Go AheadYou're Home
It was the year 2000. The commotion around the change of the New Year and entering a New Millennium with all its disruption had ceased. Life continued with no power failures or computer viruses eating up all data and erasing bank accounts. Ironically, I wouldn’t have minded if my bank account had been erased, since that would have meant wiping out all my outstanding debts. This was a completely new beginning for me, and not due to the New Year’s resolutions I’d made, because I hadn’t made any. The airline contract I’d lost three years before was handed back to me, so again I was the publisher of Air ALM’s in-flight magazine, Trade Wind, the national airline company of Curaçao. Regaining the contract was a bittersweet feeling because the finance company insisted I seize publication of my own quarterly multicultural magazine COLORS in order to focus on Trade Wind. Only under that condition would they finance the startup cost. A small reception was held with dignitaries, steady customers, and the press to celebrate this milestone.
I was picking up the pieces and recovering from the mental and financial scars of a divorce three years earlier. My two children were seven and eight years old, and so I had to figure out how to stay ahead of the challenge of starting all over again. Consequently, I had no other option than to accept the proposal made by the finance company, and approach new and old customers locally as well as abroad, along with writers, editors, photographers, and design and printing companies. Trade Wind was a quarterly seasonal publication. The economic and financial landscape of Curaçao in general, and ALM in particular, with daily news of a lingering bankruptcy, weren’t the most favorable conditions to start over. Despite all the setbacks, I managed to publish the first quarterly issue, spring 2000. Dissatisfied, and mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, frustrated, broke, and broken, the question was whether I should continue or stop?
At this point I decided to seek council for a better position and I decided to hand ALM’s quarterly in-flight magazine back. So, now what? No contract meant no income to support myself and my two children. I wanted to get away from Curaçao while remaining close to family in case of emergency. Thoughts of leaving the island kept me awake at night. Where could I go with no money and two children? Miami, where I visited frequently in connection with the design and printing of Trade Wind? Or the Dominican Republic, close to family? Or perhaps returning to my native island of Aruba was a more realistic option? I could work there as an executive assistant at a large hotel chain as I had done in the past. In the midst of all these ideas, along came my friend, June who asked if I had considered moving to Holland. I said, “Holland? Not even in my dreams!” I’d been there on vacation twice before and it had never crossed my mind to settle for a life there. I love the Caribbean, with its relaxed lifestyle, swimming every day, and being close to family and friends.
At that time there was an exodus of people from all social levels leaving the island and flying out to Holland. A political party on a neighboring island even had the slogan, “We are flying out.” It was now almost May and I had to decide on schooling for my children to allow a seamless transition. I placed advertisements in local papers announcing the sale of household items, plants, and furniture to raise money for our plane tickets and to cover some months of living expenses. Almost everything sold, except for my Christmas dinnerware and cutlery, which is special and so far has stood the test of time. As the days passed the emotions were rising. When will school start in Holland? Where will we live until we rent a house? How will we cope with the weather? Spending a few weeks vacation in a country is much different than settling down there and starting a new life. Some of these questions remained unanswered until we arrived in Holland. Finally, I decided to swallow my pride and join the mass exodus.
After leaving Junior High, most teenagers continue their studies with a scholarship in Holland. The government had set up several information points for those ‘flying out.’ When I broke the news to my family, everyone had their own opinion. Spoken and unspoken; shocked, disappointed, optimistic, pessimistic. I also informed my children’s father, Nelson Pierre, friends, the school principal, teachers, my pastor, and business colleagues. Again shocked, disappointed, optimistic, pessimistic. I took in all these emotions, embellished with a symphony of ‘colors.’ I was determined to stick by my decision.
With sufficient funds to purchase three one-way tickets, I went to the KLM head-office and did that very thing. A date was now set for Saturday August 12, 2000. That day was very emotional for me and I couldn’t stop crying. I was abandoning forty-two years of precious and regretful memories to start life all over again in a different country, not knowing what would happen.
Would we be among the Antilleans who left for Holland and ended up involved in drugs, gangs, prostitution, or other criminal activities? My faith in God was wavering and I questioned Him. Why hadn’t He allowed things to work out differently? The Bible says “God hates divorce” so why didn’t God intervene and not allow my marriage to end up the way it did?
My parents came to our house to give us the last blessing, along with weeping and wailing before we left for Hato Airport, which was fairly close to where we lived. After boarding the aircraft, the tears flowed from my eyes. As the plane took off, our seatbelts fastened, we held each other’s hand, said a last prayer, and asked God for a safe trip and landing.
“I believe I can fly,” by R. Kelly was KLM’s team song back then. With my eyes red from crying and sniffling I said, “Yes, I believe I can fly. Thank you, Jesus.” The flight lasted about eight hours and the plane landed at 5.15 am on Sunday August 13th. By the time we disembarked the aircraft and collected our luggage it was 5.50 am.
We arrived at the customs office and had to stand in a long line. Belladonna and François were tired after the long flight. “Don’t worry sweethearts, Kenny will soon pick us up, and then we can sleep the rest of the day,” I said. I took out our passports and handed them to the immigration officer. “Goede morgen,” I said. He glanced at the passports and said those magical words that felt like a warm blanket on a cold night.
“Loopt u door, u bent thuis”
“Go ahead, you’re home”
I took a piece of paper and wrote down the exact words the officer had said. Unaware of what would follow in the New Millennium, I had no intention of continuing with COLORS, let alone writing a book!
Despite my frustration and disappointment in God, I continued to pray for Him to watch over us and let angels be present to protect us from all evil, harm, and danger. Through my faith, I placed our lives in His hands and trusted Him on His word. I kept that piece of paper in a special diary I had been given for publishing a special edition of COLORS on “Curaçao 500” commemorating five hundred years documented history of the island. That was the last printed edition of COLORS in the 20th century.
After twelve years in forced pause, leveraging on the power of internet, COLORS has been revived digitally and is now published professionally by a mastermind, StarTeam. COLORSZINE is an intercultural and international e-zine.
Resurrecting COLORS from print to digital was another challenge, which I approached with the same philosophy I apply in life, as reflected in the words by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” My experience of the past was an asset. However, after a bumpy start, I realized that online publishing was a whole new ballgame. I soon realized that the publishing industry, distribution, selling advertising space, and all the other aspects of publication had changed dramatically due to the internet, technology, and social media. These aspects that were overlooked and underestimated by me were marked by a steep learning curve.
The only source of knowledge is experience.