In my previous post I shared the story of how The Rosenthal Family welcomed me into their home. But this was of course only a temporary solution. It was necessary for me to find a permanent home, and I found it in the cozy and green neighborhood near my Campus: Oakenshaw.
When it comes to making important decision, I am a very anxious person. Deciding where to live for one whole year, knowing that it will influence my every day life in this once in a life time America-experience, would normally have paralyzed me. But when Rolande opened the door of her house for me, and showed me around, I knew right away that I could be happy here. The house is a typical Baltimore house. It has a little garden and wooden porch in the front of the house. I would live on the top-floor, under the roof. I always wanted to live in a mansarde*, closer to the moon!
Rolande is an artist from Paris, who moved to the US in the 70-ies. She decorated her house in authentic bohemian style; carpets, sofa’s, artwork, books and pictures make it warm and incredibly homy. The old-fashioned kitchen reminded me of my grandmothers place, and the basement is used as a laundry room and sewing-studio. Before she retired, Rolande was a costume designer. She worked for the Centre Stage – Baltimore’s own Theatre – and later on became the personal costume designer for all John Waters’ movies, starting from Hairspray. She worked with Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Richard Gere and Julia Roberts (only to mention a couple). She also designed the costumes for other movies, like Runaway Bride or Minority Report. Right now she works on a graphic novel of Walter Benjamin. She transformed one of the rooms into an art-studio, where she draws pictures and writes about his life.
Next to art, the house is full of different cultures, and most importantly, warm family-like love. Since our very first conversation, Rolande became like a mother figure to me. She is wise and lived a very interesting life. We often talk about life, art and love. Recently she told me how I am like a daughter to her. There are no stronger words to describe the love that developed between us. Now you can understand why this house became a real home to me, and I didn’t even get started about my other housemates!
During my first semester, we shared the house with two other tenants: Amritha from India and Cetin from Turkey. Aristotle wrote that an essential feature of the highest form of friendship is living together and improving each other in this companionship. I agree completely. Our doors where always open for each other. Cetin is an intelligent politician, who always found the right words (not necessarily the easiest words) to help me trough rough times and help me make tough decisions. And Amritha is the little sister I didn’t know I wished for. She learned me about Indian ways of being in the world, she made me proud when she got a job, and told me about Sarasweti and how we don’t have to chose between knowledge and music (in my case: being a philosopher or a singer).
This second semester Pierre moved in, another Fulbrighter from Belgium, Liège. It is crazy to think about the fact that we only lived 20 minutes from each other in Belgium, but that we had to cross an ocean to meet eachother. It is good to have a bit of Belgium in the house, it makes it feel even more like home. When you live far from your family and friends, far from the life you’ve build up for 27 years, it is important to find a warm and safe environment. It influences your everyday life, your whole being and your professional achievements too. Coming back, after a long day of work to a Home, in stead of a Cold Room, makes a huge difference. For many other reasons, this year in Baltimore has been a wonderful experience, but one of the foundations is this house and it’s inhabitants. And I am grateful, everyday!
1) a selfie with Rolande, Cetin, Amritha and me to celebrate Amritha’s job!
2)Amritha and me in Sarri
3)Our bohemian living room
4)Amritha and me making pumpkin soup
5)Ready to go to an Indian dance party in DC to celebrate Holi
6) celebration dinner when I got the news I got accepted for the Grad Program at Emory
[feel free to leave a comment below, in English or Dutch, it doesn’t matter!]
* mansarde is French for attic room