Saturday, November 26, 2016

Invitation to the peace trail

The Shoes on the Danube bankInvitation to the Peace Trail in Europe
Sixty pairs of iron-made shoes lie silently on the Danube riverbank. Each pair has a story to tell about the person who once wore them. I was in one of the stations of peace trail in Budapest, Hungary, called The Shoes on the Danube bank in which a number of Jews were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II.
Tourists, young and old, paused at the monument. They looked down and read the commemorative small iron plate on the ground which contains short description of the tragic event. Afterwards, they took some pictures. Some of them even removed their own shoes, and placed them next to the iron shoes. This is how the interaction between the past and present goes through the peace trail.  

What is the peace trail?
Peace trail is suggested routes which visitors and residents of the city can explore and revisit rather unknown parts of the city with acquiring knowledge about historical events and struggles for and triumphs of peace and justice. It exists in seven beautiful European cities, such as Berlin, Budapest, Manchester, Paris, The Hague, Torino, and Vienna. Each trail consists of fifteen stations. This is the project which has done by peace institutions in these seven cities. INMP is part of this. So, the Peace Trail exists in the Hauge.

Following the Peace Trail
Fifteen Budapest Peace Trail stations spread to four 2 km.-points of the compass. They have two branches, thus peace pilgrims may spend a day for each branch. If you are a great pedestrian, they can be covered in a day. This is what I did. I started from The Shoes on the Danube Bank. Then, Short distance from the bank, I went to a place where the Swedish Diplomat Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg issued the Schutz-pass which served as Swedish passports. Anyone with these were provided protection from deportation to concentration camps, in the process saving thousands of lives of Jews. However, he was never to be heard again after his captivity by the Soviet Union. Knowing how people actually save lives and risked their own lives makes us reflect of our ptotential contribution to and what we can do for peace.   

Then, I went to the inner city
and chose to go through Jewish community (former ghetto) where a beautiful Synagogue stands. At the back of the synagogue is a memorial place, especially for those who perished during the World War II. Unmistakably Jewish, restaurants and signs are written in Hebrew. 

Historical places exist not only for commemorating the past, but also connecting us with current situations in the world. Statistics would tell us numbers of people who die every year. But it surely does not give us much of human stories. For example, bombings in Syria result to civilian casualties. Who are these people? In the Philippines, in the name of drug war, the thousands of people get killed under the suspicion that they are involved in drug trade. It is ironic how people think that one way to bring security is to kill those who pose potential threats.

To follow the peace trail is like revisiting parts of history which tell stories of human interest. Each station offers an episode of our history where heroism is exemplified by people with extraordinary zeal for others and by ordinary people whose lives were lost. It reminds us that we all have a role to play in pursuit of peace and justice.

So next time you are in one of these seven cities, kindly add the peace trail to your itinerary. It is more than an iron- plate with short description, more than the building, and more than the rush of tourists for pictures. They are our history that shapes us today. When the future beckons, these historical markers can provide directions as we go forward in our shared human journey.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How can I react people's unpleasant acts? - experiencing discriminatory acts of people


At a crossing, in the Hague, I was shocked by this loud voice from the behind. I remained seated on my bicycle saddle and twisted my body to search the speaker because I noticed I was the only one who looked like Chinese (east Asian).

There were three boys, two rode in tandem looked at me. They continued throwing something very impolite abusive language toward me.
I looked straight these boys and denied I am not a Chinese. And I told them it is totally impolite to approach someone like this. I added if they did such act based on race, it can possibly be called discrimination. Two boys became silence and one was still saying something in Dutch and throw the last word - Xss whXle (in English) - toward me. Am I aXs whoXe?

It happened just within minutes while waiting for a traffic sign. There were many other adults around me and observed our exchanges.

The advice of my husband is usually, just ignore them. Yes, I can agree with this certain conditions. When the person is totally drunk or having a knife or something.

In some other sunny weekend, my husband and I were in the park enjoying sunlight and nature. One guy blocked our way and mocked us.
One fact annoyed me the most was he did not act like this to others who looked Dutch or bigger than him. He was drunk but obviously, he picked us, "small Asian" to mock. So, it would be nice to ignore even though I opt to respond these people who are so unreasonable.

However, I, in general, disagree with ignoring these people. Why?

First of all, it is very important to let them know we are not so comfortable with what these people acted or done. They should know they do not have any right to ruin our day with unpleasant acts or comments.

Second, unpleasant acts against certain race is a form of discrimination. If a certain act is categorized as discrimination, the person possibly violates the Dutch constitution. In the Dutch constitution article 1, "All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race, or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted."

Lastly, I would like to say all elements made us who we are may not be our choice, especially race and nationality. We did not choose our parents and we could not ask them where they lived. Once we were born, we already belonged to a certain racial group. So, these were not controllable.

I encountered often people made fun of East Asian's smaller eyes. People pulled their eyes horizontally and said that is Japanese, Korean or Chinese. It is not nice to see because my appearance is not my choice. Do I need to have plastic surgery to make my eyes bigger?

Even we received more abusive words from these people as the result of reacting them, we should not stop saying that what they are doing is not right. If our argument defends our position well, what they said is just a senseless noise.

There is no perfect solution. 

There is no perfect solution to this issue. Especially if we travel a lot or live outside of our countries, this kind of experiences is not avoidable. More we encounter different culture and people, more we may have possibilities to experience these.

Lastly, going back to the story above, I was, to be honest, not so angry at these children because the gravity they have done is not serious than an adult who is supposed to know the idea of discrimination does.

I thought that these kids found cool to mock adults by using slang (in Dutch and English) and approaching an adult unpleasant manner. And the especially one child may want to show he was not afraid of the adult? Or simply they did not know how acknowledge our obvious physical difference? It was too short to ask them why they were doing such things. It is important to know reasons and how they feel when they do that.

No solutions, then we have to live with the reality. But at least, we can clarify whether actions taken by these with the intention or not? What is the basis of these actions? If we find the certain grounds that we can say a person discriminate us, then we resist them by saying NO to these actions.

I am sure that I will experience this kind of unpleasant situations as long as I live outside of my country. In fact, I did have these here in the Hague in just three months time. But the incident won't let my spirit down and never discourage to explore other cultures and to understand people.

** I did not mention the detail of these people in the sentence in order to avoid to cause any conflicts.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Experience of blc Dutch Summer School

blc Dutch Summer school provides the intensive Dutch language lessons in serene accommodation. 

My husband and I decided to enroll this Dutch summer school. We attended 2 weeks course in Durenthe where we choose one out of two venue-options: Durenthe and Amsterdam.

I studied hard?! and met friends from different countries and great teachers. It was nice learning experience and a good summer memory.

Some of my friends told me that why  I need to learn Dutch. My husband is not Dutch, I can live in Netherlands without speaking is not UN language (in my field, it is critical to learn these UN languages...I can be competitive more than people just speak English.) There is no "useless language"! My reasoning is here 1. Why I need to learn Dutch?

Here, I wrote my experience with some reflections. I hope these articles encourage you to study Dutch. 


1. Why I need to learn Dutch?

9. Class activity-Communicate in Dutch with local people: going to the Pancake house

12. Preparation-MUST do! before joining Dutch summer school

14. Epilogue:  After the camp - what remains

These are my view and experience...therefore, if you want to know more about the school, please visit their official website>> blc language course website, call or email? They will answer you more. 
Tel: +31-648074618

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Epilogue: After the camp - what remains

Only 2 was very short to accomplish many. However, it was certainly meaningful time in terms of learning Dutch and people's culture.

What is my achievement?
It must be meaningful to reflect what I have achieved after the 2 weeks of intensive training.
I would like to say I have achieved very important target which is removing negative feeling toward Dutch language. This negative feeling is the most critical mental block learning this.

Just in case, I should say that I had had never bad experience with Dutch people. My entire stay here is very good. I would say "big"people have big heart :) (good friend of mine's height is nearly 2 meter high!)

Then, you may wonder why I developed the certain negative feeling toward their language? It is related to how I met this language and what reasons brought me here in the Netherlands.

The reason I am here is simply reunification with my family member (my husband). My husband was here alone for nearly 1 year before I arrived.
It was happy moment to see him here but I felt lost. The job, my profession is my life..It took much of my energy to learn and built career but I eventually needed to stop for a moment. So, I readopt to other culture and job market again. It is exciting time but at the same time I felt lost. So, Dutch language attaches to this feeling of lost.

(For some technical reasons, I could not stay his home country. Just in case, I should say...I did not commit anything bad there simply visa status reason. After many thoughts running through my head, I decided to come to Netherlands.)

How can I achieve this?
Simply I just focused on the time and felt always my presence in the moment. The environment such as beautiful and serene nature, classmate, teacher's presence helped me a lot to focus on study.

And certain pressure helped as well. A person who came here from outside of Netherlands and received approximately 300 euro per month salary feel taking this course is really really big investment! So, I could not afford to feel something negative about learning this language.
For the fairness of the school, tuition fee with accommodation of this school is quite friendly! But I could not help feeling that it is big investment considering my earning of previous job.

Another "souvenir" of this camp was friendship. I did not expect this much since I really needed to study hard. (now you know I felt certain pressure..) I was placed with other adult learners. I could have nice conversation with them.
I miss my classmates after the course! So, my husband, one of these classmate and I enjoyed mimicking our friends (Please do not get offended!). We spend quite enough time together then somehow we learned person's certain character and way of doing things. What we have done is not nice to mention here but it is one way of keeping our good summer memories.

I took friend's pictures and save the happy moment. However, it cannot be substitute of memories. It may not come same people stay in the same place. But thank you for the technology, I still stay in tough of these friends (especially classmates have Facebook account!)

After the Dutch summer course, one of the classmate stayed in our house in the Hague for 2 nights since she did not book the flight going home immediately after the summer course. (it was good decision!)
Therefore we were allowed to spend time together. We went shopping for our groceries, traveled to the Rotterdam to enjoy the festival and city itself, biked in the Hague together...

She is very much eager to learn the language then, she always tried to get a chance to talk to the locals. I should take a lesson from her...Along the way, we met and had conversations with many locals such as a mother with her children, workers, vendors, professor and even former actor..She showed me learning is never end.

After she went to home, we start exchange letters. She is a person of letter. This friendship will stay long and makes us motivate to continue studying Dutch.

I wish my husband and I will see her and other classmates soon and somewhere again. Maybe next year of Dutch language course?

Who knows..and waarom niet?

Other articles - Dutch summer school 2016 - 

1. Why I need to learn Dutch?
9. Class activity-Communicate in Dutch with local people: going to the Pancake house
12. Preparation-MUST do! before joining Dutch summer school
14. Epilogue:  After the camp - what remains

These are my view and experience...therefore, if you want to know more about the school, please visit the official website>> blc language course website
Tel: +31-648074618


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Knowing other culture through learning Dutch

Learning language in general is an entrance of learning other cultures. It also applies when I study Dutch. Especially, it helps learners a lot to learn of Dutch society and culture. But actually not only that, we eventually learn and exchange culture of people these who study Dutch language.

One of these class activities during the Dutch summer school was to discuss how our cultures celebrates birthday.

Well, most of our society monotonously celebrate our birthday by eating cake and giving gifts. It seems no uniqueness. However, once we discuss, we found certain differences...

In the Philippines

Starting from the practice which I am certainly familiar with...
In the Philippines a celebrant prepares something to eat. While I was working in University, a colleague cooked meals for other teachers on her Birthday. She technically fed us all in the faculty lounge (around 50 people!) . It was a very delicious and complete meal with vegetable, meat, rice, cake and ice cream.

I feel that our life is given by the God (if you do not believe it, let's say your parents...). Instead of being celebrated, it would be beautiful to initiate celebration of your day.

In Netherlands
People usually remember people's Birthday. Because most likely, the calendar in side toilet marks family, relatives and friends' birthday.
At the age of 50, quite a lot of people throw a big birthday party. Female reaches 50 year-old is called Sarah, and male is called Abraham. Abraham and Sarah are figures in the Bible. According to the Bible, both lived long. That is the reason of these names and practice.

My group-mates' countries
In Cambodia, according to my classmate, a celebrant invites people and have a lunch or dinner in the restaurant. Usually parents pay the cost. In her case, she invites 50-60 people. Wow...

Polish friend explained "name day". There is a name Day calendar which assigns name of person on certain day. For example, your name is Anna. Then, you might celebrate your name day on July 26th. Polish has two birthday celebration a year. However, according to my classmate, younger generation pay less attention to the name day.

Her name day happened to be during our Dutch summer camp. Then, she let us experience it. She prepared nice soup and cakes. Then, later part of our class became a petite Birthday party.  

Hartelijk gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag!

she cooked nice mustard soup. Lekker!

In Japan
Ops, I almost forget to mention about my country. Japanese did not have a custom to celebrate birthday for long time. Some says current practice started after the World War II.
We counted our age as "Kazoe doshi",East Asian age reckoning, which counts newborns at the age of one year. At the time, everyone aged at the same time, on January 1st all together. So, if a person is born in December, s/he will be 2 years old in January. This practice lasted until the law has been changed in 1949.

As earlier I mentioned, decades and long time ago people did not celebrate their Birthday. However, there are several cultural practices existed celebrate certain ages. Such as shi-go-san, which means seven-five-three. It is a traditional rite of passage for three and seven years old girls and three and five years old boys, celebrate the growth and well-being of young annually on November 15.

How would you celebrate your birthday?

Other articles - Dutch summer school 2016 - 

1. Why I need to learn Dutch?
9. Class activity-Communicate in Dutch with local people: going to the Pancake house
12. Preparation-MUST do! before joining Dutch summer school
14. Epilogue:  After the camp - what remains

These are my view and experience...therefore, if you want to know more about the school, please visit the official website>> blc language course website
Tel: +31-648074618


Sunday, August 14, 2016

MUST do! before joining Dutch summer school

Do we need to prepare before the Dutch summer school?

YES! we need to prepare for it in order to maximize the learning.. In fact, most of my friends in the Dutch summer class did study by themselves. But some might did less because of time management.

How can I prepare for the Dutch summer school?

Do Dutch Grammar
Do not learn the grammar in the summer school!

It sounds strange. It does not mean you should not learn the grammar at all. What I want emphasize here is you better go through all basic Dutch grammar before the summer course. A teacher still explains grammatical rules but these time would be minimized in order to secure the time for the speaking practice. A teacher assumes you have studies these before.

If you know them before hand, your summer class discussion will be more earlier.

Do memorize vocabularies as much as possible

Memorize vocabularies as much as possible. Especially beginner needs to memorize at least 500 words. My smartphone application indicate number of vocabularies based on the level of learner. In other way to say, if a learner claims s/he reaches A2 level, s/he must know around 1200 words.

A1 (Beginner) 500 words level
A2 (Elementary) 501-1250
B1 (Lower Intermediate) 1251-2250
B2 (Upper Intermediate) 2251-3500
C1 (advanced) 3501-5000

Once learner reach certain level, some says we can guess from the context. I disagree with this idea. This must be the last resort. So, we, learner must lesser unknown vocabularies.

Question here is how we can memorize these number of words? If most of Dutch language leaner have already experienced to study the second language, we may have own our ways to do so.
Based on my experience learning English, until reaching certain words level, it will be easy to memorize with a sample sentence. But once I reached certain level, it does not work that much. When I need to know certain jargon, I may need to memorize the vocabularies.

Do workbook
Well, some people might say doing workbook is ineffective because it makes us bored and it eventually lowers our motivation. I do disagree with this. I still think it is very helpful because Doing workbook helps us to aware the grammatical rule. And if you include speaking practice at the same time when you check the answer, you can learn and practice both the grammar and speaking.
Another point I want to raise is the learner feel his or her achievement if s/he finishes one workbook. I believe a sense of achievement is important.

Do watch or listen Dutch
Watch or listen Dutch TV, Youtube video, familiarize the sounds is important to avoid the situation a learner being overwhelmed by unknown foreign sounds. My level of Dutch proficiency is not high enough to enjoy these options yet but I nowadays start watching strange Dutch TV programs anything under RTL5 TV such as Adam Zkt. Eva. These TV shows made me surprised a lot... (but it is more on learning something Dutch people not language...)

However, for the beginner, I cannot recommend it that much. Beginner has to know more vocabularies. So, for beginner, better read around books for children rather than youtube contents.

Do speak with Dutch friend

If you have Dutch friend/boy or girl friend/husband or wife..., practice with them. Once we speak foreign language, we use different muscle. More you speak more you can get the sounds.

Oh, if you have such a friend or someone, you may think you do not need to go to school. I do not think so. They are your (boy or girl) friends or husband and wife. So they do not want to correct your grammatical mistakes and pronunciation.

Rome was not built in a day

Several websites mentioned how to measure our progress looking at numbers of hours.
Here is the table which is mention the relation between level of proficiency and number of hours.
A1 proficiency: 60-100 hours
A2 proficiency: 180-200 hours
B1 proficiency: 350-400 hours
B2 proficiency: 500-650 hours
C1 proficiency: 700-900 hours
C2 proficiency: 1.000-1.200 hours

But this is just an indication. If learner's mother tongue or official language is close to Dutch, such as German and English, they may learn faster than other language group. I am a Japanese, so I have to give myself bit generous time to reach certain level.

Well, A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Other articles - Dutch summer school 2016 - 

1. Why I need to learn Dutch?
9. Class activity-Communicate in Dutch with local people: going to the Pancake house
12. Preparation-MUST do! before joining Dutch summer school
14. Epilogue:  After the camp - what remains

These are my view and experience...therefore, if you want to know more about the school, please visit the official website>> blc language course website
Tel: +31-648074618


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Invitation to the Dutch Art through the class activity

Coming this October until December, there will be an art exhibition of two art giants, Vincent van Gogh and Gauguin, in Tokyo. I wish I would be there to enjoy the exhibit!

Two's lives crossed for sometime in a certain place. Both lived together for two months in France because Van Gogh invited Gauguin to live together. But two strong personalities could not allow them stay together, eventually Gauguin left, which is one of factors causing Van Gogh psychological distress.


Information of the art exhibition reminded me my fascination to their artwork. Decades ago, when I saw the picture of Sunflower by Van Gogh on the art book, its distinct and intense yellow attracted me a lot. After that, speaking of Netherlands, for me it is the art.
( * Gauguin is French)  

Starting from Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the elder, in the golden age of Dutch art, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals are known by many even though you are not fun of the art. In the modern time, of course, Vincent van Gogh is well-known and very popular in my country, Japan too (that is the reason there is the exhibit).

Very brief history of Dutch art
On the process of independence from the Spain, religious art which was iconic one was destroyed. Addition to that, Calvinism denied impersonation of the art. The Calvinists revolved the holy icon destruction.

The church could not be a patron of the art any more. For long time, aside from the church, landlord and aristocrat were the patron. Later, the various patrons were involved. This bought the change to the art circle.

The artist draw the patron merchant as true to nature, ugly nude woman, homeless...these are not the objects of art before.

According to Nagasaka (2002, p138), the golden age of Netherlands demanded the art the most. Arts from Italy were sold to the European continent through Amsterdam market. Rembrandt had never been to Italy, but he could learn Italian arts by viewing various arts which went through  Amsterdam.

Rembrandt and others did not mind the popular art style. They drew various types, still-life painting, landscape, genre picture. Individual portrait evolved to group portrait. The one of the well-know work of Rembrandt is De Nachtwacht (actual title is De compagnie van kapitein Frans Banning Cocq en luitenant Willem van Ruytenburgh. ).

Imitating the Dutch artAppreciating the Dutch art and its novelty, in the class, we tried to imitate the great work of Dutch artists. But we did not draw, we did act and pose by following instruction.


Some of us volunteered themselves. These volunteers just followed instruction other group of people. The instruction was in Dutch. Volunteers moved and formed certain posture. Some volunteers might have noticed what was the art.

The below are two master pieces.

First one is De Aardappeleters (The Potato Eaters) by Van Gogh, and The Blinding of Samson by the Philistines by Rembrandt. I was the part of the second one. It was very enjoyable activity and reminded us great Dutch artists.

By the way, Van Goah stayed meanwhile in Drenthe, place where we had Dutch summer class. To commemorate this, there is Van Gogh Huis which allows us to know a part of his life.

Viva Dutch Art!

Van Gogh Huis

Other articles - Dutch summer school 2016 - 

1. Why I need to learn Dutch?
9. Class activity-Communicate in Dutch with local people: going to the Pancake house
12. Preparation-MUST do! before joining Dutch summer school
14. Epilogue:  After the camp - what remains

These are my view and experience...therefore, if you want to know more about the school, please visit the official website>> blc language course website
Tel: +31-648074618