The Portugal Chronicles – The Conference First; Home at Last

airportThe landing in Frankfurt, Germany was ummm…culture shock compared with the departure from JFK. It was more like what we deal with now when we choose to travel by air.

I had my camera, of course. When I tried to take a picture when we were going through customs, the Frau in the uniform grabbed it away from me. She told me in no uncertain terms: Nein! Sie können das nicht tun. I got it. I wasn’t in Kansas any more.

We were shuttled from the airport to a Gästehaus near where the conference was to be held. There were three bedrooms with three couples from Word of Life there. And one bathroom. Our freundliche Frau was an energetic woman and her home was immaculate at all times. She gave us good German breakfasts.

She schooled us, too. She objected to the amount of hot water Americans habitually use to take a simple shower. After the first night, she turned off the hot water heater* after about 30 minutes. I imagine she thought that was generous.

The conference was pretty typical Evangelical fare. It was intended to encourage weary missionaries who had been on the field awhile. It’s unfortunate, however, that I don’t remember anything except the meeting when the men and women were in separate rooms. It was mostly tips on getting along with one’s spouse. I do remember clearly one of the tips about hungry, grumpy husbands: “If he’s hungry, feed the beast.”swiss air

At long last, we took my ‘cello and boarded our Swiss Air flight to Lisbon. A short hop and we were circling around Lisbon. I could hardly wait.

Every city has it’s own smell, and Lisbon is no exception. After we went through customs, my olfactory nerves began to quiver. Though it was comprised of diesel fuel, cigarette smoke, and other components, to me is was eau de home.

hot water

* It was this type of small hot water heater that heats the water as it flows through.

The Portugal Chronicles – Year One: The Cello

hurry-up-and-wait-1My dad always said that the motto of the military is, “Hurry up, and wait.” In our case, it was almost a year of wait followed by a summer of hurry up. One of the last minute foot-caught-in-the-door events was my ‘cello.

When I was in fourth grade, I started taking flute lessons. The lessons got derailed by my inability to play an e flat and my anemia. In fifth grade, in another school, the music teacher handed me a ‘cello, and proceeded to teach me how to play. Every week I walked into the music room to his rendition of “If you knew Susie.”

I wish I had a photo to post of the expressions on my parents’ faces when I walked into the house with the ‘cello provided by the school district. They were never truly reconciled to it because 1. it was a really big instrument, and 2. it wasn’t ladylike. Later, I took up the violin as well, but the ‘cello was my favorite.

I ended up studying and playing the ‘cello for about five years. During that time my grandfather, a fan of Charlotte Harris on Lawrence Welk, took it into his head that I needed my own instrument. He found a used student ‘cello and gave it to me.

I gave up my studies in eleventh grade when one of our many moves landed me in a high school that had only a marching band. Without lessons and performance venues, I had little motivation to practice and play. I have lived to regret that choice.

Plan A for the ‘cello as we packed to go to Portugal was to leave it in the states. My grandfather discovered this plan and offered Plan B: he guilted cellous into taking it.  We had to buy it a ticket. The sad truth was that I never went back to playing it, and eventually the humidity of the Portuguese winters destroyed it.

The day that our wait was over, our families drove us to JFK Airport to see us off. We boarded, and set our faces toward the sunrise. Years later, I learned that my mother had an emotional breakdown that day and ended up in the hospital.

Next post: Adventures in Frankfurt.