these are the posts tagged ‘groningen’:

the unbearable lightness of being

“When arriving in a city, we see streets in perspective.
Sequences of buildings with no meaning. Everything is unknown, virgin.
Later we’ll have lived in this city.
We’ll have walked in its streets.
We’ll have been to the end of the perspectives.
We’ll have seen all the buildings.
We’ll have lived stories with people.
When we’ll have lived in this city, we’ll have taken this street a thousand times. After a moment, everything belongs to you because you’ve lived there.

It was to happen but I didn’t know it yet.

Urquinaona. Groningen.
This thing that sounds weird was added to the long list of old weird names
that we have somewhere in our brain. Urquinaona, slightly slipped next to Mouffetard, Bondoufle, Ponteaux-Combault, Marolles-en-Hurepoix, Mandelieu-La Napoule and Knok le Zout.
Groningen, slightly slipped next to São Vítor, Ermesinde, Britelo, Areosa and Porto.

It becomes normal and familiar.”

from L’auberge espagnole, the image is from kokjebalder.

now that i’ve settled down and i can say “i’m back”, i realize how much i miss all the little things i called “home” last year.

the bunker visit


at the place where i work, there’s a bunker, inside of which lays the facility that controls the gas in the whole netherlands. live. all of it. i mean, it’s possible to close all the gas entries in all the cities and knock down the country with a few clicks and dos-like commands. and still have an impact on neighbouring countries, since holland has a huge reserve of natural gas and is considered the energy roundabout of europe. pretty much as in a science fiction movie.

anyway, the bunker is an autonomous underground control room, built separately from the rest of the building, with very limited access and iris scan entrance. the people working there have received training up to 5 years and know they are being watched by the national secret services.

the air seemed to be reaching it through a dozen of anti-everything filters, it felt clean and fresh, slightly artificial, in a private hospital kind of way, but without the smell. the walls had pictures of 20 years ago, when the team still worked on another location, and also pictures of the process of building the bunker (and let me assure you, buildings construction in a country below sea level isn’t easy – but that’s material for a whole new entry )

beyond the computers, the network maps in the walls and the darts target, the focused look of some people and all the support facilities around the room, there were a couple of things that made me smile.
first, an aquarium someone brought from a mixing station somewhere, when they didn’t know what to do with it there. it was big, colorful and occupied the center of the control room.
then, on one of the walls, there was a real-time video stream from the garden outside. no sound, just image. people chatting, biking, unaware they were being watched. it gave the workers down there a meter, a view of the weather and the light outside. i found the idea so humane, so nice.

as opposed to the offices upstairs, the aura there was calm, focused. i mean, people smiled at me, the stranger being guided through them as they silently watched the screens, made calls and someone delivered some fresh made coffee.

and at that point, i understood i’ll never be one of them. can you imagine the look on her majesty’s face when someone told her the reason why the netherlands was without gas… was because a dispatcher spilled a cup of coffee on a computer? :|

the first thing that hits you.

(an insight on the Groningen and Dutch lifestyle, through bikes)

The first thing that hits you as you leave Groningen train station is probably going to be a bike. If the Netherlands is the country of pedal power, then Groningen is the city of cycles par excellence, and the students, making up almost a third of the city’s population, have turned saddles ‘n’ spokes into an art form. To own a brand new bike is horribly passé, and it sticks out like a sore thumb to thieves. A bike must have a bit of character.
Hastily spray painted to protect it from its previous owner. A bit of a clatter to the back wheel, a bit of a wobble to the front one. A flat tire looks good, and so does some large object precariously pinned to the pannier (a girlfriend or boyfriend or family pet). They are either piled up ten deep outside the cafés and bars in the evening or whirring by, dynamo powered lights, catching unwary pedestrians with legally required bells. Others are chained to lampposts picked clean like carcasses of their vital parts: wheels, seats, handlebars and the like. These bipedal locomotive devices are not the trim and sophisticated superfast flying machines on which Day-Glo lycra clad Chris Boardman wannabes race around the English countryside, but rather a more casual unpretentious mode of travel that is wholly representative of the Dutch way of life.

For a start, the Dutch ride bikes with a strange ungainly expertise, like Norman Wisdom walks, a sort of shaky perturbed stutter what won’t fall over. An imminent collision is always avoided by a seemingly unintentional lurch to the left or right.

These bikes are robust and strong constructions and can be bought on any street corner. They usually have no gears or brakes, which makes them simple yet ingenious in design. What is the point of elaborate gears and brakes in a country without any tiring geography? It’s a question of practicality which sits well with the pragmatic sense of humour, for the Dutch find illogical things amusing – a bike with fancy gears but no mudguards is positively hilarious!
Having no gears would also suggest that speed is not a consideration, and this is also true of Dutch life. There is a sense or organised patience to the Netherlander that seems at first infuriating and then relaxing to the visiting Briton. The Groningen cyclist does not sit hunched over braced into the wind, they sit high on their saddle like Kermit the Frog looking as if no effort was being afforded to the activity, watching life as it flies by them a little above walking pace.

This attitude is carried into the education system; it is efficient in its leisureliness. There isn’t that whiff of Victoriana which still hangs in the air of British education. The liberal attitude of the Dutch people is felt throughout the whole system. Lectures are scheduled on the hour but by unwritten agreement, they do not start until a quarter past. During exams, a tea lady trundles through with hot drinks and biscuits. To the Dutch cyclist, racing about is presumed unproductive because you do not enjoy the experience of getting to your destination.

Kerry Hagan (BA (Hons) English Literature, 2001)

pouca terra, pouca terra

dear people of the world,
despite the grin in the barman’s face when he realised we were portuguese and despite the crowd in the pub cheering for england, both g. and i left the place in amsterdam with a smile in the face. what a game, what a bit of history repeated. :)
we came back to celebrate with more equations and tests, as today we both fly to portugal for a statistics exam tomorrow and other exams.
being in amsterdam has a bittersweet taste. i’m halfway home if i go south (to portugal), and i’m halfway home if i go north (to groningen), but being halfway is neither and makes us ask where is the remote control, we want to fast forward the hours…
well, wish us luck! :)

up up and away! no wait! not away… :(

levi and lulu, dear friends, feet on the sky.
he knows nothing about his future except he wants to fly somewhere and explore some more. she’ll return to shanghai in about a month, to wear her ally-macbeal-professional-outfit once again.
she wore a bikini for the first time the day i took this picture: we managed to convince her to do so, despite her relutance – as it is not morally allowed in china (or most asian countries, i’ve heard).
her big happy smile, sunbathing in the grass: “this is nice.”

i’ve been in the netherlands for the past 8 months, and now that my head is in countdown mode towards september, i can’t seem to actually believe it. not just yet. all my life is here (except for family and the bit of my heart that flew overseas), on this cozy room, walls filled with stories, details and memories.
living in the same corridor with all the people that got to be my closest friends. it’s just too good AND it’s true.