When I Lived in Gouda


I lived, for thirteen years, in Gouda. Friends who came to visit said, "It's much more beautiful than Amsterdam!" It was in Gouda that I started a blog about being an expat in a small city in the Netherlands. My expat blog was a bit different from new comers because I didn't describe the adventures of being a strange metropolis, say Amsterdam, and, as I had already lived in the Netherlands for nearly ten years, I wasn't telling readers about the culture shock of meeting the Dutch on their turf.  Mostly I described the world around me, as a long time inhabitant of the Netherlands.  And then I moved, quickly because of a divorce, to Amsterdam. Still, Gouda was a large part of the my life and having moved this blog along with me to Amsterdam, I feel it is fitting to leave a page over of what it was like to live in Gouda. The post below was one that dates from four years ago and strangely enough talks about leaving or staying.
 
D'aller là-bas
 
It occurs to me that I might just die in Gouda. Nothing morbid happening really, just the normal passing of time and my life, after all it happens to all of us. It could be that I’d first spend a great deal of time in a Dutch retirement home, fighting off cheese sandwiches and wondering where I misplaced the sushi delivery flyer, most likely a phantom of my imagination, a sticky rice fly named Hopeful Dementia.  I suppose at one point this thought that where one has seemingly settled may also be the last resting place happens to most of us. It’s a shock really, I must warn you, to think that I could have possibly rendered my person to any place in the world and I ended up in Gouda.  Although it’s not bad really. I mean I occasionally see a black plumed funeral coach drawn by two solid black horses winding its’ way around the traffic lights and I think, right that’s how I want my corpse to make it’s way to the crematorium.
 
Gouda is situated in a part of the country which is known in Holland as the Green Heart of Holland. Although lately with the de-zoning and free hand given to counties these days I doubt that it will stay undeveloped and very green much longer.  But there is a farm in farming land with a dozen or so of these black horses and a grange full of all sort of coaches for all occasions, weddings, hay rides, funerals etc. just outside the city. A family owned establishment, I imagine, marking the passing of time for all of us fitting us out for festivities and rituals.  I don’t suppose the farm’s owners can take long vacations because of their business obligations.
 
But isn’t it exciting to travel and see the world, isn’t it romantic to find love in a foreign land, isn’t it enriching to span cultural bridges?
 
« Mon enfant, ma soeur,
Songe à la douceur
D'aller là-bas vivre ensemble!
Aimer à loisir,
Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble!
Les soleils mouillés
De ces ciels brouillés
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes
Si mystérieux
De tes traîtres yeux,
Brillant à travers leurs larmes.

Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme, et volupté. »


 
This is Baudelaire.  “Invitation au voyage”. It sounds like finding utopia. We all look for it. Apparently I, however fatefully, found it in Gouda. Should I waver in my belief there’s always help: the Jehovah’s Witnesses shoved an invitation to God’s Kingdom through the letter slot this week pointing out several loosely coordinating facts on Mussorgsky and a Biblical composition of the great man all stated on a grey and grimy photocopy from the Watchtower Publishing Co. I suppose it has not escaped my neighbors’ notice (across the street) that I am a musician.
 
There’s more to Beaudelaire’s poem of course, the second stanza is about the riches of the world to be collected, items that speak their own native tongues, which you can enjoy as they stand in your house, on “your” land where ever that may be located. This reminds me one thing I do miss in Gouda is that there are no cheap and good Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. take away places. One of those “Wok to Go” flash pan hot noodle food counters opened up briefly before it burned itself down to a black cinder just inside an alleyway across from the Hema.
 
The last stanza of the poem is about canals…..and the possibility to take off someplace else on water with a boat…to that other utopia around the river’s bend. (Beaudelaire's poem is based on Amsterdam.)
 

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