The Berlin Wall

This morning I ran across this interesting article about a previously undiscovered section of the Berlin Wall that was recently found by locals out on a walking tour.

Here’s how CNN reported it:

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989. But it seems that its story still hasn’t been fully told.
A previously unknown section of the wall was discovered in summer 2018 in a residential section of northwest Berlin.
Several locals on a walking tour came upon a 20-meter (66-foot) section of crumbling wall, covered in graffiti, in June. The wall had been covered by overgrown bushes, which is how it had escaped discovery for so long.
This week marks the anniversary of the start of construction on the wall in 1961. A few years back I read a fascinating account of the events that led up it in a book titled Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth, by Frederick Kempe. Here’s part of the description from Amazon:

Much has been written about the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later, but the Berlin Crisis of 1961 was more decisive in shaping the Cold War-and more perilous. It was in that hot summer that the Berlin Wall was constructed, which would divide the world for another twenty-eight years. Then two months later, and for the first time in history, American and Soviet fighting men and tanks stood arrayed against each other, only yards apart. One mistake, one nervous soldier, one overzealous commander-and the tripwire would be sprung for a war that could go nuclear in a heartbeat.

On one side was a young, untested U.S. president still reeling from the Bay of Pigs disaster and a humiliating summit meeting that left him grasping for ways to respond. It would add up to be one of the worst first-year foreign policy performances of any modern president. On the other side, a Soviet premier hemmed in by the Chinese, East Germans, and hardliners in his own government. With an all-important Party Congress approaching, he knew Berlin meant the difference not only for the Kremlin’s hold on its empire-but for his own hold on the Kremlin.

Neither man really understood the other, both tried cynically to manipulate events. And so, week by week, they crept closer to the brink.

Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth

It’s a fascinating read.

In all my travels I never made it behind The Iron Curtain, so I never saw the Berlin Wall. However, while on a visit to Iceland a few years back, I did see a piece of it standing outside the historic Hofdi House in Reykjavik. Hofdi House is where President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Michael Gorbachev held a summit in 1986 that set the stage for the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War. To commemorate that summit and what it led to, a piece of the wall stands on the grounds of the House.

By the way, an excellent book about the summit, written by one of Reagan’s aides is Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War, by Kenneth Adelman.

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A Rocky Mountain Fourth

One of the traditions at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park Colorado is a Fourth of July Parade. Participants in the parade are campers, visitors, and various staff departments of the Camp and Conference Center.

I absolutely love this slice of American life — people organizing themselves to dress up in silly costumes and do silly things for no other reason than to have a good time while celebrating the birthday of our nation.

A good time was had by all!

Here are a few pics of the parade. Quite the setting, eh?

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A Norwegian Church in South Dakota

On our meandering trip across the prairie to Colorado over the past few days, we made a stop in Rapid City, South Dakota to see the Stavkirke Chapel in the Hills, a traditional Norwegian church.

Here’s how it is described on the website:

Nestled at the foot of the Black Hills, on the western edge of Rapid City, SD, the Chapel in the Hills is a quiet retreat open to all visitors. As a special ministry of the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the chapel reaches out to vacationers and local residents alike, who look for a place to experience God’s peace in their busy lives.

The chapel itself is an exact reproduction of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. Our chapel was built in 1969 as the home for the Lutheran Vespers radio ministry (see “History“). Today, visitors from all around the world find the chapel to be a place of beauty and inspiration.

You can read more about the history of the chapel here.

Of course I was drawn to the stand alone bell tower in the yard at the back of the church.

I asked the volunteers on duty what they knew about the bell. They didn’t know much but directed me to a small souvenir book that had some information. Apparently the bell has a connection to St. Paul.

A separate bell tower behind the chapel houses an old bell, a gift from the American Lutheran Congregation, Presto, South Dakota. The project was initiated by the Lutheran Seminary Class of 1929, of which Pastor Gregerson was a member.

The inscription on the bell reads: “O earth, earth, etrth hear the words of the Lord — Jeremiah 22-29 Presho Lutheran Ladies Aid of 1922.” The third earth is misspelled. The bell was cast by Stuckstede & Bros, St. Louis, MO.

The bell tower was designed by Spitznagel and Associates, Sioux Falls, SD, and a gift from Robert Dilly, builder of the Chapel.

The gift is especially appreciated since there is a bell tower adjacent to the Borgund Church in Norway.

While the bell is of special interest to the Presho community, it will share its clear musical ring with the thousands of visitors to the Chapel in the Hills.

For many years the ringing of a bell has opened the Lutheran Vespers radio program. Now the Chapel Bell joins in this tradition of “Bells chiming and ringing calling the young and old to worship.”

If you ever find yourself in Rapid City, South Dakota, this place is a must-see!


Driving Miss Gracie

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for another road trip. This week we are Driving Miss Gracie to Estes Park, CO for a 75th anniversary reunion of World Venture, the mission agency that my parents served with in Pakistan. Not only that, her father was one of the founders as well.

We are taking our sweet time meandering across the Great Plains, minimizing our time on the interstate highways this time. We love driving the back roads.

Yesterday we swung through Badlands National Park. It did not disappoint!

Today we are Driving Miss Gracie through the Black Hills and on to Cheyenne, WY.

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Road Trip Reading

Long hours spent in the car means long hours spent reading. Here is a list of the books that the five of us read on this year’s road trip:

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Vergese

Cutting for Stone

Guadal-canal Diary, by Richard Tregaskis and Mark Bowden

Guadalcanal Diary (Modern Library War)

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Walls, Jeannette (2009) Hardcover, by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Walls, Jeannette (2009) Hardcover

Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service, by Amy Young

Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service

Mexico Set, by Len Deighton

Mexico Set

Midnight in the Pacific: Guadalcanal–The World War II Battle That Turned the Tide of War, by Joseph Wheelan

Midnight in the Pacific: Guadalcanal--The World War II Battle That Turned the Tide of War

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrick Bachman and Henning Koch

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

On China, by Henry Kissinger

On China

Sipping Saltwater: How to find lasting satisfaction in a world of thirst, by Steve Hoppe

Sipping Saltwater: How to find lasting satisfaction in a world of thirst

The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 2), by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 2)

We’re on the home stretch today: home in time for supper! Thanks for tagging along! I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip!

Pottery in the Panhandle

Our travels this weekend took us to Panama City Beach, on the Florida panhandle, where we checked into a lovely condo overlooking the gorgeous white sand beach. This was to be the more relaxed portion of our road trip.

On Saturday we spent the afternoon with my brother-in-law’s cousin, who lives in the nearby town of Lynn Haven. After a career spent flying helicopters to oil rigs in the Gulf, in his retirement he has taken up pottery. And he is seriously good at it!

After lunch at the Golden Corral (a southern favorite), he took us to visit his studio. Normally filled with wheels and clay, it is now set up for his annual Backyard Pottery Festival, which will held on the first weekend in December.

While his work ranges from mugs to tea pots to cookie pots, to sculptures, my personal favorites are his creative piggy banks. Here’s just one — guaranteed to put on a smile on your face as you save those pennies!

Wes’s 96-year old mother (“Aunt Netty”) has gotten in on the act now too, and has started her own line of clay figurines!

If you going to be anywhere near the Florida panhandle the first weekend in December, be sure to stop in at their backyard festival.

If you get there early enough you might even get to eat one of “Aunt Nettie’s” baked goods!

Mississippi Delta Chinese

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, during our time in New Orleans, we made the obligatory stop at Cafe du Monde for beignets and hot chocolate. Even though it was quite crowded, we managed to find a table in a corner overlooking Lafayette Square.

Our waitress was an ethnic Chinese woman with a thick New Orleans drawl who called us all “darling” and “honey-child.”

That took us by surprise!

But then I looked around an noticed that nearly all of the wait staff seemed to be Chinese, most of them speaking with thick southern accents.

Clearly, they were not recent immigrants.

Interacting with this sweet Chinese-Louisianan reminded me of a short film that I ran across a few months back about a community of Chinese who have lived in the Mississippi Delta region for over a hundred years. Produced by Al Jazeera as part of a series on Chinese food in America, the reporter introduces us to their life and their food. The title of the piece is The Untold Story of America’s Southern Chinese. 

Here is the video: (email readers: go here to view it)

In March of this year, NPR did a story on the community, titled The Legacy of the Mississippi Delta Chinese. 

Think of the Mississippi Delta. Maybe you imagine cotton fields, sharecroppers and blues music.

It’s been all that. But for more than a century, the Delta has also been a magnet for immigrants. I was intrigued to learn about one immigrant group in particular: the Delta Chinese.

To find out more, I travelled to Greenville, Miss., a small city along the Mississippi River. I meet Raymond Wong in Greenville’s Chinese cemetery, right across a quiet road from an African-American cemetery. Wong’s family has long been part of a thriving — but separate — Chinese community.

“We were in-between,” Wong explains, “right in between the blacks and the whites. We’re not black, we’re not white. So that by itself gives you some isolation.”

Finally, last year documentary filmmaker Samantha Cheng released a film titled Honor and Duty: The Mississippi Delta Chinese. 

The film tells the story of the early Chinese immigrants to the Mississippi Delta during the 19th century; then it explores how the community steadily grew in the early part of the 20th century, as Chinese families across the Delta opened grocery stores that served both the black and white populations. Subsequently, it reveals how 182 Chinese men from the Delta participated in all aspects of the US war effort in WWII, shows the transformational nature of their participation in the war for the development of the community in the decades immediately after the war, and concludes by documenting the contributions of the Chinese Delta families to the state of Mississippi and beyond as t

Their children became doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and many other types of professionals in the contemporary era.

You can see a trailer for the film here.