Saturday, April 23, 2016

So I am sand/ Zo ben ik zand

A short while ago I wrote a series of eight short pieces, influenced by the Gertrude Steins referential writing mainly in Tender Buttons. It were reflections on the desert around Chloride, which is my small town nestled in the Mojave Desert. Rose Vandewalle, very often my first reader, mailed the text to her publisher Bert Jans from Dodo Press (dodopers) in Eindhoven. He turned the text into a delicate, delicious small hand bound book. How can I express my gratitude to both Rose and Bert, my joy at showing the book in the Art Bar across the street. I have had the joy once before of being published in a book by dodopers, in Rose's bilingual book "Zwanenzang/Swansong". Here next to the Dutch poem, my English translation has found its place. This book too is a jewel. Bert and Rose, you made me very happy.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Antwerp as diamond city

Antwerp is a diamond city and that means that we have a rather large Indian population, the majority of which lives near the more leafy areas around town and a huge Jewish community living in town, right there where I live too.
The Jewish community celebrates their Pesach or Easter between April 22 and April 20. This celebration entails a more than thorough spring cleaning before the passover. The house has to be thoroughly cleaned so that all that is dirty, or contains yeast or that can ferment has to be thrown out of the house. The city of Antwerp organises an extra household-garbage collection in the neighbourhood. I am glad that inclusiveness is working this way. Yet also other communities, like the Moroccan community have their own customs like following the Ramadan. This means no eating during the day, only after sunset and before sunrise one can eat. Mutton with couscous is one of their delicious dishes. Yet the sheep have to be slaughtered in a ritual way, slitting their throat. Often this leads to controversy, or even protests. People feel that electrocuting the sheep is more humane...  Strange concept.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Poverty in a rich country...

I don't mean the kind of poverty where children are in rags and begging in the streets. I am considering a rather rich country and how certain people do fall through the cracks. I know this family where the father now retired, had a good job and was a member of the city council. The two children have to fight the system. The administration a single mother has to go through to let her bright son, who just got his bachelor, do his master is nightmarish. I happened to listen to her reading a letter about about the fictive costs for his education that would be deducted from her allowance... although he is not getting that money it being a fictive calculation. Finding an apartment is altogether a different issue: there one has to be on a list of being interested in finding a place. That seems logical, but then the size if too large by just a few meter, would disqualify the person to get that apartment unless the extra square meters are sealed off... Some places are uninsulated attics, others are just  a few € over the maximum... and thus are denied to those who fall maybe a few € short. So life is a struggle for many people. And it is the grace of people, that they do not skimp, that they still are generous and warm. My friend has raised two wonderful boys, when I go and visit, she gives up her bed for me and sleeps on the sofa... She also manages to put good food on the table on a small budget. Some aspects are surreal.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ruhrgebied -

Germany is still a strong going country, yet I saw first hand how the amount of refugees change a small town. In a decommissioned hospital refugees have found a temporary home. Yet when they walk in groups of hundred  through a small and pretty town, it is kind of disconcerting....  In Kamp Lintfort, a rather nice neighbourhood where  the larger no longer active coal mines were,  there two Dash white tent-camp cities build just next to a nice neighbourly area... It looks sterile, no people are out... it is certainly better than being out in the rain. I don't know what the living conditions are for the refugees there. I am astonished and do feel for the old population in the workman's and miners neighbourhood and am sure that  this is better than being in a dingy boat and risking life and limb in fleeing war and violence.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Incident during the plenary session of the European Parliament

 Many years I worked as an interpreter for the European Parliament and have witnessed first hand several incidents. Truth is that the current President Martin Schulz has had his share of insults hurled at him during his long standing in the socialist group of the European Parliament and now also as the president of the European Parliament. Today a Greek member, member of the extreme right group in the European Parliament where also Marine Le Pen is a member, insulted the Turks with what one can only call racist and filled with vile comments. Hate speech would be the correct term for it. Martin Schulz asked the member to leave the room. The member refused and here, on the link below you can see what happened and it needs no more comment from me except: Thank you Martin Schulz for not allowing blatant racism, and for upholding the norms of decency.    
Watch it here: 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Demonstration to close the nuclear plants in Doel near Antwerp.

Actually when I close the bedroom drapes in the evening and when I open them in the morning I see the steam coming out of these old nuclear plants which have a lot of problems. One problem has to do with
the inside copper reactor vat. There are fissures in it, some 18 cm, or 9 inch long, some open wider than a millimetre, or even two. Nobody knows exactly what the danger is. In Holland and in Germany they are preparing for the distribution of jodium pills. So where I will be from 2 o'clock on today is at the demonstration to close the plant. 
By the way the plant in Tihange, near the German border is just as bad. The person at the head of Fanc gave permission to keep the reactors open till 2022 and I read in a recent interview given by the director, that if he had known all the facts, he would not have made  that decision. This is one of the reasons why we have the demonstration with participants from The Netherlands, because of the proximity to Doel and from Germany, because of the proximity to Tihange.In case of a disaster the nuclear cloud will have arrived in Duisburg, Krefeld and Cologne in under two hours, seen the prevailing West winds. It was a good gathering with a large delegation from Germany, not only working to close the local Antwerp nuclear plants I and II in Doel, but  also to shut down Tihange. Basically, I think that all nuclear plants have to be decommissioned. As Cato said in Rome, Carthago esse delendum. The plants must be torn down and destroyed. Replace them with clean natural energy.

Friday, March 11, 2016

American elections

Currently I reside in Europe following the election campaign with horror at the Trump phenomenon and decidedly with amazement at the democratic campaign. When in the States I live a small rural village with about 359 residents. Only about twenty are registered democrats, myself included. I can but wonder how the atmosphere in town is with the ugliness that has been spewed by Trump. He didn't make the fortune he has, he inherited it from his father as far as I could research it. What gets to me is his hatred, his vulgar racism.The lack of condemnation of the Clan. And yet, I am not happy with what is happening on the democratic side. I would like Hillary to win. And I would like to see her take over a few good ideas Bernie has. It might be time for a female president, one who has proven that she has stamina, knows the wheels of government and she might just find the trick on how to work together with the congress and the senate. I am also astonished that Bernie Sanders goes after Obama. I must admit that I like the president a lot. I think he accomplished what he could in the face of opposition by the republicans who seemed to prefer that nothing could happen that is good for the country. Hillary certainly knows the president very well and I think she does appreciate all he tried to accomplish. Maybe this fact alone would get her my vote. I'll try and be home for early voting and go for the ride till after election day. That is to say unless the atmosphere in the country turns ugly. What is this about building a wall between Mexico and the USA? All that for a few illegal Mexicans crossing the border at their own peril? What about the poor Americans living not to far from Mexico who go there to see the dentist, to buy their prescription drugs.... Friendship will always bring me back to my old gas station.