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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sinterklaas Arrived in Leiden

On Friday, I finally met the legendary Sinterklaas and his helpful (yet very controversial) friends, Zwarte Pieten. The Dutch holiday story is somewhat similar to the American tale... except for a few major differences. First, Sinterklaas lives in a castle in Spain and once a year he and all the Zwarte Piet travel by steam ship to The Netherlands in time for celebrations on December 5th when the little Dutch children leave their shoes out by the fireplace at night and wait for gifts. Seems fine, right?

Sure, it's a cute enough story for kids. However, the whole concept of adults (!!!) wearing blackface (!?) a curly wig (!?) and huge red lips (!?) was so shocking and weird to see in real life!  I mean, whyyyy is the blackface necessary? They say he fell down a chimney but I personally don't understand why someone would do this, especially given the negative history that black face represents. It's not so baffling to see adults dressing themselves up in costume or character yet the blackface... I just can't wrap my head about how that's justified. The funny outfit and feathered hat seem like quite enough to do the trick. Throw some cookies and me and I'll know you're Zwarte Piet, no blackface needed.

Never the less, beer in hand, I tried to muster up some cultural relevancy long enough to get a photo. Don't let the smiles fool you, this was an incredibly awkward moment for me. So, that's the story about the first (and hopefully last) time I met Zwarte Piet.



To finish up, here's our pal Sinterklaas dancing on top of the bar which is a clear indication that he most likely added a little something extra to his warm chocomel.



Since Ellen has to work a lot we have mostly been hanging out at night and making dinner together with friends. Most of the time we make some kind of variety of vegetables with satay because... it's the best sauce ever next to hot sauce, of course. Oh yes, I love that peanutty-goodness. You can put almost anything on fries over here and I'm happy to mention that satay sauce on my friets is now an obsession too.

Another night Marleen and I made some pannenkouken with apples, raisons, pineapple... yum! Dutch food isn't exactly the most interesting span of ingredients but on a cold winter evening, pancakes for dinner are a very good idea.

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