Reading

Another lazy library day (Or: On to the next book)

What can I say? Sitting in the library café in the morning sipping an iced coffee is the best.

Reading Haruki Murakami at the library

A lovely Saturday morning at the library

This morning I finished part 2 of Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatorea book first mentioned in the last post. It is about a painter, estranged from his wife and temporarily living in an old house in the mountains as its caretaker. The original owner, famed painter Amada Tomohiko, suffers from dementia and resides in a nursing home.

The story unfolds with the ringing of a bell… the simple ringing of a bell. Somehow ringing from beneath a burial mound, beneath countless immovable rocks, at the edge of an old shrine. But when the bell is dug up by the narrator and his rich neighbor, strange events begin to occur and Amada Tomohiko’s past is uncovered, bit by bit. Sweeping the narrator up in its wake.

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Days off (Or: Musings in the library)

This past Friday was my birthday. And what better way to celebrate that then taking the day off from work? I am currently in the middle of reading Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, a novel published over two volumes (about 500 pages each!).

Thus Friday morning was a treat to myself: I went to the central library, ordered an iced coffee, and sat down in the café to read the second volume. In Dutch.

Two reasons that I mention that it was in Dutch:

  1. For some reason this novel won’t be released in English until October. Part 1 has been out since November in Dutch, and part two has been out since January. It’s crazy (but cool) to know you are reading something — and can read something — that hasn’t even been released in English yet.
  2. At some point during the morning I realized that there was a conversation going on to the right of me, at another table. Two women were talking in a mixture of Dutch and English, but since I had my headphones in I hadn’t realized right away. After a few minutes and based on the content of the conversation, I realized that it was probably a taalcoach and taalmaatje (language coach and student) from SamenSpraak.

And it was at that moment when I realized I have come a long way in the last five years, from barely knowing any Dutch to being 700 pages into what is effectively a 1,000+ page novel.

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Eye-catching (Or: Photos from Amsterdam)

As mentioned in my previous blog post, Marco and I were in Amsterdam last week to celebrate our four year wedding anniversary. And I have more photos to share! Here is a look at the EYE Film Museum, taken from across the river IJ.

EYE Film museum in Amsterdam, from across the river, Sept 2017

It is the national museum of film, containing over 40,000 films, from classics to modern film. Their website states that there are four cinemas, an exhibition space, a floor reserved for educational activities, a store and a bar-restaurant. They also host film-related programs and debates.

Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Sept 2017

A look at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, also in the heart of the city

Royal Palace Amsterdam - other side, Sept 2017

The lesser photographed “back side” of the building, including a 6 meter tall statue of Atlas carrying the globe on his shoulders

What are you reading board in American Book Center in Amsterdam, Sept 2017

And finally, the “What are you reading?” board in the American Book Center.

What am I reading right now? Open kaart, by Brenno de Winter. It’s a book about the OV-chipkaart system in the Netherlands, or the card used to travel on public transportation throughout the country. Specifically the book covers the historical security issues as detailed on Wikipedia, mostly related to how easy the card was to hack in the beginning. It sounds dry but it is a fun read… if you’re into that sort of thing, of course!

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Random reads (Or: An exercise in Dutch)

Last month I posted my reading list for th first half of 2016. So far, July is going even better! I have read about 560 pages (around 18 a day, but I have a hard time sitting down and reading on a daily basis so it is much more varied than that).

Here is a look at some of the books I’ve read in Dutch (or am reading) this month:

1) Never let me go (Laat me nooit alleen) by Kazuo Ishiguro (English | Dutch), a dystopian science fiction novel which follows the lives of three students at a boarding school. But these students (and their classmates) are in fact clones, raised for the sole purpose of providing organs to others once they graduate.

2) The guest cat (De kat) by Takashi Hiraide (English | Dutch), a short book (~160 pages) about a cat who visits a young, work-at-home couple on a daily basis. Free to come and go as he pleases, the cat quickly becomes the centerpiece of their lives, even though he is only a guest.

image

3) Player One (Speler een) by Douglas Coupland (English | Dutch). I just started this one. It follows four people at airport bar over 5 hours as a worldwide disaster begins outside — Karen, who waits on a perspective internet date; Rick, a bartender who no longer drinks; Luke, a pastor who fled with his church’s savings; Rachel, who has trouble connecting with others; and a mysterious voice known only as “Player One”.

4) The Dog Stars (De Hondsster) by Peter Heller (English | Dutch). I haven’t started this one yet. “Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.” Hmmm….

And on to August!

Categories: Reading, The Hague | Tags: | 2 Comments

13 1/2 pages (Or: Reading habits the first half of the year)

Earlier in the year I upgraded my library card to the ‘Sterpas’ (Star pass) and decided to start reading more Dutch fiction. The upgrade wasn’t required but I do like keeping a book for four weeks instead of three. I am pleased to say I have read 2,468 pages since the beginning of the year, at a rate of around 13 and a half pages per day. I tend to prefer psychological novels (at least in Dutch). For this type the emphasis is on inner thought and reflection rather than on outward dialogue (Wikipedia: Dutch | English).

Here are the books I read in the first six months of the year, in order:

Vonne van der Meer, De avondboot – 302 pages. It’s actually book two of the Eilandgasten trilogy.

Vonne van der Meer, Laatste seizoen – 192 pages. This is book three of the Eilandgasten trilogy (I’ve linked to the entire work above). I don’t believe it’s been translated into English — only into German, unfortunately.

Eilandgasten trilogie book cover

Robbert Welagen – Het verdwijnen van Robbert, 160 pages. A pretty intriguing read – a man decides one day to get up and leave his old life, without warning. The title translates to “The disappearance of Robbert”.

Continue reading

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A world of books (Or: A new library card)

It is time to renew my library card. Over here in the Netherlands, library card fees are not part your property taxes so you have to pay for one separately. On the plus side, it is pretty inexpensive to get a library card – children’s passes are free, with additional discounts based on age (it’s cheaper if you are 18 to 25 or over 65, for instance).

I’ve always been in love with libraries. I can still remember as a kid checking out 15-20 Hardy Boys mystery books at a time (I never got into the Nancy Drew mystery books, unfortunately). And amazingly, not having that many late books. After that I moved on to the Science fiction / fantasy books section for adults, so my time in the children’s department was over.

Here in the Netherlands I’ve had a basic pass for the last three years – I remember feeling antsy waiting for enough identification proof to come in to be able to get one (like in the US, you need to prove you live where you say you live, so I needed to wait for something to be mailed to me with my name and address on it).

This year, I decided to go with one of the options above the basic one. I went with a Sterpas (Star pass):

Sterpas library card (The Hague)

The main difference is how many books you can check out at a time (12 books versus 18) and how long you can have them (3 weeks versus 4, with two renewals regardless of your card type). To be honest, it’s not like I ever expect to need more than 12 books at a time – I’m not a kid anymore – but the four weeks lending period is nice. There’s a few other benefits, like maximum 18 free reservations (yes, it’s not free in this country like it might be in parts of the US) and free movies/games/etc, rather than paying a euro and a half per piece.

Sterpas library card (The Hague) and website

Library card with the library website behind it

If you’re living in the Netherlands and looking to learn Dutch, keep in mind the Central Library of The Hague has a pretty big collection to help you out. It’s now on the 2nd floor, by the escalators. I’ve previously written about the “Leer Nederlands” collection.

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Boekrecensie (Or: Eilandgasten bij Vonne van der Meer)

This blog post will be written in Dutch. It is a book review for a fiction book I recently finished. Unfortunately the book is not translated into English but you can read a review in English if you’re interested (or let Google translate take a stab at this blog post).

* * * * * * *

De laatste drie weken heb ik een boek uitgelezen, een boek met de titel “Eilandgasten” bij Vonne van der Meer. Het gaat over verschillende mensen die een vakantiehuis in Vlieland huren tijdens een zomervakantie. In totale zijn er zes korte verhalen. Eigenlijk wilde ik dit bibliotheekboek snel lezen en in een leentermijn terugbrengen. Het was net niet gelukt. Ik heb het op vrijdagavond uitgelezen maar ik moest het op vrijdag ook terugbrengen (dus ik heb de leentermijn verlengd).

Het boek begint met een introductie over het vakantiehuis (met de naam “Duinroos”). In deze introductie is het perspectief van een schoonmaakster, een vrouw die Duinroos (en andere vakantiehuisjes) schoon maakt. Daar hoeft geen dialoog bij; zij is alleen als zij het huisje voorbereidt voor de eerste gasten. Dit geeft de introductie een rustig begin, wat bij een eilandvakantie hoort. Hoewel de schoonmaakster het probeert kan zij niet zien wat er gebeurt. “Soms zou ik willen dat ik dit huis niet alleen schoonhield, maar dat mijn armen de muren waren, mijn ogen de ramen. Dat ik kon zien en horen wat Duinroos meemaakt.” Als zij tussen gasten Duinroos schoonmaakt, vindt ze wat macaroni op de trappen. Ze vindt het vervelend – wie denkt dat de keuken boven ligt? – maar ze was niet erbij om het antwoord te weten. Maar de lezer wel.

Wat ik bijzonder aan het boek vindt is de connectie tussen de huurders hoewel ze nooit op de zelfde tijd het huis gehuurd hebben. De connectie is gemaakt tussen kleine, alledaagse objecten net als een gastenboek, een veertje, en een tak. Of een gast die een halflege fles met augurken in de koelkast laat liggen. “Het gaf hem een prettig gevoel de onbekende die na hem kwamen een plezier te doen.” En dat komt wel terug, maar niet naar zijn wens. Het allerbelangrijkste object is het gastenboek. Heb je ooit door een gastenboek gekeken om te zien welke personen ook hier waren? Een beetje nieuwsgierigheid naar het verleden?

Dit boek was een rustig, kort boek (het was maar 205 pagina’s) dat wel echt spannend was. Het was geweldig om te raden hoe het gastenboek een rol bij dit verhaal speelt, of hoe het veertje terug komt, enzovoort. Hoewel mensen met problemen naar het eiland komen, is Duinroos een plek om hun probleem uit te werken. Zoals Sanne in het gastenboek schrijft: “All shall be well.”

C vdMEER (omnibus) DL rug42.8mm v06.indd

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Taalhuis (Of: Bij de Centrale bibliotheek in Den Haag)

Earlier this year the Dutch books moved from the 4th floor of the Central library to the second floor. I was recently on the library’s website and came across a mention of the Taalhuis (“Language house”). Someone is available for a few hours on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Here is the linked article translated in English:

Taalhuis

Difficulty with reading, writing or speaking the Dutch language? Stop by the Taalhouse on the second floor of the Centrale bibliotheek. Here you can find books, cd-roms and practice material to help you. During the consultation hours there is someone available to help you with questions. You are welcome to stop by.

What does the Taalhuis do?

If you need help with learning how to read or write the Dutch language better, you can come to the Taalhuis. Volunteers can support you by finding the right information about language courses or education in The Hague. But the Taalhuis also has a collection available to help you with self study: study material to learn reading and writing the language better. Or to help someone else with improving their language abilities. The collection in the Taalhuis is available during the opening hours of the Centrale bibliotheek. Only during the consultation hours is someone available to help you with finding a course that works best for you.

Consultation hours
Tuesday from 11.00 – 13.30 hours
Thursday from 13.00 – 15.30 hours

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A milestone (Or: Stop asking to translate Dutch, Chrome)

A milestone!

never translate Dutch in Chrome

http://www.nu.nl, a Dutch news website.

I finally decided to turn off translation requests in Chrome. It was never automatic translation, just a request per website if I wanted to translate Dutch. In reality it has probably been some months since I needed this feature (I usually ignore it), but still, it is a nice minor achievement.

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B2 cursus examen voor Lezen/Schrijven (Or: Klaar!)

Okay, I am officially tired! And this wasn’t even the real exam, which will be sometime over the summer. Quick recap: tonight was the reading/writing tests for my B2 Dutch course at Mondriaan.

We took a vote and most wanted to start with reading first. I am not sure why – writing is more draining – though I did like someone’s comment that if we do reading first we might learn a few sentences to use in the writing portion after.

The reading portion was 60 minutes and 25 questions (compared to 100 minutes and ~40 questions for the acutal staatsexamen). I did fine here – I was mainly concentrating hard to see how close I could get to perfect. I think I got pretty close – though I probably missed one. I used all of the time, but that meant being able to go back and leisurely check all of my answers after I was done.

The writing portion was also 60 minutes and was 20 questions. It was a mix of sentences that you have to fill in, questions where you need to write 2-3 sentences, and short writing tasks (including 4-5 short letters). This was harder – I generally use all of the time for things like this, not leaving myself a lot of time to go back and double check that everything is perfect (de puntjes op de i zet – dotting the i’s, compared to the English expression “dot the i’s and cross the t’s”.

No real problems with this test either – but I did work hard as it provides good practice for the staatsxamen.

Two tests down, two to go.

Categories: Courses, Reading | Tags: | 1 Comment

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