How is it over there?
‘Good, warm, familiar. I arrived in Curaçao the day before yesterday and now I am sitting on my mother’s balcony and looking out at a mango tree. I’m here six weeks to get my book mondic writing it off and working on my new book. That is about family ties, the consequences of the slavery past and the passing on of trauma from generation to generation. It’s nice to be able to write that story in this place and in front of my mother. She helps me with the details, and I can visit the people and places that come into play. Next week my children will come by for three weeks, then the real holiday starts.’
What was the first thing you did when you got here?
‘Calling my mother, she came to pick me up from the airport. And then: food. In the evening we talk about what we are going to cook the next day, the morning after when we start preparing. This morning at breakfast we talked about a certain kind of cake, how we make it, what the best ingredients are. Constantly talking about food is ingrained in everyone here.’
Do you feel like a tourist here or is it like coming home?
“Neither, or a little bit of both. When I’m on the plane, I feel like I’m going home. At my mother’s house I don’t do anything touristy, I don’t go to the beach, I sit on the balcony in an ordinary residential area of Willemstad. I know my way around, know what’s for sale in the local shops and I speak the language.
“When my kids come, we’ll stay on the west coast of the island, near Tera Korá, where I’ve rented a house with everything kids want on vacation. A swimming pool, that’s the most important thing. In the morning I write, in the afternoon we go do fun things. Then I turn into a tourist anyway, because we visit the hotspots and go to the beaches. After all this time, I still find that dual role difficult, because I still want to radiate: I’m not just a tourist, this is where my roots lie.
‘When the children were small I wanted to take them to Mambo Beach, to a popular beach club, and when we got there it turned out that there was suddenly an entrance fee to get to the beach. This is happening more and more, stretches of the beach come into the hands of foreign operators, who place a barrier and ask 10 euros per person for a mandatory umbrella and a beach bed. As a result, the most beautiful sandy beaches have become unaffordable and inaccessible for the majority of the population. I find it complicated that the government allows this. They actually say: tourists are good for the country, but you can no longer enjoy everything that is beautiful and nice here. If you exclude people, you are engaged in a disguised form of segregation. For me personally, there is a duality in that: as a tourist I can get to those places, but for the Curaçao citizen in me, that dichotomy does not feel good at all. That makes me rebellious.’
Is there room for a holiday feeling because of this two-way battle?
‘Yes, there is that carelessness in the vicinity of my mother. While I work, she does my laundry, cooks and pampers me. She made special vegetarian pasties today, which she doesn’t like, because they actually have meat in them. That is love. The caring, that she can be a mother and I a child. Eating and being with family is the most important thing, I grew up with that philosophy. My children feel the same way, they have a white father and are therefore double-blooded. That love for eating together is clearly the part of Curaçao in them.
‘Although it always feels double to me on Curaçao, as relaxed and loaded at the same time, my mother also provides the holiday feeling by taking the hassle off my hands. When she calls out in the morning that breakfast is ready, I feel like a king.’
And outside your native country, in which holiday countries do you prefer to be?
‘I love Jamaica and the Portuguese islands, the Azores and Madeira, and Terschelling in the Netherlands. I’m still an island kid. I like the finite nature of an island, that it is safe because everyone is watching each other, that typical feeling of togetherness because you have to do it together on that small piece of land.’
Next week: This actor is on holiday while on holiday and throws out his anchor at random.