism. This guy has even watched the movie "Air Force One" [staring Harrison Ford] while flying on the Air Force One!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Dutch Innovation

Wow! These people are quite on top of things here. The fork is my favorite and quite ingenious and practical! it's a knife and fork in one! The knife is to the side, amazing.

Then there's this Chipknip system [picture courtesy Slavica], it's like an electronic wallet, you don't need to walk around with lots of cash, simply transfer money from your bank account to your chipknip account on the same card using this machine and use your card to pay at stores without having to enter your pin.

And last but not least, the amazing anti-theft system in the Tilburg University Library! wo-hoo! This is actually here, but seriously the library is quite advanced, if you start eating or talking in the quiet zone, security officers come running immediately to stop you [since the entire area is under surveillance], also the book checkout is completely automated, with a conveyor belt and all the works, it even gives you a printed receipt of when to return the book.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Tilburg: First Perspectives

After about two weeks in Amsterdam, I arrived to my final destination and study city of Tilburg. Located in the south of The Netherlands, the city nestles in a particularly green and varied setting, and one can travel from the bustling city centre into the peace and quiet of the countryside in practically no time at all [there are sheep here! sorry, I don't believe I ever saw a real sheep before].

It's a small student-oriented town, with not much clubs, but more bars/pubs, and not much to see; but it is nice none-the-less. My stay here began with the university's [Universiteit van Tilburg: Tilburg University] welcome week, which was well organized; they even picked us up at the train station, and provided transport for our luggage. Welcome week is essentially a set of lectures/workshops, on how the school operates [administrative stuff], and on how to integrate well in the international environment [social stuff]. One of these workshops included a run down on the soft drug policy in The Netherlands; just so that these young eager international students won't get into trouble too soon. The other workshop I attended was "documenting your study abroad"; as if I don't do enough blogging already. There were also some funky, embarrassing games to get you into the mood of things. Of course, it's all coupled with a brain-wrecking series of [almost] daily/nightly parties; with free [university-sponsored] drinks at almost all of the events.

On the rare days that I was sober, I spent time visiting some of the cities sights, churches, and parks [beautiful greenery]. Leijpark was an eventful venue, with a kids play park, lots of trees, lakes, and a huge balloon blow-up that we just happened to witness. I've also started to cook a bit more, and well I think it's improving; so far I've done a "chicken mushroom pasta", "stew chicken", and "chicken in red/tomato sauce", lol.

MY birthday was spent here this Saturday with, naturally, a huge IMMIT party. Not everyone was here but it turned out to be great; with Trinidadian samples like sorrel, and sugar cakes, and 75% puncheon rum :) and other international stuff that people brought from home. Afterward we went to the Onnela club of Tilburg: Phillips and returned home at 4:30am.

Altogether it was an eventful introduction into Dutch society and culture, now the hardest part comes: to get into study mode and prepare for my thesis and internship. :S

For more pictures see: