This post doesn't deal at all with the current travel adventure that I've been fortunate enough to undertake (the next post will go back to normal), but I wanted to share some thoughts about what has happened in Haiti.

Like pretty much everyone on the planet, I've tried to make sense of it. Most of us (myself especially) tend to try to fit every tragedy, personal or public, into some kind of box, to try to understand it and define it. This one doesn't seem to fit any box, however.

Why would such a brutal event occur to a people who were already so devastated by decades of violence, poverty, and corruption? Why, despite some struggles along the way, do so many of us in the Western world continue to get mostly a free pass? And there is no answer.

A more obscure thought occurred not only concerning what I was reading when I first learned about it, but where I was reading about it. Just how warm, comfortable, and well-fed was I at the exact moment it came up on my screen via the Globe and Mail website from Canada? And how much did I actually appreciate where I was at that exact moment, in light of the petty mental meanderings about my uncertain future, occasional bouts of expat lonelineness, lousy weather, government red tape hassles, and so on?

How many of us were in our office at the time of first reading about it, possibly grumbling to ourselves about the $50,000/year job again; or were watching on our high-def TV in a warm home, stewing over some idea that our partner was not meeting our selfish needs at the moment?

Of course there has been a massive outpouring of charity and aid from so many people for Haitian relief, and most of us really do the best we can on a daily basis juggling family, relationships, work, finances, kids, health and so on - so this is not some finger-wagging commentary at all.

But personally, hopefully, thoughts like this cut a small groove in the brain, one that stays there and provides me with a good 'hey, idiot, wait a minute' before I'm the guest of honor at my own psychological pity party the next time I encounter a hardship that really doesn't mean anything at all.

Vondel Vinter


My Dutch friends will forgive me if I don't share in their delight at the novelty of snow appearing on streets, bikes, and in parks this winter. Having left Canada after 37 years, I've seen enough of the stuff to last a lifetime. But I understand their glee - it can go years without snowing here, so a blanket of the white stuff must seem like a nice change of scenery. I could just as soon do without this anomalous avalanche of a winter though.

To mes Amsterdam amis: to put to my "bah, humbug" attitude into perspective, imagine going to Canada for a visit and having cheese fall from the sky; a bunch of us natives would be making cheesemen and throwing cheeseballs, laughing all the while, and you might be a little reticent about it all as you've seen plenty of kaas your whole life.

Rather than sit in my apartment and wait for the melting to begin, however, I decided to take advantage of the photo op this latest frosting provided. It's also interesting to contrast the Vondelpark with similar photos taken in early November as seen in this post. It's not the best way to survive winter, but for today it was more than Gouda enough.