Friday, December 13, 2013

A Tribute to the Dutch aka Rachel is extremely angry

As I am about to pull my hair out in frustration over my upcoming Cameroon trip/the associated project. To release some of my anger without bashing any world regions/countries and express my increasingly deep appreciation for Dutch people and the general pleasure it is to work with them, I give you a tribute to Dutch.

Dear Dutchies,

I crossed continents and oceans to come to your small country unfortunately mainly well known for its special "herbal" products. I came from countries where punctuality, planning and directness are not valued as highly as in your grey and flat land. Oh Dutchies I appreciate how when we agree on tasks and distribute work, there is a very high probability that you will do what is agreed upon and in the time frame agreed upon. When I send an email I can expect a prompt response in clear and understandable English. But if there is some problem, I know I can directly express my concerns without risk of damaging our relationship. This directness makes our final product of the best quality.

Dearest Nederlanders, I love how meetings are conducted efficiently and generally people accept responsibility for their actions. It is a pleasure to not have to talk in circles and in the end get minimal information out of a conversation. Perhaps you are not the most expressive in word and deed but your words and actions are valued.

Yes, you do take your precious agendas a bit too seriously. While I am not fond of scheduling a social lunch months in advance, I do appreciate your organization and ability to follow through with a plan. More importantly, although it is often frustrating how seriously you take your work life balance and your tendency to immediately dash out the door when working hours are complete, I love that when you are working you actually get work done.

Finally, although email, phone, sms, and the dearly beloved Whatsapp messaging service are less personal than face to face interactions, you have embraced all forms of communication and respond in a timely, clear manner without me resorting to every communication method known to man.

Your plain and bland food may not strike my fancy, but precious, precious Dutchies I would give anything for one of you to be leading this Cameroon project.

with kindest regards,

a Rachel who may be becoming quite political uncorrect or even worse: racist!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


A few weeks ago I came to a both exciting and frightening realization: every single minute, hour, day of our lives are 100% unique and we will never experience that exact moment again. On the one hand this is an intimidating and frightening thought but on a more positive note it makes one realize how special the present is, even if we may be counting down the hours, days, weeks, months to a seemingly more exciting moment. The concept of living in the present is something we could take a lesson or two from stereotypical African culture. While living in the present there often means meetings starting hours late, perpetual tardiness to work, and the tasks left uncompleted; it also means impromptu visits from friends, stopping all to do lists (I'm still skeptical that the concept of a to do list even exists there), and simply taking the time to chat with people even if it means being late for something. Living in super organized, scheduled, punctual, consistent and efficient Holland where socializing is scheduled months in advance (I am not exaggerating here), being late is frowned upon, completion of tasks is assumed, and holidays are planned practically years in advance has mostly been an easy transition since I also have an obsession with planning and control (in the broad sense). Although in recent years I am lucky to know where I will be living a few months in advance I am still constantly making plans and looking forward to the next adventure.

Approximately a month ago now (where did the time go?) while enduring the grueling exam period that stretches on forever here, I had the astonishing thought to simply stop counting down the days and number of exams left until new things began but to actually sit down and ENJOY the process of studying and the sometimes challenging task of exam taking. This was indeed a revelation since although I thoroughly enjoy the school environment and learning and reading and listening, I am actually quite horrible at sitting down and studying. So far I have managed to survive by constantly changing my study environment and mostly just cramming all the information into my brain the night before an exam (yes, I know this is what everyone says not to do). In spite of my dislike for studying during my first exam this year a thought popped into my head: "I am incredibly lucky to be sitting in this room simply taking this exam!" Shifting my focus from one of just completing everything, to trying to enjoy the moments of studying with the knowledge that I am exceptionally privileged to be able to study and more importantly realizing I will never be in this exact situation again in my life, made for a surprisingly pleasant exam period.

Last year when I wrote my annual year summary I left on the note that perhaps this year would be uncomfortably "stable". While I have spent the whole year theoretically living in the same city, 2013 certainly has brought its share of travels, adventures and surprises. But perhaps more importantly I am starting to become more comfortable with the notion of simply enjoying every moment I have and not stressing about my next plans or destination. In light of enjoying the present and being thankful for all the moments we get (and in the spirit of American Thanksgiving) I leave you with a few things I'm thankful for:

-A lovely visit from the best mother anyone could ask for. We discovered the picturesque and fairy tale like veggie capital (most vegetarian restaurants per capita and even a meat free day at schools) of Europe (Gent, Belgium), wandered through various Dutch cities, and visited a few too many natural food stores.

-A cozy apartment with friendly roommates (even if some of our roommates are perhaps three generations of mice)

-Opportunities for travel (recently: Freiburg, Budapest & Tunisia)

-A healthy body

-The opportunity to study

-Biking as my primary mode of transport

-Being debt free

Back to living in the present---which means writing a 3000 word paper that's due tomorrow and hasn't even been started...