Interiors Project: April Johnson in Curacao

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.

My favorite thing about my home would have to be the cross breeze and light. I like many things about my home but these two things really make living here great.

Home
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.

Travel
I have been to 11 countries (12 if you count Heathrow airport for 8 hours) Canada, Mexico, France, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Curacao, Aruba, Bermuda, St Lucia, St. Kitts, and St Maartens.

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.

14 comments

  1. Hi Miss McDiarmid!
    Hope all is well! Cool site! I’ll never forget “Tuesday’s With Morrie” during your class in 7th(?) grade!

    – Antonio

    1. The Red Sox were in town, but i didn’t care because it was Tuesday (which it is), and I was on my way to see Morrie.

      1. Hi Antonio and Mauricio!

        It’s so cool to hear from both of you guys after what?… TEN years. Yes – I read “Tuesdays with Morrie” to you when you were in Grade 7. This is what I love about this project; we were all in Monterrey at the same time… and now we are all over the world but still connected. So cool!

        Also, you are going to have to start calling me Monna 🙂

  2. Thanks so much, April, for sharing your home in Curacao with us.

    As I said on Facebook, I’m particularly envious of those sparking, turquoise waters today as it was -1 Celsius last night… and I have a bad head cold. (I think I am not alone in my Curacao-envy!)

    I really love that you discussed what you had taken to Curacao and why. This is a pretty complex aspect of our lives overseas. Damien and I did not have a shipping allowance in Mexico or Barcelona but we have had allowances at both schools in Asia. You accumulate things at a different rate – develop a different relationship with “stuff” – when you know you will be able to afford to take it home with you… or not, as the case may be.

    As a round gal, I make clothes shopping in Canada and the States a priority each summer since I’m not able to find lovely, well-fitting clothes overseas. (We’re giving away our little secrets 🙂

    Have a great day, April!

  3. April, thank you for sharing your home:) It’s lovely! What a place! I love the bridge photo and your mention of poffitjes made me quite nostalgic (I have Dutch family)….
    Eat and enjoy!
    Mandy

  4. I wonder- do you ever get tired of looking at that ocean? Blase about it? I remember living in the mountains for a summer, and rather than getting familiar, they got more and more part of my feeling of home. It was quite a wrench to move away from them. It just looks sooo beautiful there.

    1. Sometimes I start to take it for granted but then life happens and I get caught up in work and then I get an opportunity to hit the beach and it’s like …yeah I live here and it’s great. I know I will miss it when it comes time to move on so I try and enjoy it as much as I can –staycations help with that. 🙂

  5. I love all the red accents in April’s home–that plush red couch, the red chairs at the kitchen table, the red checked towels. It looks so vibrant in that bright light, beautiful and homey.

    Also, and this is a funny coincident: I’m already craving a Dutch baby (pancake!), and here they show up in this post. I may have to make one for an afternoon snack today 🙂

  6. Hi April! I like the look of that water. Reminds me of my time in Bermuda, where I had a teeny-tiny apartment with great light and cross-breezes!

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