I am having lunch with Sylvia. When you have 80 years of life experience, there must be some lessons you learnt or you must have very valuable experiences. I am very curious about hers.
How do you look back when you have 8 decades filled with life experience.
Life lessons. I think that’s a special word, it reminds me of school. I prefer to call it life experience. I was 27 years old and I was married. My former husband told me: “I won’t stay in the Netherlands till forever.” He started applying for jobs and got a job offer in Curacao. I thought: from Rotterdam to Groningen or from Rotterdam to Curaçao, I’m fine with all of it! I decided to go with him. I was very lucky to have my open minded mother. She told me: “Just go and see the world! Explore the world!” My mother was a positive, accepting and stimulating person. The way my mother looked at life was very valuable to me in my further choices.
Once arrived in Curacao we actually stabilized quite quickly. I eventually started teaching Dutch children at a primary school. I had great social bonds with my Antillean friends and co-workers. I never experienced a gap with the Antillean residents, I liked them and they liked me. But I was confronted with discrimination, something I wasn’t aware of living in the Netherlands. I think it’s good I got this awareness. I had no trouble to be in touch with different kinds of people, I just thought it was very special.
Now we are able to contact our loved ones very frequent and very fast. How did this go with your friends in Curacao? How did you talk to you family and friends in the Netherlands?
At that time you used telephones booths to talk to people, you could find them on every corner of the street. Some people had a landline, but not many people did. Contact with the outside world was via letters and phone. Every half year I called my mother, it was very difficult and expensive to do so. The advent of television had a huge impact on life. The world used to be small and organized: it contained of family, school and holidays. I think the advent of television and internet gave us a wider vision of the world. I felt happy in Curacao. You can’t think of missing something (i.e. a smartphone) that didn’t exist that time. It feels the same as asking in 20 years: did you miss hologram smartphones in your childhood?
What was your most positive experience regarding Curacao?
You will get used to new situations easier than you think. I also discovered I was able to live life without my family around the corner. Sometimes you have to go along in whatever crosses your path. Discover what happens. I went to Curacao uninhibited, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I don’t regret my 8 years in Curacao. I became more assertive, more more mature. I made new friends. I learned to talk about my feelings. I had to: you need each other and it is important to talk about what crosses your mind, what you experience, what keeps you going. Close friendships existed. I felt more secure and it felt so good to have friendship in which I could discuss everything! I got a lot of new energy, I learned to adapt and I enjoyed my time.
If you decide to do something, do it with all of your heart. Enjoy!
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