“I have them, these attacks of the past…”
~ The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
This week I have been listening to The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, and the line above really struck home with me. I have them, too, these attacks of the past. And I’ve been having them a lot recently because this is a significant year for me. It has been 50 years since my year as an exchange student to Argentina, a year that had a profound effect on the rest of my life. And since my father kept every letter I wrote home during that year, I have words from my younger self, as well as many memories, to help me revisit that experience. I hope to share some of that with you, if I may.
Before cell phones!
50 years ago today, my hurried preparations were complete for spending a year abroad. In the 3 week period between receiving my acceptance letter and my departure, I got my passport and required shots, was tutored by the Spanish teacher at my high school (since I’d had five years of French, but no Spanish training), put together a wardrobe that I hoped would work for the year, and was almost finished packing it all into one large suitcase. I said goodbye to my school friends who would graduate before I returned. I had just turned eighteen years old and the longest I had ever been away from home was two weeks at Girl Scout camp. But I was over the moon with excitement and ready to take on the world!
I wrote these words about my departure for Argentina in a post I published here in 2008.
In early 1967, I was chosen to be an exchange student with the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs). Looking back, I realize that the year I spent in Argentina was a “pivot point” in my life — that point where I stood still, poised to move in one direction or another. A photograph of me, at age 18, was snapped at the moment I hesitated at the top of the stairs while boarding the airplane to Argentina, looked back over my shoulder, and then began the forward motion of my life.
Forty-eight years ago this weekend I met my Hubby. He and I are very different from one another, but the following quote from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights describes us perfectly.
My Facebook and Instagram friends have already heard about my birthday surprise weekend (thanks to my sweet hubby) at the Oregon coast. We celebrated my birthday by spending hours watching waves. The effect of that on the human psyche is absolutely therapeutic! We are calling it our “watching waves therapy” and will be repeating this lovely weekend as often as we can!
After leaving Depoe Bay, we also stopped at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, before we returned home. What a wonderful place! The hours we spent there were both educational and fun. This is definitely another place we’ll be visiting again soon, too!
Depoe Bay, Oregon:
Hatfield Marine Science Center:
There’s nothing better than getting books for one’s 68th birthday! Hubby and I are heading for the ocean today so I’m taking these with me!
Books and reading are such an important part of my life. Recently, I’ve become fascinated by the many reading blogs on the internet–the wonderful sharing of ideas and the love of reading. Thinking to myself…I’d like to share some of my passion for books, and some of my experiences as a reader. So, shyly, I begin a blog.
Ten years ago this morning I sat down at my computer and started this blog with that first very short post. I had fallen in love with the new book blogging world online, and although I’m a shy and very private person, I wanted to take part in the celebration of books and reading that was happening at that moment in time. It’s been a wonderful ten years full of books and bookish friends!
So this morning I celebrate a decade of sharing with you my thoughts, memories, and ideas from a lifetime of reading! A heartfelt thank you to all of my readers/followers for being part of my reading life!
It started as a young girl’s dream: I wanted to be an exchange student! 50 years ago today, my dream came true. On January 25, 1967, at age 17, I received my acceptance letter from the American Field Service, (known today as American Intercultural Programs) and I began a journey that shaped my life in so many ways.
In 1963, I was inspired by our charismatic young president, John F. Kennedy, speaking to a group of American Field Service exchange students visiting the White House. (See the video link below of that speech.) His call for international understanding and his hope for our younger generation bringing peace to the world, touched my heart and set in motion my dream. 54 years later, his words still move and inspire me.
I can look back 50 years now to that January day and realize the full impact that letter of acceptance was to have on my life and thinking. That year shaped the young me into the adult I am today. That experience of living for a year in another country, completely immersed in another culture and language, shaped my view of the world and broadened my understanding of humanity. We all live similar lives and share similar hopes!
That year also shaped my beliefs about my responsibilities as both an American citizen and a citizen of the world. My experience as an exchange student is why I am so deeply concerned about the direction my country is taking under this new president with his hate-filled rhetoric and his closing of so many doors. But I realize that my experience of 50 years ago is also what gives me HOPE and direction. I know firsthand that there are many good, kind, caring people in the world, from all different cultures, that are committed to and working diligently for peace and understanding among nations and for human rights everywhere. That is what I will continue doing, as well.
“Everyone who comes here to live and study — every American who goes abroad to live and study — forges one more link of world understanding and sympathy.” ~ John F. Kennedy
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday, this country said goodbye to an intelligent, compassionate, decent, hardworking President and First Lady. For me, the end of his administration is a profound loss, and I am deeply concerned about what this incoming administration might do to our country and the world.
This week I read a couple of articles about how reading was so important to President Obama during his time in office. How wonderful to have a president who found both guidance and solace in reading during the most difficult job in the world!
So today, instead of watching hours of inauguration coverage of a man who relishes the attention of others above all else, I am going to READ. I’m not hiding my head in the sand. I will be very active in my responses to these new challenges for all Americans. But I will follow the lead of My president, Barak Obama, and read for guidance and solace at this very sad time.
The sun is out on this cold January morning. It is cheering, but not warming up very fast! The side roads around town are still icy, although the main roads are pretty good, so I was able to get back to my exercise class this morning and then stop at my favorite lookout point on my way home to take a winter photo of the snowfields and the coastal range. And now I am home again having a cup of coffee and listening to Vivaldi. Sunshine, good coffee, and beautiful music. Doesn’t that sound lovely?