Learning Dutch

Libraries will open again soon! (Or: Probably… Hopefully…)

The news outlets reported some really good news last night. During the corona debate, the prime minister agreed that it was unfair that you could buy a book from a bookstore but not loan one from a library. Bookstores reopened under step 1 of the re-opening plan, but libraries were not scheduled to open until step 3. That step is tentatively scheduled for 9 June. Therefore the government agreed that if the numbers allow it, libraries could also open next week in step 2.

The Hague’s library system confirmed that they would open from Thursday, May 20 if step 2 is allowed to go ahead:

I am just hoping to be able to check out books (in an appropriate socially distanced manner, of course) but I am sure a lot of patrons are hoping that they would be able to go to the library to study. This was a possibility before the libraries closed in December, if you had a reservation in advance.

Read more at the library’s website (in Dutch).

In other news: The Hague’s football team ADO Den Haag has officially been relegated to a lower classification next year after losing their game to Willem II. They were in the top Dutch league for 13 years. See also: Skirmishes in The Hague with ADO relegation; Vaccination site closed as precaution from dutchnews.nl.

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Keeping up with Dutch (Or: Podcasts and audio books)

In an attempt to hear even more Dutch during the day I’ve been listening to a lot more Dutch podcasts. I’ve still got my favorites that I have been listing to for years, including Echt Gebeurd (=Really happened, where people tell true stories of things they have experienced in front of an audience).

I also have public transportation themed podcasts in Dutch (Spoorcast, De Podcastcoupé, Luisterruit). Or some newer ones: Lang verhaal kort (Long story short) which produces a 5-7 minute episode every weekday about one important news item from that day. Or something completely different: Bankplakkers (literally someone who doesn’t get off the couch). It’s about pop culture and what to watch on all the various streaming services. That one is generally 50-70 minutes long, so I usually listen to it during work.

I also downloaded an audio book from the online library app (link in Dutch). I chose Matt Haig’s “How to stop time” in Dutch. It is about someone who looks like he is 41 years old but he has actually been alive for centuries. Based on the blurb I do think it will turn into a romance novel, which I’m not a fan of, but hopefully not too much.

And today’s read, about The Flower Bike Man in Amsterdam:

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Books and coffee (Or: 5 months later)

More than 5 months after the Netherlands went into a lockdown in mid-December (government.nl, in English) I was finally able to return the two books that I still had on my account when the lockdown was suddenly announced. Well, perhaps I can’t describe it as sudden – you felt it coming as the shopping crowds just kept building after Black Friday. (Yes, the Netherlands celebrates that as a shopping holiday now as well.)

At the end of November and the first two weeks of December I started to return each book as soon as I finished it, just in case. That left only two books that I wasn’t done with yet. One was Stephen King’s The Outsider in English and the other was a Japanese novel translated into Dutch, Nakano’s handel in oude rommel (=The Nakano Thrift Shop). Since Monday, 19 April patrons have been allowed to return library books at any library in The Hague, 12:00-17:00 Monday through Saturday (link in Dutch). Patrons also have the option of requesting a bag of five books in a specific genre (this option has been available for the last few months).

Speaking of books: Prominent Dutch authors to reopen country’s bookstores on April 28 from nltimes.nl. There will be at least one author present in each province.

Starbucks in the city centre, waiting in line

Random photo above from the interior of the Starbucks in The Hague city centre. I haven’t had Starbucks in a few years, but on a whim Marco and I decided to grab a drink. I went for a vanilla Frappuccino. That was also on a whim; I spent most of my time in line thinking I was going for a caramel Frappuccino. Let me tell you: I don’t regret my change of heart. Or taste buds.

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The Central Library (Or: At least stuffed animals can visit)

The Central Library of The Hague (English website) is currently closed due to the lockdown. They are a bit more pragmatic than my hairdressers – they at least use terms like “closed until further notice” and “you can no longer visit until at least 9 February 2021”. Pragmatic because who knows when libraries will open again, and pragmatic because at least they don’t need to update the website again and again as the lockdown is extended. On the other side of the spectrum my hairdresser emailed to say “We are open from 10 February!” although they did also say all appointments would be cancelled automatically if they had to stay closed, so there was no risk to you.

This afternoon I requested a few hours leave. Marco and I took a walk – probably the first decent walk together in at least a month – and I snapped this photo of the central library café:

As you can see a few stuffed animals were allowed to enter the library even if humans can’t. I can imagine they were waiting for cups of chocolate milk. The character on the right is Nijntje (in English her name is Miffy, see also the English Wikipedia article). She also has her own official website: miffy.com. The character in the middle is a stork, which appears in a lot of The Hague imagery, including in its coat of arms (English Wikipedia). I assume the stuffed animal on the left is simply a rabbit, but who knows. Maybe that is a famous character as well.

Opsteker voor boekverkopers na oproep tot steuntje in de rug tijdens lockdown from nos.nl in Dutch. Translated: Boost for booksellers after call for support during lockdown. There was even a hashtag #steunjeboekhandel, or support your book store.

Happy Friday everyone. Maybe I will go read one of the books I have lying around shortly…

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Missed chances (Or: Expired Ziggo Dome tokens)

Marco showed me two expired Ziggo Dome (English Wikipedia) tokens he still has in his possession. Ziggo Dome is an indoor arena in Amsterdam where a lot of concerts and other events are held. The arena uses a token system, meaning you have to purchase tokens which you can then turn in for food and drink. It is not ideal, especially since the tokens expire relatively quickly…

Case in point: he received these tokens during a Tenacious D concert in February of last year and they are only valid through 31 July 2020. So about five months. In theory this should have been fine as we were going to go to a Pearl Jam concert in July last year, but because of corona that obviously didn’t happen. Oh well.

back side of the tokens

In other news: Dutch to announce new coronavirus measures on Wednesday, curfew possible from dutchnews.nl. It looks like a curfew might be back in the cards although it has been brought up before. Rumors are that it would be from 20:00 to 04:00, but who knows. While the number of corona cases is slowly decreasing, the government is afraid of what the “British” variant could do if it gets the upper hand in this country. However it remains to be seen if there is enough parliamentary support.

In a move that suggests the government’s urgency, the press conference will be held at 13:00 tomorrow instead of the usual 19:00. We shall see.

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Library services during the lockdown (Or: Delivery and pickup)

The Hague’s library system has limited options for alternative service during the lockdown which will last until (at least) 19 January.

Patrons who are aged 70 or older can request a one-off delivery of up to 6 chosen titles (including up to 1 DVD). The books will come from the Central Library and the patron can also request a genre instead of specific titles or write ‘no preference’ in the title field. There is a message in fine print saying the library understands that filling out a form online is not always the easiest thing for this age group to do, but they hope that relatives might be able to help out with filling in the form.

All library patrons can fill out a form to request a bag of 5 books. In this case it is based on genre, not specific titles. Perhaps you might find an unexpectedly awesome book this way. The patron can then pick up the bag at one of the neighborhood libraries (but not at the Central Library). The books will come from the same library where the pickup will occur.

The library also offers some online activities via a service called Bieb070@Home. (Bieb = Library. 070 = area code for The Hague.) The list of upcoming events includes a video of an online Christmas concert by the group “On The Jazz”, an interview in January with the city’s archeologist (yes, we have an archeologist) and more.

The Hague’s library system has also been heavily promoting the option of checking out e-books and audio books as well via their recently renewed Online Bibliotheek or “Online library” app. The only downside is that most of the books are in Dutch, but I found it pretty easy to use when I looked at it a few months back.

I can’t believe we’re almost at Christmas already… insane!

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Standing before closed doors (Or: The Hague library in corona times)

Libraries (and museums, theaters, cinemas, etc.) are currently closed in the Netherlands. It is part of an additional set of corona measures that the Dutch government has taken to lower the number of hospitalizations. (The government did provide an exception for libraries to be open for picking up reservations and book deliveries, but The Hague has chosen not to do this.)

I decided to take a photo of the sign at The Hague’s Central Library (Unfortunately we are temporarily closed). Boo!

But I am nothing if not prepared (having heard the rumors of an impending closure on Sunday evening):

Partially because I told myself that if I thought another library closure was coming I would check out additional books. And partially because I don’t expect these extra measures to be lifted after two weeks – even though the prime minister said it would automatically be lifted after that time.

Unfortunately the balance of Dutch versus English books is a bit skewed (1 novel in Dutch versus 4 novels in English). But that happens when you go to the library during a work break and some of the books you wanted to check out aren’t on the shelf. I had to quickly grab some backups after consulting my Goodreads list.

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Up, up and up (Or: Not a reference to the Pixar film, sadly)

A side note, though: Pixar did recently post the opening minutes of the film Up on Twitter, if you want to watch a bittersweet video.

But my “Up, up and up” refers to the number of newly diagnosed corona cases. Just yesterday I posted that I was surprised to see us almost hit 5,000 cases (4,996) so quickly. Then the numbers for today came out: 5,831 cases (nltimes.nl). It does look like additional measures will be needed, but no one knows yet what those might be. At least the weather is still so cold and rainy that staying inside is less annoying…? But enough of the craziness for today.

Here’s a short Dutch lesson for you. If you want to say “in about 4 days” you can say een dag of vier. For a while I was translating that as one or four days. I was confused for a while there.

Een means either ‘a’ or ‘one’ depending on the context or emphasis. If you want to make it clear you mean ‘one’ you would write it as follows: één. It has a slightly different pronunciation then the indefinite article ‘a’.

Back to the present: Last week I was reminded of how confused I used to get when Marco said een uur of twee of drie. What? 1 or 2 or 3 hours? Which is it?! But eventually my brain caught up and spit out the proper translation: 2 or 3 hours. And all was well with the world again.

Random article of the day: I mentioned earlier in September that the carnival on the Malieveld was allowed to go ahead, lasting about a month with limits of 5,000 persons inside at any one time. I can understand if others want to go enjoy themselves, but you’ll notice I haven’t been anywhere near the Malieveld since it arrived.

But anyway, the mayor of The Hague received a cute miniature carousel horse from the carnival organization. It was a thank you for allowing the carnival to go ahead:

The mayor said he’s still thinking about where it can be placed.

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Podcasts (Or: Back in the groove)

Back in 2017 and 2018 I listened to a lot of podcasts during work. At that time I had a different job, still at the same company as today, and I found it easier to put in my headphones and “get in the groove”, as it were. Since last year I have a different job, and at this job it is all but impossible to listen to podcasts during working hours. That’s fine, it’s a different job.

Enter corona times. While everyone else is saying their podcast listening hours are decreasing due to not having a commute, mine are increasing again. And I like that a lot.

One of the Dutch podcasts I listen to is Echt Gebeurd (“Really happened”), which features people telling true stories that they experienced in their life. Podcasts range generally range from 10 to 15 minutes. It’s also the perfect podcast to listen to right before bed. The only problem? Since Friday I am finally caught up again. Eek! Here are some episodes for you:

Episode 222 Storyslam: Paulien Cornelisse This special episode is in English. (The 40 second introduction is in Dutch of course.) And the fact that it is told in English is important – it’s about language and how confusing it came be.

The rest of my suggestions are all (of course) in Dutch:

Episode 207 Via Internet: Alex Ploeg Warning: it takes an unexpected, sad turn in the second half. It is 1998 and student Alex Ploeg creates an email address. It turns out that the email address already belongs to someone else.

Episode 225 Met de auto: Willem Eekhof (met de auto = by car). Willem has two things: a desire to have kids and a Suzuki Splash. I don’t think I will forget this one. It grabbed my attention and didn’t let go all the way through.

Episode 263: Naakt: Sytse Wilman (naakt = naked). A beautiful summer’s evening six years ago. One moment Sytse is sitting with his wife on scaffolding, the next moment he is under water.

Episode 168: Gevecht: Eva Rovers (gevecht = violence). While on vacation Eva fights with the South China Sea.

There are many more, but those stick in my mind the most.

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Dwarsligger? (Or: I call them mini books)

Here is something I don’t think you find often in America: mini books with the text parallel to the spine instead of perpendicular. The Dutch call them dwarsliggers, which the English Wikipedia article says translates to “crossbeam” or “sleeper”. Perhaps it is related to trains? Google translate says it could also be “railway sleeper”.

ARGH! Why is the book on the left upside down? Why didn’t I notice that when taking this picture and fix it?

And in case you can’t visualize what I mean with parellel to the spine, here’s an image from Wikimedia Commons, taken by user Pienfie.

Nederland, Amsterdam, Promotiemateriaal Ambo Anthos/ Jongbloed-Dwarsligger, Foto: Mark Kohn

So yeah, a mini book. You can hold it in one hand. Good if you’re standing in the train – hold the railing with one hand and hold the book with the other. I suppose if you have really good coordination you can turn the page with your thumb. I don’t think my coordination is that good, especially not while standing in a moving train.

Oh, and the Dutch zoo’s panda cub was named after Vincent Van Gogh, receiving the Chinese name Fan Xing. “Fan” refers back to Van Gogh (Fan Goa in Chinese) and Xing refer’s to the panda’s father, Xing Ya. Xing also means “star” in Chinese, which, if you want to take it that far, could refer to Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting.

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