reading time 10 minutes | by Renske Mehra
February 12 –– 2021
Some came for love, others found it here. Three heartwarming stories about love and friendship in Eindhoven. "I didn’t see the kiss coming."
Karla (United States), Nico (Italy), Bianca (Romania), Leonor (Portugal) and Tunç (Turkey) form a close-knit group of friends.
"Have you put Gigi back in the fridge?" The jar of wild yeast that was on the table just now is not only the secret ingredient of Nico's Neapolitan pizzas, but also the extra foster child of five internationals who share joys and sorrows like an Eindhoven episode of Friends. Three started as colleagues at Withlocals, two did a PhD in physics. Two are in a relationship with two others, four out of five share an apartment on Nieuwstraat. Only Karla lives on her own, but she’s still in the group app to discuss what’s for dinner tonight.
Food plays an important role in this story. During the lockdown, cooking skills blossomed. Sure, there was more time for preparing food, but it also proved to be a great remedy for homesickness. And so they enjoy the cuisines of each other's home countries. On Friday, the weekend is ushered in with drinks.
This friendship is a family-away-from-home. On the wall are pencil marks showing the height of current and previous residents and endless photos of house parties in better times. Now the house is a home office. Occasionally they escape the property together. Last summer on their bikes to a cabin in Sterksel and in September they made a memorable road trip to Portugal.
J came to the Netherlands from Lithuania five years ago. Through Tinder she met Laila from Eindhoven. They have been together for four years now.
J: "Love overwhelmed us. We were sitting in the autumn sun on my balcony. I had just received a message from Lithuania that my grandmother had passed away. I felt sad and vulnerable. Laila sat next to me and asked no questions. She was just there. And then suddenly I kissed her."
Laila: "I didn't see it coming."
J: "I must have said sorry a hundred times. We were just good friends until then. But that afternoon everything was suddenly different."
Laila: "J is my love, my soulmate, my buddy. She is extroverted. I admire her when she takes the floor during a poetry evening in the Van Abbemuseum. She really owns the stage."
J: "Laila is a fashion designer, our house is one big studio. Sometimes I can hear the sewing machine rattling for hours on end. I enjoy her drive and love her creations. What I am wearing today she made.
Laila: "We are in the process of buying a house together. A huge step. Through J, I'm getting to know the city all over again."
J: "When I just lived here, I often went skating at Area51. Eindhoven is an exciting and open minded place. It’s like a blank canvas, ready for you to add new colors and new stories."
“ "I didn’t see the kiss coming" ”
Taoufik El Quama came to Eindhoven for love more than a decade ago. The relationship ended, his love for the city never did.
Taoufik proudly shows a series of baby pictures on his phone. His life is full of love. For his girlfriend, olive oil, his family and the city, but no love is as unconditional as that of a parent for his child. His son is two months old and his name is Isaac. On the screen, a happy little guy smiles at the world.
"My father always said, there are two kinds of people who never learn a new language, the shy one and the arrogant one. I guess I'm neither." Taoufik smiles as he tells his story with a slight Eindhoven accent. That story begins on the coast of Casablanca where he grows up with three older brothers. He follows the woman he falls in love with. And so the adventurous Taoufik suddenly lives in the Helmerslaan in Gestel. After the break-up he goes back to Morocco for a month. "But after two weeks I already missed Eindhoven."
Eindhoven is where his friends live, where he built his own business and where he found his Bregje. "We are a strong team together." They give space to each other and regularly went to Morocco together before corona. At his ancestral home they slept under the stars just like he did as a kid. He can't wait to go again. Now with the new kid joining them.