Op Stap bij de Buren

“Hee hallo lieverd!!”

De vrolijke Nederlandse tongval klatert door de Leidense straten. Met huize Koddig aka. het kot van mijn lieve vriendin Claire als uitvalsbasis, maak ik me klaar om enkele dagen Holland te verkennen. Amsterdam, Leiden en Den Haag staan op het programma.

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Alle wegen leiden naar… boekhandels!
First things first, dus haast ik me om de trein naar Amsterdam te halen. Het is lang geleden dat ik nog langs de grachten van deze stad gewandeld heb -ik was te klein om me er nog veel van te herinneren- en het is leuk om de stad eens op een andere manier te leren kennen: samen met Jan hebben we het plan opgevat de stad te doorkruisen van boekhandel naar boekhandel. Feest!

img_5025Wanneer de nacht de hemel weer veroverd heeft steken we met de veerpont het Ij over richting Tolhuistuin. De stadslichtjes dobberen over het wateroppervlak. In het concertgebouw aan de andere oever genieten we van het concert van Jacob Collier, een jonge Britse jazz muzikant die zowat alle instrumenten bespeelt die er bestaan en over het podium stuitert als een volwaardig atleet. Ik kende hem nog niet en zijn muziek komt met momenten erg bombastisch over, maar zijn persoonlijkheid, enorme stembereik en vermogen om in een paar seconden te wisselen van een hyperactief, meerstemmig nummer naar een ingetogen pianonummer laten een diepe indruk achter.

Een van mijn favorieten:

“Nou, gezellig!”img_5034

Terug in Leiden leer ik twee van Claire’s kotgenoten -die allebei Cas blijken te heten- een beetje beter kennen. Zij geven me enkele tips over wat ik zeker moet bezichtigen in de stad en vanzelf komen ook de verschillen en gelijkenissen tussen Vlamingen en Nederlanders bovendrijven.

Lijstje van nieuw geleerde woorden:

Ramsj – Jiddisch voor rommel. Boeken die niet goed verkopen, waarvan de oorspronkelijk bepaalde prijs door de uitgever naar beneden gehaald wordt. Leuk om door te snuisteren op zoek naar ondergewaardeerde schatten.

Borrel – In het Vlaams kennen wij dit enkel als ‘babyborrel’ het feestje dat kersverse moeders organiseren om hun kleintje te laten bewonderen. In Limburg (en vooral Hasselt dan) wordt met een borrel steevast een glaasje jenever aangeduid. In het Nederlands van onze Noorderburen betekent het blijkbaar een gezellige avond waarop je met vrienden samen iets drinkt.

Borrelen – het werkwoord.

Dixo – fuif (van een studentenvereniging als ik me niet vergis). Wat wij Vlamingen dus een TD zouden noemen.

In Den Haag daar woont een graaf

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Claire neemt me mee naar haar geboortestad, waar we een halve dag de toerist uithangen (na al dat borrelen is slapen tot de middag natuurlijk een must). We bezoeken het Escher museum, waar we ons ten volle kunnen verdiepen in onze gedeelde verwondering over het universum en al zijn (on)mogelijkheden.

Ter afsluiting struinen we ‘s avonds door de straten van Chinatown met zijn vele lampionnen en rijkversierde bogen, op zoek naar een Indonesisch restaurant om kipsaté met pindasaus te eten.

Conceptstores en street poetry

“Twintig euro zeuventig alstublieft.”
“Nou en toen zei ze dus tegen der vriendinnetje…”
“Mam, mag ik een stroopwafel?”
“Hahaha, ja tuurlijk lieverd!”

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Het is druk op de zaterdagse markt in Leiden. Families kuieren gezellig langs de kraampjes aan weerszijden van de Oude Rijn.
Een draaiorgel, volgeladen fietstassen, schreeuwende verkopers.

Tussen de viskraam en een verkoopstand met fietsbenodigdheden verschijnt een klein winkeltje dat mijn aandacht trekt. ‘Bookstore’ staat er te lezen (ja, wat had je van me verwacht… 🙂 )
Helaas waren er geen romans te vinden, maar wel een zeer moderne inrichting en boeken over design, fotografie en lifestyle.

Een paar straten verder ontdek ik een winkeltje met een grote verscheidenheid aan kleine ambachtelijke hebbedingetjes -een conceptstore zoals ze dat noemen. Notitieboekjes, sjaals, juwelen, rugzakken, dekentjes en als pronkstuk de tafel waarop de materialen tentoongespreid staan die bewijzen dat de aangeboden producten (toch zeker de juweeltjes) hun label van ‘ambachtelijk’ waardig zijn.

img_5044Grachtjes, windmolens, ophaalbruggen, het doet denken aan Amsterdam. Alleen kleiner. En mooier.
De gedichten die hier en daar in verschillende talen op de muren geschilderd staan dragen bij tot het pittoreske karakter van dit stadje.
Ik wil niet meer weg!

Vele reisgroetjes xx

-Lien

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Les Miroirs

On évolue par expérience.

En cherchant, en essayant. Ce sont les nouvelles rencontres qui entraînent un changement en nous-mêmes.

Qu’est-ce qui nous attire dans une certaine personne, dans un certain paysage?
Un sourire?
Un rayon de soleil?
C’est notre propre reflet. On est des miroires vivants, en quête de reconnaissance.

On évolue par assimilation.

En observant, en imitant. On se met à la recherche d’un enseignant. Quelqu’un qui nous ouvre les yeux, qui nous ammène et nous rassure: le miroir ultime qui ne nous montre pas seulement qui on est, mais qui on pourrait devenir.

On évolue par désenchantement.

En se réveillant, en collision avec le verre du miroir. L’illusion s’éclate: le reflet n’est qu’un image qui existe dans notre propre regard. On se retrouve seul, mais la perte de cette illusion nous permet une prise de conscience: le détachement, la reconnaisance de l’autre.

On évolue par espoir.

En cherchant, en essayant. Ce sont les nouvelles rencontres qui entraînent un changement en nous-mêmes.

 

All Roads Lead to…

I left Essen a week ago…

Thinking back feels weird.
I cannot describe how I felt on sunday, when arriving here in Brussels… It was like a million years had passed during the car trip from Essen to Brussels, as if I was thrown into a completely different world and my time in Essen had only existed in a dream.

Hmm.. I guess the lack of sleep also played a major role in how I felt ^^

Still miss it every day, but I adapted to the life here in Brussels more quickly than I thought I would.

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Bruxelles, ma belle, ik heb je toch wel gemist…

 

Maybe it’s because I missed my lovely friends here in Brussels and I was glad to see them back, maybe it’s because I have loads of work to do, maybe it’s because I went home and spent some time with my family…
Most probably it’s because the most crazy friend I’ve ever met visited me on wednesday. Vino’s visit didn’t only cheer me up, it showed me that the world is still as small as it was in Essen, that there are many ways to keep contact with the people you love and that all roads lead to…

Friendship 🙂

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I want to say thank you to everyone who joined me on my Erasmus journey: Thank you to my friends in Essen, to my friends and family who waited patiently for my return and to you, my readers, for letting me share my important and less important experiences.

This is the last article of this blog, but certainly not the last one I’ll ever write.

Keep dreaming, keep making friends, travelling, talking, reading, writing, dancing,…
and most importantly, don’t forget to share your dinner table every now and then: you never know who will come and join you.

x Lien

Young Birds in Stormy Weather

Someone once told me:

“Only when we discover other life outside our planet, we will feel connected to the other inhabitants of our world. Only then we will identify with our fellow ‘earthlings’.”

Is that true?
Do we construct our identity solely in opposition to others?

There is a certain logic in this statement.

I only knew what it feels like to be Belgian when I met someone from another country for the very first time.  I could compare my identity as a Belgian with that of someone else. It became clear what it means to share a geographical region, a government (well, six governments in our case. But that’s a different story), certain habits and ideas, a common history. Therefore all of a sudden I saw the connection with other Belgians in a whole new light. I found out that people can have other ideas about the world than the ones I was used to, things that I had taken for granted were suddenly questioned.

The more people I met the more clearly my identity was shaped. I felt ‘Belgian’, but also ‘Hasselaar‘, ‘Vlaming‘, Western European citizen, European citizen, ‘Brusselaar‘, ‘Limburger‘…
And all these labels indeed referred to differences with other groups and a sense of community within a group. So in a certain sense, yes, my identity is shaped in opposition to others.

But hey, let’s put things in perspective.

Searching for identity also means to define and redefine these labels, because that is what they are after all.
Labels.
Names that we gave to concepts in order to understand them.

I never labelled myself as an ‘earthling’, because indeed, there is no need to in reference to other life.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t identify as one. Here on Erasmus I met people from all over the world -from Sri Lanka to Italy to Bolivia- and I learned that we resemble one another more than can be seen at the first glance. I never felt a stronger connection to people from other cultures than now.

We are all young people, open to other cultures, open to get to know the world. Let’s try not to forget this once we are out of this dream-like Erasmus bubble and re-enter the ‘real world’.

Let’s get a little sentimental (I am allowed to, it’s almost the end of my Erasmus!)
I love you, my fellow earthlings… 🙂

 

credits: cover photo Lotte Stockmans

Eating Around the Globe: Germany

I know what you are thinking:

“Lien, you are on Erasmus in Germany! When are you finally going to write about the German cuisine?”
Well, your patience has been put to the test, but your waiting will be rewarded! Especially for you this article contains two recipes instead of one 😉 and I have some more good news for the sweet tooth amogst you:

Today I am baking German winter cookies with my wonderful buddy: Vanessa!

12405265_1086090121415195_1707645135_oI must say, the people who organize the Erasmus buddy pairs have done a great job in matching me to Vanessa. She is an amazingly caring person, who made me feel welcome in Essen even before I arrived. She’s funny, sweet, enthusiastic and a wonderfully talented painter.

Born in Germany to Chinese parents, she identifies strongly with both cultures.
Interesting to see how two cultures can be so divergent and yet they can learn so much from each other. For instance, one of the most important values in chinese culture is respect: respect to older people, respect to strangers… For exemple, when people don’t know each other very well or have just met, they IMG_1645tend to keep a certain distance in order to show each other respect. Keeping your distance has a fairly negative connotation in western culture, but in my opinion it is a use we have forgotten to appreciate. Keeping a certain distance gives the other person space. It allows us to get to know each other more slowly and not to judge too quickly.

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On the picture above: Vanessa with her mothers’ cooking chopsticks, one of the two unmissable tools in the Asian kitchen! (The other being a quite impressive, large chopping knife)

By the way, how do you like my house slippers? 😉

Vanessa is currently studying French and arts at the university of Essen to become a teacher. She can speak German, Mandarin Chinese, French, English and is also recently starting to learn Spanish!

She likes to teach me German expressions. Some are particularly funny! Thanks to Vanessa I know now that I was ‘built close to water’…

Ehmm.. what?

Yes, indeed. I was built close to water. Ich bin nahe am Wasser gebaut. This means that I am a sensitive person, who cries quickly when something sad or moving happens.

Or do you ever hear people having a conversation and you ‘only understand trainstation‘?
No?
Well, Germans do. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof is an expression used when you cannot understand anything of what is being said.

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Or – to stay in the food metaphor – did you know that in Germany something can be ‘stewing in the gossip kitchen’? I don’t think this expression needs an explanation, the image speaks for itself 😉 Da brodelt die Gerüchteküche…

But we are busy in a different kind of kitchen today: We are baking two kinds of Weihnachtsgebäck  (christmas pastries) plätzchen and Zimtsterne. 
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The two of us are not very experienced bakers and on top of that I cannot eat gluten or milk, so we have to change some of the basic ingredients…

Be prepared 😉

As soon as we start baking, Vanessa puts on some christmas music and we don’t stop listening till we are finsihed! It’s all about the atmosphere 🙂

What you need for the Plätzchen:

  • 100 gr. Buckwheatmeal and 50 gr. oatmeal (or you can use 150 gr. of plain white flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 gr. coconut oil (or butter)
  • 30 gr. sugar and 30 gr. agave nectar (or 60 gr. sugar)
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla sugar (about 10 gr.)
  • lemon zeste

Mix all the ingredients togehter in a large mixing bowl. Let the dough rest in the fridge for about an hour. When you take it aout of the fridge, spread out your dough and flatten until approximately 0,5 centimeter. Use your favourite cookie moulds to shape the Plätzchen!

Bake them in a preheated oven of 200°c for 10-12 minutes.

The cookies turned out to be a little bit dry, so I suggest you use a little more of the coconut oil.

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For the Zimtsterne:

  • 250 gr. ground almonds
  • 150 gr. powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • cinnamon

for the frosting:

  • 70 gr. of powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white

Whip the egg whites with the powdered sugar, then carefully add the ground almonds and the cinnamon. Spread the dough on a flat surface and roll it until it’s about a cenitmeter thick. Use star moulds to shap the cookies. And then you get these beautiful little stars!!!

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oww…

Well, that didn’t go according to plan…

Be sure to add enough ground almonds!  Just add some more of it when you see the dough is too soft, otherwise you’ll end up with these little monsters… hihi 🙂

Guten Appetit!

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Eating Around the Globe: Sri Lanka

 

“Traveling without a book is like cooking curry without spices”
Tell them I said so.

With Oliver Twist as my travel companion, I am taking the U-bahn to Vino’s student residence in ‘Margarethenhöhe’, a lovely neighbourhood in Essen. Lots of trees and an early 19th century architecture make it a very picturesque district.

I am so exciteIMG_1057d! He is going to show me how to cook chicken curry, one of my favourite dishes of all time.

Vino knows how to make people smile, whether it is by telling an anecdote from his endless list of crazy party stories or by taking care of his friends.
In the chaotic cosiness of his room, every object is in some way typical of his personality. A short list of items, just to give you an idea:

A massive Black Tea bag, which is actually a shopping bag with wheels.

An untuned guitar.

An impressive painting of two books playing chess. This was a birthday gift from a russian friend with whom he used to play. He couldn’t defeat Vino and therefore painted this in honour of his chess skills.

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IMG_1108Lots of candles!

And finally, ‘la pièce de résistence’: a fork, rendered completely unusable, because Vino and his flatmates use it to open their doors when they forget their keys inside…

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Vino was born and raised in Sri Lanka. Six years ago he came to Germany and is now studying biomedicine at the university of Duisburg-Essen.
His mother tongue is ‘Tamil’, a language belonging to the Dravidian family, mainly spoken by people from Sri Lanka, Singapore and the southern part of India. It has a fascinating script in which a consonant is always accompanied by a vowel in order to form a character. “The vowels are the soul of the character,” Vino says, “whereas the consonants represent the body. Without vowels, the consonants are dead.”

I guess it’s high time to begin cooking, because I can hear your stomach growling from all the way overhere 😉
Grab all spices you can find in your cupbord, let’s get started!

What you will need for 4 persons:

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– 2 onions
– 3 cloves of garlic
– a little piece of ginger
– 1 red pepper (paprika)
– 1 big tomato
– approximately 1 kilo of chicken meat
– coconut milk
– Rice
– the spices:
mustard grains
cumin grains
clove buds (2)
Madras curry powder
Chili powder
cinnamon powder
coriander powder
salt
– aromatic spices to cook with the rice:
clove buds (2)
black cardamom (1)
salt

This is how you prepare it:

Fry the spices in a little bit of coconut oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and paprika and give it a stir.
IMG_1090When this has all combined together into a nice curry paste, you can add in the chicken and fry until the skin has a nice golden brown colour. Then put in the tomatoes.
When these have become soft you can pour in the coconut milk.
While that is simmering away, you cook the rice together with the aromas in another pan.
Make sure the chicken is well cooked through, before you serve it.

Enjoy your savoury, lip-smacking curry!

நல்லா சாப்பிடுங்கோ. Nallah Saappidungo!

smakelijk

 

A Collection of Impressions

The light was dim in the dining room and nobody spoke a word.
A serene melancholy hung as a murky haze over the group of people
who were gathered together.
Time seemed to go unrealistically slow.

Most of the food – a leftover from the weekend –
lay cold and unappetizing on the large table.
It spread a nasty smell in the house.

Although the silence was full of unexpressed thoughts,
nobody seemed willing to renew the discussion;
it felt like a wordless conversation and provided a welcome respite after the frightening chaos of the last days.

There were no words needed to understand each other.

Together they brought the dirty glasses to the kitchen.
Together they did the dishes, threw away the rotten food,
washed the red wine stains out of the table cloth.

As the evening proceeded, the air became clear again.
Breathable.

Fresh words were found in all languages.

Finally, a neat, white table cloth covered the table again.
A candle was lit.IMG_1173