The driver jumped out of the cab, opened the truck ramp, and started unloading the luggage and helping us jump out. Dazed and bewildered, numb from the cold and very hungry, we all stood speechless for a moment. “Take your belongings and follow me,” the driver told us.
He led us around the extremely long building to a courtyard with a row of several outhouses. “You can go there in a minute,” he told us, “but let me show you your quarters first. This old building used to be a pub and a bowling alley,” he continued, “now it has been converted into an emergency shelter for people like you. I’ll introduce you to the manager of this establishment.” He laughed and pointed to a man who had just stepped out of the entrance to receive us.
We were the first ones to be led to our room. We had to go through a long hall with several big sinks, laundry tubs and a wash line with a few rags drying. There were brooms, mops, pails, garbage cans and other equipment stored along the walls. The evening light coming in through oversized windows could hardly soften the drabness of this dingy hall.
On a walk along the shore of the Arrow Lake in June I came across a most curious sight. On the ground I spotted a gathering of butterflies which displayed a rather odd behaviour. They were attracted to a grey mass of an object. Tightly bunched together they appeared to be in a drinking frenzy with their proboscises sucking up some undefinable liquid. First I shot a few pictures from several metres away fearing that they might fly away before I had a chance to capture their bizarre behaviour. As I came closer and closer I noticed that they completely ignored my presence. Rather they behaved like people in a bar being in various stages of intoxication. One butterfly was lying on its side sticking its proboscis deep into a crack of the unknown substance. Others sitting on top of one another. I was deeply puzzled. Now I was so close that my camera lens was able to take close-ups at times even touching their wings. Then I finally realized that the source of their attraction was a fish head, which had been left at the beach by a fisherman. I hope you can still enjoy the photos. Apparently butterflies do not always go after the colourful flowers. At times they rather prefer the valuable nutrients of a rotten fish head.
One day in early spring, our mother told us that we would soon be leaving the camp in Aurich, East Frisia; we would move to Velbert, situated in the Rhineland region of West Germany. My mother sounded very excited and joyful because she was born and raised in the Rhineland, a beautiful part of Germany. It meant saying goodbye to my best friend Ingeborg and all our other playmates with whom we had shared so many exciting adventures and experiences.
However, before moving to Velbert, we first had to spend several weeks in a transitory camp in Massen, a small town near Unna, close to Dortmund, our second station in the “Golden West.” I remember from that short stay that my mom was quite upset because we had to sleep in a big dormitory again with lots of strangers. And to make things worse, we had to lie on straw mattresses. But my parents consoled themselves with the prospect that we would soon move to Velbert. That’s where apartment buildings for refugees were being constructed rapidly.
On a bright, sunny day in early Spring, we were loaded with all our luggage and several other families onto the open back of a big, old transport truck with makeshift benches. My brother and I had rarely ridden in a car. This was my first time in a vehicle. For us, it was exciting! My mom thought it was odd that we were transported like baggage. She didn’t like that we were all crammed together in this small, draughty and not too clean space. But my brother and I were laughing with the other kids and some boisterous men enjoying the cool breeze and the changing scenery. After a few hours, we were all shaken up by the bumpy ride. The increasing cool drafts, the loud noise of the motor, and the vehicle’s rattling started to make us feel sick. Suddenly the truck came to an abrupt halt beside an old, dilapidated stone building that looked almost like a dungeon, dark and foreboding.
Cold and rainy weather has plagued our region for the past four weeks. Last week, still recovering from major surgery, I ventured out to look at the low water level of Arrow Lake. BC Hydro expects massive water pouring in from the spring run-offs. So it drained the reservoir down to the lowest allowable level. Many of the tree roots of the flooded orchards are visible. They serve as skeletal monuments against the devastating flooding of the valley more than half a century ago. Using the dark clouds, I attempted with some post-editing to create a sombre atmosphere that underscores the dark mood that the roots spread over the eerie landscape. Enjoy.
Every day is a new experience for children, and I enjoyed every day of my new life—no time to think of the past. The school was exciting because of our inspiring and kind teacher. With so many families living nearby in the camp, my brother and I had many friends. We spent most of the time outside playing in those endless meadows surrounding the base. There was never a dull moment because someone would always come up with an exciting activity or game. We skipped rope, played ball games, did yoga-type gymnastics and often invented new poses. We had talent shows singing and performing songs we had heard on the radio. We played old-fashioned games like marbles, hopscotch, hide and seek, catch or make-belief games. Sometimes we would collect daisies, dandelions or other flowers for braiding wreaths or lie back in the lush meadows and daydream.
Looking back now, from an adult perspective, life for my parents was not that idyllic. They were eager to have a place again to put down roots and call it home. But time dragged on. Sometimes my mom would take us to the picturesque town of Aurich, where my dad had found a temporary position as a dental technician at the local dentist’s office. My mom would slip quietly into the beautiful old church to kneel and pray for a few ‘Our Fathers’ on those outings. Often it looked like she was crying. My brother and I loved these town outings because my mother would buy us cones with whipping cream, a region specialty known for its sweet and rich cream from happy cows grazing on those lush pastures. My mom would drink East Frisian black tea with little “clouds” of heavy cream, also a specialty of the region.
Hello, my blogging friends around the globe! I am home again, my colon a few inches shorter, and feeling quite well. I will start reading all your new posts today and hand out likes the easy way. After a few more days, I consider writing comments as well. While I was in the hospital, our son Michael took Biene on several excursions into the nearby lakeside parks in the North Okanagan. It was an excellent way of dispelling her worries about me. Next Wednesday, I will publish the photos she took during her hikes with our son. For all of you, who need some cheering up, myself included, here is a bouquet of wild arnica flowers. Enjoy!