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Month: May 2019

Ain’t no Arthur high enough

Ain’t no Arthur high enough

Ain’t no mountain high enough

Ain’t no valley low enough

Ain’t no river wide enough

To keep me from getting to you

This blog is dedicated to all my Dutch Peaker sisters I’ve met on my journey. Thank you so much for being there when I needed you most, and the friendship that came from it. A huge thank you to MPC for letting me find you when I needed you most.

Twenty months ago

I’m back in Scotland for the MPC2019 Event, after nearly two years. Twenty months ago I was a Dutch Peaker in Glasgow, an innocent bystander. I had no ticket for the MPC2017 Event but was there to attend the Scottish Learning Festival. I travelled all by myself to the Festival, looking for motivation and inspiration. I stayed for one week in Glasgow and then moved on to Edinburgh. It was a journey I will never forget and often look back on

20 Months ago I was a fresh Peaker, and I it was here in Edinburgh I set my first real challenge: walking up Arthur’s Seat. At that time it was quite a challenge, I was in bad shape, had no condition and just completed a long recovery from a burn out.

It was in Edinburgh on Arthur’s Peak I decided that there would be no mountain high enough anymore. It was the start to a new me. Now we are 20 months later and I have a ticket to the MPC2019 Event.

There’s always the hills

One of the people who played a role in my finding inspiration and motivation was undoubtedly Cameron McNeish. With his book There’s Always The Hills, he inspired me to go walking in my own backyard. That’s how we last year walked the Dykes of Flevoland. And this year we will walk all 12 regions of the Netherlands. If it wasn’t for him, there would never have been a Dutch Peakers Walking group. MPC couldn’t have made me more happy and surprised when this man walked up on the stage the evening of the gala. He spoke to us about Robert Louis Stevenson, the man who inspired him with his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, and from this book he quoted;

I travel not to go anywhere but to go, I travel for travel’s sake The great affair is to move

In  other words, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination. Looking back on the last 20 months, it’s my journey that’s important and not my destination. Being back, for the second time, on Arthur’s Seat will be awesome and emotional but not the most important. The way I traveled to get there is far more important. The things that happened along the way,  all the Peakers and other people, I met and spoke with over the past 20 months… they made my journey. But most important of all were the “unexpected” meetings.

The journey

While I was in E. for the MPC2019 Event, I walked a lot with Vera. We even managed to do the Marothon Challenge while walking. I met Vera for the first time in Glasgow in 2017. We sat together during a dinner of the Dutch Peakers at Oran More, and ever since our friendship has become close.

We went for a walk to Craigmiller Castle, recommanded by another Dutch Peaker, Conny.

Not yet aware of the words of Robert L. Stevenson we started walking without a map or a plan how to get there. We knew it had to be somewhere on the other side of Arthur’s Seat, and as soon as the signs showed us in which direction the Castle was, we concentrated on all the beauty we saw around us. Flowers drew our attention because of the beautiful colours, as did a bird singing in a tree and a couple of ducks and swans with their young. All of a sudden we walked around a corner and saw an iron fence with a nice little church on the inside.

One way or another I always get attracted by churches, so we walked through the fence to get a good look. There was a sign near the door that invited us to come in and have a look around.

Duddingston Kirk

As we were reading a bit of information about the door being in a different place in the early days, a man came in and said if we had any questions, he would be very pleased to answer them. That’s how we met Dr. James Jack AP, reverend of Duddingston Kirk, a local Parish Church for the Church of Scotland.

As we walked with him outside the church to have a look where the original door must have been, he stopped in front of the graveyard. From the look of it, I thought that only few graves were left. He told us, however,  there were a lot of graves, but only the rich ones had headstones. He also told us that rich people got buried 6 feet under the ground and poor people only 3 feet. He pointed us to a very little headstone near the wall of the graveyard. If you looked close you could see the words Wee Jim.

Wee Jim

There once was a woman in Duddingston who worked in a factory in Portobello, a coastal suburb, three miles to the east of Edinburgh. This woman got pregnant and gave birth to a little baby boy, named Jim. After giving birth and being a single mom, she had to go back to work in the factory, again. Not having anybody to look after the little boy, she took him with her to the factory. It was not a very healthy environment for a child, and unfortunetly he caught a pheumonia and died. Being poor, this little boy would be buried in a grave without a headstone. The women in the factory couldn’t let that happen and they collected money for this little baby boy.

The reverend also told us the story of Ann Stewart. During the 19th century, body snatchers stole bodies from the graves for medical research. One night, whitin 24 hours after a young lady named Ann Stewart died and was burried, two men took up her body from the grave. It was then they were startled because Ann was not dead. They ran for their lives,  and the reverend had something to explain to his congregation.

This young woman got married and emigrated to America. When she actually did die it was written on her headstone  buried for the second time. In America nobody understood this sentence until someone paid a visit to Scotland and stumbled upon her story.

I travel not to go anywhere but to go

There were many meetings I had on my journey in Edingburgh. Together with approximately another 200 other Peakers, I challenged myself to do a yoga work out. Something I had never done before but certainly will do again. I was surprised that 200 Peakers could be that silent.

I met Lt Col (Retd) CD McGrory, who made it possible for us to hold a small Memorial Service on May 4th at the Edinburgh Castle for all of those who died in WWII and any war after.

I met two women from America. One on the day we arrived, Carol Risk, she even wrote me a song fort he Dutch Peakers Walking. The other one, Clare Leary , during the march on Sunday morning. As I passed by she walked painfully and I decided to stay with her and walk and talk her tot he finish. For no Peaker is left behind. We had such a lovely conversation, and I thank you, Clare.

Through Vera I got to meet Elizabeth Arris. She does incredible things. In a few weeks she’s going to walk 100km ( 62 miles) in 24 hours.

On my journey, I finally got to meet Jordana who they call the mama of MPC. She’s such a warm and affected person. So nice finally meeting you!

And then there was this amazing Gala. So may Peakers all dressed up in beautiful clothes, nice food and a lot of interesting speakers. I had never in my life attended something so big and well organized.

Remembering the words of Cameron McNeish, I travel not to go anywhere but to go, I can look back on an amazing journey.

My journey will not stop after this event or after being back on Arthur’s Seat, I know now for sure that I still have a lot of travelling to do. I travel for travel sake, the great affair is to move. What I do know, ain’t no Arthur high enough!

Pictures are taken by Vera, Conny, Jeanette, Me and Amfion

Bûter, brea en griene tsiis, wa’t dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries

Bûter, brea en griene tsiis, wa’t dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries

I don’t expect you to understand the title of this story, but it has everything to do with the region we walked today, Friesland.

In the Middle Ages there used to be a folk hero in this region called “Grutte Pier”, he was a true freedom fighter and, according to legend, he let every man he imprisioned say the words: bûter, brea en griene tsiis, wa’t dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries, to be sure he did not imprision a true Frisian. It means if you can’t say butter, bread and green cheese, you are not a true Frisian.

Memories

Driving to Friesland this morning I had to think about my father, who passed away seven years ago. On days like this I miss him and would love to call him tonight and tell him all about my walk in the region he was born and grew up in. We both love this region and coming here today feels like coming home.

He was the one who taught this  Frisian saying to me.

National Parc

National Parc Drents Friese Wold is our place to be for today. The Peaker who is guiding us around this beautiful area is Manon. Manon has a special relationship to this area. As a child she came here often, and she also has a special connection to the watchtower, which I will tell you all about later.

Together with seven other Dutch Peakers we walked in this beautiful and special area. This National Parc is one of the largest natural areas in the Netherlands.  It contains over 6000 acres of wood, heather and shifting sand.

Although the Parc has over 130km (80 miles) of footpaths, we walked just a small part of it, and were impressed by the beauty.

Celtic Tree horoscope

Right at the beginning of our walk we passed a circle of logs. Every log had a plate with the name of a tree. Based upon your birth date you have your own tree ( there are 12 in total).

When I did some background research on the internet I read that the Celts, just like the Chinese and the Western World, developed their own horoscope. In the religion of the Celts, nature takes a central part. The Celts worshipped the earth. Trees, rocks and rivers were sacred. Everywhere in their religion they had holy trees, and every tribe had its own family tree.

I, for example, was born on the 3th of february, therefor I am a Cypress. But I am very close to the Cottonwood. It’s likely I have different characteristics from both trees.

It says I am a independent fighter but also a carefree social bird. I leave it up to you, and all of those who think they know me, see for yourself if there is some truth in it.

The Watchtower

As we walked on we saw a huge watchtower on the side of a large pool. Manon told us that the border between the two regions Frisian and Drenthe was right in the middle of the pool.

Standing on top of the watchtower we could overlook a great part of the environment.

The watchtower has a somewhat special story. It was built in 1995 by young people who attended a boarding school for students with special needs. Having these young people going to this boardingschool kept them from derailing.

Nowadays local authorities in the Netherlands have to finance these prevention measures,  instead of our government. All around us we see these important projects disapear.

To Manon this tower has another important meaning. At the time the tower was built her father was operation manager at the boarding school.

It makes her sad to know there are plans to tear down the tower and rebuilt it closer to the entrance of the parc. Closer to the entrance means closer to the parking lot. Tourists need not walk the whole distance (aproxiametly 5km (3miles)) to enjoy the wonderfull view.

Manon has mixed feelings about it. She is a social worker herself and sees that everything that has anything to do with prevention is cut out.

The silver lining in this story is that there is still no money found to tear the tower apart, so we can hope it will take a very, very long time before they do.

One receives far more than he seeks

John Muir once said that in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. This is the sixth walk of our challenge and every walk I come home with so  many stories. I learn about professions I have never heard before. I learn to look at some professions through different lenses. I learn new things and combine them with what I already know. But most of all, I learn so much by just listening and asking questions.

Today for example I walked for quite some time with Ria. I first met Ria last july (2018) in Utrecht. At that time Ria was almost at the end of her Master degree in History.

When she was doing some research for her Masters, she was suposed to review a text written in a handwriting nobody had ever seen before. One of these handwritings contained medical information. Because Ria once was a chiropractor ,it caught her attention. She even lived for six months in Scotland because two professors of St.Andrews University knew a lot about this subject. She told me she narrowed her topic of study down to the transfer of medical knowledge in the 7th and 8th century. Isn’t that interesting? I would never have tought of doing research on a subject like that. Awesome!

Besides that Ria and I both share a love for Glasgow, but that’s another story!

Having had all these wonderfull conversations  today and learned so much, I hope you understand why after this walk I wished I could call my dad and tell him all about it.

I didn’t ask my Dutch Peakers if they could pronounce the sentence I started with because I have no desire to imprission anyone…

Dutch Peakers on fire

Dutch Peakers on fire

We survived because the fire

Inside us burned brighter

Than the fire around me

Joshua Graham

This morning I woke up at 5:30 am, not by the sound of the alarm clock but by the singing of birds outside. It’s the first morning of this year that they wake me up with their beautiful songs, and I know spring is definitely on its way.

If I get woken up like this there is not a lot that can hold me back from starting the day with a happy feeling and a big smile upon my face. I like to turn over for a little while and let the day slowly take over the night. I think about what the day has in store for me and again a smile appears upon my face. It’s another Dutch Peakers Walking day. I know for certain that at this time, at least one other Peaker is awake. Not only awake but probably also done with her workout for today. I can’t think of any other Dutch Peaker that is more dedicated to the program than our Miranda

Miranda had a hip replacement surgery in 2017. To make a long story short, the surgeon who did the replacement messed up and she had to consult another surgeon. After that came another surgery, in another hospital. She suffers from severe osteoarthritis in her knees, hips and back and now she’s seeing a rheumatologist. And this lady is doing the program every single day. I applaud her.

Today this awesome lady is our host on our next walk. For the second time we are going to walk in the region of Noord-Holland, the region where we had our first walk of this year. This time Miranda takes us with her to IJmuiden.

IJmuiden actually has four harbours and can be called one of the largest sea harbours of the Netherlands. Only Rotterdam and Amsterdam have bigger harbours. For those of you who go to Scotland by boat, the ferry to New Castle leaves from the harbour of IJmuiden. Additionally, IJmuiden is the biggest fishing harbour in the Netherlands.

When I nearly approached the place we would meet today I had to pass a very large industrial area and I wondered where on earth our walk was going to be. Not much later I was standing in the middle of the dunes!

Standing in the dunes we couldn’t see the ferry in the harbour, but we did see another large (well you can call it huge) cruise ship.

Miranda told us that today’s walk was aproximetly 15km (9.5 miles). She didn’t get the chance to walk it by herself, so we don’t blame her (not at all) that 15km turned out to actually be 19km (11miles)! I hear some of you think, how is that possible? Well, I can come up with a lot of excuses but I won’t. We simply had to walk back and forth a few times.

I refuse to start the discussion whether women are worse roadmap readers then men, for the simple reason that sometimes roads on maps are not what they look like in real life. And second, I do know a man, and I won’t call any names (starts with an S and ends on AM), who can’t read maps either, and eventually end up on an American Air Force Base without any ID. At least we ended up with some nice firemen! (More on that in a bit.)

Anyway we did a little back and forth on our walk, but who cares? The sun was shining, the company great and the surroundings were beautiful.

Or as our fresh Peaker Marit looked at the situation:

“I now understand how you get people to break grounds. You just let them walk back and forth. They have to come along with you, they have no choice, and in the end you tell them they break their grounds”. That’s what she said with a big smile on her face, and she had every right to. She really was breaking her own grounds by walking 19km. Her longest walk previously was about 11km (6 miles). Marrit, we are so proud of you.

 Today I also talked and walked with Marjolein. Marjolein works for a very large insurance company as an account executive for corporations. I talked to her about occupational hazard. For example, as a teacher, I always got distracted by schools, schoolbuildings, children playing, etc. I think everybody who loves his or her job does that, aware or unaware. Marjolein tells me that whenever she’s abroad she looks at large buildings, considering at what rate they could be insured. 

Jeanette is a hairdresser and as we pass by some hairdressers she had to look into the shop window to look what products they sell. You see, everybody has occupational hazards.

 There is a Dutch saying; het venijn zit in de staart (the devil is in the detail). As we saw the end of the walk approaching we had a little discussion whether to walk back through the dunes to get to the cars or just follow the road. It was hot, and because of the back and forth walking some of us were done with walking.

As we were deciding what to do we saw smoke coming out of the dunes.

Talking about occupational hazards, Marjolein and Jeanette immediately walked over to where the fire was, working to put out the fire with some water they had, and stomping on it with their feet. In the meantime, the fire brigade was called and although we told them the fire was over, they came anyway to check if the fire was definitely out. Never a dull moment walking with Dutch Peakers! These are the moments you will never forget. It’s the fire inside us that kept us going today.

Met dank aan Ellen Overman, Marjolein Kuijvenhoven en Miranda van Dam voor de foto’s

If we don’t do anything

If we don’t do anything

If we don’t do anything,

Who will?

What we see is unacceptable;

It’s up to you and me…

Our only hope is you and me.

Amfion

I translated these few lines from a Dutch song. Not just any song, it’s a song from the Dutch Musical Soldaat van Oranje.

The musical is based on the life of one of our greatest heroes, WWII resistance fighter Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. This musical has already attracted 2,8 million people.

In October, the Dutch Peakers learned that we would come to Edinburgh on the 4th and 5th of May, and we immediately started thinking of a place and a way to remember those who lost their lives in war, especially in WWII. Where could we find a suitable place?

We were very honored when the SNWM allowed us to do it here in Edinburgh Castle. Thank you so much for inviting us. It is a huge privilege on this special occasion to stand here in Edinburgh Castle, a fortress steeped in history and sacrifices of its own; sacrifices for this beautiful country that is hosting us.

As we entered the porch through a solid oak door, I wonder if you noticed the pelican over the inner door. If you did not, be sure to look at it when we leave.

Vanessa Viva Koomen

The pelican is feeding his young, and according to the myth, she does this with the blood from her own chest. The Pelican is an ancient symbol of sacrifice.

And now we are standing here to remember all of those who sacrificed their lives in WWII and all the other wars. Most of those soldiers at one time or another likely thought:

If we don’t do anything…

In the two minutes of silence we just had, and also in the weeks prior to this memorial a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. What was I going to say? I started to look up some old speeches on the website of the 4th and 5th committee. I read what had been said in the past and wanted to add some of my own thoughts to it.

Although we live in a democracy, we have to be, at all moments, aware of the danger around us.

Recently we had an act of terrorism in Utrecht and, be honest who didn’t think for a split second, when the Notre Dame was on fire, it might have been an act of terrorism? There was a time we thought these things only happened far away from us, or only in places with a lot of people. That time is over. Now we know it can happen anywhere.

Everywhere I look around me I see people building walls between different groups of people. Gradually and before you know it we find it normal. But is it normal?

On a night like this when we remember, we have to stand still and really listen to each other. When differences between people are getting bigger, we do have to ask ourselves if we are willing to open up for the truth.

Amfion

It is neccesary to collect information first before we judge. Are we able to look with an open mind at situations? Recently I read an article that asked when do you stand up for the values that are important to you and when do you keep on reconciling with the situation that presents itself? Could you remain on the outside even when you witness terrible injustice?

If we don’t do anything…

Who will

This year it has been 74, almost 75 years since the Netherlands was liberated. As we stand here, some of you might have had parents or grandparents who actually witnessed WWII, but many of us do not. It is from our history lessons, stories of family members, books, and movies that we know how horrible this war must have been. How horrible any war must be. It is beyond imagination what it must be like when your freedom of speech is taken away, when there are so many things you are not allowed to do. When you live hidden somewhere in the woods, not knowing when and if you ever will see your family again. 

It is important that we keep on telling these stories of history so that something like that will never happen again. It’s up to us to pass the freedom on to all of our children and their children, for

Amfion

What we see is unacceptable

Recently I read in the news that the Red Cross in the Netherlands will create lessons that teach our youth to phone the alarm number first before they start filming an accident.

Almost 90% of the population find that filming before calling for help is not normal, and still it happens on a daily basis.

And it’s not only accidents that are filmed but even worse. People are beaten up just because they are of a different race, culture or religion. Films are made of it and put out on the internet. So much damage and division has occurred. At times it seems people are losing sight of right and wrong. 

Those of us standing here are members of a large global community, and we believe that we can effect positive change in our lives while helping others. We challenge ourselves to live happier and healthier. We help ourselves in order that we may help others.

It’s up to you and me

Tomorrow we celebrate that we live in freedom. The day WWII came to an end. But it’s also a day to reflect to the importance of freedom and to realize freedom is vunerable.

The Army, the resistance fighters and all those who fought for our freedom, it’s now up to you and me to keep our freedom and pass it on to the next generation.

The number of Dutch underground people, who can tell us the stories of WWII, is reducing rapidly and it’s important we think about new initiatives to pass on the stories of freedom.

All over the Netherlands we organize Liberation Festivals. But not everybody finds those festivals attractive. In Amsterdam, our capital city, every year about 10.000 people come together to organize a freedom meal. The purpose of this initiative is to bring people together and communicate to each other about what freedom is to you. Because..

Silvia Schinkel

Our only hope is you and me

Hatred and violence will never win over tolerance and mutual respect. We should not let fear lead our lives.

Or as Einstein said:

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning”.

In conclusion, as we remember the past, we honor those who saw what was unacceptable and did what needed to be done. We thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedom. As we look to the future, may we remember in this MPC community and the world at large, to be the ones who take action when needed to make the world a better place. Whether we are fighting for freedom, a cure for cancer, or to make the world a better place for our children, remember…it’s up to you and me. 

Amfion