11 November – day of the crazy, St Maarten or just an ordinary NZ day when good things can happen

On the 11th of November in NZ Armistice Day is celebrated, the end of WW1, a great contrast to what the day means in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, in the area where I grew up, the 11th of November was day of the crazy. The official start of the Carnival season at 11 minutes past 11. The number 11 always played a big role as the crazy number. Carnival being a very big party, with lots of dressing up, comedy, and total craziness. It was also St Maarten, a Saint that cut his cloak in half to share with a poor homeless person. What a hero!

On St Maarten we also had a tradition that was very similar to another Dutch tradition Sinterklaas on 6 December. In the evening st Maarten would come around and throw handfuls of candy into our house. I remember as a kid being terrified by the arm that showed around the door that threw delicious pepernoten (gingernuts) and schuimpjes (a type of very sweet and coloured meringue type) into our living room.

My inspiring coach Frances from find my forte challenged me today on starting another little project. To commit to writing one thing everyday that I have done that has contributed to the good. No matter how small, every little bit counts. In St Maarten’s great spirit, and as Carnival this season ends on 17 February, 98 days from now, it is almost too perfect to not take up this challenge!

I’ll post my daily updates on my twitter account with #somethinggood. Will you join me finding the good things you already do?

Outworn Graduation gowns



Its uni graduation time in Auckland. There are black gowns everywhere. Students looking like they are by no means ready to enter the labour market are celebrating their uni degree by dressing up in a long black gown and a cap and parading through the mains streets of Auckland.

NZ is a lucky country. Basically everybody who wants to, can go to university. Yes you’ll build up a debt, but unemployment in NZ  is pretty low, so you can pay that off pretty quickly afterwards. There are degrees in all sorts of areas that would not necessarily have been seen as academic years ago and are still not in most European countries. It doesn’t mean the skill learned is not valuable. It maybe should just not be a uni degree nor should it follow the academic traditions like the formal graduations. The only reason it does is because tradition is just applied : we’ve always done it this way.

For some reason NZ likes their education traditions. Take all the incredibly ‘important’ school gala’s, where girls are expected to basically dress as if they are getting married, with all hairdo, nail polish and expensive limousine transfers bells and whistles attached. The amount of grief and unnecessary expense it causes! Becaue if you’re not there dressed as a princess, you are ‘missing out’. And this is not only at the last year of high school, there are at least 3 years you have to go.
The other week somebody told me there was a formal graduation ceremony they had to attend from day care with presents and all. Really?

I can see this is my practical down to earth Dutch mind at work here. The mind that questions traditions for traditions sake, all having to dress in the same uniform (and paying big bucks for it too) because heaven forbid individual expressions amongst a group and yes, mandated unnecessary expenses too.

I am very happy for all of them that they have passed their exams. Education is fantastic and  achievements should be celebrated. But do they really have to be so traditional, so regulated and so costly and commercial? Go celebrate, do it your way and not because others tell you to put on that outworn gradation gown again.