Since two weeks I'm back in the Netherlands. Two days ago I visited my grandma and we started chatting about the Netherlands decades ago. So interesting! History has always had my interest. For example, when studying economics at Tilburg University I travelled once a week to Utrecht University to take evening courses at their History department. However it was only this week that I noticed how many things that happen now in the Congo and are completely strange to the Netherlands, were not strange in the Netherlands not too long ago.
Our of curiosity (and because my knowledge of Dutch history and Dutch literature is appalling) I am now reading Geert Mak's "De eeuw van mijn vader". This is a book in which Mak discusses - in an autobiographical way - about the century in which his dad lived - so starting at the turn of the previous century (19 to 20th). I've read about 100 of the 523 pages now and am surpised how many things are similar to the Congo at the moment. The level of development: at the end of the 19th century a shower was a cold bucket of water, health conditions were horrible (a third of the children died at birth), there was no electricity and most people washed their laundry in the river. But also how society was organized: people hardly travelled beyond the borders of the village (railways were build after 1880), village committees were very important, and the priest had a central role in society. Of course many of the reasons for these similarities are different, and I know that I'm reading this book through Congo glasses and also that many more things are completely different between Congo now and the Netherlands then. But still. It's incredible how many of the things that I know only from the DRC and are otherwise completely strange to me, were very normal in Netherlands. Even during my grandma's time!
Btw, my granny is awesome. Not only do we send emails back and forth when I'm not in Oudewater, she also handmade Escher pillows for the whole family. Here is one in my apartment in New York.
And here is one in Schoorl (the Netherlands):