The Professional Storyteller

by Angela Davis
(New Orleans, LA USA)

Angela on the Rhine River in Germany

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!

Comments for The Professional Storyteller

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Jan 10, 2009
You clearly are!
by: Scribetrotter

Such an awesome storyteller - no wonder everyone wanted you to tell stories for them! What a great way to see the world.

Nov 28, 2009
by: Jumakae

Are you for real?! You can make a living AND travel while doing this? One of my goals is to be a professional storyteller (I do spoken word/theatre) but I didn't know you could travel and do this, too. I thought language barriers would be a huge issue. I can't believe you accomplished this all after Hurricane Katrina. Beautiful. =)

Aug 11, 2016
Still traveling and sharing tales worldwide!
by: Angela Davis the Yarnspinner!

Jump ahead to the present! I'm still globetrotting sharing stories and we've visited over 100 countries so far! Eventually I'll get around to finishing my book - until then I'll continue adding chapters and logging miles seeing the planet! Those miles sure come in handy for getting to places I want to visit when schools don't have the resources to pay. As a result I've managed to tell in a number of third world countries too! The benefits far outweigh any remuneration. It often seems I should be paying them for the privilege of being there!

Most want to know what's my favorite country visited so far? Hands down, it's Malta, with Indonesia ranking a close second! Walk the wide boardwalks surrounding Valleta and you'll quickly understand what makes Malta a standout. It was during Easter when we went and the church steps were decorated like huge Easter baskets! Go behind the Hilton hotel being careful not to get clobbered by a huge wave in the process. Spend a couple hours watching the ocean. Words can't describe the elation I felt watching sailboats play ring around the rosy in the frothy waters!

The funniest thing that ever happened while telling stories occurred in China when an auditorium of 300 second graders sat on me! Not sure what the translator said, but they toppled down on top of me as if they were trying out for a role in my movie! I can look back and chuckle about it now! Stories definitely make the world a better place. I think there's room for more storytellers on the planet and was pleased to learn that in many countries, tellers are invited to schools regularly to continue handing down the rich traditions embedded in story.

The more we learn about others, the better we humans get along! There's still a lot of ground to cover in building communication, fostering ways we can all help to make the world a better place. In Indonesia I stood in line with a bunch of school children who had awakened before the sun rose to travel three hours to this city to see this special attraction. It was hot, the line moved painfully slow. Before I knew it, we were in the middle of a story! Time seemed to stand still! Photos were taken, joy shared, some boundaries were crossed and erased. It seemed to me we were all richer for the experience.

My travels have taken me some countries more often than others and there are still more places to visit! With bookings into 2018. there's no sign of stopping this wonderful lifestyle anytime soon! Yes the world needs storytellers with heart and the passion for telling them. I recommend doing what you love - find your niche- and the opportunities will find you!

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