Monday, October 18, 2010

Cycling





The Hague (and the whole of the Netherlands) is flat, which makes cycling so easy and fast. That it's a free form of transportation is also pretty attractive. I got my bike by the end of the first week I arrived, from a lovely Moroccan man, Mr Hassam, who speaks French, Dutch and Moroccan Arabic. He sells bikes much cheaper (30-50 euros) than the market price (75-100 euros), and I think he's been getting many clients from ISS!

The generous provision of bicycle lanes is incredible! On almost all tar roads there's a small red lane on the right-most lane for bicycles, and cars respect cyclists here. Well, the first priority is pedestrians (I have yet to experience a driver swearing at a pedestrian, because it's always the pedestrian's right of way!), then cyclists, and then cars. I remember reading an article that somewhere that described cars as 'a source of amusement in The Hague', haha.

There are rules of course, like having to attach white lights to the front of the bicycle and a red light at the back. There are battery-powered lights that you switch on only at night, and also lights that run on the kinetic energy of the front wheel (that's the one I have, and it makes such a fun revving sound when I'm cycling, but when it rains the connection isn't so good and it starts to blink.). If both lights fail you, or you prefer to decorate yourself, you can also wear the lights instead (clips onto your shirt or bag). Lights are important, because you could be fined 3o or 40 euros if you're caught cycling at night without lights!

The most common type of brakes here are the reverse brakes, which means you cycle backwards in order to brake! Of course, there's also handbrakes (but probably not authentically Dutch, haha) but the footbrake isn't so difficult to get used to once you try! It's also convenient if you're carrying a shopping bag full of groceries with one hand and steering with the other (common, common sight).

Another amazing thing I found out is that Dutch towns are pretty much all connected by small roads that you can cycle on. So even though Leiden is 10min away by train (which seems quite far), I see signs that it's only 20km away, which is totally bike-able! In an hour or maybe less. Although you'd have to budget a lot of time for reaching the town then. Heh.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Teaching

Our lecturer for Introduction to Economics is back! She had a back injury and was out of action for two weeks, during which we had several substitutes, all worse than each other. It almost made me want to switch over to Modern Economic Thought, but there's only 3 weeks left before the exams, and I can just read the textbook - there isn't anything new in the lectures.

Having to bear with questions during lectures are also getting frustrating. Firstly, I don't know if it's an European thing, but there's this complete lack of respect for the professor as a teacher. Sometimes people don't even let him/her finish speaking before jumping in with their questions. Worse, many questions are also irrelevant. At least for the introductory courses, which is what most of us are doing in this foundation term. They want to criticise the orthodox view, but there really isn't time to debate on how the accuracy of the textbook and how there are other kinds of 'nation-state' before the Treaty of Westphalia 1648. If you want to criticise orthodoxy, you have to know it in the first place.

In the 1.5 hours of lecture, the professor is already trying to explain the common (or hegemonic, if you like) concept of a nation-state. Also, it would be nice to not monopolise Q&A time by arguing with the professor on the abovementioned issues.

Respect, y'all.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Amsterdam

On Sunday my specialisation class (Women, Gender, Development) went to Amsterdam, but we didn't get to see much of the town. The plan was to meet at 2, walk around Amsterdam and then have a potluck dinner at our classmate's apartment. Yes, she lives in Amsterdam and takes the train to The Hague everyday!

But by the time we reached Amsterdam it was 4pm so we decided to have dinner first. Bad move - we only started moving at 6, and with 1.5 hours of daylight left we only made it past her neighbourhood full of wolf-whistling young men and to the river. Amsterdam really is a much prettier city, but for now I still like the cosiness of The Hague. (:


What was fantastic though, was the immense gastronomic spread for dinner. We each planned to bring a small amount of something from our countries (I contributed fried rice), which added up to a lot! Also, when you get a bunch of feminists around, all talked about was how certain men from certain countries behave in ways that are a big culture shock to other women in ISS.

We watched this film for Global Politics today, 'We'. It takes a speech from Arundhati Roy (the sweetest-looking person with the most piercing message!) analysing US hegemony and mashes it up with videos taken from global news channels. The parts on Palestine occupation were terrible, but it was also maybe worse to see our fellow classmate from Palestine cry during the film.

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