The Young Horse Whisperer: Like Mother, Like Son

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Our 7.5-year-old son was super curious about horses and he wanted to take riding lessons. We decided the beginning of the 2-week Easter holiday would be a good opportunity to explore the nearby centers and then made an appointment for a trial lesson in one of them. My wife, who used to ride horses as a young girl, was as excited as her son.

It turned out to be a mixed experience for us. It was very exciting for all the family members, but I and my wife were a bit anxious. After all, even if the horse our son started with was relatively smaller compared to others, it was still a huge animal that he had to control. I’ll never forget him tell the horse to “stop! please stop! come on horsie, stop!”. The instructors were very experienced and after a short while, in addition to an adult instructor, a very young girl started to walk next to the horse, talking to our son. I think he was impressed by the girl, very close to his age, guiding him and the horse, in full control, relaxed, and treating the whole activity as business as usual. More

A kid has to know his radio telescope

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A few weeks ago, in August of 2017, we made a short trip to Germany to visit Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Bad Münstereifel for a few days. There were two highlights of our short visit: The first one was a great culinary experience at Brasserie “1806” at Düsseldorf (thanks to a recommendation by Vedat Milor, see his Turkish article here, and an automatic English translation here). The second one was a scientific inspiration that led to this blog entry, a visit to the second largest radio telescope in the world, the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope. The only downside was that we didn’t have time to visit the other, smaller radio telescope nearby, that is the historical Stockert Radio Telescope, nowadays used for educational purpose.

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I can easily recommend to science enthusiasts, geeks, and nerds a visit to Effelsberg radio telescope, not only because of the awe-inspiring view, as well as its scientific and engineering value, but also because of the wonderful nature surrounding it. We were also glad to see a lot of people, young and old, visiting the telescope even on that rainy day (well, they were mostly Germans, and we weren’t surprised). I tried to explain my six-year-old son the meaning of a radio telescope, but I don’t know how successful I was (how would you describe electromagnetic waves and radio telescopes to a 6-year-old, any useful ideas? Feel free to comment!). Nevertheless, I was able to arouse a bit of enthusiasm in him, enough to motivate him to take a rather long walk for him on a rainy day. I think the result and his excited cries were worth our efforts. I hope that one day he will learn more about electromagnetism, radio telescopes, and the fascinating world of human ingenuity that enabled us to ‘see and hear’ parts of the universe that we couldn’t perceive normally otherwise. Until that day, I’ll try to kindle his curiosity, even on a rainy day!


After five years and six Middelheim jazz festivals

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Our son turned five years old a few months ago, and we attended the Middelheim Jazz Festival 2016 shortly after that, for the sixth time.  This is slowly becoming our little family tradition, and it is interesting to see how he is perceiving the festival differently each year.

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This is how it all got started back in 2011, and continued one year later.

Having such a nice festival in one of the most beautiful parks in the city is something I find invaluable. It being so child-friendly is another huge plus for us. I will remember his fifth birthday together with Avishai Cohen (one of the coolest trumpet players ever), David Murray, Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington, the living legend Pharoah Sanders, Joachim Kühn, and Zakir Hussain with fingers that can put you into trance (see 2016 line-up for more details).

A kid has to pick his apples

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Last week, we shared a first with our son: our first and biggest apple picking day in a huge apple farm. In other words, we participated in Appelplukdag 2015. The event had been organized in Mierhoopweg, Wijer-Nieuwerkerken region, and it took us about 1 hour of relaxed driving on a late Sunday morning. During the final moments of our drive, the scenery made us think we were figures in a painting depicting a pastoral scene. When we arrived at the apple (and pear) farm, we saw a huge crowd; hundreds, if not thousands, of cars, slowly being guided by young people to an available parking spot. After you left your car, you had a few choices: take a slow walk on a narrow lane to reach the main event, wait for a big tractor and its attached cart and jump on it, or, leave the nostalgia and get on the horse cart drawn by strong Belgian horses.

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Visiting horses in the neighborhood: one year later

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I have decided to visit the horses in the neighborhood when I took my son outside for a short walk today. The horses live a few hundred meters from our house and it’s been almost a year since we’ve seen them; I thought he would be surprised and excited to see those beautiful animals again. It turned out to be that I made the right decision, his excitement was worth seeing.

I wish I can also show him those horses in action. I have myself seen a few kids riding them in the neighborhood, creating a fantastic view, those amazing animals taking their time slowly along cars and buses while people (at least I and a few others) admire them. It almost feels like time travel and changes your perception of time for a while.

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Space Expo at Noordwijk, Netherlands: A wonderful space center for children

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the ESA center at Noordwijk. The biggest ESA site, namely ESTEC , is also very close to Space Expo, a great place where families can take their children to introduce them many interesting and exciting aspects of space research. My colleagues were kind enough to show me some parts of it and I was surprised by the things I have learned.

I definitely plan to take my son there, but I think I’ll have to wait a few years more.

If you are interested about similar activities for your children you should check out these, too:


A visit to Efteling

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I know it sounds cliché, but kids these days are lucky, or at least they have been since 1952, the year Efteling was opened. Yesterday we paid a short visit to this huge and wonderful theme park, which is about 90 km from Antwerp and takes 1 hour drive at most, and I was surprised to hear that it was such an old place with about 2 million m^2.

I’m not sure who had the most fun, we adults, or our 2-year-old son but one thing is certain: I want to visit Efteling again when our son will be more aware of fairy tales that are spectacularly presented there.

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Exploring the Biggest Japanese Garden in Europe with Arman

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Today we had the opportunity to explore the Japanese Garden at Hasselt, Belgium with Arman. Because of the sunny weather it was relatively crowded but nevertheless some very short moments felt essentially like a serene meditation, e.g. when we were feeding the fish or when I lost the track of time smiling at Arman’s smile (which reminds me of a positive feedback loop sometimes).

According to a description,

The Hasselt Japanese Garden is the largest of its kind in Europe. It reflects the Japanese landscape. It was constructed with the help of the Japanese city of Itami (sister city of Hasselt) in 1992, based on the pattern of 17th century Japanese tea gardens. A walk through the garden makes one feel like being in an entirely different atmosphere so close to the busy city center of Hasselt.

The Garden consists of three parts :

  •  a transition area between the (more Western-looking ) Kopermolenpark and the central Japanese Garden.
  • the Central Garden with its ceremonial house and its tea house (where tea demonstrations can be seen), the pond with its numerous Japanese fish and its waterfalls
  • a park with 250 Japanese cherry trees.

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I have also learned that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Japanese Garden which made me think how it would feel like to visit the same place 20 years later. What kind of dialogues would we engage in while feeding the fish? What would I consider important in life and what would Arman’s choices be? Who knows, maybe the answers to these and similar questions will turn out to be hidden in a silent tea ceremony that we are going to share, that is if we are lucky.

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