Local Heart, Global Soul

March 15, 2013

Growing Up a Tiny, Infinitesimal Fraction…. Right Before My Eyes.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Kiwi daughter recently attended the funeral of a the mother of a little friend her age that she’s known for some 4-5 years … it’s an especially sad situation because  the mother was a solo parent who loved her daughter to bits, the father never gave her the time of day or even acknowledged her existence so some remarked that the poor kid lost the wrong parent.

The mother had a brain tumour and Kiwi daughter took time off school to support her little friend on what was a very difficult day.

The last time Kiwi Daughter was at a funeral she was very young and now she doesn’t remember the experience. With Oma  at 90 years of age sooner or later she will have to attend a funeral  so this was a chance to give her the opportunity of getting to know what to expect at a funeral without it being too close to home.

After the service we talked about how funeral had gone and how she was handling it .  She remarked: it’s so nice that the casket was very pretty … the wood looked pretty. I told her that most people had a wooden casket and she was genuinely surprised…. I said “Did you expect it to be made of stone? ” and to my surprise, with a totally straight face she said “Yes!”

It appears that she’s confusing caskets with grave stones and burial plots and thought you got carried to the grave with the stone surround, headstone and the works…  Tying not to make fun of her I told her that if it was like this this then it would all be so heavy you couldn’t lift it off the ground and it wouldn’t be  very nice to have to be bought into your burial service and final resting place on  a forklift truck.

Kiwi Daughter burst out laughing at the thought of the pallbearers trying in vain to hoist up a marble casket to their shoulders and it gave some welcome relief to the end of a very sad day. Seeing the moment that the “penny drops” is like stepping out of the tunnel into the light and seeing a whole new view that you didn’t expect.

On rare occasions with you child you actually see this moment happen….

It reminds me that often things that might seem basic and logical information to an adult, are actually a slow progress of  join-the-dots for kids, as they piece together the information that equips them for dealing with life. On this day Kiwi Daughter grew up a tiny, infinitesimal fraction….  right before my eyes.

January 30, 2013

Zooming In to Get Up Close and Personal…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

These recent pages of my diary document our last summer’s trip to the Harderwijk dolphinarium and the interaction with the dolphins that we booked for the daughters of the three families in our group as a special farewell when we found out that one of the families would be shifting overseas in the summer.

The one bonus of not being in the water with the dolphins myself is that I can still get close up with ny lens as they swim close by the edges of the enclosure or under the bridge I”m standing on where the swimming members of our group are waiting by a hidden mesh partition fence with the keeper to say hello.

This is the moment to test the zoom lens of my camera to it’s limits, and also my severely limited photogrphy skills when it comes to taking photos of moving objects and wildlife… and capturing inages through the strange relective qualities of water.

To be honest these amazing beasts are memorising, I would have no trouble returning day after day to try and capture their beauty.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Their fluidity in the water is a work of art, and there is clearly a defined character to each animal… the playful one who’s nudging and flicking water, the bossier (or maybe older one) who commands deference from the others and a set of social rules that govern their behaviour.

And social they are, the interaction is very much enjoyed and even when they have the opportunity and plenty of space to leave the group alone they choose not to, it seems that humans are as much entertainment to dolphins as dolphins are entertainment to us.

How any human being could want to kill or maim such intelligent creatures is beyond me,  these stunning creatures deserve our respect.

Behind the dolphin enclosure is the walrus enclosure,  in the water they look big enough, out of it they are massive. And, to my surprise, amazing quick on their flippers when it comes to moving around.

We have spent all afternoon here and now the dolphinarium is closing for the day… there is still a lot more to see, but no time left today to fit everything in. Everyone agrees that a return trip (even without the extra dolphin experience) is high on our wish list for another day.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Interestingly when I spoke to the keeper who was with our group I mentioned that jobs here must be difficult to get, and probably need a degree in marine biology etc.

“Not at all”  he replied:  when vacancies arise interviews are open to people of all education levels, what’s deemed most important  is how well the staff interact with the dolphins and other wildlife here: if there is no natural ease with the animals, no  “connection” or flair for working with the residents here then no amount of degrees or diploma’s will get you a place.

This is a piece of information that is the last piece in a puzzle  I couldn’t quite put my finger on before, it’s the feeling you get when you are here: the  level of respect between the staff and their charges and clear sense that you get that this is more than “just a job”. For these people it’s clearly a vocation and it shows.

Certainly this special dolphin experience at Euro 125,- per child and Euro 150,- per adult, this is definitely not cheap, but it is a once in a life-time “bucket-list” type of experience, and we also know that a lot of work is done here to help nurse injured wildlife back to health before releasing them back into the wild.

This makes this experience worth every cent… if you can’t take it with you,  you should at least try and spend it wisely and an amazing day out that will be in the memories of three families daughters forever and supports the brilliant work done here… I think that’s well worth it.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 28, 2013

Harderwijk Dolphinarium: There’s a Surprise in the Pool Next Door!

Filed under: Harderwijk,PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Last summer we looked a unique experience for Kiwi Daughter and her two best friends to share for a last time before one of them moved overseas with her family.

This lead to our three family group  coming to Harderwijk’s Dolphinarium to get up close and personal with dolphins for two hours in a small group of six under the instruction of the keepers.

The members of  our group who have been in the water with the dolphins are now makng their way to the other side of the enclosure.

There is a complex system whereby the water from the open sea close by is flushed via filters and pipes through the enclosure, allowing  for a seawater environment as close to what the marine life are used to within the Dolphinarium.

The group will be snorkelling in this second part of the enclosure and get a snorkel and practice lesson in the shallows before they set out swimming in the deeper water.

There was a lot of giggling amongst the kids as they got to grips with the snorkel and masks but they soon got the hang of it and set out with the group using a gentle breaststroke into the deeper area where they tread water before getting ready to look into the depths below.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

With equipment adjusted, on the signal of the keeper, they all go face down in the water and within seconds their heads pop out of the water again and we are greeted with shrieks of surprise:  the laughing instructor didn’t tell them that the walking bridge I am standing on hides an underwater mesh fence that keeps the dolphins separated from the inhabitants on our side.

Our group were startled to find that the space they are swimming in is far from empty but in fact is home to a lot  of fish: some of them huge and within touching distance! They certainly didn’t expect to put their faces under the water and expect to see large fish staring back at them from close quarters!

Once they got over the surprise their heads quickly disappeared again as they eagerly returned the curiosity of the inquisitive fish. The group swim their way over to the footbridge I’m standing on and stop at the mesh fence underneath where the playful dolphin on the other side come over to say hello.

With fingers through the mesh they can touch the dolphins and whilst  they are hidden from view under the wide bridge they have a decent head room and I can hear excited conversation below me. The dolphins seem delighted to have company and keep making circles in the water and returning to the bridge to interact with the visitors. As usual identifying  features have been edited out of my photos of the friends and family for reasons of internet privacy.

The keeper who has been fantastic and really made this experience easy, safe and totally fun, agrees to pose for a blog photo. I have to apologise for forgetting his name but if you are lucky enough to get him as your guide you can rest assured you will have a great time.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 27, 2013

Learning New Tricks and Getting Into the Water to Play…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This post continues one of yesterday where we have come to the Dolphinarium in Harderwijk so that Kiwi Daughter and her two best friends can swim with dolphins and share a unique experience together before one of her best friends moves overseas.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I don’t to put photos of my family on the internet and so for this post you get edited photos of our group with identifying features removed.

Yes I’m very aware that I’m useless at editing and it’s a bit of  a blotchy mess  but my limited skills achieved what was required and that’s what counts.

I never claimed to be Michaelangelo but at least I know my limits and won’t be attempting to touch up any fresco’s any time soon…  no matter how much repair they might be in need of.

First we all go and watch a film about the Dolphinarium and the work they do, yes swimming  with a dolphin is expensive but we learn that every cent goes back into caring for the wildlife, not just the ones we can in the public areas but also rescued marine mammals from all over the Dutch coastline.

These animals are bought here due to injury or illness, are nursed back to health in a quiet, dedicated area well away from the public eye and whenever possible, once healthy are released back into the wild.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Dolphins who are unable for whatever reason to be re-released into the wild are looked after and if they show an interest in learning tricks and getting close to the public then they are taught by the keepers. The Keeper tells us that different dolphins have distinct preferences about the tricks they prefer to do but that none of them is forced to learn a trick or if they know one, to perform it.

If they don’t fancy doing it that day, it’s all ok and for this reason no guarantee is made to the group that any specific experience will be met, and on the day we were there were three dolphins in the enclosure when the group went into the water, one came to check out the group but decided it didn’t want to play today and swam away.  It got some fish regardless but preferred to  play and dive close to where I was taking the photos, on the far side of the enclosure.

The second and third dolphins hung around the trainer and made it clear that they wanted some entertainment with the guests and so the tricks were changed to these dolphins preferences.

For some reason it was decided that it would not be safe to swim in the deeper water with the dolphins today, but that shallow water playing would be fine. I’m not sure if this was because of the ages of the children or for other reasons but at least they get to get close enough to touch.

The keepers have set commands that they use to communicate with the dolphins and once each member of the party had practised one of these sets of signals they went and put them to the test with one of the dolphins. The tricks ranged from tight circular turns, jumps, and splashing to “speaking” where upon command the dolphin came out of the water and chattered Flipper style to the group.

The relationships between the keepers and the dolphins are clearly close, there is a special bond of trust and respect between the two… even just observing from the shore it was a moving experience.

The local birds also provided some entertainment,  hanging around and circling low in an attempt to catch a low flying fish mid-air en route to a dolphin’s mouth.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 26, 2013

Delays in Arrivals Has Us Watching Something Fishy…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This page of my journal is from the beginning of summer 2012 when we organised a trip to Harderwijk so that Kiwi Daughter and her two best friends could swim with the dolphins and share a unique experience together before one of her best friends relocated away from the Netherlands for her father’s work.

Since getting from “A” to “B” on Dutch motorways is not always manageable without traffic congestion and delays, we left the Hague with plenty of  extra time to spare “just in case” we got caught in a “file” (pronounced “fee la”) while is literally a file, as in single-file.

I think North American’s call them  “tailbacks”… and  “traffic jams” elsewhere in the English speaking world.

It’s certainly not a word I ever needed to use growing up in the South Island of New Zealand, where the joke (and the reality) was always that a “traffic jam” was when one, maybe two cars had to stop for a large mob of sheep to go by on a small country road. It certainly was a shock to find that “file” were a huge part of normal life here in the Netherlands. Bumper to bumper vehicles on motorways either standing still or doing speeds that any reasonable walker could easily out-pace.

Luckily on this occasion we only got stuck in the crawling-at-snails-pace traffic on the motorway between The Hague and Delft, after which the traffic miraculously thinned and everyone resumed normal speed.  We had of course factored extra time into our day for this eventuality and still managed to arrive at the Dolphinarium ahead of schedule.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The girl’s appointment with the dolphins has been made and reserved weeks ago and we need to keep to our appointed time.

After a quick look around the entrance area it seem the other two families were less fortunate with the traffic so we decide to look around a little bit.

The Dolphinarium site is too big for me to negotiate easily on crutches but luckily there are wheelchairs available and I get to ride around today. We detour over to an enclosure where at first we don’t see much wildlife at all, but within minutes sea lions  start popping their heads out of the water and heading over towards us…  we’ve hit it lucky and arrived at the same time as a keeper who’s  bucket of fish garners the complete  attention of the sea lions within minutes.

A keeper demonstrates the sea lions agility, they have little trouble scaling the rocks and are deft at catching the fish she throws at them,  I even manage one close-up shot where a fish is about to disappear whole into the open mouth of one of the sea lions.

The fish were dispatched with a single gulp rather than any chewing,  so whilst certainly not a messy way of eating I do wonder how there can actually be any appreciate of taste whatsoever, the fish barely touched the sides! About one second after the gulp, the sea lions were already looking expectantly for the next offering, taking the term “fast food” to a whole new level.

We managed to get very close, there’s an electric fence between us and them and they show no interest in us anyway: humans with camera’s being clearly exceptionally boring when compared to human’s with a bucket of fish.  We linger for as long as possible watching their antics… but soon the other two families arrive and we head over to the meeting point where the dolphin keepers are…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 25, 2013

A Special Experience to Remember Forever…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Kiwi Daughter has two “best best”  friends with whom she has shared a class for the last four years.

At the beginning of last year one of them announced that her father’s job was being relocated overseas due to company restructuring, so the whole family would be leaving the Netherlands during the 2012 summer school holidays.

All of the girls were sad it was happening but understood that sometimes families have to move to where the work opportunities are.

Kiwi Daughter had been talking for almost a year before this about a wish to swim with dolphins one day but our travel schedule had not allowed us to be anywhere where this was possible and a  quick internet search had revealed that it was an expensive business too, often with age restrictions so Little Mr. could not be included, so we more or less put the idea on the back burner as not really a high priority.

When the news came that this best friend would be leaving, we decided that we wanted to do something special that would be a lasting memory for the girls to share.

Sleepovers and baking days were struck off the list as not having the wow factor and all of the sudden Kiwi Daughter brought up the topic of the dolphins again, wondering of maybe the three girls could swim with dolphins and if we could suggest that the two families who would be staying in the Netherlands could pay half each for the girl who was leaving.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We spoke to the other parents and they thought it was a brilliant idea.

There also needed to be two adults in the group: I am not yet fit enough and Himself didn’t want to, but luckily one parents in each of the other families decided they’d love to do this too and one  even wanted to include another of their kids to make the required six in the group.

The age requirement was eight years of age so Little  Mr. was too young but he was happy with the promise that we could do something at a future date when he was old enough if he was still interested then.

This is how we come to be heading out on just before the summer to the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk.

Harderwijk used to be a fishing port on the Dutch coast of the Zuiderzee. This became the IJsselmeer (pronounced “Ize El meer”) in the north of the Netherlands. It’s seen many changes in the last century as first the Dutch closed the IJsselemeer off from the sea with a massive sea barrier called literally the “afsluitdijk”  (closing off dike) and then proceeded to reclaim 1,419 km2 (548 sq miles) just off the Harderwijk coast to produce what would in 1986 become the the world’s largest artificial island and the new Dutch province of Flevoland.

Now a relatively narrow strip of water connects Harderwijk to the sea, so although it hasn’t altogether lost it’s seafaring traditions, they have been dramatically downsized over the past century.

Once we get there we start to look around for the other two families…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A witty Dutch nautical pun on the word for lavatory: “w.c”

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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