07 Januari 2019
Karibu; "Welcome and at your service", is the title of this blog about my PUM-mission to Tanzania.
Karibu, because I felt very welcome in the organization Jobortunity and in the family of the director,
where I stayed almost a fortnight.
Every PUM-mission is different, that’s what makes the voluntary work for PUM so interesting. It was
my first visit to Tanzania and to East-Africa. In my mind I compared my first impressions to Niger
(my first PUM-mission in 2013), Aruba - where we lived from 1978 until 1984 - and Suriname, where I
have been quite a few times.
My impression now is that Tanzania comes closest to Suriname. The poor infrastructure, the crowds
in the street; with or without all kinds of trade, small shops, small enterprises in woodworking, welding,
cementblocks or just having a cow or some goats grazing besides the road. And all of that in a beautiful,
green environment, where almost no one really starves. The Arusha region also has some national
parks and stunning high mountains like Mount Kilimandjaro and Mount Meru. So tourism is also
In Jobortunity I found a modern organization with an engaged staff that developed their own strong
concept, which proved to be successful. Remarkable is that, although the circumstances in the region
of Arusha differ very much from those in the region of North Kennemerland in The
Netherlands, there are many similarities between Jobortunity (www.jobortunity.com) and “De Oude
Keuken” in Bakkum (The Old Kitchen; www.deoudekeuken.net).
Both organizations work for vulnerable groups, people with a distance to the labour market and fit within
the EU definition of social enterprises. By training, coaching and educating, both organizations greatly
increase the opportunities of these people to find a job, find an existence and find happiness. Although
the labour market in both regions differ significantly, they both provide in the demands of
enterprises for trained staff.
Both organizations exist since around 10 years, are founded by the current director (both women) and not
only proved their right to exist, but have grown to their current size into a solid organization. The
dilemmas are very similar; how do we go on? The will to grow is there, the will to still make
more impact on society, but how? There are limitations to the location. Which products and services,
which legal structure, with what staff, and so on.
The role and position of the director/founder also plays a factor in both organizations. Driven by passion,
the two women built an organization with a lot of pioneering, that demands - other than passion -
innovation and perseverance, which both women have to a great degree. But are these now the same
skills needed to run the organization in it's current form? Does their role as director offer a sufficient
challenge to them? I think I know the answer, but it is of course up to themselves to answer this
By doing the mission for Jobortunity in Arusha, which has not yet been completed as far as I am concerned, I
had the opportunity to advise on the strategic plan for 2019-2024 and I can use this experience for other strategic plans, De Oude Keuken included. What else could I wish for?
Tsjechië en Zwitserland
Afgelopen vakantie verbleef ik zowel in Zwitserland als in Tsjechië. We gingen na 22 jaar weer een keer terug naar het hooggebergte van Valais, Zuid-West Zwitserland. Vanaf 1976 zijn we daar een tiental keer geweest vanwege de mooie wandelingen en bergtochten.
Vanaf 2003 komen we ieder jaar een paar keer per jaar in Tsjechië, zeker in de zomervakantie. Ook hier gaat het om de mooie omgeving en de talloze wandelmogelijkheden.
De wandelmogelijkheden zijn niet de enige overeenkomst, beide landen zijn in Europese context kleine landen en volledig omsloten (“binnenstaten”). Sterker nog de grenzen worden gevormd door gebergtes en bergruggen, dat merk je nu nog steeds als je per auto de landen bezoekt.
Natuurlijk viel het ons op dat Zwitserland duur is, vrijwel alles is behoorlijk duurder dan in Nederland en dus zeker veel duurder dan in Tsjechië. Zowel in Zwitserland als in Tsjechië ging een koplamp van de auto kapot (links en rechts!). In Zwitserland kostte dat bij een lokale garage Sfr. 25,=, in Tsjechië (de andere koplamp) CZK 120,=, ofwel in Zwitserland ca € 22, in Tsjechië ca € 5,=.
De neutrale positie van Zwitserland heeft het land geen windeieren gelegd. Het behoort tot de rijkste landen van Europa en van de wereld.
Op enig moment in deze vakantie vroeg ik mij af waarom een met Zwitserland vergelijkbaar land als Tsjechië niet ook zo’n neutrale positie in Europa zou kunnen innemen? Is het vreemd of onverstandig dat Tsjechië worstelt met de vraag om toe te treden tot de eurozone? Tsjechië is natuurlijk lid van de EU, het draagvlak hiervoor groeit licht, maar er is zeker ook twijfel. (Waar niet trouwens?)
Even een paar karakteristieken (ter vergelijking):
|Opp.||41.543 km2||41.284 km2||78.866 km2|
|Bev.||17,1 miljoen||8,5 miljoen||10,7 miljoen|
|Bev.dichtheid||411,3 inw/km2||199,5 inw/km2||135,4 inw/km2|
|GDP per capita nominal $||48.223||80.190||20.368|
|GDP p.c. PPP $||52.941||65.006||36.916|
(PPP, purchasing power parity, dus reëel i.p.v. nominaal; World Bank 2017)
Tsjechië is dus bijna twee keer zo groot als Zwitserland, heeft twee miljoen inwoners meer, maar een Gross Domestic Product per capita (per hoofd van de bevolking), die zo’n 57% is van die van Zwitserland als het om koopkracht gaat en ca 25% als het om het nominale bedrag gaat.
Vertaald naar mijn koplampervaring. De reparatie kost ruim vier keer meer in Zwitserland, maar met die CZK 125,- kan de Tsjech (onze aardige garageman Martin Svarc van Auto Martin in Trutnov) gelukkig wel aardig wat kopen. En de verhoudingen lijken aardig te kloppen met de GDP cijfers. Statistieken die geloofwaardig zijn, dus.
Afkomst verloochent zich niet, het zou met het onderwijs te maken kunnen hebben. Hoewel het Tsjechische onderwijs niet direct slecht is te noemen, staat Zwitserland als het om de kwaliteit van onderwijs gaat, steevast hoog op de ranglijst.
Maar er zullen vele andere redenen zijn (ook historisch) die de grote verschillen kunnen verklaren. Ik blijf het een intrigerende vraag vinden en hoop in de loop van de tijd nog wat meer inzicht te krijgen. Suggesties en bijdragen zijn zeer welkom.
Mijn voorlopige conclusie is dat Tsjechië vooralsnog een lekker goedkoop, heerlijk vakantieland blijft. Ik denk dat ze kritisch EU-lid zullen blijven, maar uiteindelijk ook de euro zullen invoeren. Op langere duur zal dat de welvaart verder doen toenemen door een toenemende GDP per capita. Zwitserland blijft lekker eigenwijs zijn eigen gang gaan en blijft voor bergwandelaars heel veel bieden.
Werkgelegenheid en internationalisering
Niet alleen in Nederland is de werkloosheid laag, na seizoenscorrectie 4,1% in Mei 2018. In Tsjechië is het nó lager, 2,3%. Afgestudeerden van het hoger onderwijs hebben in Nederland en Tsjechië dan ook weinig moeite een baan te vinden. In de EU-28 vindt 80,2 % van de afgestudeerden binnen 3 maanden een baan. In Nederland is dat 90,4%, in Tsjechië 89,9%, dat ontloopt elkaar niet.
Heel anders is dat voor bijvoorbeeld Italië, 55,2% en Griekenland, 52,0%. Deze situatie leidt tot
internationale mobiliteit. Jonge mensen uit Italië, Griekenland en Spanje gaan studeren en werken in
landen als Nederland en Tsjechië. Iedere maand zoeken 150 tot 200 Griekse afgestudeerden werk in
Andersom zijn er jonge Tsjechen die in Europa op zoek gaan naar beter betaalde banen en jonge
Nederlanders naar waardevolle buitenlandse ervaring. Deze beide vormen van internationale
mobiliteit leiden gaandeweg tot een Europese arbeidsmarkt voor hoger opgeleiden. Een goede zaak,
voor de jongeren én voor Europa.
Subsidie kan daarbij helpen, zeker voor mensen en organisaties met weinig geld. De Europese Unie
heeft kort geleden besloten het budget voor het overkoepelende Erasmus + programma de komende
jaren fors te verhogen. Deze subsidie is bedoeld voor allerlei organisaties die met het opleiden van
mensen bezig zijn, ook “sme’s” (Small & Medium sized enterprises), waaronder sociale
Vanuit ons nieuwe (met zoon Bas gedeelde) kantoor in de inspirerende omgeving van Bakkum,
ondersteun ik graag organisaties, zeker ook MKB-bedrijven en sociale ondernemingen die mensen
opleiden, in het taaie aanvraagproces.
2018, een bijzonder jaar en dat is het
Ieder jaar is natuurlijk een bijzonder jaar, net als dat ieder mens een bijzonder mens is. Maar soms is een jaar extra bijzonder. Voor mij is dat dit jaar, het jaar 2018.
Hoewel het tegenwoordig geen pensioenleeftijd meer is en je je mag rekenen tot de jonge ouderen, is 65 nog steeds een mijlpaal en dat wordt ik in augustus (tenminste daar gaan we van uit). We gaan het vieren, maar niet met een groot feest. Dat hebben we ruim een half jaar geleden nog gedaan ter gelegenheid van ons 40-jarig huwelijk. We gaan met de kinderen en kleinkinderen veertien dagen naar Evolene in Zuid-West Zwitserland (kanton Wallis). In 1976, 42 jaar geleden, kwamen we daar voor het eerst als deelnemers aan een NIVON-bergwandelkamp. De prachtige omgeving met vele mooie en hoge (tot 3000 meter) bergwandelingen voerden ons ook in 1977 en 1978 (als leiding van NIVON kampen) en in 1985, 1990, 1992 en 1994 met de kinderen naar Evolene. Als mijn verjaardag in zo’n vakantie viel, wandelden we nogal eens de wandeling langs het stuwmeer en dan steil omhoog naar de Cabane de Dix. Dat gaan we opnieuw doen (proberen?).
50 jaar geleden, in 1968 werd Robert Kennedy vermoord. Ik was toen tamelijk politiek en maatschappelijk bewust en kan mij dit en de moord op Martin Luther King goed herinneren.
40 jaar geleden, in juli 1978 studeerden Marianne en ik beiden af. Ik doctoraal economie aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam, Marianne de HBO-opleiding NXX in Steenwijkerwold.
Het is dus ook 40 jaar geleden dat we de stoute schoenen aantrokken en met onze schamele bezittingen in een kist uit onze overigens fijne woning in Steenwijk naar Aruba vertrokken. Lang geleden, maar wat een impact op ons leven, en nog steeds.
Verder 30 jaar geleden de boerderij in de Boonakkersteeg gekocht van (Pepi) Houtenbos (met recht van bewoning, dus we moesten nog wachten). Onze monumentale én gerieflijke woning in een inmiddels groene oase als basiskamp van ons dagelijks leven.
15 jaar geleden met broer Rudo en schoonzus Elma ons heerlijke vakantiehuis in Tsjechië gekocht, hoe dan ook een prima investering in een familiehuis, waar we nog steeds erg van genieten.
Niet geheel toevallig ook 15 jaar geleden schreef ik mijn zelfanalyse “Geboren op de dertiende, toch een geluksjongen” in het kader van mijn outplacementtraject bij Van Ede en partners.
In Tsjechië wordt trouwens in 2018 bijzondere aandacht besteed aan historische mijlpalen met 8 in het jaartal, zoals de oprichting van de staat TsjechoSlowakije honderd jaar geleden, 1938, de inlijving door Hitler en 1968 de Praagse Lente, gevolgd door de inlijving door de Sovjet Unie.
Nu 5 jaar met ABP-keuzepensioen in combinatie met eigen bedrijfje, bestuurslid van sociale onderneming De Oude Keuken en PUM, nooit spijt gehad van deze keus.
Einde aan 2 jaar wethouderschap, overwegend met plezier en enthousiasme gedaan en veel van geleerd, maar nu weer helemaal klaar voor een nieuwe fase met mooie nieuwe klussen.
Vietnam 2015 Cultuurverschillen
In November 2014 I wrote in my blog “A fortnight in Vietnam”, about the possibility of returning to Vietnam. And I did, from 7th until 22nd November, I went back to Van Hien University in Ho Chi Minh City. It took a year to formalize the project based on my first mission. Partly because of policy on the PUM side in The Hague, partly because of developments within Van Hien University.
PUM is essentially meant for entrepreneurs. The motto is “entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs”, so if PUM supports educational institutes it has to lead to improvements in the functioning of businesses. That is why there have to be two partners from the industry in a Vocational Education Project. And although I met two last year, they have been replaced by two other companies.
In the meantime, there have been a lot of changes in the Van Hien University. The senior manager, who was the contact for our PUM local representative in HCMC, Mr Hai, left van Hien. The dean of the Faculty of Hotel and Tourism - the faculty from which the project runs - retired and is replaced by the associate dean. Mr. Frank Gerke, my previous contact has been appointed to dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Civilization. And last, but certainly not least, there has been an enormous growth in enrollment leading to pressure on facilities and building activities with high speed.
At the moment there are three general managers, each with his own field. One of them is Mr. Truong who is responsible for Business Operations and External Affairs. He is my new contact and project manager for Van Hien University.
Because of all these changes there was less attention to PUM, the project and to my presence. That’s why I could observe more and experience the culture and the differences with ours.
Openness is one of these differences. I didn’t get a real answer to the question why the two companies of last year (a very good hotel and a modern travel agency) were replaced, why Mr. Hai left the university and why Mr. Frank Gerke was appointed as dean of a new Faculty. The university does mention it as a very special occasion; the first non-Vietnamese person appointed as dean in a university in Vietnam.
I regularly and happily tell people about my private situation, how I live, what my family looks like etc. And although I've met some people for the second time, saw them almost every day, I seldom hear people telling me something about their private lives or even invite me to their home.
Hierarchy and bureaucracy
In every way people are sensitive to hierarchy. Stand up for your superior or strange guest, bow, wear a tie, obey orders, use the full and exact titles of people in documents. Documents play an important role anyhow, everything has to be written down, approved at the right level, signed, sealed etc.
People in Vietnam are used to deal with large sums, one euro is about 25.000 Dong. In shops you see nowadays that a price could be 25K in stead of 25.000. People don’t like to have paper money of small amounts, like 1000 or 2000. Avoiding them even leads to rounding amounts in favour of the client, like in taxis. Taxi drivers are in my experience very reliable. They all work with taximeters, have a nice “welcome message” on tape and only choose an alternative route through narrow allies to avoid traffic jams.
Receiving tips is not common, sometimes not even accepted. People just don’t see that it is necessary. Sometimes I still give a tip, under protest, because they really deserve it.
But handling money in organizations is something special. Only top managers are allowed. And paying non-residents in cash (and easily amounts of millions) have to be approved first, sometimes even by the police, I have been told.
Names in Vietnam
Names consist of three parts: family name, middle name and given name. Because there are only a few family names (158 names for about 90% of the population), which goes via the father, people are mostly referred to with their given name, even in more formal situations. Occasionally Mister, Misses, Doctor or General preceeds the name, so I was mostly called “Mr. Hugo”. Of course there are many exceptions to make it easy. To represent a generation, brothers and sisters often share the same middle name.
Weddings and celebrations
Weddings are often big parties. It is a thriving sector. It seems to help; divorce rate is lower than here. I didn’t really expect the Vietnamese people to drink beer, but beer is a part of celebration. Heineken is big in Vietnam, but there are also good local beers like Bia Saigon ("Bia" being a nice phonetic play on "Beer") and Tiger. It is served unchilled in cans or bottles, but you drink it from large beerglasses (jars like the German ones) and these are filled regularly with ice cubes. The beer is nice cold and this way you drink less beer.
People toast, not once, but many times and cheer “Yo”. Popular men visit all tables to toast. A real celebration calls for “karaoke”, which is very popular in Vietnam. All people climb the stage, take the microphone and sing. No matter what position you have in the organization, you just sing.
My experience with planning and making appointments is more that of loose planning or flexibility. For us it almost seems like “they cannot plan”. If I am asked to be somewhere at three, I am there at about a quarter to three, just to make sure. In this case I was picked up at about four o’clock. In a special country like this (I can remember the Vietnam war), I have enough to see and observe; I even talked to some students, but in The Netherlands it would be unacceptable.
I should've received my remuneration for expenses made in my first week (just like last year; about €25 per day), but this could not be realized. Instead, on my last working day I received 7.5 billion Dong.
Vietnam is still a country full of contradictions. Against the many small shops, workshops, restaurants, street vendors etc, there are large, very modern and luxurious shopping malls. In the streets you constantly wonder how people make a living, what they really sell for such little money. In the malls prices are at a European level, but it is very crowded and in the weekends it is crazy. People told me later that these malls are visited by the higher and middle class of the city. And as Ho Chi Minh City has a population of about 12 million these are large groups of people. The still larger lower class works and lives in the streets and can only gaze at the modern shops.
Opposite the building where I worked, I frequently drank coffee in a small café, ran by a friendly lady. I paid 17.000 Dong, so about € 0,70. In the Pandora mall, very close to my hotel, there were several coffee shops, also Starbucks. For a small latte I paid 65.000 Dong, about € 2,60, which is a lot of money in Vietnam.
The lunch I had a couple of times in Co Nam Bo, opposite the busy road, cost me about 20.000 Dong, around € 0,80 and consisted of a bowl of soup, rice with vegetables and meat, a nice sauce and water. In the food court in the Pandora Mall, I had a small pizza in the Pizzahut for 70.000 Dong.
In housing there also also big contradictions. Very simple small houses against large apartment flats, often in the same street.
Of course I should end with something on the original subject: education. I was allowed to join a lesson of Cuong and I appreciated that very much. Because it was quite a specific subject, customer relations, there was a relatively small group of about 50 to 60 students, about 50/50 male/female. Men in shirts with tie, women in nice traditional costumes. This is the outfit of the Faculty of Hotel and Tourism.
The lecturer projects sheets via the beamer on the wall, tells something about it and the students write the contents in their exercise book. A rather old fashioned way of teaching to us. After that they could ask questions to me and they hesitantly did. Questions related to the subject and what my opinion on it was. The education is delivered by a small team of lecturers, who actually lecture about 20 hours per week, but for groups of 50 to 200 or even 300 students. Because of the limited capacity of rooms and halls there are also lectures in the weekend.
Again a very interesting and fascinating experience. I sincerely hope I will be involved for some more years.
More than half a year ago, I received information from a friend about a possible Training Course in Palermo. It was an Erasmus + Key Action I (Mobility) Youth projectplan (www.erasmusplus.nl) . The plan was to design and realize a training course on social enterprises and social media.
Because of my work for the social enterprise “De Oude Keuken” (www.deoudekeuken.net) and for the Youth Organization Egmond Binnen (JOEB), I decided to apply for participation. Also SMEs or self employed people, like me, can participate in EU programs.
Early 2015 we got the information that the project was approved by the Italian National Agency, and so on the 6th of June, I flew from Amsterdam, via Milan to Palermo. On my way to a rather unknown adventure.
Not to my surprise the group consisted of 30 people from 21 countries, about 50% coming from The Mediterranean countries like Maroc, Tunesia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.
Hoewever to my surprise, I was the eldest participant by far. It felt a little bit strange in the beginng, but after a while I didn’t notice it at all.
The group was almost locked into an old monastery on a hill, outside Palermo. A very nice place with a great view on Palermo and a good atmosphere to work as a group.
It was a well-designed course with a nice variety of activities and constructed from a theoretical approach to real (project)ideas. With nice energizers we started our plenary sessions in the mornings and the afternoons. Plenary theoretical introductions were followed by group assignments. The results were presented by the groups and every day there was a interesting group evaluation.
I learned a lot about social enterprises, social media, delivering a solid training and about organizing such a project, which looks like the “old” Study Visits. I would like to organize some of these in my region in the near future.
I also learned a lot from my fellow participants and their diverse cultural backgrounds. I am quite used to working with collegues from different countries, but mostly restricted to European countries. But fellow participants from Tunesia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israël, Palestine gave another dimension to the diversity.
We also had a lot of fun and we visited Palermo. We got an impression of the movement against the mafia Addio Pizzo (www.addiopizzo.org) and CESIE itself (www.cesie.org), an active organization with a lot of projects and connections. In the afternoon we made a walk through the nice inner city of Palermo.
I am glad I did this training course, will get my Youth Pass (at 61), made new friends and found some new projects to work on.
GREXIT and CRENTER
During the EU fuzz around Greece, still not over, I was wondering what the Czech economy looks like compared to the Greek one? Assuming the Czech Republic will join the Eurozone in some years from now.
I think I can already say that the Czech economy is ready for it. The Czech Republic is able to fulfill the criteria. We can also state that the European economy changed for the good. Of course, the crisis in the Ukraïn has a negative effect, but the economy seems to recover slowly but steadily of the deep and long banking and real crisis. It makes the switch in the Czech Republic from Crown (Koruna) to Euro more attractive.
CEZ as, Finance Chief, Martin Novak said on March 24 that the euro switch would aid Czech companies. And there is more positive thinking about the EU in the CR.
What do we see, if we compare the Czech with the Greek (and for the sake of comparison) the Dutch economy?
In population both countries are almost equal, 10,5 million in the CR, 10,8 in Greece. In terms of area the CR is twice as big as the Netherlands, Greece is about three times the Netherlands.
The purchasing power GDP for the CR is 313 billion USdollar , in Greece 271. Per capita in the CR 29.658 in Greece 22.574, in the Netherlands 798 billion US dollar and per capita 47.365.
The state debt ratio in Europe is in average 92% of the Gross Interior Production, in The Netherlands 66%, in Greece 130% and in the CR 40%. Unemployment is at the moment about 7% in The Netherlands and the Czech Republic, in Greece 27%.
For the EU there is an important social criterium, “people at risk of poverty or social exclusion”. The Czech Republic has the lowest percentage in the EU in 2013, 14,6 and decreasing. In The Netherlands it is 15,9 and
Last but not least, there is the “world competitiveness scoreboard (of 60 countries). The Netherlands kept from 2013 to 2014 the 14th place, Greece dropped from 54 to 57, the Czech Republic rose from35 to 33. The most problematic factors on doing business in the CR however were the inefficiency of government bureaucracy and corruption. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Apart from the position of Greece (personally I am not in favour of Grexit), the Cezch Republic shows good marks for the economy and would be a profit to the EU economy. On the other hand, we personally like the Czech Koruna ánd the still low prices for going and eating out.
The Rich Czech Culture
Many people don’t realize the richness of the Czech culture. Sometimes people just don’t know that famous people like Franz Kafka and Alfons Mucha were Czech. Or that great creations like Soldier Schweijk, Mole and Pat and Mat are Czech. And that The Mole and Pat and Mat are fine examples of the strength of Czech animations production. Everybody knows Vaclav Havel, but he was not only politician and statesman, but also a writer and an innovator of culture.
Recently I myself enjoyed reading three novels in one collection of Bohumil Hrabal. “Closely observedtrains”, “I served the King of England” (the movie is also very nice) and “Too loud a solitude”. All three masterpieces according to me.
Also in “our” region, North East Bohemia, famous writers and artists are never far away. In the Upavalley, where we regularly walk, the life of Babicka (grandmother) was lived as written down by Bozena Nemcova (04/02/1820 – 21/01/1862). The story is famous in the Czech Republic, it is part of the education because it contains a lot of cultural traditions. Because of the hard work of Kees and Paulien Plaisier of the Babicka Foundation, there is a Dutch translation available. This year I will go and walk with still more joy in the Babicka Valley (Babiccino udoli).
On the other side of “our” mountain range (the Jestrebi Hory) we find Male Svatonovice, a pilgrimvillage, where the two brothers Karel and Josef Capek were born. Josef Capek was a sculptor, Karel (09/01/1890 – 25/12/1938) a writer. He was one of the most important Czech writers. He wrote famous novels like “War with the Newts”and the play “R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)”, in which he introduced the word “robot”. We like to hike in the surroundings of Male Svatonovice, we park our car on the small square in front of the church with the holy spring (where people still come with jerrycans to take the healing water) and the statue of the brothers Capek and after a day hike we have dinner in restaurant Salamander, named after the novel of Karel Capek. Just a few weeks ago I read his novel “Privni Parta (the first team)”, about the life (and death) of mineworkers. A good novel and interesting also because I now understand my nabour in Jivka a little bit better. He was a mineworker in the mine of Radvanice. One of the former owners of our house was also a mineworker there. He was German, but was not expelled because he worked in that mine.
One of the vibrant towns in te region is Hronov. Again also a nice starting/ending point for hikes. Hronov is the birthplace of Alois Jirasek (23/08/1851-23/04/1930), his name is connected to a lot of streets, chata (mountain cottages), restaurants, the theatre etc. The house where he was born is still there and is a small museum now. Jirasek wrote historical novels. Every year, unfortunately just after our holidays, there is an international youth theatre festival in Hronov. Young amateur actors from various countries gather to do performances and acting. The festival is named after Jirasek.
The writer Egon Hostovsky (23/04/1908-07/05/1973) was also born in Hronov. He worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brussels and Paris during wartime, but fled afterwards to the US. His father, sisters and their families were all killed in the concentration camps.
These writers were all symbolic for the resistance against the upcoming Nazism, fascism andcommunism. Karel Capek died in December 1938 as a broken man, just after the Treaty of München in September 1938, in which the Western European countries abandoned Tsjecho-Slowakia.
Vaclav Havel participated in the revolution, he embodied it, became president and lived the last years of his life in a small place called Hradecek near Trutnov, where he also worked earlier in his life.
So enough culture next to the magnificent nature and I enjoy it still more now I know a little bit more of the history and the culture of our region.
P.S. I would like to organize a hiking week with the theme “famous writers of the region”. Any suggestions or reactions are quite welcome.
EfVET Conference October 2014 in Porto, Portugal.
EfVET, European forum of Technical Education and Training is an association dominated by Scandinavian and Dutch members. That is why the yearly conference in October this year was held in Porto. In fact, with only a few exceptions most of the 23 conferences were organized in Southern Europe (in 2015 in Cyprus).
Most participants of the conference, mostly also members of EfVET come from the Scandinavian countries, especially Denmark and Finland, and from the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, the UK and Germany. Unfortunately still only a few from Central and Eastern Europe.
It is still a mixture of coordinators/project leaders internationalization (about 75%) of schools in VET, Vocational Education and Training, managers, directors and board members (20%) and a number of intermediaries, consultants, like myself in the last two years. The conference was also a healthy mix of “EfVET veterans”, including myself after 9 conferences in 10 years, and new participants, many young and enthusiastic colleagues.
The conference has two main aims, discussing relevant developments and policies of the European Union and in various ways, talk to each other about running projects and new ideas. The conference offers a lot of opportunities to meet each other. Especially the “round tables” sessions are very suitable. In two rounds I talked about the possibilities of training and educating young persons with a mental handicap (number 14 on the EfVET website/round tables). After good discussions I now have some positive potential partners for this project.
With the information about Erasmus + and the experiences with Call 2014, I have enough input to work on a couple of projects for Call 2015, of which the deadlines will be in March 2015. Especially the presentation of Mr. Joao Santos of the EC called: “EU VET policy- Assessing progress and addressing challenges” is very valuable, see the EfVET website.
I am also working on a project to send Czech teachers to the Netherlands for a good introduction of the Dutch vocational education.
Nice and interesting projects for me to work on in the coming months.
A fortnight in Vietnam
A fortnight is of course not very long. Just about a regular holiday. But by living in Ho Chi Minh City like I did, I got a good first impression.
In my second PUM-mission, I had to analyze the curricula of the Faculty of Hotel&Tourism of the Van Hien University, give feedback, present an alternative and give recommendations. Van Hien (meaning something like “the way to civilization”) University is part of the Hung Hau Holding, so a private institute.
With the information I got on paper and verbally, it became quite clear that this faculty wants to prepare graduates for jobs in the hotel and tourism industry, but tries this at the moment with a very theoretical education.
As a starting point of my analysis, I took the statements of a Vietnamese professor that the productivity in Vietnam is not only very low, but also declining. To raise productivity of employees, they need to be well trained and permanently trained.
That is why I recommended to strengthen the relationships with businesses and enlarge practical training as much as possible. I presented the Hotelschool The Hague as an alternative, an institute which trains and educates the students in a completely different way.
I cannot say much (yet) about the Vietnamese culture. People are nice, not too submissive and with a certain distance. In the neighborhood where I stayed, I was an attraction. It is a real tropical country, where people live outside, in the city it means in the street. Despite the rain that fell every day in this rainy season. It is a habit to have a rest on or behind your desk. Originally because of a very busy life, early rise in the morning, double jobs etc. If this is still the case, I doubt, but there is nothing wrong with a power nap.
In Ho Chi Minh City live about 9 or 10 or 12 (who knows) million people. Most of them own a scooter or motorbike. That means there are millions of them in the city. Fortunately they ride on motorbikes today, but what will happen when incomes rise and they will buy a car? The city is totally filled up with motorbikes. Every shop, restaurant, school and office is barricaded by motorbikes. The roads are full of them, but not only the roads, people also ride on the pavements, through red traffic lights and one-way roads. Crossing a street requires a very special skill. You cannot wait for the right moment (it will take forever), you just have to go. Walk slowly, wave your arms and they will go around you.
I stayed on the top floor of a school building in Dien Bien Phu street. Dien Bien Phu is the site where the Vietnamese defeated the French in the Independence war. In the Saigon Film School I was interviewed by a local tv-station. An interesting experience. Because of the time it would be broadcasted, I had to say “Good morning, audience”. It was however late in the afternoon, so after two mistakes I managed to say “Good morning, audience”, and was thinking about the impressive movie Good Morning, Vietnam, with the incredible Robin Williams.
During my stay in Vietnam I also bought and read two books, “The sorrow of war” by the Vietnamese author and veteran Bao Ninh, and “Sputnik sweetheart” by Haruki Murakami. Not entirely by coincidence two books of Asian writers, although selected in one of the few bookstores with English books, at random.
There are many similarities between the two books. Both books are about promises of great loves never to become real and people searching for their destiny and life. The book by Boa Ninh is about an (ex-) Vietnamese soldier who fought in the “American was”, a war that damaged societies and millions of lives, and what for?
That’s what one wonders about, walking in Vietnam today.
It was a special experience for me and I hope I will go back to Vietnam some day.
Six days in Czech
From the 13th until the 18th I was in the Czech Republic. I had a very nice program, from the presentation of the Dutch version of “Babicka” by Bozena Nemkova in Ceska Skalice, the celebration of “Prinsjesdag” in Prague, four visits to schools near Trutnov, to three walks and enjoy reading “Running” by Jean Echenoz about the famous Czech runner Emil Zatopek.
During the break of the folkloristic concert in the Bozena Nemkova Museum, Cees and Pauline Plaisier of the Babicka Foundation, handed over the Dutch translation of Babicka, i.e “Grootmoeder” to the director of the museum. I also bought a copy and it is a very nice book, beautifully illustrated by the Czech artist Tesar. It is very nice and interesting to read about the events and the customs of the grandmother and the family in the Upa valley. The beautifull valley where we also walked many times.
The “Prinsjesdag” event organized by the Netherlands Czech Chamber of Commerce, was, of course, dedicated to the Kings’ speech (“troonrede”) which was spoken earlier that day and the state budget proposal for 2015 (“miljoenennota”). In the nice entourage of the New Town Hall in Prague, the Dutch ambassador in Prague, highlighted the Kings’ speech and the state budget. More interesting for me was the presentation of Mr Jiri Roznok, former priminister of the CR, about the Czech economy. With some charts and grahps he illustrated the strength and stability of the Czech economy. In terms of o.a. growth, unemployment, state budget deficit and poverty, the CR is doing very well. Are we aware of this in Europe? Do we in the Netherlands know about the strong economy of the Czech Republic? Should the CR be a bit more confident in the European setting and leave the shyness, which was also typical for the start of the impressive international career of Emil Zatopek?
I visited four schools, one in Nachod, three in Trutnov and talked about internationalization. My assumption that these small schools don’t have the capacity and the resources to initiate international projects, seemed to be true. There is some international experience, with Austria in specific, but finding partners for structural partnerships is hard. I hope I can help.
It was also nice to visit the school of which two enthusiastic teachers and a group of students built our wooden garden house in Jivka. I had lunch in the Junior restaurant; nice. A lot of students still get stressed if they have to speak English. That needs attention.
Because we rented our house in Jivka (guests seemed to be happy when I dropped by), I stayed in Pension Pohoda in the centre of Trutnov. Very nice to experience that and to notice that the hotel and tourism industry in Trutnov professionalized a lot during the last decade. Friendly staff (English speaking), good and well cleaned room, good food, quick interenet. Excellent.
And there was also some time left for hiking. One hike for a whole day, two for half a day. Because of the nice warm weather, I enjoyed it a lot. Every time again, after 11 years, I think “this nature, these surroundings are so beautiful”.
I am happy with the EU. Because it gave me the opportunity to participate in a study visit. Unfortunately this was the last possibility.
Many years ago, while being a director with ROC Leiden, I also participated in one in Turkey. Now I joined as an independent advisor and entrepreneur.
From the 2nd to the 7th March I was with 12 participants from Spain, Portugal, Romania, France, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Estonia and Iceland in Podêbrady, a town about 50 km east of Prague, Czech Republic.
The theme of this visit was the relationship between (vocational) education and the industries. It has always been one of my favourite, ever current subjects.
We learn from each other by all the presented examples from the various countries, but also by the visits we made to schools in Podêbrady, Lysa nad Labem, Kutna Hora and Prague. Very special for me was the way in which these, relatively small schools, offer good quality education by creating a very good atmosphere within the team. Despite the occasional mediocre circumstances.
Because I arrived a day before the official start, I could enjoy the Sunday in Podêbrady. And this second March was the first day of spring, a blue sky and very nice weather. And I enjoy the way Czechs spend such a day. Walking, hiking, cycling, roller skating along the Labe river. And of course have a rest and a beer, that day even outside in the sun. Czechs know how to enjoy such a day in a simple manner.
During the program I noticed that we, in the Netherlands, think we have a (special) link with the Czech Republic, but the Czechs pay more attention to France, Germany, Spain and the UK, if only for the (far more important) languages. If we really want to have a connection with the Czech Republic, we will have to work actively on it.
However, it feels nice to comprehend and speak a number of languages reasonably well. Speaking English is almost a necessity, German and French handy, a bit of Spanish and Papiamento nice, and of course, a little bit of Czech useful. But oh, it’s still very hard.
The organisation by Eva Svobodova, from the Hotel school in Podêbrady, our hostschool of this study visit, was excellent and the group of 13 random people from Europe was positive, enthousiastic and disciplined. If this would be average, Europe will do well!
I enjoyed it very much and I know for sure: Na Shledano!
Last week Marianne and I returned from our holidays straight back to our work and daily routine. On Monday we both went on our bikes to work. It was 4 degrees Celsius, dry with a bit of sun. Holland is so very green compared to the dry and dusty Autralia.
Apart from our very pleasant stay, over a week, with my sister, her Australian husband, daughters and lovely granddaughter in Melbourne, these have also been holidays in which my interest in diversity was satisfied.
By coincidence we came across the work of the Australian video artist Angelica Mesiti in the beautiful Museum of Modern Arts (MOMA) in Brisbane, as well as in the Australian Centre for The Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne. In Brisbane we watched the video production called “Citizens band 2012”. Portraits of four people coming from another culture, making music in a very ordinary, daily environment in some western city. A girl from Cameroon splashed with her hands a melody on the surface of a swimming pool in Paris. A man from Nepal, playing his two-snared instrument sang a song using throat techniques. A taxi driver in the US - a graduate of an African Conservatory - whistled a beautiful song in his cab. I was really touched by the Algerian singer with a small organ who played and sang a very melancholic song in a subway station in Paris to which many travellers didn’t pay any attention at all.
Video art is a fine example of an art form that can give a truly effective view on the rich diversity this world has to offer.
Working along the same line was the "The Calling", a video production of Mesiti on display in Melbourne. This time sightly images and recordings of people in Turkey, Greece and the Canary Islands, who communicate with each other over large distances by means of whistling. Beautiful.
If you're interested, do a youtube search on Angelica Mesiti.