Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Years 2009: Amsterdam

After Christmas, we began making plans, not for exams yet, but what was to be done for New Years Eve [or Old Years, as we call it in Trinidad]. Since the last year was spent lost in Helsinki, it was set that we'd lose ourselves in Amsterdam.

With Amsterdam being one of the "global playboys", like New York, London, etc; we expected that it would be one of the biggest New Years Celebrations in the World. :). It was Wasiq, Slavica, Biljana, their friend, Salman, and I on the train to Amsterdam; we met Ahmed and Marcos there. It was indeed an exciting scene in the Sin City [as my mom would say: a "Den of iniquity!". And what is better to break in the New Year in Amsterdam than with a bottle of rum [that Marcos brought from duty free]!

We walked around a bit, got totally wasted, went to KFC, sobered up, and then went out again in time for the break of the New Year. However, it [the fireworks] was not as grand as I expected, The fireworks was out, everyone screaming, happy, fun, random wild and drunk girls rushing up to you screaming happy new year, and then of course the city of Amsterdam announced quite diplomatically at 12:30 am: "Happy new year to all, now we would kindly appreciate if you could all clear the area and go home" ha-ha.

So we proceeded to a bar where we spent the rest of the night talking and waiting for our trains back home. So goes our New Years adventure, at least we didn't get lost this time..or did we? Can't remember :P

For more pictures, see:

Friday, 26 December 2008

Demolishing History

After experiencing so much culture, heritage, and historic architecture in Europe, I am almost jealous, and now seek out my own culture in Trinidad; and have a deeper appreciation for some of the historic artifacts and remnants of the Victorian era and colonial days. Even fountains, which I had previously ignored, are now apparent to me, and hold some artistic or historical relevance!

It has recently been brought to my attention that one of our very significant monuments, "The Boissiere House", is at stake of being demolished.

The Boissiere House is a prime example of the late Victorian creole "gingerbread" architecture that was once characteristic of Port of Spain. It is a landmark known to hundreds of thousands, and a national architectural treasure.

Please put forward your support in any way possible to help prevent this from happening. Click the image below for more information and to see how you can help.

save boissiere house

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas 2008: The Shopping-Cart Chicken Project

Christmas this year was spent with IMMIT [or at least most of us]. With exams approaching, no one was in the mood to celebrate, and also most people went off to see family, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. However, we decided to make the most of it, and spend it together, and in good humor, although the weather was cold and uninviting, and the city and Stappegoorweg [where we held the event] was a ghost town [as most exchange students had left].

We wanted to bake a turkey but decided that that process would be largely complex and difficult to spawn relatively good results from. So we proceeded with The "shopping cart project", which turned out to be still largely complex, yet successful never-the-less. The project was largely lead by Wasiq, yet each of us had our important roles to play and fulfill. Here it goes: BBQ coals, aluminum foil, and a shopping cart that needed to be turned into an oven suitable for baking and not BBQ-ing; and 3 chickens and stuffing that needed to be turned into a Christmas Lunch for 12 people.

It was a large risk [as all our stomachs depended on these chickens spinning on a stick, but as can be seen in the pictures, it turned out quite successful and delicious! With what little resources we had, we turned a shopping cart into a blasting 350 Degrees oven capable of baking 3 whole chickens on a rotating stick. :) Call us what you want, managers, innovators, cooks, we just had an enjoyable and memorable time doing it. [I do not have much pictures, since I was either helping out or drinking :P]

For more pictures, see:

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Of Fog & Bad Weather

I remember back in Trinidad, on our drives into the “high” mountains on the way to Maracas beach, that we would be so amazed by the “fog”. Technically, it was not fog, but low hanging clouds around the mountains’ highest points, but for us, it was the closest thing that we could get to fog, and it was amazing. In Trinidad there’s no such thing as fog, since it never gets cold enough for the condensation to occur [of course there may have been one of two freak occurrences where it appeared].

Looking out of my window at 8:00 am this morning, the sun hadn’t risen, it was still dark [now being the dark period of winter], and there was the mysterious and eerie but fascinating fog engulfing all that was outside; the scanty and naked leafless trees almost seemed shivering.

I once met a Mexican guy in Brussels, who shared the same fascination for this odd weather as I did, and he explained: that Europeans don’t have an appreciation for it, since they are accustomed to it, however for tourists [for lack of a better word] like ourselves, or at least people who have grown up devoid of exposure to these natural but peculiar anomalies, the occurrence is almost magical. I disagree with him on the specificity of “European”; I would say anyone can lose appreciation for anything if exposed to it for an extended period of time. So the beach, which will be a tropical paradise to most Europeans, may seem mundane to me since I see it all the time and it’s not considered as a “luxury”, but as an “amenity”.

For instance, a simple thing as snow-fall and the soft and powerful glow given by the reflection of moonlight amazes and perplexes most international students [like myself]. I remember once in "management of knowledge and innovation" class, it began to snow heavily outside, all the Dutch students were paying attention and taking notes, while all the internationals were deeply entranced by the beauty and peculiarity of the snow. A person familiar with snow just hates it and wants it to go away, while we go running about nakedly and rolling in it [at -30 degrees Celsius].

It’s like the rain in London, that everyone needs to experience to bask in the true spirit of the city, while Londoners most often complain that London is wet always. If anyone who has seen films about London goes there, I’m pretty sure they would want to see the city in the way it was depicted: wet!

It’s like my visit to Bruges involved horridly freezing weather, however it was my first time to see hail, balls of ice hard as rock falling heavily, it was unregrettable. It’s like my visit to Finland where it was the first time I saw and felt -30 degrees Celsius and a frozen sea. It’s like the sheep here in The Netherlands: I’ve never seen in real life a sheep as depicted on TV before, with the fluffy wool coat, since the sheep in Trinidad are adapted to [in fact: bred for] the hot climate and actually have hair instead of wool. So, even the fields of boring sheep interests me here, although I’m a very “nature-exposed” person.

It’s just something I’ve never seen before in my life. Europe to me and some other people, who perhaps grew up closer to the equator, holds certain cliché, specific and special images: the fog over the canals, cobblestone streets with a dark, historic, and semi-romantic semi-mysterious feeling to it. It's the same way that Europeans have a clichéd view of the Caribbean: palm trees [which are found mostly only on the coastlines], white sand, dried coconut cups [which we never use, we drink from green/yellow coconuts], and pineapples [which we don't eat that often]. So next time you see me taking a picture of something strange, don’t just think of me a tourist and laugh; because when you come to my place the tables will be turned when you take out your camera to ‘capture the beach’.

The images in this post are not mine, please see below for the sources [in order of appearance in this post]:

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Ireland: Dublin & Howth

It has been my dream ever since to visit Ireland. While growing up, my ideal picture of Europe was Ireland, with green rolling fields and Cliffs, and strong culture & history. I have also been always fascinated by Celtic culture and music, which are both part of Ireland's olden times. I finally decided to go there, with Marcos, to experience it for myself.

Although I did not get the opportunity to see the green fields and more of the nature and old ruins of Ireland, I did however experience the multiculturalism and night culture of Dublin. I accepted the compromise of Dublin considering that we had no car to freely roam about the country [trains were a bit expensive] and agreed with myself to visit another time in my life when I had more free time. Another thing we missed was the traditional Irish Dance [see video below], but our tour guide played some traditional flute music for us in compensation for the loss.

Welcome to Dublin! From the Celtics to the Vikings, invaders have tried to tame this wild island, a place of legends, traditions, and lore. 750 years of resistance and rebellion would culminate in the tragedy of the Easter Rising in the middle of the First World War. Testament to the will of the local people, just a few generations later and Dublin is one of the leading business centers of Europe.

So we spent 2 days in Dublin, roaming about, bar hoping in the Temple bar district, touring [with the awesome guys of Sandeman's Free New Dublin Tours], and discovering some of the Irish heritage and history. For me, being a native English speaker, the accent was especially intriguing, and totally typical Irish. We realized also, due to the strange words on street signs, that there was indeed a language of the Irish called "Irish Gaelic", which we didn't know existed before.

Dublin is a vibrant city with live music in every pub - after visiting Irish pubs in almost all European cities, we finally got the chance to visit an actual Irish pub, sampling Guinness and Irish coffee, [consisting of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and brown sugar, stirred, and topped with thick cream] in Ireland!! Still, it was super-expensive: the standard of living was quite high, with a simple, non-filling sandwich costing the same as a full course restaurant meal in Europe - 8€-10€. The funny/weird thing, though, was that a hair-cut was super-cheap, costing 2-3 times less than in Europe.

On our final day there, having not much to do, we visited a small "village type" town called Howth, there were supposed to be some magnificent cliffs there, however we had no time to see them; and for fear of missing our return flights, we had to leave prematurely.

For more pictures, see:

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Exchange Girls' Visit

It's been almost 7 months since leaving Finland, and our dear exchange friends from there. This month, the exchange girls [Veronika Hradilikova and Klara Churanova from Czech Republic, and Małgorzata Kwiecińskafrom Poland - cool names huh?] who we hung out with there decided to visit us and The Netherlands.

It's really sad, this Erasmus concept, where we meet people and then have to leave them in such short periods of time, yet these girls kept to their word and kept our friendships alive! We gave them a tour of this boring Tilburg and exposed them to some of our Dutch nightlife here. It was a refreshing reminder of our Finnish party days and the picture crazy frenzy that Veronica often gets into.

For more pictures see: