Da Daily Diary

Posted August 9, 2010 by jbomeara
Categories: Uncategorized

I woke up a little before my alarm, my feet stinging slightly from the cold. Some nights, my feet slide from the cozy confines of the duvet cover and sniff the twilit air. A shower would warm them up. I did my 450 sit-ups and fried a couple eggs. I thought for a moment about how capacious my room looks when my feet are on the chair and my head on the ground. The ceilings are tall but so am I.

I nibbled at a paltry cheese sandwich like a deer testing its first dandelion of the season. I peeked at my phone’s clock every so often, silently hoping that a minute or two would slip out of order. We were due for a large group dinner — Chinese, as the rumor went — and so I didn’t want to gorge myself too early. The swing from starved to satiated this evening would prove intoxicating.

But, alas, no story worth telling lacks a bridge between beginning and ending.

__________________________________________

No one enjoyed the 8:55 a.m. roll call less than I (damn Wednesdays!), but the excitement of traveling to Rotterdam perked me up. We shot off quickly after Rob and Clifford’s brief introductory speech for the day’s events. We had 1st class tickets and so missing the train would be a grave mistake. The walk to the station always reminds me of how well I’ve learned to navigate Amsterdam. That first, godforsaken walk from the station on July 18 was like trudging uphill through knee-high horse puckey. Now, I skip from dijk to dijk. We walked the route that skirts the port side of the sinking NEMO. I like that walk the most — I feel like Jack Sparrow.

The train over to Rotterdam, and the accompanying 1st class designation, was unspectacular. Max tried to show off his mental dexterity on a Rubik’s Cube, but he wilted under the pressure when told that God kills one kitten for every ten seconds someone spends thumbing a Cube. Maybe he’ll learn how to handle Big League pressure when he’s older. Jenny showed that she has a long way to go before becoming a Dragon Pantheon Rubik Champion, but she is much more adept than most. I believe I put my one and only Rubik’s Cube in an old microwave a few years ago, forgetting that it belonged to my friend, Kip.

A few hundred meters from Rotterdam Centraal, I saw some unbelievably familiar graffiti. In Berlin last summer, I saw a lot of Sistine-sized murals done by a group called BLU. The art troupe tours around Europe, finding open-faced planes of concrete, mortar or brick to make gigantic murals. After that magical month last summer, seeing the undulating brains made of people and the foot eating a soccer ball felt a lot like home. (You know you’ve spent too much time abroad when some graffiti you saw in Germany a year ago feels like warm apple pie.) Anyways, the spray painted figures I saw stank of BLU. I highly recommend you give them a Google search or two.

A quick stop outside Rotterdam Centraal to orient ourselves was followed by a jaunt south, towards the Kunsthal. I snapped some photos along the way and stepped in some questionable mud near the “Gnome with a Humungous Butt-plug” [colloquially translated]. It was great to see Rob’s eyes light up as he described every other building down the block. I must be too unfamiliar with modern architecture, but I had no idea how much detail architects (a.k.a. Legoheads) know about their fellow architects’ bodies of work. It was rather astounding to hear all of the minutiae Rob was able to articulate on the spot. Touché, Rob. Touché.

The cinema plaza, on the other hand, was not as stunning as a certain architectural academic would have you believe. The Pathé (same company as the cinema next to the Flowermarkt in A’dam) building was a simple block and looks like that one redneck neighbor’s giant wood shed. Every person might have a unique opinion of the place; personally, I wasn’t sold. I’m no genius of design, but give me three hours, four beers, and a few thousand BetterBlocks, and I can guarantee at least one non-rectangular face.

The open square next to the Pathé, though, was freakin’ awesome. The crane lights might attract the masses, but the studded-metal canvas had me tied down. Put some low-sided walls down around that wood plot in the middle, and you have yourself a world-class urban soccer pitch. Carefully placed speakers and astutely chosen music would stir up a flash mob of dancers the likes of which have never been seen. I can close my eyes and picture the vibrant colors and clumsily-rolled hips of ‘Maandag Merengue’ now…

Again, outside of the De Unie, Rob did not have me convinced that I was looking at a piece of architectural wonder. In the same “De Stijl” fasion as the ’20s government housing block, the plot had a grey-faced exterior with simple yellow and blue trims adding a subdued pulse to an otherwise lifeless structure. As Rob put it, the original De Unie building was the “most important Dutch design” of a good chunk of the 20th century. I’m pretty sure I drew that exact same building with my Lite-Brite when I was five.

When we came upon the NAI (Dutch Architecture Institute) and eventually the Kunsthal (Hall of Kunst), Rotterdam’s architectural prowess became obvious. The over-our-heads planning that went into those buildings was plain to see. The “three hours, four beer, and a few thousand BetterBlocks” corollary still applies to some degree, but I have to admit that I probably would never (ever!) be able to take buildings of that sort from the idea phase to completion. There are too many jagged edges and bathrooms to manage.

It was precisely at this point that I felt a very sharp pain at the bottom of my foot. I feigned a tough upper lip, swallowed my scream, and pulled my shoe off. Through salty tears, I could not determine if there was a pinprick’s worth of blood or if I had a little red fuzzy inside my sock. I pulled out the perpetrator between two pursed fingers: a thin, evil shard of mirror. Knowing that my socks were laundered naught but the day before, and keeping in mind that my deep love for cushy socks is well known amongst the laundering industry in Europe, I smelled foul play. Mirror shards — being the injurious little bastards they are — do not simply worm their way into balled socks by chance. Mark my words: the culprit will come to face justice.

A very brief circumnavigation of the Kunsthal‘s lower exhibit (René Burri’s iconoclastic pictures) was rewarded with a luxurious meal in the museum’s café. I sat with Colin, Jenny, and Greg, admiring their plates of chicken sandwich and soup enough to order both for myself. After gorging myself on the chef’s scrumptious wares, and consequently shrieking at his bill, I gave the galleries a second shot. The Tour de France exhibit was undoubtedly the most popular. I rode every stationary bike, took all the photo opportunities, and touched every part of that exhibit that I could. Without too much math involved, I calculated that I burned about 80 of the 1,604 calories I consumed at lunch.

The wrap-up discussion of the Kunsthal inside was truncated by our need to head back north in time for our bike tour. We meandered out of the Kunsthal and marched towards a metro stop. The attendant at the middle of the train was delightfully jovial, and he undercharged me ten cents for the trip (ha HA!). Along the way, he successfully predicted that the rain would basically hold off completely before telling stories about his travels through the PNW a few years ago. He was a merry soul in a trim blue vest. A tip of the hat to you, sir, whomever and wherever you are.

Another short walk from the station brought us to the bike tour center. There, we met Ivan, our trusted guide. As soon as we were allowed to take the bikes out for test spins, we students reverted to 1st grade psyches and played like it was Aisle F at Toys ‘R’ Us. I was beside myself with joy, saying “Wheeee” at every turn.

Ivan was not the most ebullient puppy in the litter, that I can guarantee. He was quietly very intelligent, nevertheless, and could stand toe-to-toe with Rob on some aspects of Rotterdam’s structural trivia. With a pass of his hand through his ravenwing hair, he took one last look at our circus of bell-clicking, bike-riding apes and then we set off. We began on a southern course at a lazy pace. This was the first time that I was on an Amsterdam style bike. The upright handle bar system is incomparably better than my Quasimodo set-up on the maroon RockRider. The lack of gears made everything simple. Just move your legs and click your bell at every pigeon you pass. The only downside for these otherwise-lovely machines are the seats. The seat on my RockRider is like a paring knife: small, sleek and sharp, but easily negotiable amongst the Nethers. But the Amsterdam style seat? God help us all. It’s like sitting on Paul Bunyan’s axe handle. By the time we passed the Erasmus building, I was seeing angels. Every time we stopped at a light and I forgot that the back-pedaling serves as an auxiliary brake, effectively throwing my weight forward and down, the familiar ache crept into my soul and detonated. Ivan offered some suggestions, but until Huffy reconfigures their prototypes or we evolve horseshoe-shaped scrota, I’m pretty sure us guys are out of luck.

(This reminds me of a question I first addressed when I was six: why are bike manufacturers universally sadistic? We’re starting to plan a trip to Mars, and someone in a lab in Maryland just created life using six computers and a turkey baster, and yet no one has ever pushed enough chalk for a comfortable bike seat design? This is inane. I would like to see a consortium of Schwinn, NASA, the Proctology Association of America, and LA-Z-Boy furniture to figure out this centuries-old problem. What is wrong with a seat that cups the buttocks and allows for full leg rotation? I designed that when I was six years old, guys… When I was six.)

On the roundabout tour with Ivan, all of us gracefully in tow like cygnets behind Mrs. Swan, we saw several key architectural sites in Rotterdam’s south side. I particularly enjoyed the tip of the isthmus with the Holland Amerika Lijn‘s hotel and restaurant. Looking out into Rotterdam’s basin of a river mouth, seeing the leviathans painted like ocean freighters, brought me back to the days when Rotterdam started to mature as a powerful port town. Whether it was boats full of pasty, bloated tourists in the 20th century or pasty, bloated cattle in the 17th, that spot was used for essentially the same thing for three centuries. Good food for thought.

The tour of Rotterdam did not end when we dismounted from our bikes. Always the noble standard-bearer of didacticism, Rob challenged us to navigate our way back to Pathé’s plaza. The feats of Hercules were pallid by comparison. Perseus himself would shudder at the daunting trial. Odysseus, wanderer of all worlds, would falter in the earliest stages of this quest… oh, what? We’re there already? Cool.

So, with half an hour to kill before our dinner reservation, the group fractured into pods and sought beer. My group, consisting of Derek, Rachel, and Jenny, found a cozy tree and a bevy of ducklings. One of the other groups found a gay bar. I believe that yet another group found Clifford.

Since the meal at the Chinese restaurant was shared by all, and since both my mind and my fingers have grown weary of reflection, I feel that this is as good a time as any to bring this diary to a close. I am very glad to see how tight-knit this group has become over the past three weeks, evinced by the gaity of our laughter and the length of our Chinese bar tab. I bid you adieu with a warning: If Jenn says your meal consists of a lot of duck, run like hell. I had more water fowl than if I had played a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” in Aflac’s board room. I wake up to their quacks. I feel them in my pillow. It is a cursèd flesh.

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A (Student) Traveler’s Guide to Europe

Posted June 29, 2010 by jbomeara
Categories: Uncategorized

Okay, so you’re about to head over to Europe. I know the little buzz of excitement you feel–the tinglings that creep through your neck and hands when someone says, “I wish I were going to Europe;” the melting sensation when you realize you’ll have the best pastries you’ve ever laid taste buds on; the ideations and titillations that will occur in the (*ahem) coffee shops. I’ve felt all this before. I know where you are right now.

If you have been to Europe as a college student before, or if you are confident that you’ll fare just fine without this little message, no worries. But if this is your first time over to Europe, I implore you to take a few minutes to digest my advice. 

First of all, it’s of paramount importance to make the distinction between traveling to Europe as a college student and traveling here at any other time. If you came over here earlier in life (say, with your folks or with a high school group), then you probably didn’t really do Europe right. In fact, I would argue that you are coming over to Europe at precisely the right time for four reasons: 1) you’re young, energetic, open-minded, and eager to experience another culture; 2) you’re not fettered by your parents or your age; 3) Amsterdam is one of the coolest cities in Europe, if not the world; and, finally, 4) Europe is less expensive right now (and still getting cheaper) than at any point in the past decade. Good work. The ball is already rolling advantageously.

It should be noted that these pieces of advice are reflections of my personality and experiences. I’m waging an internal war against looking like a Raging Tourist while I’m over here, and so far I’m in a stalemate. I recommend that you also make an effort to break out of the Raging Tourist paradigm. Europeans put up with more tourists than you or I can fathom, and they appreciate seeing foreigners make an effort to live in their city instead of treating it like a playground. Try to walk a mile in their clogs. 

So, without further ado, here are some flash points to keep in mind for the upcoming Euro adventure.

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Getting ready to come to Europe

Exchanging money is always a headache. To make the process as pain-free as possible, I strongly recommend that you exchange money at your local bank for some euro bills (about $400 USD should be plenty) to keep in a wallet or purse. Traveler’s checks are safer than cash, but harder to acquire. I had to go down to San Francisco to get traveler’s checks from American Express for this summer. It’s a godforsaken system. Anyways, keep this cash securely on you until you get settled in the apartment/dorm in Amsterdam. This will serve as a rainyday fund, in case you cannot find a bank or someone steals your credit card(s). Once we’re in Amsterdam, find a reliable/cheap bank’s ATMs to use. Exchanging a load of money at your bank in the U.S. will probably come with a 3.75% service charge, which is about the same as what you will be charged in Amsterdam. Once you have your initial euro bills, don’t sweat the money. Just use ATMs.

(Important note: the biggest bank in Paris, BNP Paribas, has set up an agreement with Bank of America where clients of either bank can take money without any flat fee for the service. I’m not sure if there is a similar agreement in Amsterdam. When you call your bank to register your cards for going abroad, ask them if they have a set-up with a bank in the Netherlands. It would certainly be worth the phone call.)

If you trust craigslist.org or are a prudent e-consumer and can find a good deal, I recommend that you start looking for a bike before you get to Amsterdam. Don’t pay in advance, of course, but get to know the seller/renter. Everyone I’ve met who has spent a decent amount of time in Amsterdam couldn’t overstate the benefit of having a good bike as opposed to a piece of shit with square wheels. And while we’re on the subject of the internet, give Amsterdam a few Google searches to see what sort of activities are going on. The World Cup will be done by the time we arrive, but I’m keeping fingers crossed that the Dutch win the tournament so that everyone is in a happy mood. I’ve also found out that a huge classical concert series will be going full-bore while we’re there. I don’t know if that is your cup of tea but I couldn’t be happier. Blunts-and-Brahms sounds peachy. 

Packing is always a trepidation for some of the style-minded folks in the group. (Here’s looking at you, gals.) Even though living in my own apartment in Paris has brought out my inner nudist, I still believe I can weigh-in on this subject with a fair degree of expertise. That being so, I cannot stress this enough: Do not pack too much. Sure, find the biggest suitcase you have and start tossing in your favorite shirts and hot pants, but do not go overboard. You will quickly regret bringing that third pair of leather boots or that 18th black t-shirt when you’re lugging all your stuff through the crowded metro by your lonesome. Err on the side of packing too light, i.e. only bring one or two of your larger items, skimp on the t-shirts and undies. You can easily buy a pack of t-shirts or a bundle of socks after arriving.

Moreover, do not sweat the small stuff on fashion over here. If you have a burning desire to wear designer clothing everyday, go for it. But I’d warn against that. It’s the summer, it will be hot and sticky every day and most nights, and we probably won’t have top-rate washing machines and dryers at our disposal. White t-shirts are the way to go; Armani be damned. I’ve been in way-too-trendy Paris this summer and eurotrash-at-its-worst Berlin last summer, and I’ve never been treated differently because I’m wearing humdrum clothes. If anything my plainness turns heads in a good way. American items are considered chic over here, so you’ll look like a million bucks even if you’re wearing your “hungover in a four-hour Tuesday morning lecture” outfit. Trust me.

To sum up the pre-departure bit, here’s a quick list of things NOT to bring:

  • big towels
  • more than one jacket
  • non-essential toiletries, e.g. shaving cream, toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, etc. — my mom stuffed a bottle of shampoo in my bag without me knowing last summer and it exploded mid-flight. I love that woman.
  • shoes you’ll wear fewer than once a week
  • pictures of loved ones (Only kidding.)

Anything that you did not pack with you, you can buy in the Netherlands. We’re not exactly going to Timbuktu, here. In the first day or so, get together with your roommate(s) and figure out what the apartment needs in terms of groceries, cleaning supplies, panache doodads, and the like. The more communal we all live, the cheaper it is for everyone. Viva socialism!

________________________________________

Once you’re in Amsterdam

For the past two summers, I’ve made the monumental mistake of paying way too much to start off my trip. The common faux pas is to go on  a spending binge once you land. People think, “Well, shit, I’m in Europe! Of course I’ll buy that 8 euro beer and a 15 euro salad!” Don’t do this. Be remarkably frugal once you get over here, at least until you have a better idea of how much things cost and where to find your deals. We’re students, after all, not a Hilton sister.

The easiest way to keep your finances in check is to keep mental notes of how much you’re spending a day. Then extend that out to a week, and in turn the month. Never let your weekly expenses go beyond your month’s budget–we’re all braniacs here, find the derivatives. If you go out on the town and spend way too much money on a cute blonde with kind eyes one night, penalize yourself by eating-in for a couple days. Since I’ve been in Paris, I have kept to a regimen of making myself two meals a day and eating out for the third. On days where I make all my meals at home, I might rev the engine a little bit harder at the bars that night. A few kids in my Berlin group last summer went hogwild in the first week and a half of the trip and had no dough left for the most fun festivities at the end. They were running on fumes and mooching handouts for the last week. Don’t do that. Just don’t.

Once you’re settled in a little bit, I strongly recommend getting to know your neighborhood (or another area in the city) as well as you can. It is very rewarding to dig your teeth into a part of town, especially in a vibrant city like Amsterdam. My spot in Paris is famous for its gourmet pastries (God is real, and he is flaky.) and its homeless guys. That being so, I’ve made sure to bump into most of the bakers and patissières in the area and  have a couple humorous run-ins with the hobo crowd. Don’t leave Amsterdam without being able to say that you lived it the right way.

All that being said, allow me to get back to the anti-Raging Tourist campaign. Money aside, we student travelers are often guilty of some big mistakes. It’s important to keep your head and not lose track of your trip’s goals. We’re young and foolhardy, but not so much as to warrant looking like an asshole or angering the locals. Actually, fuck the bombastic paragraph… I like making lists.

  • DO NOT think of Amsterdam as a stoner’s paradise, or at least not in public. The city’s population doesn’t really like to smoke that much. Tommy Chong isn’t running for mayor or anything. It is similar to how winemakers only drink milk and beer at the dinner table. They’re sick of the plant and the stupid kids in Dispatch t-shirts who overindulge. Keep it classy. 
  • DO check out the Heineken plant. I hear it’s pretty sweet.
  • DO NOT go to any parties with a bunch of ambulances around it. They had those in Berlin and half the crowd belonged in a Rob Zombie music video while the other half looked like sleazy Courtney Love doppelgängers.
  • DO NOT be too loud in a public area. A lot of people, especially the young ones, speak English and don’t care if you think “that puppy is so fuggin’ cute!”
  • DO at least a couple things a week that you can only do while in Europe/Amsterdam.
  • DO NOT walk alone at night, especially if you’ve been partying.
  • DO make an effort to call your parents and friends. At the very least, they are probably trying to live vicariously through your Amsterdam stories.
  • DO NOT make those calls after figuring out what the hoopla with absinthe is all about. (Sorry, grandma.)
  • DO brush up on your Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson.
  • DO NOT mention Bob Marley’s name. He’s always accompanied with the aforementioned “stupid stoner” label.
  • DO NOT waste your time mindlessly hanging out in the apartment/dorm. As Ms. Frizzle put it, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” (<– that would make the world’s best tramp stamp, by the way)
  • DO feel free to make me some dinners. I’ll be grateful, pinky swear.

That’s all I have to offer for now. Feel free to hit me with questions/concerns/sweet nothings.

Shameless plug alert…

And if you want to peek at my completely non-academic blog for my Paris travels: http://theoldmonkeysnest.blogspot.com

Final Spring Assignment (The Last Push)

Posted June 15, 2010 by jbomeara
Categories: Uncategorized

Introduction:

Integration of Muslim immigrants into Dutch society has been a key issue for the Dutch government ever since the 1960’s and 1970’s, when a need for labor in the Netherlands caused an influx of about 22,000 Moroccan immigrants.[1] (Turkish immigrants were in small numbers at this time, but now constitute about 38% of the Muslim population)[2] However in the past ten years there has been an increase in tension among the Native Dutch and Muslim immigrants due in large part to attacks carried out by Islamic extremists. The attacks of September 11th in 2001, and the murder of a Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in 2004 being some of the more notable incidents.

A poll taken by Motivaction / GPD
in 2006 revealed that 756 out of the 1200 Dutch adults surveyed (63%) believed Islam to be incompatible with modern European life. [3] This view is further supported by the leftist Labor Party, which is calling for an end to the “failed model of Dutch tolerance.” They contend that past tensions between immigrants and the native Dutch have arisen from the unwillingness of immigrants to shed the customs of their native country and adopt a more Dutch lifestyle. Lilianne Ploumen, the Labor’s chairperson, says, “Integration calls on the greatest effort from the new Dutch. Let go of where you come from; choose the Netherlands unconditionally.” The position of the Labor Party is stern; a callous tone justified by necessity. The party, as a reflection of popular demand, outwardly professes a strong message to its newest countrymen: Immigrants must “take responsibility for this country” and “the grip of the homeland has to disappear” in order for tensions to be resolved.[4]

Our group is interested in the lifestyles, social connections and barriers between Dutch nationals (defined as those citizens who have Dutch heritage or, in the case of 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants, have assimilated into the Dutch culture, economy, customs and traditions, and national fabric) and recent Muslim immigrants. Though our overarching research question intends to investigate the borders between the Dutch and Muslim immigrants, the connections that do exist should not be overlooked. We will need to examine cultural areas which do not have borders (e.g. the national soccer team at this summer’s World Cup) to get a more holistic view of the issue. The crux of our inquiry, it must be stressed, will be the disparities and barriers between groups. As per example, the anti-parallel trends of the Netherlands becoming less Christian and more Muslim will be an extremely important notion to observe and analyze. Religion is one of the few things that touches every aspect of society, and so the associations between Muslims and the Dutch (historically Christian) will factor heavily in the scope of our analysis.

In summation, we are excited to have the opportunity to propose and carry out a social science investigation into the condition of Muslim immigrants’ relations to the more conventional, accustomed Dutch population. Our research will depend on finding patterns and paradigms amongst the individuals and groups that we observe. Like other major international cities, Amsterdam has a large immigrant population–as it has for centuries–so it is incorrect to assume that blonde and pasty designates a Dutch person, and brown and bearded means an immigrant. The Netherlands’ exploratory and global trading history has made Amsterdam a melting pot–this being so, we must explore and scrutinize with a carefully honed cultural acumen. Our research will require challenging questions, open-mindedness, and movement through the city, from mosques to YMCAs to schools to bars. If all goes as expected, we might even have to walk some miles in immigrants’ shoes. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Research Questions:

Group Research Question:
What are the covert and overt borders that currently exist between Muslim immigrants and the native Dutch people, and how do these borders affect their integration into Dutch society?

Derek’s Research Question:
“Unemployment among Moroccan and Turkish communities in the Netherlands is higher than the national average: Compared to a 9% unemployment rate of native Dutch, 27% of Moroccans and 21% of Turks are unemployed (SCP, 2006)” [6]

Why are unemployment rates significantly higher for Muslim immigrants than for native Dutch peoples? How does this affect their ability to integrate into Dutch society?

John’s Research Question:
Why are the living conditions for Muslim immigrants substantially different (meaning: worse) than other minority groups in Amsterdam, especially considering the country’s history of assimilating immigrants and the city’s notoriety for tolerance? And what are political and cultural leaders doing to affect prejudices and theological stigmas on both sides of the cultural wall?

Sabra’s Research Question:
According to an annual integration report taken in 2005 The education level among Turkish and Moroccan immigrants (making up the highest percentage of Muslims in the Netherlands) were lower than those among the Native Dutch students.In the final years of primary education for the level of linguistic capabilities the Turkish students were 2.5 years behind and Moroccan students were 2 years behind. In Mathematics both groups were ½ year behind. [5]

Why are the education rates of Muslim immigrants lower than that of the native Dutch? How does this affect their ability to integrate into Dutch society?

Methods Strategy:

In constructing an accurate social representation that answers our research question, we plan to use the strategies described by Ragin, and conduct a dialogue between our ideas and collected evidence. We hope to collect much of our evidence through qualitative field research in Amsterdam, and in the upcoming weeks we will work to clarify our ideas through internet research in order to provide our field research with further context and direction. Once we have collected our evidence, we will work to analyze and synthesize this evidence in order to construct a coherent image that is representative of our observations. Finally, we hope to use our ideas and synthesized evidence to construct an accurate representation of Muslim immigrant life within Dutch society in regards to our research question.

In collecting evidence, we plan to use a combination of interviews and social observation.
We plan to interview both Muslim immigrants and native Dutch people, in order to capture an in-depth look at their relevant thoughts and opinions. As this could be a sensitive issue for our interviewees, we will make sure that we approach them with openness and academic professionalism. We will also interview persons who work at establishments that provide services for Muslim immigrants and establishments that concern relations between Muslim immigrants and the native Dutch population. Through an analysis of our interviewee evidence, we hope to attain a greater understanding of the borders that exist between these two groups. Beyond interviews, we will make general social observations of these two peoples, so that we can obtain evidence that is not tainted by our own interactions with the subjects (we are foreigners after all).

Field Research Schedule:

Our current plan is to spend the first two weeks interviewing and observing and the remaining time constructing our answers to our research questions.

We’ll spend most of our time in Overtoomse Veld when in Amsterdam, as it is the neighborhood with the highest Moroccan and Turk population, with a few of the days spent observing surrounding neighborhoods. This is to get a good feel of how the immigrant neighborhood varies, if at all, form Amsterdam’s other neighborhoods. For the first few days, we want to make surface observations about living conditions, the state of public or private housing, neighborhood interactions, what communal spaces are available and how are they used, ect. Once we’ve completed this first step we’ll start to engage some of the people living in both the Overtoomse Veld, and again surrounding neighborhoods in discussion about the current state of immigrants in the Netherlands.

In the second week we would like to start discussion with some local officials that deal directly with the separate areas of our interests. We’ll be working over the next few weeks to try and set up appointments to possibly talk to someone on the education council about immigrant education, and members of the the Dutch Equal Treatment Commission about possible discrimination against immigrant workers, and students. We will also attempt to set up an appointment with the Contact Body for Muslims and Government (CMO), an organization that represents 80% of the Muslims in the Netherlands.

The final weeks as stated above will be dedicated to pulling our research together, working on our final presentations, and answering our research questions.

[1] Jurgens, Fleur (2007-03-28) (in Dutch), De vier mythen van de Marokkaanse onderklasse, de Volkskrant

[2] van Herten, Marieke (2007-10-25), More than 850 thousand Muslims in the Netherlands, Statistics Netherlands

[3] “Islam Incompatible with Europe, Say Dutch” Angus Ried Global Monitor, http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/view/12143 (accessed Jun 5, 2010).

[4] Vinocur, John “From the left, a call to end the current Dutch notion of tolerance” New York Times,http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/world/europe/29iht-politicus.3.18978881.html (accessed Jun 5, 2010).

[5] SCP (2005) Jaarrapport Integratie (Integration Annual Report). The Hague: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau.

[6] Staff Writer, . “Islam in Netherlands.” Euro-Islam: News and Analysis on Islam in Europe and the Uniter States. Euro-Islam.info, 2010. Web. 8 Jun 2010.

(Un)Revised research question

Posted June 5, 2010 by jbomeara
Categories: Uncategorized

Not to get a big head or anything, but I like my research questions. I realize that they need to be whittled down to a more precise form, and that I would be remiss to attempt to cover all of the questions, but I do not want to discount anything yet. Even after some deliberation and internet-based research, I am still not sure what to cut out.

I read a blog post written by a Dutch social scientist which succinctly highlights the political environment of the Netherlands (link posted below). While the explanation certainly helps me get a better idea of how the Dutch political system operates, I am still unsure of why the policymakers are considered both individually and en masse the best in the business. I do not know what in their diets and in their cultures make them more pragmatic or intrepid to the well-being of their constituents, but something must be there. I can probably read all the literature a Google search will yield without knowing why the Dutch operate like they do.

And that is precisely why I like my research questions. My topic, whichever one I end up picking, will be impossible to fully answer with a couple clicks on Wikipedia. I will thus be forced to deeply investigate while in Amsterdam, which is what I figure is the intent of this whole trip.

All this being said, I am content to leave my questions unrevised until I have a chance to talk to the Dutch and walk (or bike) a mile in their shoes. My partners, Derek and Sabra, have very similar research questions and therefore our topics should coalesce smoothly as our projects progress no matter which question I pursue. For your reference, here are the questions:

– Are the conditions of immigrant lifestyles in Amsterdam substantially different than those of other major European cities? If so, what factors contribute to the better or worse conditions, and what is the government’s involvement? Finally, if conditions are better in Amsterdam (as I expect), what policies or implementing techniques are transferrable to the U.S. and other European states?

– Does a maligned history with religious intolerance hamper immigrants’ capability and desire to integrate into their new society? Basically, is the old Christian-Muslim/West-East feud the main factor in Europe’s immigration issues? And what, then, do government and cultural leaders do to affect theological stigmas and prejudices?

– Why are the Dutch known to be the best negotiators and policymakers? What in their history bred a nation of levelheaded wordsmiths and champions of rhetoric? Is there something in the cakes at the coffee shops? (Don’t answer that.) And are there lessons that we American students can take from the Dutch in our pursuit to form a more perfect union?

*Blog on Dutch politics: http://www.quirksmode.org/politics/

Peer Review

Posted June 5, 2010 by jbomeara
Categories: Uncategorized

I must have missed a beat in the last meeting (curse the Internet). I do not believe that I was ever assigned a peer’s blog to review. If this is not the case, again, I blame the fickle mistress that is the Internet. In lieu of being assigned a blog arbitrarily, I chose a name out of a hat. Colin Ip: you’re my target.

_____________________________________________

Colin’s blog flows very easily. On one side, the simple format and scant pictures don’t convolute the script. On the other side, though, I’d like to see a little bit more activity on the page to keep me from feeling like I’m reading a textbook. Aesthetics aside, I like the text. Colin writes very clearly; a beneficial trait that certainly helps the reader peek inside the blogger’s head. I would personally like to read more “voice” from Colin, but my taste probably goes too far beyond the pseudo-academic style that the professors would like to see. So, Colin, if you’re reading this–just keep on keepin’ on.

I was glad to see that Colin and his group decided to amend their project proposal to find a more cohesive central idea. For those who didn’t read through Colin, Ben, or Nathaniel’s blogs (shame on you, by the way), the group at first tried to amalgamate three very diverse topics. Colin is hoping to study public health in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, while the other two concentrated on bicycles and religion, respectively. The group is now focusing on the health effects of Amsterdam’s prevalent bicycle use. I’m quite interested to see how their findings shake out. My hunch is that Amsterdam’s overall cardiovascular health will be much better than the average American city’s, but their pulmonary health suffers from sucking exhaust fumes.

Keep me posted, Colin.

The Big Picture (Assignment #3)

Posted May 23, 2010 by jbomeara
Categories: Uncategorized

[Blogger’s note: I let the momentum get the best of me with this one and accidentally wrote a long post. I apologize for this. To give your eyes and brain a break from my ramblings, I have dispersed some Paris photos in between paragraphs.]

The “group” aspect of this assignment suffers slightly due to my travels abroad. Sabra, Derek and I met outside the Burke Museum one particularly sunny Monday last week, though our meeting was brief. I was set to take off for Paris the next day and needed a ride home from my dad in order to pack. The timing never quite worked for everyone.

Undeterred, it is on this side of the pond that I must form my project. My research questions (posted below) will differ from Derek and Sabra’s in that they will have a broader, more euro-centric scope. My initial thoughts concerned immigrants, their conditions, and their effects on Dutch society. The ball does not have to stop rolling there, however, and thus I can bring more ideas into this fold.

Sunrise on my street

 

I have heard repeatedly that the Dutch are the world’s best political negotiators and policy amenders. Since intraregional focus shifted in earnest to immigration issues (namely, Arab or Arabized émigrés) in the last couple decades, and since Amsterdam, like many European metropolises, harbors a large immigrant population, it stands to reason that a lot of the Netherlands’ vaunted policy should be directed towards immigration. I want to investigate these nuances of Dutch policy. To augment my findings, I will draw upon my experiences in Berlin and Paris–and their respective Turkish and African denizens. If the Dutch policymakers truly are Europe’s finest, I should be able to see in-print evidence of their work. (One obvious point to argue is that the International Crime Tribunal is located in The Hague. This is not by coincidence.) Implementation of said immigration policy should manifest itself in the ghettos as well as the more traditional and heterogenous neighborhoods; and with that, I can assay the conditions of the immigrants. This begs questions. Are they mistreated? Are there hazards of immigrants’ circumstances that are universal and therefore simply unfixable?
 Is there proper incentive to integrate and assimilate into Dutch society?  Or, on the contrary, is there pressure to cloister certain populations (i.e. a Congolese ghetto or a Filipino district) to keep them from mixing with the rest of the population? The crux of my project is the analysis of how municipal and national immigration policy plays out for the population, and then I will compare it to other major cities. 

I am glad that I have the opportunity to live in Paris as these ideas and plans begin to crystalize. As you certainly don’t need to be reminded, reading about a situation is completely different than living in it. And so, in this way, my distance from Seattle and the other group members gives me a distinct advantage as I hitch my horse to a research post. I am looking forward to wandering through peripheral Parisian neighborhoods, to where North and West Africans congregate and live. My aim with these little jaunts around the city is to investigate and document the demographics, cultural overtones, and livelihoods of immigrants. 

To satisfy the exploration aspect of this assignment, I needed only to wander around the block. My apartment is situated in the immigrant-laden, ethnic-friendly 13ème arrondissement, in the Southeast corner of Paris proper. I live within a stone’s throw of Lebanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, African, and traditional French restaurants and shops, as well as a small community center for Senegalese travelers or recent immigrants (which is closed indefinitely for some reason). One walks down the street and sees ten non-white people for every de Gaulle doppelgänger. As per expectation, most of Paris’ immigrants hail from former colony states, like Vietnam and Lebanon and Africa, but there are others mixed in. For the most part, the groups seem to have assimilated smoothly and evenly; no particular minority group in the arrondissement dominates the others. There is one detail, though, which points to the fact that these groups may have acculturated but not amalgamated. By this I mean to say that I have not seen any instance of minority groups commingling. I haven’t seen a single person of Asian descent give a second look at the the Lebanese restaurant, nor have I seen an African go for some pizza. Even the mini soccer games in the nearby park are divided by ethnicity. The minority groups stick with each other, which leaves the white folks as the only wayfarers between groups. I am very interested to see if this trend is prevalent in the other parts of Paris, and in Amsterdam, and throughout Europe. This notion is important because the cultural demarcation of ethnic groups usually fosters anti-national or anti-assimilation sentiments on both sides, and as Europe has experienced in past few years, breeds foreign-affinity terrorism, among other problems. (I digress…)

“]

Without further fodder, here are my initial research questions:

– Are the conditions of immigrant lifestyles in Amsterdam substantially different than those of other major European cities? If so, what factors contribute to the better or worse conditions, and what is the government’s involvement? Finally, if conditions are better in Amsterdam (as I expect), what policies or implementing techniques are transferrable to the U.S. and other European states?

– Does a maligned history with religious intolerance hamper immigrants’ capability and desire to integrate into their new society? Basically, is the old Christian-Muslim/West-East feud the main factor in Europe’s immigration issues? And what, then, do government and cultural leaders do to affect theological stigmas and prejudices?

– Why are the Dutch known to be the best negotiators and policymakers? What in their history bred a nation of levelheaded wordsmiths and champions of rhetoric? Is there something in the cakes at the coffee shops? (Don’t answer that.) And are there lessons that we American students can take from the Dutch in our pursuit to form a more perfect union?

Jardin de Luxembourg

 

Again, sorry for the wordy post. ‘Til next time,

John O.

Assignment #2: A Stroll Through the Blogosphere

Posted May 1, 2010 by jbomeara
Categories: Uncategorized

I spent a good amount of time reading blogs the other day. I enjoy reading people’s little musings, creeping through their words and nesting in their textual consciousness. (I even have a blog of my own — I’m on the road for a seven-month span from January to August, so I figured it would be nice to keep my folks updated.) But when I set out on the trail for an Amsterdam-related travel blog, I always became distracted.

I left a text-heavy blog on transportation in Amsterdam because it linked me to a cheesecake restaurant in Rotterdam. My phone rang when I was perusing a Dutch sports blog and I sort of lost interest from there. I stumbled upon a great music blog, but it was not in English and half the bands looked like an amalgam of heroin chic and Justin Bieber. One blog, which I thought was devoted to dos and don’ts for tourists and first-time visitors, turned out to be a cannabis farmer’s forum for growing techniques and convenient marijuana depots. Rats.

The one blog that caught and held my attention was this one, written by a travelogue named Dhull. I appreciate a chap who writes with a similar voice as mine. (I’m assuming Dhull is a dude, lest I self-emasculate my writing style.) The blog is not fettered by typical structure. Dhull tosses around pictures and paragraph alignment like he’s trying to pull off his best Picasso impression. He toys with the reader’s attention, using easy-on-the-brain language, spacing, and pictures to create a fun milieu on the page. What the blog amounts to is a big chunk of information that feels easy and reads well; that, or Dhull is a cretin and I have simple taste. In either case, that is what I like to see in a blog.

If we are talking “play,” Dhull satisfies that in spades. His amusement with both the experiences and their recollections emanates from his blog. I am not sure of his age, but he reads young. I would guess that he was a kid out of college who got the travel bug and wanted the world to share in his delight. In a lot of ways, that is what I hope to convey in my blog and in my experiences in Amsterdam. The city is rife with opportunity for academic, philosophical, and architectural-acumen growth, but it is also a city known to be fun and kooky. As a group, we should explore that! To invoke my favorite red-headed philosopher, we should take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. Dhull wouldn’t accept any less.