For my personal project I have decided to write a book (appendix 1) about the Dutch culture and habits. I was inspired to do this project, because a lot of people think that everyone in Holland smoked marihuana at least once a day, walks on clogs all the time and has a garden full of tulips. When I first joined ISS I noticed that everyone assumed that I loved cheese and they still do. This inspired me to do write this book, because I want people to know more about Holland and gain more respect for the country. This is important to me, because I want everyone to not always stereotype the Netherlands. My Area of Interaction for this project will be Community and Service. I chose this Area of Interaction, because I am writing a book for the community to read. I want to inspire the community to see Holland through a different view.
I want people to have more respect for the Dutch culture and its habits after reading my book. By doing this I not only help the school community, but also the Dutch community by encouraging more respect for their culture. Since I am doing this for free it is a service. I think that giving out a book for free is going to make the book more successful. More people would want to read it and so more people will be encouraged to have more respect for Holland. That is why my AOI is Community and Service.
My goal of writing this book is that people will start to have more respect for the Dutch culture. I do not want everyone to just assume that I wear clogs at home, eat cheese everyday and especially that I smoke marihuana. I also want to get more non-fiction writing experience and skill by writing this book. This will help me for writing essays and other informative writing tasks. I will measure my goal by seeing if the attitude of people improves after reading my book. What I mean to say by this is that: if they lessened the stereotypical comments, than I believe that their respect has increased. I have designed an 11-point plan for my Personal Project.
Make a survey and ask the questions to people in Holland to get their opinion. Buy and read books about the Dutch culture, so I can use these in my project. Find websites on the Internet about clogs, Dutch cheese, drug consumption in the Netherlands etc. I will keep researching. Ask the questions of the survey to people in ISS.
Plan out my book. I will plan out what I want chapters to be about and in what order I will put them. Write an introduction for the book. Writing an introduction is important, because it introduces the reader to the book and shows what the reader can expect. I will start on writing the book and finish at least 1/3 of it before the progress fair, so I can present this on the progress fair. I will finish my book around January. This will not be the completed version. I will ask some people to read the rough draft. I will use the feedback I get to improve and finish the book. When finished I will make a table of contents and a cover page. Then I put everything together in a folder and hand it in on the due date.
Description of the process
Research and Planning
First, I had to plan out the whole entire process. As shown in the introduction I had an eleven-point plan to finish my personal project. That was just a rough draft of all the things I was going to do, but now I will describe the whole process in detail. I started my project a little bit before the summer break. I started researching on how to write a non-fiction book. This was very critical to my project, because I have never written a book before and it was very likely to take longer if I did not use these websites. (Stephanie Chandeler, 2009) (Bobbi Linkemer, 2010) After this I thought of the survey questions I was going to ask people about Holland. The week after I planned this, my family and me went to the Netherlands and I planned to do the survey there. I asked the survey questions to as many family members and friends as I could, until we went home.
I had about 25 persons interviewed and I was convinced that this was going to help me during the project. I put all the answers of the survey into an Excel document. (appendix 2) After the all this research I realized that I did not have a plan. I quickly made a 11-point plan to write my book. I was very stupid of me to write the plan so late. I will discuss this further in the conclusion. Two weeks after school started I asked the survey questions to the whole entire tenth grade class. Some of these surveys were very useful and actually helped me writing my book. But many of them were not taken seriously and I thought this was very disappointing, because I expected a little better of my classmates.
Writing the first half and rewriting first half
After all of this research I started writing the book. Three weeks after the school started I wrote my introduction to the book (word from the Author). This was very important to the book, because in this introduction I had to introduce the whole entire book and as I said before I have difficulties starting a writing task. But once I get into writing, then I can keep on writing for maybe 15 minutes straight. After that I wrote chapter one of my book. It was not very hard on deciding what my first chapter should be on, because almost every non-fiction book starts out with a basic overview of the topic that will be discussed. So my first chapter was about the geographical facts about Holland, like its area, population, religion percentage and other basic facts about The Netherlands. The second chapter was about the provinces of Holland. I believed that this was important to explain, because every province is different and I wanted to show that not everything in Holland is the same as some people think. It is like the states in the U.S., people in Georgia are completely different from people in Texas.
Then I started on the third chapter, which was about the water in Holland. I talked about the lakes, rivers, seas and polders in Holland. The fourth chapter was the last chapter I wrote before the progress fair. It was about the history of Holland. I discussed important wars and events that effected Holland on what it is today. Three days later I presented what I had written so far at the progress fair. Not a lot of people were interested in my project and only about 5 kids stopped to look and ask questions about my project. A week later the biggest problem happened throughout the whole project. I lost all my progress so far on what I have written. For some reason my laptop deleted nearly everything that I had written so far.
The only thing that wasnt gone was my introduction. This was a very big problem and I should have had a back up. The next school week and one and a half week of the break I spend rewriting my whole entire first half of the book. This wasted a lot of my time I could have actually spent starting my second half of the book. I believe that the second version of my book was slightly different than the first version, but only small improvements were made. It could even be that I may have left some things out and have added some things, so my first version could have been better or worse. Writing the second half of the book
The second half of the book was a little more difficult. I had covered all of the basic things, like geography and history. Now I needed all the things that people were stereotyping and making fun of, because my goal was to encourage more respect for the Dutch community by writing the actual truth instead of writing. I first decided to make a chapter on significant and famous Dutch people before talking about stereotypes. In the appendix chapter 5 of my book is shown and as you can see I talk about famous Dutch people in the past (like Vincent Van Gogh), and famous Dutch people in the present (like Johan Cruijff). I thought that this was also important to put into my book, because some people did not know any famous Dutch people and I thought it was a good idea to also include this in my book.
I finally started writing about some typical Dutch things. My sixth chapter was about Dutch holidays and traditions. I included holidays in them like the Dutch carnaval and Sinterklaas, because those are two very popular and well-known holidays all over Holland. This chapter is also included in the appendix. My seventh chapter was about Dutch eating habits and I talked about food like Dutch cheese and its stereotypes and liquorice. I hoped that I made a lot of things clear about Dutch people and cheese in this chapter. The eighth chapter of my book was about tolerance in the Netherlands. Here I hope I made a lot of things clear about the red light district, drug legalization in Holland and legalized prostitution in Holland.
My final chapter was about typical Dutch things like windmills and tulips. I explained that not everyone grows tulips in their garden and not everyone in Holland lives in a windmill! After I finished all of my chapters I let my mother and father read it through for some feedback. Using the feedback I got, I improved my book. Afterwards I wrote my afterword and bibliography. In the afterword I thanked all the people that helped me write the book and summarize the conclusion of the book. At last I put the book together and made a table of contents. So, finally after 6 months of hard work, problems and bad time management I finished my book and handed it in. I hope everyone who will read the book will gain more respect for the people of The Netherlands and will think twice before concluding anything about Holland and its culture.
Useful resources and the AOI linked to it
My project was a project that was based on and dependent on a lot of research. So the research changed my personal project a lot. As I told in the process description, I did some research on how to write a book and I also did a survey with a lot of people. This survey affected my personal project a lot, because this showed me what people of different ages were thinking about Holland internationally. I used this survey in a lot of chapters in my book, so I could see what people were thinking about Holland. As I mentioned before my project was dependent on research. I used a lot of websites and most other websites were useful in the same way. I found websites about cheese, traditions, polders and many other things. There were only two parts of my research that were more important than all the information sources. These were the survey and the websites on how to write a book. These helped me reach my goal better.
The survey helped, because this showed me what a lot of people were thinking and so I could decide what I should write several of my chapters about. The websites on how to write book helped, because it is always very difficult for me to start an essay or any other writing task. These websites helped me start out and guided me throughout the whole writing process. Another very useful website that helped me finish my longest chapter, chapter 2, was a website called tripadvisor.com (Tripadvisor, 2000) I used a lot of sources I used and it would be a miracle if I remembered all of them word by word. Some of which I remember do relate to the AOI. The source that links the most to the AOI is my survey results.
Asking people from two different communities questions about their personal opinions created this survey. One was the Dutch community who all gave similar answers and mostly answers that make sense to me. The other was an international community who also gave similar answers, but made less sense. Some people did not take this survey seriously and some people gave stupid answers. One example is that some people just wrote weed next to every answer. These were the survey that did not help me at all and I just threw them away. By seeing this I could conclude that not a lot of foreigners knew about the Dutch people and their culture.
Changes in the plan
I changed a lot of things in the plan. At the very beginning I said that I would create the survey first. What I actually did first was research on how to write a book. This was an important change in the plan, because if I didnt than probably my book would have been less organized, I probably forgot the table of contents and my introduction would take maybe three days. Another change I made in one of the points in the plan was that I did not interview people from the I was planning in doing so, but than I decided not to. I am a very shy person when it comes to asking a stranger a bunch of questions. I was afraid that they might be startled and most of them just say no, because they dont have time. I was also afraid that people think I am some crazy kid asking them some stupid questions about their own country.
Another change in the plan was that I switched point 4 and 5 around. Now, I first planned out the book and then I surveyed the tenth grade. I did this, because I saw that some people were still getting used to their homework pattern in tenth grade and would probably forget one unimportant survey and that would leave me with maybe 15 completed surveys in my hands. So I first planned out the book and later when most people were less stressed I asked the survey questions. The biggest change is probably that I would have had the book finished in January.
I had to change this, because of the problem that occurred I explained about in the description process. Almost all of my work got deleted. Due to this I could not work on my second half of the project in the Christmas break. I finished up my rough draft in the February break and had two days to use feedback from my mother and father to improve my book. This change also had effect on nearly all of my last points, because of the little time that was left after the deletion of my project.
Techniques used in the project and time management
I did not use a lot of different techniques in my project. Since my project is writing a book not as many techniques are used as in making a movie or sporting. The technique I used most was research and write. For a non-fiction book this is obvious, because the information in the book does require a lot of research. There are also other techniques I used, like the interview. The interview was, as I explained before, critical to my project. This interview was very effective to my project, because it is always good to not only have second hand sources. To have a first hand source can come in really handy, because one cannot always believe what is on the Internet. My time management could have been better. First of all it would have been better if I had finished everything up until my book introduction in the summer break, because than I could have entirely focused on writing my book for the rest of the year.
The other big thing that interfered with my time schedule was the deletion of my project. As I explained before I had to rewrite all over again during the Christmas break. And the last thing that is again completely my fault, is that I let the final chapter of my book all come down to one holiday. I worked everyday on the project in the holiday and was really stressed throughout the whole holiday. I should have spread it out over the last three weeks, but I admit I was too lazy and thought that I wasted half of my Christmas break on my project that I wont do a lot in the weeks to come. This is a thought that I will not ever think again after what happened.
Has my understanding of my AOI grown during the project?
My understanding of the AOI has definitely improved over the course of the year. My understanding about why one should respect another culture has grown a lot. I have realized more than ever that I have to respect other cultures more and stop making stereotypical jokes in order to gain respect from other people for my culture. I also understand more how my book could contribute and has contributed to a community. By reading my book some people have gained respect for Holland and its culture as I mentioned before. Now maybe 10 people read the book and maybe 5 of these have gained respect for the Dutch culture. This benefitted the small Dutch community in our school. But let us say that half of Germany reads my book. I think that around 40%/50% of these people would actually understand and respect the Dutch culture more. If such a thing happened than it could have contributed to the whole Dutch community.
Understanding and quality of the product
I understand many more things now about writing a book. The main thing that I have learned is to have a back up for every chapter you make. I have learned this the hard way. Another major thing that I understand now is that writing a book is not as easy as I expected it to be. It requires a lot of research, creativity and especially time. If you do not plan you time well then writing a book can take a really long time. I wrote a book double-spaced, size 14 and 6800 words in 46 pages in about 6 months. A writer that does single-spaced, size 12 and around 500 pages would maybe take 30 years over one book if he/she wrote in my tempo.
And if I wrote in their tempo than I would be done with the project in maybe a month or so. So my understanding is that writing a book is mostly about planning and a lot of dedication to ones work. I am quite proud on what I produced. I never thought myself capable of writing a book. Compared to the work of a professional writer my book is very short. I compared my work to a book called The Dutch, I presume?(Martijn de Rooj, April 2009) and another book called Holland (Herman Van Amsterdam, 2009) and saw that mine was way shorter. These man also has more experience when it comes to writing a book. they designed it really clever and also had other professionals working with them; like professional photographers and artists.
The Difficulty of the project
Overall I would not consider my project as a difficult project. I also dont think it is easy. Writing a book is not as easy as people think it is, because it requires a lot of planning and a bit of creativity. But it is also not extremely difficult, because if you planned everything than you just let your mind and hands do the work and just keep on writing until you cannot write anymore. I think writing a non-fiction book is more for people who are looking for a challenge.
Have I met my Goal?
I believe that I have met my goal to a certain extent. The first part of my goal was to encourage more respect for the Dutch culture. This point is not very clear yet, because only one foreigner has read the book until now. But I believe that the book will have some impact on the respect people have for Holland. I told some of my classmates some facts about the Netherlands and they stopped making fun of the things I told them are not even close to the truth. My other goal was to get more informative writing skills. I believe that I really have achieved this goal, because I find it easier to write more on one-world essays or history essays now, because I wrote this book. This project also helped me a lot with researching skills. Before I only used to look on the Internet, but now I will start using other sources like books and first hand sources to research. By doing this I can get more information about a subject and this will, hopefully, get me better grades.
Things that I would do differently if I could start over
There are a lot of things I would do differently next time. The first one is to have a back up for everything I write. This was the biggest problem I had throughout the whole project. Due to this I wasted a whole break rewriting all the things I did not back up. If I do this differently if I could start over than I would probably have way more time to do the rest of my book. This brings me to the other thing I would do differently if I could start over: time management. I should have planned my time better throughout the 6 months I had. Because I did not plan my time well in the ending I had to finish the second half of my project in one and a half week.
Another thing that I could improve is that I should let more than just 2 people give me feedback on my book. Both of the people that gave me feedback were Dutch and I should have let someone with a different nationality look at it. This would have been an advantage, because than I would have gotten another cultures point of view. The benefit of another cultures point of view is that all the things that think could be appropriate in Holland could be inappropriate in other cultures. Because I might have put one or two jokes in my book that could be seen as inappropriate, but I left them in there due to that the two people giving feedback were ok with it.
Personal lesson I learned from doing this project
I have learned a lot by doing this project. The main thing is that I learned to organize better. I was always terrible at organizing my work, so I got in time trouble a lot of time. By doing this project along with all the essays and tests we got I had to learn organizing the hard way. Another thing I learned and I kept mentioning throughout the whole report is that I HAVE to make a back up for all the important work I have done. If I do not do this something like what happened in December might happen and completely ruin days of works.
I also learned that if I really put myself into something I could write about a lot of information quickly. Another important thing that I realized while writing my book was that if I want people to respect my culture and stop stereotyping, I also have to do the same thing. I realized this while talking to a couple of my friends about respect for ones country. I realized that in order for me to achieve my goal of people respecting my culture, I had to do the same thing. I have learned a lot by doing this project and I hope that other people have learned a lot too by reading my book.
Chandler, Stephanie. How to Write Your Non-Fiction Book in 60 Days: 8 Steps Get Your Book Out of Your Head and on to Paper. Scribd. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2011.