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Archive for the ‘My Travels’ Category

While enjoying a lovely cup of Mokk-a’s Cafe Holland this morning it gave me an idea…why not write a bit about Holland instead of updating you on the price of coffee.

“15 Miljoen Mensen” by Fluitsma en van Tijn is a song I heard shortly after living in the Netherlands. It talks matter-of-factly about the Dutch culture, and it’s title translates to “15 Million People”, which was at that time [circa 1996] the population of the Netherlands. The population as of July 2007 was officially 16, 570,613. Given you can fit the Netherlands 16 times into the size of the state of Texas, one can then understand better why here things are built so small and on top of each other. The song touches on how the Dutch seem to have their own opinion for everything, and how even though authority is not treated with seriousness, everyone respects one another. Except for their own neighbor and especially when one wonders what the neighbor does to afford his rent/house payment, his car and other luxuries. It speaks of how the Dutch are able to take care of each other and themselves. No one starves. I laughed outloud when I heard the lyric “gordijnen altijd open zijn” [drapes are always open] because one of the first things I noticed when I came to the Netherlands was how even in the evenings the people will leave their shades open. You can be at an intersection in your car, waiting for the light to turn green, and see clearly into many of the homes as people eat dinner or watch television in their living room.

For the song, I’ve included here below both the lyrics in Dutch and the lyrics translated to English. In the English translation, I have included some notes to help explain better what is being said.

“15 Miljoen Mensen”

Land van 1000 meningen
Het land van nuchterheid
Met z’n allen op het strand
Beschuit bij het ontbijt
Het land waar niemand zich laat gaan
Behalve als we winnen
Dan breekt acuut de passie los
Dan blijft geen mens meer binnen
Het land wars van betutteling
Geen uniform is heilig
Een zoon die noemt z’n vader Piet
Een fiets staat nergens veilig

[Refrein:]
15 miljoen mensen
Op dat hele kleine stukje aarde
Die schrijf je niet de wetten voor
Die laat je in hun waarde
15 miljoen mensen
Op dat hele kleine stukje aarde
Die moeten niet ‘t keurslijf in
Die laat je in hun waarde

Het land vol groepen van protest
Geen chef die echt de baas is
Gordijnen altijd open zijn
Lunch een broodje kaas is
Het land vol van verdraagzaamheid
Alleen niet voor de buurman
De grote vraag die blijft altijd
Waar betaalt ‘ie nou z’n huur van

‘t Land dat zorgt voor iedereen
Geen hond die van een goot weet
Met nassiballen in de muur
En niemand die droog brood eet

[Refrein nog 2 keer]

And the lyrics in English:

“15 Million People”

Land of 1,000 opinions
The land of soberness [down-to-earth]
All together on the beach [if it is a nice day, everyone and everyone goes to the beach]
Rusk [cracker] with breakfast
The land where nobody lets themself go [emotionally]
Except if we win [example: a sporting event]
Then the passion breaks loose
Then nobody stays inside [and everyone goes out to celebrate the victory]
The land with many rules
No uniform is respected [example: police, military]
A son who calls his dad by his first name
A bicycle isn’t safe anywhere [can be stolen from anywhere]

[Chorus:]
15 million people
On that small piece of land
You can’t tell them what or what not to do
You leave them in their dignity
15 million people
On that small piece of land
You must not put them in a straight jacket [you can’t hold them down]
You keep them in their dignity

The land full of groups of protesters
No boss is really “the boss” [the boss must behave on the same level as the employees]
Drapes are always open
Lunch is a cheese sandwich
The land full of tolerance [of religion, nationalitiy]
But not for the neighbor
The big question always remains
How does he pay his rent? [“Where is he getting his money from?”]

The land that takes care of everyone
No dog knows a gutter [everyone has substantial means, so not even a dog will starve]
With snacks in an automat [Dutch: automatiek]

[repeat chorus twice]

So maybe you should give Cafe Holland a try also! http://www.mokk-a.com Let me know how you like it!

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Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area is almost 165,000 km², with an estimated population of just over 10.3 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the north-east.

At the beginning of known recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 10th century BC. The city of Carthage was founded in the 9th century BC by settlers from Tyre, now in modern-day Lebanon. Legend says that Dido founded the city in 814 BC.

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It was just a three hour flight from Amsterdam to Monastir, a beautiful city of the northern coast of Africa. Our friend Nasr was waiting for us at the Monastir airport when we arrived. Nasr was born in Tunisia but has lived in Paris for many years.

We were only there four days but when you know people, you see and learn a lot. Tunisia is of course a primarily Muslim country dominated by Mosques and chanting towers. They chant 5 times per day. If you have the time to take a look at my pictures you can get a feel for the country as well as the people.

Our hotel was lovely, complete with Infinity Pool. Imagine that! This is Africa you know. The staff was quite helpful until it came to my need to connect to the Internet to get a few orders out. They kept telling me they did not have the card. I kept checking with the desk and finally, when I offered to pay, the code was released.

While walking through the streets you see small cafes everywhere filled with men talking and drinking coffee or tea. It was quite rare to see a woman. Tunisian women prefer not to see their family, cousins or children sitting in a café, this is something only the men enjoyed.

Our days were filled with discussions regarding Green Energy products. The first meeting was in Tunis, the capital. We met in a lovely restaurant called La Goulette in La Mer and enjoyed lunch for almost four hours, picking out our preference of fish, shrimp and other treasures of the sea upon entering. The local wines are also very nice.

We were taken to markets and fish shops in the small villages of Mneshi-Lamta and Sayada. Visited Port Job in Teboulbe, and enjoyed mint tea topped with pine nuts in the beautiful and picturesque village of Sisi Bou Saἳd, Village Bleue.

Late in the evening, very large restaurants were filled only with men. “It is the will of God” it was explained to me.

Before heading to the airport we roamed Mahdia and had, again, a wonderful lunch with friends.

Tunisia may not currently be on your “list of places to visit” but I would highly recommend that you put it there! PS I did leave some samples of Mokk-a behind. You never know! http://www.mokka-.com

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Ameland JUne 2007 

DSCN5265Ameland is one of the small islands in the north of  The Netherlands.  It is a truly beautiful place to spend a few days….with or without an old timer!  Take a look……

 

 

 

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DSCN5345As late as 1978 I believe, as Ameland lived from the sea, the rescue boats were pulled on kilometer and then into the sea by eight horses.  One evening the horses drowned during a storm.  They still reinact this amazing event in the summer of each year. 

 

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This is a part of Holland that is definately worth a visit!

 

 

 

 

 

And the coffee is wonderful!  Might be the next Mokk-a addition!

www.mokk-a.com 

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Siberia 101

Ok let’s go back to Siberia for a moment.  I just want you to see some pictures.  Then we will get back to……..

 Mokk-a!

 Ladies and Gentlemen I introduce you to Siberia…..

a place where they, in the old days, sent people to die.

Raduzny Airport - Well ok......

Raduzny Airport - Well ok......

Welcome to Raduzny

Welcome to Raduzny - Not quite sure what I expected. Now am I ready for this? I was going to be here 10 days!

White Nights headquarters and....my hotel!

White Nights headquarters and....my hotel! It was clean enough. The people were nice...mostly Americans, and the food was great. Got to keep these guys fed if they are going to work in -40 degree temperatures!

Here is the kitchen and chef cook Sergio

Here is the kitchen and chef cook Sergio. He served some great Texas style spare ribs and chicken!! Of course he was feeding Texans most of the time. Fresh veggies everyday and a LOT of potatoes. They bought only the best!

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On the way to Nizhnevartovsk for a few meetings and to check out the new store in progress.  Here the 1300 employees of the White Nights Joint Venture could come to redeme the credits they had received by the operator of the venture.  Credits issued were based upon a formual of performance, oil production and safety.  The mafia were our first visitors.  "Pay or we burn the place down."  We obviously paid!

On the way to Nizhnevartovsk for a few meetings and to check out the new store in progress.

The young children of the local trappers

The young children of the local trappers

This is Siberia!  Actually quite beautiful....

This is Siberia! Actually quite beautiful....

The store.  Here the 1300 Russian employees of the White Nights Joint Venture could come to redeme the credits they had received by the operator of the venture. Credits issued were based upon a formual of performance, oil production and safety. The mafia were our first visitors. "Pay or we burn the place down." We obviously paid!

The store. Here the 1300 Russian employees of the White Nights Joint Venture could come to redeme the credits they had received by the operator of the venture. Credits issued were based upon a formula of performance, oil production and safety. The mafia were our first visitors. "Pay or we burn the place down." We obviously paid!

I hope you enjoy them!  It was an adventure I will never forget.  Went back a few more times a year later.
Next I’ll go back to Mokk-a and the Cafe Italia story.  Stay tuned!
Mokk-a European Coffee Blends

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At that time I was enjoying a successful career working with multinational organizations in the United States, consulting their employee benefits teams, arranging reinsurance, and making consistent presentations to their Board of Directors.  I owned a small part of a consulting business in Houston Texas and had personal clients in various parts of the US….Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Arizona and California.  These clients generated over $3.5 million a year in annual income to the firm. I had now been in the business 16 years and one day…..I became bored.

As I have enjoyed a rather creative mind over the years I had an idea for a business of my own.  One weekend I presented the idea, somewhat as a joke, to a friend.  He was the president of a company that had recently signed the first joint venture to drill for oil in Siberia.  I had no idea that he was presenting the idea at a board meeting the following week.  Suddenly three weeks later, I had an opportunity to begin my first business…..in Russia! “We need everything ready to go, translated into Russian and in Raduzny in 5 weeks,” they said.  So, with no time to consider the negatives of this new project, I began work.

I had been single for five years at this time, had no children and figured I had nothing to lose…except my house!  I never consider negatives when I begin a project. I charge forward with all the faith in the world in myself, knowing that what I do not know, I will learn.  Lucky for me, in most circumstances, it works in my favor.  I have always been a risk taker…. “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”  If I sit around and think about everything that can go wrong, it probably will.

I formed a joint venture with a Portuguese company that had the catering contract for the camp and in December of 1992 I made my first trip into the wilds of Siberia….. with temperatures at -40˚ Celsius.  It was so cold, when I stepped off of the plane,  my tears from the cold wind literally froze to my face.  Yet bundled in my long Nutria coat I was ready for the start of an adventure. 

The flight from Moscow was with the “Old” Aeroflot!  Will not even discuss the plane we flew out in.  What I will say is…..it reminded me of an old Greyhound Bus.  When I boarded the plane most of the carpet was pulled up, the seat backs were pushed forward,  I had only one part of my seatbelt, part of my luggage was in my lap and for three and one half hours I prayed harder than I had ever prayed before.  Amazingly enough the landing was probably the smoothest I have ever had…..on a sheet of ice at least 4 inches thick!

It was because of this “crazy” idea that I met my wonderful Dutchman and ended up moving from Houston to Holland a few years later….

You never know what life has in store for you…..

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