lowlands in zenit

rotterdamn and other dutchness in a russian viewfinder


World Pillow Fight Day is a day, when the major squares of big and small cities around the world sink in feathers and laughter. Regulations, limitations, globalisation, social networks and GMO - leave it all behind and fight if you dare. 

Pillow fight flashmob is a part of Urban Playground movement, aimed at moving homo sapiens attention from passive consumption of goods and technology towards old good communal outdoor activities. 

Perhaps, Amsterdam needs this treatment even more than others. I’ve never seen peoples of Amsterdam so joyful with pure child joy. I’ve never seen so much fluff.

A Very Strange Place Ruigoord 

What is the use of the sea if you can’t swim in it 



a photoessay from Jerusalem of mainland Europe

That day I decided to rely upon signs from above. To begin with, I innocently ignored two super loud alarm clocks, which could easily smash the brain of a normal person. Nevertheless, by some unthinkable luck a phone call woke me up: sociologists from far-away Russia cut through time and space with the only aim to learn which TV channel I am watching right now. “I haven’t watched TV for the past four years, - the valiant scientists were dumbfounded, - and by the way, this call will cost you a pretty penny”. This call was considered a sign.

 Afterwards I missed two trains, one after another, in each case being absolutely sure I am on time. When eventually I found myself on my way to Antwerp, this ultramodern marvel of engineering, which NS HiSpeed international train is, managed to break down for three times in the course of the journey. “But this is obviously a portent,” – I thought peacefully.

 By the time I arrived in Antwerp, it was about four hours left till the end of Purim. So I put my camera on a war footing and started the chase for the evidences of celebration. Near the Antwerp Central Station my ear was sweetened by the sounds of Russian and Hebrew, flowing through the warm spring air. Townsfolk were busy in their diamond shops, not even wearing Mickey Mouse ears: those who spoke Hebrew were selling; those who spoke Russian were buying.

Dissatisfied with my findings, I set off to the Stadspark and pretended that the actual goal of my journey was taking pictures of the fattened ducks and swans. And there, sitting melancholically beside the water, I suddenly distinguished the sounds of a wild Chasidic melody, radiating from somewhere behind the bushes. Like a zombie, I ran in the direction of the sound to discover a mechonit Chabad on the opposite side of the park.

In the twinkling of an eye I was surrounded. A group of napoleons was exchanging the greetings with a group of musketeers at a crossroads.

Mother-Snow-white was dragging her fretful twins-batmen, simultaneously pulling a pram with an unbearably charming lady-bird sitting in it. Esthers and their brothers Mordechais were stodging ice cream on a bench.

Maskers pierced through all parallels and meridians of the quarter, taking no heed of an outsider – something they are so good at. From time to time I even caught myself at a feeling that they pass throw me. Well, they always do.

 At first I was rather afraid of taking pictures, keeping in mind spits and "shiksa"s I was once a victim of in Jerusalem quarter of Zihron Moshe. It was actually the case when me and Sabine Janz were trying to film the people protesting against the cars on Shabbat. Haha.

On Lange Leem, in the cross streams of balloons, flowers and fruit baskets, a little old man emerged out of nowhere before me. Greasy kippah, Nikon with a telephoto lens. Glancing at the camera in my hands, he nodded conspiratorially. “Most importantly – don’t let them pull themselves together. Just shoot them, shoot them!” Having heard that I came from Moscow, he sighed with a slight disappointment and uttered in pure Russian: “Po-russki govorish?” Little old man’s name was Arik, and he managed to whip away from the Soviet Union in 1967 – rare luck.

He took me to the crossroad of Lange Leem and Conciencestraat, where the volunteers of Chai Life center pitched a tent with children’s makeup and treats. There I plunged into the feast. Yeshibotniks were showing off in front of my camera. Girls reeled and danced. Surprisingly for me, the most popular outfit was not the one of Esther, but of the Belgian flag! Flemish, Yiddish, Hebrew, French and Russian converged on this crossroad into lingua franca of laughter and singing.

 Accursed be Haman, blessed be Mordechai.

After a while the celebration started shifting into the houses. Children’s giggling dispersed in the doorways. Cooking aromas spread from the windows. Tinsels and knick-knackery were left for me on the pavements. The doors slammed and Sesame closed for the strangers’ eyes – till next Purim.


P.S. Of course I understand, globalisation and everything…but why would you disguise your dearest kid in a French fries cornet?! 


Sarah is bathing in the spring sunbeams, when suddenly blinded by His glory 

Sarah is bathing in the spring sunbeams, when suddenly blinded by His glory 

My first Dutch uDUTCHa.

Dutch lessons in the Netherlands are quite a luxurious hobby, which not every student can afford. At the same time, if your plan is to stay in the country for about a long time and to try luck in finding a job, you will not be able to wriggle out of Dutch.  

Now I’ve got a secret to tell you: there is an opportunity to learn Dutch in Rotterdam absolutely for free. If you are prompt and lucky, you may get a spot. But tsss!…

After half a year spent in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I suddenly realized I am tired of buying wrong foodstuffs in the supermarket (namely, buttermilk instead of milk, sour cream instead of yogurt and highly suspicious substance instead of cornflakes), forcing a silly smile on a party when Dutch students start telling jokes in their mother tongue, and struggling with my not-English-speaking hairdresser.

So I started searching for a Dutch class. I sent requests literally to all Rotterdam-based language schools from first and second Google search pages and got back the price-lists with astronomical figures and cheerful promises to convert me into a Dutch native speaker “in only four weeks and for only 400 euros”. 

And very this moment of despair I suddenly bumped into a web page, inviting all those in need for free Dutch lesson in Rotterdam Lombardjien ongoing Thursday. A foreign student, who has lived in the Netherlands for half a year, knows very well: there is nothing for free for internationals in the Netherlands. Except may be for the air.

Not cherishing any hopes, I decided to give a try. At the appointed time I disembarked at Rotterdam Lombardijen. Outside the station it was pouring heavily in the dark. Suffering from geographical cretinism from my early childhood, I went astray several times and got soaked to the skin. Finally my wet iPhone indicated that I am on the right way and even almost there.

The road I was supposed to take next led to the forest with only few dim lanterns illuminating the way. “This is how stories about the maniacs begin!” – flashed in my head. I started running, slipping on the mud to find myself among pretty small houses on the other edge of the forest. And here is the house №10,  Hordijk,  where the class was supposed to be held. I am in seventh heaven, I climb the stairs, I pull the handle…LOCKED!!!

 All alone in an unknown place, in a foreign country, in the dark, soaked to skin. “Of course it could not be true, how could you believe this, stupid girl? - I was mad at myself, - you know very well, that there is NOTHING for free in the Netherlands for you!”

I spent some more time under the pelting rain at a complete loss, and was about to make my way back to the station, when my savior appeared from nowhere. A small woman approached rapidly and opened the door. “Excuse me…is there any Dutch class, that is going to happen in the area tonight?’” – I asked carefully. “Of course there is. Come in!”

The teacher’s name was Esther. She made me a cup of tea and told the story of the free Dutch class. It was launched by a Christian organization of youth and singles RCCG Rotterdam and she, Esther, was a volunteer teacher, seeking to improve her skills and become a university lecturer one day. “So you are my guinea pigs,” – she grinned. A local family – on voluntary base as well, provided the house for the class. The course appeared to be indeed absolutely for free. The only condition was 10 euros deposit, which would be refunded if a student attended at least 80% of classes.

Soon the other students started streaming into the class. Elina came from Romania with no money to start a better life in the Netherlands. She was staying with her uncle and couldn’t find a job since October. “I can’t believe how lucky I am! Thank you for what you are doing. Not many doors would open for me…” – she kept repeating with incessant smile on her face. Irakli and Ruso are students from Georgia. Ali is an engineer from Iran.

Everybody had his unique story to tell. The lesson itself was a lot of fun. “Luckily this time everybody in the group knows English, which makes things much easier!” – laughed Esther. I looked around the class and thought that this place at this very moment consolidated strong positive vibes from two sides: altruistic impulse of those, who created the project, and sincere appreciation of those who were lucky to participate in it. It became possible not only through voluntary initiative, but also through the multinational, open-minded spirit of Rotterdam, the city, which finally – I feel – smiles to me.


#zenit #rotterdam #analogue

#zenit #rotterdam #analogue