Tuesdays Are For Traveling

The lush lawns of the Mount Nelson Hotel
In 2010 my husband and I visited Cape Town on the first leg of the South African Segment of our four month world tour. We thought the port of Cape Town would be an interesting place to visit on our way up to Port Elizabeth where we had booked a safari. Cape Town has interesting history, beautiful beaches, and also a new soccer stadium that was readying for the World Cup matches that year. We visited the barren Sixth District left as is as a memorial to apartheid, and later had High Tea at the famous Mount Nelson Hotel that has guested the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and years of dignitaries and celebrities (as well as ‘peons’ like my husband and I)
New World Soccer Stadium
Graffiti is worldwide as evidenced here
Beautiful beaches of Cape Town
Tablecloth on Table
Mountain can be seen beyond the city along the beautiful beaches
“] Tablecloth effect on Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa
District Six in Cape Town left barren as a reminder of the apartheid regime Wall of Castle of Good Hope

©Sandra Hart 2012

OOPS! CAN WE REDO THAT SCENE?

Narrow sidewalks of Bond Street in London

What a pro Queen Elizabeth is and a good sport, too. Danny Boyle said that she quickly got her role in the James Bond spoof during the opening ceremony of the Olympics and it only took a couple of hours to shoot the whole scene.

“Just marvelous, darling.” as Fernando Lamas used to say. She is a great example of debunking the fact that the British are too ‘stiff upper-lipped’. As a matter of fact, I thought the whole opening was entertaining and quite a feat to execute. Bravo to the Brits!

Again all this talk about London takes me back ( okay, over-fifty’s sometimes live in the past) to a visit I had there several years ago.

As an actress I always enjoy those impromptu moments, you know, when I have to listen to my fellow actors and then react by my gut or fly by the seat of my pants emotionally and verbally. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it is fun.

Unfortunately though, once off the stage, I admit my skills in real life are not that great. Hasn’t this happened to you? I always think of what I should have or could have said long after the encounter has happened. I create this ‘after-play’ in my head that is just great.

Well, the first day of a trip to London I headed for Bond Street, with its very picturesque road winding along and creating a narrow pathway for some of the most magnificent shops in London. It is among one of my favorite streets in the world, but you must walk almost touching shoulders with other shoppers along the narrow way. As I walked from our flat at Wimpole Street, all the while savoring visions swirling in my head of the wonderful credit card opportunities that lay ahead of me, I tried to ignore the man who had popped from an art gallery and insisted walking at my pace and getting into my ‘personal space’.

Annoyed at his arrogance, I kept my eyes straight ahead and didn’t even glance his way. “What a creep”, I though to myself as I finally decided to give him a less than friendly stare as I quickly crossed the street to get rid of him. Our eyes met.

Well, if there had been a manhole available, I would have dived right in. Tall, tan and gorgeous, there he was receiving my ‘ugly American’ scowl-the actor and self-styled celebrity, George Hamilton!

I was so embarrassed that I almost humiliated myself more by tripping as I ran across the small street to escape from my stupidity. I couldn’t get away from George and Bond Street fast enough.

A few days later, forgiving myself for being such an idiot and my humiliating experience slowly fading, my desire to shop and satisfy my credit card addiction on Bond Street won. I returned to the scene of my crime.

After visiting several stores, I stopped by the Maud Frizon window to look at the shoe display.

Suddenly I was aware of a presence behind me checking to see what was capturing my attention. My heart almost stopped. I couldn’t believe the reflection I saw in the window. Lightening had struck twice! The reflection had a familiar name attached to it. It belonged to the one and only George Hamilton.

“We have to stop meeting like this”, he said with his white perfect teeth glistening within his perfectly tanned smile.

“Husband?”

My mind went blank, and the following events are a little hazy in my memory, but I think I do remember turning toward him and giving a slight idiotic embarrassed giggle with my ‘should I lie, but I can’t’ honest…. “Yes.”

Then what seemed an eternity (was probably no more than a few mille-seconds), “Too bad,” he replied with a wink that crinkled the skin around his perfect eyes.

And he was off to continue his journey down Bond Street and I was left to think of what I should have, could have said, or wanted to say to George Hamilton.

As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the
almost-right word and the right word is really a large
matter-it’s the difference between lightning and the
lightening.”

©Sandra Hart 2012

My Berlin Post Script

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church left as bombed during WWII

As for my Berlin connection, my daughter and grandson and I visited Berlin in 2008 during Octoberfest. We stayed at The Upstalsbloom Hotel in East Germany close to the rail lines that took us to Alexanderplatz and access to all points in Berlin. We took the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus around the city and saw the best of Berlin. It is the easiest way to independently tour the city highlights.

Berlin is such a beautiful city that has been reenergized in the best architectural way.  They even have left a few WWII buildings in their bombed condition for remembrance of what humanity can do to one another. The Holocaust Museum is free to all visitors and is a moving testament to the past history of what can easily happen in a society driven by a mad man.

So I leave my memories of Ursula with this posting and have to move on to today. But I will never again forget  and set aside my letters from Ursula. Back in the Balfour box they go again, but this time not forgotten. I promise.

Brandenburg Gate
My family at Checkpoint Charlie
Billboard at Checkpoint Charlie
Portions of Berlin Wall are left along old all and markers mark the wall line where no longer standing.
Hop On bus with a big furry traveler along for the ride

Alverterzane Ursula

Ursula in 1956

Ursula and I continued to write back and forth until right before I went to college. Through the years we exchanged gifts of a small nature, birthday cards, scarves, cedar boxes and her things from Germany, chocolates and flower pressings.

In 1955 she wrote:

In the last war by the bomben are falling our Opera, Unter den Linden. Now it is standing up. A wonderful house with the best orchester and the best singers and musicers from Germany. Unter den Linden is the name for this great street, what is a sign of Berlin.

Now dear Sandy I have a great request. Upi know I live in east berlin, where we have the russians. All textiles and clothes have many high prices. When you can send me some or a winter clothes, what you have worn and have not your great now, or have other therefore, then I were very gratefully. When you not can that, please are not evil and excuse me.

Your german friend,

Ursel

I remember I sent her some warm things, after all in Ohio we did have strong winters and I could manage with less in spite of that fact. I guess it was the beginning of how deprived the East Berliners were going to be before and after the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, about four years after we stopped communicating.

As I read her letters now I can see that she is less cheerful and it is though the heart and lightness that came through her writing as her inner voice had gone out of her.

Then her letters came to me with segments cut out of them. The Soviets must have been editing all mail that went from their sector to the other side, and especially to the United States. Big patches of her letters had been carefully sliced out.

That fact made me wonder if my letters also were opened, read and edited. I became a bit paranoid that I was going to say something that I shouldn’t, either for her sake or for the sake of my country. The summer of 1956 was the last I heard from her.

Evidently Ursula and her family lived behind that wall until it was torn down in November of 1989. By my count she would have been 53 years old. She spend her youth behind that wall. She probably got married and had babies behind that wall.

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There probably will never be closure with my friendship with Ursula. I have tried to find her via  the internet, but the one that I found had her father die in 1965. Facts don’t match. I just have to believe that she is still alive and living a contented life without a wall separating her from her extended family.

 
©Sandra Hart 2012

July 17, 1953

Life in the summer of 1953 in Ohio

It was summer. It was hot. It was Friday night in 1953. My friends and I boarded the bus downtown to our local YMCA and scampered down the outside stairs to the basement Swing Haven. It was the place to be. The rainbow-lit juke box would be blaring and swinging with Dean Martin, Perry Como, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Eddy Fisher and Hank Williams. We could count on it. Our teenage hearts were pounding with excitement as we entered the darkened abyss.

Duck-tailed boys on one side and poodle skirts and pony tails on the other. The biggest worry for us girls was that we would be left standing alone and not get picked to dance.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that, other than being rejected by the opposite sex, we had so few fears in those days. We rode the bus alone at night and walked home on dimly lit streets and came home to unlocked doors. No cell phones or alarms. My parents never worried that I would be anything but safe in Steubenville in 1953.

At the same time a world away in Berlin, my pen pal Ursula, was living an entirely different life.

July 1, 1953

Dear Sandra, Berlin, 7th Juli 1953

I have the letter from June 18th not can send to you. Here in the sovjet-sector from Berlin we had a big demonstration of all people here. I send now the letter from the west-sector (american-sector). I hope very, that you now became it. Escuse me, that is so a long time continues.

Please write me directly, therewith I wait that the post goes. The next letter send me please to my aunt in the west-sector of Berlin.

Sincerely yours,
from Ursula Thie

On June 16, 1953 construction workers on Stalinallee in East Berlin downed their tools and went on strike. The initial strike spread quickly: by the morning of June 17th 40,000 demonstrators were marching in East Berlin, with a wave of similar strikes and protests recorded in numerous cities.

Berlin, June 16, 1953

By the afternoon, the situation had escalated to such an extent that Soviet tanks had rolled out onto the streets of Berlin, the conflict leaving more than 40 dead and 400 injured. By the evening it was over. Seven hundred protestors were arrested for their involvement. The level of discontent took both the East German authorities and the Soviets by surprise. And people like Ursula were caught in the middle just because she lived in a sector given to the Soviets.

Ursula lived through the violent fall of Berlin in 1945, loosing her father. The Soviet Army held little interest in taking prisoners, which seemingly played well into the German mentality of “fighting to the last”.For her hard times were a well-etched part of her 17 year old life so far. She seemed to take it strangely in stride.

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The letter I received from her written during the uprising talks matter-of-factly about the mini-opera houses, cinemas and her life living in the heart of ‘the chief city’ of Germany. In closing, she notes that in Germany the modern music of bogies, bops, and other dances grows. Jazz has only found ‘some friends’. They like waltzes, fox trots, polkas and tangos.

Little did we both know that the world would in time become smaller and smaller with an internet click melding each civilization and one another.

Letters From Berlin

Glockenblume from 1953
It has always been my rule that if something has been hanging in my closet for a year or two and I haven’t worn it more than once, it goes to our local thrift shop. Clothes have always been easy to not become an attachment for me. But anything with memories, not so easy to toss.

Having lived in the same house for forty years one can just imagine how many memory-attached things I have. And bizarre as it may seem to you, I even have my mother’s purse I brought home from the hospital when she died with all her precious personal items still tucked inside. A real Grandma purse, a piece of her and who she was, with short handles and a snap closure that is still tucked away on my closet shelf. I even wrote a whole essay about that purse in Read Between My Lines.

All of this brings me to my efforts today to finally begin eliminating some ‘stuff’ among my personal things my mother, the guardian of her children’s memories, had saved for me.

In an old Balfour box (from my college jewelry days) I found a group of long-forgotten time weathered envelops addressed to me in Ohio and posted from Berlin, Germany. Letters that took me back into a world that was about to change, way beyond the innocent exchanges of my new pen pal, Ursula Thie and I. We became pen pals through a program at our Methodist Church.

The beginning year of our childhood correspondence was 1953. I had just turned 14 and was enjoying the freedoms of Junior High and life in a thriving Ohio Valley Steel town.

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Berlin, den 27.2.1953

Dear Sandra,

I thank you for your letter. You have it write in the december and I have became it now in february. With your letter together I have become three table of chocolate, about these I was very glad. My name is Ursula Thie.

We girls here in Germany are not how you Y-tem. Our name is young community of evangelist church. In our group we are girls between 14th and 20 years. I self am 17 years old…..

I live in Berlin with my mother and my brother. My father was falling in the contention 1945.

I am 1,70m great, have blond hairs and blue eyes. When you have a photo from you please send it me.

In the winter I am going several times into a teatre, In the summer I travel out of Berlin.

Please write me in your next letter many things from you and your live. I please you, to excuse my base english. The name of the flower at this letter is bell-flower-glickenblume.

Sincerely yours,
Ursula Thie
Berlin

In my world, we had just elected a new president, Dwight D. Eisenhower and my family in January was glued to our television set watching I Love Lucy give birth. In February our president refuses clemency for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and Walt Disney’s 14th animated film, Peter Pan, arrived at our local movie theater.

In Ursula’s world, she was learning English, going to festivals where she was singing jolly songs and eating pancake, enjoying her girl’s group where they visited various denominational churches including the Russian Orthodox and the Naumburger Dom and planning ahead for a summer away from Berlin.

Little did we both know that on June 17 of that year things would change for her in East Germany.

Blogs and my correspondence with Ursula to be continued……

Google Me A Frog Please

Ok. I think I am really loosing it. At least that is what my 18 year old grandson chided when I told him of my latest animal- bonding adventure. You see, we have a frog in our pond. Just one. Where he came from beats me. He just is . Maybe came in with the plants or maybe some kind of amphibian immaculate conception. Anyway he is. He just is. Every day and night this guitar plunk of a sound, (if guitar strings were made of rubber bands), emits from our fish pond. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk.

For weeks now I have tried to find him without success. Looking under ledges. lifting vining plants, poking everywhere. No luck. Then yesterday I heard him as I was limping past the pond. Heard him inside the lavender flowering pond plant.

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His croak is loud and I was amazed that he was so small, this tiny green pond frog with such a strong sound.

Immediately, upon seeing his tiny form and sweet face, I felt his loneliness inside that big plant. Calling day after day into emptiness.

I quickly put my iPhone and Google to work, found a good green pond frog sound bite and held it up to the lavender pond plant. The rest is history.

We now have a happier frog who believes there is someone out there just like him to talk to. At least until I can find him a friend. Other than Sofi.

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