Posted in Haiku, Personal, Photo

Life is fragile


your heartbeat falters

taking you too far away

for us to follow


where ever you go

our love will accompany

your sweet and brave soul


hang on to our hands

we will hold you, in our heart

you’ll live on, always


Last Monday we received a message that Richard Verhoeven, one of our students, is very, very ill. Saturday he was found in cardiac arrest by his family. Ever since he has been in hospital, fighting for his life. Our academy is devastated, students and staff alike. This afternoon we received the horrible news that his parents and brother have to get ready to say goodbye.

A bright young man, only 19 years old. He is always ready with a smile, lending a hand where it is needed in a refreshing and spontaneous way. His enthusiasm inspires others on many occasions.

Richard, you are never far from my thoughts in these hours. Be strong, young friend. Be strong enough to stay, and brave enough to let go if that is what you must do. We are there with you and your family.



Today, Thursday, we were informed by Richard’s parents that Richard died yesterday evening.

~ Rest in peace, new angel. ~


Posted in Photo

Kids in Focus

Helping hands
A perfect hideaway
Always the gentleman
In the lens

Children, so pure and sincere. These photos were taken today in Breda, the Netherlands.

Posted in Personal

The Bird Will Soon Leave The Nest

My youngest son Sean has passed his exam. HE DID IT!! He called earlier to give me this excellent news. We talked for a bit and then I broke down crying for joy in the arms of a professor at work, oh pffff.

Sean, cheers, I’m so very, very proud of you!

Now Maastricht University is waiting, student life is beckoning…

*jumps around*

Love you,
your mom

Sean is the one in horizontal position, with the red clown nose ūüėČ

Posted in Art, Photo

The Fair Man

Yesterday I stared into the eyes of a complete stranger. Non-stop, for ten seconds. No talking involved. It was interesting and weird. Afterwards I asked for his name, so he (Koen) was no stranger anymore ūüėČ

It was a challenge during the annual Education Day of our university. The speaker told us that the average time married people look full into each other’s eyes is eight seconds a day. Only eight seconds?! Can anyone confirm that? I stare into V-man’s eyes much longer, but perhaps that is because we don’t live together.

On our way back to the academy, I saw this statue, with a fancy fair in the background. I jumped onto the bicycle path (yes, we have plenty of those in Holland), was almost run over by several vehicles, but managed to take this photo. The Fair Man.

Posted in Animals, Nature, Photo


Clouds were dominant today. They blocked the sunlight and suppressed any thoughts of spring. But the clouds will not fool me, noooooo. Because I have proof that the sun is getting stronger. Remember, last Saturday, when we went for a beer walk?

Come and see for yourself. Click to enlarge & slide. 

Photos © Marion

Posted in Border hopping, Culture/History, Writing

Moving Targets @ Avans University Holland

During the first three weeks of April our academy, the teacher training college for primary education at Avans University of applied sciences in Breda, * gasps for air * is hosting

Moving targets

This intensive program teaches students from Belgium, Turkey, United Kingdom, Slovenia and Holland how to go about teaching English to Dutch elementary school children with a variety of cultural backgrounds by means of drama and music.

Avans Hogeschool

After nerve wrecking last minute interventions by professor Agnes Taks (the driving force behind the project) finally all visa were cleared and last Monday the participating foreign students of Moving Targets arrived at Schiphol Airport, safe and sound. Amongst other things, the group visited an elementary school to see what Dutch schools are about and had time to enjoy the beautiful city of Amsterdam.

Then yesterday at 9 AM the twenty five students walked into a classroom of Avans university in Breda. The room was brightly decorated with colorful flags. The whole group had spent the night at a house in the neighborhood of Breda, which was filled to the brim with rented bunk beds. Some of them look really tired, but everyone had a big smile and was eager to start with the program.

Agnes opened the meeting by telling a beautiful anecdote about Martin Luther King, and concluded with saying that there is only one race: people; that there is only one country: earth, and one language: love. It was great to see the impact of these words. Our dean Nicole van Son introduced herself and welcomed all to the Avans University, after which professor Muzaffer Yanik spoke a few words. Carla Nijlunsing (drama), Margriet Veenbrink (English) and Kitty van Gulick (music) were also present.

Like last year, I was asked (as bilingual writer) to recite my poems. In 2010 accompanied on piano by Kitty in a wonderful way, but yesterday it was only my voice and thirty pair of eyes. Plus an extra lens of the camera. Increasing the volume of my voice to the crescendo needed at the end of the first poem could pose a bit of a challenge, since my trachea decided to entertain me with an insistent tickling since last Sunday. Bad BAD trachea! Luckily a cup of licorice tea sweetened the coughing fits into temporary submission.

For this special occasion I chose:

Where The Wind Sleeps

After a brief intro, in which I led my audience along the road I had taken to end up writing in English, my poems were handed out on paper.Then I started with Where The Wind Sleeps, forcing myself to speak slowly. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins at an intense pace and my face was glowing. Everybody listened and absorbed my words in silence. When I finished, they spontaneously started applauding ooooh WOW that was so nice! The same with my second poem Spring oh Spring, you are not lost! *happy smile*. I ended by wishing the students great, joyful and instructive weeks and fell down on my chair again. Pfew. Icy cold shaky hands and the rest on fire haha. But it was exhilarating and fun to do.

Language uniting people from all over Europe! I will try to share photos and perhaps films of this wonderful program in the weeks to come.

Posted in Stories

Progressively Unnecessary

A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. ~Thomas Carruthers

How very true in the case of Doc Mass Communication, let’s call him DMC.

Back in 1981 – WordPress seems to lead me back in time often these days – I left the town where I grew up to head towards the ‘big’ city of Breda to study Sociological Recreational at the NHTV university.

Everything was new: living on my own, cooking, meeting other students, new relationship, but also the university. From the protected environment of high school to the open, unstructured way of teaching at the NHTV.

Our schedule offered lots of interesting courses, like programming, Dutch, English, French, psychology, recreation, sociology and mass communication. Used to the sing song dialect we spoke back home, all these new accents could be challenging. As I was to others.

Alright, let’s find out everything there is to know about mass communication. Entering the class room came DMC. Doc was tall, slender and talked fast. Very fast and non-stop. In fact he talked so fast with an accent I still wasn’t used to, that I had absolutely NO idea what he was talking about. For an hour I sat there, rolling my eyes and wondering what the message of his lesson was. It was something about a red thread.

But there was always the book, so I dived in to learn more about communication. The next lesson I was totally prepared for DMC. Bring it on! And he did. Another hour went by and sentences without meaning flowed through the room. I understood what he was saying, but he simply was not making sense. One minute he was on subject, the next he jumped to a complete new line of thinking, only to hop back to the first. And again something about a red thread.

Third class there was… snow. Lots of snow. Mountains of snow. And a forest nearby. My friend Suzan and me arrived at school to¬†absorb¬†more masses of communication. We walked towards the class room and sat down. Looked outside. Looked at each other. And got the hell out of there! That was the first of many many long walks and talks and Suzan and I became best friends.

I haven’t been back to DMC’s lessons, not once. In stead I studied the book and flunked the exam. Second try was a hit: I passed. He¬†probably knew very much about this wonderful subject mass communication, but he was the worst teacher I’ve ever had. Or perhaps the best, since his abracadabra taught me self study, plus gave us a wonderful friendship!

Posted in Nature, Stories

Crocodile Dutchee

Day 33 of the ‚ÄėPost A Day 2011‚Ä≤ challenge: If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

Once I  had a dream job. A combination of people, wild animals and nature. A mix of education and recreation. Facing challenges and simply having fun. Exploring boundaries and breaking them. And I would LOVE to get it back.

I already lifted a tip of the veil in my post Nature Versus Coding,

“… a Dutch¬†safari park called Beekse Bergen, where I spent a magical time.”

Back then I was a student at the University for Tourism and Recreation in Breda, and I had to write my thesis. My sub conscience whispered ‘Forget the people, survey animals!’, but recreation was what I had been studying. So I searched for ways to combine the two. Old fashioned normal zoos were out of the question: not enough space, not enough comfort, not even remotely resembling real animal life. So I applied for internship at the¬†Safari park¬†Beekse Bergen, the biggest wildlife park in Holland. And was accepted.

For months and months I traveled there: on bike to the station, by train to Tilburg, and then taking the bus to Hilvarenbeek- I would LOVE to hear you pronounce these cities hahaha Рa one way trip of almost two hours.  I interviewed over 350 tourists, defying rain, wind, sun, wasps meandering through my fingers Рwith me acting cool and only becoming hysterical on the inside. And I fell in love with the place.

My thesis was about improving the¬†safari park¬†by exploring ways to get the people out of their cars and safari bus. In my final analysis I advised them to develop more walk- and waterways, so ¬†visitors could lazily stroll around the park in fresh air – all with the highest security of course. We can’t have tigers padding alongside kids, can we.¬†After my survey was finished, they asked me if I could stay on for the season, and of course I yelled YES!!!

Jeeps and Landrovers were used as means of transportation and the manager Frans – ‘Safari 1′- took me with him on his daily rounds. Soon he was tired of stopping the car, getting out to open the sluice gate, getting back behind the wheel and drive to another section of the park, only to get out again to close the gate. And I was NOT allowed to do it, wild animals and such. So he did the only thing possible: he taught me how to drive – sort of! Lazy bum ūüėČ

One day we got an alarm call: a beautiful crowned crane had flown into the lions’ section! So we set out, racing over little hills, through bushes, with me hanging on for dear life. Frans assessed the situation, hastily coordinated his team of men over the radio… and stepped out of the car. About twenty Jeeps were holding the lions at bay, while Frans and others were chasing the not-so-bright crane.

There I was, sitting in a huge Landrover, a bunch of wild lions in the neighborhood, eying me with a too healthy appetite. I forced my heart back down my throat, crawled over to the driver’s seat and started the huge car. Hoping and praying I wouldn’t bump into animals, that the car didn’t give up on me, that I found my way back to safety. Remember, I only had driven for a couple of weeks, and then only for a few minutes each time. I never had real driving lessons. But I made it back to the sluice in one piece, wiping my sweaty palms dry on my pants. Frans petted my back and told me I had done well. The crane was also doing well, silly bird, thinking he could win from those felines!

My job was to manage an educational center with a marvelous hand painted bird exhibition. I also set up a map of information about our animals. And presented a bird of prey show! Boy o boy, was I nervous that first time, standing in front of an audience with a microphone. One day I even got attacked by a caracara. His name was ‘Gerrit’, I’ll never forget that name. In the evening, on the bus home, I sat next to a girl who asked if I was ‘the lady of the birds of prey’? Yes I was. She thought it had been totally cool, playing with the caracara. When I showed her my bloody and scratched legs, she soon hushed. Yeah, Gerrit was a playful dude.

One evening I took a walk with two African elephants and their caretaker. Broer was way ahead of me, leading the animals to their night shelter. But then the second elephant decided to check me out at close range. People, let me tell you these elephants are HUGE. I just stood there, nailed to the ground, staring in horror and awe at the approaching tank and squeaked HELPPPP in a shaky voice. Broer came running back to grab the elephant by her ear and my heart started beating again. Pfew.

On another day, I was asked to help gather the Siberian tiger cubs who were still outside in the wide tiger area, while the adults were inside. At least I hoped so! And I found one, a little one, and carried him back to the night shelter. Its total cuteness, the little mewing sounds it made, the rough feeling of the fur, the trust in his black eyes. I was melting on the spot. Unfortunately a few weeks later the tigress had loosened metal plates in the shelter, and ‘my’ cub was crushed underneath. Those things happen.

Apart from the tigers, Scottish highlanders were one of my favorite animals. They look like Beatles cows! I saw the rare mating of two rhinos. The male was called Oscar. Why on earth would my brain store this information? Beats me, but his name was Oscar. We had alarm calls to save little kids, who’s parents let them pee outside the car! In the middle of the lion section! These cats can change from sleepiness into action within seconds. Monkeys loved to strip Volvo cars. The walks we took with Giles, the tame cheetah. Ah the stories, the stories. I’m glowing from the inside, remembering all the things that happened back then.

Can you now imagine that my absolute dream job is to be Crocodile Dundee? Uhm Crocodile Dutchee? ūüėČ But nowadays I try to tame wild Avans students. Also a great job and big challenge.

Posted in Biker Witch, Stories

Roaring Harley’s in Breda

A threatening blanket of clouds greets me early this Sunday. With a groan I turn to look at the clock. As usual I wake up ten minutes before the alarm, ‘though the ‘usual’ is a bit earlier than the 8 AM today. The bottle of Prosecco, a glass of Dalwhinnie and a bucket of tea yesterday evening made me sleep well. My house is quiet and holds its breath… until the cats hear me and demand food. They can be very persistent.¬†After a glass of fresh orange juice the gray cells called brains start working again and a quick refreshing shower revives the rest. A small breakfast completes the morning ritual and then Vman and me are headed to his house for an appointment with his black iron horse. Today, ladies and gentlemen, today is the annual Harley Day Breda! The 2010’s motto is ‘Harley Dag Breda goes West’.

Over 100 members of H.O.G. Chapter Breda are gathered and take their positions for the 40 mile ride-out through the surroundings of Breda. Dressed in orange jackets – no, this has nothing to do with Dutch soccer – Vman and me take our place near the head of the column. Together with a couple of other bikes it’s our job to stop traffic while the whole group thunders past. And after that we have to overtake all riders again to head back to the front. Breathtaking and exhilarating. The ride takes us through woods, pastures, past waving people and occasionally we slow down to a crawl when we encounter amazons. The horses keep a close eye on their steel siblings that drive past. Lambs have yet to learn that the Harley’s bite nor bark. One and a half hour later we gather near Breda for the grand finale: the entrance of the group in Breda.

Blocking a major cross roads is necessary to let all our members pass. Worried traffic¬†controllers rush over to inquire after the size of the group. We can reassure them quickly and follow our friends into the center of our town. Masses of people are waiting to welcome us and other bikers with big smiles and cameras. Over 12.000 bikes will enter Breda today and be parked in rows upon rows throughout the center, which makes the event one of the biggest in Europe. This year H.O.G. Breda manages to park all of their Harley’s in the same street and then mingles with the crowd. The first group swoops down on a terrace to wet their thirsty throats.

While Vman thoroughly locks our bike, a voice yells in my ear. It’s Meggelien, a dear friend of mine. She, like the other 120.000 visitors, has come to Breda to admire the beautiful and often special bikes. It’s not enough to buy a Harley, nope. Almost every Harley owner changes something, adds parts, air brushes it in a special design, to make it their own. And not only the bikes are a sight to see; the bikers themselves draw lots of attention too. (Absence of) hair (cut), tattoos, outfit, that ‘tough’ look and walk, every detail enhances the biker’s image. But don’t be intimidated: those big men have ditto hearts and simply love their Harley’s. And so do the Harley ladies!

After sauntering through the streets filled with market stalls for a couple of hours, it’s time to go home again. A new Celtic silver bracelet adorns my wrist. The weather gods have favored us with clouds and even a bit sun and apparently saved the rain for the evening.¬†Before I met Vman, I also visited the Harley Days in Breda. But ¬†things look and feel very different when you ride into town on a Harley in stead of watching those mighty machines from the sidewalks. A lovely day amongst roaring machines.