Pier Vellinga

Sunday RSRC won the Rotterdam cup, proving that we’re the best team in town. Competition in the regular season begins this Sunday, but USA Rugby hasn’t cleared me to transfer my eligibility over here yet…I could play in the pre-season matches but I don’t want to get the team in trouble for playing without being registered. Huge bummer.

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Some of the guys on the team started calling me ‘American.’ It reminds me of the way they call Gladiator ‘Spaniard.’

In many ways, I feel like I’m representing the entire USA rugby community in front of these guys. I’m probably the one and only American rugby player this lot will ever meet so I gotta represent. #murica

On Monday, I spent the day in the Hague and the neighboring beach community, Scheveningen. Scheveningen has been torturing me since I got here. It is impossible to say unless you are Dutch and it’s been to the absolute delight of many many Dutch students hearing me butcher the pronunciation time after time after time…after time. Many conversations after meeting people will go, “Ohhh you’re American, where are you from?” “A small town north of Boston” “You don’t have a Boston accent but you definitely sound American” “Try saying this Dutch word, Schhkkkkleavlingah” “Shavelinger” “No. Schckkkeaveleveingah, with a ckkkk” “Okay Shavelinger” “Not quite good effort, though” (as they snicker and walk away).

I’ve gotten myself into that scenario about 15 times in the past two days. The hardest part was asking for directions to Scheveningen. I ended up just lowering my head and pointing on a map, acknowledging that I was a defeated doofus.

My hopes for a thriving career in espionage came to a startling halt when I heard that Scheveningen was used as a password in WW2 to identify German spies. The ‘chkkk’ sound is a real head-scratcher.

I met a man named Pier Vellinga for lunch in the Hague. He treated me to a delicious club sandwich and a coffee. Professor Vellinga is an expert on the impacts of Climate Change and invests in research that aims to climate proof cities. He advises Venice on flood prevention and water management and works with Ho Chi Minh City’s community based adaptation strategies. Pier was trained as an engineer at Delft University and now is deeply involved in the Knowledge for Climate program. See here. It was very nice of him to meet me–every day he travels around to at least two major Dutch cities for meetings. A very busy guy, but he was a delight to talk to. He speaks in a very calm, meditative tone and has a lot to say.

Professor Vellinga advised me to keep a look out for certain characteristics of the cities that I travel to. For example, are the cities using large scale adaptation strategies or small scale projects at community and household scales? What kind governance exists in each country? Is water management and flood control public or private? He hammered down the point that there is a huge return on investments in flood defense infrastructure. The cost of protection is usually far lower than the benefits of sustaining the economy, ecology, and populations of a region. But of course this is more-so true for large cities with proper economic activity than small rural towns.

I was also advised on some ways to collect and organize all the information I encounter over the year. Professor Vellinga also had some useful career advice and suggestions for graduate school.

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This was sort of a break through painting for me. I’m using acrylic paint so I’d load up the pigment with a lot of water and let the colors blend, drip, and flow letting the water take its own course. It was then a wrestling match of trying to control where the water went and shape the painting into the form I wanted. It’s kind of a cheesy concept, but to me it seems logical. And hey, I like cheese. If you look closely you can see areas where the paint makes shapes that look like rivers and deltas from a satellite view.

Here are some pictures from the Hague. The Hague is where the seat of government is. There are royal palaces, houses of parliament, national defense offices and so on. While Rotterdam was bombed really badly in WW2, the Hague retains its historic character and you see nice gothic buildings built into the urban fabric.

Scheveningen is a suburb of the Hague and a beach town. It was built on top of sand dunes, natural storm surge defenses. The town has built a multi-functional sea wall defense. The sea wall is raised about two stories at the end of about 100 meters of sand and the wall is programmed with a beach boulevard, shops, and store-fronts that unfortunately make Scheveningen look more like Mytle Beach or the Jersey Shore than a picturesque beach town.

The beach, even on a grey windy day was filled with recreation. There were kite-surfers, surfers, kite-flyers, and families strolling the boulevard. A lot of the restaurants and beach clubs were closed down for the season, but it was cool to see. I will likely head back out there sometime this month with a surfboard, just to say I surfed–well, tried to surf–in the North Sea.

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The past three nights I’ve been staying with some of the Rugby guys: Mikey, the captain of the team, a resident of Sheffield, England, and a chemical engineer for body wash products; Archie, a fellow Scotsman from Glasgow and Jappie, a native Nedelander. I’m crashing in their so called closet room. It’s a mattress on the floor, a pillow, and a rugby ball. #feelslikehome.

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Today I’m heading up to Amsterdam. I’m going to crash on the couch of Sierra Frisbee’s place. Sierra is a Bowdoin junior studying abroad in A’dam.

Tomorrow I’m meeting people who work for the Delta Alliance, an organization with the mission of improving the resilience of the World’s delta cities. I move into the yoga studio on Sunday.

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