corders in the hague

It's like having the Corders round for dinner - except the kids don't smash stuff and Mike doesn't drink all your booze. And when you're bored you can get rid of us with a mouse click rather than having to start tidying up the house.

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Location: The Hague, Netherlands

Friday, December 22, 2006

Pre Christmas ( Irmie wrote)

We are all set to go, tomorrow we are off to England. All of Mike's family will come together this year. We are leaving early in the morning, drive to Calais and get on the train that will get us through the Tunnel to Dover. The car is packed with pressies and the girls are very excited. Too excited as they have been horrible this afternoon. It took Esther 45 minutes to finish her plate with rice. By that time I was ready to eat the rice and the plate myself.

Christmas Dinner

Last night the girls had a dinner party at school, everyone brought a plate to their classroom which was turned into a restaurant for the occasion. While the girls ate their yummy dinner the parents spend their time in the playground, drinking too much gluwine and eating Dutch favourites. (stampot- mashed potatoes with kale and a smoked sausage or thick pea soup). I wasn't looking forward to it at all as I suspected to be standing there in the cold, just smiling, all by myself and my dear husband. But I was wrong and things are starting to change. We are finally getting to know a few people and the night turned out great. I even made plans with another mum to join the local hockeyclub.
The night was complete when the girls came out of class and were just over the moon. They had their best time and despite the temperature of 6 degrees my heart turned all warm. Thing are going to be OK.

New career

When I went to an OT conference last month, I practised my networking skills and did really well. I was bluffing about OT in Australia to a teacher from the University of Rotterdam and she asked me whether I would like to supervise last year students with a pilot study. The University is doing research about Community work and how to keep healthy elderly healthy. Music to my ears as I am very frustrated with the limitations in the community here.
It's only going to be a few hours here and there and I can easily combine it with my other duties but I am very excited.

New friend

I have made a new friend in Voorburg who took me out last week. I met Carola through a mutual friend in Australia and we got on really well. She only lives 5 minutes away from us. Carola came to pick me up and together we cycled into the city of The Hague where we watched the movie Little Miss Sunshine. It's about a family who travels around the country as their daughter participates in a beauty contest. Very funny.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Irmie saw it first this morning - a thin white crust of ice on the cars outside. I knew there was no science backing up those global warming doomsayers. It was all very exciting. Our first frosty morning. Julia was so interested she ran outside to check the car in her pyjamas and bare feet. Then on our way to school Julia loved watching her breath billow out in a tiny cloud. "It's going to be like this all winter," she said. She doesn't appear to believe in climate change either.

I have a new way of getting Julia to school. Instead of her sitting on the back of my bike, she now always rides her own and wears her school backpack - a freebie from the Winter Olympics which has a carrying handle on top as well as the two shoulder straps. I ride next to her and pull her along using the backpack's handle. We haven't collided with one another ... yet.

After dropping the kids off, I cycled to the Peace Palace for a hearing at the International Court of Justice. Arguments between Uruguay and Argentina on the legality of Uruguay building paper mills on the river that separates the countries.

It was one of those crisp mornings that make cycling to work (even a jawdroppingly boring border dispute) is a genuine pleasure. I cut through the oldest part of town, along a little canal and through a narrow street of swanky shops and art galleries close to Noordeinde Palace. There are so many beautiful buildings you don't know which one to look at. Probably you should walk it so you have more time to stop and look. The Hague is understated compared to Amsterdam, where the 17th century canal houses sometimes seem to so want to be loved that they bend over backwards, literally, to please tourists. The canal houses here stand up straighter and look a little younger but are beautiful all the same and there are lots of amazing art deco shop fronts.

The Peace Palace itself is kind of gaudy in a Baroque way but imposing all the same and the details inside are amazing - beautifully painted paneled ceilings, carved everything, even the door handles are mini works of art. These days they even have Internet for the media - in the late '90s you had to run out to find the single pay phone to file before Reuters or AFP, which lent a frisson of excitement to even the most tedious four-hour legalese arguments.
The illustration above is taken from the Carnegie Institute Web site or the Peace Palace Library's site. I'm not sure which is which. Anyway, it's their copyright. I wouldn't want to pinch pix from an institution so richly endowed with lawyers.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pakjes avond

A belated entry for Dec. 5 - gift evening that rounds off the Sinterklaas season and immediately ushers in Christmas.
You may notice a wintery theme in gifts of hats and scarves. This despite Europe sweltering through its warmest autumn ever, North Pole glaciers melting quicker than an ice cube in a G&T in Sydney this weekend, skiers slithering down grassy slopes in the Alps etc., etc.

That said, it still feels damn cold to me with my blood thinned by seven years of sweltering Decembers. I went for a rumble on the Harley on a beautiful sunny Sunday when the temperature struggled to get over seven degrees on the coast. Trundling along the packed sea front in Scheveningen I saw several people surfing in the North Sea! I think we've discussed the North Sea earlier (Julia: I'm not swimming in there, it's brown) so no need to point out the foolishness of getting in there even in the summer, but doing it in mid-winter seems just recklessly stupid to me. Plus, the waves were struggling to get knee-high. I've seen footage of people braving icey waters of Tasmania, but that was because there was a six-meter swell.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

The long and winding sentence

It's not all fun and games in the journalistic world of The Hague.
Sometimes you have to deal with internatinal courts/arbitration panels that can be just a touch long winded.
Take a deep breath and try to race through this 620-word sentence that was part of a statement issued by a commission that has been trying for years to set a border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

More particularly, the obstacles from the Ethiopian side took various forms: prohibiting field-work within the territory under its control, thus impeding the survey of ground control points for the aerial photography and the secondary datum survey (April to July 2002); filing extensive comments on the Delimitation Decision, amounting to an attempt to reopen elements of the substance of that Decision, instead of limiting itself to the requested comments on the draft 1:25,000 maps (January 2003); alleging that the Field Liaison Officers appointed by Eritrea were intelligence officers and refusing to allow field work to continue in Ethiopian territory, then failing to appoint ad hoc Field Liaison Officers within the prescribed time limit
following the Commission’s Order of 9 February 2003 so as to allow field work to resume without further delay (January to February 2003); failing to appoint new Field Liaison Officers for the remaining demarcation activities following the Commission’s Decision pursuant to Article 15B of the Demarcation Directions (July 2003 to March 2006); failing to provide assurances for the security of all demarcation personnel (August 2003 to the present); failing to comment on maps which indicated the pillar locations in the Eastern Sector (September 2003); repeatedly refusing to authorise necessary flight requests lodged by the Chief Surveyor; eventually limiting the Commission’s field work to the Eastern Sector by statements that the ad hoc Field Liaison Officers would only be permitted to operate in the Eastern Sector; complaining to the Secretary-General of the United Nations of what Ethiopia termed “illegal, unjust and irresponsible decisions” of the Commission in respect of Badme and parts of the Central Sector, and proposing that the Security Council set up an alternative mechanism to demarcate the parts of the boundary it contested (September 2003); denouncing in that same letter the Commission’s Delimitation Decision by stating that it would only recognise the southern boundary of the Temporary Security Zone (“TSZ”) as the international boundary; failing to provide assurances for the security of the contractors selected for the emplacement and as-built survey of the
boundary pillars (September to October 2003); rejecting the Commission’s invitation to attend a meeting on 5 November 2003, claiming that the notice was too short and that there was no likelihood of anything being achieved (October 2003); refusing to permit any work to be carried out by the Commission’s field staff in the Western and Central Sectors until the boundary in the Eastern Sector had been demarcated and subject to Ethiopia’s approval of the Commission’s method of demarcation (November 2003); failing to make prompt payment of its share of the Commission’s expenses (February 2004 to February 2005); rejecting the Commission’s invitation to a meeting to be held on 22 February 2005 on the ground that the meeting was
premature, would be unproductive and could have an adverse impact on the demarcation process, as a result of which the Commission was obliged to cancel the meeting (February 2005); failing again to meet its financial obligations (May 2006 to the present); introducing qualifications to its previously unqualified acceptance of the final and binding quality of the Delimitation Decision (17 May 2006); failing to respond to the Commission’s request for assurances of freedom of movement and security for its staff travelling to the region to reopen the Commission’s Field Offices (July to August 2006); and failing to respond to the Commission’s invitation to a rescheduled meeting on 24 August 2006.