Another Dept Outing, Leiden, and a Royal Lie

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Friday, October 17, 2003

Hi all,
We've been back from Belgium for some time now and have settled into a fairly "normal" life - whatever that is. It's getting colder and darker here already. It was chilly (3 C., 35 F. at night and into 50s during the day) all week. The sun is going down around 7 p.m. So, summer is over. Chris has taken some nice Autumn in Amsterdam pictures that are attached. In this travelogue, we share another of Melanie's departmental outings, a day in Leiden, and a glimpse at Dutch values.

It was with a little trepidation that Melanie approached the annual division outing in September. Everybody had been told to wear comfortable clothes that might get wet. Oh no, not polder survival again! Luckily it was not. The afternoon started like any other departmental meeting, but after an hour of business, 2 women arrived with African percussion instruments and proceeded to teach 130 IT nerds how to play different rhythms all at the same time. The theme of the day was "Cooperation", so this illustrated how everybody has a separate but important role and how much better it works if we work together instead of each doing our own thing independently. It was loud, but pretty cool when everybody was doing it right. There were about 8 different instruments and 12 different rhythms.

After making music, we drove to a water sport park where we divided into teams for dragon boat racing. Dragon boats go very quickly if everybody is coordinated, but not so fast if everybody paddles as hard as they can but not together. Melanie's team lost by only 2 seconds - and only because they changed the rules after the first race.

After dragon boats, it was off to make dinner. Yes, MAKE dinner. Everybody was assigned to a table where the materials for a particular dish were waiting. Some tables made appetizers, some made salad, some made apple pie (including peeling and coring the apples and rolling out the dough). The Dutch are very big on herring and other fish, so several tables, including Melanie's, gutted fish. That's right. Smoked or pickled, big or small, there were at least 6 tables that gutted fish. YUCK. After a table finished making its dish, the participants had to walk around serving it to everybody else. It was actually a great way to get people to mingle and talk to each other, but does anybody believe that all 130 people washed their hands before food preparation? Melanie was convinced everybody would have stomachaches the next day!

The finale of the night was the whipping cream contest. It was hysterical. Two teams of two people each competed to hand-whip cream to make whipped cream for the pie. It was a contest to see which team could whip the cream to the point that it could be held upside down over the opponent's head without dropping.

The thing that made this so funny is that the contest took place under a rotating disco ball with the theme from "Flashdance" playing. Whip, whip, whip, "she's a maniac, maniac on the floooor. . ." whip, whip, whip. The crowd went wild! This is definitely not the type of outing we're used to in America!

Last Sunday we spent a lovely afternoon in Leiden, which is a town southwest of Amsterdam. We met another American, Steve, who was interested in one of Chris' watches and he took us out on his boat for a canal tour of Leiden. It was quite nice -- peaceful and brisk.

Leiden is interesting for Americans because the pilgrims stopped there on their way to America to pick up supplies for the journey. Some of the pilgrims decided that they really didn't like boat travel, so they stayed behind a built a humongous church with capacity 10x the population at the time! Here is a piture of the church from the Fort of Leiden where the population of the City withstood a 131 day siege against the Spanish ending in 1574. The relief of the siege of Leiden is still celebrated on October 3.

Here's an interesting tidbit on Dutch culture: Telling a lie is taken VERY seriously here, as the royal family recently learned. Here's the scoop: In July, Prince Johan Friso, the third in line to the throne, announced his engagement to his girlfriend of three years, Mabel. In order to remain in line for the throne, the prince has to gain permission from parliament to marry. To do this, he must convince the Prime Minister and his cabinet to present the request to Parliament. In September, a TV show reported that 15 years ago Mabel had had a relationship with a major drug dealer, Klaas "De Dominee" Bruinsma. The infamous Bruinsma is known as the original Dutch godfather of crime and was murdered in an underworld slaying in 1991. A former bodyguard of the crime boss told a TV program that Bruinsma had a deep relationship that lasted several months with Mabel. Mabel immediately denied the relationship, saying that they were only acquaintances. Then, 1 week later, she admited sleeping on "the Godfather's" boat 3-4 times, but still denies having an intimate relationship. More of the Godfather's confidantes come forward and claim that Mabel had an intimate relationship - even after she knew he was a very bad man - and the government investigators learn that Mabel and Bruinsma often stayed at a very fancy hotel in Amsterdam - thus implying an intimate relationship. So, the prime minister announced that he would not recommend the marriage to Parliament. Thus, if the prince marries Mabel without consent, which he has said he will do, he relinquishes his rights to ever be king (not that it was very likely when he was third in line anyway!). But, here's the thing that makes this so Dutch. . .

Parliament and the prime minister really don't care about the relationship. This Bruinsma guy was really bad news - like the Dutch John Gotti - but that's not the point. The point is, Mabel lied. They care about THE LIE. The prime minister is quoted: "there is no cure against deceit" and, the bride has given "false and incomplete information, and trust had been violated." We heard, but cannot find in English print, that there was an investigation into whether the Queen knew about the lie and that the Prime Minister had threatened that if the Queen knew it would be the end of the monarchy!

Just goes to show, Mom was right. Never tell a lie! Especially here. They take it VERY seriously!


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