Anne Frank House Amsterdam: remembrance and reflection

Anne Frank House bookcase
2000 inhabitants of Amsterdam got free tickets to visit the Anne Frank House during evening hours without queues. I was lucky to be one of them: a great initiative, thanks! It was wonderful to wander through the ‘Achterhuis’ in a quiet and respectful atmosphere.
The Anne Frank House is not far from my home and I pass the long rows of tourists a few times a week or I better say: try to pass….It is always busy, noisy, not a place where you’d like to go as an inhabitant.
I think I went there once, as a child – I remember it quite well, especially the book case (on the picture) that served as protection from the entrance to the hide-out of 8 Jewish people. These people spent 2+ years there but were betrayed at the end and only one of them, the father of Anne Frank, survived the holocaust.
anne frank house quoteCompared to my childhood visit many elements were added in the ‘museum’; quotes on walls or on blinded windows – short video’s from witnesses, classmates of Anne and the like. They are very impressive.
What I remember most are the words of Otto Frank on his daughter’s diary. He always felt close to his daughter but when he read her diary after the war, he realized that she never showed the deep thoughts and feelings that she wrote down. Since that moment he thinks that parents rarely know their children to the full. I guess that could be true. The way he expresses is very refined and respectful towards his daughter. I cannot write it down, you have to go visit the Anne Frank House and see that movie to understand the impression it made. And then imagine that he read that diary when she had already died (when she had already been killed). He would never have the opportunity to ask her any question any more…
Anne Frank House opening hoursI really thank the Anne Frank House for this opportunity. I wonder why this does not become more usual in Amsterdam. As for me, it is not about the free ticket, but the fact that I could go at 21.00h (I came home from work only at 19.30 and had to have dinner first) and that I did not need to wait in a queue or go in with plenty of loud speaking tourists. Would it be financially difficult for musea to have similar evening offers or are they just not used to opening hours in the evening?
As for the Anne Frank House tonight, it left me with quite some emotions as we live in difficult times and the idea that ‘it could happen again’ is in the hearts and minds of many. A place for remembrance and reflection, most valuable.

 

Amsterdam Tower: a must-visit!

Amsterdam tower

It is new and it is brilliant, the Amsterdam Tower – a remake of the former Shell research labs in Amsterdam. I had a great time this week while giving a presentation about dealing with international business and culture in front of spectacular views over Amsterdam. Nevertheless my public was highly attentive, for a moment I doubted whether they would be with me at all but they did 🙂
If you look at the photo above and you see the 9 meter high windows in top of the building, that is where I stood – and here are some pictures of the views:

amsterdam tower  amsterdam toweramsterdam tower  amsterdam tower
The making of the Amsterdam Tower is a story out of a wizard book: three Dutch guys who were succesfull in the international music scene decided to cooperate in this and won the battle for the tower in competition with 34 other interested parties. They turned it into a combination of music company offices, a hotel, different bars, restaurants and clubs with a 360° turning restaurant in top: a music tower!
On top they offer a platform for all inhabitants of Amsterdam and our tourists to watch the spectacular panorama and to take a seat in Europe’s highest swing: the Amsterdam lookout. Alas I had serious business to do when I was there so I definitely have to come back to experience that swing!
Our city is blessed with these creative entrepreneurs who make such major contributions to the quality of life in Amsterdam: well done, thank you guys!
Last but not least an photo-impression (made with my phone, lack of quality, in reality much better) of the elevator going up: the music experience starts already from there…
amsterdam tower elevator  amsterdam tower elevator
Amsterdam Tower, a new experience not to be missed!

Bardo Museum – Musée de Bardo Tunis: wowowow!

baptism mosaic

If you think many mosaics, think more. If you imagine an endless view of mosaics, double or triple what you imagine and that is what the Bardo Museum in Tunis offers you. I knew the collection of mosaics this museum contains is thrilling but I could not have guessed the amount and the size of the beauty: wow, just wowowow.
‘Are you really going to the Bardo Museum?’, people asked me in surprise. A terrible terrorist attack took place on this museum just two years ago. But of course that means that it is now the best protected monument of the country, Tunisia. Do not hesitate, just go. Nowhere else in the world you will find this abundance of mosaic beauty and such an oversight of mosaic art in different periods and denominations: Roman, Christian, Jewish, Byzantine or just ‘Carthago’.
mosaic bardo museum  mosaic lake bizerte - lac de bizerte
However, that is not all. They have fantastisch Punic pieces (statues, masks, steles), nice jewelry of the Vandals – proving vandalism has beautiful sides! There is some Roman and pottery stuff that I found less interesting; at least it is less unique. But the great Ottoman hall of the Bardo Museum leaves you in surprise, wondering why you find that more beautiful and refined than the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
ottoman period bardo museum  ottoman ceiling bardo museum
The rest of the museum is more or less non-existent: the coffee sign leeds to a completely deserted part of the museum where coffee nor any other consumption could be found. The museum shop that could imo be thriving, is a disappointment. The toilets are clean however, kept so by a most gentle attendant. Overall, the museum personnel is really helpful: they want you to enjoy your stay and do everything to make sure you will see what you came for. Only because of their kindness I found the Punic room that I was desperate to see after the mosaics. The logic of the museum plan is not clear for all but the personnel compensates largely for that: a big thanks to their involvement and enthusiasm!
More info at the site of the Bardo Museum in English or the Musée de Bardo in French.

 

Unique coins in Money Museum Tunis

money museum tunis‘Well, they have coins’, Tunesians told me when I asked them what the Money Museum (Musée de la Monnaie) is like. Their tune was not very respectful, in their eyes it did not seem worth a visit. I wanted to see the museum anyway, especially as it is not mentioned in tourist guides and these can be the most interesting visits like the Museum of the History of Cypriot coinage, another hidden pearl. I was certainly not disappointed.
This museum is found within the Tunesian Central Bank and depicts the history of coinage in the area: that means it starts already in the time of Carthago, 4th century BC. Most interesting for me were the coins from the era of the califates like the Ommayyads, Fatimides, Aghlabides and Abbasides: it was like a new world opening for me. musee monnaie tunisAlready in the first century of islamic era, coins were made with Qu’ran inscriptions and this museum shows a good quantity of them (a lot in gold, part of the attractiveness of course).
Another thing I learned is that coins can be shiite or sunni. First I thought I misunderstood but the proof was in front of my eyes.

shiite coins

shiite coins

sunni coins

sunni coins

I seriously studied these coins but I am afraid my expertise is too limited to understand the subtile differences.
There is, overall, a very good explanation that goes with these coins but not in English: in Arabic and in French. For the coins of the early centuries I must say it was difficult to relate the information given to the coins as exposed. This suddenly improved when the period of antiquities was left behind. From then on, all is clear, although sometimes quite detailed. For experts, this is the absolute place to be.
The museum also shows some interesting notes that tell us which heroes of the past are valuated enough to be on the national banknotes. I saw f.ex. Ibn Rachik, Hannibal, Ibn Khaldoun.
It has many square coins: square coins musee monnaie tunisAnd it presents plenty of memorial coins, and coins of special sites where I found Amsterdam among them.
coins about sites musee monnaie tunislibrary musee de la monnaie tunisLast but not least: the library they have offers books in 5 or 6 languages, not just about coinage but also about history and art of the region. It is an excellent collection for those who want to study and it seems to be an undiscovered place: you can sit there in complete tranquillity, surrounded by friendly workers who are happy to welcome anyone interested in their cultural heritage.
The Money Museum (Musée de la Monnaie) of Tunis: worth a visit!

fairversity in Vienna

fairversity1
Today I was at the fairversity in Vienna, as board member of idm (the international society for diversity management for those speaking German 🙂 and it was very interesting. Most people I spoke to think diversity is quite a new subject to most Austrians, especially when looking at the advantages diversity can bring to organisations and the economy. That concept found a fertile ground in Austria a few years ago and these visitors were happy about that development. Many of them were looking for more indepth information about diversity & inclusion. It was no surprise for them that competence is needed to profit from diversity. They were eager to know more about that competence. Maybe this sounds logical to you, my dear reader, but it is certainly not a generally accepted idea – in Germany and the Netherlands the approach of diversity can be more moralistic which means that having a good heart and an open mind is seen as the key asset, rather than competence.
fairversity viennaThere was another interesting experience. I had to do a 30-minutes presentation at the fairversity. Presentations were ongoing so I decided to make it interactive to prevent being boring, as number 9 in a row of presentations. That was a new approach. All presenters just said what they had to say and that was it. No questions asked, no comments given, no information provided by the public. If we think that the benefits of diversity come with a learning organisation – and I saw an Austrian publisher on fairversity who had books about it – we need more interaction and dialogue. The first fifteen minutes my public was staring at me in surprise but after that they started to enjoy it and came up with real good ideas. Austrians have a good sense of humour, also in diversity. They have a special word for that: Schmäh. I love it!

Amsterdam Maker Festival – to be developed

amsterdam makers festival
‘Vague’ is the best word for the impression the Amsterdam Maker Festival made on me. I must have missed something but to me it was more a fair than a festival. I think most people did not spend more than 1-1,5 hours there. Somehow the announcement of this ‘festival’ created big expectations but I guess the floor was too innovative for simple visitors to get any idea of sense and nature of what was going on – especially on the first floor where Makerversity resides. It is clear that the 1st floor is an inspiring working area for new businesses but what on earth were we as visitors doing there? I liked the Javascript-Dress though (< on the left) but it was just hanging there, no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
amsterdam maker cafeOn the groundfloor the program was accessible for all: drinks, food, all Amsterdam made. Think of Kesbeke, Frites uit Zuyd, and the best peanut butter I ever ate – but strange enough the website of the festival doesn’t even mention them, nor some other very good products that show the best of Amsterdam.
amsterdam maker festival 3 On the 3rd floor, there was a mixture of concrete stuff like lamps, jewelry and a spectacular artist in velvet (Velvet Matters), her work is really worth a visit! However a big part of the floor was empty and there were also objects like this one on the left – again no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
The idea of an Amsterdam Maker Festival is great, I heard many positive reactions on that. For a next version, there is some work to do. For example, what is Amsterdam Made > does it really include Leiden, Nijmegen and the like? The festival seems to expand Amsterdam not just with a small circle but by conquering all of our country. And who exactly is the public for this festival: kids, grownups, nerds, general public, people who come to buy something, or people interested in some kind of experience (and then: what experience)? And last but not least: the website of the Amsterdam Maker Festival that is not very accessible for general public and does not mention half of the things general public would be interested in (like finding back the special peanut butter whose name I did not write down when I was on the spot). Amsterdam is a great brand that inspires many people. I really hope this will be continued!

Ik kan vliegen: wow!

ik kan vliegen
Met vliegen heb ik niets, maar ik heb wel iets met Jeroen Komen. Dus toen ik zijn nieuwe boek Ik kan vliegen kreeg, met een mooie persoonlijke opdracht voorin geschreven, ging ik het lezen vanwege die persoonlijke band hoewel – ik geef het eerlijk toe – ik dacht dat ik er niet veel aan zou vinden. Nou, dat kan ik meteen rechtzetten: het is een spectaculair goed boek. Ik heb het van a tot z gelezen en dat was alleen maar een genoegen.
Daar heb ik een tijdje over nagedacht: wat maakt dit nou zo’n goed boek voor mij? Dat zijn verschillende elementen. Jeroen heeft er bijvoorbeeld een erg persoonlijk boek van gemaakt. Het is een boek over levenslessen in de brede zin des woords; allerlei aspecten van het leven passeren de revue. Jeroen neemt ons mee op de verkenningstocht van zijn eigen ontdekkingen, zijn twijfels en zijn doorzettingsvermogen. De schrijfstijl, mooi en zonder opsmuk, werkt daar versterkend bij. Dat op de eerste plaats maakt dat ik het ademloos gelezen heb. Andere kwaliteiten van het boek zijn de afwisseling: als vlieger komt Jeroen op allerlei plaatsen (lees: culturen, mijn grote hobby) wat superinteressant is en zeker een bron van goede anecdotes. En dan zijn er natuurlijk de prachtige foto’s die hij zelf vanuit zijn vliegtuig gemaakt heeft. Het meest intrigerend vond ik die op pagina 68-69 (koop het boek en kijk zelf) om de simpele reden dat ik me tot in mijn slaap afvroeg of het hier nu een openbaar zwembad betreft of niet.
Veel boeken hebben zeker kwaliteit maar die zit vaak in deelaspecten en is niet consistent. Ik kan vliegen is van begin tot einde ‘af’. Ik hoop dat Jeroen of de uitgever eraan gedacht heeft dit naar de Koninklijke Bibliotheek te sturen want een plaats binnen het nationale erfgoed is verdiend. Warm aanbevolen!

Diversiteit in Jordanië: business as usual (2)

diversiteit in jordanië

 

Onlangs gaf ik voor de tweede maal een training diversiteit in Jordanië, ditmaal bij een telecom bedrijf. Na de eerste training formuleerde ik een aantal hypotheses, zie de blog: Diversiteit in Jordanië (1) en die houden stand ook na deze nieuwe ervaring:
1. ‘de cultuur in Jordanië is conflictmijdend, mensen leren van jongsaf aan reacties in te schatten en confrontaties te vermijden en ontwikkelen daarom bijzondere antennes’: ja ja en ja. Zoiets is heel aangenaam in de dagelijkse omgangsvormen, zeker weten dat het ook NL-ers zou verrijken en verblijden! Mits het natuurlijk van twee kanten komt. Ook bespaart het tijd, niet alles hoeft expliciet uitgesproken te worden. Keerzijde is dat als iemand dan een keer iets uitspreekt, er een lang gesprek nodig is want de kwaliteit die in het NL poldermodel uitstekend ontwikkeld is – elkaar ergens halverwege tegemoet komen – is minder ontwikkeld.
2. ‘het zakenleven in Amman wordt niet, zoals te doen gebruikelijk in Nederland en Duitsland, geplaagd door schuldgevoel’. Blijft overeind. Jordaniërs zijn  praktisch, hoe werkt diversiteit & inclusie en hoe moet het werken of hoe willen we dat het werkt en wat gaan we daaraan doen. Zo’n houding is bevrijdend als je principiële en laten we wel wezen, soms oeverloze discussies gewend bent. Gewoon het gewenste resultaat bepalen en daarvoor gaan, heerlijk!
3. ‘de waardering voor objectieve kennis is groot, er is minder ‘mening’ en meer waardering voor bevindingen uit wetenschap’, was mijn hypothese. Daaraan voeg ik nu toe: en aan ervaringen van elders, om daarvan te leren. En aan kennis over wat de wereldwijde transitie naar een nieuwe economie en governance van ons vraagt. Het lijkt wel of Nederland te maken heeft met de ‘wet van de remmende voorsprong: Nederland loopt voor en lijkt het dus beter te weten, is arroganter. Jordanië loopt evident niet voor en is zeer ambitieus om wel degelijk onderscheidend te zijn in het veld van diversity & inclusion. Heel interessant om mee te maken.
ammanDat Nederland of ‘het Westen’ iets kan leren van het Midden-Oosten staat voor mij inmiddels wel vast. De komende maanden onderzoek ik dit verder, al (samen)werkend in de praktijk, op weg naar vertaling voor westerse organisaties. En net als in de vorige blog, nodig ik graag  mensen met ervaring in die regio uit te reageren ter bevestiging, nuancering of ontkenning van mijn conclusies of aanvulling daarvan. Wordt vervolgd!

Recycling plastic: the Amsterdam or the Tel Aviv way?

recycling plastic tel aviv

plastic recycling tel aviv

Tel Aviv has a nice way to make the inhabitants recycle plastic bags and bottles. In the streets of Tel Aviv, one finds open bins. Open means: they do not block the view on the road; they are attractive to use because one can see the results of a contribution; and it is hardly vulnerable for vandalism and other more heavy stuff.
What I like too is the artistic sense that comes with these bins. It could have been enough to just place them on the street with the open iron wires, but the persons who created this wanted an extra and added some flowers, butterflies and other details that make life happier.
Compare the bins above to what we have in Amsterdam :
recycling plastic bin amsterdam recycling plastic amsterdam
These are closed recycling bins: one can not see through them and they form a big block, here at a crossroad, that prevents overseeing the streets. Posters that are put on them prevent the use of graffiti but do absolutely not give more joy to the consumer when using the bin for recycling, on the contrary: they are not at all attractive and too many people have never used them yet. I think we should have the Tel Aviv plastic recycling bins: more open to the street and more inviting to use them.

Security is your friend in Tel Aviv

white night White Night in Tel Aviv is an enormous street festival. On balconies, in parks, on the street sides and in squares, acts, music bands, DJ’s and the like have their performance while thousands of people are passing. How does a city deal with that in a country where attacks on Jewish people (two more attacks on the day of White Night alone) can always be expected?
It means they have controlpoints on every street opening to festival activities. Imagine that this would be done in Amsterdam: it would give a lot of discussion and the poor security officers would have a lot to explain and to deal with. There would be rows at the controlpoints and the idea of controlpoints would prevail over the joy of the festival. In Tel Aviv, it is clear that security is essential and it comes first for everybody. The threat is felt as real – so security is your best friend when you go to a festival.
There is no delay at all at the controlpoints. The public acts with discipline and speed: showing quickly what they wear under their shirts, opening bags on time. The only problem I saw, was with a Dutch guy who wanted to go in with a (glass) bottle of whisky, which was not allowed… This is the most efficient security I have ever seen and this way, a festival stays pleasant under difficult and risky circumstances. Even when the average visitor might pass 5-10 controlpoints in a single evening, White Night in Tel Aviv means just high quality performances in a great atmosphere.

Genderneutral toilets in Israel

genderneutral toilets One of the things that I did not expect to encounter in Israel (including the Westbank) is the genderneutral toilets that they have almost everywhere. The toilets are found in one single room with two or more doors, available for all alike. There are no women toilets or men toilets and no one seems to bother – which is usually the case when you live somewhere… it is just a matter of being used to a situation.
In Europe, Sweden was presented as the first country where they abolish toilets designed for men and women, but they are not the first, this approach can already be found in Israel. In my recent training for the building company in Jordan, we discussed the influence of measures for toilets in buildings on working life. The participants in the training brought up that in the United States, they are now adding transgender toilets to toilets for men and women. The participants follow this kind of developments because of course it has consequences for the work they do, especially the architectural side. But the solution in Israel and the Westbank is more easy: nobody needs to go to a specific transgender toilet. The whole toilet-thing is genderneutral 🙂
However, I did miss a bit the privacy of a toilet for women only here. Especially that the week I was in Israel, was what I use to call the ‘wrong week of the month’ for me. That comes with some discomforting and sometimes complicating actions. I am not someone without shame so sharing the toilets with ‘all’ did not make my life more easy. But I learned to live with it…

Hamas promises peace

RamallahThis week a group of journalists and opinion leaders had a conversation with spokesmen of Fatah and Hamas on the Westbank. Fatah and Hamas have reconciliated and the two men presented themselves as a political unity in Ramallah. The conversation led to one unclear outcome but also to some clear conclusions that I am happy to share with you.
The unclear outcome was the answer to the question as to how Hamas felt about the deal between Israel and Turkey on the Mavi Marmara ship. Although this deal involves action points to be taken by Hamas, the Hamas spokesman was clear: this is between Israel and Turkey, Hamas has got nothing to do with it and has no opinion about it. The news that  there was some disappointment about the deal in Turkey because the hopes were the Gaza bloccade would be alleviated, made no big impression: Hamas is not involved here and has no comments on the deal.

Then the questions that WERE actually answered…
1. Is Hamas ready to accept a 2-state solution in the Israeli-Palestine conflict? The answer was a loud and clear: yes! This is something that I never heard before and that opens new windows for the future, as the 2-state solution means that the parties involved recognize each other so Hamas is ready to recognize Israel.
2. How does Hamas see the position of women? Hamas wants a democratic state with full rights for women in all positions. Women have the same rights as men and Hamas will work within the framework of international laws set in this respect. The way the society was described here sounded like paradise, certainly more than the Netherlands where we do struggle with some men-women issues in daily life!
3. How about a free press? Hamas admits there is no free press now but they are motivated to have a free press. However it is difficult in the actual circumstances because of (their perception of) the Israeli oppression. The answer is, give Hamas a free Palestinian state and free press will be realized in that new state.
So after this conversation the conclusion can only be: Hamas promises peace. Hamas just made peace with Fatah, and they will make peace with Israel and with international rights like the rights for women and the rights for free journalism.
You can imagine that the group that witnessed this conversation, was excited and ready to give congratulations.