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The Australian Kitchen

Chop. Slice. Blend. Stir. Mix. Rinse. Mash. Fry. Pop. Steam. Cook. Boil. Grill. Smoke. Dry. Rest. Bake. Fillet. Season. Drizzle. Mix. Beat. Slimmer. Serve. Eat.

In November 2015, Australia launched a new food channel: The Food Network. Not that this country lacks any cooking show. During prime time you can get inspired by Aussies BBQ Heroes, Jamie Oliver’s Superfood, Chopped, The Spirit of Japan, Inferno Kitchen, UK Bakes, Cabinet’s Kitchen and a dozen of others. Despite the huge range of these programs, it seemed viewers were in the need of something more. Quite funny, in my opinion, as Australia doesn´t really have decent food culture.

Every single European I come across has been complaining about the same thing: Australian food sucks. The bread is too soft, the coffees are too weak, soda’s are incredibly sweet and artifical. Above all: who came up to create Vegemite chocolate?! No, Australia is not a country like France or Italy where you could go to just because of its kitchen. France can be named in one sentence with croissant, crêpe, brie en Boeuf Bourguignon. Italy just breaths pizza and pasta. Perhaps Australia can be described with sausage rolls or pies. Not the chocolate pie or Dutch apple pie, but minced beef pie. It comes with a dash of ketchup and if you’re lucky, it had been made the same day. If not – what most likely the case is – you will probably munch it after a good night out.

The cooking shows are a big puzzle for me, as there is no point in broadcasting them. Why look at them and not use them? Sure, Jamie Oliver can provide you great ideas for dinner and it is quite entertaining but how likely is it you are actually going to put this in practice? Nihil, I assume. It is a real shame, as Australia has many farmers and produces a lot of fresh vegetables, meat and dairy. However, most of the harvest will be exported to other countries and Australia ends up importing more products. For example: the Passionfruit Christmas Pudding has been created in England from imported ingredients and exported to Australia. Same for the Belgian Chocolate Cake, made in Belgium – I guess this is actually a good thing – and the kiwi’s are imported from Italy. You start to wonder if this country keeps anything for themselves and if they are able to cook something more than a mashed avocado toast.

Well, there is one thing Australians are bloody good at doing: the barbecue. It is the French gourmet pan, the Italian pizza oven and the Belium deepfrying pan. All hail, make way for the Australian Barbecue! You cannot live without a barbecue unless you deny that you are in Australia. There are options for vegetarian and vegans so no one will be left behind. Every household owns at least one of these smoking hot grills. Either working on gas or with – flavoured! – coals: char grill, steam, woodfire, spit, portable or smoking. Australia has the answer. There are free electric barbecues in parks if your backgarden is too small. Every day, the council cleans them but on the country side, you might be a bit unlucky. Most rest areas have designed barbecue pits so that you could still light the barbie, if you could not afford a portable on – and also to prevent bushfires.

Knowing this, the only understandable cooking show which makes sense, is Aussie Barbecue Heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised if locals pick something up from this show. Three couples have to face different barbecue challanges such as “create a dish with prawns, sweet chili and basil, within 30 minutes!” or “give me a fushion steak!” It is far more interesting than Australia’s Master Chef with the tension around Sally’s dish and the question if the eggs of her quinea salad are boiled on the point or not.

To wrap up the Australian kitchen, you will need 3 things. Pie – preferable a few days old, reheated – a barbecue – to create excellent steaks – and an ice cold beer – but due to the heat, it is more likely a warm one. I haven’t discussed the matter “beer” but as most students among us know what a beer is, it seemed irrelevant to me to elaborate on that subject. There are no extrodinairy beers here: think about a simple beer and reduce the alcohol to 3.5% and that is your Australian beer. However, you never know what Jamie Oliver comes up with and turns it into a gourmet superfood. This country is full of surprises.

So there you go: pie, barbecue and a beer that goes along with it. Simple and easy, that is Australian food culture. Who needs Passionfruit Christmas Pudding anyway?

Bed versus Couch

Probably you just had your INKOM and either had your own room or stayed at a friend’s place. During my first introduction week, I had a girl from my group staying at my flat for a week, until she had find her own 8m2 room. Perhaps you can consider this as my very first Couchsurfing experience. It turned out well: she is still one of my best friends.

If you are not familiar with Couchsurfing and are looking for alternative ways to travel, than this might be a good option. The Couchsurfing community has been esthablished in 2003 as a nonprofit organization. At the moment, it has over 5.5 million members, being active in 97 000 different cities, in 207 countries. It is a worldwide platform for local hosts and nomads. Hosts offer their so-called Couch to travellers, in return of a home-cooked meal or other favour, such as painting a wall. The website creates an opportunity for international voyagers to connect with the locals and to come closer with the culture of the country.

The thing that makes Couchsurfing special is that it is completely based on trust and mutual respect. There is no money involved and often even not appreciated. The cultural exchange and unique experience are more important.  The mission is “[…] a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.”(http://www.couchsurfing.com/about/about-us/) The more you interact with the local community, the more special your journey will become in return.

Personally, I cannot agree more with the statement, especially after my own experiences with Couchsurfing. Last year I have travelled through Singapore and Java (Indonesia) with this service and it was the best decision I have ever made. I ended up teaching English in the slums of Jakarta, got on a radio show in Yogjakarta and attended a traditional Indonesian wedding. These specials moments enhanched my journey.

If you don’t like the idea of melting in with the local culture too much or you would like to have your own private room – with Couchsurfing it is usually a surprise how your bed looks like – than I can advice you to have a look at AirBnB. The American firm was erected in 2008 by 2 friends who thought it was a good idea to rent out a spare room out to travellers. They would only stay for a short time so they pumped up some airbeds and the idea of Airbed and Breakfast came into being. Today, AirBnB is almost as big as the Hilton Hotel group, with 3 million guests, booking 10 million nights in 34 000 cities, across 190 countries. Different from Couchsurfing, this is a paid service. You pay the house-owner and AirBnB gets 3% of the fee for bringing the renter and owner in contact.

AirBnB provides an easy way for locals who have a room to spare and would like to earn a little bit extra, cover their rent or would like to meet new people. When you want to stay somewhere but don’t like the high prices hotels offer you, you simply pop online and have a look if there is anything cheap available – very often AirBnB is more affordable than most hotels and hostels.

The different options between private room, shared apartment or a complete house for yourself, make it easy to choose your level of communication you wish to enquire. Whether you want a private castle or a cupboard, you probably can find it on AirBnB. Another plus, especially for highly touristic areas, is that you know where exactly at what location you will end up. Than you are sure that you won’t spend heaps of money on public transport to get to that one particulair church.

So what are the main differences and similarities between these services?

The biggest difference between them is their mission. Couchsurfing is completely based on trust, cultural exchange and social. No money on the table, only favours. If you are thinking “but buying ingredients to cook a meal costs money too!” than you are better of going to a hostel and Couchsurfing is not your thing. It is not about money, it is about being grateful for the unique experience hosts provide you. And that doesn’t have a price tag.

AirBnB’s mission is more commercial and can be seen as a hospitality company. “Unlocking unique spaces, worldwide.” Connecting. Creating. Sharing. Making money. Saving Money. The intension is not necessarily social, however, it is still a good alternative next to standard hotels, as each AirBnB room is different. It opens unique doors, at unique locations.

In my opinion, the most important similarity is the communual idea of sharing. Either you share culture, your couch or inside information, it doesn’t matter, you are sharing something. In that case, it makes an unique way to travel and to explore new places. Choose the way you feel comfortable with. Make your travel experience unique. Make it count.

 

 

 

Ka Kite Āno- see you again!

Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest N.P and the land is a vital part of the Māori history. If it so happens you are there and you got a day to spend, you definitely should do the Tongariro Crossing, which takes you literally through Middle Earth. The walk is 19,4 km and takes 6 to 8 hours. On the way you can do several side tracks leading to the Soda Springs or the summit of Mt Tongariro. Since my arrival in New Zealand I have walked the crossing three times and done all the side tracks except Mt Ngaruroe. And that is exactly what we were about to do.

Mt Ngauhuroe is also known as Mt Doom in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The sleeping volcano is 2290m high and that doesn’t make the climb an easy scrawl. There is no marked path going up the 45 degrees steep slope and the loose tephra makes it even harder to climb.

During my way up, I got in contact with a local from Christchurch, Mike. I was relieved he was there because I am not an experienced climber and I was afraid that I would fall backwards or get hit by a falling rock. Luckily, non of this happened. Mike tried to keep my mind of things by talking about what I have done during my stay in New Zealand. My internship in the NZ film industry gave enough material to talk about.

One thing we discussed was the quality of Kiwi films. From my point of view, New Zealand makes either very intense movies such as Once Were Warriors (1993), Whale Rider (1992) or the screenings are about zombies: Dead Alive (1992), Black Sheep (2006) are just the beginning of a long list. Every country has its preferences such as France likes romance, America enjoys vampires and the UK can laugh about its own humour. But New Zealand has something very interesting, in my opinion. Mike agreed with me when I stated that the New Zealand film industry has one unique feature which represents the local culture namely, Māori films.

The Māori are the original inhabitants of Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand. Their roots lie in Polynesia and between 1250-1300, several groups of settlers immigrated to New Zealand and upon today, the Māori culture is present in day-to-day life. Examples are the famous tattoos and the language usage in the media, sport events and public facilities. The intimidating haka is a traditional warrior dance which is preformed before the start of the game of NZ’s favourite and most popular sport, rugby.

As for that, the Māori culture puts its stamp on the film industry.  A recent example of such a movie is The Dead Lands (2014) which is completely written and spoken in Māori. The film follows the tale of the chief’s son Hongi, who must avenge the murder of his father in order to honour the souls of his family after his tribe has been slaughtered by another tribe. Hongi has to pass through the forbidden and feared Dead Lands, wherein a mysterious Warrior lives, also known for its brutal act of killing. My friend who worked on the film told me he never had to make so much fake blood and clean weapons as he did for this film. I won’t spoil the end because it is something you should see for yourself but I can tell you it is loaded with honour and respect.

After spending almost one and a half year in New Zealand, I still find it very fascinating how the Māori and Western culture collide. The fact that a tribal culture survives in a dominant Western lifestyle seems to me unique. The adaptation and changes Māori culture has undergone are tremendous but fascinating in every single way. The ongoing effort that is being made to keep the culture alive deserves nothing more than great respect to their cultural heritage.

Furthermore, films produced and screened in Māori language should be more encouraged to bring the culture to the main public, especially outside New Zealand. It could unfold more interests and respect from the native younger generation. Overseas it could simply increase the knowledge about the Māori culture. All in all it would be great example for other situations such as the Aboriginals in Australia.

In between time, we had reached the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe. The view was breathtaking and we could see up to 200 kms. It made it so obvious why the Māori immigrated to NZ. I would have done it too, with a view like that.
Our time here is over, but I am pretty sure I will return.

Aotearoa: Haere rā– farewell, or shall I say ka kite āno – see you again?

The Wedding

The city Bandung is called Kota Kembang [The City of Flowers]. After the smog and durian smell of Jakarta, I was thrilled to see it. Unfortunately, Bandung was not much better than Jakarta. Traffic jam is a national  problem and so does Bandung too, suffers from the ongoing – or not going – stream of cars. Its nickname did not apply at all to the city, rather you could call it Jakarta 2.0.

For me, Bandung was bizarre. I couldn’t find a city center, the way, a structure or anything worth visiting or anything at all. And still, I spent almost a full week there. My host Dewi told me straight away when I arrived, that I couldn’t go out on my own and if I wanted to go somewhere, she would come with me. It was standard that you would be home before 11 PM. The evening clock, starting at 12, prevented youngsters and teenagers to go out to clubs and bars. Also, it should lower the high criminality rate. Murder and raping were extremely common.  I was shocked. Was it that bad here? Dewi nodded. Yes, last week her bag was stolen from her dads car. The window was ruined but that didn’t matter, as long her dad was still alive. I asked what she meant and Dewi explained: Robbers don’t want any eyewitnesses so if you, by accident, see something, they would probably stab you. I didn’t want to believe it.  On the other hand, it did explain all the gates in front of the houses here.

One of the reasons why I stayed in Bandang, was because I got invited for an Indonesian wedding. This changed my travel plans a bit but that was alright: I only had a rough idea where I wanted to go so I was very flexible.
I would attend the wedding with two other German girls, Lea and Sarah. We were a bit afraid of the need of wearing a nice dress and high heels. As backpackers we only had our harem trousers and loose H&M t-shirts.

Non of this is relevant to a simple Indonesian wedding, according to Dudung, Dewi’s farther. And no, nobody will throw with rice! Although there’s more than enough amounts of rice in this country, it’s not something they would do. They rather eat it after the ceremony. I had already noticed how utterly creative Indonesians were with their national dish, nasi. There was red, white, brown, black, (non-)sticky, yellow rice. Cooked in banana leaves, 20 different sorts of oil, spices, (coconut)milk. Sweet or savoury, whatever you wish. One day I helped with the rice harvest and upon today I still find some grains in my backpack. But that is another story.

Dudung kept on stressing that it would be a simple Indonesian wedding. Me who never attended a wedding in her life, still expected a RTL scene. On the contrary, this was everything execpt what I thought it would be. Dewi’s uncle got married for the second time  – up to four times is accepted – and this time it would take place at the house of the bride. When we arrived, we had to take our shoes of and sit on the ground of the living room. Many people around us were playing with their smartphones and seemed barely interested in what the imam had to say. Not that we could understand anything about what he was saying, but playing with your phone? Some family members weren’t troubled turning the noise down.

Another thing which I never got used to during my stay on Java, was the incredible amount of attention we got from family members. Their focus was not on the newlyweds, but on us. We had to pose, smile, shake hands. When the wedding treasure was handed over to the family we had to be in the picture. They stopped the ceremony so there could be pictures taken of us with the couple. Guests asked us if we were single and if we would like to meet their sons. Left-overs of the buffet went to us and  in the end they thanked us more than a gazillion times.

And all this within 2 hours.

The drive to and from the wedding took even longer. Because of the traffic jam.

Tradition

Adolf was eating his nasi rames at a warung along the road to Kúta. Our tehmpe was served with sambal. “It is interesting”, he said, “how Indonesia is dealing with the modernization.” I nodded and had a bite of my ayam goreng. It’s great that Indonesians only use Gods cutlery, alias, their hands. Saves lots of dishes. What do you mean with “modernization?”, I asked.

The traffic continued while we were eating and discussing the national changes. “I mean, look at all those motorbikes!”, Adolf said and pointed to the 20 bikes, waiting in front of a red traffic light.Some people are afraid that we’re loosing our roots, that we’re forgetting our culture. We so badly want to catch up with the Western world but we fail.”
I nodded again and gave it a thought.
It’s true though, that some technologies are just not ready for the Indonesian society yet. Try to talk to an Indonesian about biopetrol or electric cars to reduce the emission of CO2 and he would just lift up his shoulders.
So what? The most important thing is that he would get from A to B and the motorbike is the best way: it’s cheap and fast because you can avoid the traffic jam, which supposed to be one of the worst in the world. Part from India, I heard.  And the smog, well, that’s just life, isn’t?

My impression of Indonesia was not that it badly failed in its attempt to becoma part of Western civilization, rather, I got the impression that their cultural heritage is much stronger than other countries I’ve visited so far. For example, on a cultural festival in Yogyakarta, multiple regional dances were preformed. In Madiun I visited a typical shadow puppet play (wayung) and in Bandung, traditional dances contests were held for young children. No, I did not have the impression that Indonesia was loosing its roots, rather, I had the feeling they were holding it tighter and tighter. Working as a professional puppet player or dancer would actually provide you a good monthly salary. Tradition might more appreciated and higher valued than in Western countries. But then again, how many tourist does Java receive every year? Not as much as Bali.

Bali was the exception. When I arrived in Kúta, the main tourist area of the island, I was in shock. Since when can you wear shorts and skirts (or less) here?Tank tops? Bill boards of Quicksilver, Billabong and Roxy were decorating the dark sky. Alcohol was freely advertised with happy hours.  It was a small culture shock, coming from Java, where covering up is a must and alcohol consumption is rarely found. But for the first time since 3 weeks, I felt safe enough to walk on the streets by my own after sunset. No people coming up to me, staring at you or asking for a picture. No one wants to touch you or asks for money. Bali is used to tourists and yes, on this island it might be clear that Indonesia is struggling with its roots.

Outside of Kúta, most tourists visit temples. There is more than one temple complex on Bali and one of the most famous one called Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.,situated on the middle of the island, next to the lake Bratan. This place is overwhelmed with tourists who come in big tour buses, which are obviously not made for the small roads. At least they have A/C, I reckon. “Oh god, more tourists!”, Adolf said and looked disappointed.  I smiled, “yep, welcome to the world of tourism! Have you ever been a tourist in your own country?” Adolf shacked his head. Never. “Ah well, then this will be a new experience for you.”  And as soon we were approaching the Pura Ulan Danu Bratan you could hear French, German, Dutch and several Asian languages floating through the air. Adolf wandered away from the mass to find a more peaceful and quiet spot. Just next to the lake there was some stagnant water where some children were fishing. Adolf smiled and said “if they are going to catch a fish in that, I would be amazed.” The children were up to their thighs in the mud and dirty water, kept on filling a wicker basket.  Adolf explained me that this was a traditional way of fishing and that he had done it as well when he was young. Personally, I cannot remember that I ever fished as a child the way those children were fishing and I was only amazed by the way they done it.

My way to make money with Maphrida Forichi

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As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column My way to make money we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work. 

This week we interview the student with probably the most recognizable face within the university: Maphrida Forichi. Although her job is a non-paid one, albeit compensated, we’re happy to make an exception. She is an executive secretary, reporter and editor at Breaking Maas. Breaking Maas is the well-known news/entertainment show made by students in Maastricht. With each episode getting tons of views on their YouTube channel, Breaking Maas has grown to almost a cult-status. Maphrida is a 21 year old second year Arts & Culture student with broad interests, from theatre to travelling to cooking and getting fit, but everyone who knows her is aware that socialising while doing her other interests is her thing.

A regular day looks like…
In preparation for a report I regularly come up with a report idea, pitch it to my team, brainstorm on creative executions, do background research on the topic or person and prepare questions. On the day of the report, I pick an appropriate outfit, show up with a camera person from the team, be awesome and talk to a bunch of people and make sure I do something funny (or at least, I think I can be funny… sometimes). While filming, it’s very important to have the structure of the final outcome in mind, so you have to have an idea of how you will edit the report already. It makes it so much easier to put it all together in the end!

The thing that makes the job hard…
is being able to satisfy everybody. It is almost impossible actually. Our main target audience are students in Maastricht who naturally have varying tastes and interests, so we try our best to produce shows that are appealing and interesting for everybody. If that was truly possible, we would have 16,000 views for every episode. But we would like to believe that our episodes are entertaining!

I got this job by…
auditioning for the role of reporter. I was SUPER nervous even though I am a very outgoing person. I soon learned how to edit, and I now I edit most of my reports on my own. I feel like this job is exactly what I want to be doing with my spare time in university. Breaking Maas inspires individual creativity and allows you to pursue your interests.

My main reason for choosing this job…
was that it added more value to my studies. I am studying Arts and Culture and plan on majoring in Media Culture in my second year, and Breaking Maas helps me combine the theory from my studies with the practicality of actually researching and producing a show.

I would say I spend…
10 hours on average every week doing stuff for Breaking Maas – from attending meetings every Tuesday to reporting and editing. This academic year, I will definitely spend even more time since I am now in the management board. But hey, I love my job! I never complain about the hours. I do, however, expect it to be quite stressful this year, not going to lie!

I didn’t expect the job to be…
this awesome! Of course I knew it would be fun, but I didn’t expect to love it this much. The Breaking Maas crew is absolutely awesome. Not to mention all the cakes and goodies we usually have at meetings. Yum!

I love my job…
because I believe one of the most important university experiences is meeting people. Covering events as a reporter at Breaking Maas has helped me meet people of various ages, cultures and nationalities, from various campuses and occupations. I also like my job because it encompasses both my passion for journalism and production!

Later in life I’ll be…
on CNN, definitely as a reporter though, not an anchor. Or I will have my own talk show but that will just be a side hustle. My main aspiration is to build a Media Empire with my sister Ewa Przybyl. Watch this space for ME Productions!

Can changing our culture change us?

TED always provides a great forum to discuss the future of our planet and how we, as humans, need to change the world. Two weeks ago the TEDx Maastricht event continued the tradition of spreading great ideas to help us find solutions to issues that we humans face. In this Blog post I would like to look at a couple of the speakers from September 4th‘s event in Maastricht and examine how our culture and society effects how we interact with the world. Many of the speakers argued that we need simple changes in our society to start to heal the world and this Blog will focus on these arguments.

The first speaking to fall into the category of pushing societal change came in the morning. Bart Knols talked about the growing social isolation that is plaguing western society.  Bart’s observations came from experiencing the differences on a train ride he experienced in Tanzania versus one in the Netherlands. The train in Tanzania was a social event where he met people, discussed the world and even sang and danced with total strangers but in the Netherlands he saw how people go into a bubble where they are isolated even though they are surrounded by people. This is the isolation that Bart wants to change, even though we are surrounded by people we don’t interact with them. However, there are solutions to the growing isolation that had been coming into our society and Bart Knols believes the solutions are very simple. On some trains in the Netherlands there have been experiments where you designate a train to be a social zone. This is all Bart believes it takes to make a change and it has been shown effective. By simply designating this environment as one to talk and socialize people did and it shows that humans are a product of our surroundings and by changing our surrounding you change human behavior.

On a completely different topic, Shyama Ramani gave a talk on bringing toilettes to the coastal towns of India. After the 2004 tsunami, many of the forests where women would relieve themselves were destroyed and a real need for toilettes arose when women lost the privacy that the forest provided.  When Shyama institute put toilettes in these towns the women used them but the men would still walk down to the beach and just go into the ocean. The issue that Shyama faced was how to change the patterns of the men that had been built into there culture since their ancestors settled on the shores of India. There were several ideas but one that showed success was a toilettes beauty contest where different villages battled to have the nicest water closet with cleanest and most beautiful hut that surrounds the toilet. The one condition for the contest was that the men had to use it for 6 months. This seems to be a form of social training and conditioning. Shyama Ramani was working hard to make toilet use a societal norm and to do this she must make permanent changes to the male Indians behavior to keep the men using toilettes. This would not only provide privacy for the women but it has been shown to raise hygiene levels throughout the towns.  Like Bart, Shyama is trying to make simple changes in people by changing their environment and it seems effective. It’s a pretty simple concept. Change the environment and it changes the people.

As the TED talks progressed throughout the day there were two talks that focused on the food we eat and changing the way we see food. Marian Peters tried to convince us that we should eat insects as a way to help create a more sustainable food industry and Mark Post talked about the hamburger he grew in a lab here at the University of Maastricht. A problem that both faced is how to make this food culturally accepted. Marian Peters has a more difficult job because bugs are not on the menu of our western culture. However, she makes the point that many societies around the world have no issues with eating bugs and are very integrated in many cuisines-such as in Laos. Marian Peters was at the TED talk to not only discuss why we should eat bugs but she was there to start to change our societies view on bugs. She made sure that there were enough chicken/bug nuggets (80% chicken 20% bugs) for everybody to try at lunch and the majority of the TED attendees actually tried the food that was 20% ground up insects. I did not try the bugs and I don’t want to… Marian Peters has a lot of work to change my dislike of bugs that has been ingrained in me my whole life. But that’s her goal. Marian Peters is trying to make insects a social accepted food source. I think she has a long way to go but it’s possible. If the children of western culture were to eat products with bugs in them since birth their generation would probably have no issues eating food with insect in them. Other cultures don’t have any issues eating bugs so what’s to say that we can’t change western culture to make insects a social accepted food source. Marian Peters has not convinced me yet but she made some very good points one day we might see insects on the list of ingredients in our favorite foods.

Mark Post has similar issues but not nearly as drastic as Marian Peters because eating beef that was grown in a lab often seems unnatural to real beef but doesn’t have a social stigma to work against. This makes it easier for Mark and he believes one day there will be meat incubators sitting in everybody’s kitchen next to the oven. One of the points Mark Post made about the beef is that he often has to tread lightly when talking about culture beef because some people have a hard time accepting it as an alternative. However, many people are willing to try the beef and so the hurdles are a lot smaller for Mark. But it still goes to show that even with cultured beef, there is a need to change our cultures attitude towards how we feed ourselves. These two talks and ideas are based in science and biology but both need a cultural change before they become accepted into our society.

While there were a lot of speakers that I could have discussed in the blog I chose these speakers because they specifically talked about changing societies and cultures to have positive effects on the world. They showed the power that social change can have on changing human behavior and this is an important message that many TED talks have been spreading.

We are social animals and our environment, culture and society have a huge influence on how we perceive the world and act in it. These speakers raise the point that if we change our environment we change humans. I think this is correct, but to what extent. Being a social species our surroundings have a very large influence and many of our issues can be solved by a change in culture. I wanted to write this blog post on social constructionism because I do believe humans are products of the surroundings. But, I think we are still heavily influenced by our monkey ancestry and I think our human biology still plays a huge part of human actions and interactions. The thirst for money, power, fame, and acceptance is part of human nature and while it may be a crucial in our make up I believe it can be overcome through societal changes. I thought one of the most inspiring talks of the day was by a 17 year old student, Rebecca Vos, who talked about changing the education system and one of the issues she talked about was reducing the hierarchy and power structure of education. She is making the push to not separate ourselves from each other and have everybody work together as one collective unit to better the world. This is a great idea because if we change the way our society interacts with each other it might prove powerful enough to overcome our human nature. Rebecca Vos’ talk made me very optimistic about the future because she is still in high school and if she can convince all her class mates to think like this then their generation with have built a culture of working together as one to overcome our human instincts and push our species forward towards a better and harmonious future.

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Whether I am right or wrong with my views of human behavior, the future is coming and it was nice to spend a day listening to some bright minds present solutions to issues that face our species. Our planet is resilient and will survive until it is swallowed up by the sun in 5 billion years, but as humans we will not necessarily survive. Because of this we need TED and we need these brilliant people to present their solutions so we can ensure a world that is habitable for the future generations.

 

Adam

About the author

I am Adam Daddino and I am a graduate student from University of San Francisco. This summer I was an intern at the Center for European Studies at Maastricht University which is what led me to TEDx. I studied history and religions and have done so with a sociological focus on human interactions with one another. Specifically how we balance the influence of our our biological nature with our social environment.

Maastricht’s Famous Musician: Andre Rieu at Vrijthof

Do you know André Rieu? If you were anywhere near the city-center this weekend you couldn’t miss the crowded streets and the fenced off Vrijthof. All because of the famous Maastricht violinist who is performing his ninth Maastricht’s concert series this year. During three weekends Rieu directs the Johan Strauss Orchestra, that was established in 1987 by Rieu himself. The concerts provide a mixture of classical music and particular Dutch songs such as ”Aan de Amsterdamse grachten” and more importantly, the anthem of Maastricht. The public comes generally down to 1. international 2. admirers and 3. elderly people. From all around the world they come to see Rieu, buses packed with people from England, Denmark and Austria came to Maastricht to obtain the André Rieu Live Experience. Hardly any hotel was affordable or available this weekend.

All these people, who totally occupied Maastricht last weekend and probably will continue occupying our lovely city the next two weekends, probably had a hard time understanding the great maestro who welcomed the public, introduced his guests and made his jokes in Mestreech’s dialect. However, despite its lack of local cultural knowledge, the public enjoyed Maastricht’s musician. Couples started dancing through the rows as if they had fallen in love once again. The Friday night showers weren’t a drawback looking at the amount of people dancing at the end of the first Rieu concert of the year. His popularity all around the world has been confirmed to me, although I don’t consider myself one of his admirers, but certainly for once one of his red clothed piccolo’s.

 

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