Recently, I met fellow Writers Abroad member, Paola Fornari. Writers Abroad is a writers’ group made up of published writers who live outside their country of origin. We meet almost solely online for mutual support, inspiration and critiquing. We also produce an annual anthology. This year’s anthology is entitled, Foreign Encounters.
Members of WA rarely have the oppurtunity to meet face-to-face so it was with great excitement I set off on my train journey to meet Paola. She was born in Tanzania, has lived in a dozen countries over three continents, and describes herself as an ‘expatriate sin patria’. Wherever she goes she learns the language, gets to know the local people and customs, and discovers the country’s remotest corners. All these rich experiences fuel her articles that have been widely published online and in print. Right now she lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh but was spending the summer in Brussels. Den Bosch is roughly halfway between Brussels and Amsterdam so we chose this charming town as our rendezvous point.
We had a gorgeous day together as the photos clearly show. First we had coffee and shared a Bossche Bol. Tjonge jonge, as the Dutch say, those chocolate-covered cream bombs are about the size of a tennis ball! In between chocolate and creamy bites we chatted away like lifelong friends. The ease with which we got along made me wonder if we reveal much more of ourselves in our writing than we do in our every day encounters with family, colleagues and friends? The answer is, I’m pretty sure, a resounding yes.
After coffee we headed towards the Sint Janskathedraal. Outside the cathedral stood a horse drawn charabanc powered by three beautiful Friesian horses. Feeling like tourists for the day we decided to take the half hour tour of the city. I’ve visited Den Bosch a few times but never realised there was such a vast green area just outside the city ramparts. This historic polder has been kept intact as a nature reserve.
The Roman Catholic cathedral is truly breathtaking. Unexpectedly large for a town the size of Den Bosch, the building dates from 1525. The stained glass windows were stunning and we were surprised to stumble upon a special exhibition about the Shroud of Turin.
After lunch Paola and I walked into the luscious old polder outside the southern city rampart. By then the sun had come out. It was easy to lose track of time but we decided to follow a path that seemed to be heading towards the station. We rounded the path’s blind corner expecting to see a bridge but, and this was a first for both of us, there was a little self-operated ferry boat. It’s on a chain that you have to wind the boat along by means of a crank handle system. Fortunately someone was crossing from the city side so we only had to wind it back over. My first ever encounter with a DIY ferry. And hopefully the first of many encounters with friend and writer, Paola Fornari.