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Hotseat - Gerard Bijnsdorp

774_OnA_HotseatFormer Milton Peters College (MPC) educator Gerard Bijnsdorp has turned his love for nature into a hobby by collecting and selling driftwood art – wood he collects from around the island. Gerard has an exhibition which will continue until February 1, 2014, at Philipsburg Jubilee Library. Born in the Netherlands, the father of two moved to St. Maarten with his wife in the early '80s and taught Dutch language at MPC from 1982 until he retired in 2000. Bijnsdorp refers to himself as Unpaid Advisor in the opinion letters he submits to the local newspapers.

Who is Gerard Bijnsdorp?

I was born in Holland. I had seven brothers and four sisters. (My father was a good Catholic and never used a condom.) I grew up in a very strong family. Even when I told my parents I did not believe in God anymore, they kept on loving me and I was always welcome.

How would you describe yourself?

Difficult question... Ehhhh... I am tall, I am skinny, I am not very intelligent, but also not very stupid and I have two legs.

How did you end up in St. Maarten?

Before I came to St. Maarten, I worked for one year in Saudi Arabia with my wife. Among other things there, we enjoyed how nice it is to live in a country with a tropical climate. So when I saw an advertisement in the paper about St. Maarten in need of a Dutch language teacher, I wrote a letter, had a talk with Mr. Wally Havertong and ended up in Milton Peters College in 1982. After my first three-year contract, I knew I would never go back to Holland. My wife and I had fallen in love with St. Maarten. Why? The wonderful climate; the beauty of the island and I found the school children much nicer than the average Dutch children. Both our children – Laura and Nina – were born here. Laura just graduated from the film academy with a documentary about how St. Maarten was 50 years ago and Nina is in her last year at the art academy. Laura is now on a sailing boat, on a trip around the world and she writes about it in The WEEKEnder every week.

You are well known for your driftwood art. How and when did you discover this passion?

After a year of looking for beautiful, natural stones to make a rock wall in my garden, I also began to see beautiful pieces of wood on beaches. Later, I also started to walk around St. Maarten ponds. The pond where I found the most beautiful wood is the salt pond behind Philipsburg.

How long have you been engaged in collecting driftwood?

About eight years. I miss it a lot because I do not find anything anymore. All beautiful wood of St. Maarten is in the library and in my garden.

How do you select your pieces and how many pieces do you estimate you have collected/sold since you started?

Let me first say that I find two sorts of wood. The first is wood from the lumberyard. People throw away pieces of wood in the water. If those pieces stay for many years in (salty) water, screws and nails rust away and holes come into the wood. Sun and sand colour the wood. The wood around my mirrors is very old wood from the lumberyard. The second type of wood is dead branches and roots. For the first time, I now have in the library also beautiful branches and root formations. They mostly come from around the ponds.

What has been your favourite piece to date and have you sold it or is it still in your possession?

My favourite piece of wood is in my garden: a very heavy, big tree trunk of which I have made the most beautiful garden table in the world. Through the glass table top, you look at a masterpiece of Mother Nature. Somebody offered me US $5,000 for it. I hesitated and then decided not to sell it. It is for my children and the children of my children. It is a family thing! Fifty years ago, St. Maarteners had a beautiful table – their island – they sold it and now their children are the guests in what once was their own house.

Where and how can people purchase your work?

In the library and at my house. Contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

What are your favourite pastimes?

My favourite pastime is listening and dancing to Latin music. I absolutely love the Bachata so I am in La Bamba every Tuesday. I also love to play pool and I take pride in creating a beautiful garden.

What is your pet peeve and why?

My pet peeve is when the DJ at La Bamba waits too long before he plays a Bachata.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In heaven or in hell or somewhere in between, and if I am still alive, I will be in the best place on earth: St. Maarten

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be and what would you serve them?

My father; he had to work very hard for his family of 14 so there was somehow never time for talk. He was a very nice man. I also would like to have dinner with the girl I was with in a haystack when I was 12 years old. The first time I was in love. We did not even kiss, but we were in heaven. The third person is Dennis; a guy who borrowed US $100 from me and never paid me back. I would order a pot of hot pea soup for him and pour it over his head.