The Professional Storyteller
by Angela Davis
(New Orleans, LA USA)
Angela on the Rhine River in Germany
I wrote to several international schools once I knew I was going to be in the Netherlands for a few weeks and explained I'd be in the area and a storytelling artist grant would cover one interactive performance of original Louisiana tales if they were interested.
Who could pass up a deal like that?
Of course, they might have felt a bit compassionate for me knowing I'd just lived through Hurricane Katrina. Each one said yes and set a date and time that coordinated with my schedule. I got hired at three international schools in Den Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
Holland was so cold my teeth chattered and I changed clothes under the covers where the heating pad kept the bed toasty in a drafty old farm house with no heat. The people were very friendly and most spoke English to me because it gave them an opportunity to practice. Lady Luck was on my side because one of the librarians wrote a glowing review to other international school librarians via the internet.
Soon emails began pouring in asking if I could visit schools in Thailand, Russia, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, England, and Belgium! I traveled quite a bit telling stories, earning quite a bit money with all my expenses paid! I met so many people, heard so many different languages in a relatively short time and had over the top experiences I wouldn't trade for anything.
Russian friends asked me to help them celebrate Epiphany by jumping into the river at -40 degrees below zero - I politely declined. Heard sublime piano playing by a street vendor in Vienna, Austria and watched the play "Yellow" in England from unbelievable first row seats supplied by my host who also brought me to prison to give a storytelling workshop outside of Ipswich.
I marvel that I cruised and sipped wine aboard six major rivers in less than six months: the Rhine in Germany, the Northern Dvina River in Russia, the Chao Phraya River in Thailand, the Amstel River in Amsterdam, Danube River in Austria, Poland and Hungary, the Vltava River in Czech Republic, and the Mississippi River in New Orleans.
I performed in Ireland on Valentine's Day and was proposed to during my performance. Then I was lost for four hours in frigid Dublin temperatures. The Immigration Department thought I was eyeing one of their vehicles to heist as they had experienced a rash of car-jackings and came down to question me! Their office was opposite the internet cafe where I'd been waiting for nearly four hours to be picked up. Turns out the Immigration folks had visited my hometown of New Orleans during Mardi Gras season and they had quite a few stories of their own to share while we waited for my ride!
Nothing compares to the first time I tasted Lindt chocolate given to me in a huge shopping bag as a great big thank you from an appreciative audience in Switzerland. Equally wonderful was high tea at the Bangkok Sheraton and the not to be missed incredible two-hour Thai massages were a daily pilgrimage. I went skiing for the first time in the French Alps in Les Rousses, and spent the night at a motorcycle hotel in Bussang, France. Breakfast in a Hungarian eatery yielded awesome pancakes with layers of chocolate pudding making it seem more like dessert.
The whole of Czech Republic from the moment I crossed its threshold made me feel as if I’d entered some ancient time between worlds. My first night, in Czech Krumlov, I had dinner in the Catacombs, an underground restaurant, and it felt like I was stuck in a time warp somewhere in the Middle Ages! I was transfixed listening to a group of teens at a nearby table telling stories in the eerie torchlight. By day, I visited an imposing castle guarded by two bears. I rented a walking tour on tape and listened to the haunted story of the castle occupants and let my imagination run wild. By the time I reached Prague I was cloaked in some mysterious energy. Some teachers suggested we eat at a local eatery and I nearly fell out of my seat when my entrée arrived with an ancient barbecue fork stuck in the ham joint! The word succulent doesn’t do justice to this tasty dish! I thought I had gone to heaven, the food in Czech Republic and Poland were top notch and very delicious. Did I mention I bought an entire set of Polish pottery for a song thanks to the librarian who knew just where to shop for the bargains? One five-star restaurant hosted live baby chickens on Palm Sunday.
The friends I've made while traveling to all these countries have since visited me in Louisiana receiving the official New Orleans tour to the tourist hotspot: The French Quarters with lots of jazz, good food and great sights. Remember that guy who proposed to me in Ireland? We eventually married three times! Aboard the Natchez steamboat as it rolled along the Mississippi River amid fireworks for my family's pleasure and once more at the official wedding in Holland by the community judge, then after a four-hour traditional photography jaunt around Noord Beveland, an island south of Amsterdam amid the windmills and dikes, then again for his family's benefit at a fabulous Butterfly Garden.
Oh yeah - we still travel extensively. Only now he's learning a lot about America, and since I still have so much to learn we take lots of trips to Europe. We try to spend half the year stateside and the other half in Holland. Now if I could just get past those cold winters, I’d be just fine!