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Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nancy Sales Cash - from Queen Mary 2

Are you up for some armchair traveling? My husband and I are currently in the Norwegian fjord country, but doing it the easy way on the Queen Mary 2. We went to Oslo yesterday and at the Viking Museum saw the Viking ships used as burial vessels by the ancients.
(See photo.) The whole ship, several (rich) people, their possessions, and special sleds (to carry them into the next world) were buried in the ground. They were first discovered in the 19th century by a farmer digging a well. Not many have been found, so there should be plenty more where these came from. The earliest Scandinavians came from the Black Sea / Russia, it is thought, when the last ice age melted.

Oslo itself was founded on a fjord in 1050 AD. Global warming has cut down its months under snow from six to five. Not so good when so many industries depend on snow, but they are hosting the winter Olympics again in 2010.

Their new Opera House was designed to look like an iceberg, and part of the concert hall is below sea level. Not sure I'd be all that comfortable with that!One-eighth of the population is Muslim due to a low unemployment rate (4%). Norwegians have 1.9 children per couple, one of the highest in Europe. 70% of women work outside the home. The average salaries are high, but so are taxes and the cost of living, although their health care is free. Wonder what the Vikings would have made of all that?


NANCY SALES CASH grew up in Murphy, now lives in Asheville, and is a member of Netwest. Her short story, 'Talking To Mama,' will be published in Netwest's next anthology, 'Echoes Across The Blue Ridge,' due out soon. She also has a story in Celia Miles' new anthology, due out in October 2009, and was in Celia's 'Christmas Presence' anthology in 2008. She has two published novels, 'Ritual River,' and 'Patterns of the Heart,' available at The Curiosity Shop in Murphy and Andrews, and at Phillips and Lloyd in Hayesville

Monday, August 4, 2008

Traveling, a personal essay by John Malone

I went on my first long trip in the winter of 1937, when my mother took me, my older sister Emily and my Irish nanny, Miss McGinty to Florida and Beaufort, South Carolina, for the winter. I was only eighteen months old at the time, so my memories of that trip are mere flickers and flashes – the hot sand under my feet, seeing a starfish on the beach, the sound and smell of the sea as the cool water rushed around my ankles and Mama splashed some of it over my shoulders and back, making me shiver. I held on tight, only able to grasp two of her fingers in my pudgy little fist.

A few years later, I was taken on my first airplane by my parents, a flight on an Eastern Airlines DC-3 from Pittsburgh’s old county airport to Philadelphia. We were on our way to Beach Haven, New Jersey, to visit my Grandmother Malone, who spent her summers on the putting green and the card tables at the old Baldwin Hotel, where she used to go with my grandfather before he died in 1933. The only thing I remember about my first flight was being very airsick and filling up the little waxed paper bag held by my mother while she held my forehead with the other hand.

We also visited the Steel Pier and the boardwalk in Atlantic City that summer, and I vaguely remember seeing a baby contest, with anxious mothers wearing hats, gloves and high-heeled shoes as they primped and prettied their little darlings in the sand underneath the board walk. Or maybe I just saw it in an old 1930’s movie.

When I was five, my mother took me to New York twice, flying with me to LaGuardia for eye surgery with the famous surgeon, Dr. Dunnington, who was supposed to be able to correct all kinds of eye problems in small children. As s a baby, I had had a high fever that weakened the muscles in my right eye, causing it to turn inward. Dr. Dunnington tried twice to shorten the stretched muscles so that my eyes would be aligned properly, but he couldn’t get it exactly right. He made it turn outward instead of inward. My mother told me later that I almost died on the operating table after swallowing my tongue while under the anesthetic. In spite of years of trying to correct it, I still have double vision and have to shut one eye in order to read.

With the outbreak of war in 1941, Papa stopped taking vacations for patriotic reasons, devoting his full time to supporting the war effort by supplying the needs of the coal mines and steel mills in the Ohio River Valley as they earned their Army and Navy “E” awards. The rest of the family took regular summer vacations without him, traveling by train and lake steamer up to Ontario’s Muskoka Lakes or by car and ferry to the Lake Erie Islands, where Granddaddy Gardner owned half of Ballast Island, near Put-In-Bay, Ohio. It was there that I learned how to sail, row and handle power boats, taught by my favorite uncle, Clancy Horton, a naval architect from Massachusetts. In August, 1945, we were driving up to Lake Erie from Pittsburgh when we heard on the car radio in our pre-war Chevy sedan the news about the first atom bomb being dropped on Hiroshima.

The following spring, when I was eleven, Papa drove me and Mama down to Mexico and back in a brand new post-war De Soto, visiting friends on his first vacation in six years. While we were there, I saw my first bull fight in Mexico City. I was horrified and fascinated. I read Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon” and “The Sun Also Rises” and became an instant aficionado, collecting other books about bullfighting and hanging beautiful bullfight posters and photos on my bedroom walls showing famous toreros like the Mexican, Carlos Arruza, the great Juan Belmonte, El Cordobes, Dominguin and the old timers like Manolete and Joselito. I got a set of little toy bullfighters, horses and bulls that I used to stage imaginary corridas on the floor in my bedroom. I even practiced passes with a cape, a muleta and a wooden sword, making my little sister Carolyn play the part of the bull.

I went off to boarding school when I was thirteen, first as a five-day boarder at Shadyside Academy, a private school near Pittsburgh, and later at The Hill School in Eastern Pennsylvania, traveling back home by train via Philadelphia for the holidays. I also started visiting New York for weekends during my sixth form year at the Hill School, hanging out “under the clock” at the Biltmore Hotel and in the jazz clubs around 52nd Street. The two summers after I graduated from The Hill, Mama and Papa took me and my sister Carolyn to Europe.

After those first two visits, I was totally in love with European food, languages, history and culture (and women), a love which has persisted throughout my life. I thought of myself then, and still think of myself even now as a “citizen of the world.” Thus, after getting an MBA, making an unhappy try at joining my father’s industrial supply business in Pittsburgh and hanging out at the local clubs and bars, I set my heart and mind on an international career. In my first move to escape the old home town, I spent the summer of 1960 visiting Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In September, 1961 I went off to London for two years with Christa, my new German bride, and two hundred dollars a month from my parents to study economics and try to qualify for a job at the World Bank, where I thought I could “do well by doing good.”

In early 1963, while we were still living in a cold, damp third-floor walk-up in East Croydon in the London suburbs, I received a cable from Washington inviting me to the World Bank’s Paris office for a whole day of interviews with visiting Washington department heads. A few months later a second cable arrived. I was hired. The job came in the nick of time, for we already had a London-born, one-year-old daughter, and our second child was on the way.

For the next twenty-nine years I traveled all over the world, using a United Nations Laissez-passer instead of my American passport, which I only needed when re-entering the US. I traveled overseas on Bank business an average of about 120 days each year while assigned to the Washington headquarters, and for eight years I lived with Christa and the children in Africa and Indonesia while assigned to various World Bank field offices as Resident Representative, a sort of ambassador of money, with a chauffeur-driven Mercedes and a little, UN-blue World Bank flag fluttering on the front fender.

I made frequent visits to Europe also, attending consultations with the other “aid donors” in Geneva, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Bonn, Rome and Copenhagen. Whenever I found myself in Europe, I would be sure to visit my German in-laws in Christa’s home town. For five years after retiring from the Bank in 1992, I kept on working part-time as a consultant for the Bank, the United Nations Development Program in New York and the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome. All in all, I have traveled to a total of seventy-five different countries on five different continents.

After retiring, I went back and added up the total number of times I had visited Sudan on official World Bank business. I was amazed to find that I had actually been there twenty-two times. Some funny things happened on those occasions. I remember one time when I was the “advance man” for a visit by World Bank President Robert S. McNamara, the former U.S. Defense Secretary, in 1972, just after the cease-fire in the war with the rebels in Southern Sudan. McNamara brought his wife along as well as a large entourage of headquarters officials. The McNamaras were lodged in Sudanese President Nimeiry’s official guest house while the rest of us stayed in hotels.

On the morning when we were all scheduled to fly down to Juba, the southern rebels’ capital, in a chartered Sudan Airways 707, I went to the guest house from my hotel room at daybreak to welcome the Sudanese cabinet ministers who were going to escort Mr. and Mrs. McNamara. The McNamaras were still in their bedroom upstairs when the high-powered Sudanese delegation arrived at the guest house, so I welcomed them, ushered them into the lounge and served coffee, explaining that their guests would be down momentarily. As we sat there sipping our coffee and making polite conversation, a steady, rhythmic thumping noise became audible through the ceiling above us, obviously coming from the McNamaras’ bedroom. Broad white grins spread across the black faces of our Sudanese hosts as they exchanged knowing looks and nods with each other. I said nothing, letting them go on admiring my boss’s imagined sexual prowess. But I knew they were mistaken: Robert McNamara, a fitness fanatic, could not enjoy his usual morning run while traveling in the capital cities of Africa. Instead, he and his wife started each day by jumping ropes in their bedroom.

I traveled for two more weeks with McNamara on that trip, showing him around my two World Bank “parishes,” Sudan and Somalia. I lost fifteen pounds trying to keep up with him. We never got to finish a single meal. McNamara, always fidgety and anxious to get on with the work, hated what he called “ceremonial eating” and would get up before dessert or coffee and rush off to his next appointment. The rest of us, hearing the scrape of his chair as he pushed back from the table, would dash to the cars as fast as we could. We would then finish our meal by eating McNamara’s dust while we tried to keep up with his speeding Mercedes limo and motorcycle police escort as they careened through the crowded African streets, running over the occasional careless dog.

McNamara clearly admired the grit and determination to survive of the people during our visit to drought-ridden, hardscrabble Somalia. On board his chartered jet, flying back to Nairobi at the end of the two weeks, McNamara turned to me. “John, wouldn’t it be great if we could take all these poor starving Somalis and just move them over to Sudan with all its undeveloped land and water resources?” I felt a chill as I suddenly recalled McNamara’s naïve Viet Nam body count. He liked to think big.

After saying goodbye to McNamara in Nairobi as he and his entourage went on to conquer world poverty in other African countries, I headed downtown to the Long Bar at the New Stanley Hotel for a long-awaited booze-up, surrounded by the ghosts of Ernest Hemingway, Robert Ruark and other deceased literati who had fondly mentioned the New Stanley and its Long Bar in their books and articles.

After retirement, as our five children grew up, moved away from home and started families of their own, our travels took on a different form: the pursuit of our grandchildren, fiercely competing with their other grandparents for face time. Periodically, their career needs would move our children and their precious charges, sometimes closer to us, sometimes farther away. Sometimes we would gain a temporary geographic advantage over the “in-laws,” only to lose it again with the children’s next move. Sometimes all four grandparents would arrive for a visit simultaneously, overwhelming the grandchildren with love and presents. After the visit, we would all go our own ways, saying things like, “Don’t you think X and Y have aged a lot?” or “Did you notice how much weight poor Z has put on?”

Once or twice a year, Christa and I would go on a vacation, usually for two weeks at a time. One of the more memorable trips Christa and I made was a fortnight in the high mountains of Guatemala, where we worked hard building houses for poor families with Elderhostel and Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program. The building sites were in a small village almost eight thousand feet above sea level, where the air was very thin and hard to breathe. We had to sit down and rest every ten minutes or so, just to get our breath. At night we went back to a cheap hotel in the village where the rooms were not heated. In spite of piling blankets on the bed, I have never in my life been so cold for so long. We finished the houses on schedule nonetheless and were given a wonderful sendoff by the new owners.

We visited Christa’s relatives in Germany and Crete several times, spent Christmas with our daughter and her family in the Philippines and went four times to visit our youngest and his wife in Hawaii, California and the Canadian Rockies (no grandchildren, just two grand dogs). I go up to Andover, Massachusetts, once or twice every year to visit my sister Carolyn. Christa and I have circled the globe twice by air, made two Atlantic crossings by sea, cruised around the Eastern Caribbean, sailed the Aegean and gone down the Danube and across the Black Sea to Istanbul in Russian ships.

In 1996 we made an abortive attempt to become Florida tax residents (no state income tax) by spending six months and a day each winter in the Keys. Hurricane Georges scored a hit on our waterfront house on Big Pine Key on September 25, 1998, removing a corner of our roof, while completely destroying another couple’s dream retirement home nearby. The other couple bought our house for the asking price, which included a tidy capital gain, desperate to have a roof over their heads, even a damaged one. Nowadays we try to spend just the month of February down south, preferring the Gulf Coast, near two of our children and their families.

I have traveled to Ireland a total of seven times over the years, visiting my Irish cousins and searching for my roots. Christa came along on two of those trips, and on one of them, we brought our elder son, his wife and their three children (the only Malone grandchildren) along with us. Although I can claim only 13/32 of Irish blood, I am nuts about Ireland. I even have an Irish passport and harbor fantasies of running away from home and going to live there someday. I know I won’t, though, because I would miss my kids and grandchildren too much (not to mention Christa, my faithful traveling companion for the last forty-seven years, who doesn’t like Ireland at all!). Still, I think I would like to go over there one more time while I am still able to go for long walks in the hills.

My two books have involved me in a lot of travel also, first attending writers’ workshops in North Carolina and doing research in Ireland and in the various locales of Pennsylvania and Ohio where my ancestors and I were born and raised, and then going back a year or two later to the same places for the book signings. Those excursions really were “ego trips.”

Lately I have joined the board of an international non-profit, the GOAL Project, which helps to extend AA’s life-saving twelve-step program of recovery from addiction to countries where it is either unknown or just getting started. I travel to GOAL’s Pittsburgh headquarters twice a year for board meetings and will likely get to visit some of the countries where our projects are located in the next few years.

Speaking of addiction, I am beginning to realize that I am probably addicted to travel. If I am stuck in one place too long, I start to get restless. Christa calls it “Wanderlust.” She says she has had enough traveling to last the rest of her life. She is happy, she says, to stay in our nice little house on the outskirts of Waynesville, North Carolina, gardening and playing tennis in the summer and quilting in the winter.

I wonder.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Missy, a personal essay by John Malone

Miss Mary Ann McGinty, “Missy,” was my Irish nanny. She came to work for my parents when I was only six months old and stayed with us until my younger sister, Carolyn, went off to boarding school. During those formative years of my life, I saw much more of Missy than I did of my own mother, who spent most of her waking hours pecking at a green Smith-Corona portable typewriter behind her closed bedroom door, trying desperately to conquer depression and write the Great American Novel.
Missy lived six days of every week in her room over the garage in our house in Coraopolis Heights, with a crucifix above her bed and a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the wall by her dresser, just a few steps away from our bedrooms so she could hear us if we cried. When I was at school or occasionally being looked after by my mother, she would sit there in her freshly-ironed white uniform saying her Rosary. Her beads were always with her, tucked into a pocket of her uniform. When she prayed, she would whisper the words softly, but always loud enough that we children could still hear them. When I was six, I asked my Protestant parents if I could have a crucifix to hang on the wall above my bed, announcing to them that I wanted to be a “Christian like Missy.”
Miss McGinty was a well-loved member of our household for twenty-one years. Nevertheless, upon reaching the age of seventy-five, after Carolyn went away to school, she returned to Ireland and lived with her nephew, Father Liam McCaul, the curate in the tiny village of Bruckless in County Donegal.
In August1960, just four years after Missy went home to Ireland, Carolyn and I made our very first visit there. Both of us fell instantly in love with Ireland, a love that has lasted ever since. I was coming to Ireland from Tel Aviv via Rome and London after traveling around the Middle East all summer. Carolyn had arrived in Ireland earlier, and I was to meet her there in Bruckless with Father McCaul and Missy.
The drive from Belfast to Bruckless was only about 130 miles across Northern Ireland and should have taken only three hours or so, but, between driving on the “wrong side” of what I thought were “bad” Irish roads and my stopping often along the way to see the sights, I took almost all day getting there. I realized as I drove through Omagh that I was only eight miles from Seskinore, my grandmother’s village, famous as the only village in Ireland with a post office, three churches and not a single pub, where most of my dour Protestant Irish cousins still lived and farmed. But Carolyn and I had planned to visit the cousins later together, after spending some time with Missy and her nephew, so I didn’t stop.
Seeing my dear old Missy again after four years was wonderful. She and I both shed happy tears as we met in the parlor of the Parochial House with Carolyn and Father McCaul. They had waited for several hours for my arrival, and Carolyn had even set out walking down the lane to the village, thinking that I might have lost my way searching for the house.
We spent several days there together, being entertained by the voluble priest and driven around the rugged landscape in his little black car. Missy loved outings and would always be ready to go in an instant, wearing her hat and coat and waiting by the front door. We crossed rocky highlands, treeless and barren except for scattered patches of heather and gorse. Father McCaul had been assigned to a Catholic mission near Salt Lake City, Utah, when he had left the seminary in Ireland and been ordained. To remind his listeners of his years in the Utah desert, He kept saying things like, “Ach, Lord, would ye look at that now! Why, we’re in Indian country!” He was a terrifying driver, frequently turning around to talk to the passengers in the back seat while still negotiating the curves of the narrow, hilly country lanes and avoiding the many sheep wandering across them. Fortunately, there was very little traffic in Ireland in those days. About the only people who drove “motor cars” in small Irish villages in 1960 were the priests and doctors, their version of “first responders.”
Catholic Bruckless was a very small village, inhabited mainly by sheep farmers and fishermen. Unlike Protestant Seskinore, however, it was served by several pubs. They were nothing like the cozy fireside pub in the John Wayne-Maureen O’Hara classic, “The Quiet Man.” There were no prosperous, rosy-cheeked, tweed-clad, pipe-smoking country squires gathered around a polished bar enjoying perfectly poured pints of Guinness. There was no impromptu accordion player leading a harmonious chorus of “The Wild Colonial Boy.” No, when I ventured into the village and went into the nearest pub, it was like entering a dark, smoky cave, redolent with the odors of pigs, sheep, fish and human sweat, and guarded by a few solemn old men sitting around the walls on rough benches, trying to make their pints last forever.
It was during that first visit to Ireland that I came to appreciate the full significance of the old saying, “Make hay while the sun shines.” A typical weather forecast for a summer day in Ireland is “showery with sunny spells.” Driving around Donegal with Father McCaul, we would come over the top of a rocky hill and descend into a green glen that was enjoying a few hours of sunshine. People of all ages and genders seemed to have appeared magically from nowhere, wielding scythes and rakes and “saving the hay,” as Father McCaul put it. Many of the men stripped off their shirts and worked in sleeveless undershirts, their faces red and sweating in spite of the fact that the temperature was only in the sixties. Women and children were raking, bundling and stacking the hay so it would stay dry after the next shower, never very long in arriving.
On the 6th of November, 1979, our dear Missy passed away at a nursing home in Sligo, Ireland, aged ninety-eight. My two sisters and I later converted and became Catholics. Carolyn once said to me, “Missy prayed us all into the Catholic Church.”