On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.


What Government?

Way way back in July, I may have mentioned something about the collapse of the Dutch government. Well, they finally got around to hosting their elections this week with an outcome that's no more certain than some recent U.S. elections.

At the moment, Europe basically has the same problem we do - a largely divided electorate. I mean, how long did it take for <tony voice>Aaangerlaaah</tony voice> to grab hold of power in Germany? If you even remotely cared about Italian politics, you'd know that their latest elections were a far cry from decisive. Tony Blair seems to be refusing to step down, but "The Economist" has been predicting his demise since the summer. France is still a question mark, but we all know they have issues.

The outcome of the Dutch elections, from what I can decipher of the labyrinth of acronyms, seems no better. The right-wing Christian Democrats seems to have held on to the "most" (not majority) seats in the 150 person parliament. However, the closest party to them ideology-wise did not win enough seats to form a majority coalition. The options: cozy up to extreme nutters on the farther right, or reach across the political divide to the socialists, who increased their standing from nine to a whopping 26 seats.

What to do? What to do?

Local papers are predicting a "long and difficult process" to form the government and may result in some kind of weird minority rule, which hardly sounds like representative democracy to me. The fact that extremists on both sides picked up seats won't make the process any easier.

The only thing we know for sure is that I don't have to learn to pronounce the name of a new prime minister.



Giving Thanks

Wow has it really been a whole year since I left DC? Indeed, this time last year B- and I awoke on a borrowed air mattress on the floor of our empty condo. Our luggage was organized in a corner, and Nigel was obviously a bit nervous. Pets always know something is up. I dunno why we act so surprised.

I think it goes without saying that this has probably been the most eventful year of my life. There's a lot to shake my fist at, for sure. However, often it's in the midst of chaos and hardship that we come to realize what really matters.

This year, I'm most thankful for B-. Not for the obvious reason that he agreed to put up with me for the rest of our lives, and I have witnesses. Rather, I'm grateful that he's a kind, upstanding, and flexible person. As an Aussie, he's culturally programmed to view things through "she'll be alright" colored glasses, but it is precisely his optimism that has kept me on my feet this year. People, you really must go out and get yourselves a nice Australian.

Other things I have to be thankful for this year, in no particular order, include:

-- Weddings and Babies. Many happy returns to all my fellow newlyweds and to all the new parents. 2006 was definitely the year of new beginnings. Ganesha must be exhausted.

-- Friends and family who gave us encouragement, gave us a place to stay, watched our pets, watered our plants, and gave us a chance.

-- Cheap airfare and frequent flier miles.

-- Special thanks go to A- who pretty much sold my condo for me. Please come visit! We'd love to see you guys.

-- Belgium

-- My parents for tirelessly forwarding our mail, DVDs, and other comforts from home

-- B-'s family for entertaining and enthusiastic phone calls

-- F-, R-, R-, D- and M- who actually came to visit

-- iTunes, Skype, email, IM, cheap calling cards, blogs

-- Democrats

-- The weird Surinamese shop that stocks South Carolina boiled peanuts

-- The new organic store that stocks paneer cheese and black beans

-- Our landlord for including gas, electricity, water, internet and cable in our rent so we don't have to deal with utility companies

-- Dutch people who don't mind speaking English to us

-- My yoga teachers and colleagues back on Prince St. who gave me the tools to deal with this crazy ride

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! I miss you!


Amelie for President

I was going to detail the mundane activities as the first week of my new life as a huisvrouw comes to a close. The truth is, I'd bore you to tears. No, I haven't been watching episodes of "Neighbours" on BBC1 even though it brought fame and fortune to Kylie Minogue and may soon feature an appearance from David Beckham. I've just been doing stuff. Very uninteresting stuff.

Thank goodness the French have gone and done something cool like nominate a female presidential candidate.

Ségolène Royal To Lead Socialist Challenge for Presidency
I first heard about Royal a while ago when The Ecomonist ran a piece on her. I have to give them credit for the Amelie association. She seems every bit the breath of fresh air that France needs.

In other European news...

Dutch troops abused Iraq prisoners
Who knew that the Dutch had troops in Iraq? Seems a bit of manipulative news to release but four days before the Dutch elections.

And many thanks to Doc Paradox who scooped me on this story (he keeps doing that!): Europeans OK Anti-Obesity Charter


Early Christmas

Who do I have to thank for today? Please let me kiss your toes.

First the Democrats take the House, and now we are inching ever closer to a victory in the Senate. But the icing on the cake -- oh sweet, sweet cake -- is this:

Rumsfeld to Step Down as Defense Secretary.

Finally someone in the Bush administration gets axed for a shitty job. About time.


House Cleaning

There's no secret to my politics. Since the last two election cycles brought me to tears and depression, I'm elated about the Democratic victory in the U.S. House of Representatives. I almost forgot what it means to win these things anymore. Now, if only Bill could run for prez again...

My only regret is that I voted in Texas, where my family presently lives, instead of Virginia where I lived for 10 years. Usually both states go to Republicans, so I thought it was a zero sum game. I apologize in advance if VA's up-for-grabs seat in the Senate goes to Allen. Since the infamous redistricting in Texas a few years back, I thought it was also important for me to help the Democrats hang on to at least one seat they already have in the house. So, I wasn't a total dumbass, mkay.

Seems the rest of the world feels as giddy as I do, so reports CNN.

Check out this particularly vicious paragraph:
In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world" and gloated that they left the Bush administration "seriously weakened."

Ok as much as I dis on my own president, I feel a bit more than a tinge of defensiveness over the statements of foreigners. It's ok if I piss in my own backyard, but hey man you stay on your side of the fence. It's also a bit tacky for foreign politicians to make public statements regarding the results of an election that isn't theirs. This is especially annoying coming from the puppet parliamentarians of the EU. How 'bout you get a real legislature and butt the hell out?

Nevertheless, victory is so sweet.



Soap Box

While I'm still on my high horse, I thought I'd rat out Bono.

My pal, Hotrod, mentioned this story in his blog. I thought it was so despicable that I needed to mention it as well.

Bono, Tax Avoider: The hypocrisy of U2.

No, no I'm not off topic. This is even tangentially related to the Netherlands.


My Fellow Americans, Please Vote

We finally got to see An Inconvenient Truth this weekend, you know the "Al Gore Climate Change" movie.

In a word, the film was powerful. This says a lot coming from a person who spent the last 5 years in the communications department of an environmental NGO. I'm no stranger to the realities of climate change. But until this movie climatologists have been struggling to articulate not only the magnitude of the problem but also the urgency.

Bravo, Al! You did a fine job.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, seriously you must see it right away. Set aside whatever pre(mis)conceptions you may have about Al Gore, and open your mind for just 100 minutes to the possibility that up until the moment the lights go dim in the theater you are being dooped. Dooped by the Bush Administration, the oil and gas lobby, and the U.S. media.

Ask yourself why so-called "liberals" would make this shit up? There's no logic behind the hoax theory. If liberals really wanted to just waste away your tax dollars, we'd much rather spend it on healthcare and education. No one wants the mess we've inherited from generations of environmental abuse, but here we have it. A huge problem. It's not going way.

I think a lot about the kind of life my kids will have in this world. I sometimes seriously consider that even having kids would be completely irresponsible. We already have a host of geopolitical problems that aren't going to get better in our lifetime. Add to that the nightmarish reality of an ecological meltdown. It's truly scary.

In one scene of An Inconvenient Truth, Al shows graphics of what will happen if a big chunk of the terrestrial glacier in Greenland (and/or Antarctica) slides into the ocean. The resulting rise in sea levels would put most of Florida , quite a lot of Manhattan, and chillingly all of the Netherlands under water. Where do the 16 million inhabitants of an entire country go when their country ceases to be? What do you do when this scenario plays out all around the world? You think we have a big problem with illegal Mexican immigration? Pardon the pun, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Historically, wars are fought over the control of scarce resources. We all know the U.S. went into Iraq for the oil. You can't really blame us. We consume more per capita than any other nation in the world. We also need it more than anyone else b/c of the way we designed our cities and towns. We didn't know any better, and now we're a bit stuck.

But, imagine when the fight is for fresh water or rare tracts of land worth cultivating. What will our excuse be then? Can we morally justify taking a country to war for their underground aquifers? America and Australia stand with their heads in the sand alone. Where's our moral high ground when we are choosing to ignore the situation?

When you vote tomorrow, consider a few things:

A) I voted and it took a lot of extra effort to get properly registered from abroad. You have no excuse not to get out there and do it.

B) Who the fuck really cares if gay people want to get married? Can you live with yourself knowing that you kept a few gay men apart in your generation while your grandkids are fighting the great war for water?

C) Who the fuck cares if you save a few dollars in taxes in the next 4 years when the eventual cost of fresh food could mean that your grandkids may not ever afford to taste a fresh strawberry.

D) Who the fuck cares about Roe v. Wade when the future will likely bring mandatory abortions for everyone as we try to control rapid overpopulation.

F) What about the future? Do you care about the kind of world your progeny will live in?

I'm not saying that you shouldn't consider your own quality of life. But ask yourself how much the so-called "big issues" really even matter to you. Chances are they don't. At all. Not a single bit. America, we are allowing ourselves to be distracted by trivialities so that politicians can avoid dealing with the real problems.

Hold these monkeys accountable. Please vote.


Ain't No Mountain High Enough

B- and are back from our honeymoon in Tanzania. One word: Awesome!

Our plan to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro had two purposes:
1) Do something really, really memorable together.
2) See the glaciers before they're gone.

As B- is the in the climate change mitigation business and it's a particular hot button issue for me, I suspect that reason no. 2 weighed a little heavier.

Not only did we summit Kili, but we also spent the night in the crater. This itinerary afforded us an opportunity to explore the ash pit and nearby fragments of the remaining glacier fields. It was incredibly beautiful and terribly sad. The bit of glacier near our camp was melting right in front of us.

For anyone considering a trip to the roof of Africa, we can't recommend our outfitter enough. Definitely check out Kiliwarriors. They are by far the best guide service on the mountain in terms of quality of gear, treatment of porters, eye on safety, and quality/quantity of food. Our crew was like a big family for the 9 days we were up there.