“Out of Africa” 2. Burundi.
Like Rwanda, Burundi is a small but heavy populated country inhabited by two tribes, the Hutu and the Tutsi. In Rwanda, the Hutu majority killed off the ruling Tutsi minority in 1962 and governed the country until 1994. In 1972, the minority Tutsi regime in Burundi was challenged by a Hutu rebellion, which also had genocidal proportions, but the regime held power, although it was disrupted by several coups afterward. When I joined the World Bank in 1972, I was tasked to develop the Bank’s non-existing lending program in both countries and we had succeeded relatively well when I changed jobs in 1979. In 1994, the tribal conflicts resumed in Rwanda when Tutsi refugees from Uganda took power again after a horrific genocide in which up to a million people lost their lives. It started when the Rwandese president’s plane in which also traveled the Burundi President was shot down while landing at Kigali airport. Everything we had achieved was destroyed in Rwanda’s civil war. In Burundi, it was not much better. Rwanda stabilized in 2003, but Burundi remained plagued by repeated rebellions. Most horrific was the rebel’s and the Burundi army’s use of children between the ages of 10-16 in direct combat. The UN and the African Union had to intervene. Working on most of Africa was tough.
This picture shows me with the driver of the Peugeot 404 at the border post between Rwanda and Burundi in 1975. My Director, whom I accompanied on this trip took the picture.
The old colonial Paguidas Hotel where I stayed. Greek-owned. A Greek restaurant next to the hotel served fatty Greek dishes and meager chicken without meat. At night, ‘single male guests’ were surprised by knocking on their door, hearing a soft female voice saying, “c’est moi.” I suspected they were led to our rooms by the receptionist, who probably got a cut if the ladies found a willing customer. Complaining did not help: hungry families needed to eat and jobs were scarce. Later, they built a modern Meridien Hotel across. But the ‘nightly custom’ of whispers and knocks remained.
First visit of a World Bank Vice President (leaning over on the picture) to Burundi, which I had arranged to ‘put Burundi on the map.’ It succeeded: he approved proceeding with the proposed strategy and project operations. I am the one with the camera hanging from my arm. We were wearing sweaters as the temperature in Burundi (800 meters above sea-level) can be pretty cool. The picture was taken by someone who did not have color film in his camera. We were watching a spectacular drum and dance group performance Burundi was famous for.
I caught one of these fabulous dancers up in the air. Despite all fighting, tribal hatred and misery, the Burundi people showed a remarkable resilience.
Lake Tanganyika near Bujumbura town. Fishermen, mostly Hutus or Twa, a pygmy minority tribe, gathering on shore near their boats to fish sardines, which they dry onshore and sell at the market. A protein-rich fish Barundi people enjoy. At night they use torches to attract the fish which offers a fascinating view of dancing lights seen from the top of the hills on the outskirts of Bujumbura town. Read about it in ‘The Tutsi Queen’ https://amzn.to/2Ny1Ll6. On Kindle, only 99cts.
Lake Tanganyika by day. Across is the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kivu area, from which Hutu rebels invaded Burundi to unseat the Tutsi regime. The lake is inhabited by hippos and crocodiles. Expats used it for sailing. An expat club was located at the lake, not far from Bujumbura airport. Once, a lady swimmer was attacked by a hippo in the water near the club, where people often took a swim. She lost half her bottom but survived. Coming back at night in my (borrowed!) car from the airport, where I had said farewell to a friend, I almost ran into a hippo crossing the small road. A weird sight seeing such a huge animal emerging from the grass on the right and slouching to the other side. Remarkably, it did not seem bothered by my headlights and just strolled on and disappeared. Had I run into the huge colossus, it would have been certain death.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
I don’t know if some still remember Emperor Bokassa. He possessed three Boeings 707 while the country was dead poor. McNamara, then President of the World Bank, reportedly told him he was mismanaging his country but only achieved that Bokassa got rid of one Boeing. I set foot in this place in 1987, under a new regime but still ruled like a dictatorship. I managed to put a transport sector reform project together of $140 million in which many donors participated. The World Bank agreed to do so despite a major disagreement with the French Government that had committed to financing an earth road right through the Central African rainforest, the so-called ‘4th parallel road’. Construction eventually failed because unrest broke out and the Government toppled, once more. Our ‘TSP’ took off but implementation also suffered from government failure. Some pictures follow below.
The path of the 4th parallel road straight into the jungle. Pygmees and wildlife galore, including bush elephants. I found it an environmental disaster but the French Government – the former colonial power – won.
Supervising the 4th parallel road construction. The French engineer behind me found this job the dream of his life: constructing a road through a completely fresh terrain and on top of that a jungle. In the background a bulldozer hard at work, destroying beautiful tropical trees. But the precious wood got sold pretty good.
Trying to swing with the lianas of a tropical tree like Tarzan.
A waterfall near the forest.
Crossing the Oubangi River separating the Central African Republic from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A favored escape route for bandits and overthrown rulers.
Next time: Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.
Yes, that’s how one writer friend reacted when reading the manuscript of SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN – http://amzn.to/1QIL94B (If the link does not function, which often happens with WordPress.org, simply paste it into your url). My writing friend, was he jealous? Perhaps!
What made me write that book? Clairaudience, clairvoyance, clairsentience in the Library of the Maarten Maartens House in Holland, during a family reunion in 2002. As infidels in the medium-world, my cousin Anne and I did not believe we were in trance with Maarten Maartens, our Great-Uncle Joost Schwartz, who wrote so many novels and short stories in English that made him famous in the USA and the UK at the turn of the 19th/20th century. Under the pen name of Maarten Maartens. But we were! He died in 1915, leaving a wealth of literature behind: 13 published novels and four collections of short stories, plays, poems and even a detective story, the first ever written in Holland.
One short story collection was entitled Some Women I Have Known. Uncle Joost whispered: “Write your own!” And indeed, Anne and I decided to write our own “Some Women”, in memoriam of our Uncle Joe. When the trance dissolved, we looked at each other and laughed. When we told some hundred family members and guests, they laughed too: “Hah! You will never do that! All talk, no doing!”
Unfortunately, Anne passed away before we got underway. The project seemed doomed. But Uncle Joost kept working on me. You have to write your version, he kept telling me. And, I did as he did: I began by writing ten short stories about some of the women I had known and found important enough to commemorate, from my early years on. Then I turned the short stories into a memoir/coming-of-age novel, giving the narrator a fictitious name: John van Dorn, to create some distance from myself.
The novel starts with Audrey Hepburn, who came to play at my grandparents residence where I stayed on vacation, as a 13-year old girl when I was 7. She lived close by us, near Arnhem, during World War II, with her mother, Aunt Ella, her mother’s sister, her two half-brothers (who were taken prisoner by the Nazis but later found alive). They stayed in the house of her grandfather, Baron van Heemstra, formerly the mayor of Arnhem. We could, of course, not imagine she would become a wonderful film star ten years later. And I did not know I would meet her again much later in life.
Young Audrey at about 13 and a few years later taking ballet lessons in Arnhem, around 1947 (family pictures).
Audrey, when she was 21 modeling in London, in 1950/51, acting in cabarets, not yet “discovered”. A picture given to me by her mother that stood on our grand piano at home.
The novel continues with my funny adventures with two Anns during my early years of puberty, testing the waters with the other sex.
The next chapter is about my grandmother, “Lady D,” who left an indelible impression on me and whose wisdom and personality guided me through life. I like that chapter because people who knew her will recognize her manifold qualities as a wonderful human being who stood out above many.
The novel continues with my boarding school time when I, as a piano player, got to know a lovely cellist and started making music with her, a story that may surprise those who remember Catholicism in the nineteen-fifties because it took place at a time of strict Jesuit discipline that forbade any contact with the other sex!
My picture with the charming cellist taken by two courageous friends in the lobby of the boarding school. A most risky undertaking!
Then my naughty story about Tisja the Village Beauty, the seductive help in the house who became my “first” when I was serving in the army. Oh boy, the pitfalls of growing up!
I skipped the girls in my student time. One remains a painful memory, too painful to describe. It imploded during a brief but intense and emotional love affair with student pianist Geneviève at a Paris conservatorium.
From that adventure I returned brokenhearted to Holland to take on my first job and, vulnerable as I was, fell into the hands of a smart but destructive beauty. Irene Femme Fatale, I called her.
I am so thankful to the gods for having saved me from her tentacles. Why are males so naïve? Our libido, the male’s most dangerous flaw! Female scorpions kill their mates after the fun. In the case of us male humans, we fall into the trap, kill her before she kills us, or keep paying alimony for the rest of our life and even from our coffin after it’s over. OMG!
I fled Holland to take a job in Geneva, Switzerland. I thought I had found a marvelous girlfriend there. We shared some beautiful and passionate years until it broke on philosophy of life. Then it did not work out in my job either. It was boring, and I wanted a change. I think it was mutual. To sooth my losses, I went skiing but got lost in the woods. I almost froze to death. In half-delirium, I found my way back to my lodge and ran into that magnificent Viking, by pure accident.
Ingrid and I spent some wonderful days together, but again, it was not to be. Out of pure frustration, I took a job in Central Africa and swore to stay out of the female tentacles. In Burundi I met a Tutsi woman refugee, and you really have to read the story to know what happened!
Purified from all my failures, I took a job with the World Bank in Washington D.C., where I finally met the woman who brought me love and peace.
I personally feel that my version of Some Women I Have Known is a good read. We all live different lives but encounter similar moments. Several good 5 star reviews on Amazon.com attest to that.
Read it all in
Kindle or Paperback, and enjoy it with a cappuccino in the morning or a brandy in the evening.
By the way, the cute and stylish cover designs of the short stories are by Melanie Stephens of Willow Manor Publishing in Fredericksburg Virginia (www.willowmanorpublishing.com), who also published the novel.
PS: Don’t forget my novel Enchanting The Swan we showed last week: also a perfect Christmas gift!http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o
Why are we surprised? Whose memoir starts off with playing with Audrey when they were kids (she 13 and he 7) , only to discover ten years later that she has become a famous movie star winning an Oscar in Roman Holiday with the great Gregory Peck? I mostly remember her from these two encounters and when she trained in Arnhem, Holland, for ballet, shortly after World War Two. And the Audrey picture above and the dancing one below are private pictures that nobody else has! (The originals were donated to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund). If you click on the pictures most computers will enlarge them. Click back on the picture to get back to the Blog.
Who in his life can claim he met Audrey again 30 years later when she is an accomplished and widely acclaimed actress, with two great sons? Many people knew her and met her, few people knew her as a young, beautiful undiscovered young girl!
Sam says: This is a heartwarming collection of short stories that portray the path of boy meets world with realism and sensitivity. Perhaps most surprising are the different relationships that each story portrays – some were romantic, while others were more familial or close friendships. Those qualities, combined with the historical backdrop and international perspective, distinguish this book from the more typical and predictable storylines, making it a five-star read!
Get it at:
This may be the reason why so many want to read this story. But it’s not just Audrey, it’s the other women too, not all that famous but heartwarming females that upset any young lad growing up! Who does not love their grandmother like the author does?
Sure everyone’s grandmother is something special! This one was, a Grand Dame who left an indelible mark on the author’s mind and soul. Many want to read it as a matter of comparison, thinking, yes, that’s how my grandmother was, too!
And the first real love? That girl that knocks you of your socks when you are just 17?
Get it at: http://amzn.to/1QIL94B
If I told you that picture with the beloved girlfriend was taken in a heavily guarded Jesuit boarding school you would not believe it, but it’s TRUE.
Then that lovely pianist in Paris.
Who says that Paris does not upset anyone’s love life? Hundreds of books and movies ballyhoo about it, and you don’t believe it until you get bitten yourself! I am not sure how that city does it to young people, especially if you speak its language of love, as I did, if it is imagined, dreamt of, hallucination, or wishful thinking, or all of the above, but it turned me upside down. Everyone who went through the same experience, and many did, wants to compare with someone else’s experience, just to be able to say, yes! that’s how it felt! Yes, that’s how it was! And then to think that I and my adorable pianist ran into Sammy Davis in the Hermes store, getting his broad smiles and autographs on her shawl!
Get it at:
But I ran into big troubles too. Did anyone mess up because they met spider woman when they started their professional career? I did! Nothing more distressful then getting enamored by blond hair, artic blue eyes, a most enticing bright smile and a sexy seductress grabbing you by your….well you know what. Readers don’t want to miss that desperate episode. The author got out of it thanks to the blessing of his gods…oh boy, how that seductress could have destroyed his life…Remember that fabulous song “Here she comes! she is a Man Eater, Ho Ho Ho!?” Watch out!
And then he escapes to Switzerland, meets a loving woman he was too young to appreciate and breaks up once more, all to fall in love with a Norwegian Viking on the skis slopes that ends up in tears on both sides.
Ach! How difficult young life is. Loving and living love and it never stays the way it should be. Why does it have to be that way?
Dan Dwyer writes: I had read the author’s vignette on Audrey Hepburn a few months ago when I was looking for something short, different and personal because my daughter is a big Hepburn fan. Mr. Schwartz did not fail me then nor has he failed me now with his compilation of the women he has met in his life. This latest work, Some Women I Have Known, talks as much about the man himself growing up amount the fairer sex, which he learns almost too late in life has a decisive advantage over a man too eager to find life’s companion.
Get it at:
And so the deep sufferer left for Africa. Only a desperado would do that. But he got mesmerized by a dark figure, a magnificent black woman, strolling on a hill and she wanted something from him. No, not sex, not earning money to give her beauty away. She wanted freedom, away from mistreatment, longing for the moment she could employ her talents, flying away to unsurpassed heights, dislodge herself from imprisonment in a suffocating society, forced marriage and abusive treatment. A beautiful bird from the jungle, begging to be let loose from its cage to spread its wings and shoot out to heaven.
I don’t think I can ever forget Nyira, never. I don’t know where she is now, what finally happened to her when I got her out, but she did get her chance to live a better life.
And that’s the moment where young minds settle and reach some sort of maturity. It’s what they call coming-of-age. We all go through that one way or another. The only thing this author can say is that he was damn lucky he did not fall into the cracks. He finally met the woman he felt comfortable with. The opposite of what he started out with.
I think this is the element why so many want to read this love story. It’s out on Amazon. com, e-book and paperback. Don’t miss out on these stories, they inspired me to write them, and they will inspire you to read them.
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN – MEMOIR AND ROMANCE
KIRKUS REVIEW; “A WISTFUL MEMOIR…“
AMAZON.COM AND PAPERBACK
Audrey 16 years old
John 9 years old
John in Geneva and Audrey in Tolochenaz
My sweet memories of Audrey Hepburn are revealed in Chapter 1 of Some Women I Have Known, now published on amazon.com and soon available in paperback and hardcover. The short story I wrote some time ago is incorporated in this book.
My publisher, Willow Manor Publishing Inc., and I wanted it out by May 4, Audrey’s birthday. As many may remember, Audrey died of intestinal cancer in 1993. Maybe the horrible malnourishment during the war-years in Holland that she went through sowed the seeds for that illness in her body. Her departure from her close family and millions of friends shocked everyone. It depressed me for a long time. After her brilliant career as a movie actress, with that lovable face and her unique eyes and smiles, she devoted herself completely to the malnourished children of UNICEF in Africa, South-Asia, and the Far-East, till just a few months before her passing away.
My memories are only on the fringe of her life. I only knew her and her mother when I grew up, and more recently e-mailed a few times with her son Sean. She came to visit my grandparents with her mother and grandfather during World War II when they lived near Arnhem because they were family and good friends, and my grandparents lived close by. I happened to be there on vacation. It was a brief afternoon, the memory of which stuck in my mind because she was such a bright-smiled and amiable girl, some 6 years older than I, and we both suffered so much from this war, she more than I because she was older and her stepbrothers were taken away. Even a little boy remembers such things. In Some Women I Have Known I tell this story, and her sudden apparition many years later in Geneva where I worked and she stayed in nearby Tolochenaz, and we could remember this precious encounter when she was still a little girl herself, not yet discovered, trying to find her way under the guidance of her strong-willed mother, who I called “Aunt Ella.”
I can’t be but very sentimental about Audrey. Her whole life she kept mesmerizing us at home. She lived at the firmament and we were so amazed that the girl, who came by on a visit, became such a wonderful star. When I studied in Paris, she filmed Charade with Cary Grant and had no time to see me. When I finally succeeded in Geneva, by pure luck, she remembered and told me that filming Charade had been very demanding on her, not in the least because of the exacting Cary Grant.
I hope you enjoy Some Women I have Known. The novel is based on the nine short stories that I published under the same overarching title on Amazon before. I rewrote the stories into a self-standing novel to which is added the story Joy to the World (not previously published) which tells who the author (under the fictitious name of John van Dorn) finally marries. The content of some of the short stories has been slightly modified to mold them into a single story line.
The title of the novel is taken from the bundle of short stories originally written under the same title by Maarten Maartens, aka Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (1858-1915), my Grand- Uncle, which was published by William Heineman, London, and D. Appleton & Company, New York, in 1901. He wrote 14 novels and 4 bundles of short-stories, all still very readable and written in a luscious and illuminating style. His Some Women, in a reprint, is also available on Amazon.com, but their content is, of course, totally different from mine. The book explains why.
The back flap of Some Women I Have Known tells the interested reader that the novel is a coming-of-age tale in which John van Dorn searches for his true love and meets some playful, perilous, and wonderful women along the way. He rides a pony with soon-to-be film star Audrey Hepburn, senses his first fondness of female attention at elementary school, experiences tender moments with his cello-playing sweetheart while at boarding school, loses his virginity in a risky adventure, then savors several dangerous and unfortunate loves in Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva and the Swiss Alps, learning that life is full of losses and ephemeral relationships. After rescuing a woman in the middle of Africa and a narrow escape of life and death, he finally finds peace of mind with a warm and beautiful Caribbean goddess in the United States.
Each tale can be read in one sitting. So, relax and enjoy with a lush glass of wine, a smooth VSOP brandy or a cup of mellow cappuccino, and smile or drop a tear. The preliminary reviews are positive:
“Paying homage to his great uncle, an ex–World Bank professional makes his debut with a memoir featuring the series of women he encountered in his youth. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (or Maarten Maartens as he was called in publishing circles) scored the jackpot…
A wistful memory…” Kirkus Review.
Enjoy it, and give it a review and the stars you like.
Enchanté! Cheers! Proost!
While Mars Man is traveling back from St. Maartens to St. Mars to join his TV team at Mars City TV, we do a little advertising to pay the bills!
ENCHANTÉ has issued 10 short stories so far, all represented on the right, of which nine under the banner “Some Women I Have Known.” I borrowed this title from my Great Uncle Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (1858-1915), who wrote some 14 books and 4 bundles of short stories in the English language, mostly in the nineteenth century. His “Some Women”, though more “Victorian” in concept than the ones I have known, is still a good read. Except the Audrey and the Lady D stories, which are memoir, the other stories are told through the voice of John van Dorn, a fictitious alias, to avoid that potential readers might say “Hey, that’s me,” or “Hey, that’s her!”
I – The Audrey story is a Memoir of how 13-year old Audrey Hepburn entered my life when I was seven. I had wanted to write this story for a long time and finally did. Her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer found it “sweet” and sweet it is. She had an indelible impact on my life, as I could never have guessed she would become so famous and well liked the world over. Her birthday, May 4, is coming up and a good opportunity to buy this story as the revenues accrue to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.
II – The Two Anns memorize first loves, seen from a young male’s adventurous POV (point of view). There are many women I have met and forgotten, but you never forget your first loves. It would have been interesting to know how these first loves remember me and if they ever wrote that on paper.
III – Lucy The Cello Girl got John van Dorn hooked for life with her bow, phrasing heavenly music from her instrument, when he met her in the basement of his boarding school. A lover of classical music, he fell for her instantly, but young love has its tragic moments of inexperience, immaturity and doubts, and it took many years to materialize.
IV – Tisja The Village Beauty is the naughty story about how Peter, another “alias”, loses his virginity. I guess nobody forgets that moment in their life. It’s worth remembering and I had a good laugh writing it up.
V – Geneviève The Adorable Pianist pictures the classical Love in Paris. Many loves in Paris populate books and movies, but each one is different and this one is no exception. Even today, soaps return to the Eifel Tower, Trocadero, the river the Seine and the Ile de France. For all its picturesque flavor, Paris remains a pitfall for amour. This one got started while playing quatre mains at the piano at the famous Ecole normale de musique, “mains” that got closer and closer and… well, you read the rest.
VI – Irene Femme Fatale is the eternal refrain of young libido gone haywire and ending in predictable disaster. Women are smarter than man, because they got that superior gift of nature to lure the male into the dangerous act of procreation and… you better watch out.
VII – Lady D is a Memoir of the quintessential grandmother. Some people are greater than others, and she is one of those rare people. Yes, at one stage they pass away and go to heaven, but they live on never to be forgotten, staying at your side throughout life.
VIII – Ingrid The Magnificent Viking is a goddess John van Dorn meets on the ski slopes in the Swiss Alps at a moment of great distress in his love life that turns into even greater distress in a mishap of sorrowful circumstances that should never have happened.
IX – Nyira, The Tutsi Queen, tells the harrowing story how John van Dorn during a posting in Africa meets a fascinating Tutsi woman in Burundi and rescues her in a narrow escape from tribal persecution.
X – Killing the Elephant Poacher introduces Yves Bret, a former sergeant and sniper in the French Foreign Legion, as “The Boutique Killer” or “BK” for short, who carries out hit jobs only when he considers them justified. In this first story the Central African Republic hires him to kill a terrorist elephant poacher. After a harrowing march through the African bush in the company of a band of army rangers and a horrendous gun fight, he finds himself trapped in the compounds of the Minister of the Interior. What to do?
The short stories are published for Amazon.com by Willow Manor Publishing in Fredericksburg in Virginia, and the cover designs are the product of Melanie Stephens of the same company.
They are available on Amazon.com for Kindle reading at the ridiculous price of 99 dollar cents or there about depending where you are, well below cost. Get them for an easy read during the weekend! If you do, give a review, if you can, by clicking on the story’s review link on Amazon.com. It’s simple and won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time. We love your feedback.
Lastly, my romantic novel Enchanting The Swan is in the final stage and scheduled for publication in September. We will let you know!
All my best,