In the words of Daniel Powter: I had a bad day

by racmccaf on 9 August 2010

Let this be quick, as my Monday blues don’t need to be relived in length. Let me also say, Jenny, I am doing this for you, as something in this blogging process helps me articulate what I am unable to while you patiently sit through my mumbles. Cross your fingers some wiki-worthy jargon will be born from this.

I can’t put my finger on what made yesterday so disagreeable for me (maybe it was the roll of toilet paper I accidentally knocked into the toilet, but who knows). I went to bed at a reasonable hour and got a solid seven or eight hours of sleep, but when my alarm shook me awake the last thing I was ready for was waking up. I got ready for my day, laid back down in bed, and reset my alarm for two minutes before I was due to meet the group in the classroom. I showed up entirely aware of the fact I must have looked like a zombie and paid .40 Euros for a cup of vending machine koffie. We listened to a lecture on and toured the Biljmer neighborhood outside the city center and it was a shockingly different place than what I’ve seen of Amsterdam. I believe our guest speaker, whose name is escaping me, mentioned Levittown in his talk to us, but that was what this whole experience reminded me of. I found the area to be very bizarre… though the landscaping was a nice touch. There was also a memorial of a plane crash in 1992 that was made up of small tile mosaics that really livened up the area they were in. Due to the sourpuss cap I had on yesterday, I took minimal pictures and I have only one worthy picture of these mosaic tiles in my camera memory (which I have yet to upload). When hunger set in around midday yesterday I was not sated by the two unexpectedly mealy satsumas I had packed. I was, however, greatly satisfied by the Surinam lunch we had. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was other than potato-curry-something, chicken-something, beans, and a pancake to wrap it up in. Delicious.

Cue the afternoon, where we would have presentations in front of our peers and instructors, as usual, as well as three academic Dutch (key word) scholars from UvA and VKS. Despite the presentation preparation Jenny and I had been doing all weekend, in the words of Miss Clavel, “something was not right.” After pouring our hearts and souls into bringing together gezelligheid and transportation in Amsterdam, I was worried the natives would not take Jenny’s and my project the way we were intending. Clifford had informed us that we would go first and I was looking forward to getting it out of the way and kicking back a little for the rest of the group’s shticks.

After we talked and after we were given (in my eyes) questionably constructive criticism from our panel, the gut reaction that went through my head that Jenny thankfully whispered to me was, “well, they hated it.” So for the next couple of hours, without wifi in the UvA building to launch my Dashboard version of solitaire, I listened to the rest of my group share their hard work while unsuccessfully trying to restructure our project. Jenny and I approached Clifford and Rob after this fateful acceptance of our project and they both greatly calmed my nerves.

To sum up why the panel didn’t seem to understand or like our project, I’ll put it in the words of Mirjam: “the first thing I wrote down was, ‘what?!’” We were asked why we chose to combine the two concepts of gezellig and transportation, told that we mustn’t romanticize biking because we are here during the summer and not commuting, informed that gezellig actually has a negative connotation with some people because of its over- and compulsory use (not something we found in our field work or literature by far), and told to address the issue that public transit is largely ongezellig (non-gezellig). After taking a step back after my bad day, from the in-the-moment perceived harshness in the critiques, and sleeping on it, I can see the value in the panel’s comments. If nothing else, I wish I had been quicker to my own defense yesterday. I’m not sure why I wasn’t. A couple of their comments were even partially making our point.

So in our defense…the Dutch people we encountered in our field work in Amsterdam, as well as the scholars present at the run-through, did not make or readily understand the association we are drawing between the presence of gezelligheid and transportation. We would argue that as outsiders this is what makes our research especially pertinent. It is not unique to our project that visitors (tourists, the recently relocated, etc.) see daily life differently than locals. I would imagine most people can say they have visited a new place and found joy in the mundane of that lifestyle but learn that the native people find that to be a crazy thought (perhaps until that daily norm is taken away?) Gezellig transportation is a correlation Jenny and I have identified in many situations through observation, which we plan to present determinedly through photo and video evidence (something we could have done much more yesterday). In response to the objection of Dutch people to see this relationship, we are working on presenting more data in our research to show where gezellig is NOT in fact present in transportation (see below). We will compile our video footage to support the Amsterdammer’s confusion by the association so we are better able to address and support our argument.

And contrary to popular (a.k.a. my) assumption, public transit (i.e. trams, buses, metro) is not a place where gezelligheid is predominant. I am disappointed to learn this because I get few greater zen-like experiences and enjoyably spontaneous tête-à-têtes with strangers than when riding TriMet. Regardless… as public transit, these methods offer exposure to other people and on paper DO indicate aspects of community, togetherness, and connection between people, yet our research has told us public transit is very ongezellig.The UnDutchables, a book by Colin White and Laurie Boucke, humorously captures the experience of public transit in Amsterdam, especially drawing attention to the ongezellig nature of the crowding, pushing, and repeated transit strikes. Instead of letting this hurt our argument, we will use it as an aspect of Amsterdam’s transportation system in need of improvement.

So in short, Jenny and I will not be abandoning or restructuring our project entirely. We are taking into account the very valid comment that public transit is a point of contention in our current argument and we will consider the negative connotation that supposedly comes with “compulsory gezelligheid.” We need to make sure our project is not idealizing Amsterdam but taking a realistic and holistic look at the city. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday caused me to lose sight of the fact that if our project is raising blood pressure a little bit then we have something worthwhile. Before gezelligheid came into the picture we were worried our project was too bland. I think we got what we wanted and rubbed them the wrong way just a little bit. So instead of letting them rub me the wrong way in response, we are sticking to our guns and will attack our project head on today.

(that was quick, no?)

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