Posts Tagged ‘The Netherlands’

Hello Etsy <--- Said With Dutch Accent

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Last night I returned home from a four day trip to the Netherlands. My travels were dual-purposed:

  1. To attend the Hello Etsy 2012 conference
  2. It was a good excuse to visit my family.

I always feel very at home in the Netherlands – perhaps it is because all of a sudden I am surrounded by people who are tall, blonde and rosy-cheeked like me instead of the short, skinny Frenchies I hang out with these days. I can’t speak Dutch although from growing up listening to my Grandparents speak to one another I seem to have an ear for the language. I can’t tell you exactly what is being said but I can follow very basic conversations. The human brain is an amazing thing.

Maybe it is these red shutters, but I feel at home in Holland

Anyway, I spent most of my time with my family in Gouda (it’s pronounced Gggccchhhh-ow-der not G-oo-da), visiting the city, driving to the apparently mountainous ‘dunes’ (they was slightly raised patches of ground) near the coast, and eating gevulde koek. On Sunday we went to Delft where I didn’t buy any blue and white porcelain but I did watch people sail boats around and around a course in a small area in a canal. My cousin, Judit was one of the organisers of the event and she tried to explain to me the complexities of the event. It certainly looked technically difficult and I definitely couldn’t have done it. Crazy Dutch.

Delft canal

You can’t get more Dutch than this – canal, boats, houses, Vermeer clouds.

On Saturday I woke up very early and caught three trains to Eindhoven for the Hello Etsy 2012 conference – a day of talks by small creative business owners run by the good folk from Etsy. It was linked with Dutch Design Week and there were many interesting events happening in Eindhoven. None of my family could understand WHY it was in Eindhoven, but that’s where it was so that’s where I went.

Hello Etsy

Hi there.

The conference was attended by lots of fellow crafters who sell their products on the Etsy website. There were about 200 of us and we listened to various speakers including Janine Vangool from Uppercase Magazine; Satish Kumar, a former monk who now travels the globe encouraging peace and environmental responsibility (he also walked from India to America via Moscow, London and Paris (yes, walked) carrying boxes of tea to give to the heads of government to encourage them to drink a cup of tea and have a bit of a think before starting nuclear war); and Piet Hein Eek, a Dutch designer whose atelier the conference was being held in.

Piet Hein Eek workshop

The AMAZING workshop at Piet Hein Eek

While all of the speakers had something interesting to say, I gained the most insight from Janine as she spoke about the processes and changes she has gone through throughout her life in order to get to her current position as a magazine and book publisher. It was reassuring to hear that it isn’t an overnight occurrence and that she has changed jobs and directions many times throughout her career to be where she is now. It made me realise that over the past two years I have been telling people about this book I am writing about Paris (yet honestly haven’t really started yet) and am trying to attempt various other projects instead. But the idea of having my words printed in a beautifully bound book with nice typesetting and photographs makes every inch of me tingle with excitement.

Janine provided the advice of doing what you love and the fact that you can’t succeed or fail unless you try. This is a significant pitfall in my current way of doing things – I don’t try. I sit around hoping that some magical fairy will make something happen for me on my behalf instead of getting out there and making things happen. This has to change.

She also said that there is always room for quality which I think was a lovely thing. You can tell from Uppercase that she has a great eye for quality and that the work she produces is made from the heart. This is something I aspire to do.

An overall feeling I gained from all of the speakers was that they were simply following whatever their heart and soul was telling them. Instead of producing products with a specific market in mind, they would make something that they liked, loved, wanted and the market would find a place for it.

Hello Etsy conference

Lots of interested listeners

The most popular speaker of the day was Satish Kumar – a cute, little, 70-something Indian ex-monk who made the hearts of the 90 per cent female crowd go gooey. He is a very impressive man with a strong will, amazing intelligence and a determined agenda to spread the idea of peace. He was also very human and approachable, not preaching to us but presenting the facts and encouraging us to follow our dreams and to focus on making the world a better place. One of the things he said that stuck with me was that everything in life has a place, including fear and doubt. It is just a matter of keeping these things in their place and not allowing them to control us. Very true.

I came away from the conference not having ‘networked’ as much as I set out to do but with a better understanding of creative business. It is a long journey and requires a lot of effort and work, all of which I believe I am capable and willing to do. I just need to get my butt into gear and do it.

Hello Etsy bag

Why, hi!

Bienvenue, 2012

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Apologies for my recent lack of contact. The last few weeks have been particularly busy with completing my work for the exhibition, playing tour guide for my friend, Rachel, and my brother, Ben, and now Christmas and New Years adventures in Germany and the Netherlands. I am writing this from the loft of my second cousin’s house in Gouda (yes, like the cheese except with the correct Dutch pronunciation – Gcchhhowda.) To my left is a view of apartment blocks surrounded by a Dutch morning sky – grey, foggy and wet. No snow in sight. It seems that all of Europe has been hit by some sort of strange heat wave and snow has been rare this winter. Very disappointing but somewhat expected as I am here and hot weather seems to follow me where ever I go. I have now spent two snowless winters in Europe. I need to work on this.

So today is New Year’s Eve, the day when everyone is supposed to reflect on their past year, examine what they have achieved and what they need to put on their “To Do” list for the next year. We all know I love a good reflection so let’s do it.

This year really started for me in February when I moved to Paris. It is still hard to believe that I only have one month left of my year away. If I hadn’t planned on extending my stay I would now be in a state of complete and utter panic, depression and general Oh-Woe-Is-Me. I am still very nervous about my approaching trip back to Australia and Sydney to visit the French Embassy to ask for a second visa, but at least it is going to happen. I think I can grandly announce that this year has been the best year of my life thus far but how could it not be? I have lived in an amazing city, met awesome people, visited wonderful places and eaten some of the greatest food of my life. What’s not to like?

Next year I plan to continue this current way of living while also endeavouring to put more effort into my writing and ‘stuff’. When I first made my Zaum business cards, I kept my options open by declaring Zaum was a business for “Writing and stuff”. I am still trying to find out what that stuff is and how exactly to do it but my recent sock laboratory adventures have put a few ideas into my head. I have so much I want to do and try – I just need to work out how to do it. According to my horoscope in the Dutch tv magazine, the best time of the year for me to work out what I want to do with my career is from March to June of next year. Sounds like a plan.

So this reflection has become a bit of a pathetic thing but to be honest my stomach is grumbling and I want to go and eat some breakfast. At 10am I am expecting to hear the onslaught of hundreds of fireworks being set off. In the Netherlands, it is legal to purchase fireworks for a few days leading up to New Years and then legal to set them off between 10am and 2am on New Year’s Eve/Day. It is now 9.30am and apparently the existence of sunlight doesn’t put people off. Should be a fun day.

Happy New Year to all – I hope 2012 is exciting and fulfilling for everyone. I highly recommend running away to a foreign country and eating food for an entire year. It has worked out for me rather nicely.

And a special Happy Birthday to two of my most regular readers, Heather and Brendan. I hope people remember to say happy birthday amongst the happy new years.

Walk This Way

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Introducing the latest edition to the Zaum menagerie – everyone, meet Jacob. Jacob, meet everyone.

Jacob the mud walker
Hello…

Jacob was born near the Zuidplaspolder – the lowest point of the Netherlands and has always felt a strong affinity to all things ‘marshy’. This is potentially because his mother gave birth to him in a swamp (it’s a long story involving flat bike tyres, a windmill and lots of herring) and the fact he spent a lot of time playing in canals and soggy ground throughout his childhood. Whatever the case, Jacob has never shied away from getting a bit dirty.

Jacob the mudwalker

Jacob is ready for any muddy situation

Unfortunately for Jacob, this backfired slightly in that he was constantly teased and getting into trouble at school for the muck under his finger nails and the general stench that wafted off his skin. But no matter how many times he was tripped up by bullies, he couldn’t stay away from the ooey-gooey goodness that mud provided. In his opinion, all humans should live in mud, be constantly coated in mud, and live off the creatures and fungus that grow in and around mud. There is nothing better.

This is why when it came time for Jacob to leave home and find himself a job, he headed to the north of the Netherlands and took up mudwalking. He couldn’t believe his luck when he found out that he could make a living taking tourists on treks across the North sea sea-bed when the tide was out. Suddenly people were interested in his passion – people wanted to become with mud, just like him!

Jacob the mud walker

Everywhere he goes, he takes his mudwalking stick

While he did manage to get a job as a mudwalk tour guide, it wasn’t easy. People get scared by his odd looks and obsession with the slimy stuff. Due to decades of contact with mud, Jacob’s pasty-white skin has turned into a dark, mouldy-black. His blonde hair has permanently stuck to the top of his head and you can’t tell the difference between hair and skin. The only part of his face that is easily decipherable are his eyes that bulge out in a mole-like appearance. The only part of him that makes him clearly a Dutch-man are his limbs – long and gangly compared to the rest of his body. His legs are excellent tools for getting out of tricky mud-situations and his arms can pull out stuck tourists in an instant.

Every time he heads out on an expedition into the great mud, Jacob will always wear his lucky green hat. It is the only colourful item that he will wear – he never washes his mudwalking outfits as he has broken too many washing machines and he hates doing it by hand. His hat, however, is his pride and joy and he will do anything to avoid it getting muddy. In addition, he attached a small bell to the back of it in case of emergencies – should he ever get completely stuck in the mud he will ring the bell to call for help. Now that’s a pro-mudwalker.

Jacob the mud walker

Lindt Bunnies aren't the only ones who need bells

Jacob will be available for purchase from my Etsy Store soon! I just need to go to the post office and work out postage costs… That’ll be fun. Not. Also, Jacob is made from a sock that had a one in three chance of being used by me when I went mudwalking in Holland. The socks I actually used were beyond repair so this is as good as I could do. I don’t think any quarantine departments would have been too happy about me sending mud-filled socks across their borders.

Three Highlights

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

I am well and truly back in Paris and have said farewell to my parents. I am now officially living independently (well, plus Tom) in France with no parental guidance, job or direction. Sounds fun! Pity it is currently raining. Actually, I’m going to go and watch the rain. Be right back.

Back. A reasonably heavy downpour just happened and instead of taking cover like most Australians would, the French people who were hanging out in the park just continued to chat and put up some umbrellas. Water doesn’t seem to melt them as much as it does to Australians.

Anyway, back on track. So I am back in Paris after three weeks away in Holland, Germany and Crete and I feel I haven’t written much lately and I probably should. The problem is, a lot happens in three weeks so I am going to choose one highlight from each country and the rest you can decipher from looking at my photos that are now all up on my Flickr site. Sounds like a plan, Stan.

Holland

Ahh, Holland. Or should I say, The Netherlands. Apparently there is a clear difference but it is a bit like the capital city of Australia – is it Canberra or is it really Sydney? No one from outside Australia really knows or cares. Having Dutch family, I have always enjoyed pretending I am ‘Dutcher’ than I am. There’s something exotic and romantic about being from European decent as opposed to being the great-great-great-great granddaughter of a convict. I believe I am a mix of both. But it still amazes me how everytime I arrive in Holland I feel an instant recognition and connection with the locals. I can see myself in their faces, their rosy cheeks, their longer limbs and larger builds. On this visit it really hit me how a large percentage of Dutch women have stronger, more ‘solid’ builds than other nationalities. French women are tiny and ‘petite’ and would be crushed to death if a Dutch person sat on them. I certainly not saying that Dutch women are fat – they are very healthy and fit despite eating a lot of pancakes and cream. However they are tall and well structured and for once I actually felt like my own body shape fit in. Kind of relieving, really!

My ultimate highlight from Holland was most likely the mudwalking but as I have already written about that I shall write about my second highlight – Bike riding to Hoorn. Dad had hired bikes from a local bike shop and as he and Mum are now expert bike riders we decided they should teach Tom and me the secrets of the dutch bike paths. The night before we set off, Dad and I looked at maps and planned a route from Medemblik (the small town where we were staying) to Hoorn (a larger town nearby) – a 50km return trip past two windmills, through lots of little towns and across many dijks. Holland is covered in cycle paths that are all linked together and numbered. All you have to do is look at a map, see what number bike paths will connect you with where ever you are going and then jump on your bike and follow the numbered signs. It’s that easy!

Bike path map
It’s a netwerk of fietsroutes

It is a wonderful system – you can get slightly lost if you go off track or miss a sign but Holland isn’t really big enough for this to be a major problem. You only have to ride for a few minutes and you are in another town – there isn’t much chance of getting lost in the woods/desert/ocean etc. We rode past some really interesting scenery and along bike paths of various descriptions. Sometimes we were on the road side with cars and trucks giving way to us, other times we rode along the top of dijks with sheep farms and fields of flowers on either side. No matter where we were riding I always felt safe and the cars on the road knew exactly how to deal with bikes. That I think is the main problem with riding in Australia – drivers in cars become nervous about bikes and accelerate to get past instead of just waiting for a safe moment to overtake. Idiots.

Bike ride

Riding along on a dijk

Another things I discovered while riding was that my Grandma wasn’t lying when she told me that the wind in Holland is always in your face, no matter what direction you are riding and how many times you try and ride in the opposite direction. You cannot escape it and it can have quite an impact on your peddling abilities. We did choose a remarkably beautiful day to go on our ride to Hoorn so the wind wasn’t a huge issue, but I did wonder how my parents managed to ride for 100km in rain and strong winds a week or so before on their cycle tour of Holland. They’re clearly insane.

Anyway, the ride was wonderful as it was such an easy and enjoyable mode of transport. I think I received severe bruising to my rear end by the end of the day but otherwise no injuries sustained. Tom punctured his tyre so we had an emergency stop at a bike repair shop. And we ate fresh gevulde koek from a bakery which was probably the ULTIMATE highlight of the day. Much better than packet versions that have spent three months on a ship to Australia.

Gevulde koek

Mmm... deliciousness filled with almond goodness

Now I am hungry and I am going to go and buy a baguette but I will return later to write about Germany and Crete. Fear not!