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I am so pleased you have found my web site where I want to welcome you and introduce you to my books. After my two health related books my most recent book “We Don’t Talk About That” is a memoir of my childhood from during and immediately following World War II. After my family’s eviction from our rural home in Pomerania we were obliged to build a new life in East Germany. My education was interrupted but I eventually qualified as a Phys Ed teacher before escaping to West Germany and having to start all over again.

I am sure you will find the reviews and other information here helpful but the primary purpose of this web site is to provide photos and background stories to augment the book. You will find my family tree in the photo gallery together with a number of old photos. Please feel free to comment or add to the growing number of reviews. To receive email notices of future posts as they are made click on the “FOLLOW” button which you will see just to the right of this message or you can find me on Amazon’s Author Central – amazon.com/author/giselleroeder

We Dont Talk about That - An Amazing Story of Survival

 

Review of my Memoir brings Tears to my Eyes

Nikki Landis, a Goodreads author, reviewed my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That: An Amazing Story of Survival
Her rating: 5 Stars.

Nikki Landis is an award winning author of about a dozen books. She is well known for her “Fight for Light Novels”, “The NightWatchers Saga” and the “Freedom Fighters Series”. In 2017 she was the proud recipient of the IPPY Gold Star for her latest book “Refugee Road”. I have just started to read it and am fascinated.

Nikki is not only a prolific writer, she also reads more than anyone I know, and reviews all the books on Goodreads. Plus, she is a wife and the mother of five boys (7 years to 18!)  and works full time. How does she do it? Do her days have more than 24 hours? Oh, I forgot – the night also has 12! Funny! Thank you, Nikki, from all my heart.

Read Nikki Landis’s review:
Read in Aug 2017

Some stories must be told, no matter how disturbing, horrible, or unbelievable they may seem. Some truths devastate because you can’t imagine how they are possibly true. You DON’T WANT them to be true. How can such brutality exist? How can one individual possibly survive after so much horror? How much can the human spirit endure and bounce back from the brink of destruction and continue on?

This book, I think, is probably one of the most emotional and life changing stories I have ever read. It truly touched my soul. I have the utmost respect for the author and her courage, bravery, and willingness to step forward and tell the truth about the shocking and brutal events of her life. She is, WAS, a victim. Her family were victims. Her friends and neighbors. In fact, many German women were and yet they survived. They pushed forward. They endured the despicable and impossible, and they persevered.

This book is not an easy read. I had to stop often, take a breath or break, and come back to the story. Over several days I read and witnessed the horrific events that changed a nation and destroyed a country. As an American woman in 2017, what do I truly know of suffering? What do I know of survival, fighting with everything I have in order to make it through each day? What do I know of living in fear for my life or waiting for the next man to knock on my door, ordering me to disrobe? What do I know of losing all that I own, of being displaced without a home or country, and losing everything, including the people I love? What do I know of starvation?

The answer is simple. I do not. But by reading this story, I have an idea. My heart just aches. I’m devastated. I cannot imagine enduring for even one day what the author and these other women endured for months, years of their lives. How did they go on? How did they later marry and have families? How did not lose their very soul to such inhumane acts?

The story does not end there. The author takes us on a journey of self-discovery and the search for freedom. I found myself cheering her on throughout the book, hoping that she would finally find peace, love, and happiness. I don’t think you can give away spoilers in a novel like this. It’s a true account of suffering and perseverance, of losing everything and finding what truly matters, and because of that, I am happy to say I think the author found what she was looking for in the end.

Chronicling the first thirty or so years of her life, the author lays out life in the 1940’s and 50’s and her youth, her family, and life before the war. Once the war starts, it’s a shocking read. Be warned, this novel tells the brutal truth and is in parts almost too much, but only because of content. The way in which the books is written, in a narrative that feels like you are listening to a close friend, is the only way to get through the stories.

There is a lot of wonderful historical detail from life back in that era, landmarks, cities, geography, and much information about the war and its effects on the German people. For me this is one of the most interesting parts of the book. You hear much growing up about World War II and its effects on the world, the atrocity of so many lives lost, the hatred of the Jewish people, but I don’t think I can recollect much learning in school about the German people and their struggles. It’s wrong. We can’t forget as a society what happened. We can’t condone what happened. We can’t let it happen again.

WE CAN’T FORGET.

Stories like this must be told and published. They must be shared. They need to be read. What hope do we have for humanity if we forget, if the dust covers the words of these atrocities and God forbid, history tries to repeat itself? No, we can’t let that happen. And the author is right to share this story, to talk about what happened, and to ensure her words are written down for all eternity. In her own words, no embellishment, she describes the gritty and grueling aspects of her life from start to finish. There’s no other way the story could be written.

I have a much better understanding of history now. Such experiences must mark a person for life. This is a memoir I would recommend to everyone, but especially I will recommend to the women I know. It’s an emotional, courageous, and extraordinary story that MUST BE READ. I highly recommend purchasing this book and owning a copy for yourself. “We Don’t Talk About That” is truly an amazing story of survival.

Mentally overfed but feeling undernourished

Is there just too much information fed to us by the media? I think they have a dilemma too: Too much and too many serious things are going on in the world. Syria, Iran, North Korea, England, Russia and last but not least the USA keeps us breathless and, in many cases even frightened.  Hardly a day goes by when we do not get upset over a new announcement, and it hardly ever is about something we would emotionally get involved in: some good happenings in our own backyard.

I don’t want to add to it. I am just a person who, after writing the memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” – the years growing up under the Nazis, and then later under the Communist Regime in East Germany – who really is OVEFED but UNDERNOURISHED by the present political situation.  I would like to stick my head in the sand and write another book, a happy one! But that is dangerous and surely not advisable.

Talk about a happy book! It was on a flight from Hawaii to Canada when I got chatting with the stewardesses in their Business Class galley kitchen. Naturally the talk included the question “what do you do…” and my writing career came up. There was a time when “I did not talk about that” – but now, finding a willing ear to listen, I can’t shut up. One of the ladies was very keen on my title “We Don’t Talk About That”. She had serious questions.  Later, she went on to tell me about her aunt who had written a similar book, “Prague Winter” – and highly recommended I read it. I Googled it, found it, read it, and was amazed when I found out a lot of information about the writer: Madeleine Albright. I was not familiar with her name.

Madeleine Albright was the first woman ever nominated and accepted to become the Secretary of State in 1993. Wow! What a story! From the little Czech girl in “Prague Winter” to making history for women. What an intelligent person! She has written a number of books. One paragraph in the book I read resonated with me so strongly that I absolutely must share it with you:

“In the end, no one who lived through the years of 1937 to 1948 was a stranger to profound sadness. Millions of innocents did not survive, and their deaths must never be forgotten. Today, we lack the power to reclaim lives, but we have a duty to learn all that we can about what happened and why – not to judge with the benefit of hindsight but to prevent the worst of that history from playing out again.”

True words! So, my dear readers and followers, we are NOT TO STICK OUR HEADS INTO THE SAND. Let’s open our eyes; a lot of what has happened back then, what I have written about in “We Don’t Talk About That” and Madeleine Albright in “Prague Winter”,  is happening again and there are a lot of signs that worse may be to come. Madeleine Albright is working on a new book “Fascism” to be published in April 2018. “The author examines the economic, religious, racial, and cultural factors that are today dividing populations and fostering bigotry across the globe, while also looking at how demagogues from Mussolini to Duterte have attracted followers by exploiting fear, nurturing anger, and promising easy answers to complex problems,” according to HarperCollins, her publisher.

Do the people in power ever learn from history? Do they even KNOW the history or are vaguely interested in it? Do the people who elect them, have any clues? Maybe every generation has to make their own mistakes, have their own experiences, make their own history and create their own past. Will the next generation after them learn from it? Most likely, not. Maybe we resent or do not want to learn from or ‘copy’ our predecessors.

Somewhere I saw a quote, something like this: “When a boy is old enough to believe or even follow his father’s advice, he usually has kids who don’t believe him.”

Grand Book Promotion

“Smashwords” – the largest distributor of e-books worldwide – is offering an annual huge promotion for the whole month of July. Thousands of e-books are deeply discounted at 25%/50%/75% to ‘FREE’. My books are available at 50% off – a terrific deal if you are still waiting to read about my incredibly interesting life in my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” and the companion book “Forget Me Not”.

   NOW is the time to take a look at my books again. I have published the Second Edition of my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” on Smashwords as an e-book. I have made slight changes within but especially with the ending, since so many of you were unhappy with the way I left it. After all the time I spent on it, I can now go back and continue writing the sequel. Actually, there will be two more books in my memoir series: This one, book I, “We Don’t Talk About That” covers my first thirty years in Germany; the second book will deal with the next thirty years in Canada, and then we’ll have to take a good look at my incredibly active ‘retirement years’ – I am not sure yet if I quite make it another thirty years! Close though…

You may even find a little ‘surprise’ when you peruse my titles! Should I tell you about it? Okay, why not! I have added a pretty little poetry book in German language. “Ein Mensch von Gestern … Heute”. A happy book! It was a reprise for me after the heavy duty topics I dealt with and it made me laugh, every time I re-read and edited it. Many of my older relatives and friends, who cannot read my English books, have been complaining. They have tried repeatedly to convince me to translate my books. That will not happen – friends, it is not a matter of translation, it will be a total re-writing. I don’t have enough years left in my life to tackle it. Therefore, this little book may be a “candy” – and I promise that many of the poems deal and tell a lot of my life! For those of you who have German friends or relatives, you couldn’t send them a better gift! However, I find a poetry book is something you have to hold in your hand, it does not read the same when it’s an e-book, so – I have another surprise:

Here is a link to my books on Amazon: Within the next three to five business days you will be able to order a printed version of “Ein Mensch von Gestern … Heute” – the Author listed is Gisela Fiting-Roeder. Since I was well known under my maiden name in Germany I decided I ought to use it. Naturally, Amazon also enrolled the book in their KDP (e-book). By the way, if you purchase the paperback copy you can obtain the e-book for free.

And now, my dear friends, happy reading!

Pigs, piglets, sows, hogs, and boars are all swine!

How the h… did I get interested in “pigs”? I’ll tell you! It took me five years to find a “Family Doctor” (regular doctor) when I moved to Vancouver Island. Every medical clinic or doctor I approached “did not take new patients”. A friend told me about a Medical Centre called “The Sow’s Ear Clinic.” I was a bit – well, let’s just say, ‘disturbed’ by the name. But this place is where I ended up and became a patient of one of the doctors about a year later. I went to the ‘emergency drop-in’ one evening. I liked the doctor on duty and asked him if I could become his patient.
“I don’t take new patients. I have about two hundred regulars and that is enough for me.”
He checked my present problem and I mentioned a recent sinus operation that had gone wrong. He was curious and asked more questions. After all was said and done I was surprised by his statement,
“Well, sometimes somebody dies. I will take you as my patient.”
There is a poster on the wall next to the reception desk:

All I need to know about life I learned from a pig
Live high on the hog ♦ Daily mud-baths are the secret to eternal youth ♦ Wallow in mud, not self-pity ♦ Keep your snout out of other people’s business ♦ Don’t exercise too much ♦ Don’t squeal on your friends ♦ Take time to stop and smell the truffles ♦ If you have made your bed, then wallow in it ♦ Sell no swine before it’s time ♦ Stick to a vegetarian diet ♦ If life gives you some slop, then pig out ♦ Oink, snort and be merry ♦ Always keep a little something in the piggy bank ♦ Ham it up ♦ The sty’s the limit ♦ Try not to be a boar at parties ♦ Using your snout can get you into truffles ♦ One person’s sty is another’s bedroom ♦ You reap what you sow ♦ Wallow while you may ♦ Oink before you leap ♦ Don’t hog the conversation ♦ Think pig and you will go far ♦ Go ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home!

Hmm. After I read this the first time, it made me smile, think, and become curious. I wanted to learn more about pigs. A pig for the farmer is the barnyard variety. A sow is a female able to give birth; piglets are her ‘children’. A boar is a non-castrated hog and is larger, older, and a much bigger swine. A wild hog is also a boar. And swine are not at all vegetarians! They are ‘omnivores’. Sows sometimes devour their own children. Sows and their piglets also have to be separated from the other pigs. There have been cases when pigs attacked and ate into human flesh.
Aah! Yes, pigs are very intelligent. I bet they can read your mind. I grew up with pigs – no, not in their sty! We raised and slaughtered two each fall. We made sausages, smoked ham and bacon, canned a lot of meat and lived on it for a whole year. We were never hungry during the war years. The piglets loved and enjoyed my mother’s tenderness – just look at the picture! When they grew up to about 250 pounds and were let out of their sty with a rope around a leg, they KNEW they were going to be killed and screamed blue murder. I also learned that their meat is not as good when they are not killed “humanely”. Actually, that goes for every animal. Tension and stress leave their mark in the harvested meat. Pigs are, from their DNA makeup, the closest relatives of humans and are used for medical research and even transplants. I met a former cannibal on Fiji, donkey years ago. He told me that human flesh tastes similar to pork. Sometimes, when I pound cutlets into schnitzels, I think of it and don’t really want to eat it. The part of a pig that became pork I like best is the smoked ham, especially the Italian kind, the ‘Prosciutto.
But there is more to the names of these animals. We call people who perform despicable deeds swine or pigs. I don’t know which word is the worst one to use towards a person. They could be physically or emotionally ‘dirty’. Should it be pig or maybe swine?

Trees – their Beauty, their Purpose, their Importance

It’s close to fifty years ago when I went to all kind of lectures, classes, and courses. And not only that, I also was on the speaker’s circuit in English speaking countries, i.e. Canada, USA, England and even Australia. I was one of the so-called “pioneers” of the just developing alternative lifestyle. We were the odd ones during the first few years.

“Have you hugged a tree today?” We were teased.

As I looked through some old files I found this “TREE”. This goes back to the seventies. You see – even then we were concerned about our trees. Nothing wrong with “hugging a tree” or loving many! Trees, I mean…

Vimy Ridge: The Battle defining Canada as a Nation

The 9th of April 2017 is an important date in the history of Canada. One-hundred years ago, four Canadian divisions, organised and trained as one fighting force, fought three divisions of Germans who had held the important Vimy Ridge line against the efforts of the French, who lost 150.000 lives in an earlier battle, and, when relieved by the British armies, the situation did not change. The Germans held the ridge. It took the Canadians three days of heavy fighting and a loss of nearly 3.600 lives and over 7.000 wounded until the enemy retreated. For about a week now, television and all social media have been rehashing the history of this battle. It was the biggest and most decisive battle waged by Canadians against the Germans in France.

Watching the news, I asked myself: What actually led to WWI? Was it the assassination of the Archduke of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo as most historians claim? It seems there was much more to it than that. The Emperor of Austria-Hungary had his eye on the Balkan states. He annexed Bosnia and Herzogewina in 1908. After the assassination in Sarajevo the Emperor wanted to annex Serbia but the ultimatum was rejected. It took several weeks before the, then almighty, Austria-Hungary Emperor decided to declare war on Serbia and Bosnia, two revolutionary and terroristic states of the Balkan. The Balkan war was supposed to be all there was, a “small” war about territory that led to the so-called “Great War”. Austria, which was not really prepared for war after a long period of peace, called on their German ally when Russia prepared for fighting on the Serbian side. Russia also allied with the French, and it didn’t take long before the whole world was on fire. Those are the underlying causes as I see it.

I read somewhere “WWI was a political misjudgement…” – a misjudgement that cost around 38 million lives. Does that shock us? For me, it is a much bigger shock to think about the 10.000 casualties of the Canadians fighting and winning the battle of Vimy Ridge in less than three days.

Now, one-hundred years later, we celebrate those brave men, some younger than eighteen and some lying about their older age just to go and fight. A forty-year old miner would have lived if he had not lied about his age and registered as a twenty-eight year old man. It is hard to imagine that in Canada, a country with a population of less than eight million in 1914, 619.000 men enlisted. 66.000 did not return and 172.000 were wounded. The stories we hear on the news are incredible. Many people have diaries written by their ancestors, letters and photos. Everything pulls at our heart strings. Thousands of Canadians have traveled overseas to be part of the 100-year celebration. Newest reports say between 25.000 and 30.000, including thousands of young high school students from all over Canada, attended the celebration at Vimy.

The impressive memorial at Vimy was built to honor around 11.000 dead Canadians with unknown resting places. A competition for the design was open to all Canadian architects, designers and sculptors after 1920. Of one-hundred and sixty designs, two were finally selected by a commission in 1921. William Lyon Mackenzie King, then Prime Minister of Canada, argued for the design by Walter Seymour Allard of Toronto and got unanimous support from parliament. The French donated 100 hectares of land where the battle was fought under the condition that Canada build and maintain a memorial park. Mr. Allard searched far and wide for the right stones and found them in Croatia. The construction of the monument began in 1925 and took eleven years to complete. His Majesty, King Edward VIII, also considered the King of the young Nation of Canada, unveiled the memorial on July 26th 1936 with 50.000 people in attendance.

During his speech regarding the memorial, His Majesty stated:

It is an inspired expression in stone, chiselled by a skilful Canadian hand, of Canada’s salute to her fallen sons.”

 

“Pride and Prejudice”

Which book would you take with you if you were exiled to a deserted island? For me, it would be “The Complete Novels” of Jane Austen. I love her ‘stories’, I love her style of writing, I love the way she puts a finger on the sore spots of love and life in the Regency Period. I love her finely sarcastic and witty way of critiquing and expose idiosyncrasies, no matter what the social standing.

During a trip to England a few years ago, we visited the house where Jane Austen wrote most of her novels and where she also died. It is now the Jane Austen Museum, run by a “Jane Fan Club”. I met and talked to several of the women who volunteer at the museum. They spoke of Jane Austen as if she were still alive. Several times I had the feeling she might just come around the corner and enter the room.

Jane Austen was born as the seventh child to her parents George and Cassandra Austen on December 16, 1775. Sadly, she died when she was only forty-one years old. She left quite a number of notebooks filled with unfinished stories. Jane Austen completed only six, now famous, novels. One, I think it was “Sense and Sensibilities”, was published without revealing her true identity when she was thirty-six years old. It was, at that time, socially unacceptable for a lady to be a writer. It was published anonymously. One publisher had exclaimed ‘this could never have been written by a woman’ after reading one of her novels. One of her brothers represented her. He has published her other works posthumously and every one of the books became a great success. He finally revealed the true author’s name. Jane’s books are translated into many languages, are read by and have millions of fans worldwide. Many movies have been made over the years and even more TV mini-series of all her novels. Sales of the Jane Austen books have forever been going up. Her critical view and witty observations of life and love of the landed gentry have become the base of romantic novels to this day. Jane Austen is one of the best known English writers.

At Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, we came across a film crew busy filming a new and more modern version of “Pride and Prejudice”. I was captivated by some scenes taken just outside the great entrance. Oh, would I have loved going inside to see this beautiful place! I looked forward to seeing the new movie starring Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadden. I did several months later – and was disappointed. Not that the movie was bad but I was in love with an old one, the 1995 version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I have seen it several times, and I wish I could do so again and again. I will never forget the scene in the great-room of Darcy’s friend when the eyes of Darcy and Elisabeth Bennet met in an incredibly intimate way.  I had seen it once before I even saw the movie: when my cousin Siegfried came back from a weeklong trip and looked at his wife Annemarie. The way they looked at each other went deep into my soul. I was embarrassed to witness it. The scene is part of my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”. I remember the phrase “marriage is made in heaven” came to my mind. Theirs was.

I saw “Pride and Prejudice” again, this time on the stage at the wonderful little theatre in Chemainus on Vancouver Island, Canada. We asked ourselves, how can they ever do justice to this complicated story on stage? They did. They picked relevant scenes played by talented actors who truly captured the audience of a sold out house. It was an enjoyable performance which left me smiling all the way home. Chemainus is an intimate theatre with only a small stage but the designers have a knack to come up with ideas that let you forget where you are. It was not the first time that we marveled about their innovation. And to give credit where credit is due, every one of the actors played their part in a believable way. Several actors even portrayed two characters. We hardly noticed, and most people probably didn’t. This story was written about 200 years ago. How much has changed? Not much. We still find the same problems in love, relationships, and life – and maybe some of us recognized a familiar character or two in our own social setting.

Well done, Chemainus Theatre!

 

Morocco – Part 2

Last week you read about the beginning of our Morocco tour! The food was good, plentiful and tasty. Next morning, we toured the city of Marrakesh, an oasis and royal city founded by Berbers over a thousand years ago. Blue blooming trees lined the street into the city. I loved it! I was surprised by an old Jewish quarter. It was very clean in comparison and their flag with the ‘Star of David’ was almost the same as the flag of the country since it also had the same star. I did not know that. The visit of a Berber Market was frightening. Hundreds of entertainers, magicians, snake charmers, monkeys, begging children and thieves tried to get the purses. They would take your camera if you tried to shoot a photo since they believed you would steal their soul. If you paid – the soul was saved! We quickly retreated, found a terrace café on a roof, had a cola and shot pictures long distance. We encountered a woman nursing her child when walking along a small path back to the bus. The baby was approximately eight months old and kept suckling but looked at me when I stopped. It stretched the little hand out to beg. They learn early. A boy, ten years old, told us he makes more money on a day than his working dad does in a month. Asked to leave us, he said, “no, don’t pay, talk, I to learn English”.

Next was Casablanca, a very modern city with wide streets and a large, beautiful Mosque. We were allowed to see part of it and our tour guide pointed out the incredible tile work. We drove by the bar where “Sam” had played the piano… Casablanca is the largest and an important harbour city on the Atlantic. We visited one of the souks in the old part and were warned again to hold on to our purses. Imagine narrow dirty pathways, loaded donkeys and their owners yelling “Baluk – attention”, begging women, pickpocketing kids, “shlepper” offering to save you from getting lost; people pulling at you from all sides, hundreds of small stalls but overflowing with wares. With help of the tour guide I bought a silver necklace with the “Hand of Fatima” for good luck. To gain respect you have to bargain, it is part of their custom. I enjoyed the smells of spices, was intrigued by the colorful silks, and couldn’t resist buying a few meters for a dress. To get it made at home cost more than the material. The seamstress told me it was ‘fake silk’- but at least it was washable. Famous brands, from t-shirts to purses were cheap, everything was fake!

The longest day trip with 380 kilometers was along the coast to the capital city of Rabat. The brief city tour next day was almost overwhelming. We saw the Royal palace, the Hassan Tower built during the twelfth century with an incredible view of the big wall around the Medina (city center) with the narrow lanes and typical Moroccan shops. We had no time to linger and after the next two hundred kilometers we were in Fes, one of the four Royal Cities. I liked Fes best. Three parts of the city were built during different epochs. The famous ‘Blue Gate’, the great walls and many Mosques in and around the old parts were fascinating. Of special interest were the paint pots in one particular area. Workers were busy to tint all kinds of products. I later fell for the beauty of a heavy brass platter with inlaid little flowers on enamel and the star of the Moroccan flag in the center. I didn’t even realize it was the Star of David until Margo pointed it out. It was done by the famous artist who had fashioned the wonderful golden gate for the king’s summer palace.

Our last stop was in Meknes, a city of two parts: the old and the new city. Meknes was the former residence of the kings. Thick high walls surround the old town with the ‘Great Mosque’, the narrow bazaar alleys, and the wonderful ‘Bab Mansour’ leading into the Kasbah and the Imperial city of Sultan Moulay Ismail. It is a monumental gate, completely tiled in green and gold. It was finished by the Sultan’s son Moulay Abdallah in 1732.  An inscription (translated) on top reads:

“I am the most beautiful Gate in Morocco. I’m like the Moon in the Sky. Property and Wealth are written on my front.”      

 

 

 

Morocco – Dreams of Mosques, Souks and Camels

Ever since I saw the movie “Casablanca” I wanted to go to Morocco. A few years before I realized that dream, I had been in Tunisia. The main memory of it now is a visit to a “Camel Market”. People would buy and sell live chickens, goats, dogs, cats, and wonderful hand knitted rugs plus unbelievable junk. When I asked why the chickens were “live” they said because they don’t have fridges. They keep them until they want to eat them. I was surprised by a huge mountain of buttons. Yes, buttons of all kinds, small ones, big ones, colourful and plain ones. The seller said, “I found them all…”

Do you want to buy a camel? “Don’t come too close,” warned the owner of an extraordinary white one, “it may spit at you.” We asked, “How much is this white one?” The ordinary camels cost about 220 Dirhams. “Oh”, was the answer, “the white camel cost as much as a good wife” – and he pointed to me.

A good wife? Yes! Young men had a tough time to get a wife, especially if they had set their mind on a particular one. The girl’s parents would lose a worker and they needed to be compensated – handsomely!

Casablanca! “Play it again, Sam…” Remember? My dream to visit Morocco came true. I joined an organised eight-day bus tour. We flew from Munich to Agadir, a place with wonderful beaches and lots of hotels and RV grounds for European holidaymakers. Our group was picked up at the airport by a tour leader and a comfortable bus. We were briefed and told some horror stories about masses of children attacking a man with a rental car. We were not to open our purse when children were begging, no matter what. We drove 250 kilometers towards the High Atlas Mountains. Suddenly, someone spotted several camels. Everybody started yelling “stop” to the driver because we wanted to take photographs. With “come right back” he opened the door. We ran towards the camels when a few children popped up. Most of us snapped a picture and returned to the bus, followed by the camels. One unlucky woman was attacked by more than a dozen children since she had tried to give them money. They were trying to take the purse, the camera, and her clothing. The native bus driver, the tour leader, and all men from the tour hurried towards her and in no time the children were gone. We had no idea where they were hiding. There were no bushes! The woman had lost her purse with some money and her camera, luckily not her passport. We had learned a valuable lesson. She was badly shaken.

Approaching a hotel in the middle of nowhere, we expected a comfortable stay because the big sign had five stars next to its name. It took quite long to sort out the rooms. Finally, we were given a key and told to be on time for supper in a special dining room at eight PM. We had almost 1½ hours to get settled. Waiting that long for food when you are hungry? More than enough time to shower, get changed and relax a bit.

I shared a room with Margo. We found it on the second floor. It was furnished with two beds, crisp white bedding, a telephone on a night table, a chest of drawers, and a TV in a corner. The view was directly into the garbage collection area. The glass-less window was open but had wooden shutters set to let the light, the flies, and at night the mosquitos come in. While my companion used the bathroom, I checked out the telephone. No dial tone?  I pulled on the cord to find the plug. There was no plug at the end. O.k., I thought, we don’t really need a phone. Next, I tried to switch the television on. Dead? Again, I checked the cord and found the same result. No plug. That moment, Margo called “Giselle, I can’t flush the toilet. There is no water…” I rushed in; she was embarrassed because she had a smelly job to flush away. I figured the water was switched off – turned the screw under the tank and, viola, there was water! We closed the lid and let it run. She had undressed for a shower. I gave her privacy. Then, another scream:
“Giselle! There is no towel!” Only a thin, ironed cotton square you actually would use as a mat was all there was. I told her to use it. I ran downstairs to the reception. They gave me another of the same kind. Oh my God, what a hotel! Opening the door on my return, water came running out. The shag carpet in the little hallway was soaked and squished under my feet. The water had also run into the bedroom that sported the same kind of shag carpet. Margo stayed in the shower while I shut off the water running over the rim of the toilet. Since the telephone was just an ornament, I ran downstairs again. Frantically, I told them about the flood and asked for help. It took a while until a girl came with a pail and rags and tried to dry the bathroom floor. We had to make do with the squishing carpet for the night. The toilet tank had to be shut off after each use. When we finally got dressed again to go down for dinner, I went to the reception desk. The people were very friendly and now not busy. I asked them,

“Who gave you the five stars for your hotel?” Surprised, and with considerable pride, the man in charge said, “Well, we did!”

Figures! More to come next week…

 

Love Hawaii? A Lovely Love Story…

Ocean Girl shrubs

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl living close to the ocean. One day she met a handsome but somewhat rugged looking boy who had kept his eyes on her a bit longer than was considered appropriate. A hot shock went through her body and she just knows:

“He is the one I have been waiting for. How do I get to know him?” She shouldn’t have worried because, well, he felt the same way. Encouraged by her unwavering eyes, he approached her, took both of her hands into his rather rough ones, looked at her and told her:

“I’ll be back. Wait for me. After seeing you, my beautiful Moana (ocean) girl, I know I cannot live without seeing you.”

But, there was a problem. She belonged to the Ali’i, the ruling class, while he was just a simple Kama’aina, a local resident. She sat at the ocean day after day, thinking about him. She picked fragrant flowers and fashioned a beautiful Lei which she kept around her neck. On the third day, he appeared like a mirage. He extended his hand to pull her up. They looked deep into each other’s eyes when she lifted her arms, took the Lei off herself and slowly put it over his head to sit on his shoulders. He knew it was her declaration of love. Both started laughing, then, after dancing a few hula steps they were running along the beach, in and out of the oncoming waves. It was a very happy day for both of them. They had many of those happy days – and the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months. Their love grew deeper every day.

On a stormy afternoon, one of her brothers came looking for her and saw what they had been hiding for a long time. He demanded they both come with him to see the Ali’i, the Chief, who happened to be her father. The young couple declared their love and begged to be allowed to get married. The father called for his wife, her mother, and both denied the request.

“You are a princess, you are promised to another Alli’i and you cannot marry a fisherman.”

The young girl, with a breaking heart, told her parents she would never, ever marry anyone else. The Kupuna, her grandmother, put a spell on both, the young girl and the unhappy young man.

“You, Keikimahine, be the ocean shrub, growing deep roots and never be able to leave the sands on the beaches. You will bring forth a simple small white flower, one hardly visible. And you, young man, you will become the same type of shrub but you can only grow in the mountains, far away from the beaches. You may develop the same flower and it will remind you of your forbidden love. You cannot ever again get close to the ocean girl. You will be forever the mountain boy. You may say Aloha to each other with a parting word.”

Ocean girl's half flower***************Two hearts were breaking as the young couple was released to go. They promised undying love to each other and forever display it in their flowers. The ocean girl’s flower shows only the lower half of the petals while the mountain boy’s flower only grows the upper petals. Both halves will make a perfect flower with petals all around as it was meant to be.

There was no release from the spell. There was no frog to kiss or a prince who could kiss the sleeping beauty. The way I see it, the half flowers are a reminder to all lovers to appreciate finding their “second half”.

Ocean girl shrubs at beach

Ocean girl shrubs at beach

Sorry, dear readers, I have never been able to go into the mountains to find “the second half” of the flower with the upper petals, the half of the mountain boy. But, I have been told by Malihini, my Hawaiian friend, that it does exist. Someone said to me “just turn two of the same halves around, wouldn’t it make a whole one?” It’s not that simple. It wouldn’t fit because of the way it grows. Let’s enjoy a romantic fairy tale that can be told in different ways. This one, I told ‘my way’, the way I remember hearing it told during a “plant walk along the beach”. That tiny little half flower pulls at my heart strings.