Tuesday, 28 December 2004

The days after...

I survived Christmas, ate too much (as most of the population on earth probably, except those starving), got bored (well, that's normal as well isn't it?) and went home (what else to do?). Now I spend 2 days packing, studying and finishing my last business, as I am going abroad again tomorrow. Thank God, I can use it again. You might get a card, but also not. You will see. :) Have a good NYE and we will speak another after it. I will be thinking of you from a nice, white sandy and sunny beach!

Monday, 27 December 2004

Skype

I was a while ago already in the posession of a Skype-account, but I deinstalled the programme again, since not many people had it. Now I see more and more people coming online on MSN promoting Skype and giving their usernames, so I installed it again. I have to see if this trend continues, as it might be just another hype. The same as online news, will never replace the ordinary newspapers (atleast I hope...). But for all you Skypers out there: "lvandelden" is my username and add me!!! :)
PS for all you nitwits: Skype is a programme you can use to call for free using the internet.

Friday, 24 December 2004

X-mas

From my little corner of the world I want to wish you all a very happy Christmas and that you may find these days in peace, tranquillity and relaxation. Enjoy and don't eat too much! :)

Alexander

Just watched Alexander in the cinema and unfortunately it wasnt as 'good as I hoped that it would be. The dialogues were too long and boring. The battles were accurate but not making up for the tidious and long lasting talks between Alexander and others. Also Alexander's gay-behaviour began to bore halfway the movie. It is sad as I hoped that this would be a good movie and was looking forward to it. For more spectacle see Gladiator or Tory. For deep dialogues go see a cultmovie in an arthouse...


Utopia Posted by Hello

Utopia

Redescobri a utopia da felicidade
E em duas almas a dividi.
Uma
É sedentária em mim
A outra
Chama por ti

Sunday, 19 December 2004

Private Military Companies do the Job

(This is an cutback version of my paper. All sources are mentioned in the fullversion)

Wars expectedly or unexpectedly start, fights begin, soldiers as well as innocent people die and the world watches. For a long time the UN has tried to stop wars from emerging and has tried to put an end to wars that have already begun, but lately the willingness of countries to participate -sending troops or donating money- in peacekeeping operations (PKOs) is declining. With fewer troops and less money, the UN is simply not capable anymore to set up a good working peacekeeping system and cannot involve in every war or threat around the world. Is there no solution to this problem of declining control or no intervention in emerging wars or conflict areas? Is there no help for the victims of war?
There is a solution, although not widely accepted as the solution: sending in mercenaries. “Mercenaries” is actually not the right word for the troops which might be sent in: Private Military Companies (PMCs) is the new term for modern day “mercenaries”. Of course normal soldiers of fortune still exist and fight, for example in former Yugoslavia, but more and more become organized in PMCs. The need for peace is increasing from day to day and so is the use for qualified troops to secure this peace. Conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe are evolving or simply in an impasse. If this trend of having new and more conflicts emerging every year; the world will get worse. Therefore it is about time, that this solution, although highly controversial, is addressed and thoroughly discussed. The world has to face that the road we are on will end soon and that we have to take a turn somewhere. The turn of hiring PMCs is the only turn left and we have to take it.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, a priority-shift of Western countries has also taken place. The strategic interests of major powers in countries such as Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and others, have declined with the end of the Cold War. As a result Western countries are much more reluctant to intervene military in weak and/or unstable states as there is a fear of becoming entangled in expanding conflicts and the incurring escalating costs. Their politicians are fearful of explaining casualties to their electorates.[1] Everyone can still remember the horrifying images of Somalia, which were broadcasted all over the world. On October the 3rd, 1993, 18 American soldiers were killed on a peacekeeping mission in Somalia and their bodies were dragged naked through the streets of Mogadishu. These images shocked the world and the UN itself. The willingness of many countries to participate in UN PKOs declined from that moment on, as the risk of sending out soldiers became simply too high. Now it was clear that there were tremendous risks for the UN soldiers and this event made crystal-clear that the UN is also vulnerable and not safe for attacks by any of the involved parties. A UN mandate is always non-coercive, but non-coercive missions do not seem to succeed when there is no mechanism in place to halt hostilities. David Shearer contends that “conflict resolution theory has to look more closely at the impact of coercion, not to dismiss it.”[2]
The term peacemaking is more applicable to what PMCs can do, but this term is not very widely accepted and appreciated. Bludgeoning the other side into accepting a peace agreement runs in diametric opposition to most academic studies of conflict resolution. These studies centre on consent bringing warring sides together with the implicit assumption that each wants to negotiate an end to the war. To a large extend the international community has responded to civil wars in this manner, especially those of limited strategic interest. Ceasefires act as holding positions; mediation seeks to bring combatants to an agreement. Peacekeepers, acting under mandates to be even-handed and to use minimal force, are deployed to support this process.[3]
The flaw in this approach is that according to recent empirical studies, outright victories, rather than negotiated peace settlements, have ended the greater part of the twentieth century’s internal conflicts. Examples are the conflicts in Angola, Bosnia and Sierra Leone that have been always refused a negotiated and consent-based settlement until more coercive measures were applied. The reason that the international community has persisted so long on negotiated settlements is clear: self-interest. Such an approach would avoid direct intervention and the subsequent political risks.
Experience demonstrates that the creation of the necessary conditions for keeping the peace is essential. There must in the first place be a peace to be kept. Examples, such as Somalia, show that there is limited scope for peacekeeping if the strife is continuing. Similarly, the experience of Executive Outcomes (EO) in Sierra Leone seems to point to the utility of peacemaking as a prelude to full PKOs.
PMCs have clear advantages over UN-assembled forces, which makes it desirable to use the option of sending in a PMC instead of a UN multinational force. One major advantage is that PMCs have proven to be extremely responsive, often able to deploy forces immediately after a contract is signed or very soon after. UN forces have to be assembled: countries have to discuss in their own governments to send troops and even if, then it still takes them much longer than the private sector can do. This advantage can be the savior for tens of people, if not hundreds or thousands. This advantage makes it also possible to terminate a conflict at the beginning of evolving, instead of being sent into an already fully evolved conflict.
Unified private companies also avoid the difficulties of ad hoc multinational forces: the command is streamlined and integrated (without the need to reconstruct a field command structure for every operation as is the case with UN operations), the field force is cohesive (have mostly worked as a team before) and standing logistical and transport arrangements are already there.
Another major factor is the financial advantage. PMCs have proven to be very cost-effective, because, according to Sandline: “PMCs are prepared to operate in a significantly more cost-effective manner, for example using a much more streamlined logistics tail and employing a materially smaller number of personnel for the equivalent task.” The example of the mission of Executive Outcomes, a former South African PMC, in Sierra Leone speaks out to the advantage of PMCs: $35million for 22 months, versus a planned UN operation budgeted at $47 million for only eight months. This costs-factor is also very important as the UN faces a terrible creditor’s situation at the moment. Outstanding contributions of UN members to peacekeeping are around $1,37 billion! With lower costs, lesser money is needed from the UN member states.
At the conceptual level the idea of safe areas formulated in Bosnia-Herzegovina implies a willingness to use coercive force to safeguard civilians. As humanitarian operations are deployed in regions where government apparatus and law and order have fragmented, the need for a well-armed shielding force argues for coercive measures. This particular role of peacemaking is also admirably suitable to PMCs[4]. PMCs are not afraid to use coercive measures; this in contrast to UN peacekeepers. The evidence suggests that coercion is often essential to breaking deadlocks and brining opposing parties to the negotiating table.
In March, 1995, then-President Valentine Strasser, a former army officer who had taken power in a coup in May, 1992, requested assistance from EO to fight a rebellion being carried out by a vicious group called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
At the time, the RUF controlled and was savaging resources central to the country’s economic base: diamonds, mille and bauxite. EO started by initiating training programs for the army. EO’s first operation involved defending the capital, Freetown in collaboration with Nigerian and Ghanian troops, at the time that it was felt that the capital would fall to the RUF. A bloody fight in the outskirts of Freetown in May, 1995, led to a retreat by the RUF. EO expanded its operations into the rural areas, retaking diamond-mining areas by the end of 1995, and providing security, enabling internal refugees to return home. In January, 1996, EO defeated the RUF in a series of set-pieces encounters. Elections were held the following months (the first in 27 years!) and Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, a former UN diplomat, was elected president. In cooperation with the Nigerian troops, EO continued to fight the RUF, badly defeating them in a number of battles. By August, 1996, the RUF proposed peace negotiations, which were signed in November that same year. EO left Sierra Leone in January, 1997.
Though there are clear advantages to the use of PMCs in UN PKOs, many countries do not wish to see it. For over three centuries, the accepted international norm has been that only nation-states should be permitted to fight wars. Therefore it is not very surprisingly, that the rise of PMCs in the 1990s and the possibility that they may view conflicts as a legitimate business activity has provoked outrage and prompted calls for them to be outlawed.[5] Academics, diplomats and the press have labelled these PMCs as “mercenaries” and “dog of war”, conjuring up images of freebooting and rampaging Rambo’s overthrowing weak, usually African, governments. Even the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, bristled at the suggestion that the UN would ever consider working with “respectable” PMCs, arguing that there is “no distinction between respectable PMCs and non-respectable mercenaries.”
Following out of the Sierra Leone case it is allowed to say that PMCs can be the “breakthrough” factor in a conflict and that they can play an important role in peacemaking. The likelihood that a military solution can bring durable peace to a country depends on the nature of the peace agreement, as well as how effectively follow-up measures such as demobilization, cantonment of fighters and rehabilitation are implemented. After making, there comes keeping and here the UN should get involved again with programmes of building up the country, keeping the peace and disarmament. These shortcomings are often seized upon as proof that the efforts of PMCs have failed.[6]
PMCs are motivated first and foremost by profit and are responsible primarily to their shareholders. Consequently, financial losses, in spite of any strategic or political considerations, may prompt a company to pull out. A requirement to hire a for-profit PMC is that the interests of the PMCs are congruent with the interests of the contracting party, likely the UN. Many of concerns are addressable through concise and unambiguous contractual arrangements and clear mission objectives. It is important to understand though, that the priorities of the contractor are not completely identical to those of the contracting organisation and that measures must be taken to ensure that the divergences of interests do not adversely affect the PKO.[7]
There are few checks on PMC’s adherence to human-rights conventions. The problem itself is not a lack of human-rights law. The problem with PMCs is an absence of adequate independent observation of their activities; a feature common to all parties in a conflict, but especially characteristic of PMCs that have no permanent attachments to national governments.
The private sector is advancing more and more in the world of the international security and is simply becoming part of the system. PMCs have taken over many tasks from regular armies and are in some cases also inevitable for the success of some armies. The United States Ministry of Defence has estimated that it will spend $ 25 billion on PMCs in 2004, which underlines the impact and influence some private companies have in modern day warfare.
Forbidding PMCs is no option, as a clear market and strong need for PMCs is definitely present. Regulating would be a far better option, as also stated in the Green Paper of the British Government.[8] Regulation can be best achieved through constructive engagement. In several efforts to broaden their appeal, PMCs have offered greater transparency.[9] Sandline maintains that it is prepared to place itself under the scrutiny of international monitors and accept an international regulating framework.[10]
Conflict resolution theory needs to look more closely at the impact of coercion, not immediately dismiss it. PMCs may in fact offer new possibilities for building or keeping peace that, while not universal in applicability, can hasten the end to a war and limit the loss of life. Moreover, there is no evidence that private-sector intervention will erode a state. Despite the commercial motives of PMCs, their interventions, if anything, have strengthened the ability of governments to control their territory. Political intervention and post conflict Peacebuilding efforts are still somehow necessary, but the use of PMCs is the best possible option.
Attempts to ban PMCs are futile and undesirable. When a country’s vital interests are threatened, the need for help outweighs uncertain moral arguments against it. Given the facts that states will choose not to undertake humanitarian interventions and that conflict invariably will continue. PMCs have an important role to play in the future and are the best option for keeping the peace. For decades, the world has seen the private sector make money of war. It is time to let it make a profit out of peace. PMCs can do that.

[1] Shearer, D., Outsourcing war, Foreign Policy, vol.112 (1998) 68-76.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] McIvor, P., Private Peacekeeping-Opportunity or Impossibility?, Peacekeeping & International Relations, vol. 27 (1998) 1-4.
[5] Shearer, D., Outsourcing war.
[6] Ibid.
[7] McIvor, P., Private Peacekeeping-Opportunity or Impossibility?, Peacekeeping & International Relations, vol. 27 (1998)
[8] Green Paper, Private Military Companies, Options for Regulation, February 12th 2002, http://www.fco.gov.uk/Files/KFile/mercenaries,0.pdf
[9] Shearer, D., Outsourcing war.
[10] Sandline International, http://www.sandline.com/

Sinterklaas, A Dutch Tradition

The Arrival
The Dutch tradition of "Sinterklaas" begins at the beginning of November, even earlier if shop keepers have their way, and they mostly do [1]. The shop windows start to fill up with all the Sinterklaas attributes: gift-wrapped cardboard boxes, replicas of Sinterklaas and "Zwarte Piet" (Black Pete), chocolate letters, pepernoten. Halfway through November there is a big spectacle when the man arrives in the Netherlands. A television crew awaits his arrival at one of the more photogenic ports where he docks his steam boat full of presents, Zwarte Pieten, and his horse. They are welcomed by a huge audience of parents and children.
Sinterklaas simultaneously arrives at every city or village in the Netherlands. This is explained by way of the so-called "hulp-Sinterklazen" (people who help Sinterklaas by dressing up like him), and certainly not by some wild macroscopic quantum mechanical effect. The children who become aware to the impossibility of simultaneous sightings are told that Sinterklaas can indeed not be in every place at the same time, so people help him. Children often discover they aren't dealing with the "real" Sinterklaas on their own, when they recognize shoes, wrist-watches, rings and glasses of local shopkeepers, or even daddies, on the old man.
Sinterklaas goes on a tour through the village accompanied by several Zwarte Pieten, who throw different types of sweets around and on the ground for children to get tetanus. You can see children squirming about like maggots, trying to get hold of as much candy as their little hands can hold. The smart children, who know how diseases come about, then resort to throwing it back as hard as possible, causing multiple concussions to the Pieten. Wisened by experience, the Pieten now only deposit candy straight into the open hands of the weakest children.
After this day, Sinterklaas begins his assessment of all the children's behaviour in the past year, and proceeds to hand out presents. It all culminates on December 5th in the evening.

Sinterklaas Accessories
Sinterklaas, the legendary man, looks like an old wise bloke with long white hair and similar beard. He is dressed like a bishop and has a golden (shepherd) staff in his hand. He also carries a large leather bound book, with gold print, in which it is written which children have been good and which have not. In the "good old days" kids used to be threatened to be whipped when they had been bad, with a bunch of twigs (a "roe"), after which they would be put in a burlap bag to be shipped to Sinterklaas' residence in Madrid, Spain. As parenting grew softer over the years, this valuable tradition was lost, except in some of the Sinterklaas songs. Also, people nowadays pay big money for holidays in Spain, and for whipping too for that matter. The kids are smart enough to know that, so the effectiveness of the punishment has decreased anyway.

Filling The Shoes
So why does the old man bother to come to this soggy country when he could be having a great time in the sunshine by his pool? Why, it's because of his birthday! His birthday is actually on December 6th, but for some arcane reason it is celebrated a day before [2].
Before this memorable occasion Sinterklaas climbs onto his "schimmel" [3] and trots around on rooftops. How on Earth he gets there is never explained, and how he keeps his balance on the sloping, slippery roofs is even less understood. Assisted by his black henchmen [4] he now and then throws presents down the chimneys (mostly sweets, suggesting a conspiracy of dentists...), a practice which reduced whole cities to ashes, centuries ago. This was prevented by the introduction of the central heating, with scores of disappointed children as a side effect. Thanks to the parents this hasn't yet resulted in a downfall of civilisation, as they assume the role of Sinterklaas and put presents like chocolate letters and marzipan or sugar animals in the shoes their offspring have put in front of the heating element instead. These shoes have been prepared by putting hay and/or a carrot in them, for the horse, though how this animal should get into the room is unclear and not questioned by the children. Thankful that the horrible vegetables are gone, the kids eat themselves silly on the sweets next morning. This shoe business is the opportunity for the children to give lists of all the presents they want, to Sinterklaas.

The Origins Of The Tradition
Sinterklaas is said to have originated from St. Nicolaus, the Bishop of Mira, Turkey, who was a righteous dude and did good stuff for children. The Santa Claus concept might also have originated from this guy. How it came to be that Sinterklaas lives in Spain is a mystery. There could be a connection with the Spanish inquisition or the Spanish domination over the Netherlands, but your guess is as good as mine.
The roots of "Zwarte Piet" (Black Pete) are also somewhat unclear. Some say these guys represent medieval Italian chimney sweeps. Their skin is pitch black and they wear medieval yet shiny clothes, revealing that medieval folks must have had mighty detergents, the recipe of which has been lost since. The throwing of presents down chimneys seems to be evidence for the "Italian chimney sweep" theory.
Every year there is a discussion about "Zwarte Piet" being a racist concept, which is understandable when you notice how little Black Pete nowadays resembles a chimney sweep. Children in school sometimes think their coloured friends will in the future become a Zwarte Piet, and people dressing up as Zwarte Piet pretend they're simple and speak Dutch as if they just immigrated from a tropical country. A lot of confusion could be avoided by going back to the roots and dressing Black Pete up as a real chimney sweep.

More Presents
On December 5th Sinterklaas brings the large presents, which are left in large plastic trash-bags (the same ones that will be used to throw away all the broken toys in the coming weeks) on the front porch. Sometimes the parents hire a Sinterklaas from the "Sinterklaascentrale" (an organization providing assistant Sinterklazen) to present the presents. They might even dress up themselves, causing uncomfortable situations when the kids recognize those shoes, wrist watches, rings and glasses mentioned before. "Daddy is a transvestite" is a commonly heard and traumatising remark. The old, wise man utters some very wise words such as "Are there any naughty children here?" and "Have you been a good boy/girl this year?". Upon receiving the respective replies of "noooo!" and "yeees!", Sinterklaas proceeds to explain why that reply is incorrect. Loads of children are traumatised by Sinterklaas every year, especially when they are forced to sit on his lap and sing a Sinterklaas song.
Sinterklaas for grown-ups means a party of giving and receiving gifts, much like on Christmas, but now the presents are called "surprises" (pronounce as "sir-preeze-us"). A surprise is a gift hidden within a product of tinkering, aimed at giving the gift the appearance of something completely different, accompanied by a poem. It serves to embarrass the addressee by reminding him/her of some embarrassing moments in the past year, or to point out a general failure of character in a mocking way. It is the day to get even with anybody for anything, but it is mostly played with family and/or friends. The most cliched surprises are a gift:
1. in a bucket of shit [5];
2. wrapped in five thousand kilometres of sticky tape; or
3. which is only an empty box.
A fun tradition, no?

[1]
I've seen Sinterklaas stuff in shops as early as mid October.
[2]
Maybe the fact that Sinterklaas is supposed to be several centuries old has led people to believe it is highly probable for him to die any minute, so to be sure that they receive the presents anyway, they celebrate his birthday a day in advance. Seeing what tricks he gets up to during his stay, this really isn't such a strange thought!
[3]
Schimmel, n. 1. Grey horse. 2. Mould.
[4]
Women too; children often notice the suspicious bumps on the chest, and are not fooled by the low voices they use.
[5]
Unfortunately not many people dare to use real dung, but mock it by mixing some kind of cake ("ontbijtkoek") with water.
(by Galactic Guide)

Sunday, 12 December 2004

Me again, isn't it great?

I haven't posted for almost a month and I am really sorry for that. I know you guys (and girls of course) have been anxious to now what happened to me and how I am doing. So here I am again and ready to post and tell you all about my sad, uninteresting and very fluctuating life. :)
Well, as you all know my grandmother died 2 weeks ago and we had her funeral already. It was a nice funeral, although it was not as heavy as I expected it to be, but it was nice. My grandfather is doing fine, but has to get used to the living alone-thing, but it's good that he get's help to clean his house, someone that helps him with his medicine and washes him (he is too lazy to do that) etc.
Regarding me taking medicines for money, that is not so strange here. You will always need people to test them on else they will never get on the market and can cure people. It's more or less 100% safe. The only thing that can happen is that you get such minor side effects as throwing up, headache or a fever, but that's all. For making money it is the perfect way as you get around 100€ a day and you don't have to pay anything: no food, no housing etc. Besides you get a full healthcheck again, so I know now I don't have cancer, AIDS or whatever (never thought I had it btw). Such test are also rather expensive here, so it's a cheap solution to get one.
The weekend was fine. On the 5th of December we had St. Nicolas, which is more or less like Santa Claus, but than better. No stupid tree, no reindeers, but a guy in red with long white hair and beard, with negro employees and he hands out gifts. You give eachother presents and make poems with them. (see other post)
About my trainings, well it's more relaxed at the moment as I only have to give trainings 2 times a week instead of 4. Matches are over for the winter and the last 2 we won, so we are doing pretty well I think. :)
My first exam will be the 24th of December (figure it!!) and then in January again, so start praying for me! :) At the moment not much more news, Friday the grand opening of a exhibition on Diaghilev, a Russiant artist, at the Groninger Museum, where my company will do the valet parking for 1400 guests. I will be mainly in charge of it all, so wish me luch that none of my drivers crashes a car or so! :) Hope you are all doing well with work, love and life.

Friday, 26 November 2004

Thanks

Thank you all for your condolances.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

Monday, 22 November 2004

Tolerant NL

Things are seriously getting out of hand in our little self-proclaimed tolerant country. The recent assassination of one of Holland’s more controversial film makers, Theo van Gogh, has sparked previously unseen amounts of terrorist and anti-terrorist activities that can only be matched by our hamburger-eating friends across the pond. Let me start off by saying I was not a fan of Theo’s work, nor of his crude, rough, uncivilized personality and appearance. He was one of those folks that were either loved or hated, and deep down, I think he preferred the latter. In the past years, triggered by the assassination of Dutch prime-minister to-be Pim Fortuyn, Theo had an outspoken opinion of our society and the Muslim culture in particular. Then, Theo was shot and stabbed multiple times, before having his throat slit from ear to ear, and getting 2 kitchen knives rammed in his body with a note attached. And that in Amsterdam, are we losing it???? The by Allah-forsaken social outcast responsible for the slaughter has instantly divided the country in two. With his stupidity he could not have provided a better justification for our baldheaded friends with swastika’s and army boots to burn down Muslim schools, Moroccan embassies etc. And now the poo is hitting the fan! In the aftermath of Van Gogh’s assassination, the Dutch police have stumbled across a sleeping terrorist cell in the Hague, and got bitchslapped by the goatbangers. It took a full day, the complete close-down of our political capital, 3 near-police-fatalities and tanks to take care of the situation. Turns out the building in which the goatbangers were hiding was chockablock full with explosives…….say what?? To top it all off, thinking the worst is behind us, today, in the extremely happening village of Liempde, the special services have closed down multiple PKK paramilitary training camps. Huh? A PKK what………where… who the f$@k are the PKK?? The lovely wholesome family-oriented camping “De Musdonck” has secretly been training PKK terrorists. Don't just come to this country to live off the state & taxpayers, and receive money for your extensive family back home, but follow a terrorism training course in the countryside while you are at it!And now the fun part? Stuff is just getting started, stay tuned!! Time leave the country to St Maarten I say!
(*Thanks to Jayroon)

Rather Anonymous Blog

http://yayagoose.blogspot.com/

A (very) Succesful Blog

http://breakupbabe.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 21 November 2004


The Girlzzz Posted by Hello


Me and Dino Posted by Hello


Sneaky Picture (not taken by me...) Posted by Hello


Jolette has the groove... :) Posted by Hello


Keep your eyes open! Posted by Hello


Fun in the Office Posted by Hello

Newbie of the Week

Another baby-blog: http://caitlin007.blogspot.com/

US in Iraq?

Good piece from a US citizen about the US in Iraq... http://tumultuoustimes.blogspot.com/2004/11/paul-wolfowitz-and-iraq.html

Thursday, 18 November 2004

Sweet Dreams

A process that started already before the summer holidays and what we feared would happen in the holidays has finally come to an end this morning. My grandmother died.
She suffered from a rare and uncurable cancer which already indicated that it wouldn't take long before the lights would go out. They tried radiation, but it didn't help and she didn't want it anymore, so the outcome was unevitable. I was there last Friday since a long time and the change was quite a shock for me. Someone who was always so active and bossy was reduced to someone who needed help for everything and with quite a loss of memory. Though it was good that I was there again last week.
Our relation was always good, but I have no clue how to feel now or how to describe how I am feeling. I am not crying, am not happy, can't really explain actually. I have never experienced someone dying who was so close to me, so I am a little confused.
I will go home to my parents this evening and see what will happen next.

Wednesday, 20 October 2004

The Daily Conundrum

Did you ever get the sense that the passage of time was strange somehow? That moving from one moment into the next, and being able to measure the passage of time as the recurrence of transpiring events on the face of a clock is indescribably silly; that without such measuring devices your own ability to perceive the passage itself, if its frequency were to alter, would not exist. If someone from "outside the timeline" were to observe that the passage of time for our own timeline had stopped, we would not notice or be able to. The passing moments, although felt viscerally enough, and experienced with great sensation at the moment, are every next moment gone forever, and remembered only in the signatures of existance and force that they leave. There really are no "moments" or fragments of time, simply you existing in this pane of reality moving ever forward, never to be captured, never to be frozen, never to be trapped, only remembered. And in remembering, you participate still in motion of time, the inescapable onwardness.

Hey Blog

Soooo, what's up? i know, i've been out of touch. i'm sorry. no, i really am. i'm not gonna say it's because i've been busy - that's such a lame excuse. i know and you know that we make time for things if we want to. i could list all the reasons why i haven't blogged but it's insulting to our relationship. not to mention that somehow in all this not-blogging i've managed to sleep a whole bunch and eat a bunch of nachos. OF COURSE I HAVEN'T! omigod, NO! i haven't been busy reading other people's blogs. why would you think such a thing? i must really disappoint you. oh blog, can we start over? please? i miss the way you publish my posts - so willingly, without judgement. you're happy i stopped by? that means so much. thank you. now that i'm here, i realize just how much i've missed you. i'll be back, soon. oh, ok - cross my heart! better?

love,
your creator and pal,
L.

Friday, 1 October 2004

Music Tips 16

Digimon - The Mighty Mighty Boss
Bare Naked Ladies - Old Apartment
Avril Lavigne - My World
Ismaël Lo - Dibi Dibi Rek
Youssou N'Dour - La Femme Est L'Avenir De L'Amour

Featured Artist of the Week: Ismaël Lo

Friday, 24 September 2004

Music Tips 15

Nancy Sinatra - Bang Bang
Skid Row - Children of the Damned
Yum - Happy (Dawson's Creek)

Featured Artist of the Week: Jill Scott

Friday, 17 September 2004

Music Tips 14

Savage Garden - Dawson's Creek Tune
Ray Wilson - Turn It On Again

No inspiration for more songs...

Featured Artist of the Week: Elton John

Thursday, 16 September 2004

Miss

TIRANA, Albania (AP) A tearful Kristina Slavinskaya of Russia was crowned Miss Globe International 2004, impressing judges who reviewed 43 contestants at an ancient amphitheater in an Albanian town. Slavinskaya, the youngest contestant at age 16, edged finalists from Albania, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Belarus to win Tuesday night's pageant. She received a modest prize of US$5,000 (€4,080).
The pageant was organized by Albania's Deliart Association under a license from Charlie See, a U.S. citizen from Las Vegas who oversees 22 beauty contests worldwide. The 31st Miss Globe contest was held at an amphitheater built in A.D. 200 in the port city of Durres, 35 kilometers (20 miles) west of the capital, Tirana. Judges awarded Best National Costume to Paraguay's Tania Maria Dominiczky, Miss Cosmopolitan to Bulgaria's Vanya Krasteva, Miss All Nations to Venezuela's Carmin Martinez, Miss Dream Girl of the World to Albania's Enkelejda Bargjo and Miss International to Slovenia's Katarina Jurkovic.
Albania, which hosted the 1996 Miss Europe pageant, will host next year's Miss Globe International contest, organizer Petri Bozo said.

Monday, 13 September 2004


What a Sturdy Bro I have! :) Posted by Hello


Miss Albania Election 2003 (after several requests to show beautiful Albanian women) Posted by Hello


Miss Albania Election 2003 (after several requests to show beautiful Albanian women) Posted by Hello

Music Tips 13

Zucchero - Solo Amore
Michael jackson - Who is it
G Spott - Louder
Madonna - Easy Ride
Seal - Crazy

Featured Artist of the Week: Seal

Friday, 3 September 2004

Music Tips 12

Bad Candy - Spin Around
J.S. Bach - Ouverture No. 4 (Rejouissance)
Enrique Iglesias - California Calling
U2 - With or Without You (live)
DJ Jose/G-Spott - House of Justice

Featured Artist of the Week: Eddy Zoëy

Darn...

"Shekulli(30-08-2004) Tirana shaken by earthquake of 3.8 on the Richter scale.

Shortly after the midnight of yesterday, the Albanian capital was shaken by an earthquake, which according to the seismologic specialists measured 3.8 on the Richter scale. It lasted for 6 seconds and the epicentre was located in Petrela, a village about 10 km south of Tirana. The earthquake was perceived in Tirana and in Durres as well. Specialists say that Albania is part of a region with high seismologic intensity. (I.SH.)"

I was up and awake, but didn't notice a thing. While my colleagues from the Embassy ran out of their houses, I kept on dancing... I missed my first earthquake!

Thursday, 2 September 2004

With the Compliments of the Gender Unit

FAMOUS QUOTATIONS FROM THE LADIES!!!!!


Inside every older person is a younger person -- wondering what the hell happened.
-Cora Harvey Armstrong-


The hardest years in life are those between ten and seventy.
-Helen Hayes-

I refuse to think of them as chin hairs. I think of them as stray eyebrows.
-Janette Barber-

A male gynecologist is like an auto mechanic who never owned a car.
-Carrie Snow-

Old age ain't no place for sissies.
-Bette Davis-

A man's got to do what a man's got to do. A woman must do what he can't.
-Rhonda Hansome-

The phrase "working mother" is redundant.
-Jane Sellman-

Whatever women must do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.
-Charlotte Whitton-

If you can't be a good example -- then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.
-Catherine of Russia-

I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb -- and I'm also not blonde.
-Dolly Parton-

If high heels were so wonderful, men would still be wearing them.
-Sue Grafton-

When women are depressed they either eat or go shopping. When men are depressed, they invade another country.
-Elayne Boosler-

Behind every successful man is a surprised woman.
-Maryon Pearson-

In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.
-Margaret Thatcher-

I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.
-Gloria Steinem-

I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.
-Zsa Zsa Gabor-

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.
-Eleanor Roosevelt-

Friday, 27 August 2004


Butrint Posted by Hello


3 of the 700.000 small bunkers in Albania Posted by Hello


Turtle Posted by Hello


My Office (the only WHITE building in Tirana) Posted by Hello


Cas Posted by Hello


Me & My Mobile Posted by Hello


Dad and Me near Vlora Posted by Hello

Music Tips 11

Enya - May It be
Julian Thomas - My Friend
Rod Stewart - Charly Parker Loves Me
Ruslana - Wild Dances
Gerardina Trovato - Amori Amori

Featured Artist of the Week: Anjeza Shahini

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Music Tips 10

David Gray - Please Forgive Me
Madonna - Static Progress
Kai Tracid - Drift Deep Into Your Own Thoughts
Avril Lavigne - Things I'll Never Say
Donna Summer & Tina Turner - No More Tears (live)

Featured Artist of the Week: Sheryl Crow

Jazz

Yesterday was a good day for some culture, so I went to a jazz concert in one of the pubs here in Tirana. Thinking of jazz I imagine a dark room, with pale light, a small stage, smoke, stairs down to get to the pub and small round tables facing the stage. This was indeed a room with pale light, but with an immens scandelere at the ceiling and the head of a wild boar on the wall, it wasn't totally what i imagined. Could have been, because it was the Carlsberg Pub... The music was good though. It started a bit strange with jazzy versions of famous songs (Yesterday - John Lennon), but it turned more and more into "real" jazz. Too bad that there were only expats attending the concert, but that could have been because it was organised by the European
Commission. The majority of the visitors was Dutch as usual...

Monday, 16 August 2004


My Office and Me Posted by Hello


My (nearly empty) apartment + dad Posted by Hello

Friday, 13 August 2004

Music Tips 9

Fastball - Out Of My Head
Bruce Springsteen - Secret Garden (in "Jerry Maguire"-uitvoering)
Goo Goo Dolls - Wanna Wake Up Where You Are
Macy Gray - Screamin'
Underdog Project - Summer Jam 2003

Featured Artist of the Week: Die Toten Hosen

Wednesday, 11 August 2004

A European View on America

Dear Mr Kerry & Mr Edwards,

Let me first state that this letter only represents my own opinion and not, in any way, that of the Dutch Government or the Dutch Embassy where I am presently stationed.

In regard to the upcoming elections and all the discussions in the media on dozens of topics, I felt the urge to address several of these topics to you. This taken in perspective of the declining importance of the USA in world politics and economy and the growing aversion to the USA, from Europeans as well as citizens of other continents.

Foreign Policy

No doubt that the USA is still the most powerful and dominant actor on the world stage, but it's influence and domination is declining rapidly. Countries like China and India are gaining more and more influence, political goodwill and economic power and the "old" countries like the USA and the UK are more and more obliged to give in on matters. This is a trend that has just started and the end is not in sight yet, therefore the USA should take this serious and not dismiss this matter.

September 11th was a terrible day for the whole world, as it showed us all how vulnerable everyone can be and that terrorists are not scared to attack the (still) most powerful country in the world and that they will do everything to get attention and their will. Retaliation was without doubt and this attack could not stay unanswered, but what has happened so far? Afghanistan was bombed and invaded, which led to the flee of the Taliban, but Osama Bin Laden has not been caught yet. Iraq was bombed and invaded, which led to the flee of Saddam Hussein and his party members, but so far the country has not profited from this change at all and the aversion from the Arabic states against the USA is only growing. WMD's have not been found and Saddam just loved to provoke the western world, but posed no real thread.
Even as Dutch I wouldn't opt for going to Iraq at the moment. Retreat out of Iraq is not an option, as this would severely destabilise the situation and turn the whole Middle East into a timebomb. The problems of the fighting groups should be addressed to take away the dissatisfaction and to try to acquire a relatively quiet region. Furthermore would the USA look ridiculous for starting this "war" and leaving the country a mess. (E.g. Vietnam and Korea)

Two so-called dangerous countries impose no real threat to the USA or the world, but are repeatedly critiqued with everything they do. Cuba and North Korea are not dangerous to anyone and the only reason that they provoke is to get attention. Fidel Castro is at the end of his life, tourists from all over the world are visiting and enjoying Cuba and investors have found a new playground to build new hotels and buildings. The embargo the USA has imposed on Cuba is only harmful for the USA itself, as US investors are not allowed to do business there. If they would be able to invest, Cuba's economy would grow significantly, which would lead to less illegal immigration to the USA and an impulse for the US economy. My advice: lift the embargo and enter into diplomatic relations with Cuba.
North Korea is so small and insignificant that it poses no real threat to anyone and if than only to its surrounding neighbours and not to the USA. The government in Pjongjang only loves to play with countries of capitalism and sadly the USA decided to play along. My advice: let North Korea be for a while. It needs the Western World more than the other way around.

USA Internal Policy

In last week's newspaper: "the USA is going to spend 430 trillion USD on defence". Now I know that the Bush government took this decision, but I would like to remind you that public services in the USA are one of the worst, public schools do not provide the proper education so anyone who can afford it sends his children to a private school, proper health care and insurance are only for the middle and upper class, AIDS and social inequality are major problems, slums around large cities are growing, organised crime is evolving and many companies go bankrupt every day. It is than justified that so much money is spend on such a harmful matter as defence? Of course this is in a direct link with security and the fight against terrorism and government employs with this budget also thousands of people, but hasn't the time come to look first what should be changed within your own country, before trying to change the world?

Economics

World trade and economics have taken a fall. The IT-bubble burst and the oil price is rising every day. Positive signs can be seen as well: the economy is slowly growing again, inflation put to a halt or is reduced and countries like India and China prosper and have the fastest growing economies in the world. We can only profit from that and we should. Tarifbarriers on for example steel, are old old-fashioned and undesirable. The USA has the face the hard reality that their steelplants are out of date and that there are more productive and efficient ways. To protect this economic sector won't do any good for both the government and the steel sector as the outside world doesn't understand and reacts, and it doesn't give an incentive to the sector to modernise and improve the production.
The same more or less goes for agriculture; the WTO fought desperately to keep fixed prices, but it was and is a hopeless battle. One should accept that some countries can produce more cost-effective than others can and learn/profit from that. Countries should produce what they can produce best and keep that uptodate. A country cannot produce everything as effective as others can, so it would be foolish to keep the barriers and subsidise the sectors.

Security

People from all over the world have great difficulties with the new security regulations the USA have imposed upon arrival to the country and airlines. Airlines have to give detailed information about their passengers to the US customs (which is a clear infringement of ones privacy) and US customs on their turn file everything and take prints and more. One should not think about what will happen if such a database would be hacked and opened to the public. These extreme measures have already caused many businessmen to cancel their trips to the USA and have their US counterparts come to Europe or Asia. They refuse to be treated as a criminal or illegal, which is perfectly understandable. What Brazil at the moment does to US citizens is not more than fair and should be seen as a clear statement against the current US security measures. Conclusion: it is taken into extreme.

Also the airlines have to have marshals on board and have fortified cockpit-doors. The first led to heated discussions and the question if an armed person would be desirable onboard a plane. The latter caused large investments from airlines and protests against these investments.
In a relatively safe and small country like Albania, the US Embassy is spending another 1million USD on fortified doors and bullet-proof glass around the whole building. One year ago the Embassy built a 3 meter high wall around the premises, but since a 6-story building was completed next to it, it has no real use anymore. Although one will not meet a single employee
from the US Embassy in town, still measures are taken. The US employees stay at their secured compound outside the city and do not get involved with the daily business here in town. This is not only seen as something idiotic (as Albanians love Americans), but also as disrespect for the Albanians and their culture. When being in a foreign country one should be as open as possible to the people and their culture and do not hide inside one's house or compound. It is therefore understandable that people start to dislike Americans due to their lack of openness and involvement and start to get an aversion to the USA. (the Dutch are on patrol in Iraq without sunglasses and helmets, to show their willingness and openness!)

Also look at the security measures that have to be taken when a high US official visits a country or event. People cannot reach their homes as streets have been blocked, everyone in a 5mile radius is checked and screened and police forces use excessive force to get what they want. Trees along roads have to be cut as they are potential hidingspots for snipers, drain covers have to be sealed and dozens of other measures have to be taken for a passage of maximum 20 seconds. I can fully understand that people get angry and despise all that has to do with the USA at a certain moment.

The USA should no longer try to govern the whole world and accept that things change and that there is a time to adapt to new situations and changes. The US' denouncement of the International Crimes Court is something that the USA should not have done, if it sees itself as a democratic country. The situations in Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Graib-prison in Baghdad have shown once more that faults are also made on the side of the USA. Wouldn't it than be fair and time to face the consequences and live up to the so-called democratic and open standards of the USA?


I know the elections are not until November, but this short paper might give you an idea of how people see the USA and what might be ideas to overcome the growing distrust and aversion to your country. Personally, I sincerely hope that you get elected and that you will be able to address the issues put forward in this paper. If I might give you a suggestion: read "The Wonder World of Jim Rogers" by Jim Rogers and especially the last chapter. It might give you some other ideas and inputs.

German?

It's the season of the year, where there is hardly any news, but you still have to write something. Like this.
Yesterday evening I was taking a shower when the doorbell rang. Now do not many people know where I live; I myself hardly do. This is because due to the very fast construction of buildings in Tirana, the administration office hasn't had the time to register all new streets and houses, so many don't have a streetname or number yet. My building is one of them. To refer to where I live, I just name the street in front of me and say that it is behind the supermarket. Sending mail (see below for more details) is impossible as I haven't seen a single postbox in the whole of Albania and since not everyone has a street-name... But back to my story: if the doorbell rings at the topfloor of a building, there can hardly be any mistake, so I jumped out of the bathtub, put a towel around me and opened the door. In front of me an Albanian guy and a little girl with an icecream, clearly at the wrong address. They apologise in perfect high-German, turn around and walk down the stairs. Leaving me suprised behind: do I look that German?

Sending mail to me:
Leander van Delden
HMA Tirana
Koeriersdienst Buitenlandse Zaken
Postbus 20061
2500 EB 'S-GRAVENHAGE
The Netherlands

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

Ugly Naked Man

Everyone who has seen Friends once, probably knows that there is a character (although not in person) in the series that lives across the apartment of Monica and Chandler in another building. Looking through their (immens) window or from their balcony they can look into his apartment (from above) and see him walking around naked.
I am proud to annouce that I have my own Ugly Naked Man! He also lives in an apartment across the street some 5 floors down and I have had the pleasure of seeing him walking around naked as well. He is mid 60, grey hair/bold, quite a large posture and ugly as hell. As he lives on the top floor of his building, he probably thinks that no one can see him and that he can walk around and give the plants on his balcony water like that. However, I have a very clear sight on him and immediately had to think of Friends when seeing him. Anyone who wants to see the show is welcome. Please bring your own drinks!

50 Rules

50 Rules For Women

This is a list of rules that guys wished women knew...

1. Learn to work the toilet seat: if it's up put it down.

2. Don't cut your hair. Ever.

3. Don't make us guess.

4. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

5. Sometimes, he's not thinking about you. Live with it.

6. He's never thinking about "The Relationship."

7. Get rid of your cat. And no, it's not different, it's just like every other cat.

8. Dogs are better than cats.

9. Sunday = Sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

10. Shopping is not everybody's idea of a good time.

11. Anything you wear is fine. Really.

12. You have enough clothes.

13. You have too many shoes.

14. Crying is blackmail. Use it if you must, but don't expect us to like it.

15. Your brother is an idiot.

16. Ask for what you want. Subtle hints don't work.

17. No, he doesn't know what day it is. He never will. Mark anniversaries on a calendar.

18. Share the bathroom

19. Share the closet.

20. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers.

21. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

22. Nothing says 'I love you' like sex in the morning.

23. Foreign films are best left to foreigners.

24. Check your oil.

25. Anything we said 6 or 8 months ago is inadmissible in an argument.

26. Christopher Columbus didn't need directions, and neither do we.

27. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

28. Yes, pissing standing up is more difficult than peeing from point blank range. We're bound to miss sometimes.

29. Don't fake it. We'd rather be ineffective than deceived.

30. If you don't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

31. Let us ogle. If we don't look at other women, how can we know how pretty you are?

32. Don't rub the lamp if you don't want the genie to come out.

33. You can either ask us to do something OR tell us how you want it done-not both.

34. Women wearing Wonder bras and low-cut blouses lose their right to complain about having their boobs stared at.

35. Don't make 50 rules when 35 will do.

Music Tips 8

Led Zeppelin - Bron-Yr-Aur
Christina Aquilera - Beautiful
Carl Orff - Carmina Burana
Simply Red - You Make Me Feel Brand New
Paul van Dyk - Buenaventura
Neil Finn & Sheryl Crow - Weather With You (Live at the Roxy)

Featured Artist of the Week: Do

Monday, 9 August 2004


Beautiful Communist Art Posted by Hello

Friday, 30 July 2004

Music Tips 7

New Songs:

Mary J Blige - Love & Life Intro
Art Garfunkel - Mrs Robinson
Watershed - Indigo Girl
Kruder & Dorfmeister - Heroes
Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland - Dilemma

Featured Artist of the Week: Eurythmics

Monday, 26 July 2004

D.

...Sorry Désirée...

Music Tips 6

Again late, but better late than never:

Paul McCarthy - Maybe I'm amazed
Nina Simone - Sinnerman
Ennio - Morricone - Theme from The Mission
The Eagles - Seven Bridges Road (live)
Al Green - Ain't no Sunshine

Artist of the Week: Nelly Furtado

M

I don't have to tell my dear readers that the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs (short = M) visited Albania on his Balkan tour last Thursday and Friday, since they all read newspapers and watch the news (LOL). It was a successful meeting though, but cost us a lot of stress and work. M's schedule was very tight, so there was not much room to manoeuvre and to leave options open, all had to be arranged. The hotel, the restaurant, meetings with the opposition and civil society, the prime minister and the Albanian minister of FA, the signing of a treaty on double taxes, the transport, his security and more (in the end even his toothpaste and shaving foam as his suitcase was still in Belgrade). This not only for him, but also for his entourage: spokesperson, PA, DGPA, DGSE, DGSE/WB, Political Assistant and security. No idea if the DGs were really necessary and if they even said something, but it's procedure and protocol, so was probably useful. ;)
It was nice to organise though and M was nice as well. The thing that wasn't was the fact that you had to wear a suit all day. An sich for me not a problem as I do it often, but not in these temperatures. When we brought M to the plane, we had to wait and see if the plane really took off, before we were allowed to leave (protocol...). It was a bloody +30C on the middle of the airport with no shade at all! The drive to the airport was also nice: a long line of Mercedesses and 3 police cars up front clearing the road and stopping all other (upcoming) traffic. Nice to have witnessed such an event as well.

The Weekend

We closed the embassy early on Friday after the minister left. In the evening I had a "date" with one of the few beautiful blondes in Tirana (most are fake blondes and not nice) who works for the European Commission. She is here for a longer time already, so could tell me a bit more about the city and where to go. She has a bit problems with her nationality though. The name "Von Hohenlohe" would perfectly go with German nobility, which she is, but she has lived the past 7 or 8 years in France, before that around the world and she is quarter Spanish. Quite confusing, but she does speak her languages! We had a great time though, as she can oppose me, which I need once in a while. Seems that so far only German women succeed in doing that. Strange... On Saturday we met again at the pool of a very expensive hotel (I am not a member, but with bluffing and showing businesscards you get quite far) and enjoyed the time getting some sun and swimming. In the evening I had a birthday party of Elga, our translator and more at the embassy. At a resort with pool on a hill overlooking the city. It was great, lot's of food and drinks, a good DJ (although maybe a bit too much Albanian dance?) and a superb atmosphere. I danced till 1.30am and when I got home I was so tired that I slept till 1pm. Sunday was a lazy day with doing lots of nothing and reading. In the evening had dinner with a German friend and went to the Historical Museum to listen to a classical concert. Now back to work and tomorrow morning at 5.30am driving to the border, to pick up my parents who will visit me for around 2 weeks and drove down here by car.

Friday, 16 July 2004

Music Tips 5

New Selection:

Motorcycle - As The Rush Comes
Tori Amos - Flying Dutchman
Zucchero - Blue
Aerosmith - Amazing
Chris deBurgh - Spanish Train

Featured Artist of the Week: Des'ree

E-mail

This email is a natural product made from recycled electrons.
The slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its
individual character and beauty and in no way are to be
considered flaws or defects.

Any errors in tact or fact are transmission errors.

Contact

Snoezepoes: Contact Me!

Thursday, 15 July 2004

Slow Day

It is a slow day today. I still have a lot to do and enough projects to finish, but I have to wait for answers and people to come back, to continue which makes it a rather boring day. So I did some catching up in reading the local newspapers, cleaning my desk, filing some documents, going through year reports of dozens of NGO's (not all that interesting), writing 100x ".nl" after my emailaddress on my businesscards (as it wasn't printed on), calling with the ministry for information (what a bureaucracy), guarding the painters (the embassy is being painted and they are not allowed to be left unguarded...), explaining a Dutch guy that he cannot barch in and expect to get a visa for his brother-in-law at once, and more of such very useful things. Writing this as it is not even 4 o'clock makes me a little desperate, as only at 18.30 I have my next meeting at the National Art Gallery for the opening of a German (!!) exhibition about football (hahahaha). Don't want to miss that, so will figure out a way to keep myself busy for another 2 hours.

Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Beautiful Life

Yesterday it rained for the first time since I arrived in Tirana, well better: it stormed. I stood on my balcony and saw the rain pouring straight down, then the wind came up and thunder made it clear that it was serious business now. Lightning scattered through the skies and lit the city to it's max. Raindrops started to fall on my body, as the wind turned and came to my balcony, with only my trousers on, I drank my coffee, meanwhile getting totally wet. It was still warm though and the sight was magnificent and
threathening at the same time. Isn't life just great?

Monday, 12 July 2004

Projects

At the moment I have 9 projects which I am working on. It goes from the Worldbank to preparing the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs who will visit us next week, and from some European Commission business to Security matters. Being a trainee at an embassy that is under-staffed is just great, as you get a lot of work from all kinds of fields. The idea to go here was to get an impression how the life and work on an embassy is and this is just the best way to find out. I have to say that so far I am really enjoying myself, not all is as interesting as possible, but that's normal. For the 2
weeks I am here now I cannot really say that I dislike something or that something is boring. It might come after a while or never, who knows. This week I have several meeting outside the embassy. Tomorrow I have to go to a Childrenshouse, which has a donor-meeting, and on Wednesday I have to go to both the European Commission and the Worldbank. That reminds me that I still have a lot of reading to do...

Work

How does my day look like? Well, I get up around 7.00 / 7.15 am, take a shower, eat some breakfast (or not) and walk around 8 to the embassy. Through the shopping street I live on, where the first shops open their roll-down shutters, past some cafes where people already drink their coffees, to the park. Through the park where it seems that someone is 24/7 spraying the grass wet and where women in overalls clean up the streets. Across 2 roads which are highly dangerous, and where you can always find a guy in a wheelchair begging and 2 of his daughters (?) who are begging as well and cleaning windshields (unwanted). Past the old mausoleum of Hoxa, which is now a bar, and the Prime Ministers office with it's guards on full alert. Entering the street where the Worldbank, the State Television and the Italian and Macedonian embassies are. At the corner a caravan where you can buy your first hotdog (or something looking like it) of the day. At the gates of the Italian embassy long queues of Albanians trying to obtain a visa. Don't forget to watch the road as an entrance to the sewers has no cover. Then one final turn left and I am there. At the corner a guy with a stand selling cigarettes, cookies and handkerchiefs. At the gate of the embassy saying good morning to the police officer and the guard who opens the gate, opening the door with my keycard, walking up the stairs, opening the roll-down shutters, turning on my pc, reading the headlines of the news and getting my coffee served! What a life!

Sloppy

I have been a bit sloppy lately with writing on my English Blog. Looking at my stats I have quite a few foreign readers, so I know I have to do more to keep them happy. I hope this will be a good effort to do so! :)
Last weekend I went with most of the embassy personnel and some other Dutch from Tirana to the south-west of the country to the sea. It was about a 4.5 hour drive, which would normally be quite doable, but with these bumpy and rocky roads here and going up and down the hills (with the inevitable turns), it wasn't a pleasant drive. What hardly anyone will do in Albania is camping, which is of course the thing we did! Next to a beachbar was a small field with olive trees, where it was possible to camp free of charge. When something is for free, we Dutch are always front in line, so we set up half of the place with tents. I was able to borrow the tent and mattress of Cas, as he preferred a nice, comfortable hotel, but then again: he is the deputy CdP. The beachbar was a very nice place and said to be one of the best in Albania, where the Prime Minister also goes on a trip (his bodyguards were there with their big 4x4 and their guns...). Most of the seaside in Albania is not that good, due to pollution and rocks, but this beach has a lot of sand and no pollution, but is therefore also very hard to reach and (for Albanians) expensive. The Albanian Jetset was very well represented this weekend. What is the Albanian Jetset you might think, well that are Albanian men, mostly with overweight, driving big cars, earning their money on an undisclosed manner and having (fake) blond (but very nice) girlfriends/wives, who only use Lancaster and have Gucci glasses. Besides dancing in the bar till late, swimming in the sea, getting red from the sun and reading a lot, we also went paragliding. For those who don't know what it is: it is running down a hill with an instructor (ok, it's tandemparagliding), with a parachute already opened on the ground and then floating down to sea-level on the wind. It is a great experience, although not as thrilling as skydiving. That it sometimes goes wrong as well, we experienced first hand. The person who went first ran down the hill, only stopped when he thought they already lifted and fell over on the rocks (was a rocky hill). His face and body were covered with bruises and wounds. After this we moved to another hill where the ground had no rocks, just grass and all went fine. Only 3 persons could jump on Saturday and the others on Sunday and I was the last to jump on Saturday, but I was down first. When the other 2 were using the up-current above sea to stay in the air longer, my instructor just led us down to the beach. As Saturday afternoon is quite a busy time for the beach, it was hard to find a spot to land. Of course I landed on a parasol and we were immediately surrounded by dozens of kids,
who apparently never saw this before. It was a great happening!
Today back to work without air-conditioning in a 30+C surrounding! Wish I was still at the seaside...

Friday, 9 July 2004

Music Tips 4

Some new songs everyone should have:

Theraphy! - Diane
Live - Lightning Crashes
Nelly Furtado - Saturdays
Snap - Angel
Die Toten Hosen - Alles Aus Liebe
Richard Wagner - Also Sprach Zaratustra

Featured Artist of the Week: Amel Larrieux

See you next week!

Monday, 5 July 2004

Music Tips 3

And here are some more songs everybody should have:

Phil Collins - Don't Loose My Number
Yanni - Butterfly
Santana - Put Your Lights On
Outcast - Roses
Robbie Williams - Mandalay

Featured Artist of the Week: Aimee Mann

More next week...

Sunday, 4 July 2004

Albania 3

Something about the country now as that is something important, because I chose to go here. I wanted a small embassy, preferably in a developing country. Out of the 12 positive reactions I received on my open inquiry, I picked Albania. It is for sure a poor and developing country. In fact it is still the poorest country in Europe, although the economy is growing very fast. It also is a more or less forgotten part of Europe: people didn't know where to situate it when I told that I was going there. You also don't read a lot about it in the newspapers, but I know now that there is a lot going. You can see that the country is poor by the status of the roads, the pavements, the buildings, the people, the garbage and the street dogs. It's a dry country as well and every 10metres you can find a carwash due to all the dust that gets on the cars. Mercedes is the most favorite car brand here and it's a kind of srtatus symbol: everyone wants one. Yes, they are mostly all very old, but some very recent models also drive around here. Tirana is very busy to upgrade the town and to build new and modern flats. It is somehow strange to see the old and new next to eachother. The people here are friendly and polite. My blond hair has no importance at all, which is quite a shame, as the female population here is one of the prettiest I have ever seen. I always thought that the Czechs had the most beautiful females, but now I have to reconsider that. Communist symbols are almost all destroyed after the communist regime was teared down and you have to look hard to find some of the many mozaics that were here in the early days.
Of course there is a great number of expats here as well and of the 5 days I have been here now I already had 3 parties. One for football, one leaving-party and yesterday the birthday of the fish ("if we don't have a reason to party, we will make one"). So I won't get bored here I think.
If you want to reach me here: leander-van.delden@minbuza.nl or +3556592710583

Albania 2

Started on Wednesday with working already, although my contract only said Thursday, but since I had no luggage and was anxious to start, I immediately got quite a few things to do. I have my own office, with pc (19" TFT-screen :)), telephone, fax, printer etc etc. It's actually from the Head of Administartion, but since he is not here, I can use it. Will move when the new one comes, but it is unknown when that will be. Since the embassy lacks 2 persons of the normal (Dutch) staff, I will do all the things that others cannot do or what still has to be done. It will give me a broad overview of the work on an embassy and that's exactly why I wanted this traineeship. They also gave me an official title for the time here: Attaché! :) LOL Well, since I am supposed to operate on my own and also do some stuff as representation I have to have somekind of title. For example on Friday I joined Cas on planting some new trees with the mayor. The Dutch embassy sponsored the trees so we had to be there for the opening and say some words for the TV-crews. My first TV-appearance in Albania was a fact! :) At the moment I am making the 2week news overview for the ambassadorsmeeting, which NL presides, am helping the Trade attaché with a business scan of Albania, preparing the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2 weeks, make an overview of all medical facilities in Albania etc. My desk is already covered with paper, dossiers, prints etc. I have to say though that it is fun to do and that I am really enjoying myself. I operate more or less on my own with my own projects and contacts, I just have to inform Cas what I am doing. Can see myself already working on an embassy in 2 years or so...

Albania 1

My travel down here was not without problems. In all my travels by plane I never lost any piece of my luggage, but when you sit in a plane that leaves and still see your luggage on a carrier next to it, a strange feeling comes over you. So I arrived here without any luggage (which stayed in Budapest, but arrived the next day) and the customsofficer didn't know the visa I had, which took some time as well. Luckily I was picked up at the airport by Cas, who is the deputy-ambassador and Kolli, one of the local staff members. We first drove to the embassy where I got a quick tour through the embassy and got introduced to all the staff members. The ambassador has left the day I arrived and the new one will come somewhere in August, same goes for the head of administration.
After this I was taken to what will be my apartment for the next 3 months. It is situated right in the centre of town along a shoppingstreet, on the 10th floor. It has a livingroom and kitchen, 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms and a roofterrace of 50m2 on the 11th floor... HUGE!! But I pay 400Euro for it, so it must be as well (I pay 200 in NL...). It's hot here: around 32degrees C and not likely to change till October, but it's summer, so what else to expect? :)

Monday, 28 June 2004

Other Bloggers 2

Some new tips for surfing bloggers:

An Immigrating One: The Land Below Sea Level
A Cute One (I might fancy dark... :-): Changing Colours
A Green One: SK Journal
A Confusing One: Love Is Unpredictable

Next week hopefully some more!

Leaving

I am leaving for Albania tomorrow and actually have tons of things to do, but have to write something as well. It starts to get an addiction, so strange.
A strange feeling slowly takes possession of my stomach: excitement, fear and curiosity. How will it be, how are the people, how is the work, will they accept me, can I do what they want me to do? I have no idea where I will end up, but that is also the fun of it. Don't know where I will live, what kind of work I will do and if it is a nice country. If I had chosen Cuba, Pakistan or Burkina Faso (well ok, not the latter) I might have had a better idea what I can expect as these countries are more commonly known. The thing is that I always want to be different and strange, so I picked Albania. Around this time tomorrow, I will be somewhere, though not knowing where... Ain't travelling just great?
Just went out for some last shopping: bought some new trousers and shirts and as usual spend too much money. :) I told the guy in the shop where I was going to and he started to talk about people in long, black dresses. Clearly, he had no idea where Albania is situated... The recent discussion in The Netherlands about immigrants who have to take a naturalization course can be seen from a completely different perspective if the Dutch took a Europe course...

Saturday, 26 June 2004

Music Tips 2

One day late, but here it is again: “Some songs that everyone should have in their mp3-collection”:

Nelly Furtado - Forca
Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms
U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name
The Nits - Cabins
Eagle-Eye Cherry - Save Tonight
Patrick Bruel – Cassez La Voix (LIVE)

Featured Artist of the Week: Lizz Wright

more to come next week....

Visits

I love visits. Visits from friends, strangers or family. Visits to friends, less family and strangers. The last one is for me the most fun I think, as it give you a peek into someone else's life. For example on holiday: to visit a Greek birthday, a Czech evening party (and drink too much) and an invitation to drink tea in Bangkok. It is friendly, open, uncomplicated and honest. Strangers (= foreigners) love to open their homes and world for you and show you how their life is. Of course it also has something to do with hospitality, but they also enjoy the company of a stranger with whom they cannot communicate at all other than with their hands.
What is strange in our Dutch culture is that you are supposed to make an appointment before visiting someone. This doesn’t work for me as I like the spontaneous and the unexpected. I understand that some people have many things to do and that it can mess up their plans, but I don’t find it really disturbing. I prefer have someone standing on my doorstep than that I have to make an appointment all the time. If someone drops by I will always have time and offer a drink or whatever, even if it is 5am. Luckily for me no one ever stood on my doorstep at that time, but you are invited if you want to (gimme a call before so I can prepare…) :)

Thursday, 24 June 2004

The Flying Dutch

Well, a miracle has happened: the Dutch football team qualified for the quarterfinals of the EC 2004. What no one expected anymore and what many feared after the Czech Republic announced to play with a "B"-team against Germany, did not became reality. We played a great match against Latvia, which was not able to uphold their good play of the last two matches against Germany and the CR. Germany was not allowed to win from the Czechs, and it was frightening to see that they scored first and came to 1-0. Luckily, the Czechs wanted revenge for '96 and even their B-team was able to outclass the Germans with 1-2.
The Dutch coach was critized heavily after the last match and if we would not proceed; the best advice for him was not to show up in NL for a couple of weeks. But how strange are we when we tear him down to the ground one moment and praise him into heaven the next? The public's opinion can easily swap from one side to another, especially when it deals with football. Now Advocaat can walk around again and no one will critize him anymore for his horrendous substitution against the Czechs. We are funny and strange...
Last but not least: I started to love the Czech Republic since my first visit back in 1990 and will love it until I die. The Dutch population humbly kneels and thanks the Czechs!

Tuesday, 22 June 2004


Kind of Carnaval in Slovenia Posted by Hello

Other Bloggers

Check out some other Bloggers, whom I've discovered recently:

A funny one: Ham's Blog
A starting one: Simply Will
A strange one: Weird Ones
A real one: My So Called Life

Hope to publish every monday some new Blogs for you. Enjoy!

Monday, 21 June 2004

E-mail

It is so pleasant and unexpectedly to get to know that you are not a cold iceberg. I imagined at last the picture of sinking the Titanic, this wonderful liner crashed by a block of ice. The woman is like a fragrant and tender flower which needs sun, gentle breeze and warm rain. The dreams as mirages in the desert excite the imagination, intoxicate and give a hope to find a fairy oasis.
It is pleasant for me to know that somewhere afar there is a man who understands and share my mood.
When a quiet night comes to the houses, the town gets quiet, the dreams seize slowly our sleepy consciousness. In the kingdom of dreams everything gets alive. Our secret wishes and even fears get nearly real. It is surprising and so exciting. People have to strive to make these illusions real.

Sunday, 20 June 2004

Fool’s Overture

Last Tuesday I received an SMS from a German friend, when Germany scored 0-1 against Holland. It said: “Ohne Holland gehen wir ins Finale”, as in “Without Holland we go to the finals.” Although that was a bit too optimistic, as we played 1-1, it set the tone for the EC. My German colleagues teased me a lot last year that we didn’t qualify for the WC in Korea/Japan and were wondering if Dutch could play football at all. Now is the latter not really a question as Dutch players are celebrated all over the world for their qualities and every major club has at least one Dutch player. Though, when we have to perform as a team on European or World level, we simply do not seem to be able to reach that high level of playing. 1974 and 1988 were our peaks and since, not much has happened. In my opinion we have a great team now, with good defenders, good mid-fielders and a superb attack. We have some of the best attackers in the world and still we are struggling to score.
Yesterday’s match was a show without any precedence; it had all a real football-fan looks for: horror, goals, tricks, rushes, superb saves and a winner. When Van Nistelrooij scored the 2-0, I though one moment about sending my German friend an SMS, especially after German’s hilarious draw against Latvia. However, I learned not to cheer before the last whistle, so I refrained from sending it and by God was I happy that I didn’t. How can such a superb team as ours, fail to keep a 2 point advantage to the Czechs. No bad word about them though, they played great as well, but are not expected to be as good as the Dutch.
An idiotic pass from Cocu (who is now definitely too old for the next EC and WC!), led to the 2-1; a very strange substitution for Robben (who is from my hometown…), who played superb and was man of the match; and the red card for Heitinga did the job. I have to admit that the referee was also not really in our favour, but ok, you can’t win them all. We should have won there…
Holland is a country that lives for its national team and the matches it plays. In no other country you can see people getting as crazy as here. People painting their houses orange, whole streets with orange-flags, orange beer, orange everything. Companies use this nationalism very well by giving gadgets with their products: orange hats, orange Heineken caps and speakers, T-shirts and many, many more. It’s a hilarious sight, but beautiful as well and there is no better atmosphere than with the matches the Dutch play. A stadium filled with the Orange Legion: it is really a great sight and only the Brazilians can compete with that.
Getting back to the EC now: we are 3rd and are completely dependent on the Czechs as we have to win from Latvia and Germany must loose. We hope that the Czechs will do their sportive obligation to play a decent match against the Germans, but we expect the worst. Nedved already said that he will not play, so dark clouds are packing above the Dutch. I fear we won’t make it to the quarter finals and that we can go home again next week.
Going home will have some advantages though: Advocaat will be fired, as I don’t think we ever had such a bad coach and all orange will be removed from the houses and we can continue our normal life again. What I hope? A final between Greece and Latvia: that would be a stunt… Cruijf, Van Basten, Gullit where are you????????

Friday, 18 June 2004

Music Tips

Some songs that everyone should have in their mp3-collection:

Something Happens - Parachute
Haiducii - Dragostea Din Tei
Dave Koz - Together Again
Counting Crows - Holiday in Spain (feat. Blof) and Mr. Jones (accoustic)
Coldplay - Clocks
Black Crows - She Talk To Angels
Moby - Everloving

Featured Artist of the Week: Joss Stone

more to come next week....

MSN-nicks

I am someone who changes his MSN-nick frequently. If not multiple times a day, than certainly once a day. The advantage of having such an extended MSN-list, is that all kinds of nick pass by. You can see that some show their moods, some just have their real names and never change them and some just put up the most idiotic names. I would like to give a short overview of some of the names that I see coming online.

J.F.P. e V.B.F / ¤¥O amor é lindo¥¤ / Há males que vêm para o bem! (all Brazil)
Disgusted Ref / WHY are all the babes in the library??? / Länsförsäkringsbolangens ABZ / I love your eyes...but only with KETCHUP!!! (all Malta)
Why can’t the boys be the toys that the girls want the boys to be…? (NL)
ИВАН (Serbia)
The world is book and those who do not travel read only a page (NL)
TRUST ME… I am a Lawyer (Turkey)
The only thing in life you'll regret are the risks you didn't take (NL)
sure, whenever you like / is anyone enthusiast of photography (digital)? let me know (all Slovenia)
Look at how she moves... must have some sort of build-in motor / don’t assume. It makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'. / Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure (all NL) There was no life before coffee (Russia)
Confused & Chaotic / A pair of Dutch Chimps, sending their love from Amsterdam (all NL-Malta)

Messages & Comments

My Blog is now almost two weeks old and I have to say it is fun to do. Writing a story everyday on my English page is more difficult than on the Dutch one, but I blame it on the language. It is always easier to write in one’s mother tongue; not only the writing, but also the thinking. Last year in Germany I started to think in German as well after a few months, than it is also easier to write in that language. It went really fast though: the change from Dutch to German. When I returned home for Christmas I had difficulties speaking Dutch and used a lot of German words or translated German words literally in Dutch ones.
I have 100+ visitors now, but looking at providers of my visitors I have to admit that I am probably the one who visits my page most… This for sure has to change as I am not writing all this for myself: I have it in my head already, no need to write it down other than sharing it with others. So if you, my dear reader, think that this is any fun to read or just shows how shallow-minded I am: pass the word and get me some more visitors. Though I have around 80 people in my MSN list, not all of them have visited my blog and I am a little disappointed in them. My MSN-name has been the link to this page for so long, but not many really get it…
Something else bothers me as well: I have speared no effort to get me a “Comment”-link (below, right, every post) and a writing box on the right, but hardly anyone uses it! Why the hell do I have such things if no one wants to use them? It is the ideal opportunity to give your opinions and criticize me. I have to thank Esteban for being the only one who has written a comment. Thanks Money Man! Single Treasurers Belong Together (though I suddenly remember you weren’t in Alanya)!
I hope my critical notes have some effect and that I will see some more comments and visitors within the next weeks. I am doing this for you, not for myself!

 

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Visited Countries
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