Wetskills NL – Delta Tour continues!



Day 2 – This morning I woke up in a jailcell with three foreigners. I’d never imagine I would have to say such a sentence. Luckily for me, we were not in jail for any crimes, except being awesome, but to stay the night at a beautiful thematic hostel, which is a renovated jail. We, the group of Wetskills 2017, had the pleasure of staying the night at this wonderful location in Leeuwarden. Still, despite the great sleep we all had, I can imagine most people would not have minded sleeping for an hour more. After eating our breakfast, which was likely better than any they had back in the day, we followed our trusty Marcel to the bus location. We almost lost a few participants due to walking on a bus lane, because we all know Dutch busses stop for nobody. Luckily we all made it safely to the bus, and we were waiting for our next experience in Fryslàn.

When you say Wetskills you think water, and that is exactly where we went next. We entered a renovated church, which was old on the outside, and very fancy and high-tech on the inside. Here, we were introduced in the very own ecosystem of the ‘’Watercampus’’, which is a group of buildings and organisations specialized in developing high-tech water technology. Guided by Hein Molenkamp we were explained about water technology. Different from delta-technology, which has more to do with dikes, water technology looks at the chemical and microlevel of water, such as wastewater treatment, developing energy, or desalinating water for drinking purposes. Hein himself is busy at the ‘’Water Academy’’, which helps companies get their product to the market with their large networks. At the Watercampus, it is possible to go full circle, from the very first idea, up until developing a product and actually conquering the market!

After getting the explanation on the Watercampus itself, we went to one of the pearls of the area: Wetsus. Wetsus is a research facility, where they try to combine different expertise on water technology, the very brightest minds available, and the newest technology, to develop more insights, make discoveries and create the breakthroughs we need so desperately. After getting a wonderful tour by Johannes Boonstra through the research facility, which felt a little like a zoo with all the scientists behind glass working, we had the chance to talk with some of the experts of Wetsus. An interesting fact: the bathrooms in Wetsus actually gather samples for their study.
‘’So when you take a wee or drop a bomb in the bathroom, we say thank you for your contribution’’ – Johannes Boonstra (not a literal quote).
Later on we had our first brain hurricane session where each team was in a sperate room and then each expert come to the room and discuss with the team for 10 minutes. The brain hurricane was both a pleasure and a pain, because you had to come up with questions very quickly, but it also allowed us to open our eyes. Although we got more ideas, we also got some more problems, because we have more stuff to think about. Yes, we are very confused at this point.

I myself have the pleasure of being on the fish migration team of Waternet, and we quickly discovered that our case is not a case they would solve at Wetsus. Luckily for us, they had some wonderful ideas, ranging from using local fisherman to help our cause, to breaking the water barriers themselves. Viability is another thing, but we will see what we can do with the input! I think it is safe to say the very first ‘’BrainHurricane’’ (cringe) was a success. And then it was time to leave Friesland. After introducing Buddycheck System 1, we left for Zwolle.
Special thanks to Sietse Vlietstra, who organised everything at the WaterCampus and made us feel like a group of photo models in his photoshoot!
Arriving at the headquarters of Water Authority ‘’Drents Overijsselse Delta’’, we were able to enjoy a very tasty lunch. To sidetrack a little, I’m currently doing my minor on one of the projects of this water authority near Kampen, which concerns a climate dike near the bypass for the river IJssel, I recommend you check it out, it’s a wonderful project! Back on-topic, after the lunch, we entered a beautiful meeting and brainstorm room. Keimpe Sinnema, a man that radiates wisdom, introduced himself, being associated with the internal aspects of the water authority, and having a lot of experience with both Dutch and foreign projects. He gave us an inspiring talk on their job, how the system in the Netherlands is funded, and the financial background of the water authorities. When you imagine the water authority is in charge of protecting the homes against floods, makes sure our water is not only of great quality, but is also safe to swim in (in some locations!), and to supervise all of our canals and waterways, you’d be surprised to know that we, the Dutch people, spend an ‘’astounding’’ 1.3% of our GDP on the water authorities. Note to self: This might be one of the reasons we don’t have enough money for dike reinforcement.

The amazing thing about Wetskills is the diversity of the participants from all over the world which have different cultures and believes. One of the local teachers at Windesheim, Sander Janssens, presented for us ways on improve communication and team work and gave a very interesting guide to the Dutch. In summary, we Dutch people say what we think, are direct, and are very much of the opinion that everyone is equal. After his lecture, we went to talk with others, and you’d be surprised how different the cultures are! Here in the Netherlands, when you disagree with a teacher, you just tell him, whereas in certain other locations, you’d never dare speak up. And because it is the second day, it was time for our second brain hurricane. Even more productive than the first, we are all slowly getting a grip on the real problem we have to tackle. Wonderful to see that much progress in one single day. This was also the moment  Johan had to leave , but he will be back later.

Because we are staying in a few bungalows in Hattem, we had to do some grocery shopping at a nearby supermarket. After a very chaotic 10 minutes, we managed to get our stuff and head for our homes for the coming three days. At the entrance to the park where we are staying, we had our first heartbreak of the Wetskills Challenge: Marcel had to leave. Many thanks to this wonderful busdriver, with more knowledge than you can imagine, and an inspiring enthusiasm!
At the night, we had a delicious Indian dinner prepared by Bijoy. Afterwards, we had a great evening with most participants, learning about each other’s cultures, and even learning the word of the week: Mashawsha. Special mention to Thina coming in a close second. Basically, they are both food types, but when you mix that with very bad pronunciation (and a few drinks) you have the perfect cocktail for a lot of laughter.

And then it was time to go to sleep. After a mosquito massacre, we cleaned up the bloodstains and went for bed. Nighty night, and we look forward to the next day! And don’t forget to give an Aplauwsha to people spreading Theirshawsha.

By Thijs Lieverse & Ahmed Al Mayahi

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