Conversation 1: I had a legnthy conversation with the Stratings trying desperately to figure out their royal family. I know that sounds rather strange, but there's William of Orange, William II who married a ten year old at 14, and William III who became king of England (and after whom my school is named). They all did things in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. BUT then there's King William I, and he ruled in the 1800s. See! I told you it was confusing. The other Williams were princes, and power bounced between the princes (they didn't have a king) and the regents. Then, after Napolean, a monarchy was established with a king, and I guess William is a really popular name here. I think they are all somehow related to William of Orange though...but perhaps not directly. How did this conversation come up? I went to the Hague Historical Museum as my weekend adventure. Lots of pictures and interesting things. There was much confusion when I got back over which William and Mary the school is named after because both William II and III married a Mary, apparently. The regent thing also came up because one of the displays was about these two brothers that were regents about whom rumor spread they were trying to overthrow the king. The people weren't happy about this and killed the two. The tongue of one and the toe of the other were on display in the museum...people had kept them as souveniers...
Conversation 2: Constitutions! Yeah...that just isn't going to stop coming up in my blog. Sorry. Are you aware of how many countries are reworking their constitutions right now? And I get to learn about it as it happens and work on things that might be of use. This makes me happy. Conversations are rather ongoing in the office. What should this country do? Why won't that work in another country? What is a preamble and why is it important? ...so I've finished going through the list of country profiles I'm supposed to update and proofread for the website and now get to research for new ones. Of course, the countries I've been assigned have been assigned because there is so little information out there. I'm currently working on the Solomon Islands. I work in a separate office from the rest of the group because it was the only place a computer was available, so when I reach a point of frustration, I decide that is the perfect time to take a short walk to give a status report. My reports have been as follows: I have gotten to World War I; I made it to independence in 1978; I am in 1999...but nothing seemed to happen in the intervening decades; I found something about the intervening decades, but the scholarly journals I found are contradicting each other. That may sound boring to you, but each new milestone I consider a victory when virtually no information seems to be accessible until the internet became widely used. Besides, after I give my report, the subject inevitably changes or I get to talk about other information I found that was not relevant to what I'm writing but still really interesting (at least to me and my fellow history nerds).
Conversation 3: This one has basically been building since I got here. And it's more of an experience in conversations than a conversation itself. If you haven't figured it out yet, I am very easily entertained. I can find the simplest thing thoroughly amusing. I enjoy listening to people speak around here. English has become infused into Dutch to some degree because of TV and other such things, so I will be sitting at lunch in the common room hearing nothing but Dutch, suddenly hear "And you know, that's just ridiculous!" and then Dutch again. Part of me wants to pretend to figure out what is going on based on the English bits, but that just seems weird. The language barrier issue is also a little helpful in knowing if people are talking to me or consciously trying to engage me in the conversation, which is helpful. I have become very amused at how quickly people forget that I don't speak Dutch or that they've switched languages without noticing. When I join the family for dinner, the conversation will start in English then after a little bit, I suddenly can't understand anything. They are a rather animated family, so even if I don't know what is going on, the hand motions and excited or unhappy tones at least help me read the room. Sometimes an English word sneaks in there, which can help me guess the subject. This prepares me for the inevitable moment when someone will turn to me and either ask me my opinion or "How do you say that in English?" And we just laugh. Last night I was watching a movie (in English with Dutch subtitles) with one of the girls and missed a line, so I asked what was just said. She answered in Dutch, and when she saw that I was frowning during her explanation, I think she acutally explained again another way...but still in Dutch. Then, when she realized the error just started laughing for a while. Oh...but I have learned a few words. Yes, most of those words are numbers...but they are Dutch numbers!
Conversation 4: One of my supervisors put me on contact with someone who is going to try to get me on the list to attend a session of the International Criminal Court (ICC)!!! I'm so excited! Hopefully, I can go next week. Then I shall have much more interesting things to say, I'm sure.