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!

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!

Dheepan: an outstanding movie about refugees

dheepan movie Dheepan is somehow a ‘neutral’ movie about refugees as it concerns refugees from Sri Lanka; I worked with many of them in the ’90ties but today we concentrate on other regions as every reader knows. Technically this choice in the movie creates a healthy distance to emotions in actuality. And practically, it makes no difference. Refugees run for a reason, most often a quite serious one. And yes, they are surrounded by luck-seekers, criminals who have other reasons to flee and economic migrants. Making the difference between one and the other is an ideal but in practice not very easy. However the movie is not about asylum policies and dilemmas, it is about how people flee and become a refugee and how they experience the country in which they arrive.
In this movie, the Sri Lanka refugees find a house and a job in the banlieue of Paris, in one of the worst banlieues – I think the movie maker even wanted to point out that the refugees run from a war to end up in another one. It is as much a complaint against the ‘drugs in banlieue’ situation as about the refugee situation. Specifically, the total lack of law enforcement (no police or authorities at all) surprises the public.
I think the movie is brilliant in the way it depicts the refugees. I recognized every emotion, both in daily life and in the history of violence and resistence that refugees from war and conflict areas bring with them – not as a choice but as a fact. My experience with that is both friendship and work and I found the movie Dheepan shiveringly realistic and very strong in the way of showing the emotional side.
As a former French teacher, I regretted that the refugees end up in England – to their satisfaction – and not somewhere else in France, a country I love. This is, of course, a biased view 🙂 Anyway the movie ends well, which in a world of problems is nice and more encouraging to go and watch the movie than the opposite.
What surprised me is that nowadays every discussion and debate in the Netherlands is about refugees but we were only 8 spectators: 8! in a large cinema. Sometimes I wonder how much indepth knowledge people want about reality – I see loads of over-emotional people and few people able to handle the complexity that comes with refugee issues. Let’s face reality even when it is not simple. Go watch the Dheepan movie, warmly recommended!

Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice

banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice is a great documentary about two guys, or maybe an entire village in Laos in a period of starting tourism. The place is still ‘all natural’ and the first tourists arriving, mainly backpackers from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, are startled by the purity of the place. The village develops in many aspects and the two guys that are particularly followed in this documentary try to improve their life by offering touristic services. The road they go is so interesting!
The tourists themselves are also quite interesting, some of their conversations are recorded. They have their opinions about life in the village and how it develops and it does not seem to match a lot with the culture and desires of the villagers themselves. Although very sympathic, there was also a note of arrogance in their song.
From the point of view ‘image taking’ the documentary has quite some ‘vague’ moments, maybe nice as a hobby for the filmer but for spectators not always attractive I thought. Fortunately, many good and sharp moments offer enough compensation 😉 So go see this documentary now because usually this kind of movies do not stay long in the cinemas. More info: https://www.facebook.com/laosdocumentary

Amsterdam-Tel Aviv twinning at CIDI: pffff….

IMAG0205 I got an invitation to a meeting at CIDI about Amsterdam-Tel Aviv as potentially twinning cities, quite a heavy debate at this moment in Amsterdam because the leftist parties in our city council have turned against it out of fear to introduce the problems of that region to Amsterdam. A matter of overconfidence in the city council’s powers, by the way, because the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision…
The main reason for me to go to the meeting was that CIDI invited Eytan Schwartz, the senior political advisor to the mayor for this issue, and Mickey Gitzin, member of the left-liberal Meretz party in the Tel Aviv city council. So this was an opportunity to get direct information from people involved, an opportunity not to be missed.
Arriving at the CIDI was the first painful moment. I pass the Anne Frank House and the Hollandse Schouwburg several times a week, and here I saw the same thing: the police protection unit that is now, in Amsterdam 2015, permanently there (see the picture above). A reality that does not become normal in our city that is so free in general…
Moreover I had to pass a guard, a special fence, a double door at the entrance and then I was in… and nobody seemed to bother. I expected some kind of reception but there was none. So as a new person I decided to direct towards the coffee corner just to give myself an attitude and I was not disappointed there, like in many places the women do the hospitality, they were very nice and made me feel more at ease.
The meeting did not disappoint me in the sense that the guests were brilliant. They explained very clearly what Tel Aviv is like, how they work, what they want to achieve (a great city for their citizens, not creating peace for the whole world but building a better day-to-day life which contains also ‘boring’ aspects like the sewing system). They showed that Tel Aviv is a vibrant and tolerant city that could exchange in many aspects with Amsterdam to the benefit of both cities. Their aim is not to do diplomacy but to come to practical solutions that work.
Also they impressed me with their explanation of how they deal with the complexity of the region they live in: they got very, very critical questions from the public at the CIDI meeting and they were capable to explain their private moral standards, dilemmas, decisions in a way that is rare to hear. I learned more from them in an hour than I learned in the whole last week and maybe even month. I love to learn so they made my day. I could have learned more, though…
The meeting did disappoint me when it comes to the point ‘public’. There were some people in the public who already seemed to know what they thought and approached the guests from Tel Aviv with questions that were not meant to get information but to make them ‘accountable’ for all Israeli politics. This was not just tiresome, it was also offensive and I felt embarrassed at several occasions. Two things they said surprised me in particular. 1. that Tel Aviv would have a right wing majority of 51%; a factual statement that anybody who prepares meetings would have looked up in advance but apparently that guy didn’t mind to do the preparation effort – so the guests explained, 31 seats in the Tel Aviv city council, 2 for Likud, 3 for religious parties, 5 seats in total, not exactly the alleged 51%. And 2. blaming Tel Aviv, a city of 450.000 inhabitants, for being inadequate in dealing with 60.000 refugees, while at this very moment the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people, is showing a hard attitude in European negotiations to invite just a few thousand refugees from the Mediterranean – some self reflection is useful at times!
What impressed me also emotionally is the remark of Eytan Schwarz about how he works on good things for citizens and ideals and many positive steps to make this world a better place and then is often confronted with negative emotions about Israel that are projected on him as a person; his self awareness and also his strength of vulnerability to say this in public. Wow. And the remark of Mickey Gitzin, short and to the point among all these prejudices of life in the Middle East commented on (my wording, not his) from Amsterdam sofas: talk less, listen more. So true. And it would have made this meeting so much more interesting because the guests had a lot to tell but not everybody was ready to hear, to listen, they just wanted to make their point about their opinion about Israel versus Palestine, and about perceived immorality of Israelians, even the guys in front of their nose, no dialogue nothing, very strange.
Thanks Cidi for organising. It was only 2 hours but I was dead tired after this meeting – not their fault and I learned a lot and also got inspired. But I also worry because of what I saw.
As I said above, the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision, the meeting made that very clear… So the best the city council can do is to make sure that we will not loose the dialogue and to organise that we will meet as humans: not to discuss the big issues of world peace as long as we are not the UN-president, but to make the daily life of our citizens better with practical projects and solutions found across borders.

Loin des hommes

loin des hommes  I was withholding my breath all the time while watching this movie: Loin des hommes. Algeria 1954, the colonial war or freedom war or however you want to call it, is about to begin. A teacher who’s school is in the middle of nowhere in the Atlas mountains gets involved. He is not looking for that but fate is looking for him. He ends up in several unexpected half war half peace situations. The mountains in the middle of nowhere are much more populated than you’d think: they are full of life, love and fights. Both the rebels and the French find their way over the invisible mountain paths. Will he have to give up his dream, to teach the children how to read? The teacher is also confronted with issues of culture, religion and identity. His parents were from Andalusia, he himself has always lived in Algeria and now others see him as French. There is so much actuality in this movie, it is not just a historical picture. And there is lots of deep warm friendship from man to man in this movie, too. The pictures are stunning. Go there, if you want to see something different!

Workshop Fast Reading in a bookshop

CIMG4206kTonight I followed a workshop Fast Reading in a bookshop: De Nieuwe Boekhandel in Amsterdam Bos en Lommer. This bookshop is a great place, run by the inspiring owner Monique who has given a new meaning to the concept of a bookshop. Her bookshop, and the name nieuw/new is deliberate, is a place to meet. Book presentations, workshops, even your birthday party could take place in that shop. When my Diversity Shop edits new things, like we did this month with De karavaan en de kamelen: teams op het spoor (http://www.diversityshop.nl/nieuwe-producten/) we always have a presentation and a drink in De Nieuwe Boekhandel. So we have one on March 26th, please feel wellcome: http://www.diversityshop.nl/home-pm-27.html
I love Monique’s concept, it is vibrant and it has a great effect on the neighbourhood Bos en Lommer that can really do with some good entrepreneurs like Monique who invest in activities and relationships. What I like too is that De Nieuwe Boekhandel sells BoLo products, products that give Bos en Lommer an identity. Look in the left shelve of the picture and you see some of them.
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Brandnew was the grey BoLo sweather so I bought one immediately. I wanted to show this sweater to you but first my Kater Aak sat on it (he liked it too) >>>

After a while. he let go and I could make a better picture showing the Amsterdam touch 🙂
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It’s nice to be creative

karavaankamelen2  It always surprises me when a creative thing or service is produced in my company: the energy that comes with it for me. It’s nice to be creative! Today we almost finished a new training card game (in Dutch, De Karavaan en de Kamelen), to be sold in our webshop www.diversityshop.eu and also to be applied in training with our customers. The designer sent me a few images that we can use for the promotion of this card game. Just to see that and place it in webshops and on twitter makes me so happy!
Sometimes I think it is the tangible side of products like a game, a story. You can show it to others and explain ‘there it is’ or ‘there you can read it’. In consultancy for example, this is hardly possible. I never forget the comments of my brother-in-law who said ‘at the end of the day I made a railway but what did you do, I don’t understand’. I see his point of view but I also know that making railways would never give me the boost of energy that games, stories, books and other creative activities give me. De Karavaan en de Kamelen: even the idea of it didn’t exist at all and now it exists and it will start a life of its own. I love it; this is so nice 🙂 …

Make the world a better place (3)

make the world a better place (3)  make the world a better place (3)  Some cities are good at special Chrismas lightning, soms are less good. Amsterdam for example is not so good, not very creative in Christmas street lightning, but they also have the Amsterdam Light Festival (which is not the ordinary street lightning but specific enlightened art objects) and that is rather spectacular. Warsaw in Poland has very good designers for Christmas lights; look at the beautiful pictures. It gives class and style to the city and makes it a real joy to walk around:
  make the world a better place (3)  make the world a better place (3)Make the world a better place (3)
What amused me in Warsaw is that they also have this:
make the world a better place (3)     make the world a better place (3) Some wouldn’t call it class or style but the Polish citizens probably do. At least Warsaw is not afraid to combine these styles in the same street. And the children are happy with it!

Finals Mensa SlimmerIQuiz coming up

mensa slimmeriquiz finals  The finals for the Mensa SlimmerIQuiz are coming up! 26th November the University of Amsterdam, a Top 50 University worldwide, will host 23 teams of 3 kids in the age of 11/12 to fight the final battle…
The teams have already survived 2 prior rounds, the 1st round at their own school, the 2nd round at regional highschools supporting education for the highly gifted. Now the next step is Amsterdam.
Last year Mensa the Netherlands started this project for our 50th anniversary and it was a good and promising start. See also http://grethevangeffen.nl/2013/12/30/jurylid-slimmeriquiz-inventiviteit-viert-hoogtij/ for a review from the point of view jury. In 2013 we started with 300 kids in the first round, this year it was 2500 (!) kids already.
Mensa NL invented SlimmerIQuiz to show that being smart is fun and that it is nice to be challenged. Well, the 2014 finals are not going to disappoint the kids. Not only will they have great and tough SlimmerIQuiz finals in an very beautiful place (http://www.esil2013.nl/wp-content/uploads/originals/Aula.jpg), they will also follow a mini-lecture by Robbert Dijkgraaf, a leading scientist from both the University of Amsterdam and Princeton. That is going to be so interesting! Please find all info at www.slimmeriquiz.nl and support our mission to appreciate intelligence as a source of challenge and fun.

 

Creating your dream (2)

creating your dream (2) vlinderado  Vlinderado is an entrepreneurs’ dream, and it is beautifull: www.vlinderado.nl . It started with the cultivation of the Anthurium plant in special variations in a place that most of the readers of this blog never heard about I guess: Waarland, a small village to the north of Alkmaar or for the non-Dutch readers: 40 miles north of Amsterdam. As a hobby, bouquets were made with the different species of Anthurium; and then the bouquets became an important part of the business itself. Isn’t the best business the business that starts because it has the love of our hearts and the focus of our minds? It is interesting, yet inspiring to see how businesses develop in the hands of passionate people.
And then the next step was made, another entrepreneur’s dream was realised: Vlinderado, a garden full of butterflies. It is guaranteed that you see many, very beautiful varieties. Visitors come from different countries, all tourists suddenly discover where the village of Waarland is. Go there too and enjoy!
creating your dream (2) vlinderado           creating your dream (2) vlinderado
Entrepreneurs creating their dream make us happy because we can enjoy what they create. They also inspire us to do the same: to make our own dreams come true!

 

 

Make the world a better place (2)

pavement5  pavement6  pavement7  pavement8 Wherever you go in Lisbon; beautiful pavements are all around or should I say: all under your feet! It is a joy to walk in this city. Still, many houses are neglected, old and falling apart. But people are working hard, renovating, rebuilding, all that is needed to make the houses – many of them monuments – look as beautiful as the pavements are. Then this city will be one big impressive treasure of different, yet unique styles. Lisbon has class and history, it shows in great refinement of details and in the gentle manners of its citizens. What a pleasure to be here 🙂