Banned Book Week September 23rd – 29th 2018

I must say I was surprised when I saw this announcement placed by “Book Club Mom.” I couldn’t believe that even a book, written by Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” had been challenged and banned before it was made into a TV series and a movie. Ms. Atwood had started this book in 1984 when she lived in West Berlin before the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall. Another book I would never have questioned was “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine, a book about a young girl with Asperger’s disease. No, NOT the one written by Lee Harper “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” Maybe I can understand that books about sexual orientation had been banned when they came out. It was probably too early for the topic.  Now, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Until last week I never thought that there were books today I couldn’t order or buy. But it happened. I tried to order an Art Book from Amazon.com – a coffee table book with a collection of paintings by an ‘Unknown artist’ – Adolf Hitler. A USA  art collector had published only a thousand of it. I had seen a documentary on television about Winston Churchill and was intrigued by his hobby – painting – a hobby he shared with this other artist with an infamous name. It seems that both men, under tremendous stress, could forget the world they lived in when painting. I could read up on both artists through Google/Wikipedia and even see paintings of both artists which sold by auction for 6-figure prizes.

So? I checked Amazon.com. They listed several used books ‘Adolf Hitler, the Unknown Artist.’ Naturally, the thousand that were printed decades ago were long gone, and now people tried to make a buck by offering theirs for sale. The cheapest listed and marked ‘in good condition’ was $168.98 US including shipping. They did have several more for more money. I put it in my shopping basket and proceeded to ‘check-out’ – curious what would happen. I thought, ‘In the end, I don’t have to buy it.’ I found out that Amazon did not own any of those books, private sellers had listed them on their site.

When I proceeded to type in my address I was told: ‘We cannot ship to Canada. Give us a different address.’

What? Not ship to Canada, a multi-cultural country, respecting every religion, color, creed or whatever. Not allowing an ART BOOK to cross the border?

I followed up by contacting ‘chat help’ at Amazon.com. I learned some amazing facts about banned books. But the help person was helpful and connected me with Amazon.ca after he had found out that they had just one copy of the book that I was looking for.

I had a chance to follow a link to look at it and when I saw the price of $1.598.99 Canadian I quickly went back to my chat person and told him:

“Thank you for helping me, but the price for that book is out of my league.”

He apologized, and his final comment was, “It’s not Amazon, they are private sellers, we also cannot buy these books. They are out of print, and a private owner can charge whatever they want.”

Out of print, banned or book burnings I remember from the Nazi time. Are we getting there again?

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A Brand New Life in Canada

My 'Max"

My ‘Max”

It was the 5th of October 1955. My father had helped me to make an irreversible decision. Without even saying ‘goodbye’ to my mother after our last meal I left what had been my home for the last ten of my twenty-one years. My heart was filled with anxiety but also sadness for all I was leaving behind – my parents, my sisters, my friends at my kayak club, my boat “Max” (the great love of my life), and my new sky-blue bike. All I took along was a very small suitcase containing one set of bedding sheets; a couple of towels and an evening gown a friend had just made for me. This was very unlikely luggage for someone escaping from a politically oppressive life into a totally unknown new one – and that was just from one Germany into another Germany. That ‘other’ Germany was known as “The Golden West”. Freedom! Chocolate and bananas and oranges and nice clothing were available if you worked hard and earned money. And I planned to do just that. I won’t even go into the “trials and tribulations” I had to endure. (Most of you read about them in my memoir anyway.) Those troubles finally drove me over the edge and I wanted to “escape” once again. This time, my luggage was a shipping container full of my accumulated goods of almost ten years, except for furniture and my beloved car. It all went across the ocean to another continent. The container later became part of a Volkswagen garage for a neighbour in Canada.

Every year, when the 14th of December comes around, I remember that day in 1963. I remember my feelings. I can see myself, see the way my hair was, the way I was dressed. I was floating in a vacuum. I couldn’t cry and I couldn’t laugh. I can still see my new in-laws and their faces as we said goodbye. Was it forever? I emigrated because of image1-002the little Canadian girl I had fallen in love with and right now she was tightly holding onto my hand. She was shaking. She was leaving her grandparents after a couple of months she had spent with them. I was taking her home to her daddy in Vancouver, Canada. I had married him after five months of lovely correspondence and hoped I would learn to love him after I had my heart set to be a mother to his little girl. She had picked my picture out of about three hundred replies to an ad he had placed in the German magazine “Constance”, and declared: “I want her to be my new mommy.”

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Language did not matter between us.

This year on December 14th it will be fifty-three years since I set foot on Canadian soil. I hardly spoke any English; the little girl became my first teacher. The YWCA in Vancouver offered language courses for newcomers; I booked and paid for several courses in a row. Did we receive help in any way from anybody? No. Immigrants were on their own. If you had a job, you might make about $50.00 a week. My husband had started with ‘White Spot’ in 1956 and had not even earned $20.00. When he ended up in the hospital needing a stomach operation, the doctor, who discharged him, had asked:

“What’s your address?” Since he didn’t have one, the doctor invited him to live in a cottage on his property. In payment, he did handyman’s work. But that is another story.

You worked hard, you did not care what the work was, and you just did what was needed to make ends meet. There was a time when I worked in an office, did bookkeeping at night and cleaned toilets on that business property on Sundays. Those were the tough years.  Now, fifty-three years since I first came to Canada and comfortable after a successful business life, I think back and try to figure out “What am I?” Am I still considered an immigrant (Which most Canadians are anyway unless they are indigenous) or am I really the Canadian woman I think I am? I have written four books in English, one of them is translated into three other languages.  I have now lived in Canada for two-thirds of my life. It’s a very long time, but looking back, the fifty-three years passed one another like sand running through my fingers. Life is like a toilet roll – it goes faster the closer you come to the end!

As I am writing the sequel to my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”, more and more memories are flooding my head about my life in Canada, this enormous and beautiful country. One day, in about a year (?), you will be able to read about the new and different “trials and tribulations” I faced on this continent during those fifty-three years. While writing some of the chapters I can’t help but smile – while others give me writer’s block. Ce’st la vie!

Party – Party – Party!

Party timeCome on, pretty girl, I know you are a party animal, put on your party dress, don your party hat, get into the party spirit, become the life of the party, get ready to join the party waiting for your birthday party to get going on the party boat and by no means be a party pooper!

Bad news: A man of the hunting party got lost, now you have to join the search party because you are part of the rescue party.

Important for your country: A governing political party calls an election. If you are a member of any party, be it the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party or a party by any other name you have three choices: 1. become a passionate supporter and volunteer to help your party, 2. decide you couldn’t care less because the party leaders never do what they promise anyway (but in that case don’t complain if the ‘wrong’ party wins!) or 3. be adamant to use your RIGHT to vote for the party who’s platform you support.

There are so many uses of the word “PARTY”. Some sarcastic, cynical or even humorous person tried to explain how a political party consists of a means for a lot of politicians to have their own way of conducting politics. What is or are politics? Take the word apart: ‘Poli’ in Latin or Greek means ‘many’, and ‘tics…’ you know what ‘tics’ are and what they do. Tics are bloodsuckers, says Wikipedia.

I remember in the sixties I visited Ottawa, the Canadian capital, and I also toured the Parliament Building and attended the House of Commons. I was shocked when, during the question period, they were screaming at each other and some of their comments were surely insulting. But it was exciting. I came home and announced to my husband I wanted to join a party, make a difference and get really involved. He just laughed and said “You? My God, when they call you names and threw insults at you, you would just break down and cry! No, my dear, you are not made to be a politician!” I knew he was right.

Occasionally a new party forms because someone has good ideas to improve the way a governing party runs the country. This someone tries to get likeminded people together and sometimes they succeed to make a difference in party politics. Many years ago a friend invited me to a meeting of about a dozen people. We met in the living-room of her apartment. A small number of people had registered a ‘Reform Party’ in Canada. The leader, Mr. Preston Manning, was not an impressive figure but a down to earth man who honestly wanted to make things better for his countrymen. I wanted to support the movement and became a member with a very low membership number. When I was called upon to join the volunteers and man one of the recruiting tables during a public membership drive I copped out because I was too busy. I went to a Rotary meeting where Mr. Manning was the speaker and felt very sorry for him because he was not groomed to be a leader yet. He also repeated himself often and I could sense he was very uncomfortable amongst all the Rotary business people. I left the meeting during the discussion after his speech. When I came out of the meeting room door many media men with huge cameras surrounded me and started to ask questions as if I had been the speaker. They wanted to know what I thought, what the speaker had said, what the questions were during the discussion. I was very professional and answered carefully. Later that evening several friends phoned me during the “News” telling me they had seen me on TV. I waited for the next news and was shocked how they had manipulated my answers and what I seemingly had said. What I really had said was totally different. Since that experience I try to stay out of the media limelight or would answer “no comment”. The Reform Party later merged with the Progressive Conservative Party to form the Conservative Party of Canada. The word “progressive” was dropped.

I think it must be close to fifty years since I had almost become involved in party politics. I have always taken my right to vote very seriously and never missed one election. Another is coming up in my country. The female leader of the “Green” movement had captured a seat at the last election in 2011 and apparently has made quite an imprint across the country and internationally. She was going to speak in my town and introduce her local candidate for our riding, Paul Manly. With a small group of neighbors we went to a rally held in the exhibition hall, curious if the “Greens” could reach their audience goal of about 500 – 700. I have never attended any such meeting and couldn’t believe what was happening. The room filled up, hundreds of people were standing at the door until the many volunteers had removed the curtains hiding a few hundred more chairs and they streamed in. Every seat was taken. There was standing room only and many people waiting outside left because there was “no more room in the inn”.

Packed meetingOver a thousand people attended. I was awestruck by the energy emanating from the crowd. The leader, Elizabeth May, has incredible presence and knowledge and answered every single question thrown to her. She asked how many people were in the room who had not made up their mind who to vote for. A lot of arms went up. Her advice was to carefully listen to speeches, news, to every party leader and no matter what party they vote for, it is important to go and VOTE. She is aware that her party is too young to form the government but the “Greens” will support the others and work TOGETHER for the good of Canada.

Green rallyI find it is blatant discrimination that she is not invited to participate in joint party debates on radio or TV. Why is that? Are the male ‘contenders’ afraid of this smart lady who has a memory like an elephant and can answer any and all questions across the political spectrum? She remembers and quotes statements the other leaders have made at whatever meetings years ago, – with absolutely no written notes. She speaks freely; she explains and recalls, she has a platform almost too good to be true from child care to eliminating university tuition to senior care, pharmacare, climate change and the economy, nothing has been left out. She has been able to attract an incredible lineup of able candidates across the country and it will be very interesting to see what will happen when the date of the election comes around: October 19th 2015.

“Too Bad It’s Canada” #Vancouver #Travel #Cruising #Alaska

Leaving Vancouver bound for Alaska

Leaving Vancouver bound for Alaska

One of the most beautiful cities in the world is Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. It offers everything: Mild winters but high enough mountains for the ski aficionado and situated only about 100 miles from the town of Whistler, the world renowned ski resort. If you like water sports you can hardly ask for a more beautiful setting than Vancouver at the blue Pacific Ocean for any type of boating, sailing, paddling, windsurfing, motor boating, fishing and even swimming for many months of the year. You like ships or bigger boats better? Vancouver has one of the most gorgeous inner harbours and it hosts many cruise ships during the summer months since it is the gateway to the Inside Passage to Alaska. I can hardly imagine what Captain Cook or Captain Vancouver must have thought or felt when they happened upon this hidden gem in the late 18th century. All along the coastline were old growth forests, wildlife was plentiful and it surely didn’t take long for settlements to appear after it was discovered.

Fishing and saw mills and later the arrival of the railway brought hundreds of new settlers. Many warehouses were built. The story of “Gassy Jack” is interesting, (use your imagination why “gassy”) a Yorkshire man who noticed that there was no saloon available for the many men. He was smart enough to offer to start one. With eager help from all the thirsty men it was built and finished within a few days (some say overnight) and soon women appeared to add to the fun. The area, originally known as Granville was later renamed after “Gassy Jack” and became “Gastown”. Nowhere could you find more drinking establishments than right here. Over the years and as the city of Vancouver grew this area went into decline and the warehouses were falling into disrepair. Squatters, hippies and many artists had taken over. The area with its architecturally interesting old buildings was rescued in the 1970s when Gastown was declared the most historic part of Vancouver. Tourists now flock to Gastown because of its quaint artsy flavour and it surely is one of the most beautiful parts of Vancouver. It has many wonderful and diverse restaurants and “Gassy Jack’s” statue is a popular photo stop.

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Glacier calving

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River of ice

Here you will also find the beautiful new cruise ship harbour. An unforgettable sight is the castoff of cruise ships and their sailing towards the Lions Gate Bridge, along the rich and very beautiful coastline of West Vancouver, the most expensive real estate and retirement place in Canada. You sail through a dreamland as the ship finds its way through the Salish Sea (formerly Strait of Georgia) with majestic snow cupped mountains turning red with the sunset. Unbelievably lovely views greet you while passing Haida Gwaii, a collection of islands at the most westerly point on the North Coast of British Columbia. Most people are more familiar with these islands originally known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.

I was asked once if I knew how God created certain areas on planet Earth. “Tell me”, I replied and this is how it was explained: The different tribes had to line up and when it was their turn they were asked to give their reasons for what kind of land and how much they wanted. Most of them got what they asked for within reason. The Bavarians where very shy and stayed behind until there was hardly any land left when God noticed them. “You get a beautiful region” God told them, “because you are not pushy and you waited. I kept the best for last” and therefore Bavaria and adjoining Switzerland is so beautiful that many people travel there just to see the landscapes and experience the joyful and friendly people who live there. If you ask me I must say that the British Columbia coastline and a sailing experience from Vancouver to Alaska is an incredible feast for the eyes. God must have had more surprises to hand out because this area is wider, grander and totally unforgettable. Yes, somewhat different because of the Pacific Ocean and it has nothing of the dollhouse prettiness you find in Bavaria or Switzerland. Once,

Inside Passage

Inside Passage

coming back from Alaska I was sitting at a large table indoors with a group of about eight or ten Americans. Everybody had admired the glaciers and the calving when large sections of ice break off and crash into the sea. They couldn’t believe the mighty ice rivers and the ice floats with some seals or seabirds on them and as we were floating on the still waters along the shores of the Queen Charlotte Islands one of the gentlemen said, while dreamily watching the ever increasing loveliness of the surroundings:

”I can’t believe how beautiful this all is. Too bad it’s Canada.”

E – Day?

No idea what “E – Day” is? For me it is a very special day in my life: Emigration Day.

I stepped into an airplane at the Frankfurt Airport. The plane lifted off and I saw the fields of Germany, seemingly laid out with a giant ruler getting smaller and smaller, the many little villages with the steepled church towers always right in the middle of the surrounding houses placed like toys out of building box. I saw the endless grey line of the autobahn reaching out through endless forests finally giving way to floating clouds and then there was nothing. We were “above it all”. Above the Earth! I had left the land of my ancestors. I was on the way to a new life on a different continent. I had escaped all my troubles I thought… it is hard if not impossible to explain my feelings: Weightless? Floating like a feather in the wind? It had nothing to do with FLYING; – no, I am talking about myself: my emotions, my feelings, even my physical body. When I drifted off into semi-consciousness I had an out-of-body experience: I had no emotions, I had no feelings and I had no physical body. I looked down on myself sitting in the airplane, eyes closed with a crease between the eyebrows, hands folded in the lap. And all of a sudden a desperate small voice woke me up and brought me back to reality:

“Lady, can I have a drink?” My new daughter. The four year old girl cuddled next to me knew I did not speak much English. She did not want to wake up her “new mommy”. She was calling the stewardess. She couldn’t sleep. Her dad was waiting in Vancouver. She was like a pebble on the beach, rolled around by wind and waves. Her mother had left her. For several years she had lived with her dad in room and board, for the last nearly three months with her paternal grandparents in Germany. When I came “home” on weekends she wouldn’t let go of my hand. She was desperate for motherly love and would proudly introduce me to anybody who would stop by: “My new mommy!”

It was December 13th 1963. We had a refueling stop at the International Airport Keflavik in Reykjavik, Iceland. Holding her little hand tightly in mine we seemed the only people on the planet. We walked the frozen grassy airfield for almost an hour before they let us board again and start the long flight over the green fields and mountains of Iceland and the white icy peaks of Greenland occasionally visible through the clouds towards North America.

That’s when I learned that Iceland is green and Greenland is white! I have looked down on Greenland many times thereafter and it always irked me that I did not see any green…but incredibly beautiful white peaks and valleys. It’s hard to believe that there are places for people to live and to make a living.

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Heading towards Lions Gate Bridge

December 14th: One of the most special days of my life: Arrival in Canada. The Vancouver International Airport was a shadow of what it is today. The Vancouver Hotel was the highest building in the city. Halfway across the Lions Gate Bridge my Canadian Husband asked me: “Well? What do you think?”

“This place is too beautiful to live here. It is more like a holiday destination…”

He laughed: “You better get used to it. This is where you will live.” Five months later we moved to Winnipeg and while driving through the Rockies my little girl asked her dad: “Why is mom crying so much?”

And now my friends, I have given away part of the sequel to “We Don’t Talk About That”!

It would make sense for you to read that book to understand WHAT it was that drove me to leave the land of my ancestors, marry a pen friend and have an ‘instant family’. At one point in “We Don’t Talk About That” I had told my parents: “That’s what I want, I want ‘later children’because neighbours had mentioned that ‘later children’ are easier when my third sister was born. She had been such a quiet, easy going kid.

E – Day. 14th of December is my E-Day. It’s also my second sister’s birthday and the birthday of her first daughter, – but for me, the 14th of December is and always will be like

“MY NEW BIRTHDAY”.