I'm convinced that I've finally mastered the pronunciation of the beach town just outside The Hague, Scheveningen. Every time I try and say it, my attempt is met with laughter, but I am choosing to ignore the possibility that they are laughing at my inarticulate, feeble attempt to speak Dutch. In my defense, Scheveningen is an impossible array of consonants.
I might have just avoided the word (and by extension the laughter), except Scheveningen is hands down my favorite place in the Netherlands. I've truly enjoyed exploring the Netherlands and Belgium so far this summer, but Scheveningen remains my favorite spot and it's only a ten minute bike ride from my apartment.
There is nothing particularly spectacular about the small beach area to provoke my affinity. The main boardwalk is constantly littered with beach-goers, tourists, and actual litter. But if you leave Scheveningen proper and stray south down the North Sea's edge, below the Hague's port entrance and until you can see the outlines of Rotterdam in the distance, the beach takes on a completely different personality. Preserved sand dunes, a concept foreign to East Coast beach towns in the United States, extend half a mile inland. The dunes create mountains and valleys coated in swaying grasses and wildflowers on the edge of a country named for its flat, low-lying topography. At least a couple times a week I either run or bike to the dunes. Sitting by the water with the brisk wind cutting across my face, or meandering up and down the dunes, particularly on a weekday evening when few others are around, I feel like I've carved out my own little piece of the Netherlands.
When not staring at the sea, this week I have concluded my work on one project and begun another. One of my main projects this summer was helping conduct initial research and drafting a concept note for an interfaith approach to assessing the relationship between religion and constitution-building. After extensive research into a wide array of religions (Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic) and constitutions, my portion of the concept note focused on two issues: comparative lessons from analysis of nine models of constitutionalized state-religion relations, and the role of government in the relationship between religion and education. Future steps, most of which sadly will take place after my summer with International IDEA has come to an end, will involve submitting the full concept note to viable partners and pursuing an interfaith dialogue addressing the issues presented in the concept note. With the conclusion of my work on the religion in constitutions project, I have begun this week with a new, shorter-term project helping research and draft case studies for International IDEA's Annual Review. The Annual Review is quickly becoming a yearly benchmark in the international constitution-building community for constitutional trends and updates.
Scheveningen, The Hague, Netherlands