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Warning About Downtime/Weird-Time

February 27, 2010

I am thrilled to announce that Maastricht Minutiae is finally moving to its own servers space with a brand new look, some fresh features, and I hope a big future as I continue to write about Maastricht, the surround area, and expat living in this little corner of the Netherlands. We’ve got at least two more years in Maastricht and I invite you all to stick around to experience it with us.

Now the Bad News: Downtime.

The move will take place on Monday. Because of a fancy script on my new site and the fact that my domain name is currently pointing here (wordpress.com), there will be a some downtime while I transfer the domain and get the script activated with my host. This will probably take place in the early/mid-afternoon for those of you in the Netherlands since that’s when my host becomes available to help me. Please bear with me as the new site gets rolling.

Have a Great Weekend and I’ll see you all on the other side of the move.

Tuesday: Closing Out Carnival

February 26, 2010

The final day of Carnival featured a handful of activities. Namely a concert, a children’s costume contest, and the closing ceremony. We decide that we just had to attend the closing ceremony (we were erroneously told that they burned ‘t Mooswief at the end of each Carnival and weren’t going to miss that) at midnight. To spice things up we also opted to check out the “Zate Hermeniekes-concours” (All-Band Concert) on the Vrijthof at 2:11 pm.
 
All-Band Concert
The concert on the Vrijthof had drawn a moderately sized crowd by the time we arrived but fewer people were costumed. Unsure about temperature we had only worn light versions of our costumes; which turned out to be fairly sensible. The bands had lined up in front a a stage with the Prince and his attendants. Between announcements and speeches they took turns walking in front of the stage and playing various traditional tunes.

We watched and listened for a little while and then wandered down towards the Markt square. On the way we found that all the bands not on the Vrijthof were instead all over the shopping area of Maastricht, marching and playing music. We even found some battling trumpets and drums on the steps of the VVV.
 
Carnival Group Photo
Later we suited back up for one more night of Carnival and had the good fortune of running into a few people from our Dutch class. At first it seemed almost quiet on the Vrijthof; one of the cafes we’d visited on Sunday was nearly empty. But soon we discovered that the party had just moved to the Markt square. As before several bands were out in force, marching, battling with drums, and otherwise just making music all over the place. We ended up in a cafe on the corner of the Markt square where the “orc” band had its home base and enjoyed a drink before moving on.

After a mediocre stop in a bar with a younger crowd who didn’t seem to really be into the spirit of the holiday (lame costumes and electronic music), we wandered back towards Grote Straat with the intention of finding another cafe in which to while away the last 20 minutes or so before midnight. That’s when the sea of people caught us all up and swept us up to the packed Vrijthof. Clearly many people had gone out specifically for the final event of Carnival.
 
Closing Ceremony
With speeches and song the Carnival of 2010 came to a close at midnight. After three days of hearing the tunes, I’d finally discovered a few that I could sing along to (la, la, la) and we joined the people around us following the tune if not the words. Even though I couldn’t understand the speeches or follow precisely what was going on, I was swept up in the emotion and felt as comfortable in Maastricht as I have in a long time.

And no, there was no fire involved.

See more of my Carnival Photos here.

This is the fourth and final article in my Alaaf! Carnival 2010 Recap Series.

Monday: Calm with a Side of Drum Band

February 24, 2010

Monday we woke up late and opted to stay home for the most part since the only event happening was a children’s parade and I had no idea what time it was. The decision was a good one as I learned later that it started very late and it was quite cold.
 
Sleeping Mandy
 
Of course with our proximity to the Prince of Carnival’s home meant that we didn’t have an entirely quiet day. Several times throughout the day we popped open the windows to listen to the bands moving in and out of the cafes across the street.
 
Pre-Carnival Band
 
On a bit of an aside, my cats have both been really interested in Carnival as well. They each jump up and stare out the windows every time a band strikes up. Einstein has insisted on sitting on my desk to have a better view of the pubs.

See more of my Carnival Photos here.

This is the third article in my Alaaf! Carnival 2010 Recap Series.

Pecha Kucha 5: Twitter Style

February 22, 2010

I’ve written about Pecha Kucha before but the most recent event had some great speakers and interesting subjects. Here are my thoughts on each presentation in 140-characters each (not including speaker’s name & presentation name).

If you are not already, you can also follow me on Twitter and I’ve made a couple free to use Dutch-themed Twitter-backgrounds as well.
 
 

  • Susan Schaefer- The Poetry of Change: Blending original and classic poetry together, Susan created a spiritual call to bring about altruistic self-change.
  • Christianne Rousseau- Bedroom Batteries: Christianne wants bedrooms to be rich, private, & public. In my little apartment my bedroom only doubles as storage space.
  • Catalina Goanta- Why Scholarships Help: Two inspiring stories about students who attending Maastricht University against serious odds. Scholarships=good. Obviously.
  • Mark Post- Meat Out of Stem Cells: Creating meat out of muscle stem cells for land use efficiency. Gut reaction = Ew. Can science save the planet? Do we trust our leaders?
  • Nelleke Barning- Web 2.0 = Personal: We’re all minstrels now. Bloggers & twits already know that, but it was a good talk.
  • Lemke Kraan- DJ Anti-Panda: Pandas are an evolutionary dead end? Interesting perspective, but unfair to declare evil even if they would have died out without our help.
  • Fons de Jong- Stones and Water in 2018: Bring fountains & Mediterranean feeling to Maastricht. I don’t think I understood this one. Mtricht is too cold for the Mediterranean.
  • Adina Raducanu- Legal Anthropology: Disappointing. I hoped she’d discuss modern architecture and if it still is culturally ‘legal’ feeling. Got a lame movie comparison.
  • Mirek Hazer- Cyber Warfare: Stop using the Internet! Its dangerous and you don’t get it anyway!
  • J-M Crapanzano- Art Exhibitionist: I like interactive art exhibitions too. Inspired me to revisit an old college art project.
  • Danielle Bakkes- Canals in Maastricht: Plan to add canals to accommodate increase in water due to Climate Change. Huge 40 year project, but interesting and valuable.
  • Eric Joris- Shared Bodies: Performance VR puts the audience (performers?) literally in each others heads with 360-mirrors, cameras, and sensory deprivation. Bizarre.

All performances are in English. If you are an expat in Mtricht, why weren’t you there.

See you at Pecha Kucha 6 in May!

Cute Twitter bird icon created and distributed for free use by DeIlustration.

Sunday: A Strong Beginning

February 22, 2010

mooswiefCarnival officially kicked off at 12:11 on the Vrijthof with the raising of the Mooswief doll, but Dan and I were antsy so we got dressed up and left early with the intention of prowling the streets. I dressed as a blue punk rocker cat-girl (kat-meisje) complete with tail. Dan wore a foppish, multicolored Victorian-esque jacket and hat along with his old Renaissance Faire shirt. Both of us had lots of layers on in a rather desperate attempt to keep the chill off. My toes froze anyways.

Leaving early turned out to be a great idea when we were lured by music down a side street and into a ceremony being performed in front of the Prince of Carnival’s ‘Palace’ (his home). How lucky that we just happened to live nearby. Even though we didn’t understand much from the speeches (a word here and there) it was fun to see this small, side event and the people who were (we suspect) from the neighborhood.

Towards the end of the ceremony, a Tempeleer member attempted to unfurl a banner hanging on the palace to commemorate the day. The plastic covering got stuck and they eventually were forced to bring in a ladder and handyman. This caused a lot of merriment among the onlookers and speakers.

Banner Trouble

About that time we took our leave and headed down to the Vrijthof, sure that there would already be a crowd waiting to watch the opening ceremonies. Boy, were we wrong. Maybe it was because of the cold, but very few people were there when we arrive. It wasn’t until about 20-30 minutes before noon that groups began to trickle in with their elaborate costumes and carts. We discovered later that many of them were in the parade.

Opening Ceremonies
The opening ceremony itself seemed long and involved a lot of noise. After a speech or two a small cannon was brought out and fired first by an organizer and then by the Prince. At this point I figured they were done, but no. It turns out that after raising the Mooswief doll, the cannon needed to be fired an additional 9 times. 11 blasts in total of course. We didn’t wait for all the bangs. It got too cold so we met up with a classmate and wandered for a while in search of a place to watch the parade until we discovered that it didn’t start until 3 pm. We lunched at John Mullins while waiting.

The Parade

A Mix of Revelers
The Maastricht Carnival parade was both an impressive and, like much of the Carnival activities here, rather casual with people drinking and chatting as they strolled with their push/pull floats down the narrow street from the train station, over the St. Servaas Bridge and beyond.

flower people

Flower Power!

While there was a great deal of variation in themes and complexity, the most impressive costumes were the coordinated groups. One of my favorites was a group of people with flower blooms perched on top of their heads and spring green coats and dresses to simulate stems.
 
 
 
 
 
 
crossing guardsThe “Belgian” crossing guards complete with crossing bar would have been more amusing had they not blocked off the parade route in front of the St. Servaas bridge and slowed things down even more.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Most of the bands we would encounter in the evening and over the next couple of days were also in the parade. Some wore elaborate, thematically-colored costumes and painted their faces to match. What was really impressive was the variation within the group color scheme. Within the same band, individuals had customized their costumes to different lengths, motifs, stitch, etc. while still maintaining the overall look.
Blue  & Black Drum Band
Other bands, the so-called, Drunk Bands were not coordinated at all; their varied but still frequently elaborate costumes lending to their chaotic air.
 
The parade slowly wound along for about an hour until our fingers and toes were too cold. We slipped back inside John Mullins to meet up with a couple more expats and then found our way back towards the Vrijthof and the party already well under way there.

Crazy Times

Stepping away from the regular events of Carnival, we discovered the even more casual and potentially crazier aspect of celebrations in Maastricht. The cafes. And the costumes.

Cafes
Inside a Pub
All of the cafes in the old part of Maastricht around the squares had prepared for the large influx of people by moving all of their tables and chairs out and setting up outdoors glass collectors and bars. Carnival folk music was the order of the day at most of the places we went, with the occasional modern (or at least English-language) song making its way into the mix.
 
We wandered down a side street to the slightly less packed Café Cliniq first where they were serving beer and some fried food options and met up with some more classmates. Like many of the cafes we visited, the walls had extra panels covering all the walls for decoration. It was there we were surprised to discovered small children running around the crowd and playing Frisbee with beer coasters. Clearly family was an important part of the celebrations; resulting in an odd scene for Americans.
 
We then moved on to the Vrijthof to the Perron again and then down to the Onze Lieve Vrouw Plein. This third location teamed with people and seemed to have attracted many of the parade participants.
 
Costumes
Green Family in Parade
A somewhat unique aspect of the Maastricht carnival is that nearly all the participants dress up and paint their faces. Some only chose to wear a colorful scarf or boa, while others got a Halloween-esque route (like us), and still others have developed intricate costumes made of various types of fabrics and themes.
 
squidAs befits this particularly cold Dutch winter, many costumes we saw were warm looking. A number, like the awesome squid costume, were actually made out of quilted coats. Definitely a smart move. Like the bands, families and couples usually had coordinated costumes.
 
Many of the participants (particularly the older ones) dressed in complex and interesting “garb”; their faces painted or covered with intricate masks and lots of lace. The costumes were often reminiscent of renaissance fairs or Holland’s “Golden Age”. Dan’s costume fell more or less into this range and the costumes were so amazing I’d like to go this direction next year for both of us. Dan on the other hand wants to do Isle of Dr. Monroe costumes.
 
Other popular themes were cross-dressing (more female-impersonators than male ones), fuzzy animal costumes (particularly holstein cows), and, rather uncomfortably for me, cultural stereotypes (Dutch, Irish, African, and American Indian). Cowboys too, which made me wonder if this was the Dutch stereotype of Americans in general.

frikandel costumes

Frikandels in the back.

The giant frikandels probably took the cake for weirdest costume.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Although the chicken-man was a close second.
 
We wrapped up our Sunday late, but before midnight after bouncing between several cafes and groups of people we knew or had met on the town. I was seriously ready for a sleep-in.
 

See more of my Carnival Photos here.

This is the second article in my Alaaf! Carnival 2010 Recap Series.

Episode 20 of Maastricht Minutiae

February 19, 2010

dressed up dog

Even dogs got into the act.

Welcome to another episode of Maastricht Minutiae! In episode 20 we talk about our adventures at Carnival in Maastricht and a bit more about my business; which we’ve finally registered with the city. Click here to listen to Episode 20 or download on your favorite podcatcher.
 
Topics this week are:

  • Carnival 2010 in Maastricht
  • Costumes
  • Drunk Bands
  • A mention of my new business: ParapluInfo (website coming) and Fallen Kitten Productions

Friday & Saturday: Pre-Carnival

February 19, 2010

pub decorationsAlthough Carnival this year was officially February 14 – 16th, the cafes and pubs had already set themselves up to accommodate weekend visitors who wanted a drink on Friday and Saturday. Since Friday is the first day of the vacation weekend many people consider it the best night to go out and enjoy a little of the Carnival spirit before too many people get drunk.

Friday

With that in mind, Dan & I went out Friday night for a few drinks with some people from the University. The cafe had all the tables removed to accommodate the crowds and while it wasn’t bad when we first arrived when I left an hour later people were packed in like sardines. The Perron was offering a drinks deal (5 for 10 euros) and I was hard pressed to keep up with the fast pace our Dutch colleagues set. There were a handful of costumed revelers, but it was too early for most people. Colorful scarves and hats did make an appearance and maybe next year my own Carnival colors scarf is in order.

Prince Placing Wreath

Saturday

Saturday the official “transfer of power” took place at the Town Hall on Markt Square after the Great Prince’s arrival in Maastricht. Control of Maastricht is ceremonially given to the Prince during Carnival as a symbolic role reversal between the ruler and the peasant. Dan and I went down to the Markt square to watch, but after some music and hanging a vegetable wreath around a Mooswief statue the officials all went inside to perform the actual ceremonies. A small group of other revelers had watched the parade and wreath ceremony with us and when they all left we knew it was time to go as well. After standing in the cold for an hour I was disappointed.

Saturday Moterfiets Contingent

As a bit of an aside, it struck me then that the “official” activities of Carnival are something of a boy’s club; none of the Tempeleer members present were women. The Tempeleers are Maastricht’s local “secret society” which organizes Carnival every year. You can generally recognize a member from his red, yellow, and green jester-like hat during the appropriate season.

We also noticed that a lot of stores had not only shut down for the long weekend (Monday and Tuesday were days off for most workers), they also had boarded themselves up as if a hurricane was coming through. Clearly some years people can get out of hand. We saw a couple of police wagons and some security here and there later in the weekend but nothing else while we were out.

This is the first article in my Alaaf! Carnival 2010 Recap Series.

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