The past few days have literally been a daze, hard cold rain seems to have kept me inside for the most part, but I managed to get out a bit for a few events. But, these days are perfect for reflections. My Dutch Culture and Society professor said those that come in the spring made the better choice (luckily I got to experience both) but I’m realizing she was right; Amsterdam LOVES spring holidays and festivals, and we’ve had quite a bit of school off for these special days. However, I don’t have class on Mondays or Fridays anyway, so they felt pretty normal.
Events in Spring
Aside from King’s Day, there are a few other official (and unofficial) spring holidays that the Dutch celebrate. I was in Lyon for Labor Day on May 1; this is an unofficial holiday that involves a lot of strikes, and our professor said to stay away from the university building… socialist protests. Shortly after on May 4, the Netherlands remembers those that died in peace-keeping missions (WWII as well as the Indonesian Revolution) at the national monument in Dam Square. It’s known as “Dodenherdenking,” and King Willem Alexander comes to town.
I did, however, make it to the May 5 celebrations in Westergasfabriek for Liberation Day. The Netherlands holds a variety of festivals on May 5 to celebrate liberation from Germany (by the Canadians). I was in Westergasfabriek anyway writing a paper on the buildings there (uploaded into my new “Netherlands Writings” section), and checked out the market and a few of the stages at the Bevrijdingsfestival. They just love to celebrate over here!
Despite horrid weather, I had places to go and people to see. I’ve been working on selling some of my belongings already, things I can’t take back to the US or don’t have a need for. I had been meaning to explore far west Amsterdam a bit more, specifically a coffee place, and luckily the girl buying my bike pump lived there. I met her at White Label Coffee, and then spent the day doing work there by the window, half doing actual research and half just watching the rain.
Sunday night was a real treat. The Food Film Festival was happening in Amsterdam over the rainy weekend; it’s a small festival dedicated to sustainable food and cooking, involving mainly cooking workshops and viewings of food-related films. The events are pricey, but I went to see the free keynote speaker, the final event of the festival. And who was the speaker? Only my favorite American farmer, Joel Salatin! I couldn’t believe it. He’s mentioned in The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and can been seen in the films Food, Inc. and American Meat. Who would have thought he would be wrapping up his visit to the Netherlands literally five minutes from where I live? I got there early and sat in the front row (naturally) next to a Dutch man who works for basically the Audubon Society of the Netherlands, Vogelbescherming Nederland. Of course that would happen.
Anyway, more on Joel. He’s a farmer and author from Virginia with special emphasis on alternative farming. Most of his talk was about his own farm and the methods he uses (free-range, no pesticides or antibiotics) and then he focused a little bit on the perfect alternative farm customer. My favorite quote by Joel was something along the lines of this “We are not meant to be a manipulator, but a masseuse… a masseuse of the ecological womb.” He also made a good point about meat production, a huge resource-user that would seem to collide with his principles. He said that basically not eating meat or encouraging the stop to production of meat is the biggest insult unto indigenous people, as farm animals are the ideal source of mobile, nutrient-rich food for those that don’t have first-world options of vegetarianism. Taking away their main source of life would be an incredible detriment. Animals are also crucial in farming (manure, naturally tilling soil, etc,). This made me think a lot about the choices of environmental vegetarians, and it was refreshing to hear about this debate from an environmentalist himself.
Joel’s ideal customer is one that involves their kids in the kitchen and really yearns to have a relationship with their food. They have to be willing to be innovative, and learn how to use knives again (silly, but so true). They also have to be willing to meet their farmers to get a full picture of food production. Another Joel quote, something along the lines of “if you don’t your farmer should make as much as you do, you don’t deserve to eat their food.” I really butchered that one (no pun intended) but he was emphasizing the importance of the farmer.
So, there we have it. You wondered what I have been up to for the past few days? That’s it! I’ve been doing a lot of work and research on some exciting papers. The one I’m most excited about is research I’ve done on the quality of life in the Netherlands, rates of psychiatric disorders, and how Green Care farms and healing gardens are the Western European route to mental success. I’ll upload that to my Netherlands Writings section as well once it’s complete. Stay tuned… I might only have 17 more days here, but they will be busy up until the very last minute!