A 50 Year Old Story

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In 1966 in a small French village called St. Remy sur Loire about 1 hour southwest of Paris, there was a 22 year old woman named Daniele. She lived in a little house with her husband Roger (Ro-jay) and a brand new baby girl Marie Helene.

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The house of Danielle, Roger and Marie Helene at 25 Rue du Plessis, St. Remy, France

In the house next door a young American family was moving in. A woman of 22, her two small children and her military husband. This was unusual for the village and not everyone was jumping up and down shouting “Hurrah”.

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27 Rue du Plessis, the house of the Americans

Across the street from the American was a nosy old couple who peeked out of the windows every time a vehicle stopped in front of the house.  We later learned he was the head of the village communist party, and was apparently keeping track of our social life.

Up the street was a Polish couple who had escaped before the invasion of Poland in WWII and who wanted to know the Americans. She taught me that lima beans grow on bushes and do not naturally come frozen in boxes in the supermarket. Next door, on the other side, was a family that never said anything to the Americans.

In this village it rained a part of every day and the street sometimes became a small river. Roger decided to fix the problem of water running down into his yard and sometimes into his house.  He cleverly imbedded a small pipe at the top of his driveway and covered it with gravel.  It did indeed work for Roger and Danielle, but on the first downpour the gravel in the street started to fill up the pipe and the water, now backed up to the top of the pipe had no place to go.  Since water seeks it’s own level it went downhill into the yard and house of the American family.

I was that 22 year old American woman, home alone with 2 small girls when my house began to flood.  Throwing the girls into the crib .. the highest place in the house, I opened the back door, grabbed a broom and started swishing water out like the devil was on my butt.

When the flood stopped and I had swept most of the mud and water out the back door, I went to meet my creative neighbor, Roger!  When I showed him the result of his work he apologized profusely and took the pipe away.

His wife, Danielle and I became friends and would just smile and shake our heads when our husbands would get together, neither relenting to learning the language of the other, but understanding each other well enough.

Danielle became my teacher, protector from merchants who overcharged me, and friend. Although I spoke some French (thought I was hot stuff, in those days), it turned out to be book French .. and the people in the village had never read that book.  She schooled me on colloquial French.  I taught her that popcorn was really good and that corn was good for things other than feeding to animals. She taught me local French cooking; I taught her about Americans.

Several months later, we moved onto the airbase at Evreux-Fauville, and very soon after that we were notified that President DeGaulle said, “Americans go home … but leave all of your stuff here.”  We were transferred to Bavaria (heaven on earth) and I eventually lost touch with the Ruelle family.

Fast forward (not really) to 2016 and Albania. One day while I was volunteering at a hostel in Durres, Albania I got the bright idea of looking for Roger and Danielle on Google … and there they were.  At least there she was.  Roger had passed a few years before; but, there was an address in the obit.

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Quick, write a postcard!  Thanks to Google Translate … my French had all but disappeared .. I sent it the next day with my email address.  And, about 10 days later, I had an email from that little baby Marie Helene saying her mother, Danielle was very happy because the card had arrived on her birthday … what a surprising present.

So here I am, 50 years later in St. Remy sur Loire (changed to Aver), with Danielle who has surprised me as well.  Think about people you knew years ago and try to imagine what they would be doing today.  I was so far off the mark with this I could have been in China.

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Danielle Owns a Bar

She has shared her life story with me … too long to tell you here. She has 3 lovely daughters and several very intelligent grandchildren.  Today we went to the elementary school to talk to the class about the United States, English language and travel. That’s Celene, her granddaughter on my right.

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Did I mention that she had surprised me?

When I left the village I gave her several small things, among them, a pink jewelry box.  She still has the box and keeps her photos in it.  The top is gone, but I don’t think it would close anyway, on the stack of photos. When I saw the box, I gaped!  I offered to buy her a new box, but she would not have any of it.

I don’t know the manufacturer of this box, but this would be a good endorsement of its quality and long life.

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That’s Happy the cat, who does not look happy here. 

She also kept photos of my children.  Who keeps photos of other people’s children for 50 years?  When I asked her if she thought we would ever see each other again .. she said, “Yes, of course.”  Talk about psychic ability.

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I’m staying with Danielle a few days and she is corrupting me … champagne for lunch … who does that?  She does and now I do too.  Try it. Celebrate the small things in life.  Don’t wait for a big thing.

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Well, I’ve walked down memory lane, met new people, caught up on life in St. Remy and will be leaving for my next stop, Denmark, in 2 days.  We’ve talked about meeting in Dublin in a few months and I hope we can make that a reality.  She doesn’t have a computer so I will be writing letters … do you remember writing letters?  It’s a lost art, I’ve been told.

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Oh, and this is my friend, Danielle

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And, this is the demure Daniele and her handsome husband Roger on their wedding day.

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Jusqu’à ce que nous nous reverrons. (Until we meet again)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prague (almost)

I say.”almost” because I mis-calculated my travel date and thought I had scheduled 2 days to see Prague after the Angloville English Immersion Program, but as it turned out I actually had 5 hours.

So, let me first say, this Angloville experience was very different from the one in my last blog (Poznan).  Participants were different, venue was different, native English speakers were different, in a good way and the food -sorry Poland- was outstanding because the chef had experience in a Michelin star restaurant. One evening we had hand made ice cream in lavender, banana, orange and chocolate flavors …. ohhhh sooooo gooood,

Between Prague and the golf course Angloville venue we saw these Volkswagens made into cows/bulls.  Sorry the photos are not better, but the driver would not slow down for a foto shoot I was lucky to get this between oncoming traffic..

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Prague is not a city you can see in 5 hours, not even on a hop on/hop off bus.  Prague is not a city that you would even want to TRY to see in 5 hours .. so much beauty, history, food, activities, wacky stuff and entertainments.

What can I say about Prague?  It took my breath away.

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Hand painted Easter eggs, no two exactly the same.  Can you even IMAGINE trying to create newer and newer designs for these eggs?

 

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Hot Lips – Hot Love, over the forge.  Hefaistos makes blacksmithing look easy.  Their brochure says they are able to forge fences, staircases, railings and various design accessories. Today they were making jewelry.  It looks like they can also forge love and kisses

 

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No thank you, not today.  I’ve climbed the tower in St. Ann’s, Cork; and the cathedral in Valencia.  This one is just as narrow as St. Ann’s and more steps than Valencia.  Maybe when I come back in July. But, I hear the view is spectacular on a clear day.

 

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Breathtakingly beautiful glass!

 

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Two enormous shopping centers across the street from each other .. how much better can that get for shopping addicts?

 

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Had to add this photo because the scents were heavenly.

Sorry for the rush, I’ll do better next time.

Now it’s on to La Colliniere B&B near the town of Dreux, France where I will get to meet a woman who befriended me when I was 20 and living in the tiny village of St. Remy sur Loire, while my hubby was stationed at Evreux-Fauville AFB the year DeGaulle said Americans go home, but leave all of your valuable stuff here. I have not seen or spoken with her in 52 years .. what a joy this will be, for both of us!

BTW, you might want to look at my other blog, about “small world” experiences and coincidences — are there really any coincidences.  If you read the comments by Karen in the sidebar of this blog, you can read the “rest of the story” at onerandomtravelerblog.wordpress.com

Angloville

6 wonderful and intensive days culminating in an unforgettable educational experience” is what you will have when you immerse yourself in an English Immersion program.

If you are a native English Speaker and are a person who loves to teach, share, be a role model, learn or develop new friendships you may want to look into participating in one of these programs.

Yes, it is 6 days. Yes, it can be intensive. Yes, you will be speaking English from 9 in the morning until 9 in the evening … but you speak English all day anyway so what is the difference?

Do I need to have experience teaching .. no.  The program is laid out for you and it is directed at the learning opportunity for the local speaker.  If you can follow written directions or are not shy about asking a question you can do this.

A social time is available in the evenings for charades, playing pool or cards, karaoke, or other types of entertainment.  If you enjoy fun and games you will like this!

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There are group activities throughout the program. At the end of the program each local speaker gives a 5-10 minute presentation on the subject of their choice and it is a time when you can learn something you did not know either about the participant or the topic.  (these are local participants in a group activity)

The difference is that you will be meeting other English speaking travelers from Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, and the US. People from all walks of life and all ages with different skill sets, opinions, experiences … and all willing to share what they know.

For instance, we (from the US) learned that there is a formal and prior agreement between the US and Poland that allows us to stay in Poland and additional 90 days beyond the Schengen time limit.  We were stoked!!!

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At the Poznan, Poland site … a riding academy .. I was not awakened by an alarm clock, but instead, by the sound of horses frolicing in the soft dirt and whinnying to each other.

So, what’s in it for you (WIIFM)? 5 nights at a 4 or 5 star resort; the opportunity to meet enthusiastic local people who really want to improve their English. You will hear stories of people’s lives, play games, learn things about the country that you did not know, eat local foods and make new friends.  I met local  doctors, a woman who owned a rehab center, a cosmetic company owner, online entrepreneurs, sales manager for a large telecom and a port authority manager.

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Breakfast is served!

Today I write to you from a golf resort in the Czech Republic where I am joined by 2 of my Poznan English speakers and new Czech learners.

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This is my room at the golf resort.  Most rooms are shared, so you will have an English speaking “roomie” .

Are you interested? Will you be traveling in Poland, Hungary, Romania,  or the Czech Republic? Then go to ANGLOVILLE and sign up!  As a bonus .. in the Angloville program you have the opportunity to get your TEFL certification.

And what does it cost?  Just your time!

You are responsible for getting to the city where you will meet your group/leader.  During the program at the location your room and meals are all comp’d but any alcohol or extras are your responsibility.

If you are traveling in Spain go to VaughanTown; or, if you want to teach in Spain or Germany go to Diverbo and sign up.

Happy Trails to you … until we meet again

 

The Theorem That Won WWII

When I was volunteering in Durres, Albania this past January, a young American traveler asked if I liked spy novels.  Oh, yes, absolutely!  He gave me a worn copy of SPYCATCHER, written by Peter Wright, former British  Senior Intelligencer Officer who although he was not giving away national secrets, was being thwarted from publishing his book by the British government.

After many years of legal wrangling and court appearances, in  1987 the High Court at Canberra, Australia dismissed the case and ordered the Thatcher government to reimburse legal costs.

I love the underdog and was really anxious to read this book which proved more detailed and “James Bondish” than the man himself, at times. So if you are a fan of spy novels you might like this one.

3 of the actual participants in the book were Polish University students Jerzy Różycki, Marian Rejewski and Henryk Zygalski, studying in Poznan.  They soon found themselves in the company of others with brilliant mathematical minds, studying in Warsaw in 1932 trying to crack the German ciphers.

I found their monumental markers outside of the “Castle” in Poznan.  Unfortunately there was only a small plaque at the base explaining who they were and what they did.

On the day before the Nazi invasion of Poland the three fled to Romania where they immediately sought contact with the Allies. Originally they turned up at the British Embassy in Bucharest, but having been told to ‘come back in a few days’ decided to try their luck with the French instead. This proved more successful and from there they found themselves in France, working in Cadix, a secret intelligence cell operating in the unoccupied south. With the risk of discovery by the Germans growing greater the team were forced to flee.(from InYourPocket: Poznan Enigma Code Breakers )

After some time they found themselves seeking sanctuary in England they were employed in Boxmoor cracking simple SS codes. This is part of the story of SPYCATCHER.

Although they could be counted among the people who were most dramatically involved in ending the war, they have faded into the shadows. What a shame; and, what a shame for and on the fathers of Poznan to have such a small remembrance of such a huge event to which that their young men contributed.

The Enigma Machine