Saturday, October 31, 2009


Big Mak does a good job of unearthing exactly what colonial life was like. Specifically, he details worker abuse. He even talks about ethnic friction between the free Chinese merchants and brothel keepers and the native population. Mak isn't the only source that says such friction endures.

One place that came to mind when reading this was the American South. Mak uses slavery, along with the lot of Russian peasants to paint a clearer picture of just what it was like for Indonesians in the colonial period.

Although there are similarities to American slavery right down to ads for runaways, a more useful comparison would have been between old Indië and the contemporaneous American regime in the Philippines. Slavery in the American South had ended in 1865.

Big Mak points out that workplace inspections began in 1926, but he does not congratulate anyone. Instead, he uses an example to point out that abuses were being documented as late as 1940.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Flemish Islander Speaks

Once I finished my translation, it took a day before I could go back to reading Dutch. I was overwhelmed when I looked at it for the first time in a week, but I got a couple of pages done.

I may have an ancestral connection to the Dutch speaking world, but it will remain a conjecture. My grandmother, who was born here, had parents from the Azores. She used to say that we were really Flemish or French, and everyone else shrugged it off. Culturally, everyone was Portuguese, though Azoreans have a tendency to be lighter than peninsulars. I was reminded of what she said about a year ago and looked up the possibility. Sure enough, the Azores were known for a long time as, "The Flemish Islands."

From there, I looked up the old County of Flanders but was soon glassy eyed. The old boundaries were never well defined, and the area is now taken up by Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Also, given the Azores' history of dysfunction and unknown fathers that go with it, ancestry there is a guess at best. There is currently a DNA project trying to sort it out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


For whatever reason, I have always been fascinated by the colonial experience. I have met many ex colonists from the old British and Portuguese posessions in Africa. While a volunteer for the police interpreters, I knew a guy who had been rich in the Dutch East Indies. One parent was from the colony, the other from the mother country. Before decolonization, he thought he would never have to work.

Anyway, Chapter 5 has a lot of background about the situation in colonial Indonesia. It was far from idyllic, with plenty of uprisings and fighting.

So far, I have run across two other books about it. For whatever reason, I would really like to read Max Havelaar but not Rubber. It's just as well, because Max has is over 100 years old and is available as a full view book on line.

I have looked Max over, and I could recognize archaic spellings, "y" instead of "ij" for example, which seems easier.

The next post will come up in a week. I'm going to an interpreter's conference in Albuquerque. After that, I have a translation to do.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Getting ready for the Dutch Festival

Right now, I'm seeing how to upload video. This one is of the Tielman Brothers, the leading exponents of Indo Rock. I had hoped to make it playable from the blog, but it looks like you can only do that from the computer.

Anyway, the story of Rock and Roll in the US is told in our own terms. Nothing foreign happens until the British Invasion. Rock music actually spread all over the world right away, but even Mexico's Los Teen Tops are unknown here.

It's a real shame that the international story remains untold. It is often said that music went into remission when Buddy Holly died, Elvis went into the Army and Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin. Americans don't realize that the beat went on, just not here. Nostalgia music shows on the early 60s present Ray Charles as the exception to a very dull era.

Now that international videos are readily available, maybe the Tielman Brothers' recordings will get some popularity in the US.

Having made a short story long, this does have something to do with the Dutch Festival in Temecula. I'm planning on attending on Nov. 7 and doing a video/slideshow. The video link is practice for that.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Enough already!

Now working my way through Chapter 5, about life in the colonies. It's 1928, and even though he's been dead for 8 years, yes, "Big" Mak finds a way to mention Abraham Kuyper! He comes up on pages 129 and 130.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Same thing, same time, different arenas.

To put Chapter 4 into context for Americans, the drama that played out in the 20s within the Dutch Reformed Church was very similar to the Scopes Trial.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The snake's speaking, Chapter 4

I finally finished it. Chapter 4 was very hard. The snake is the one in the creation story. It fits for the section on women described earlier and what came after that, which was an in-depth analysis of politics within the Dutch Reformed Church. In the 20s there was a big split between creationists and liberals who thought that the creation story wasn't to be taken literally. The liberal wing eventually broke away completely in 1946.

Recently, I saw a Dutch TV video showing a creationist who has built a replica of Noah's Ark.

It looks like Mak's father was a minister. The chapter ends with a sermon and the family setting sail for the Dutch East Indies, called Indië.

Reading this, the old European attitude that, "Everything else is India," strikes me as strange. Columbus Day was recently celebrated here, and we always hear the story of how he was looking for India. Consequently, we have the West Indies and the East Indies, which includes places in Asia found by Europeans that weren't India itself or China.

Linguistically, this is still very rough going. I still do a lot of dictionary work. I am on page 125, which means I am 1/4 of the way through. There have been a few breakthroughs listening, in which I understand everything for a minute or so, but often, I don't understand what is being said at all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Music from Haiti

The first time I heard Haitian music was at an ordination in Tijuana, Mexico. A new priest was from Haiti, and some family and friends were there. They sang a couple of Haitian religious songs for him, and they were incredible. I heard music from Haiti one other time and was similarly bowled over. It's hard to describe, other than it's in French and combines the best of Africa and the Carribbean. I suppose there is more to it than that. The last edition of RNW's Canta America had some Haitian music. This was the third time I've heard music from there. Again, it was great.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NOS Radio 1 Jornaal Nieuwsoverzicht

On my way home from the exam, I caught up on the nieuws. It seems that Dutch speakers are much more informed about our part of the world than we are about theirs, unfortunately. The story about Obama's Nobel Prize went by with mention of our wingnuts, including Rush Limbaugh. Even so, I hope that some day, people in other countries think of Americans as normal people.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nothing for a week and a half

I got called back for another test and an interview. More later.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Easy Reading

Check out Fr. Roderick's Tweets.

Monday, October 5, 2009

¿Calla América?

I'm not completely rescinding my recommendation of Canta America, but I am adding a caveat. If you don't like the first two songs, erase it. Their last program was a retrospective of The 5th Dimension. ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Linguistic Progress So Far

It has taken a while for Dutch syntax to start sinking in. Yesterday, I had a breakthrough with verbs. My dictionary work was markedly improved, because I was able to figure out the root right away and look it up, instead of using the monolingual Van Dale first.

Still, I'm in a place that's frustrating. Last night I heard a news podcast that mentioned Letterman. Because of the English segments, I knew what it was about, but I don't know their take on it. On the other hand, there were a couple of other podcasts of general news, and I understood the first 5 minutes of each one. That was exciting.

Reading can also be frustrating. Chapter 4, which I'll post more about later, has a lot of discussion about the Dutch Reformed Church's internal politics. I think Mak's father was a minister, but I'm not sure yet. At times, ministers and ministry are mentioned seperately. I know he did a lot of work with the church, but I wonder in what capacity exactly. It is clear that he wasn't in charge.

In spite of the frustration, I know more than I did before.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

RNW Canta America

This program's title in English is "America Sings," a funny reference for those of us who remember the Disneyland ride of the same name.

It took several weeks of listening to the news on Radio Nederland's podcasts before it dawned on me that I could find this show. I had to see it in print to realize that the title is in Spanish.

Anyway, when the show focuses on Latin American music, it's fantastic. Some times it wanders off, because Eurasians tend to think of the Americas as one continent. A Motown program was great, while one on early 70s country rock (Renamed "Chicken Rock" in the 80s) was as dreadful as you might imagine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

No Great Loss

In his roman-a-clef about Jean Seberg, Carlos Fuentes writes with some puzzlement about America's perpetual loss of innocence. Every time there's a war or some big change, the country loses its innocence. I wonder if the US is the only country that writes its history that way.

By contrast, in writing about Europe, Mak only writes of what happened next and where. In the 1920s Berlin had a huge drug scene. The decadence was a major break with the past, but nobody was losing their innocence.