Students will present their final projects to the group on Friday, These presentations will center on student-chosen topics that will help inform a group ethnography about Dutch culture, and these projects also include a mock grant proposal for further study on the topic. Students are in the field right now interviewing Dutch experts and collecting other types of data. Yesterday Ryan was in front of a 1/25 size soccer field as he explored soccer as part of Dutch culture. Here are Rhea, Ryan, and Danielle exploring a miniaturized representation of the Netherlands at Madurodam in Den Haag:
On the train to Den Haag
Rhea raises a tiny dike.
Ryan and the mini soccer field.
To further study his topic, Ryan, accompanied by Danielle and Rhea, went to an exciting soccer game with Den Haag’s ADO playing PSV– it ended in a 2-2 tie.
Some fieldwork and the creation of a PowerPoint presentation will continue tomorrow. Busy days continue in Leiden!
Busy days! In the past several days we’ve visited several museums, most in Amsterdam, to learn about and experience subjects as varied as human anatomy, body art, and Jewish heritage in the Netherlands. In addition, students have narrowed their topics and formed guiding questions for their ethnography projects and have begun to research and interview cultural informants.
On Friday we visited Katwijk Beach, which is about 10 kilometers from Leiden. The day was sunny and warm and sailboats added to the North Sea’s beauty. Rhea and Ryan swam in the chilly water and everyone soaked in plenty of sunlight.
Now, in the final week of the program, individual work on the ethnography projects will intensify.
An important part of Dr. Peg Alden’s class “Methods of Cultural Field Study” is observation of behavior and cultural institutions that is captured in writing. To encourage this skill, Peg is assigning students to write two journal entries each day based on observation and broadening to exploration/analysis/questions for future exploration. Here is an excerpt from student Ben Somin’s journal. He is commenting on a reading that highlights the tradition in the Netherlands of tolerance of others:
“This tolerance is evident everywhere, from the legal prostitution to coffee shops selling cannabis products, to the massive gay pride event, one of the premier such events in the world. To some the Netherlands represents a mecca of hedonism and morality. But for the Dutch this tradition of tolerance is really a practical tool for building a healthy society, rather than to promote any specific kind of taboo behavior or culture. In fact there seems to be a clear distinction between tolerance and acceptance, as many Dutch people describe their own lifestyles as fairly normative or mainstream, even conservative, and do not feel the need to be involved in anything alternative outside of allowing it to exist. Is there a difference in this regard between the younger and older generation? That is the ultimate question of social progress.”
It was such a glorious day that we got out on the water and saw Leiden from the canals below street level. We all found that maneuvering canoes can be trickier than it appears, but we soon joined the parade of slow-moving wooden motor boats filled with families and friends lounging and having picnics.
Interconnected canals formed a loop going by the Botanical Gardens, under many bridges, and by numerous cafes perched up on street-level. Again, these phenomenal photos are by Rhea
We got out and about in the sunshine this weekend. Saturday was Amsterdam’s Gay Pride Parade, and everyone opted to go experience the festivities. This 3 hour parade is unusual in that the floats literally float down the canals. They’re festooned with balloons and dancing, singing people, boom dance music, and shoot confetti. Tens of thousands of people dressed in festive garb line the canals, including Rhea, Robert, and Danielle. These photos were taken by Rhea.
De Burcht, which is the oldest part of Leiden, is a citadel from the 11th century. Now it’s a small park with lovely views of steeples in the distance.
Peg’s course on Methods of Cultural Field Study is off and running, and students are asked to practice taking a non-judgmental, relativist approach as they observe local culture. As part of the class, we dipped into the rich history of the Netherlands and its relationship with the water that has always threatened it. We traveled to the Zuiderzee Museum, a replica of a large multifaceted village that was flooded when an enormous dam was finished in 1932, turning an inland sea into a fresh water lake.
The same day we went to Amsterdam for dinner at a delightful traditional Dutch pancake house. As you can see, the ceiling was dripping with teapots.
That night we also went to the Red Light District to examine some differences between Dutch and American laws and general sensibilities.
Leiden remains an enjoyable location to live and learn. This lovely street illustrates some of its many charms.
On Monday after the introductory class, the group had a tour with Jay, a Leiden resident. He showed us both historical sites like a citadel from the twelfth century and cool places to eat and hang out. We crossed numerous bridges– they’re ever-present in this canal-webbed city– and of course we had to take photos on some of them.
The dorm rooms are a hit. They’re spacious and spare in a European modern way and have huge windows with wonderful views.
Here’s a preview of a sort of bike you’ll see in the Netherlands. The Dutch might use this sort of cycle to cart around children.