Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Cannes 2004 - What did Mr. Tarantino mean with his Cannes d'Or to F-9/11?

The following article is a review of the illusions, realities, and influencial formative programmes, beyond the famous Cannes red carpet. The 2004 Cannes film festival had as much politics as it did when the festival was created in 1939. Film is never what you think, even less when the president of the United States is a character in the charade that will conclude next week.


By Marijke de Valck*
(published with kind permission from the author)

Almost every written introduction to the film festival in Cannes will be redundant for anyone familiar with the world of cinema. Why? “Cannes is the man,” we imagine Tarantino pointedly paraphrasing David Carradine in Kill Bill, Vol.2. More dialogue, more explanation is unnecessary; Cannes rules cinema. Period. A similar preference for the action-image is transforming film criticism. Directed by editorial preponderance journalists move away from explicatory and evaluative film reviews in favour of reports on the media event itself. Atmosphere sketches, stars and Kodak moments rule not only television, but all media. It turns the arrival of virgin festival visitors in Cannes into a déjà vu. You recognize the Croisette lined with palm trees instantly as the artery of the festival and seamlessly blend in with the crowd moving between the Carlton, Majestic and unsurpassed media icon of the Palais du Cinéma. You look at the shimmering bay and know that speedboats navigate between the luxurious yachts to bring the major stars from Hotel du Gap to the festival premises without exposure to the mingling masses on the Croisette. You distinguish the companies at beach pavilions, hotel suites, rented apartments and anchored boats, and realize you have to work your way in to confirm your membership of the film industry. Likewise, it is obligatory for a first-time visitor to acquire one of the shiny silvery tickets that will grant you access to a competition screening in the Lumière Theatre of the festival palace and – more importantly – allow you to participate in the red carpet ritual. Mounting the festival stairs in the prescribed black tie or evening dress is the quintessential mediatized festival moment. Images are continuously captured on cameras and projected on huge screens both inside and outside the Palais, where people line up to catch a glimpse of the privileged ones (preferably famous) on the carpet. In addition there is the luring promise that your picture may be chosen and transmitted to a global audience susceptible and eager to consume the myth of glitter and glamour. Alternatively you can secure a personalized Kodak moment by using the services of the commercial photographers that, also dressed in black tie, re-enact the ritual and give you a star treatment. Beyond the redundancy of the familiar festival imagery, however, lies a labyrinth that needs to be mastered before the unlimited possibilities become available to the individual. Precisely because Cannes rules cinema and everybody who is anybody in the film business will travel to that small city on the Riviera in May it is no small endeavour to move beyond the introduction, beyond beginners’ level and become a player of substance.


The Maurits Binger Institute travels each year to Cannes to introduce an international group of Binger participants to the festival. The introduction starts off with a guided tour of the festival, during which the key locations are visited and some of the more important regulations, facilities and practices are brought to notice. In the following days the Binger people are given a head start in the film (festival) business through a series of carefully selected masterclasses. The topics of the meetings range from general marketing, production, and legal matters to the ins and outs of various key institutions and corporations. It is unquestionably thanks to the network and the skills of the Binger staff that so many experienced professionals are found willing to take place in the master chair in the Binger Headquarters and a rich and interesting programme is offered. Upgraded with the recently acquired knowledge the Binger people enter the labyrinth. Their quest is to pass through the Marché du Film in the Riviera Hall, the various national pavilions, the hotels and apartments, the receptions and parties with the aim to locate those persons that may be central to the development of their projects. They are supported by The Guide, which is published by the Marché and contains all necessary information, most importantly the contact details of attending companies and participants. Beyond words and mythic imagery the Binger people experience the potency of the present film industry and the persistency and persuasion required of them to play the festival to their advantage. Cannes truly is the man. In the international film festival circuit Cannes occupies an undisputed leading position. Besides the attention for and evaluation of the creative achievements the festival is foremost concerned with cinema as economic product: the competition contributes to the positioning of films in the market; the festival platform and global media attention are used to optimize the release of Hollywood mega-productions; the high number of market premiers is important to continue to attract buyers to Cannes. The festival facilitates the encounter between various economic partners. It has the important benefit of a historically invested ambiance that is lacking at film markets such as the AFM and MIFED. Cannes offers the ultimate network opportunity with hierarchical relations and segregating practices to match its status.

The Bride

The festival in Cannes, however, does not only bear the features of Tarantino’s Bill. It also resembles the Bride. The initiative to found a festival in Cannes in 1939 was a vengeful act of the French, Americans and Brits to counter the Fascist hegemony over the Mostra in Venice, the only international film festival at the time. Due to the outbreak of World War II the execution of revenge was kept comatose until the allied victory allowed the festival to re-emerge in 1946. Cannes was an instant success. In present tense political attitudes continue to influence events and decisions during the festival. It is for example clear that the Festival de Cannes is regarded as a highly prestigious cultural event by the French government that must be protected from disruption by dissonant forces against all costs. Since the successful 1968 upheaval (resulting among others in the foundation of the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) strikers realize that protests in Cannes are a guarantee for both media and government attention. So when disgruntled groups of employees with a temporary contract in the cultural sector threaten to undermine the 2004 festival in response to economy measures, negotiations are opened. The intermittents are allowed some exposure, but when they prepare for an occupation of the Palais du Cinéma France draws the line and sends in troops to lock the festival’s central icon, which was coincidentally or not already given the nickname ‘bunker’ because of its uninviting architecture. On another level politics pervade the acclaimed competition. The Germans and Austrians quarrel over the ownership of The Educators (Die Fetten Jahren Sind Vorbei) by Hans Weingartner, born in Austria, but residing in Germany. The stakes appear to be high as it is the first German-language film in the Cannes competition since eleven years. A joyful fact indeed, but more likely to the merit of the film’s French sales company Celluloid Dreams than either German or Austrian interference. The most obvious display of political vengeance, however, can be found in the Michael Moore saga. His Fahrenheit 9/11 seeks to undermine the legitimacy of Bush and the War in Iraq. Despite of his repeated denial the agit-prop documentary is clearly aimed to influence the upcoming elections. With Disney preventing subsidiary Miramax from distributing the film in the USA the competition entry is a knotty affair beckoning a political stance. Allotting Moore the Palm d’Or should be seen as a political sign; it reflects the priority of the jury and its American president to make a statement. It is an action captured in the most powerful media images in which we see Tarantino presenting Moore the Golden Palm that renders it unnecessary for Tarantino to speak the message aloud: “Bush is not the man.”

* Marijke de Valck is Assistant Proffesor and Ph. D Student at the Film Studies Department of the Universiteit van Amsterdam.

El Programa Erasmus - Idea de convivencia para Colombia

El siguiente artículo del diario español EL PAIS (por Gloria Merchán y por Lola Huete Machado), publicado aquí sin permiso, pero con buena intención y con copyleft, eso sí, ofrece una breve pero potente descripción del Programa Erasmus de Intercambio Estudiantil Europeo. Al leerlo me lleno de esperanza porque en el futuro de Colombia, y en el de Latinoamérica, haya una estructura similar, que se sienta, que la veamos, que nos permita conocernos mejor, que nos ayude a entender nuestra identidad, a ver al vecino con buenos ojos y compartir sin recelo una conversación con cualquier otro ciudadano, sin que importe su origen espacial ni su origen económico. Difícil? Claro, como todo en Colombia. Pero posible! Como todo en el mundo!


*Copyleft - EL PAIS SEMANAL / España / 17-10-2004

El Espiritu del Programa Erasmus
*por Gloria Merchán y por Lola Huete Machado*

“Españoles. Italianos. Españoles. Belgas. Españoles. Ingleses. Españoles. La Mensa. Biblioteca di Lettere. Exámenes. Repescas. Ssshhhh, ‘están estudiando’. Viajes. Muchas visitas (‘en mi casa hay sitio’). Il Palio. Partidos de fútbol. Sobremesas en la Piazza del Campo. 100 kilos de pasta. 100 tortillas de patata. Dos intentos de paella. ‘He traído helado’. Litros de sangría (no digo cuántos). El carro de la compra (lo que dio de sí). ‘Nos hacen falta vasos…’. Fiestas. Vespa. Ciudad preciosa. Gente increíble. Año inolvidable. Erasmus 1999-2000. Siena (Italia)”.

Ésta es una carta entre el millar recibido en respuesta a la convocatoria de EPS. Unos 170.000 universitarios españoles han sido y son Erasmus desde 1987. Dos millones en toda Europa, de 3.000 universidades, de 30 países. Una beca nacida con una idea: crear ciudadanos europeos. Valoración de los lectores: se recibe poco dinero, pero merece la pena. Esta semana se entrega el Premio Príncipe de Asturias al Programa Erasmus.

Las cartas han sido casi mil, tantas que empezamos ya a creer que Erasmus somos todos, aunque desde que se puso en marcha el programa en Bruselas en 1987 hasta el curso antepasado hayan participado unos 170.000 estudiantes españoles (de un total de 1,5 millones, según el INE). Y si Gloria Merchán nos introduce, en la página anterior, en el gusto por ser y vivir en esa condición estudiantil, es Elvira Domínguez, desde Francia, la que mejor (entre otras muchas estupendas; imposible citar o incluir todas) sintetiza en su carta prospecto las características del Programa Erasmus. A saber. “Propiedades: fármaco de reconocida eficacia en la prevención y el tratamiento de la timidez, ñoñería, nacionalismo, racismo, chovinismo y otros males de orden social. Composición: estancia en una ciudad de la UE para continuar estudios universitarios. Indicaciones: favorece el aprendizaje de idiomas, la sociabilidad y el interés por la cultura, la tolerancia y el sentimiento de pertenencia a Europa. Posología: administrar al menos una vez en la vida, preferentemente en jóvenes. Presentación: estancias de 3 a 12 meses. Contraindicaciones: no descritas. Incompatibilidades: la relación sentimental en el país de origen puede resultar dañada, por lo que no se aconseja su utilización simultánea. Efectos secundarios: la lengua materna puede sufrir daños, así como cualquier tercer idioma estudiado (estos síntomas desaparecen al abandonar el tratamiento); puede producirse aumento de la asistencia a fiestas, de suspensos, promiscuidad, incapacidad de convivir de nuevo con los padres, crítica de las costumbres del país de origen, dependencia del correo electrónico, multiplicación de abonos a Europa 15, viajes por Europa para visitar a los amigos, idealización del medicamento. Precauciones: en algunos casos se ha descrito dependencia al tratamiento y depresión al abandonarlo; si es así, administrar viajes periódicos a la ciudad Erasmus hasta que la dependencia se atenúe. Advertencia: se han observado casos de pacientes que se instalan años en el país de acogida; algunos, definitivamente. Intoxicación: la intoxicación es rara, dado su elevado índice terapéutico. Sin receta médica”.

El Programa Erasmus (por Erasmo de Rotterdam) nació en la UE en 1987. El objetivo: impulsar la integración europea a través de la educación, apoyar la movilidad y el conocimiento, crear poco a poco una ciudadanía continental. Aquel año sólo 240 españoles se sumaron al programa; en el último curso contabilizado (2002-2003; del pasado aún no hay datos porque los alumnos “aún están regresando”, informan en la Agencia Erasmus) son ya 18.258.

Los más animosos históricamente han sido los estudiantes de Ciencias Empresariales, de Lingüística y Filología, y de Ingeniería y Tecnología. Por comunidades: Madrid, la más adicta, seguida de Cataluña, Andalucía y Valencia. Y los países de destino habituales: Italia, Francia, Reino Unido y Alemania. Extranjeros que vinieron a España el curso 2002-2003: 21.289. ¿Quién puede solicitar las becas Erasmus? Universitarios y alumnos de escuelas de arte o conservatorios. ¿Dónde? En las universidades, que son las que convocan plazas de acuerdo a convenios con centros europeos. ¿Convalidan estudios? “Reconocimiento de estudios es el término adecuado”, dicen en la Agencia, el organismo que se ocupa de la gestión del dinero y de aplicar la normativa de la casa madre, la Comisión Europea. Por eso conviene ir siempre “con un contrato de estudios firmado del centro de origen y destino”. Por precaución. El mínimo de estancia, tres meses; el máximo, un año. Y no se puede repetir.

Entre las cartas recibidas en EPS las ha habido de jóvenes y no tan jóvenes; de alumnos y profesores; de expertos que ofrecían sus publicaciones, como Lioba Simón (autora de El Programa Erasmus en España: balance de la movilidad universitaria) o Patricia Plaza (“Escribí un artículo en la revista de información general de la Universidad de Granada, Campus: ‘Erasmus, un programa consolidado’, número 81, páginas 16-17, marzo de 1994”). Y hasta políticos, como Óscar López Águeda, que fue Erasmus en Inglaterra y es hoy diputado del PSOE por Segovia. “La generación Erasmus ya está en el Congreso de los Diputados”, dice. De otro modo se ofrece Ana Pintos (“Me voy de Erasmus a Cagliari, Cerdeña, Italia, este mes…”), que sugiere seguirla en su beca para redactar luego su experiencia. Sandra Martorell tiene la misma idea: “Me encuentro ahora en pleno papeleo (el cual empezó hace cinco meses)… Permisos de residencia, cuenta bancaria en el extranjero… Es un averíguate la vida, por no hablar de la cantidad tan mínima que te dan de beca, 100 o 200 euros, cuando si te vas a otro lugar de España pueden darte 500. Ilógico”.

El dinero es la madre del cordero. Los hay, como Sara Romero, que empiezan: “Esto no es una beca, es una desgracia”. Pero en la Agencia Erasmus lo explican. “Se reciben unos fondos comunitarios que este año en España serán de 15 millones de euros. Hay países que optan por pagar más y mandar menos estudiantes. Nosotros optamos por repartir lo más posible”. Y señalan que las propias universidades de origen aportan dinero, también las comunidades autónomas e incluso empresas privadas. Hay que mirar siempre todas las opciones y posibilidades. Otro consejo de alumnos experimentados: consulta los foros de tu universidad, habla con otros.Y no hay razón para desesperar: el objetivo del Erasmus es mover por Europa a tres millones de universitarios en 2010.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Manifiesto EZLN - 1996 (English)

The General in Chief of the Liberation Army of the South: Emiliano Zapata (original Zapatista manifesto in nahuatl)


From the night we were born. We live in it. We will die in it.
But tomorrow, the light will be for the majorities. For all those crying the night today. For all those for whom the daylight is denied.
For all the light. Everything for all.
Our struggle is to be HEARD but the bad government screams pride and covers it ears with cannons.
Our struggle is for a just and dignified job, but the bad government buys and sells bodies and shames.
Our struggle is for life, but the bad government offers death as future.
Our struggle is for justice, but the bad government embraces criminals and murderers.
Our struggle is for peace, but the bad government answers war and destruction.
Shelter, land, work, bread, health, education, independence, democracy, freedom.
These were our claims during the long dark night of the 500 years.
These are, today, our demands!

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Oil Factor Documentary (90 min)

From the makers of "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" & "Plan Colombia"

Free-Will Productions presents

THE OIL FACTOR : Behind the War on Terror (90 min)

While the world is focused on terror, did you know that:

* at the current production rate, North America and Western Europe will run out of oil in 2010?

* One million U.S. military personnel are deployed overseas near oil fields and oil routes?

* The U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan and Central Asia blocks China and Russia from accessing oil and natural gas they desperately need for their economies?

Dick Cheney claims that "the American way of life is not negotiable". The real question becomes: is invading foreign countries the acceptable way to ensure that the average American can go on consuming 4 times more energy than the average European or 32 times more energy than the average African? With the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Islamic fundamentalists are recruiting more than ever and acts of terrorism have actually increased around the world.

After spending three months in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Free-Will Productions' Gerard Ungerman and Audrey Brohy assess the results of the U.S. attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. They expose the human cost and examine the bigger geo-strategic picture of these invasions that may lead the world toward the next global conflict.

"THE OIL FACTOR: Behind the War on Terror" is filled with solid facts and figures, clear, illustrative maps, original footage shot in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as interviews with such personalities as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Noam Chomsky, The Project for the New American Century Director Gary Schmitt, best-seller "Taliban" author Ahmed Rashid and the Pentagon's Karen Kwiatkowski. It's a must-see for anyone who wants to fill in the blanks with what is really at stake with today's "war-on-terror" and convince family and friends that another four years of such war may NOT be in our best interests.

For more information and copies, please visit:

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Ciudades sin dios

Hablo con una amiga brasileña sobre “Ciudad de Dios”, la extraordinaria película que conquistó a los críticos y a los festivales del primer mundo, y a los del resto del mundo. Al ver Ciudad de Dios la experimenté más como una película, como una ficción entretenida. A pesar de la evidente violencia urbana, entre adultos, entre niños, y la ausencia del estado en la ciudad del redentor (no la ausencia de la seguridad del estado, sino la ausencia del estado como promotor de la sociedad y el bienestar), sentí la película más como una obra cinematográfica que como una denuncia de la realidad que vive la mayoría de la población, de los niños, en Brasil y en el mundo.

La realidad, la verdadera realidad, finalmente apareció con las palabras simples de mi amiga Ana Flora. Ella es de Río de Janeiro. Ha trabajado en los barrios ultra-deprimidos de Río. Me cuenta detalles de la ciudad olvidada por dios. Y con palabras contundentes describe una de las más terribles consecuencias de la pobreza y la violencia en Río, en Brasil, en el Mundo.

Me dice:

“La situación ya es tan cabrona que en Río la gente le tiene miedo a los niños. Puedes imaginar una sociedad tan enferma en la que los adultos le tienen miedo a los niños? Cuando van conduciendo, parados en un semáforo, la gente se llena de pánico al ver que un niño pobre se acerca a su carro. Cierran las ventanas, miran para otra parte, con la esperanza de que ese niño no sea el atacante armado que les haga rendir cuentas. Lo imaginas?”

Me aterra escucharla. No es nuevo. Pasa en Colombia también. Aunque todavía no es un terror que aceche la mente de los colombianos (el desempleo, los paseos millonarios, el secuestro, son miedos más poderosos por ahora). Sin embargo, en una edición de marzo de 2004 de la revista Cambio (Colombia) una mano joven que empuña un revolver ilustra la portada, y apunta hacia el artículo central: Los Chicos Malos. En resumen (y siempre con el estilo superficial de la revista), la tasa de criminalidad entre menores se ha disparado en los últimos años. En poco tiempo, los niños que viven en pobreza y en miseria, y que día tras día cruzan los laberintos del tráfico urbano, serán uno más de los miedos que aterran a los colombianos, como ya ha pasado en Brasil. Un ladrillo adicional en la pared de terror que condena a nuestra sociedad a un espacio de desconfianza hacia el otro, de parálisis social y de supervivencia básica, totalmente individual.

Hacia esa ciudad, vayamos con Dios.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Welcome speech for the new UvA's International Students, 2004 - 2005

My first real image of Amsterdam, seven months ago, was the west side of the Numarkt (the New Market square) in the center of the city. I had arrived there by metro from central station and feeling the slow rhythm of the subway’s long electric stairs, I emerged into a gothic square painted by snow. That was an exciting January morning. Some months later I was going to meet a friend in that same square. I was riding my bike from the east, passed next to the Numarkt metro station, and suddenly, I was surprised by the intensity of the same image that had been there for me the day I first arrived to this city. It was the same angle, the same position, although not everything was the same. The colors were different, it was not a winter morning but a long spring afternoon, a cool sunset instead of a cold dawn, no snow but a red-blood light against the walls of the distorted houses. And yet, the image was the same. I stopped to watch it again, to compare it to the picture in my memory. I was also comparing myself, because after some months in Amsterdam, I had also changed.

I wonder about your first image. Hundreds of different moments and details, times and locations of arrival, interests and past decisions, which led to the very moment in which your life in Amsterdam began. Because it has begun.

But what is Amsterdam for an international student? What kind of experiences will be lived in this city? What kind of city is this? I’m still trying to answer those questions to myself; these words might just be another attempt.

The Dutch architect Rem Koolhas has named the region that links Brussels, Amsterdam and the Ruhr Valley (in West Germany) as the Hollocore. The Hollocore is a very unique region in the world. It is only 1% of European land but 9% of the European population live in it, and in spite of its world record demographic density, the Hollocore doesn’t have a single city with more than one million inhabitants. It is a networked set of countries. Many centers, short distances, precise infrastructure, the highest amount of air traffic in the world, and the most progressive, liberal political views put into practice: Gay marriage, euthanasia, sailing abortion clinics, legal distinction between hard and soft drugs, regulation of prostitution, highways without speed limit. And at the same time, it is in the Hollocore where the new forms of right wing politics are being developed, with immigrants, national identity and the transformation – or even disappearance – of the European welfare state as the main issues. However, this opposition of political ideas makes sense, because it balances different forces. Amsterdam is one of those multiple centers of the Hollocore, the biggest city, international and diverse, famous for its liberal environment and full of youth, and it is embedded in the space where all this political and social influences are interacting and melting. You will be living in this place, in this city, cosmopolitan village, center and periphery, all at the same time. You will be involved and surrounded by all these energies, not always evident, but always there.

This brief geopolitical description may anticipate the fact that Amsterdam tends to be a surreal city. If you take a look at the map, you won’t see a city but a labyrinth, an urban web in which everyone will be lost in the beginning. You will also permanently see, in buildings and corners and T-shirts, the flag of Amsterdam with its three Xs, the triple X city. Those are St Andrew’s crosses and they represent the city values: Valor, Resolution and Mercy. A popular tradition also links the crosses with the threats to the city: water, fire and pestilence. But again it makes sense because it represents a kind of equilibrium. Those values are part of the city life and of its open environment, which has, for centuries, attracted new waves of thinkers from all over the world. You are one of those waves, a new wave of young people from diverse places, that comes to learn from a formal, flexible, tolerant, and high quality academic environment but also from your everyday experience, from every instant that brings a new street, a new face, a new smile, from the music of the languages of all your new friends, from the tales they’ll tell about their home countries and cultures, from the way they cook or they dress, from the music they like, from all the ideas they will share with you and from the way they move their hands when they talk, from the way they dream, from the way they laugh, from the way they kiss. You will learn from all those subtle codes, the codes of the others, the code that you have to attempt to understand in this labyrinth that Amsterdam is.

After some weeks, maybe months, the streets and their names will begin to make sense, and you will know that you’re already part of the city, that it is possible to know the direction in which you’re moving or to meet someone somewhere without struggling with the map. Suddenly, one day, drug dealers in certain parts of the center will stop offering you the usual coca-ecstasy happy meal, because you will look and feel more local. Some of you will be frequent customers of the pub close to your student building, and others will experiment with the spirals of their minds. The red light district won’t be of interest anymore, and its windows will look more like interactive neon works of erotic modern art. You will ride bikes to the point that walking more than a block will seem unconceivable and ride back home at night with red wine in your veins and many friends around. You will see lovers kissing on top of dark bridges or in the shadows of quiet streets. Ghost boats with illegal parties inside will disappear in front of your eyes. Black cats will cross in front of you at night without changing your luck but making you think how strange the night was. You will see famous churches turned into paradise clubs, advertising agencies and exhibition halls in the middle of the sex district. You will hear and forget and learn again hundreds of names and faces and fields of study. During your days, and during your nights, with your professors, classmates and friends, in a faculty classroom or in a Hip-Hop bar, you will tell and discuss stories about global economics, EU politics, presidential media contests, labor laws, migrations, ethnic discriminations, left wing activism, AIDS research, social models, gender inequalities, sexuality, feminism, expressionist art, aesthetic history, filmmaking, techno music, poetry and beat generation novels. You will have the chance to exchange opinions and share thoughts with innumerable people from extremely different backgrounds and with very different interests, and in that exchange your new points of view will begin to appear, slowly, you will begin to feel your own intellectual transformation because you are experiencing life and looking at yourself from the other side of the mirror, because you are learning.

But to amplify that experience you have to balance the accent. The first impulse is to look for and to join the ones that are like you. To look for your same accent. And it makes sense. And it is easier, of course. But this international experience requires that you look and find and understand the other. And that is not an easy task, it involves a lot of effort because you have to comprehend the other’s code, which goes well beyond the language and into the signs that only eyes or moves or laughter or reactions convey. It is the dimension of the other’s history facing your history, the other’s previous experience interacting with yours, the other’s life sharing time and space with your own life for a fleeting year. It is there, at that point, when all these trajectories achieve an instant of balance, when you will understand. If such a thing is possible, but such a thing is what this world needs.

But where are the locals in this picture? To get in touch with the Dutch is a very important part of this effort for comprehension. The openness of the Dutch is evident in the fact that almost everyone speaks English, and in general they are not really bothered if they have to speak it when approached by a foreigner. Maybe a small signal of irritation might appear for a second and then vanish just to continue with a nice attitude. Of course, if you approach them in Dutch, just the necessary to ask for basic things, they will return a smile and an answer in English after hearing your accent (as the urban legend goes). Basic Dutch is useful to initiate casual conversations in English and relations. But if your objective is to get into a Dutch group of friends and make that relation evolve, more sophisticated language skills are needed, and that is totally reasonable, because, after all, the Dutch are not international students in Amsterdam. But they are open and kind and always interested in meeting strange people! Amsterdam has been my world, the place where I have lived for the last seven months, not a transitory experience, but a permanent and intense reality. And that’s because of my Dutch friends; because of you I have felt at home.

After your time here is over, and that’s tomorrow, what will you chose to remember? What will be the balance in your memory? Your first image of the city? the real friends that will stand the flow of thousands of text messages, mobile calls and the forgotten names on your infinite digital directory? Will it be the trip you made with your mates on a rented car to Prague, or Paris or Berlin? Or your basiq-easy-air flights to Rome, Barcelona, London or Dublin? Will it be the final party of this starting week or the first farewell dinner for one of your new friends? a class that someone recommended or a professor that made you speak with passion or a book that came out of nowhere and will be with you for the rest of your life? The foreign girl at the bar of an unexpected coffee shop or of an unexpected cafe? that ice cream in the winter or the bells of Europe ringing at the same time? Your birthday party with a happy birthday song in ten different languages? Your second or your third bike? The days of good weather when it only rained twice and the wind was on your side? The jazz house? Or those two one-night-stands? Two bikes in love while their riders are holding hands? The visit of your friends from home that made you remember your code? That boy that stayed or that girl that went back when all the trains left the central station? After reality, there will be hundreds of thousands of digital pictures left. Digital drops in the ocean of time.

Welcome to Amsterdam. Enjoy the ride.

Thank you.

Amsterdam, September 1st, 2004
By Carlos Peralta