Skip to main content

Het Withstraat Dagboek: Welkom

Greeted by a cold Witte de Withstraat in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The day has started early and my eyes are letting me know this. Even so, waking up at around 4.30am in order to catch the X26 bus to Heathrow from a cold, deserted Teddington High Street has done little to dampen my excitement for the four days ahead. 

It is Thursday 9th February and I am bound for Rotterdam, Netherlands – along with twenty students and a couple of other teachers. Our purpose for travelling is mainly to visit our partner school, The Einstein Lyceum. Having managed two of their visits to my workplace in the UK for the last couple of years, it seems only right that we should return the favour and descend upon their city. 

The group of students accompanying us is a truly representative group of West London 16-19 year olds – a cross-sections of races, nationalities and religions. In fact, as I arrive, last of everyone, at Heathrow Terminal 5, seeing all of their groggy little faces, I realise once again that it is this rich cultural mix that keeps me passionate about the place I work.

The teachers, Julian and Pia, are both media teachers, but I don’t hold that against them. The majority of the students are taught by either or both of them and will be working on a media project about life in the Netherlands during our visit. I am, on the other hand, in charge an elite cross-curricular group of students, here to report back using words rather than images. A third member of staff, Jas, is due to join us on Friday.

The flight, luckily, is a short one from Heathrow to Amsterdam Schipol. Most of the way there I am sat next to a student who is explaining at great volume the degree to which her ears are hurting. Unable to close my ears to her moaning, I make a few sympathetic noises, before looking out of the plane’s window at the ice-cold, snowy abyss that is the Dutch countryside.

Amazingly, as we gather our luggage and cross the bright white bus station to our very orange coach, my iPhone weather app informs me that the temperature is a staggering -8°C and will be colder by weekend.

With the coach providing our suitably chilled students with some warm sanctuary, we begin our journey along the A4 towards Rotterdam. The students are all now wide-awake and one of them, in the role of an ad hoc choir master, begins leading the rest of a group in song – a song that seemingly lasts the entirety of the journey.

From the window, the wide expanses of flat, white countryside run off into the icy mist of the distance, punctuated only by occasional windmills brave enough to emerge from the thick cool sheet. There is no doubt that the snow-veiled Netherlands we have landed in is quite a spectacle.

After a short while we leave the main roads and weave our way down a number of side-streets before reaching Witte de Withstraat. The road is a mix of very smart and shabby chic, of cafés, restaurants, hotels and shops and exudes an atmosphere reminiscent of Edgware Road in London, albeit without the shisha cafés.

Finally, me and Julian head to the Home Hotel reception to check the group in. With the rooming arranged before we left, we get led along the street to the townhouse at No. 59 that is to be our lodgings for the next four days. We have arrived and already feel strangely at home.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called

Atay Maghrebi: Hendrix Myths on The Road to Sidi Kaouki

The familiar washed-out and salt-tinged ocean air coloured the sky, lending it a soft pastel-blue light as I sat and tried to recall what I had been doing the day before.
I hadn’t been feeling one hundred percent since eating a weird tasting keftatagine in a Marrakech establishment (that shall remain nameless), but I was beginning to feel little more like myself after a few days of freshly cooked food at the Atlantic Hostel.
As I sat on the sofa at the highest point of the roof terrace, my red Moleskine in my hand, I spotted to my left a pile of blankets and thought nothing of it. That is, until it started moving and a young man who looked like an Amazigh version of Captain Jack Sparrow emerged, greeted me in French and stumbled down the stairs.

After a few coffees, I went searching for some light breakfast and a short walk away from the Hostel, on Rue de Hajjali, found Le Patisserie Driss. 
None of the pastries or cakes seemed to have a sign, but using a combination of pointing, F…

Breaking the Barriers to Girls’ Education in the Developing World

Whenever I have written about time I’ve spent in East Africa, I often talk about the fact that geography plays such a big role in how different my life is compared to someone there. What I hadn’t realised until much more recently is that not only does somebody’s physical location in the world play a massive part in the opportunities available to them, but so does their gender.
One question that begs to be asked is: why is it that girls in particular are less likely to get access to education in poorer countries?
According to Plan UK, women earn 30-60% of men’s earnings for similar jobs and women are more likely to be in low-paid employment, yet an extra year of secondary school boosts a girl’s eventual future wage by 15-25%. Many don't even have the opportunity to get this far.
There are obvious cultural and economic pressures dictating that boys, as historical breadwinners, should be pushed to the fore and afforded the greater opportunities to be educated.
After all, imagine you are…