Friday, May 06, 2005

could, should, would

It's one of those nights. Been thinking to myself ever since I woke up today that I would do something useful. Read something in preparation for my trip to Asia, do some work for work, tidy my room, look into my future options, write an many things, but not done a single one. At the back of my mind I want to have fun. I want to chill, and I keep on telling myself that I could do all these things some other time. Because today is Friday, and I should be having fun, instead of doing serious work. Because it's almost the weekend, and weekends people relax and get away from thoughts of work and work.

But then the problem is, workdays for me are like any other day because I don't have much work to do. I still go to the office and sit there, surfing the net, doing odd chores, doing my own stuff, and go home at the end of the day, exhausted, not willing to do anything else but watch TV or surf the net and do nothing.

It was one of those days again today. And the day is almost over. Already feeling the tiredness and lure of bed just sitting here. What did I do today? Did some food shopping, cycled to the market to get my hair cut, wrote some emails, read the news here and there...what did I do today?
I should have do some work, some serious work.
I could have gotten a lot done in the past hour or so.

I would if I could, and if I really think I should.

Vier vrijheid

"Vier vijf mei.
Op vier mei herdenken wij.
Op vijf mei vieren wij onze vrijheid."

Omdat vrijheid waardelos is,
Omdat vrijheid om te sterven is.
Vrijheid is een mogelijkheid,
Vrijheid is een keus.

Een leven zonder angst,
Dat is nou vrij.
Een leven van vreugde,
Dat heet nou vrij zijn.

Vrijheid is durven,
Vrijheid is wagen.
Vrijheid is zeggen,
Vrijheid is zweigen.

Van waar krijgen wij vrijheid?
Niet van de hemel geschonken.
Vrijheid maken wij,
En vrijheid hebben wij vaker gebroken.

Vrijheid kennen ons nog niet,
Maar wij kennen vrijheid wel.

Just watched the movie so many have told me is a must-see: Schindler's List. Indeed it was. How much is a human life? What is power? Where does human cruelty end? Why do people hate and discriminate? The ashes, the meaningless deaths, executions, torture, abuses, humiliations, annihilations, 'special treatments', the inhumanity of it all! to think this was just a few decades ago think that it could very well, and indeed probably does, happen anywhere and anytime in the world today or tomorrow again...The fear, the sheer monstrocity, the unimaginable-ness of it all!

One life cannot change the world, but one life can change another.

Ironically on another channel a short documentary called 26,000 gezichten was broadcast. It was about the anxieties and desperation of the tens of thousands of uitgeprocedeerde ('processed out') asielzoekers en andere vreemdlingen. The verharding (hardening) of government policy towards foreign immigrants and by minister Verdonk of immigration and asylum is reflective of the seperation and segregation of the worst excesses of Nazi past and Apartheid. There;s even talk of giving foreigners certificates to indicate their level of 'inburgering' (citizenising) and their level of assimilation to Dutch society and culture.

How contradictory that the last two days the whole country celebrated the 60th anniversary of liberation from the yoke of the Nazis, and yet there are portions of the population who live under the fear of deportation! A girl in the programme talked of the 'knock on the door'. I thought that only happened in places where tyranny reigns and the state security services run the system. But no...people who have been here for many years, many fearing the persecution and the instability and threat to life in their home countries, many settled and connected to Dutch society, many contributing to the society in ways others are not able or even willing to contribute...because they are different, because they are foreign and seen as a threat, so they must go.

'Wij-zij gevoel' (us-them feeling).
It's reptitive. And it's disturbing.

Here is the text of the vrijheidslied 2005:

In Vrijheid
(Thé Lau, januari 2005)

Kom broeder, geef je hand
vergeet je razernij
moed is de moeder van de rede

Kom zuster, schuif eens aan
en zet je angst op zij
sluit je aan en lucht je hart in vrijheid

Kom broeder, drink eens uit
vandaag is het vijf mei
feest van een zwaar bevochten vrede

Kom zuster, dans met ons
draai je rokken rond
dans op de klanken van de rede

vrede wordt zo voor onze neuzen weggekaapt
en vrijheid is niet iets dat zo van straat wordt opgeraapt
vrede is bevochten
vrede is bevochten
maar vrijheid wordt bevochten
op een oorlog die nooit slaapt
vrijheid wordt bevochten
op een oorlog die nooit slaapt

Kom broeder, drink eens uit
we zijn hier niet alleen
wij zijn hier van lieverlede samen

kom zuster, dans met ons
voel je gelijk en vrij
kom, draai je rokken rond in vrijheid

vrede wordt zo voor onze neuzen weggekaapt
en vrijheid is niet iets dat zo van straat wordt opgeraapt
vrede is bevochten
vrede is bevochten
maar vrijheid wordt bevochten
op een oorlog die nooit slaapt
vrede is bevochten
vrede is bevochten
vrijheid wordt bevochten
op een oorlog die nooit slaapt
vrijheid wordt bevochten
op een dreiging die nooit slaapt


Als het allemaal maar waar zal zijn.

Rond de wereld in een nacht...

A bit dizzy, shaken and sore, but then also surprised I managed to walk 'around the world in one night'. Just woke up from sleeping (actually when the sun is shining, even the window blinds cannot block out the fact it's day!) after probably the longest journey by foot I've ever embarked on continuously: 25km from Leiden to Den Haag. Hadn't slept for almost exactly one whole day, because the day before I was in Leiden for work. Was therefore a bit sleepy and tired while waiting for the walk to start at midnight this morning. It was cold, cloudy and dark, but somehow a mixture of excitement, music and people made the event all the worthwhile.

path in woods

I was with a very good friend from high school. Despite the years I was away studying in London, we still managed to stay close. Guess good friendships last, and with the separation of time and distance you know what good friendships are. So we talked about this and that, like two exciting boyscouts (I would imagine, because I never was one) going on a safari. There were moments of doubt whether we'd make it, but then they subsided with the moments of thrills of walking as if completely alone in the dark of the night, in mysterious woods with our vision blurred by mist, and with only our sense of adventure and curiosity of what lies ahead and the company of one another to take us further. A better metaphor for life I cannot find.


From the Museum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden we began, onto Leiden Zuid, onto Wassenaar, onto Meijendel in the sand dunes, onto Duinzigt, onto Mariahoeve, where our journey ended. With warming up excercises, stalls of ngo's working in the developing world (a term which to my mind seems to be formulated and sustained by people and countries that have a smug sense of supremacy....but for the lack of a better alternative I must use...), music and dance from far stretches of the world the journey went ahead. There must have been around a few hundred people, and the typical Dutch wintry weather did not deter our spirits.


Under the stars, twinkling and sparkling at us, and at times hidden behind clouds of white and clouds of yellow, coloured by the lights of cities and glasshouses, we walked. Dark forests and dunes dotted our path. Darkened houses and farms cheered us on sometimes on both sides. The cheap thrills and suspense of the 'Blair withch project' (something I once really thought was a movie about the 'evil' wife of Tony Blair...) at times came to mind. And for the first time I found out where the term 'party animal' comes from. Go wonder around forests and open fields, walk beside lakes and canals after midnight, and you will know. Our conversation took us from the mundane, to the serious, to the past and the future. School, friends, family, the meanings and philosophies of life, what "could have been but was not", the "what-ifs" and the "had I done this"...the unfairness of the world, the things that drive men and women of this world, the meaning of society, civilisation (and the clash and assimilation thereof) was as if we knew the world, ,we knew people, we saw it all and were observing things from afar like supreme beings, analysing, deconstructing and puzzling it all because we knew it all so well. Such boyish spirits of courage, determination and assertiveness I have rarely felt. Interrupted by my constant need to pee, the cheery singsong of birds (why at such unholy hours I don't understand), the wind brushing against the bushes and tres, we walked on. A dull moment there never seeemed to be.

empty beach

Monday, May 02, 2005

Sleepless in The Hague...

Another sleepless night. Been lying in bed for almost an hour, and just know if I don't get my thoughts out, I won't be able to rest. It happens to me often, especially when so many things are on my mind, as now. And listening to BBC World Service, or BNR Nieuws-radio does not help...the stories of the troubled world of suicide bombings in Cairo, hostage-taking in 'post-war' Iraq, historic handshakes of long separated Chinese arch-enemies, President George W. Bush's 9pm sharp bedtime, etc etc etc seems to make it all worse.

So, at 01.00, I lie in bed, looking at the stars, wondering what my future will hold. I've already finished my university. Gosh, it was almost a year ago. This time last year, sleepless nights were I tried to stay awake, cramming in all I could in the last weeks till the final finals. I remember watching stars at night too, as I lay on the grass in central London during my twenty minute breaks between studies...those were the nights!

The sky at night...

Now, almost a year on in my gap year, I 'm still as, or even more, clueless as what to do in the future. What do I want in life? What is suitable for me? How do I go about achieving it? Can I achieve what I want? What will my parents, or other people think? At just 21, these are questions I feel I shouldn't been answering. I feel I should be exploring the world more to answer these questions, and not be stuck one place and in one (confused) mindset and worrying myself to desperation, but without any results. At 21, I see others my age partying, having fun, enjoying life and , most of all, living life...but I go from day to day, wondering what I have done, wondering what I have yet to accomplish.

Been at the Van Vollenhoven Institute at Universiteit Leiden for almost a year, as a 'stagiair' (intern). I thought the experience would give me a guid to what I want. Maybe it has, but I don't realise it. Maybe the words and attitudes of people and work in the past few months have shaped me, unconsciously, towards refining my idea(l)s. In any case, my honeymoon routine of going to work and going home again is almost over. Now I must decide.

Choices have been made. Indonesia and Taiwan are my next big items on the agenda. I hope to do some research in both countries on the rights and situation of Indonesian migrant workers, probably with an emphasis on female domestic workers, in Taiwan. The motivation is partly personal, but also out of interest and facination of an issue which I feel is ever-present, embracing so many issues and ideas, and important today and tomorrow. The question now is how long I will stay in Asia. I had planned to stay until August and return to do a masters in Public International Law. But after a talk with my boss/professor, those plans have been thrown into doubt. He was right in saying I could afford another year out. Why should I dive into a study so quickly, when I don't even know what I want to do with it? Join an NGO! Experience the world, experience the people's lives! See 'life in the field'! It's all good advice, and I would ideally want to do it all...but then somethings are holding me behind. What will my parents think? Especially my dad, who I have not spoken with for so long...what would he think now? He wasn't too happy I stopped studying to do an intership. He wants me to study as high as possible and as quickly as possible, but he doesn't seem to understand that I want to take it slower. I've absorbed so much, and have had to endure so much alone the past few years, I just need to have time on my own, to reflect, to think, and most of all, to live!

So the question remains unanswered...what to do now? Ideally I would postpone my studies again till next year. In the meantime, go to Asia, do the NGO experience, do a research paper, join some other extra curricular activities, return in November at the latest to Europe...and then hope that I can get a job/intership somewhere so I can feed myself until my studies start. An internship at the International Court of Justice or International Criminal Court would be perfect! A friend of mine is there now, earning €1000 a month as an intern...imagine the exposure, the experince, and how it would look on your cv! But then now it's all a dream, a dream I dream without even going to sleep!

I am nowhere closer to answering all the questions I wanted answered, but at least I have written. I feel writing is like releasing all the energies and frustrations inside. It frees, it soothes, it defines and organises my thoughts, and it hopefully will be something to look back one day and allow me to relflect: how far I have come!

"Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not for us to see,
Que sera, sera"