Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goodbye to WKZ

Preparing good-bye cake on Monday night
It was Alfonso's birthday on Monday, and offered me to join them on a boat in Amsterdam canals. One of his friend had a boat..

It would be really nice to take this opportunity in my last weekend in Amsterdam; however I was somewhat late from Utrecht; and I wanted to make a good-bye cake for Utrecht colleagues since yesterday was my last day there. Therefore, I could not join Alfonso..

I took the following photos of Wilhelmina Kinderziekenhuis during a short stroll at the woods across the hospital:

Then, on the way back to my place from Amstel station by cycling, I finally managed to take the photos of those two little lovely houses located at Ringdijk street, close to the end meeting Linnaeusstraat.
Vahid and Sara joined me in my place on Monday evening since Sara also wanted to see how to make this easy cake. The recipe, I had taken from Duygu years ago when I wanted to make a good-bye cake in 2004 before leaving Denmark. Duygu calls this "mosaic cake", but my portuguese colleagues in Denmark had told me that they had something very similar, which they call "chocolate salami."

First we had a simple lunch with my şehriye (semolina) soup, and their iranian rice, and later the turkish dessert: Noah's pudding (aşure). Then, Vahid took biscuits into pieces, Sara chopped walnuts and dried apricots; and we mixed everything and rolled with an aluminum folio to put into fridge.

Deregistration at Amstel 1, at Stadsdeel Centrum
Normally, you go to Stadhoudskade 85 to register city hall. I was there monday morning, and they told me that they only register; for de-registration you have to go to your stadsdeel hall.

So, I was at Amstel 1, just behind Waterlooplein to deregister myself yesterday morning. Then, I cycled to Amstel station for the last time to catch Utrecht train. I managed to get on the one at 9:15.

Good-bye sushi
When I entered into my office at WKZ, I told Margriet that I had brought good-bye cakes. "But they ended up having in small amount although I tried to double the recipe" I said. She said that I should not be worried since she also brought sushis for my farewell. It is so kind of her! Well, on one hand, I found it weird to eat sushis to say goodbye; but I did not think about it that much.

Then she sent an e-mail to the whole department using Monique's computer.

Then, at 11; we went to the coffe room with Tjeerd, Hannelie, Peter and Lieke. I started to slice my cake; and put onto the tables. Then I saw the thing Margriet brought. They did not look like the japanese sushi at all; but were like sweet things. I asked the name again, and realized that they were 'soesje's. I liked the beginning of the wikipedia definition very much: "Een soesje is een klein gebakje .."

I found the following photo on the internet, and actually, wikipedia refers to them as profiterols in the english website. So, they were not that familiar at all..

We chatted about military service with people in the coffee room, with Tjeerd, Margriet, Johan, Arno, Ans and later Inge, and the girls. I learned that Arno had the military service!! The first dutch I met having this service done!!!. Johan referred to my cake saying that they had similar thing in their family, called something like aartje. But it turned out that no other dutch people in the room heard this.

Last moments at WKZ

At around 5 P.M, people started to leave; and Tjeerd and Ans said good-bye to me. After a while, Inge left saying good-bye and referring to the nice moments/chat we had shared, mostly full of laughter. She said "maybe we won't see each other again". Then, she was back after 15-20 mins. "Look, we saw each other again" I said, we laughed. She had forgotten her key and her coat.

I took photos of my desk in the office before leaving;
and a photo of the coffee room,

and also the monster located in the middle of the building:

Rookvrij Hoog Catharijne
When I left bus 11, and took stairs to Hoog Catharijne (i guess this is the name of that station complex) to go to train tracks for Amsterdam, I saw the following notice on one window:
It is about the latest smoking ban introduced in the country in 1st of July. "As of 1 July, smoking is not permitted in Hoog Catharijne" it says. I am glad I can fully understand it :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hare Krishna event at Amsterdam

On last Sunday, we went to the Hare Krishna "temple" at Amsterdam ...

The idea was to go there together with Bea and Maikel; but because of my earlier-than-expected leave situation and of their holidays, we went there as the muslim group: Vahid, Sara and I.

How to get there
We met in front of SeleXYZ at Sarphatistraat. We then cycled through Sarphatistraat straight ahead; and made a turn to Ferdinand Bald straat from the corner Heineken Brewery factory is located. The "temple" is located in one of the side streets: Van Hilligaertstraat. This is the same street where Vredekerk is located.

The ceremony starts at 16:00. After parking our bikes, we were hesitant to enter inside the "temple". I guess this was basically because of unusual clothings of the people we saw inside. "Maybe we should go to the church, Vredekerk; It will also be an interfaith activity" one of us said. Finally, we had the courage to enter inside and ask about the ceremony.

One of the orange-cloth people told us to enter inside after taking off the shoes and sit. We set on the ground on cushions. The hairstyle of those orange-clot people (should I say monks? ) was very interesting: almost no hairs, but a small bunch of them somewhere at the back in long format. I searched on the internet, but could only find this photo: and this monk does not have that long hair bunch at back:

Then the ceremony started: after repeating a four-line prayer few times, it was all repeating the same thing for about one hour:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare

All of us liked the melody they sang this. It was relaxing to hear it. I later checked from wikipedia: the explanation I liked most says that "hare" means "eneryg of God", and "Krishna" and "Rama" are different names of God. Actually, this was very similar to what-we-call "zikr" in Islamic tradition in a sense, where the names of God are recited in a musical way. I found an example at youtube.

One interesting thing was the way they made "secde" (I guess the english word is prostrating). The "devotees" (this is how they refer to themselves; followers) made this prostration when they entered the temple room; but in random directions. Some of them even completely laid down.

After singing period, a preacher came and talked about what kind of activities are made within organization in terms of helping people. It was in dutch, but a devotee made english translation for those who do not understand dutch. Even the very tall lady there, who looked very devoted, was with us to hear english translation to our surprise (we all thought she was dutch considering her height).

prayer beads
This During the preach (or was it towards the end of singing session?) a devotee came in, with a cloth wrapped on his right hand in a strange way. "What kind of hand injury is it" I thought.

Then, the drummer during the singing left and came in after a while with a similar cloth wrapping around his right hand. "This must be part of the rituel" I thought.

Then, Sara managed to ask them about that while we were leaving. They told us that they actually recite the 16 words in Hare Krishna song (i am not sure of this part) using prayer beads; and since the prayer beads are too big, they wrap it around and tie to the hand. That is, that cloth has the prayer beads inside. And they do this recitation 108 times (does this mean that it is made up of exactly 108 beads? probably)

Linner at Leidsestraat
Then we cycled to leidsestraat to eat something as lunch-dinner. We went to Maoz; the popular vegetarian shop. We ate falafel with unlimited salad; and I guess it was 4 euros.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Library excursion

Yesterday at around 8 PM, the rain has stopped at last; and I left UvA to join Alfonso at the city library.

I am glad I did.

The entrance is free, and it is open seven days a week between 10:00-22:00. I regretted I did not discover it before. In fact, I remember Filipe telling me in his last week here that he had just been in the library the day before and it was unbelievably nice. I guess it was also the day he gave me the nice cute present.

Anyway, coming back to the library; I guess it is worth to go there just to see interior, the very interesting sitting places. There are beds with integrated computer screens; and you can lie and watch /listen music there, or read books.

There were so many different seat types! Each very interesting. I managed to take photos of a couple of them.

The whole building is 7 floors! And there is a restaurant at the top floor with a nice view. It was interesting that you did not feel any food smell till you arrive at the stairs to the top floor; and the smell exactly starts when you start climbing stairs.

And this bird was in the basement floor dedicated to education (onderweijs).

I guess, as Alfonso pointed out, this is also an ideal place to go to relax, read something. or even for free internet surfing since they have lots of computers with internet access.

If I knew the place before, I would go to there once e while to read books in the comfortoble seats they provide.


  • The library is very close to center, on the opposite side of NEMO; and it is nice to have an excursion there! to see its design etc!
  • It is also very close to the building where Stadelijk Museum is temporarily located (two buildings away I guess); and after the library excursion it can be very nice to go to 12th floor of this building to have a free and very nice view of all Amsterdam. We were once there with Maikel after having mint tea in the 11th floor at Club Eleven. We even managed to see towers from Schiphol airport!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I am stuck at UvA at Nieuwe Achtergracht 166

It was unbearably hot last night.

And this morning too; it went up to 32 degrees in my place (which always is few degrees warmer than outside because of glass covering outside and no real aeration/ window opening etc).

I was sweating a lot; and for the first time I decided to leave home without any coat, with a t-shirt.

Swan Family
I first went to Oosterpark as I usually do in weekends before coming to the university to work. It is nice and relaxing to see ducks, moorhens, coots, geese and swans there. And I am glad I did it today since the swan couple finally had their babies! They were feeding the babies with weeds, and they did not mind when I got close and took the family photo.

I was working at the office,
and I have started to hear strange sounds from outside after a while I arrived. It is thunders and lightnings and rainings! Unbelievable! The exact opposite of the weather few hours ago! Alfonso is in the library now, and asked me to join. But how can I without any coats, any umbrellas, any raincoats?? Sara is also stuck in the university, this I learned via gtalk.

A Guide for Buying Eggs in Netherlands

I went to Maikel's place for dinner last evening. I first called him from the office, and he told me all the details on how to get to his place by bike so that I would not get lost on the way. Thanks a lot Google Maps! Amsterdam map was open in both of our browsers; and it was very convenient then to follow his directions on phone.

How to get there
I rode through Oosterstraat, going straight ahead; passed through Nobelweg till I hit Kruislaan. Then, I took a fietspad (cycle path) by keeping the highway always on my right. After a while, I saw Diemen Zuid station and passed under the rail tracks. I had already taken notes of all details; so It was not that difficult to get to Clara Zetkinstraat and finally to Kruitberg through Kraaiennestpad. Kraaiennest means crow nest by the way, and the metro station nearby is also called so.

He is really a good cook! He cooked a very delicious vegetarian pizza,and a dessert whose recipe I will ask (mix of yoghurt, lime, milk ).

Chickens without beaks !!
He had a box of eggs on his kitchen bench. He gave me the details of the lables on the inner side of the box cover:

Here, there are a group of numbers on the eggs we buy. Each number starts with either of 0, 1, 2, 3. The first column of the explanations in the picture points to the meaning of these numbers; and this column is the most important part to pay attention when buying eggs.

Maikel said that he always buys the ones labeled with zero (organic/ biologisch) or 1 (chicken freely allowed to eat outside in grasses/ vrije uitleop). I asked if 3-kooi meant cow. "No" he said, "it is cage. The eggs labeled with 3 are from chicken always kept in cages."

"I never buy eggs with labels of 2 or 3 since the beaks of those chickens are cut off" he said. I was in a big surprise! "Since they are kept together, otherwise they make harms to each other with their beaks when they have fights" he explained.

How awful! Never heard this before. Now I regret that I did not pay attention to those labels before. My campaign is: never 2- or 3- labels to discourage harms to chicken beaks!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

from BDA group....

Tessa at hairdresser
Olja was here surprisingly at noon to print the final version of her thesis. I asked how Tessa was doing. "Perfect" she said, "with funny comments." And she told what happened few days ago:

Tessa was looking at her photos taken when she was baby. She was born without any noticeable hair. Her comment to the photos was: "Hmmm. I must have gone to a hair dresser before I was born"

Daniel is defending soon
His comment two days ago in gtalk when I told him about my leave soon was : "just imagine the time i save NOT chatting to you man ... this phd is almost done" :)

And today he was here just to say goodbye to me although he had taked today off. Thanks God I have made such nice friends here. While we were chatting in the coffee corner of 8th floor, Ewoud joked that I would have to wake up at 3 AM, and run for 2 hours with 20 kg of bag in my back.

Thanks God ..
My biggest fear when I started my post-doc was about my new supervisors. After experiencing the incredible supervision of Prof. Jens Nielsen, and hearing about scary supervisors with no kind attitude towards the students, post-docs; I had found it risky to start in a research group with which I never had a contact before in any conferences or so. And, thanks God, all my dutch supervisors have turned out to be very kind, very nice people!. I guess that was why I was almost crying when Age and Margriet gave me a good-bye present after our research meeting today.

Why would you call your son "Sefer"- "travel" ?

I was back home last night after 10-days holidayish days in Istanbul. My KLM plane arrived at around 10:00 PM to Schiphol. I knocked the iranian neighbours' doors when I made it to Funenpark to tell them that I managed to inform my family about my safe arrival, and did not need to use their mobile.

They invited me over tea, and we chatted about several things. The most interesting thing - I really do not remember how we got there- was about the words 'sefer' and 'Safer', both common words in Turkish and Iranian language.

Sefer means traveling, and Safer is actually the name of one of the months in Arabic lunar calendar. No problem up to this point.

But then, they went on saying that Safer was also a male name in Iran. "It is the opposite in Turkey" I said, "sefer is a turkish name".

Then, suddenly, - I am not sure if this can also be called an epiphany- but suddenly it made more sense to me to call your son 'Safer' -the name of month, rather than 'sefer'- traveling.

We already have Ramazan, Recep, Şaban and Muharrem as male names in Turkey, all the month names in arabic lunar calendar. We also have Şevval, again a month name but somehow female name. So, it makes more sense to hypothesize that the turkish name 'sefer' is actually coming from 'Safer', the month name, but a modified version of it. I know one person called Sefer; I will send him an e-mail and ask what he thinks about the meaning of his name.

Yet another turkish name- Yeter (Enough)
I guess we had talked about this with Maikel some time ago. Yeter is also an uncommon turkish name meaning 'enough'. It is funny but the idea behind is: if the parents did not want to have any more child, they named their last baby as 'Yeter'; to reflect their wish that it was enough to have that many child.

I even know a sad real story (I guess we also had chatted about those names with Vahid and Sara): An old distant relative of my mum had told her that they had named their third son as 'Fazıl', which is also an uncommon turkish name meaning either of 'redundant' or 'Virtue'. The old woman said to my mom that they called the baby Fazıl, implying the meaning 'redundant' , since they did not want any more child. And, the child died in an accident when he was 10-12 years old. The old lady later lost her other sons when they were 20-25 years old. She was very sad when telling this story, and she thought that it was all due to their wrong-naming of the last son, which implied a disobeying to God.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Omega in Oranjekerk

When was it? Hmmm. Yeah, the day Holland played with Russia.

It was saturday, and there was a nice (and free) classic music concert in Oranjekerk behind Sarphatipark. Merel (blackbird in Dutch) from third floor (mass spectrometry group) was also singing in the choire.

Oranjekerk is not a church anymore; it is used for different activities I guess.

However, after the concert, "It is probably still being used as church sometimes" said Maikel to me.

"How did you understand it?" I was curious and a bit amazed. He pointed to the speech desk: "there is an omega sign there." I did not get it, and asked why..

He told me that omega represents eternity or the afterlife since it is the last letter of the greek alphabet. That's why it is used as a symbol in church.


I have just checked the wikipedia entry and found the following sentences:
In the New Testament book of Revelation, God is declared to be the "alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last".

Tutorial: Why should a Dutch retire at 70?

There was already a discussion going on in dutch media if the retirement age had to be increased to 67 from 65. Today's DutchNews quotes the related minister saying that it should be 70.

Then I remembered one stroll-discussion I had with Tjeerd on the woods (weiland) across WKZ.
Well, I had never elaborated on the retirement age discussions before. The points Tjeerd made made quite sense to me; it was a tutorial-like chat :)

So the basic answers to the question is:

  • Dutch people live longer in recent years (the case in all developed countries). This requires more retirement salary/support for government budget. This, in turn, affects the working dutch population since they have to support more retired people. It is getting more interesting if we think that the birth rate is getting lower in the country. So, relatively less and less working people will support more and more retired people. (I wondered if "less people" is grammatically correct: it looks so according to UsingEnglish website.)

  • One solution would be to encourage birth rate increase. However, this is not that logical considering the population density of the country. (It is the densest european country I guess; much denser than Turkey)

  • So, one solution is to increase the age for retirement. In other words, those are why the government is so eager to increase retirement age..

Did I remember correctly Tjeerd? :D

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Touch of Dutch

I have discovered a nice blog by an American expat a while ago: A Touch of Dutch.

She gives so many details about the life in Netherlands, and tries to explain many things about dutch culture, life style, language, history etc.

I wish she started blogging before I arrived in country and I would thereby read and learn many dutchy stuff before coming.

Her last post was about shoarmas in Netherland (shawarma); or, with the turkish name: döner kebab.

Shawarma is the arabic name, but I always suspected it to be of turkish origin. I have followed the link in her blog post to see definitions of the word: and there it is! It is originating from turkish word çevirme (or chawerma in english spelling), which means turning. It is a very turkish word.

I do not know why, but it made me happy to learn that it was of turkish origin :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Turkish Hindi Common Words

I have made a table of the common words (the ones I remember now) that popped up in our discussions with Kaustubh. I used google spreadsheet to embed the table as HTML into this page.

I will extend the list as soon as I find new common words.

UPDATE (November 24, 2012):
I have extended the list to 139 words with the contributions of the reader RC & Hardik & Praveen & P2 & Ash & Anonymous & Altan & Marit & Abhijeet & Murat & Shai85 & Rajiv and also by adding some words from a list published in a blog called akkiz. Special thanks to Kaustubh for double-checking the words, and to Rajiv for contributing with sooo many words to the list!!

NOTE (thanks to Swapnil & P2): Yes, these turkish-origin (or persian-origin) words exist in hindi language. However, hindi also has actual-hindi counterparts for these words. For example, adaami (man) is of turkishs&persian origin, but hindi also has the word manav, the same meaning with hindi origin.

Those who comes to this page via a search engine: I would be more than happy if you leave a comment on why you have been searching for common words :) ..

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Poor Mariam

I had bought it for my brother from Waterstone store at Spui.

I have decided to start reading it on Saturday morning in the Dordrecht train to Schiphol. I went on reading in the airport, on the plane, and in the bus later.

And, managed to finish it on Sunday: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

I was happy to hear that I was not alone in the world. Olja had told me once during tea/cofee break that she could not stop reading when she started, and that's why she did not read anything at that time, fearing that she would focus on reading without doing anything for her thesis.

I am exactly the same. If I start reading, and if it is of a novel type which makes you curious on what will happen some pages later, I cannot stop reading. That's why I finished A Thousand Splendid Sun in two days.

I won't say that it was perfect, it was fabulous etc. It is not. However it has a quality noticeably above average.

What I liked in the book:
  • I very much liked the way the author presented poor Mariam in the beginning.
  • I also very much liked to learn about political history of Afghanistan from seventies till today. The effect of these changes on the life of normal people.. From kingdom to communism to after-soviet-war chaos to Taliban.
  • I learned that Taliban means students, and a single member of Taliban is referred to as Talib. This is because it was originated as a religious students' movement.
  • I also liked very much to see words also used in turkish throughout the novel like gul, tasbeh, zahmat, khayat, sofrah, khala, lotfan, thasakor, tabreek (the way they are spelled in the book).
  • One very interesting thing was the conversion of Kabul to a titanic city when the movie was released. It was immensely popular, and there were titanic toothpastes, titanic carpets, even titanic burkas sold on the markets.
Mariam and Laila's father were my favorite characters. But somehow I did not like Laila and Tariq that much, and the related love story.

Now is dictionary time!
Now, I would like to go on in the direction of my urge to start compiling common-word dictionaries; especially after coming across some other common words in this novel.

I want to do lists of:
- Turkish-Iranian common words (Sara-Vahid)
- Turkish-Serbian common words (Olja)
- Turkish-Hindi common words (Kaustubh)
- Turkish-Greek common words (Yorgos)

hope I will have time for this stuff.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Train toilets and Childless women

I have compiled the news from this week's DutchNews newsletters that looked interesting or funny to me.


Dutch Rail to reduce train toilets
The number of toilets in trains and on railway stations is to be drastically cut back, the Telegraaf reports on Monday. Dutch Rail (NS) says scrapping a toilet allows it to build four extra seats in a train. The toilets are also rarely used and often vandalised, the company tells the paper.

Childless women
Over 25% of well-educated women born in 1960-1964 are childless, the same as women born in 1945-1949, says national statistics office CBS. But 15% of women with low levels of education born in the 1960s are childless, compared with 9% of those born in the 1940s.


Racoon plague
The agriculture ministry is to investigate the growing number of racoons in the Netherlands and what to do about them, says Tuesday’s AD. The racoons are invading the east of the country from Germany where they were introduced from North America in 1929. The paper says they eat just about anything and have no natural predators.

(I found the following racoon photo in wikipedia:)

Donald Duck tops students’ reading list
One in ten Dutch students reads the weekly comic Donald Duck, making it the most popular magazine among college and university goers, according to research by marketing bureau StudentServices. Students spend three hours a day watching tv and over five on the internet.

The TNO is never known by its formal name, which is Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research). It was set up by parliamentary act in 1930 and its role is to ‘make innovation possible by translating scientific knowledge into practice’. It is based in Delft and employs 5,000 staff.


Panda orphan
A baby red panda abandoned by its mother at Amsterdam’s Artis zoo has been adopted by a domestic cat which has just had four kittens. The cat is also feeding the panda, zoo officials told news agency ANP. Red pandas are an endangered species and part of a specialised breeding scheme.
(I remember to see red panda cage, I think, in Basel zoo. But it was empty and I was sad. I imagined to see a red version of common panda. Now I checked from wikipedia to see how they looked like: a bit disappointment. They very much look like racoons, and much smaller than common panda)

Fake cigarette smell to mask sweat
A company in Groningen has developed a machine that bar owners can use to bring back the smell of cigarette smoke, after the smoking ban. ‘There is a need for an scent to mask the sweat and other unpleasant smells,’ Raymond Bolt of Rwin Showtechniek told the Telegraaf.

‘New train drivers go through red’
Many drivers for Connexxion and Veolia continue to drive through red signals, despite being warned to stick to the rules. This is leading to potentially extremely dangerous situations, the papers say. In one incident, a Connexxion train which went through red nearly collided with an NS intercity service, the paper says.

(This is surprising to hear from this country.)

Prince and family feel ‘unsafe’ in Argentina
During the short interview it also emerged that Máxima is not only a regular lunch time supervisor at her oldest daughter Amalia’s primary school but is also an official ‘nit mother’ and helps check Amalia and her classmates for head lice. Amalia also showed herself to have a mean left foot at football, ANP says.

statistics of the day
Fake euros
The number of fake euro notes found in the Netherlands in the first six months of this year has gone up by 20%, according to central bank figures. Some 72% of all false notes are €50 bills. Nearly 25,000 notes were seized, the bank says.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Snapshots from BDA group

Yesterday, I asked Age if he has been used to working at UvA whole week. He said that he had done this for 11 years, and it is easy for him to pick up things.

When I went to his office for our research meeting at 4 PM, he was talking with Margriet. Later, he referred to the word 'mopperen', something dutch people generally do. Since he did not remember english word for this and he did not have any dictionary in his office, he wrote the word for me on a paper.
I checked from today: it means 'grumbling'

Oh my God! It has been about 11 months since I met Suzanne; and I today realized that I did not know how to correctly pronounce her name!

I should have realized actually, since I already know that letter "u" is pronounced ın Dutch as letter "ü" in Dutch in Turkish and German. . The turkish or german "u" corresponds to "oe" in Dutch. That's why they write "Istanboel", not "Istanbul"; and "Poetin", not "Putin".

But I always pronounced her name as "Su", as if it was written as "Soezanne". Today, I realized after hearing Maikel's short pronounciation "Suus!" and asked him. it is "Sü" he said. I went to Suzanne's office to verify; yeah Maikel was right (again). I will address her as "Süzanne" (in turkish spelling) from now on.

School holiday season in Holland
Ewoud told me during the tea-coffee break in the afternoon that Jill still attended the school and the school holiday would start next week.

I was surprised since I thought that all schools were already in holiday season.

He said that the country has three zones for school holidays. First zone schools start in the beginning of June, then the second zone schools, and the last zone is the first week of July. "This is to make the holiday season longer" he said, "and to prevent overloadings, crowdedness etc". Interesting.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Inter-faith Dinner Again

Yesterday evening, Bea, Vahid, Sara and I was in my place for our second interfaith dinner. Maikel wanted to come; but could not make it due to some health problems.

Dinner Table
I cooked lentil soup; and Sara cooked potato kookoo. I again forgot to take the photo of the dinner table. Instead, I took following picture this morning.

The movie that Bea brought is on the table ("Life of Brian" ); and also the pen and paper I used to take some notes during our chat.

We had chat about this and that first:
- the royal family of Spain (their king after the dictatorship is still the king today)
- the story behind the naming of daughter-in-law Ezo soup (a variety of lentil soup). I discovered thanks to this chat that iranians also say "gelin" for daughter-in-law and bride.
- I learned that Argentina also has a city called Cordoba, named after the Spanish city. And, Sara told us that Ines was from there. Then, it made sense to me why Ines was talking about her life in Cordoba during Fesencan dinner last week in Sara-Vahid's place. Interestingly, Bea is from spanish Cordoba.
- Vahid and Sara asked if the taste of helva I got from them two days ago was similar to ours. I told them that the only difference was addition of spices, which we don't do. It was interesting to hear that they cook this dessert also in funerals.

Regarding interfaith discussions; we basically talked about two main things:
- Violence and religion
- Does the world need religious leaders?

Violence & War and religion
Of course all of us were against violence and war. Bea initiated a discussion about the Buddhistic view with no violence at all even you are attacked, i.e passivity view. She also reminded us the statement of prophet Jesus: "If someone slaps on your cheek, turn your other cheek to him".

At the end of the discussion, we all agreed that the advice of Jesus Christ must have been for the people who can take lesson from "turning other cheek" (Sara's comment). If the person is of the kind who will not take lessons and start to slap more and more to you; you should not behave like this. Probably this was what prophet Jesus meant, we concluded.

So, we all agreed that totally passivist attitude is not true. Everybody must do their best to keep peace, but war or counter-attack for defence purposes is OK when unavoidable.

Do we need religious leaders?
We first started talking about if any religious leader is needed or not (Pope, Dalai Lama etc.). This was Maikel's discussion-question. Bea opened a discussion about sufficiency of inner voice. Isn't our inner voice, our own mind enough to decide on what is right or not? If so, why would we need a religious leader?

At the end, we all agreed on following points:

- General and basic moral values are almost the same in all religions, and it is true that we can make our decisions on those issues (whether that thing is right or not) based on our own inner voice. We may not need a leader or an expert for such things. However, there are more detailed and deeper issues (or controversial points) which require an expert opinion. Since we go to doctor when we are seriously ill (they are experts) and we do not decide based on our inner voice for treatment, we need religious experts to guide us in deeper issues. (Vahid's point)

- It is better to say "religious scholar" rather than religious leader in this sense.

-This does not mean blindly obeying only one leader. There must be more than one leaders equally respected; so that we can have opportunity to compare their views with our inner voice. They should be considered as guides to alternative ways of thinking and interpreting an issue. We can then have opportunity to adapt the view closest to our "inner voice", or we can make our own interpretations depending on those alternative views.

Further ideas

Towards the end of our chat, Bea asked the question: "What should we do next?"

She already had a couple of nice suggestions:

  • We can search for dialogue associations in Amsterdam and join their activities

  • We can participate in the activities of helping organizations (for kids etc)

  • We can visit churches, synagogues or mosques

  • I had found a very interesting website last week for organizing voluntary activities:Meet-In. Bea suggested that we could drop an add there to call for people who are interested in interfaith discussions and we could have a big meeting with people with very different backgrounds.

  • She said that we can also join ceremonies of Hare-Khrishna which are held on sundays.

We decided on the last activity; and we will go there in our next meeting.

Words of The Week: Sluis & Bui & Lentil

I had already checked this before but forgotten over time. My familiarity to this word is due to BuienRadar website. How handy is this website! Yesterday, it was raining in the morning in Utrecht. Tjeerd and I have checked this website, and have seen that there is no rain cloud "on top of" Utrecht between 12:15 and 12:45. So, we decided to make our noon-walk between this period. It really works. It was sunny outside while we were having our stroll. "This is a typical Dutch summer weather" Tjeerd said. I told him that this was how the weather was when I was here in 2005 August for few days. We talked about water management issues and global warming.

I have checked the meaning of "bui" from It has double meaning: mood, and shower. Tjeerd said that those two words are expressed by the same word in dutch since having in a bad mood is somewhat associated with bad weather. Interesting to know.

I told Tjeerd about how there has been a major decline in lentil production in Turkey, because of less rain. But he did not realize what 'lentil' was. I told him that it was from the same family as chickpea and pea; but no help. He did not know any of them. Not that surprising since I never saw these foods being sold in dutch (and danish) supermarkets.

Anyway, I was searching on the internet after we were back from the stroll, to send him some lentil photos. I saw a very interesting detail in wikipedia. The word "lens" has actually been derived from "lentil" because of the shape similarity. I never thought about this before. And actually, it is even the same in turkish: lentil is mercimek, and lens is mercek. Never imagined that mercek was originating from mercimek!

Maikel told me today that he was once living a place in Zaandam close to a sluit. Sluit is a system in rivers or canals. The water level is different in both sides of the system. Its function is to enable boats pass from high-water-level side to the low-water-level side or vice verca. It has two gates in both sides to enable this, which are normally closed.

One gate is opened, and water fills into the space between the two gates so that boat can move there. Then, that gate is closed and the other gate is opened so that water level of the between-gates space and that side of the river become the sama, and boat can go on.

The english word is lock, and wikipedia has some nice pictures showing the mechanism.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Yet another dutch habit: BIRTH CARDS

We only have cards for weddings in Turkey.

Here, they have a habit that i really liked: the parents send birthcards to the relatives, friends etc to let them know about their newly born babies.

Fiona's birth card is still on the notice board on our floor. I took a picture of it.
"Op 3 Maart 2008 is onze dochter geboren" they say.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I did iit!! I diiid it!! I did it !!

It was my dream to be able to cycle from one city to another. In Denmark, there were people cycling from Copenhagen to Lyngby everyday. Here, Maikel was cycling between Zaandam and Amsterdam when he was living there.

I think it all started when I heard from Alfonso that he had cycled to Haarlem. Haarlem is almost the closest city to Amsterdam. "I should also do it" I had said to myself at that time. However, considering that the longest path I cycled was about 6-7 km, I did not know if I would manage it.

Then, first I cycled to Maikel's place with Alfonso: about 8-9 km one way. Later on, two weeks ago, I cycled between the parks in Amsterdam; from Flevopark to Vondelpark to Rembrandpark for bird watching. I cycled back home, then cycled to Oranjekerk behind the Sarphatistraat, then cycled through Oosterpark on the way back. I guess I made more than 10 km in that day.

Then, being more self-confident, I made my questions to Maikel more frequent: "When are we cycling to Haarlem?" "When are we cycyling to Haarlem?" ...

Andy, we did it yesterday.

How to get there
We met at UvA, and cycled to the central station. Then, cycling to west Amsterdam; we passed through Haarlemmerstraat, Haarlemmerdijk, Haarlemmerplein, and then Haarlemmerweg. Haarlemmerweg is a very long street, and you find Westerpark at your right. By the way, Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk are very nice and cosy shopping streets, with a bit difficutly in cycling.

We gave a 10-min break on the half way. Funnily enough, there is a small city located between Amsterdam and Haarlem. It is called Halfweg since it is on the half way.

We were veeerrry happy to see Haarlem sign. It was just after we passed Schiphol and saw three storks on the sky. I always thought that "storks bringing babies through chimney" was a turkish story. But even Maikel knew it! I checked from Wikipedia later on; and it seems that the story has been originated from Netherlands and Germany!

Anyway, I took the following picture in front of Haarlem sign.

It took about 1 hours 45 min. to get to the central square in Haarlem from UvA. We sat in a place in front of the big church, and watched people.
I drank coke, and maikel preferred biting-weed tea. (Nettle in english, Brandnetel in dutch.)
Then we walked through the streets and made window shopping. Maikel told me him hearing that Haarlem was the best shopping city of Netherlands. Indeed, Although the city was not that big, the shopping streets were very long.

Then it started to rain, and we decided to cycle back. Although I had a raincoat, I decided to not to wear it to more resemble an average dutch cyclist. Well, I would be more close to a dutch cyclist if I holded an umbrella in my hand while cycling, but I was not that brave.

Jewish Cemetery
There is a jewish cemetery very close to Haarlem. Especially the years on the grave stones were interesting. The deceased Sara Mok, for example, died in 9 August (25 Menaghem) 5686.

"Daddy" pushes me
On the way back, I started to cycle really slow after a while. Then, "daddy" Maikel started to push me for 1-2 minutes with his right hand, while still cycling with left hand. It helped incredibly!!

I always saw parents pushing their kids while cycling; but never imagined that it would help that much!. It helped so much that I have regained my normal speed after pushings.

We saw moorhens on the way on a small stream. Maikel said that it was the first time that he saw moorhens. Very surprising. But not more surprising than the fact that he had never been in Haarlem before.

This is the moorhen photo I took while I was bird-watching two weeks ago in Rembrandpark.
The honoring speech
We stopped under a tree near Weesperplein so that Maikel would start his honoring speech. He said "Now you are officially entitled to be a dutch cyclist. Now you are really dutch. Not every foreigner can cycle from one city to the other. You must be given a diploma." It was nice to hear in the rainy weather. He said that we probably made more than 40 km in both ways.

Johan's bored bike
So, Johan's bike will not feel bored anymore. I will tell Johan that I really take care of his bike, and I even took it to an excursion to Haarlem.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dimensionality Stories

I have dimensionality stories today from our group.

Two-dimensional Daniel
I never knew before that there were two-dimensional people. Daniel said that he cannot notice/see the third-dimension, the depth.

Maikel wrote "useless" onto the board by using the three board-pens at the same time. I found it interesting and added another "useless", and then "nice!" and "good!".

Maikel then said that we could see these writings in 3-D if we had 3-D glasses. Then we jumped to 3-D stereogram images in our deer-chat. Maikel found the following image from internet.
I was trying to see the dolphins here, and Daniel showed up with his cup in his hand. He said that he never can see hidden images in those 3-D stereograms since he is a 2-D person.

I was surprised. He had eye problem when he was a baby, and this was only noticed when he was 2. Had it been noticed when he was 1, he would regain his third-D view.

But the good thing is, he does not have any real disadvantage in his daily life other than difficulty to park cars into narrow streets with small parking places.

Multidimensional Gooitzen
I always thought Gooitzen as a (only) computational guy. During the tea/coffee break this afternoon at 8th floor, I learned during the short chat that:
  • He had PhD in Physical Chemistry
  • He had a post-doc in Oxford
  • He teaches Calculus to 1st year students
  • He also teaches Computational Systems Biology course with another instructor
  • He also teaches data analysis course
I was saying "vawww" "vaawwww" as I heard those one by one from him. I told him that he actually fitted very well to our group then with those multidimensional background.
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