Samstag, 24. Dezember 2011

So this is goodbye :')

Here it is (with half a year of delay, but sill): my very last blogpost.
This is an attempt to summarize and complete my year in the Jeanette Noel Huis and the months after.

Vacation in Zeeland

I'm actually impressed that still I managed to write something in August, as my life equaled pure chaos this month. After the demonstration for Bradley Manning, there were only few days left to gather our things for a 1-week-vacation with all the members of the Jeanette Noelhuis and numerous friends. While most of us took the train,  Frits and me drove a giant mini-van incl. 4 residents + baggage of 30 people to the South of Holland. One can imagine that I had some initial difficulties, considering the fact that I had only used my bycicle for locomotion for almost a year ;)
After everyone had overcome their agony with me driving the van, evberything went well and after few hours we arrived at Seerooskereke, an idyllic village in Zeeland, in the very South of the NL. This is where the house's members spend their vacation every summer. Crossing the borders is too dangerous for most of the residents. Altough the good weather abandoned us already in the beginning of the week (and again, a huge "YAAAY" for the Dutch weather!), I think that everyone was really enjoying these days. We went to the beach, visited other villages and markets, were entertaied by the kids, went mini-golfing, caught (& ate!) crabs, and went on nighttime walks along the harbour. I really enjoyed this week and it seemed like everyone did as well. After one week we went back again, destination Amsterdam.

A shirt of Ddé from Burundi :)

Moving from A'dam to A'dam

The last month of the Noelhuis blurred with the first days of my "new life" - after I had recieved my keys for my new student flat in Amsterdam East the 1st of August and came back from Zeeland, I had 1,5 days to raid IKEA, get & build a new bed and gather the most important stuff for another last 10 days in Germany.
Introduction week at the Amsterdam University College started at the 29th of August. At this moment, I lived in two rooms - the one in Zuidoost full with all of my stuff and the other one in East with... well, a bed.

Actually, my plan was to still work simultaneously in the Noelhuis during the intro-week, in order to abbreviate the time until my successor Sarah will start her work. This proved to be impossible. With the help of Jia Jia I managed to paint my new room and to move some of the most important things. And the 4th of September, the day before university started, i finally slept in my new room for the fist time.
Different from my original plans to properly stop my work at the Noelhuis, to make Sarah's start as easy as possible, to say goodbye & thank you to everyone, I kind of stumbled from my "old" into my "new" life. However, Mattias still managed to convince me of a proper goodbye-party two weeks later :)

My successor Sarah on a visit in June

Final Words - This is where it gets cheesy
.. so if you don't like to read that, don't do it :)

When I left Germany to live and work in Amsterdam for one year I expected that this would be a incomparable experience. However, I never expected that it would shape me, my plans and eventually also my life to such an extent. When I look back on 2010/2011 I can definitely say that this has been one of the most awesome year s of my life.
For one year I had the chance to share my life with up to 17 people from all over the world, with diferent beliefs, convictions, religion, eating habits, attitudes, backgrounds and histories, with young and old, with Europeans, Asians, Africans and Americans. With people like you and me. When people asked me "Isn't it hard, not to be able to separate work from your own life" I always responded "It is intense - sometimes in a bad, but mostly in a good way". And above all it is an experience I wouldn't ever want to miss. 
I had the chance to witness good and bad times, to share my thoughts and my heart. I saw friends going to prison, and visited people, who have never seen anything else from the Netherlands than the high fences of the detention centre in Schiphol. I met and had coffee with the generation of Jewish people that have witnessed and survived the Holocaust. I have seen a two-year-old growing up and starting to teach her mum Dutch. I could celebrate with those who got their residence permit and could finally start their own life. I had the cance to attend and co-organize demonstrations and vigils. I learnd Dutch and I had the possibility to see the Netherlands from Egmond to Enschede, and from Emmen to Maastricht. I had the chance to question myself and my beliefs over and over again.

But most importantly, the feeling of doing what I always wanted, of doing something useful, the feeling that I could really do somethig good for somebody else - and if that's only doing my best in making cakes for the resident's birthdays or handing over the cookies to a grumpy prisoner in Schiphol-East - and seeing little signs which told me that  what I'm doing is right; those moments are indescribable.

An while this list above still is incomplete, there's one thing I can say: I feel that this year finally made me grow up. At least a little ;)
And for all that, for all these emotions, experiences and moments I am simply and whole-heartedly thankful. 

Therefore, I want to say thank you to the kerngroep: Mattias, Frits and Liesbeth (and Wibo). Although you might not have noticed everytime, I could learn a lot from you. And also your (parental) advices were a lot more useful to me than I might have wanted to show. Working and living with you was really productive and inspiring. All in all: Thank you.
I'm not going to start a speech now, but this had to be said. Everyone else should know that I love them anyways :) 

I am more than happy with my decision to stay in Amsterdam. I am still part of the bezoekgroup &  visit the people in Schiphol-East as often as possible and I try to keep close contact  both with the JNH and its (ex-)residents. And, yeah, I'm studying.
One can say, this new section of my life is also quite acceptable 

On that note,
Thanks to everyone who followed this blog!
Farewell folks!

Yours, Caro

Samstag, 13. August 2011

...look at those dead bastards!

(12:15:11 PM) bradass87:...if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time...say, 8-9 months... and you saw incredible things, awful things... things that belonged in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC... what would you do?

Bradley Manning, 23 year old former US-Army intelligence analyst has been arrested in may 2010. He is accused of of violating military computer security and leaking classified information to WikiLeaks.

(Side note: WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media)

Manning faces 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy", for which he could get the death penalty if he's convicted. 
The material Manning allegedly forwarded to WikiLeaks, included the so-called "Collateral Murder" video, some of you might already have seen. It shows a helicopter attack of US soldiers on Iraqi civilians, wounding and killing 12 people, including children. Even worse are the soldier's comments on the scene: "Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards". "Nice" (around 4 minutes)

Bradley Manning exposed war crimes. In a chatlog he says to Adrian Lamo (a fellow hacker who later reported him to the US authorities):

(02:28:10 AM) bradass87: i want people to see the truth... regardless of who they are... because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public

The conclusion of this whole story is that Manning has been put in jail and the war criminals are still going on leading their normal lifes. Manning has been tortured and humiliated during his imprisonment until pressure coming from the public became too massive, so that he's in better circumstances now.

And I know that there are very contrary opinions on whether you should make secret information public or not. And I do understand that our system's not working without intelligence and that governments didn't like their secrets to be exposed.
Nevertheless it's important that there are whistleblowers like Manning, who let us know what's really going on, to help us shape an informed opinion. Either way, this 23 year old boy is facing a life in jail for blowing the whistle on war crimes. For informing the public. For letting people know what we all shouldn't know about. This is what injustice feels like.

That's why we organized a vigil in front of the American Consulate in Amsterdam on August the 1st, to demand Manning's immediate release. It was pretty good and we had a loooooooot of press. We signed a petition and wrote postcards to Bradley. 

(Credits for the pictures go to Jim Forest.)

If you want to have more information about Bradley, have a look at those two sites:

And if you want to support him yourself, one thing you can do is to write him:

Bradley Manning
c/o Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Avenue #41
Oakland CA 94160

In the end of our vigil, the consul came outside to recieve the petition. Yet another drop in the ocean. Another important one, if you ask me.

Dienstag, 2. August 2011

Huisfeest - 23rd anniversary

On the 23rd of july our house celebrated its 23rd anniversary. A community that's so small and vulnerable could survive and most important grow during the years - truly a wonderful miracle!

I'm still not quite sure how we managed to turn a more or less normal apartment into a place, where around 70 guests fit into.
Nevertheless the preparations were huge. We started 3 days earlier with cooking, baking, organizing enough plates and so on. Our cook was even cooking during the night, but it was so worth it - 300 delicious Russian blini were awaiting our guests (and us, of course ;).

I was mostly busy distributing coffee, tea and cake and being nervous about the upcoming service. It was the first time for me co-organizing a service, taking that much part in carrying it out and playing the guitar in front of people for the first time in two years. As an accompanist, but still. It made me really happy to see how touched some people were and also to be told that my dad - who was on a visit these days - had a proud grin on his face, everytime i was talking.

Further, due to the huge preparations and the start of the children's vacation, the house was completely full with people for almost one week. Everyone enjoyed these days and our party although we all were reeeally tired in the end :)

Dienstag, 12. Juli 2011


On the 23rd of july we're celebrating the 23rd anniversary of our house!
Everyone, who wants to come along is welcome.

We're going to have a service, drinks, dinner and some coffee/tea together, and above all a lot of gezelligheid! See you there!

Freitag, 1. Juli 2011

"Human beings are strange animals"

That's a quote by a lady, who has lost big parts of her family in the extermination camp of Sobibor, back in the 1940s.

Background was a "Coming to Justice" seminar, that all the ASF-volunteers did together last week at the Anne Frank House. Besides there were some young people from the Netherlands, the Ukraine, the US and Spain, who also participated. As the topic of the seminar suggests, was it all about approaching the complex term of "justice" from different angles.


The 4-day seminar began with a tour through the Anne Frank House and topics around the Second World War as well as and discussions about "guilt" and "responsibility" and the Nuremberg trials. The next day we slowly went over to the war in former Yugoslavia (1991 - 1995) and the genocide in Srbrenica. One of the girls that led the workshop, is from Croatia herself and was round 10 years old, when the war broke out. Her stories were very touching and her strengh admirable.
The following day we went to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) to see the trial of Radovan Karadžić.

What it feels like to sit only 3 meters away from a man, who is responsible of the dead of thousands of people, is barely describable.

All in all it was an intense, moving and challenging seminar, which clearly was very emotional to most of the participants. I am truly thankful that I was allowed to be part of such a program and such an awesome group of people, who are convinced that human rights aren't only some sentences on a piece of paper. Who are stiving to make this world a better place, in no matter which way.
I learned a lot in these four days, among others to see things more differentiated. And most important I learned to see the human being behind the mass murderer.