June 14th: The Stillness of Vermeer… in Delft…


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Will is already shopping for PhD programs and wanted to see Delft, so we drove there yesterday — after the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, Delft was like walking back in time, exuding the stillness of a Vermeer painting. The sun broke through and look at that sky and the way it’s reflected in the canal. You don’t have to go to Venice to see this kind of beauty. Vermeer captured something similar of his hometown, in the famous picture and View of Delft, although this postage type stamp doesn’t do the original any justice:

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And I apologize: I started this blog when I had just arrived at my brother’s but being back home is trying to get most mileage out of our connections with family and shoring up ties between me and my siblings. With both my parents gone, I feel I’ve cut the umbilical cord with my native country and the relationships with my siblings have suffered, too, which happens when you live at the other end of the world. I’m typing this at home, on the couch, early in the morning, waking up from a deep, jetlag-induced sleep.

Jon picked us up from SFO and we were immediately plunged into the Trump intrigues and lawsuits and, having driven on Dutch roads and highways, I couldn’t help but feel shocked with the third-world feel of our roads and traffic congestions. Waking up, I read this article in the NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/15/world/europe/climate-change-rotterdam.html?mcubz=1.

Over the centuries, the Dutch have turned a national and existentialist threat into an opportunity and the US seems more and more mired into the past where 19th-century solutions are supposed to solve 21st-century problems. So after living more than 23 years in this country, I feel, for the first time, that Europe, not the US is where the future and enlightenment lie, and some of this has to do with the fact that countries like the Netherlands haven’t abandoned their people. There may be poor people in the Netherlands, but most of them have access to food, free education, opportunity and health care that won’t break the bank.

Why does a country like America have so many hungry children? Surely, we have the wealth to feed those children? I do blame our leaders from both parties. We have become a corporate “democracy”, soon to be oligarchy, and while based on freedom, justice and liberty for all, we’ve lost touch with our foundation and values and are becoming a country like Brazil, when we should be emulating Western Europe, a place our founding fathers ran from.

So am I looking to move back? Yes. Or rather, ideally, I would like to downsize at home and dream of having a small place in the US and a small place in Europe.

But first I’ll have to work more to earn that. Speaking of which, I got the green light from Peet’s to translate the Dutch biography of Alfred Peet (another Dutchman, or, as the NYT obituary suggested at the time: the man who taught Americans/Starbucks how to drink and roast coffee) into English and met with the journalist who wrote the book (in Amsterdam). The book should be available at Peet’s stores before Christmas, so stay tuned.

Here are some more pics from my trip:

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Bathroom in Delft– the tulip doesn’t need to be watered; it gives you water when you hold your hands underneath it.

And here is Will in Delft, pondering PhDs in Europe: TU Delft? Zürich? Oxbridge?

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Family dinners:

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The new, and adorable addition to the family, Tom:

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More family…

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And yes, photo bombing is universal:

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Big bro at a local bruin café:

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Walks at 10 PM, still light outside:

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And amazing skies:

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Back home, the stillness of Vermeer, the simplicity of Mondriaan and the blessedness of above skies were quickly dissolved by the noise and madness of a country in turmoil. We can do better… not by closing our borders and building walls, but by borrowing what’s good, and pragmatic and what works elsewhere.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

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