30 July, 2005

These chickens were very fond of this parking lot for some reason. They spent almost the entire weekend there.

Entering the town of Boxtel from the train station. Heading in the other direction would eventually bring you to the camp.

There was a surprising amount of life in a town that had been described to us as being in the middle of nowhere.

It's hard for us to realize this but over in Europe, Texas food is looked upon by some as an exotic foreign cuisine. It's also more than a little ironic that it's being advertised on a car that would be very out of place in Texas.

I have no idea what kind of meat this is nor whether the cartoon character is actually imprinted upon it. There was something about it that frightened me and I thought it should frighten you as well.

There it is, right there in the supermarket, proud and unashamed: pornography. There were children at this stand right before this picture was taken but none of them seemed in the least bit interested. In America, they would have been instantly traumatized.

A rainbow became visible over the camp on Saturday.

The What The Hack t-shirt shop.

30 July, 2005

Day 14. The camp continues to grow. I see more tents pitched today despite the heavy rains of last night. It's gotten quite a bit cooler as well but I see no deterioration of spirit here.

I've spent a good deal of time talking to people about the possibilities of something like this back home. To be honest, I just don't see it. I think we're basically different species. People here are able to leave all of their valuable stuff in their tents and wander around the campgrounds without worrying at all about somebody taking anything. It takes a bit of getting used to but that definitely is the default setting here. I also see virtually no displays of anger or impatience. We have all sorts of hardships and inconveniences to deal with. Most of the showers seem to only be dispensing cold water now and many of our tents and sleeping bags have gotten soaked during the assorted downpours that occur with little or no notice. Even amongst the Americans I've been hanging out with, patience and solidarity are far more enjoyable than the traditional bitching and moaning. And then of course there's the fact that people are able to drink and ingest various other substances freely. Yet they're still able to be completely responsible and considerate. Go figure.

Connectivity at times can be a challenge but it's far from impossible. You have to move around a bit for the wireless and it doesn't seem to be a problem at all to plug in. I've tried to stay away from the net (which explains the lateness of some of these reports) simply because I want to experience as much of the gathering as possible. Much of my time is spent going to the various cafes, attending a few talks, and just wandering.

Mike, Arseny, and I took a side trip to the village of Boxtel in the afternoon just to see what life was like outside the camp. The camp shuttle drove us to the train station (which seems to be on yet another set of tracks than the ones that pass right by the camp) and we walked into town. I expected it to literally be in the middle of nowhere like everyone was saying but the town I saw had quite a bit of life to it. There was a fresh vegetable stand, lots of little cafes and bars, all sorts of restaurants, a disproportionate amount of cosmetics shops, and lots of people milling around. Even in New York, this would have been considered a somewhat lively place. We stopped for lunch at a place where nobody spoke English which is a first for me in the Netherlands. Things change so quickly around here. Only an hour or so away is Amsterdam where most people speak better English than many people I know. Go in another direction for an hour and the language will probably change to something else entirely.

We also visited a supermarket which is the one thing I always like to do when in a foreign land. Food stores tell so much about the people. In the Netherlands they always seem to be chaotic gathering points. All of the wheels on the shopping carts turn as opposed to only the front ones in the States. So you can push the things every which way. There seems to always be a mood of controlled chaos in the aisles with people for some reason congregating in the intersections making it very difficult to get past them. I love spending time looking at the funny names for products, the unusual fruits and vegetables, and the very weird cuts of meat. Bread too is a story unto itself with a great deal of importance placed on the particular size and style. People mill around the bread section like it was a library, waiting to find the one loaf that reflects their particular mood that day. And of course there is a whole wine section to choose from. But the best part for me was seeing a wall of magazines complete with pornography and no attempt whatsoever to cover anything up for any prudish people walking by. In fact, a child might actually see a very big picture of a very big pair of breasts staring them in the face in this store. People would serve time in prison if such a thing were to happen back home in our fundamentalist regime. It's like night and day.

We walked around a bit more taking in the town. I really felt like I was in the Netherlands for real and not just a touristy place where everyone learned my language instead of me having to do anything. Here it was a bit more challenging and that's a good deal of what travel should be all about. I doubt I'll be learning Dutch anytime soon. But finding ways of communicating with people to achieve the desired effect is just as much of a learning process.

We headed back to the camp later in the day. I needed to get some more footage for the movie so I spent a couple of hours doing interviews. Gweeds helped to round up another group of interesting people and we headed back outside the camp to get some more interesting backgrounds. These included the train tracks with its many passing trains as well as some farms and forests. We spent a lot of time just admiring the cows and the baby horses. And during the very last of the interviews the skies opened up and we were drenched. The timing was fantastic as it came during the last words of the last person I was talking to and I think it even added some emotion to that piece. We then had to seek shelter and we found it in the garage of a random person's house - without their permission. We knew nobody in the Netherlands would object to this which was great in itself.

We got back into camp again, this time sopping wet but still having the time of our lives. There was just enough sunlight left to start drying our clothes. Mike had been trying to dry out his slightly damp sleeping bag by leaving it spread out on his tent when the real rains came and left it a soaked mess. He wasn't the only one who had to figure out where and how he was going to sleep tonight. The solution seemed to be to stay out as late as possible and just try and fit as much as humanly possible in.

So we wandered to a different corner of the camp and found an entirely new group of people and hangouts. Our friend Patrice was running the What The Slack tent which served Turkish tea, showed really strange movies in the back, had bookshelves to browse from, and was adorned with Persian carpets. This was pure unadulterated magic. I'm glad I didn't find it earlier or I would have never left. The ASCII squatter types from Amsterdam were also in this "village" along with all sorts of other places where people were making food, dancing, or just chilling. A bit further down the field were the astronomy people who were doing their best to see into the heavens despite the passing clouds. The enthusiasm at finding a particular star mirrored that of the rest of the camp. I've always felt an affinity to those who studied the stars and who really got a kick out of actually seeing what's out there.

We met up with Redhackt and Bernie at the Foo Bar which was run by various CCC types. That tent was shaped like a dome and had a really relaxed atmosphere inside where we hung out until dawn. Only one day to go and then it's all memories.