Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Life on the Far Side

(a.k.a. The Netherlands)

On the A4 motorway outside Schiphol Airport is a sign which proudly proclaims “London 525..[km]..”. I’m in the Netherlands for a meeting in the morning, and I’m reminded once again how this is a nation of contrasts. On the one hand, my hotel’s TV has programs in four languages and I don’t know a Dutchman who doesn’t speak at least two. (I’ve just seen the L’Oreal Expert for Men advert staring that guy from Lost – he’s speaking English; the voice-over is Dutch, and nobody bats an eyelid.)

On the other hand, many of the modern buildings have moat-like ponds on their street side so that, as one of my colleagues explained, invading tank drivers would have a problem driving into them to take them out. I can understand the logic, even though it doesn’t explain what happens if the tank commander decides to shell them instead.

Tonight at the airport, I saw a group of illegal immigrants being led away by the police. I was waiting at Immigration, wondering why there was a group of young-ish men milling around by the counter into the office area – only when they were marshalled out did I realise they were handcuffed. The group looked South East Asian, possibly Filipino. How they were picked up, I don’t know – I didn’t witness what gave them away.

- Pam

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