Learning Dutch through movies: What I learned from Weg van Jou

If you are one of those who complains about Dutch music and movies, this post is probably not for you. Why? Because I am about to tell you why watching movies is one of the best ways to learn Dutch and get a glimpse of the beauty found in Dutch culture. 

The Importance of Laughter in One's Life

   Back in 2015 and during the two weeks I traveled with my darling to better get to know each other, I cried almost every day: out of laughter! Today, 1178 days after, it is still one of the reasons why I fall for him every time he says something funny. Who could resist him? Definitely, not me.

     Now, let's approach this issue seriously: Which role does laughter play in our lives? Should it be important? Does it lead us to more fulfilling lives, happier and healthier? We will all probably agree with most of these benefits, but if we classify them in two, I would say one must laugh with others and at oneself. A JA JA! Here is where I trip over and over. It is difficult to laugh at myself: Sometimes I can't laugh about something and I get all worked out. Good news is I am learning to just let things go. My sweetheart is the best example and a patient teacher!

     Having said this, I leave you with one of my favorite poems by Neruda. It is called Your Laughter*. Enjoy!

Quítame el pan, si quieres,
quítame el aire, pero
no me quites tu risa
Take the bread from me, if you want
take the air from me, but
do not take from me your laughter

No me quites la rosa,
la lanza que desgranas,
el agua que de pronto
estalla en tu alegría,
la repentina ola
de plata que te nace.
Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in your joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

Mi lucha es dura y vuelvo
con los ojos cansados
a veces de haber visto
la tierra que no cambia,
pero al entrar tu risa
sube al cielo buscándome
y abre para mí todas
las puertas de la vida.
My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

Amor mío, en la hora
más oscura desgrana
tu risa, y si de pronto
ves que mi sangre manch
las piedras de la calle,
ríe, porque tu risa
será para mis manos
como una espada fresca.
My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Junto al mar en otoño,
tu risa debe alzar
su cascada de espuma,
y en primavera, amor,
quiero tu risa como
la flor que yo esperaba,
la flor azul, la rosa
de mi patria sonora.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Magic and lessons from a photographer in the Netherlands: Agnieszka Błachnio, Madam Butterfly

     It was a sunny, September morning. I was sitting at her kitchen table, having coffee and observing every little detail around us: golden rimmed yellow cups, a crystal butterfly on the fridge handle, a luscious hanging plant above our sitting places, one of her cats by the window. Miss Butterfly had breakfast ready: butter in a tiny butter cup, wild berries jam, Amsterdam cheese, and an assorted selection of bread. As I took in the sweetness of the room, she got down to business and began preparing my cappuccino using both of her coffee machines: She favors one for making the coffee and the other for foaming the milk. The later has been with her since her days in Poland. I wonder if keeping it is not about the foam but about holding on to her once upon a time... 

     Our conversation is far from superficial. It's as we had known each other from before. Miss Butterfly, my Agnes, is a photographer, a mom and wife, a woman. A Polish woman. I ask why there weren't family portraits in the living room or hanging on a wall. Her answer baffled me. "They represent the past. I don't focus on the past out of respect for the future." 

     A couple of hours later, we went up to her studio and got ready for a photo shoot. I had previously asked if she could take one I could use for ARTSY's website. She had graciously accepted. During the session, one of the things I loved was that she said she would ask me questions before taking the photo and that I could always answer or refuse by saying I didn't want to answer that. Miss Butterfly told me, "A photograph is like a weapon, you click and the moment is gone." And so it was: She fired her question, then me having a reaction I couldn't see; and the instant gone by her killing the moment with a click. 

     A couple of weeks later, Agnes texted me, "We have one picture where magic happened." Now, let me tell you: If you look at it, it might seem like a beautiful black and white photo. But to me, it was overwhelming. It still is. I feel as if she has captured my soul, a very intimate piece of me. When I talked to her about how I felt, she said, "Of course! There is nakedness in it. That's the magic!" How I wish we could remember what was asked before she clicked...

     I have requested Miss Butterfly to please find one other photo for business use. This one I will keep for me. This one is me, naked.