Holland Revisited (Time of Visit: 2 – 8 July 2009)

I have a chance to visit Holland again. This time is not for holiday; it’s for participating in an Indonesian Students Conference in Den Haag and a social visit: visiting my aunt and uncle in Enschede.

Den Haag (2 – 5 July 2009)

I visit Den Haag for participating in a conference. Actually, I wasn’t aware about the conference; I participate just as a favor to my friend.

Here’s the story…

Few months before, I talked with my Indonesian friend who lives in a same student apartment area with me. He said that he is a part of the organizers of Indonesian Students Conference in Den Haag; and he needs more people to present or talk about their research. So I just say yes. It’s not a problem to present something; and at that time I don’t have any deadline; beside I haven’t visited Den Haag anyway.

But when the conference time comes closer, I just knew that the conference is very international. It’s not just for Indonesian students in Europe, but also all over the world; from middle east, Australia, USA, Africa, and of course Asia! Furthermore, this conference has its own prestige; it’ll be open by Indonesian president through tele-conference! What…??!!

Well, so be it. I come to Holland then. Of course it’s not a bad decision at all in the end. I get a chance to meet fellow Indonesian students from all over the world; make new friends and network; and more important, eating Indonesian foods;)

Talking about food. In the first day, there’s a dish called Rendang; a spicy beef which contains of coconut milk. Coconut milk is easy to get spoiled if one is not careful. So I guess that’s the reason; cause after eating it, half of the people there get diarrhea! I am alsoL I have to wake up in 3AM to run to toilet! And in the 2nd day of conference, many people are still disappearing suddenly from a conference room; to go to toilet. Oh well…

And about the conference itself. In the 1st day, the talks are general; about our country. In the 2nd day, the talks are divided into groups. There’re groups fro education topic, law topic, economy topic, etc. I am a part of 3E group which stands for Energy, Earth, and Environment. In my group, there’re 11 presenters. Half of them talk about natural disaster and recent technology in relation with it; for example, earthquake simulation or detection. Another half is talk about renewable energy, such as wind turbine and micro hydro. And I am the only one who talks about human; in a more specific term: fishermen!

At least I have put ‘a different color’ in the talks; and I am glad that the audiences understand of what I am talking about. So, that’s how it is; my chat with a friend in front of a garbage dumpsite ends up in I become a part of Indonesian Intellectual International Association!

City of Den Haag

Actually I haven’t got much chance in exploring the city as the conference schedule is very tight and tiring. The conference is started at 8AM everyday and it could ends up at midnight for some of the groups.

So among those tight schedules, I just see the city in general. The main impression that I get is Den Haag is the multi ethnic/ race city. Various specific shops are scattered everywhere like Indonesian restaurant, Pakistani supermarket, Surinam drink corner, Turkish kebab house, and many more. Even for Indonesian restaurant, I see 3 Indonesian restaurants in a one short street! Amazing!

Photos courtesy of: Widodo S. Pranowo

Enschede (5 – 8 July 2009)

While in Holland, I take a chance to visit my aunt and uncle who live in Enschede. I went there last year but at that time my aunt wasn’t there; she was in Indonesia. So now I am going there again.

Enschede is a small city; one can’t get lost there. There’s no tram, only bus as a public transportation. Here I am also not exploring the city so much as I try to recover from the conference’s hectic schedule.

But somehow I manage to go to the city centre and introduced to an award-winning ice cream parlor! Very nice! The place is called ‘Ijs salon van der Poel’. There’re ‘crown’ signs on some of the flavor’s name; the crown shows that the flavor has won an award.

Before I go back to Bremen, I visit FC Twente fanshop in Enschede. FC Twente is the football team for Enschede and some other small cities around. As usual, I look for a girl shirt there. Surprisingly, they don’t have it! The shirts are only for guys and boys! No girl shirt at all. Sigh, I thought Holland is the country where it supports human rights and gender equality… L

Rotterdam (7 July 2009)

I went here with my aunt who has a train ticket for two which applies everywhere in Holland for one day. I choose Rotterdam as destination because this is a big city that I haven’t been visited in Holland. Beside, Rotterdam is famous for its modern architecture; so surely I won’t look to some old buildings like in the rest of Europe.

Surprisingly, touring Rotterdam can be done on foot! It’s not that big at all; especially I’ve been doing it in Rome. But the worst thing during my visit, it’s raining hard! I get soaking wet and I feel very uncomfortable. I have my umbrella but the wind manages to make me wet here and there somehow.

In the end, I have to pick very special places that I want to see as I can’t tour the whole tourist sitesL I pick the famous cubic houses which I know from Jackie Chan movie; Erasmus bridge; and anything in between.

Cubic houses

Jackie Chan's hands print on the walk of fame in Rotterdam

Erasmus Bridge

Feyenoord FC

As a football freak, I know that Rotterdam is the host of FC Feyenoord. But somehow my brain doesn’t work well due to the bad weather and my bad mood; I completely forgot about Feyenoord during my city tour.

But I guess destiny is on my side. When I have to wait for my aunt who looks for vitamin in drug store; my eyes struck on a window display in a sport store across the street. It’s a new jersey for Feyenoord FC. And suddenly I remember, this is part of the city’s identity. I decide to go there and ask for a girl shirt. The saleslady says that the store doesn’t have it; but there’s Feyenoord FC fanshop on the corner of the street that I might take a look at!

Of course I don’t waste my time. I went there and ask for girl shirt. Surprisingly, they only have 1 shirt for girls! Talking about gender equality again…

I have no choice, I take that one. But then the salesguy tells me that I can print my own name on the back side! Woow, how cool is that!!! I mean, having player’s name is normal; but having our own name, that’s really special. So I decide to have it. But when it comes to number, I really can’t make up my mind. Which number should I put? I don’t have any special or lucky number. After thinking for some time, I decide to put ‘8’ as my number; it comes after my birth date. Apparently, number 8 is the number for the team captain: Giovanni van Bronckhorst!

This is very cool! In the end, my bad mood from the bad weather is gone after having this custom made Feyenoord FC jersey J

Holland in General

Although this is my 2nd time in visiting Holland, I realize that I haven’t paid much attention on my 1st visit. So this is some things that I notice now.

The weather

Apparently Holland is just a bigger Bremen, in terms of weather. Weather in Holland is mostly cloudy and rainy. Having a sunny day is also one in a million here. Now I know why they travel so far to the tropics…

The language

I find Dutch people are easier to talk English than the Germans. I can just start talking English in a bus or stores and the people will just reply automatically. They don’t have to think or show some surprised expression at me.

I notice that the English programs on TV are not dubbed. They are still in English with a Dutch subtitle. Except for children programs, of course. I think this is why the Dutch is so familiar to English.

Funny transportation system

Yes I just realize this; the Dutch has funny transportation system.

First, the train. The trains here don’t have a number. Here’s a thing. On each normal platform in the train station, there’s a board which stated the schedule of the current and/or next train. Usually it has information of the time, direction, route, and the train number. But in Holland, there’s no information regarding the train number!

So when I have to change my train in Holland, I am not so sure if the train in front of me is the right one. I might take a regular train instead of the express one, or the other way around. But later on I learn that all the trains in Holland are the same. There’s no such thing as regular or express trains here; especially in regard of price.

Still the trains. Apparently Holland has a system where a half of the train goes to one direction and the other half goes to another. This is also confusing. When I look at the board at the platform, there’re 2 destinations. In the beginning I don’t understand which train goes where; plus, there’s no train number. So I just take my chance in stepping into a wagon which has ‘Den Haag’ written on it.

But then I see how the Dutch do in taking the train. They just jump into a wagon, ask the people inside the wagon; and if it’s the wrong wagon, they jump out again. For sure, many people do this. They don’t bother to read or maybe they are also confused as I am.

Second is the strippenkaart system. This is a ticket stripe for bus and tram. One ticket consists of (at least) 15 stripes or numbers. If one takes a tram or bus, then one has to put the ticket inside a stamping machine. This machine will stamp the hour and date as the travel begins. If one travels for 2 zones or longer distance, one has to stamp additional 1 stripe on the ticket. If one travels for 3 zones, then additional 2 stripes have to be stamped.

OK, nothing wrong with this; except, one has to start put a stamp on the stripe number 2 for traveling in 1 zone!!! No kidding, if one has a new ticket stripe and one wants to travel for 1 zone only; then one has to start put a stamp on 2nd row which leaves the 1st row blanks!!! I really don’t get it; why we should start at number 2 instead of number 1? Why don’t we start to put a stamp on number 1 for traveling in 1 zone? Isn’t this just wasting a paper? Hmmm talking about saving the trees, eh?!

Third one is not really about transportation; but it’s related to it. It’s the traffic light for pedestrian. Like in Germany, pedestrian in Holland has special traffic light to cross a street. Pedestrian has to press a button on the traffic light which makes the car traffic light goes red and the pedestrian traffic light goes green.

If the street is consists of 2 parts, the pedestrian has 2 traffic lights to cross it. Normally, the near traffic light will go green first, so the pedestrian can walk half way. Then, there’s a place on halfway where the pedestrian wait for the next traffic light goes green. Sometime the pedestrian doesn’t have to wait at all; while pedestrian walks halfway the next traffic light goes green immediately.

What makes it funny in Holland, if the pedestrian presses the traffic light button; the first one which goes green is the far traffic light, not the near one!!! In the beginning, I thought it is just coincidence. But after having it for more than 3 times, I know the Dutch has funny way of thinking…

Indonesian Day

Again, there’s an event organized by Indonesian students in Bremen. It’s called Indonesian Day. In this event, the Indonesians try to introduce the culture of Indonesia through performances and bazaar.

Traditional dances, songs, wayang puppet show, angklung music are performed; while pictures, traditional toys, and foods of Indonesia are part of the bazaar.

In my opinion, this event is very effective in introducing Indonesia to foreigners. I realize that living abroad means I have to represent my country in some ways. People in my class who come from all over the world want to know and learn about each other. In this sense, they want to know our custom, culture, foods, places; many things! And this could lead to indirect promotion; the description that we (the students) tell could make the foreigners feel interested to come to Indonesia. So it means, Indonesian students abroad are the spearhead for Indonesian tourism industry.

OK, in this point I really don’t believe about having a pretty girl as an icon for tourism. I really don’t believe that people can decide to go for traveling to foreign country just by looking to a pretty girl in an advertisement. NO!

Another example, in this event, the Indonesian students, who mostly don’t have any dance background, have learned a pretty difficult Saman dance just for the sake of representing the country. Saman dance is very difficult; it’s like Michael Jackson’s dance in the sense of fast and solid. Furthermore, this dance is from Aceh Province; and nobody from the dancers is Acehnese! I seriously think that Indonesian tourism industry should work together with the students.

Back to the event…

The performers have taken their task successfully. Foreigner audiences enjoy the show. However, although the place is full but we expect more people coming. So maybe next year we can make bigger event.

While me… I get a task in selling the traditional toys; one of which called Gasing. It’s a spinning bamboo. And as the foreigners don’t understand what it is and how to play it; I have to demonstrate it many times. The funny thing is, apparently not many Indonesian people can play it! Furthermore, gasing is considered as a toy for boy! So imagine, me wearing a batik dress but keep playing gasing. Whenever I do it, there’s always a comment from Indonesian people, “Wooow, you can play that!” or, “Look at her, wearing dress but playing a boy game!”

Uhm… first is about football things; and now this gasing thing. Something wrong with my childhood, I guess…