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all that is and all that is not
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dutch "divorce hotel".
haha. so like the netherlands to come up with something like this :P

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highly inspirational. 



" And this is how they get to rehearsal. Six days a week, 90 minutes each way. Some would call it a trek. For them, it's a commute. "

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Finally begun doing a little exploration of holland after being here for a while :P 

1. Rotterdam
Very much a modern city complete with skyscrapers, quite different from the relatively touristy-old-town feel of Amsterdam. 
Went there to see the photo museum where there was an exhibit of Vieux Paris by Atget. The shots were not particularly artistic, at least to my unschooled eye, but more of a chronicle of history and the faces of Paris before it was remodelled. There were a lot of random-looking subjects, like door knobs, courtyards ,etc. Admittedly it must have been a technical feat to take photos such as those he took in those days where they carried around the huge box cameras and he often had to take pictures at relatively queer times in the morning or something like that when it was less busy. The museum had an interesting trace of the history of photography in Holland presented in an interactive manner-- one had to carry around a white cardboard piece, that when placed into open trays set upon tables in a sequence of 12 stops, triggered a video that introduced some aspect of dutch photography. 
On the way to Rotterdam through the Dutch countryside, there were many cows grazing peacefully, and sheep too!
Also saw the Kubuswoningen, which was developed as a social housing project in various Dutch cities. I find it quite hard to fathom living comfortably in these houses, given their unusual orientations. The museum and the hostel among the Kubuswoningen are good ideas, I think, there's definitely a sense of novelty for the unacquainted, though one might not want to live long-term in one of these houses.

2. Utrecht
It certainly helped that I visited Utrecht on a beautifully sunny day. Sat outside a cafe and enjoyed a cappuccino and an apple ball basking in the gentle sunshine, and listening to the cheerful strains of an accordion-player's tune. The city's a lot more family-friendly, so I hear that many young families choose to relocate to Utrecht from Amsterdam as the environment is preferable, not so much of a crazy party city packed with tourists and sex and drugs. It's a pretty city, also has canals and restaurants and shops along these canals. I found it rather similar to some of the German towns I've seen, centered around a Dom, with pretty houses and squares, though the canals are an added plus.

.3 Leiden
Quaint, peaceful historical town. Twas pretty, and it was interesting to learn that Tulips actually came from Turkey and were not originally from Holland -- the first Tulip in holland was planted by an academic in leiden in the botanic garden. 

4. Food-hunting around Amsterdam. 
Finally tried the cafe beside Noordermarkt and the Bio/Fresh produce saturday market, which is famous for its appeltaart. It was Really Good! the best appeltaart I've ever had :) also tried pancakes from the pancake house -- they were huge; and they had quite a lot of interesting-sounding toppings, such as "international pancakes" named after countries. Realized that basically they have a pancake base, and simply put some added ingredients on top, so it's not actually meshed into the pancake itself :P 
Tried Dutch cuisine at Restaurant Moeders -- glimpsed Stamppot, which I had previously erroneously assumed to be a stew-like concoction served in a pot, but is actually a plate with sausage, sauerkraut, potato. Dutch cuisine's rather heavy/winter-geared/not very exciting :P 
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saturday was a lazy-ish day... finally went to the gym for a few minutes in the morning (could only run for 10min before expiring :P) , then out for brunch at Gartine, which was a really nice, cosy little cafe near the Begijnhof. The food was decent though not spectacular -- i must say the homemade jam preserve was delicious -- but the presentation in dainty dutch porcelain, and the personal family-run manner of the place, somewhat like the B&Bs in England/Scotland I suppose, was really appealing. Then scurrying around aimlessly in the afternoon before going to the Hague for Korean BBQ (yum!). First good Korean meal (by my standards) I'd had in a year I believe. Twas an all-you-can-eat so we were quite in a hurry as we'd been told we would only have 1.5h as there was a reservation after us. So we basically ordered the whole menu and wolfed stuff down. :P 25 euros pp which is not bad by nederlandse standards. it seems quite tough to find affordable good food over here =S 
Sunday's highlight was a visit to the Hermitage museum for an exhibition of artworks mainly by Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens, 3 hugely important Flemish painters in the 17th century. I enjoy the guided tours they hold there -- the 2 guides I've seen so far (admittedly a teeny sample size) have both been very witty and encyclopaedic in knowledge, and hearing them talk about the pieces and the general context really makes the whole experience much more interesting. The guide this time pointed out a house we could spy through the windows of the museum (which at least till 5 years ago was a mental hospital-institution) which belongs to a family of many city mayors, who possess a huge art collection. They usually only have private visits once a year, (one has to write a letter and hopefully get an invitation from them), but due to financial constraints, they've had to enlist the government's help in artwork preservation, in return for which they have to provide the art collection pieces to the Rijksmuseum 2months every (2?) years. Nice exchange from which everyone benefits :) 
So during the 17th century it was common to have collaborations with each artist specializing in a certain genre. Eg. Rubens had a few collaborations involving Snyders, a specialist in birds, flowers; with the figures by Rubens but the side decor by Snyders. Also a lot of the work from Rubens' studio was not done by him, the master usually just drew some outlines or painted some of the main faces, and then the students would complete the rest of it. It was interesting to see the development of certain areas of art -- Rubens revived the art of portraiture even though he was not a specialist in it, he was pretty all-rounded and well-versed in various areas; Van Dyck was renowned as a portrait painter for the nobility --supposedly he was good at capturing some inner desire/bringing out the prettier part of the people without making it too false; Jordaens' clientele was more the rich people not so much the courts. Guess there's always the practical monetary aspect to art -- artists in those days had to find their own funding/means of earning money to survive; perhaps they had more sponsors in the nobility with all the rich powerful people like Catherine the Great of Russia being huge fans of collecting artwork. Of those on display I most liked Rubens' style, with more depth as compared to Jordaens (stemming from his origins as a carpet designer according to our guide -- who's an archaeologist and really cool!)and seemingly more flair than van Dyck, though this is a random comment from an unlearned eye. And it's interesting how the flow of artpieces around the world also chronicles the victories and failures and faibilities of monarchs of the past. For one, the Russians now own quite a significant Rembrandt collection because King Wilhelm(sp?) Anna Pavlovna Romanov's husband was a gambler and bankrupt and needed to beg her family for money, giving up artwork in exchange.
Then it was back to trying to finish thesis :S sigh. 

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Went to saint andrews last week and twas really beautiful!
the first evening was quite awesome -- there were bagpipes as a welcome at the hotel entrance, then we descended into a large ballroom area for dinner -- delicious shrimp, a do-it-yourself ice-cream bar, and pork with the whole pig on the spit and the waiters carving it into chunks in front of you. There was a slight lack of anything green, but it was good food nevertheless. After dinner was the usual band+dance floor; upon which i, being my usual two-left-footed-and-wooden-blockish-self, disappeared off back to the room. argh i wish i could dance/sway to the rhythm/at least look like i enjoy the music cos i actually do but just can't move to it :S 
the next day we were lucky enough to have sunny weather highly atypical of scotland; not for nothing is it christened the birthplace of golf. i didn't get a chance to play golf over there ,but still the lolling grass dunes were breathtaking and simply wandering around the area gave one a very strong sense of peace. saw some traditional scottish dance, very lively and energetic, and attempted to blow some noise out of bagpipes. After the bagpipe session, the teacher told us that apart from one or two guys, the rest, unfortunately should just perish the thought of learning the bagpipes. :P It's an odd instrument.... i still haven't quite figured out where the sound comes from cos it seems almost delayed; after one blows for quite a bit then some random harmony comes gushing out. haha. The Scottish clan games also looked rather amusing -- with them throwing tree logs and carrying trunks around >< 
took a short stroll through saint andrews town itself, and thought it a highly charming place. i can actually understand why people would come all the way to saint andrews just to play golf, and pay quite a bit probably; the old golf course is often really fully booked way in advance cos everyone wants to play there. the nice thing about the golf course here is that it's very open; so one can go really near to where the pros play during a tournament and see what's happening. it's also the town where william met kate! as it's the 3rd oldest college in the nation after Oxbridge, and is where the prince studied. He first started with art history (people said it might be to figure out how to price his grandmother's assets) then switched out) There was this coffee house with a sign in the window saying "where kate met wills" supposedly they had coffee there >< but the sign was really rather... sad-looking...ah wells. conjures dreams of meeting a prince in a picturesque little town :P 
had a short swim in the tiny hotel pool; pre-dinner was highly amusing cos the guys all had to wear kilts and parade in, and offer leafy bracelets to their chosen girls. i was quite tickled while observing the process :P dinner was quite delicious :) with tapas with salmon, pork, various meats; some odd curry-flavored bread which was hard to handle>< good steak; post-dinner we were ushered onto buses and brought to a site with ruins (which i thought was the same graveyard we visited in the day, but apparently not and had no graves) then a procession of bagpipers in black came in; followed by "hagar"(sp?) on a huge tray. The sheep innards were cut up while they told some story i couldn't quite understand (i have real issues with scottish accents =S it seems almost like non-english to me; or my english is too bad ... ) and then offered to everyone so we could scoop a bit with the spoon we were given, and finish the shot of whiskey (scottish national drink) we were given too. 
following that the founder gave a speech -- he's really "living the dream" as someone put it.. so successful yet so down-to-earth. i hear he is seen walking around with socks, and though he's one of the richest persons in holland he still rides public transport. true humility is such. he started with a joke about what the difference between a scottish wedding and funeral is -- one less drunk person ;) and continued in a relaxed, humorous style. i really admire how he commands people's liking and respect at the same time; 
then we shuttled back to the grass in front of the hotel, and there were Fireworks! that was a nice cap to the magical time in the ruins. 
then dessert with a chocolate fondue fountain! and a melange of tarts and puffs and such :D and an open bar.. ended up making my liver work too hard for my liking i think =/ beer+whiskey+baileys+ goodnessknowswhat. and there was the usual dancing again and people all getting quite high >< and i stood around awkwardly... but all in all it was a really wonderfully-organized and magical night!
sunday morning had a quick walkabout in edinburgh with its castles and monuments -- I really liked the very wide,open main street, with a statue at every junction. I forget it's name, perhaps st george's or something like that, running parallel to the main shopping street; basically thought the street was quite gorgeous, with stone buildings on the side; castles in the far background; 
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Lyrics from: http://lyricstranslate.com

When we have only love

When we have only love
To share
On the day of the great journey
That is our great love

When we have only love,
My love, you and me,
So that each hour and each day
Burst with joy.

When we have only love
To live our promises
With no other resource
Than always believing

When we have only love
To furnish with wonders
And cover with sunlight
The suburbs' ugliness

When we have only love
As a single reason
As a single song
And single relief

When we have only love
To provide, in the morning,
The poor and the highwayman
With velvet coats

When we have only love
To offer as a prayer
To the earth's pains,
As a simple troubadour

When we have only love
To offer to those
Whose sole struggle
Is to look for daylight

When we have only love
To show the way
And change the course of fate
At every crossroad

When we have only love
To talk to guns
And just a song
To convince a drum

So, having nothing
But the strength to love,
We will have in our hands,
My friend, the whole world

Quand on n'a que l'amour

Quand on n'a que l'amour
À s'offrir en partage
Au jour du grand voyage
Qu'est notre grand amour

Quand on n'a que l'amour,
Mon amour toi et moi
Pour qu'éclatent de joie,
Chaque heure et chaque jour.

Quand on n'a que l'amour
Pour vivre nos promesses
Sans nulle autre richesse
Que d'y croire toujours

Quand on n'a que l'amour
Pour meubler de merveilles
Et couvrir de soleil
La laideur des faubourgs

Quand on n'a que l'amour
Pour unique raison
Pour unique chanson
Et unique secours

Quand on n'a que l'amour
Pour habiller matin
Pauvres et malandrins
De manteaux de velours

Quand on n'a que l'amour
À offrir en prière
Pour les maux de la terre,
En simple troubadour

Quand on n'a que l'amour
À offrir à ceux-là
Dont l'unique combat
Est de chercher le jour

Quand on n'a que l'amour
Pour tracer un chemin
Et forcer le destin
À chaque carrefour

Quand on n'a que l'amour
Pour parler aux canons
Et rien qu'une chanson
Pour convaincre un tambour

Alors, sans avoir rien
Que la force d'aimer,
Nous aurons dans nos mains,
Ami, le monde entier

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summer? . it's roaring rains outside ... >< the weekend was humid and probably about 26-7 degrees, up more than 1% from the previous days. not complaining though :P i still prefer the coolness, though it is rather gloomy indeed, and is wont to become gloomier =S
cool dry mornings make me happy though--walking out into the crisp morning, the pink sunrise, the aroma of baking bread, a morning cup of cafe au lait, la vie est belle :)
looking forward to this weekend, where i get to take a boat ride on the canal! and visiting brussels for the first time too! whee.
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nice sunny sunday weather. went to the westerpark today for a book fair, manuscripta, at westergasfabriek. there was a whole lot of going-ons (hmm i don't even know how to get this sentence grammatically right anymore) at the fair, among them an interview with 2 chinese authors, 苏童and 棉棉.

她说不希望是一个牺牲品.作者和共产党斗是斗不了的,她十六岁写了第一份作品,十七岁开始因为作品中描述的年轻人的疯狂和谈论比较有争议性的课题(sex, drugs, R&R, homosexuality) 就被禁,之后也没有什么不被禁的经验.所以被问到她对这种封锁的想法时,她也不知道该说什么了,因为太久没去想了,因为当中的emotional 成分太多.她说人的生活都是疯狂的,这是一种不正常,特别是年轻人,因为对很多事情不了解.她说上海极其浮华,像洗衣机,洗完之后留下来的只是很表面地东西.她说写作是为自己,从来不会太去在乎其他人,包括读者的看法,她觉得作品不重要,别人看不看她的作品不重要, 最重要是一种状态,就是对生命是认真的,对爱是认真的.在疯狂世界中我们很多时候缺的就是一种恒定把.

苏童--说他那个时代是一个对文学狂热的时代,你如果不写作就会被看成是没脑袋的人.他就是其中一个盲目写作的人,而且也是一个"退稿王"几乎天天都收到杂志,出版社 的退稿.他后来还是成为了很出名的作家, 张艺谋就钟爱他的作品, 大红灯笼高高挂就是从他的书改编出来的. 他说文人有一个共同点---就是对现实不满,想藉由文字对现实做出一定的改变.看的出他对付媒体相当有经验,很圆滑,很周密,但对我们来说,好像太有距离感,缺乏一点真诚.但这也难怪,藉古讽今,对政府提出批判,又不越界成为被禁的作家,保持通过出书接触读者的权利,是一项很delicate 的平衡,需要思想很周密的人才能做到把..

还遇到了一个从香港来这里读文学分析硕士的女生,很有意思.她这一年内已经写了三本书,第一本是漫画类型的书, 她现在正在写第三本书的最后一张.这本书,她说已经酝酿了一年半,对爱情,同性恋, 作更深一层的分解.

之后又去看了final destination 5 对本身的文化修养显然没有太大的帮助呵呵.但还挺佩服创作组的创意,听说五部电影中各个血腥的死法,还没有一个是重复的呢.死任何时候都能来临,只能坦然面对罗.
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can't believe it's been slightly over two months already that i've been in amsterdam...
i must say the city's definitely got its charm. it's not huge like new york or paris where one sometimes feels overwhelmed. but it's large enough that there's something different to do and something new to discover, even for people who've lived here over 2 years.
tis been an enjoyable weekend -- yesterday morning was like some apocalpytic vision -- the sky, or at least the part of it I could spy through the windows, went almost totally black in the morning -- a thunderstorm/darkness had engulfed the area, and I was really glad to be indoors >.< and bernanke was set to speak sometime later in the day. people were commenting how the man really knows how to make his appearance felt :P today started with promising sunbeams which soon gave way to rain. visited the stedilijk museum, spanning a range of contemporary art pieces, from typography, advertisements, sculptures, photography, to videos. I rather liked a room in which there were revolving vertical blinds, one side coated with reflective material and the other side matte, that served to connect the exterior and interior scenery. following that, caught a free jazz piano concert as one of the Uitmarkt events. It was a veritable crowd trying to squeeze into the little zaal. The setting was an intimate one --with little wooden tables and chairs really close to the grand piano, which made it a lot more personal. the company was interesting too -- met this girl who's recently finished working on production managing a short film for a director in amsterdam, and is now working on making her own documentary about the 1920s in America. There's so many cool and interesting people around! ... how i wish i could be cool/interesting like that. ah wells. i guess there's pros/cons to each path in life -- she was also mentioning how there's a lot of uncertainty in her line, and sometimes she wonders what she's doing when she finds herself one week doing voiceovers for companys at call centers ( so automatic answering machines when one dials into company hotlines might be her) really admire how these people just do their own thing, something they're really passionate about, and also are really comfortable with themselves, who they are, what they're doing with their lives... a dutch girl i met the other day also gets my respect -- she's going to start studies to become a police officer soon! it's a 4-year university-like course here apparently, so they go through some rigorous training indeed, a mixture of theory and practicum across different fields of specialization. watched my first woody allen film at night on museumplein, screened open-air. realized i really like open-air film screenings. with the night air crisp and cool; honestly a tad too cold... but twas nice. from what i've heard it isn't his best film, but the wry, somewhat twisted humour was highly amusing, and there's a lot of gems about life thrown in there as well. i still don't know what the movie was titled actually, but it was set in manhattan and revolved around the lives of two men, and related women. that's a really bad description.. but i dunno really, there wasn't actually too much of a plot development or premise, it was an encapsulation of life i suppose. well.. more of the weekend/more weekends coming up ahead... need to find more stuff to do! i guess i could go on with a museum a weekend; and probably try to do my first bike trip somewhere! and hopefully not get hopelessly lost :P
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