Between the Stacks: Libraian travels world and ends up in Mount Pleasant

  • Monday, January 14, 2013

Mirjam Veldkamp was born in a small town in the Netherlands, very close to the border of Germany. She grew up speaking a German/Dutch dialect, heavier on the German.
Most TV shows were in German, and foreign movies (even John Wayne movies) were dubbed into German. Mirjam began learning Dutch in kindergarten, but didn’t speak the language regularly until middle school, when she went to boarding school.
As a child, Mirjam had enjoyed Enid Blyton’s books about boarding school life, but she was disappointed by the reality of her all-girls boarding school.
During high school Mirjam worked at her aunt and uncle’s restaurant/bar.
In her last year of high school, she met her husband, who was a college student in Amsterdam.
After graduation, she followed him to the big city to pursue a nursing degree. Living in Amsterdam was a big culture shock – Mirjam had to speak Dutch instead of her local dialect and she was unknown to everyone.
After graduating from nursing school, Mirjam worked for several years as an RN on a neuro-surgery ward, where she encountered many brain surgeries, tumors, aneurisms and broken necks (from summertime dives into shallow water).
Later on, Mirjam warned her children, “Feet first!” and “No diving in shallow or murky water.”
By age 26, Mirjam was burned out and wanted something different, so she went back to school at the University of Amsterdam and earned a Masters in Medical Anthropology.
She did field work in Suriname, a South American country north of Brazil, researching whether cultural perception influences the noncompliance behavior of epileptics.
While conducting research, Mirjam lived in the capital city of Paramaribo, though she took several trips into the jungle, traveling the Saramacca River on a small boat.
In the city, her only transportation was a bicycle, and because of poorly maintained roads, she always carried a tire repair kit. Overfull minibuses were another option, and Mirjam remembers that “getting in the bus was not very organized. You had to use your elbows to push yourself in because they were often overfull.”
For more information about Suriname, check out “The Jungles of Dutch Guiana: Bush Master” by Nicol Smith or “Maroon Arts: Cultural Vitality in the African Diaspora” by Sally Price. Mirjam highly recommends Nigel Barley’s field guide, “The Innocent Anthropologist.”
“It’s full of typical British humor about Barley’s experiences in Cameroon. However, Charleston County Public Library doesn’t own this book, so if you want to read it, you’ll need to request an interlibrary loan at www.ccpl.org or by calling the reference desk at 849-6161,” she said.
In 1994, the medical University of South Carolina offered Mirjam’s husband a “temporary” position and their small family moved to Mount Pleasant “for a few years.” The biggest culture shock for Mirjam was the supermarket’s wall of cereals, an entire aisle. In the Netherlands there’d been only a few kinds of muesli-type cereal available.
Almost 20 years later, Andy still works at MUSC, and he and Mirjam still live in Mount Pleasant with their two sons (one in high school and one returning to college in the spring).
After staying home to raise her sons, Mirjam began working at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library in 2006, where she helps patrons on the reference desk and processes all the A/V materials and periodicals for the branch. In May, Mirjam began writing “Between the Stacks” for the Moultrie News every other week.
Mirjam enjoys reading and has consumed many types of books, including fairy tales like the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Dutch Folktales, but also Norse legends and Greek mythology.
Mirjam went through a phase when she only read Latin American authors like Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, and another phase when she only read African authors like Doris Lessing. However, Mirjam mostly enjoys Dutch literature, like J. Bernlef’s “Hersenschimmen,” (loosely translated as “Out of Mind”) which describes a 72-year-old man’s confusion and fear at the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Mirjam said, “The author pulls you into the brain of the man while he is falling apart.”
During the travels of her youth, Mirjam learned a few Hungarian phrases. She’d love to share one of them with you. “Boldog uj evet!” Happy New Year!
Upcoming library programs:
Mount Pleasant Reel Club – A Book and Movie Discussion Group (adults)
Wednesday, Jan. 2 at 2 p.m.
Read the book (“The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis), come watch the movie (“The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates. Rated PG-13; 128 minutes), and then participate in a lively discussion.
DIY Arts and Crafts with Ms. Grace (all ages)
Saturday, Jan. 5 from 1:30-3 p.m.
Being crafty and creative is easier than you think with Ms. Grace’s help.
Self-publishing Workshop (ages 16 and up)
Saturday, Jan. 12 from 1-2 p.m.
Join author Susan Sloate to learn about the new paradigm in publishing. What is the new market, and how can you become part of it? Learn about getting your novel ready for publication, how to market your book to the right audience, the importance of electronic distribution and how to create an Amazon bestseller. Registration not required.
Writing Critique Group (ages 16 and up)
Saturday, Jan. 12 from 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Following Susan Sloate’s self-publishing presentation; local writers of all levels are invited to an informational session for Mount Pleasant Regional Library’s Writing Critique Group to discuss group structure, expectations, and scheduling. No registration necessary. For more information, please call the reference desk at 849-6161 or email MtpReference@ccpl.org.
Monday Book Discussion (adults)
Monday, Jan. 14 from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain
(Jen McQueen is a Reference Librarian at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library, 1133 Mathis Ferry Road. She can be reached at 849-6161 or mcqueenj@ccpl.org.)

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