The Gods that came along
There are people from all corners of the earth living in the Netherlands. When they came, their Gods came with them. Although each God is eternal and omnipresent, they sometimes have difficulties settling in an unfamiliar place. The book And the Gods moved house too provides a portrait of religious culture shock. If music is forbidden on religious grounds, a walkman can be a godsend.
Ishmael is only thirty five. He still has time on his side, but what will happen to his sons if they do not learn what Allah approves and disapproves of? God is the basis for everything. Ishmael no longer wants to go without praying for such long periods as he did in the past. When he lived in Turkey he did bad things. He used to walk on the beach with his wife, with parts of their bodies uncovered, he in swimming trunks and she in a bathing suit. Like his father, Ishmael now feels that, as he gets older he increasingly wants to live as a real Muslim. These feelings are typical of the stories told in And the Gods moved house too: Portraits of non-western believers. The book, published by the Royal Tropical Institute, portrays a Catholic Antillian woman, a Ghanaian born-again Christian, a Moroccan Muslim woman, a Hindu family from Surinam and a Turkish father and son, both Muslim. In each story the authors uncover an almost superhuman tension which seems to arise from adhering to a religion in an alien environment. Is it true that religious norms and customs tighten and believers become more orthodox in a strange setting, where Allah, Buddha and Ganesa are relatively unknown quantities? The story of Soumaya, a Moroccan woman, gives an indication: in the Netherlands there are separate rooms for men an women, whereas in Morocco there was one large inner courtyard where both sexes ate meals together
Soumaya never wore a headscarf in Morocco. She cannot believe that God judges a person on the basis of something so trivial. Things are not that simple for God. After moving to Holland, Soumaya's parents became more strict in practising their faith. At the same time however, Soumaya attended a Dutch school and learned to appreciate the individualism and relative freedom of Dutch society. This brings her into collision with the standards at home. She is not allowed to go on school trips and her mother forbids her to listen to music. In the latter case a walkman provides a simple solution, but in the end she cannot stand the pressure and decides to leave home. She is studying nursing and during her internship she has the opportunity to move into a room or her own, which she does, much to the surprise of fellow students: a Moroccan girl living on her own and studying. Let me explain. Before you know it you are pigeonholed here. Either you are Moroccan, therefore you are hardly allowed to do anything and you are stupid, or you are regarded as a victim. They feel sorry for you: that poor girl must have had a hard time at home. Either you become Dutchified or you are not Moroccan any more and you have betrayed your own culture. This combination of a generation gap and a clash of religious values is a second thread running through each portrait. The fact that parents keep their children on a tight rein in a potentially dangerous outside world is common to all groups regardless of religious denomination. The portraits are without exception moving stories, each one a small human drama
The last story is a drama with a touch of humour. The Sharma family comes from Surinam, but moved to Amsterdam many years ago. A Hindustani family, the Sharmas went to India for a month. Although Surinam is their home country, India is their motherland, the cradle of their faith. Especially Mrs Sharma was curious to see whether things would be done differently from the services in the temple in Amsterdam. In India she hoped to learn how Hindu worship should really be done. It was certainly different. They encountered more differences than aspects which matched their expectations. They were shocked by the bureaucracy and poverty, and despite the mountains of peanut butter and crackers they had taken along, Mr Sharma lost 7kg and Mrs Sharma 5kg. They didn't dare try the delicious smelling dishes of the street vendors
Before their visit Mr Sharma had spoken of the Ganges, a holy river for Hindus, with respect and admiration. He had been determined to bathe in the river. Reality turned out differently. They arrived in a touring car. Everything happened as quick as lightning. I could only paddle. There was no time for swimming. However, not everything was bad. The daily half hour of prayers on television stole Mrs Sharma's heart: If only we could watch that here in the Netherlands as well. She would like to make another trip to India, but her husband is not so sure. He is glad to be back home again
International Club numbers up
The number of MSc students joining the International Club Association has doubled since 1995. Two years ago only 31 members were MSc students. This year the number has risen to 60. The ICA is pleased that this section of its membership has returned. Jos Michel, member of the ICA council is unsure of the exact reason for the sharp increase but relates: We really chased the MSc students this year and canvassed very actively.
The ICA's financial position improved considerably in 1996. Internal measures and a donation from the Foreign Student Service meant that the ICA started 1997 with a balance of over ten thousand guilders. These developments seem to have helped the ICA out of a difficult period. Last year the club was troubled by the misbehaviour of one member, a fraudulent secretary and seven trouble making guests. Fortunately peace was restored during the summer of 1996
Darts at international sports day
This year darts joins the list of sports played at the annual sports day for international MSc and PhD students. Saturday 22 March sees the return of this event for international students in Holland. This year the sports day is organized by the Radio Netherlands Training Centre (RNTC) in Hilversum. Last year the sports day was held in Wageningen and WAU won second prize. It was a bit of a shock to discover that WAU is not on the poster announcing this year's event. This must have been an oversight on the part of RNTC, as Ankie Lamberts of the Dean's Office knows for sure that Wageningen teams will participate
Although the registration deadline is today, Thursday, squash and chess players are still desperately needed. Apparently these sports are not so popular, as it is proving difficult to find participants. Lamberts is worried that this might also be the case for darts, on the list of sports for the first time this year