The second issue of the Interiors Project features the home of April Johnson whom I have known since we were housemates in Mexico ten years ago. Given that she and I have shared a home (and harmoniously, at that), it seems fitting that she should be one of the first international educators to share her current “Interior” stories with us here.
April is a true friend to animals, books, kids and to some very lucky grown-ups… and she introduced me to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for which I will be forever in her debt. After Damien proofread the first draft of this post, he asked when we were going to visit April… I think there’s going to be a lot of that in this project!
My home in Curacao is about 550 ft2 (167 m2 ). I rent an apartment outside of Willemstad.
What is home? Well that is a question for the ages isn’t it? I could be flip and steal Richard Burton’s line and say “Home is where the books are.” But it’s not that simple. I’ve been thinking about this question and I’ve come up with a few things. Home is where I feel safe and comfortable. Home is where I have my books (of course –it would not be my home without books!) and my animals. Home is where I have family or friends who love and support me.
I like to think I am able to be at home wherever I find myself. It might be easier for me because I am American so there is the whole immigrant ancestors’ thing. And then there is the Hungarian ancestry on my mother’s side –so there may be some Roma influence as well? My family moved from Michigan to Texas when I was young so I don’t feel like any one place in the States is capital H -o-m-e. I make myself at home wherever I am.
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” ~ Matsuo Basho
As an educator I have lived in the United States (Texas and New Mexico), Mexico, and Curacao (Dutch Caribbean).
I’ve enjoyed living in all of the places I’ve been. I’ve made great friends and had great experiences in all of them. I think my favorite place was Gallup, New Mexico. It was a great place for the time in my life that I was there. I really enjoyed camping and hiking with my dog and my friends in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. I don’t think I would go back there again though because all my friends have moved on and no longer live there so it would not be the same. I made lasting friendships while in Monterrey, Mexico. I still talk and occasionally see a few friends from ASFM so that was an excellent experience for me as well.
I’ve never been evacuated but I did experience a huge flood in Monterrey on September 11th, 2001. My housemate and I spent most of the day unaware of the attack on the World Trade Center because our television was waterlogged and we were bailing out the house. It wasn’t until we went to HEB to get mops and called our admin for help that we were informed anything had happened. I remember seeing something playing on the display televisions at HEB but ignoring it because I thought it was a disaster movie or something. It was quite surreal.
Finding my current home
I currently live in a small 2 bedroom apartment in the Curasol area of Willemstad, Curacao. I have an open living room, dining room, and kitchen area, a bathroom and 2 small bedrooms. The spare bedroom has a daybed and my extra tv with a DVD player. I am able to rent the house furnished so that is a definite plus. Last year my apartment was only partially furnished so I had to buy a TV and kitchen table. My kitchen table is now my art table in the spare bedroom. It is nice to have the extra space. I found this place using a realtor. A couple of friends from last year were using the realtor to find a house to share and he mentioned this apartment because there was a bigger apartment up above it. My friends were not able to get the big apartment upstairs but I took this one anyway. It was definitely worth getting a realtor because it saved a lot of time trying to cull through want ads in Dutch or Papimentu.
The picture of the mirror (below) is me standing flat-footed in front of the bathroom mirror. My landlords are Dutch and they are a notoriously tall people so my 5′ 6″ tall self must stand on my tiptops to brush my teeth in the mirror.
I always try to bring a few things with me to make my new country home. I bring a few favorite books but I also have a NOOK (ebook reader) and my computer so I can have lots of books of the e – variety. I always unpack my books first because I will want to curl up with a book very soon and I’ll want choice! I brought my cats with me this year. Curacao really felt like home with them with me. I also brought a few nicknacks (rabbit vase) and pictures (turtle!) but not much. I did not get a moving allowance and extra suitcases cost so much now that I really had to limit what I brought to Curacao. Most of what I brought were nice school clothes, shoes, and bathing suits. Clothing and shoes here are either very cheap and cheaply made so they don’t last long or are very expensive — like designer clothing for the cruise ship tourists.
I have not travelled much since I’ve been to Curacao because we are such a small island and it is expensive to go most anywhere. Also, if you don’t book far in advance you can get literally stranded –no flights at all in or out. So I’ve done several staycations which also make Curacao seem like “home”. I will go to a conference this spring in Quito, Ecuador. I am also planning a trip to Peru, possibly for spring or winter break. I also really want to go back to Puerto Rico.
When I travel I like to buy something I can wear –like a scarf or dress. I also like small pieces of art. I also take tons of pictures.
One of my favorite meals in Curacao are the pannekoeken (Dutch pancakes) at Landhuis Daniel. Huge almost crepe like pancake — you can get savory or sweet. The picture is my friend Brenda with an apple pannekoeken. Also you can get little puffy pancakes called poffertjes that you eat with butter and powdered sugar. You can get them in the freezer section and they are surprisingly good!
The bridge picture is the bridge I drive over to get to school. I live on the Otrobanda side of the bridge and school is on the Punda side. There is a way to get there without going over the bridge but it is not as picturesque and both routes are the same amount of time so I take the nicer route to school. There is also a Starbucks (just opened) at the Rif Fort that I pass on the way to school. I don’t stop there because they aren’t open yet but I drive by and think about it. Someday I will stop when we have a late start time because of a workday or staff development.
Please feel welcome to leave a note for April in the comments below.