Curaçao – “Bida Na Kolo” – Life in colour

Interview with my good friend Ray Adamus, born on Curaçao, qualified expert in NDF anaesthesia in a large hospital in Zurich

How would you describe the typical Curaçao way of life?

“‘Bida Na Kolo’ – Life in colour and ‘Biba y laga biba’ – Live and let live.
I was born on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. The island is about 440 km2 in size. The island includes a small offshore island called “Little Curaçao”. This island is only 60 km long and the same distance from the Venezuelan mainland. In 2017, 160,500 people lived on the island of “Little Curaçao”. The inhabitants come from 107 different ethnic groups, including formerly enslaved Africans, indigenous people descended from Ara Indians, Portuguese Jews who fled, and Dutch citizens. The inhabitants of Curaçao have Dutch citizenship and are therefore EU citizens. The official languages are Dutch and Papiamentu. Papiamentu is not a dialect, but an evolved language with numerous literary works. The language was used by the 107 ethnic groups to communicate with each other. This multi-cultural mix is the reason why “live and let live” best describes the attitude towards life, because it is essential if one wants to live relaxed and peacefully with all the 107 different cultures and nationalities spread over only 160,000 inhabitants.”

What are the top highlights from the residents’ point of view?

“Highlights from a resident’s point of view: Carnival in February, King’s Day on 27 April, Flag Day as recognition as a state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands National Day. New Year is celebrated in the Chinese way.
Turquoise is the dominant colour of multicultural life on the island. For many island visitors, there is a clear connection between the colour turquoise and the island of Curaçao through the famous turquoise liqueur “Blue Curaçao”, which comes from the island. But the turquoise is not only in the bottle of the famous liqueur that comes from Curaçao; the colour turquoise makes up a large part of nature with the beaches and the Caribbean Sea. To remind us of the turquoise blue of Curaçao, the liqueur is even coloured with food colouring, because the drink itself is transparent.”

When did you come to Switzerland and what brought you to Zurich?

“I have been in Switzerland since February 2007. My partner is from Germany. So we are from two different cultures – and I wanted to start a new life with him in another country on neutral ground.”
What was and is the biggest change for you? How do you deal with it? What helps?
“The language and the foreign culture are still a challenge for me. I have learned the language and am still trying to get used to it. There are a lot of differences in Swiss culture – finding out and experiencing that is very exciting.”

What do you love about and in Switzerland? What are your favourite places, people, regions, food?

“I have learned to love nature, especially the mountains. I like summer and spending time by Lake Zurich and the river Limmat best. The feeling of life in summer is almost like being on the Mediterranean. A small country with four languages and very different parts of the country. The weather here is much better than in Amsterdam but unfortunately still not as perfect as on Curaçao. My favourite food is fish soup. First place for the best fish soup is Zurich. Second place is in Curaçao, Willemstad and third place is in Montpellier, France. I also like raclette very much.”

I did this interview with my good friend Ray Adamus from Curaçao. We often talked about his home island while cooking and eating together and what makes life there different from Switzerland. Of course, he also told me about the great legend of “Little Holland”. The complementary colour to orange, the national colour of Holland, is turquoise. No wonder that the Dutch liked it best in the very place that combines paradisiacal freedom with turquoise waters and white beaches to this day.
“Colourful hustle and bustle: The story behind the colourful houses on Curaçao
Dutch colonial-style houses can be found on every corner of Willemstad. With their bright colours, they compete with the blue sky and turquoise sea. There is a whimsical legend surrounding these colourful buildings that is still passed down from generation to generation.

One of the many legends surrounding the colourful houses says that in 1817, the Dutch governor Albert Kikkert ordered the inhabitants of Curaçao to paint their houses brightly. The reason for this unusual order: The governor was said to have suffered from migraines, which were further exacerbated by the white coral limestone reflecting in the sun. As luck would have it, Kikkert was also the owner of the only paint factory on the island. However, this only became known after his death. The houses of the Antillean island are still colourful today – from the Penha House to the waterfront promenade to the floating market.

The rainbow-coloured commercial arcade of Willemstad not only adorns all kinds of postcards, but was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Unfortunately, the humid and salty sea air always brings out the holey coral limestone of the facades. For this reason, the island’s inhabitants still make great efforts to preserve the colourfulness of the houses. Just in time for the end of the year, the houses are traditionally given a new coat of paint. The house owners prefer to choose a different colour every year to surprise residents and visitors with the colourful facets again and again.”

Source: Mediadatabase Curaçao. 22.02.2021, 09.50h