Read: The Other Afghan Women

Even though headlines try to convince us otherwise, conflict or war is never simple. There is no simple answer to who is right and who is wrong, especially in conflict riddled Afghanistan. I know very little about the country’s history, therefore it was perhaps even more insightful to listen to this article called The Other Afghan Women, written by Anand Gopal. I never knew about those other women. Their stories probably didn’t make headlines, because those stories don’t confirm the Western storyline of being saviours and victors. I’m glad Gopal wrote their stories down for me and you to read.

The Taliban takeover has restored order to the conservative countryside while plunging the comparatively liberal streets of Kabul into fear and hopelessness. This reversal of fates brings to light the unspoken premise of the past two decades: if U.S. troops kept battling the Taliban in the countryside, then life in the cities could blossom. This may have been a sustainable project—the Taliban were unable to capture cities in the face of U.S. airpower. But was it just? Can the rights of one community depend, in perpetuity, on the deprivation of rights in another? In Sangin, whenever I brought up the question of gender, village women reacted with derision. “They are giving rights to Kabul women, and they are killing women here,” Pazaro said. “Is this justice?” Marzia, from Pan Killay, told me, “This is not ‘women’s rights’ when you are killing us, killing our brothers, killing our fathers.” Khalida, from a nearby village, said, “The Americans did not bring us any rights. They just came, fought, killed, and left.”

From: The Other Afghan Women, Anand Gopal, The New Yorker

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Covid Confessions

My previous Confessions were rather gloomy. I wrote it with the prospect of not being able to travel and ‘celebrate’ a staycation instead. Luckily that didn’t happen. I was able to travel and I took great advantage of that privilege. I went to Copenhagen as planned. I went to a wedding as planned. I went to Versailles (and Paris), as a last-minute decision.

Other than the hoops the Man and I had to jump through when travelling to Denmark (one test home, one test in Copenhagen, as we were still a week away from being fully vaccinated), it was a close to normal experience to cross European borders. Luckily, I’m of the generation that still remembers border controls, so I wasn’t taken by surprise by the border control on our way to Denmark. I can imagine that for younger people, who were born within EU after the borders opened up, it might feel very weird to encounter custom officers on the high way.

In Denmark, most regulations were already loosened. Danish distance keeping was at a different level than I was used back home so the first few days I felt very uncomfortable with people entering my personal space. Masks were not necessary, so I sometimes felt a bit bare when walking in shops ‘unprotected’. However, as I biked and walked around town more, I started to relax. Knowing that I was (at last) fully vaccinated as well, it felt good to experience a city where covid-19 wasn’t in the foreground any more. Of course there were places where my covid-pass was scanned, but as the weather was mostly nice we just sat somewhere outside and didn’t even need a pass.

How different that was when visiting Paris. Parisian waiters made sure to ask for and scan your covid-pass as soon as you asked to be seated, either outside or inside. Even for entering Galleries Lafayette, you needed a pass. While the Danish government announced to let go of all regulations, France made the covid-pass compulsory and extends its restrictions. What I found most notable was that Copenhagen seemed busy, and Paris seemed empty. Shopping streets in Copenhagen were full of life and at some places I sometimes felt uneasy with the amount of people standing close to me, like I would have felt pre-covid. In Paris, walking about and using the metro felt very relaxed. Something I had not experienced before in Paris. The Man and I had no issue finding seats to have lunch. There was always a table available, even at the more popular (filled with locals) restaurants. The metro platforms were never crowded, instead they were mostly empty. I got a glimpse of what Paris would be without mass tourism. I liked it. I do realize that it’s an economic nightmare for a city like Paris. Still, I would visit Paris more often if it stays like this. That might compensate a little bit 😉

I’m really happy I spent Summer holidays partly abroad. It was good to experience a few weeks of carefree life. I needed that after spending every minute of the day as efficiently as possible during the first half of 2021.

With Daughter back in school, regulated life commences. And that feels good too.

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Read: Assembly

You have stories that need many words and you have stories that can be compact. Usually it takes good writers to make a compact story. Assembly (2021) is such a story. A remarkable debut novel by the hand of Natasha Brown. One hundred pages, that’s the size of her novel. Within those pages she packs all themes that currently matter when it comes to being black and being female, trying to fit in.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading every sentence of this book. It is so well written that I needed to slow down my usual reading pace to take it all in. In fact, I even read the last twenty pages out loud to myself, just to make sure I wouldn’t skip a word. Brown writes like a poet, and then to think she studied Maths at Cambridge University.

Buy this book. Read this book. Reread this book. Gift the book.

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Read: The Psychology of Time Travel

I picked up The Psychology of Time Travel (2018), in Copenhagen’s Fantask. It was written by Kate Mascarenhas and it’s her first novel.

The book features female characters mostly. Four of them invented time travel, one of them is a grand-child of the inventors who mentally broke down after time travelling too long. The story jumps back and forth between years and is basically a murder mystery.

I found the plot original, witty at times. Don’t expect a realistic scenario when it comes to time travel, as characters meet each other older/younger selves which doesn’t interfere with actual course of events. The end was a bit confusing, as if the author felt a bit rushed to make an end to the story. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed reading it. If only to immerse oneself in a book where female characters are portrayed as scientists and inventors. Some kind, others not so kind. Just like in real life.

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Life events

  1. I passed my third (and last) exam for data engineering;
  2. I got my second dose of Moderna;
  3. Daughter finished her first year of school;
  4. We are driving to Denmark next Friday (if our covid-tests are negative).

This is what clubbing did in NL

Now that the UK is opening night-clubs, I’ll show you what to expect over the next few weeks. My government ran an experiment for fifteen days. The experiment was: do whatever you like, but keep your distance and get tested for activities when social distancing is not possible. Oh, and when you get your Janssen-shot your Corona-pass is active immediately (also called ‘Dansen met Janssen’-pass). Oh, and a test is valid for forty hours. That will get you going all weekend! Delta-variant? Yeah, we heard about that, but it’ll will be dominant by September, not earlier.

This is what happened

Number of people who tested positive per 100.000 inhabitants between June 14 and July 19.
First white dot on the blue line beneath the graph: June 26, opening up. Second dot: July 10, closing night-clubs and curfew for all cafes at midnight.
Number of people who tested positive between June 14 and July 19 per age group

In other words: let the unvaccinated groups dance all night long and give some of them long-covid, and their parents (many under 25 still live with their parents), who are still 1 shot and/or two weeks away of being fully vaccinated, too.

And what about Delta? Yep. Taking us by storm.

Covid-19 variants measured between June 28 and July 4

But the Brits are better vaccinated than the Dutch, right? Well…not really.

Vaccination rollout in the UK, source: The Guardian July 19
Vaccination rollout NL, source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control July 19

And don’t forget, the Dutch are mainly vaccinated with mRNA vaccines, which are better at fighting off the Delta variant.

I can’t wait to see the UK graphs in a few weeks’ time.

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