A short while ago I wrote a series of eight short pieces, influenced by the Gertrude Steins referential writing mainly in Tender Buttons. It were reflections on the desert around Chloride, which is my small town nestled in the Mojave Desert. Rose Vandewalle, very often my first reader, mailed the text to her publisher Bert Jans from Dodo Press (dodopers) in Eindhoven. He turned the text into a delicate, delicious small hand bound book. How can I express my gratitude to both Rose and Bert, my joy at showing the book in the Art Bar across the street. I have had the joy once before of being published in a book by dodopers, in Rose's bilingual book "Zwanenzang/Swansong". Here next to the Dutch poem, my English translation has found its place. This book too is a jewel. Bert and Rose, you made me very happy.
Antwerp is a diamond city and that means that we have a rather large Indian population, the majority of which lives near the more leafy areas around town and a huge Jewish community living in town, right there where I live too.
The Jewish community celebrates their Pesach or Easter between April 22 and April 20. This celebration entails a more than thorough spring cleaning before the passover. The house has to be thoroughly cleaned so that all that is dirty, or contains yeast or that can ferment has to be thrown out of the house. The city of Antwerp organises an extra household-garbage collection in the neighbourhood. I am glad that inclusiveness is working this way. Yet also other communities, like the Moroccan community have their own customs like following the Ramadan. This means no eating during the day, only after sunset and before sunrise one can eat. Mutton with couscous is one of their delicious dishes. Yet the sheep have to be slaughtered in a ritual way, slitting their throat. Often this leads to controversy, or even protests. People feel that electrocuting the sheep is more humane... Strange concept.
I don't mean the kind of poverty where children are in rags and begging in the streets. I am considering a rather rich country and how certain people do fall through the cracks. I know this family where the father now retired, had a good job and was a member of the city council. The two children have to fight the system. The administration a single mother has to go through to let her bright son, who just got his bachelor, do his master is nightmarish. I happened to listen to her reading a letter about about the fictive costs for his education that would be deducted from her allowance... although he is not getting that money it being a fictive calculation. Finding an apartment is altogether a different issue: there one has to be on a list of being interested in finding a place. That seems logical, but then the size if too large by just a few meter, would disqualify the person to get that apartment unless the extra square meters are sealed off... Some places are uninsulated attics, others are just a few € over the maximum... and thus are denied to those who fall maybe a few € short. So life is a struggle for many people. And it is the grace of people, that they do not skimp, that they still are generous and warm. My friend has raised two wonderful boys, when I go and visit, she gives up her bed for me and sleeps on the sofa... She also manages to put good food on the table on a small budget. Some aspects are surreal.
Germany is still a strong going country, yet I saw first hand how the amount of refugees change a small town. In a decommissioned hospital refugees have found a temporary home. Yet when they walk in groups of hundred through a small and pretty town, it is kind of disconcerting.... In Kamp Lintfort, a rather nice neighbourhood where the larger no longer active coal mines were, there two Dash white tent-camp cities build just next to a nice neighbourly area... It looks sterile, no people are out... it is certainly better than being out in the rain. I don't know what the living conditions are for the refugees there. I am astonished and do feel for the old population in the workman's and miners neighbourhood and am sure that this is better than being in a dingy boat and risking life and limb in fleeing war and violence.