Meet the Neighbours

writing-101

Day Six: A Character-Building Experience

Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

Our stories are inevitably linked to the people around us. We are social creatures: from the family members and friends who’ve known us since childhood, to the coworkers, service providers, and strangers who populate our world (and, at times, leave an unexpected mark on us).

Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. It can be your new partner, your newborn child, or the friendly barista whose real story you’d love to learn (or imagine), or any other person you’ve met for the first time in the past year.

Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.

We moved to a new neighborhood six years ago. Although we recognize many faces, we limit ourselves to cordial greetings, when getting in or out our house from the backside, where the street is. We live in one of the canals of Amsterdam. The house front is by the waterside, and only accessible by boat.

The waterfront is the liveliest and our preferred place; though is not there that we may get acquainted with new neighbors, unless they have a boat.

We have developed a very good relationship though with our neighbor’s next door, since they invited us once for their housewarming drinks. They live with a sweet daughter in her early 20’s, and with an aggressive dog that can only go outside wearing a dog bite protection to not harm anyone. They also have two adult sons living abroad.

They are very social and friendly people. The wife offers a genuine smile, sparkling warmth from her beautiful blue eyes. Anyone could surrender to it. He is a more introspective type, though it does not make him any less warm than she is. They appreciate arts, and are very cultured people, who can make any conversation interesting. We always learn something new from them. Already twice we counted on their help to rescue us from being homeless, when forgetting our house’s key inside. After the first rescue they got a spare key to safeguard.

Since yesterday, they are not the only ones we know. We joined a barbecue at another neighbor’s house, and there we got to know five more couples living in our street. What made this happen?

We united against a common ‘enemy’, the city administration. Some months ago, all of us received a letter informing that we had lost our parking permit in the street, because we already had a one-car garage. However, all of us have two cars! Parking fees are very expensive, unless you have a parking permit, which makes the cost affordable.

One of those neighbors dropped a letter at everyone’s mailbox, inquiring who had the same fate. That was the beginning of a class action against the city’s decision, which ended with victory.

The barbecue was to celebrate and get to know each other. I must confess that when my husband proposed to join in, I felt like I was going to waste my time socializing without conviction, just as it happens in some of business networking meetings I go to.

I changed my mind once I was there. We had a wonderful time with like-minded people, who are also very interesting. And to prove that the word is too small, and not only the Internet gave us access to people all over the world, I found out that many people present there knew someone in common with me. As I said to them, we cannot even gossip anymore without running the risk of being caught!

We identified each other by our house numbers.

Starting with the hosts from number 40. A most sympathetic and heartwarming couple, who lives with their kids from previous marriages. The husband has a small build, contrary to the average Dutch person’s height. He is an executive by profession. He lived in Brazil some years ago, and speaks fluent Portuguese. His parents still live there. His wife is a typical Dutch blonde, well-mannered and observant, making everyone feel welcome. She was a corporate human resources executive at a global bank, and since two years ago started her consulting practice.

Now read this: I have in the past hired one of her former colleagues to work in my team.  I’m a Dutch-Brazilian, ex-corporate HR executive, now leading a consulting practice. What is that for coincidence?

How about number 22? He is a gentle and soft-spoken man, while she is a shy person who seem to not waste words, if not needed, preferring to watch others talking. The husband has worked for the same company I once worked some years ago. Although we never met before, we could related to many people we knew from the past. His wife, like me, is a yoga practitioner. And guess what, he is a business consultant too.

In number 100 inhabit three people with a very diverse and intriguing background. A husband, a wife and her ex-husband. Here they are.

A tall, witty, somehow introspective, and a tad sad, American male.  Conversing and sharing our backgrounds, brought me to learn that he is fighting an aggressive cancer, while working and enjoying life. I knew I had recognized that deeply reflective way of speaking, which could only come from someone who, like my brother, had learnt to count life moments in nano seconds, trying to make the most out of them. He has also learned to attribute value to what matters, as opposed to fulfilling socially accepted behaviors.

Now to his wife. A petite, blonde and sharp woman. Someone I’m drawn to and wish I had more time to talk to. She is also a yoga practitioner.

Her ex-husband is a tall and outspoken Dutchman, with whom I didn’t talk much. I learned though that he broke his wrist, which matched with my husband’s similar experience of two years ago. Sharing data about our acupuncture’s practitioner, who helped my husband to have a speedy recovery, was a no-brainer.

In number 42 lives a big, tall and talkative Dutchman with his family. He arrived later with his little daughter and two bottles of champagne. No one could miss his noisy entry, making sure nobody missed it. He loudly described the qualities and history of the champagne producer, inviting everyone to toast our victory.

The coincidences: He works at the same business of one of my best friends. He has also been ‘head-huntered’ to the idea of joining my previous employer.  Of course, he wanted to know all about his boss to-be. In turn I wanted to know the whereabouts of my previous boss, who now works at his company.

This is how a common interest brought people together and how common paths and people intersected yesterday. We not only had a good time together, but convincingly enjoyed each other well enough to already make plans for a new gathering.

And when that happens again, I will be socializing with full conviction that people’s stories and characters, not surprisingly, are always very interesting.

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Sharing sights & insights captured with diverse angles. Ex-corporate slave, now my own boss. Cycling, hiking, cooking, reading, yoga, writing and photography, are no longer only hobbies listed on my resume. It's what I do, when I want.

8 thoughts on “Meet the Neighbours

  1. How lovely, you make me want to move to your neighborhood 🙂 Very vivid and well written! And it´s a good reminder that once you get to know people, they are usually quite interesting and cool.

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  2. Everyone has a story to share and it’s how you approach them and how comfortable you make them, that coaxes that story out. It is a testament to YOUR character Lucile, that you got along so well with these people and learned so much about them. You obviously made them feel comfortable and thus they opened up about themselves. How wonderful to have such intersections in your backgrounds – this just extended your circle even further. x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an amazing group of neighbors you have! You described them perfectly…I could imagine them all in my mind. What a great victory you all won together and a fun way to celebrate…Thanks for sharing your canal folks with us…What a beautiful neighborhood it must be!
    *Lia

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was a very nicely created piece. I could see each of the characters. And, I just love it when things like that happen. Where I’m living now, I do not know any of my neighbors!

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  5. I thought you conveyed wonderfully the descriptions of your neighbours which characterized them in a thoughtful and authentic manner! I love Amsterdam – it is such a beautiful place! I love that you have been united with your neighbours through a negative which evolved into a positive in more ways than one 🙂 great post!

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