Friday, April 23, 2010

Bye to Holland

I have been here in the Netherlands three months and it is time to return home—home sweat home. I shut my eyes and decided what I want to remember about this beautiful little country and its people. Here is a short list:
Bicycles...bloemen(flowers)...canals...clogs...dogs...dikes...A great people!

Following is an expanded list, a dictionary of sorts:

  • Beer means Heineken and Amstel—that’s all
  • Bicycle means a Dutch national identity which must be triple-chained or else it is stolen! (The same way a bicycle was treated in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.) (You've heard of 'stolen identity'?)
  • Coffee shops: These are places where ‘coffee’ is served rolled in paper and smoked! Coffeejuana. (See 'drugs' below)
  • Dogs: These are full-blown citizens with national passports and citizen rights and political party! Dogs take their owners out for a walk. (See 'walkway' below)
  • Drugs: Something you should see with your eyes tightly open and discuss with your mouth widely shut.
  • Dutch bargain: Something expensively cheap. For example: ‘Rejoice: I saved two Euros comparing prices across 32 shops!’ Alle moet weg!
  • Dutch language: A language that is easy to speak—just pretend to be suppressing a bad cough—Wageningen; vereniging
  • Dutch national flag: A controversial piece of cloth: Did the French copy the Dutch or the Dutch copy the French?
  • Dutch woman: Someone that’s ever smiling--Wonder why she’s called vrouw when she hardly frowns. Could it be because she sneezes very loud? Atchoooooo!
  • Energy: Something you spend all your energy saving. For example, it’s better to be sick saving resources than to be warm spending them.
  • Flowers (Bloemen): What your host spends three hours showing you and you can’t see it because it is yet to sprout!
  • Space: Something small but enough for everyone—except now that Geert Wilders is fuming.
  • Space: Something you must economise by writing several words as one: Oldenbarneveltweg!
  • The Dutch: very friendly, so very friendly people
  • Walkway: Dogs’ lavatory—watch out!
  • ASC, Leiden: a great place of wonderful people...

I enjoyed my stay in Holland. I hope to be back someday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Anne Frank and the Jos babies: the crime that isn’t theirs

My friends, Daan and Thomas, and I passed by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. (Picture left). In this house, Anne Frank, her sister and her Jewish parents, hid from Hitler’s men and machinery during the World War II. (Their offence was that they were Jewish. Hitler was reaching for the jugular of every Jew). Here, Anne and her family hid for two years. Here she recorded her feelings and fears in a diary. Anne and her family were betrayed by a neighbour. They were arrested and taken to one of Hitler’s concentration camps. There Anne and her sister, Margot, died of typhus in 1945. Otto, her dad, was the only one who survived the war. From Anne’s surviving diary, movies have been produced and books written. Anne Frank House is a tourist centre today — see the long queue (picture below).

Anne’s case reminded me of the babies in Jos that were butchered in the dead of the night by herdsmen, earlier that week. The offence of the babies was that they were Berom and Christian just as Anne was Jew—an offence that wasn’t theirs.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Somali Pirates: Robin Hoods or Criminals?

I found on the website of Radio Netherlands Worldwide (Africa) an article that represents the counter-dominant view of the 'piracy' war in Somalia. It's a brief and interesting article. Click here to read.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dutch National ‘Identity’: Bicycles!

Fietsen! At 18 months, the average Dutch child is already riding a bicycle (two-wheel) proudly and effortlessly. This continues for as long as she lives. It is part of the national heritage. The use of the bicycle (fiets) (plural fietsen) tells me that the Dutch are good at making a virtue of necessity. In old cities like Leiden, it is by bike that you can reach most places.

But fietsen to the Dutch are more than a means of individual transport: a bicycle is a mass transit device also. A woman can carry three kids on one bicycle (picture below); a lover and his girlfriend joyfully share a bicycle. A rich family has bicycles for everyone—you need to see the graceful convoy on their way to a park or church! Well, this one is truly amazing: in Amsterdam, there are bicycles for commercial transport—like Nigeria’s Okada or Kenya’s Boda-boda!
In Nigeria, bicycles are ridden by the poor (especially women in the South South and South East) and by the nonconformist—like my elderly friend, Pius Stephen Omole, a grand hippie. Yet, bicycles are cheaper and healthier for the environment. I enjoyed cycling around in Leiden. But you cannot try bicycling in Nigeria—you should not. There are no bicycle paths. To cycle, you must struggle on the same road with suicidal okada (motorcycle) riders, daredevil taxi drivers; ever-angry bus drivers and murderous truck (trailers) drivers. To that list of dangers you must add the spoilt brats of politicians and government contractors cruising around in dad’s four-wheel-drive jeeps. They too do not suffer fools on bicycles gladly.

When he was Minister for Transport, Mr Ojo Maduekwe, speaking for the government, told Nigerians: “Buy bicycles, all of you. Ride them and live long etc. etc”. To show that he meant it, he got a bicycle—costlier than the average Nigerian could afford. Surrounding himself with an ambulance, several security men and cameramen, he cycled for a few short metres in Abuja before he was knocked down by a bus driver. The ambulance rescued him. Which should have come first: decreeing that Nigerians should ride bicycles or providing safe bike paths for them? Anyway, that was the end of Maduekwe’s bicycle campaign in Nigeria. He has since moved on to other ideas which he peddles to keep his position in government as minister. Such ideas/acts include leading a team of ministers to Saudi to thank the King for tolerating the presence of our sick and invisible president, or arguing with the US over the precise content of the infernal diapers worn on Christmas by Abdul Muttalib—Nigerian-born al-Qaeda boy. Ah, may God save Nigeria. To the Dutch: long live fietsen! (And thanks Edith and Hans for lending me your bike.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

This Dutchman Sells Gods

I visited my friends, Daan Beekers and Thomas van der Molen in Amsterdam. Bristling with Dutch pride, Daan and Thomas tried to take me round Amsterdam and show me the beauty of their country Capital. We passed by the Queen’s palace which was under renovation: she was on holiday in Austria. We went to the roadside open market somewhere in central Amsterdam. Many things were on sale in the market. I was attracted by a man who sold gods and goddesses of other lands—especially Africa.
He has idols of deities from different parts of Africa and Asia (See pictures left and right) to your left. He has Buddha for sale. He allowed me to take his picture and those of the gods but he wasn’t willing to tell me how these things got to Europe or to his shop. He was busy attending to ‘customers’. The gods and goddesses looked starved: they have not received any sacrifices for ages. I could not help feeling this was travesty, and sacrilege. It brought to my mind the old allegations of shrine robbery repeatedly levelled against pioneer anthropologists, missionaries and colonialists.