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I've had a busy couple of weeks. I came up with the idea to have a picnic on the field outside my house for all the people in my class, as we were about to finish off our year-and-a-half course. Nelleke, our docent, came to me and we coordinated some things, so we ended up having the picnic on the last Tuesday of class, with one day of class after that. I had initially planned to have it on a Saturday, but having it during class made it easier on everyone, as we already had this time set aside, and got it in before Ramadan started. (For those unaware of the Muslim custom, Ramamdan in a month in which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. They do this as a reminder of people who have no food, and what it's like to be hungry. more than half of my class is Muslim... you can see why this might not have gone over well if the picnic was on the 20th, when Ramadan started!)

I was concerned that we wouldn't have anything to set the food on if the picnic went on outside as planned, and spent an hour going through the Cronje shopping street (across from us) looking for a collapsable table, or something we could at least set up on a couple chairs to serve as a table. Closest things I found were a 1x1m wooden slat tray and a standing grill, which would work as a small table in a pinch. Then it occurred to me... we have an IKEA here! So Arno and I went to Ikea that weekend and found a nice little table, a Vika... not really fold up, like I was looking for (I guess no one's heard of card tables over here), but cheap and relatively easy to put together and break down, and it only cost 25 euro.

We had a couple little hitches, but all in all, things turned out well. Nelleke came in her car, and Arno and I arranged to get the keycard from his father to let her use our parking space in the garage. The weather wasn't great, not threatening to rain, but being overcast and windy the whole day... we decided to go with plan B, which was to have the potluck inside. We also had a little trouble finding the group, who were supposed to meet at the train station at 1:00... they ended up gathering on a corner across from the station, meanwhile Arno and Nelleke and I were going around the station itself looking for them! But, we all got there eventually.

Everyone really overdid it on the food... I'd said to bring enough for 6-8 servings... we had much more than that. People tend to overestimate when serving a large group, and while that's normally a good thing, it does make for a lot of leftovers... which get left with the host and hostess, even when we demand people take some home with them! Anyway, it was lots of fun and people enjoyed themselves. Lots of good food. And Kayenta was on her best behavior and everyone loved her, though mostly she spent her time laying under the table and out of the way.

First off, before I get into the story behind today's comic: an apology. People like Renee and Bobszy have commented on our comics, and I saw that they did and even thought of good replies, but I never actually replied. I blame the fact that I often notice in the morning, but can only find the time for replies in the evening (it takes a lot of time to craft a sufficiently spontaneous reply in your head, you know!) I do read the comments, and appreciate it. I just need to actually act on them!

Now, as to the comic: when Beedoo! said she wanted to organise a picnic, I naturally responded with intellectual interest, while on the inside I was terrified. I'm not good with these things: organizing, socializing... And these were all foreigners too, which just seemed to make it more scary for me. And then it looked like holding it outside was too risky weatherwise, so we naturally moved it all into my home where I'd be a host proper.

Of course I knew I was being silly, so I didn't let that stop anything, but I'm glad to report that my suspicion was confirmed: I was being silly. It was quite fun, and everyone seemed to have a good time. Beedoo! did a good job organizing the whole thing. And organize she did: lists of people coming, what food they were going to bring, e-mail addresses... I think I'll have her organise all our things from now on. I'll just do what I do best: play games and worry.

Some of these people I knew from the stories Beedoo! had told me, and I managed to speak with some of them. Tohow, from Somalia, was the best in class together with Beedoo!. I was very impressed by his enthusiasm and desire to learn, and especially so when I learned that he already had a job as a junior accountant lined up; he requested asylum in The Netherlands in 2010 for crying out loud! He called his back story 'a bit personal', but I know a bit from Beedoo! and I can say that we should probably be glad that someone like him wants to come live in our country. The sad flipside of this, of course, is that the groups in Somalia that live by the gun are causing people who could help the place move forward to leave.

I also spoke with Taleb, a gentle man from Syria who's been in prison as a political prisoner for seven years. He had stories about how he started writing in prison, in secret. His family smuggled out his tiny writings on little pieces of paper - which they could only do during the monthly half hour visiting hour (provided it wasn't cancelled). His brothers and sisters are still in Syria; he can't contact them as it will only endanger them, so he has no idea how they are doing.

I spoke with some other people as well. I enjoyed myself and was amused to observe that apparently the same human processes exist in all cultures: by the end of the 'picnic' all the women sat out on the balcony giggling and gabbing, and all the men ended up in the living room. I have had my picture taken a lot (especially with Beedoo!) and ate familiar and unfamiliar food, most of which was good.

Beedoo! really does bring adventure to my life!

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