I finally got to writing my Memoirs. In the process, I remembered my many cultural shocks. If you traveled the world over as I did, you may recognize some of your own experiences.
THE “WEST” AND “SORT OF WEST”
- USA: Americans think only they are sane. The rest of the world thinks Americans are insane and they are sane. And everything in America looks and tastes the same, and their girls are xenophobic.
- Russia: Taking a bath is against the rules unless you do it in vodka.
- Holland: Bikers don’t look right or left and run you over, yelling YOU are stupid. Plus ample dog poop and the only place where I got robbed three times over the years by the same people. Guess once: Starts with an “M”, Holland’s most popular ethnic Moroccan invaders.
- Belgium: Toilet paper cut from old newspapers and no sinks to wash your hands. Language either Flemish or Walloon, either way unintelligible. Breakfast: French fries, mussels, and beer (or “rouge”, red wine). Lots of smokers.
- France: Toilets with black holes, no seats, and pissed-over footsteps and no sinks to wash your hands. Plus subway stink is the world’s worst. And heaps of dog and pigeon poop. Food is way too expensive and waiters are rude. And French love is a myth. Americans in Paris made that up because they don’t know what love is either, only in the movies. But I made some very good friends and had lovely moments.
- Spain: Males can’t leave a girl alone. Females are locked up 24/7. And I can’t sing serenades in Spanish.
- Portugal: As many windmills as in Holland. They look spooky. Don Quixote traveled from Spain to Portugal to fight them.
- Italy: Males can’t leave a girl alone. And females eat too much pasta. And there’s too much pigeon poop, too.
- Germany: One menu only: bier, wurst, und sauerkraut. And too much hoompa hoompa.
- England: no menu at all, only rain, and after joining the EU they still drive on the wrong side of the road. Maybe that will change after Brexit.
- Ireland: All Irish have gone to New York to join the Democratic Party. Only Poles and Romanian pickpockets are left.
- Scotland: Rain, cold weather, smoking chimneys, and nobody speaks English.
- Switzerland: Swiss-French unintelligible; Swiss-German unintelligible, Swiss Italian, well, who knows; I don’t speak Italian. Traffic priority signs for frogs, cows, and turtles. The Swiss put holes in their cheese to attract American off-shore money. Raclette sits in your stomach for two weeks and causes terrible farts that kill your co-worker in seconds.
- Rwanda: Twice destroyed in thirty years with old colonial help.
- Burundi: Twice destroyed in twenty years with old colonial help.
- Central African Republic: snakes in and/or under your bed, wasps in your toilet, and pygmies running between your legs.
- Cameroon: The food looks great but you can’t eat it.
- Congo-Kinshasa: Everybody cheats.
- Congo-Brazaville: Nobody cheats. It’s forbidden by law.
- South Africa: Go visit a shopping mall to get shot at and run for your life.
- Tanzania: Dar es Salaam has too many SUVs and nobody knows how they were paid for.
- Kenya: Wildlife is for tourists and the airport road is to kill the tourists.
- Ethiopia: The table cloth is edible but you wouldn’t think that when you go to bed.
- Mali: That’s where Timbuktu is and when I got there I finally understood why everybody says it’s nowhere.
- Guinea: Why for heaven’s sake did the colonialists put that country on the map?
- Ivory Coast: Must be called Côte d’Ivoire to show it was once French and that’s why it is what it is.
- Ghana: The only place in Africa on the West Coast that seemed to work because it had a direct KLM flight from Amsterdam.
- Nigeria: The one place in Africa that should work but doesn’t. Night flight out to safety.
- Bangladesh: Delicacy: cockroached curry. Eating with your fingers; spit reservoirs in every corner of every corridor; toilets are bastions of urine, providing the main perfume in office buildings; and beware of the Dhaka “run” if you want to survive.
- India: more of the same, but a little bit more sophisticated and the best food in the world. And heavenly Kashmir should be declared neutral territory for everyone to enjoy, not just Islamists, not just Hindus, not just Pakistanis. Just let it be.
- Malaysia: A mushroom garden with millions of multicolored edible mushrooms and a McDonald’s in Kuala Lumpur. What a place to live.
- Singapore: The country that everyone wants to ape but only Singaporeans know how to run.
- Taiwan: The only place where China is not China but everyone speaks Chinese and a tree you can slide through to become rich if you don’t fear getting stuck in the middle for the rest of your life.
- Philippines: Manila TV is like American TV – just as awful. In the countryside you find its beauty, but you may get struck by a typhoon.
- Indonesia and Bali: Djakarta is like Lagos, but outside the city, Java is a jewel. And on Bali, they serve the best suckling pig on earth. Go visit Bali’s interior to see the real Indonesia and its terraced rice fields. Heaven on earth. But the hotel bills are hellish.
- Hong Kong: British geniality mixed with Chinese Confucianism. Foremost a good cuisine, especially on the street, but everyone wondered how long the good life of one country two systems would last when the Brits handed it over to Communist China. The day of reckoning has come.
- China: More bikers than in Holland, and I never had real Chinese food before, not even in Amsterdam or NY China Town.
- Macao: Beware! Bought my wife a sapphire ring that turned out a piece of colored glass.
- Japan: Plastic food in the window is for show and not for eating. You must bow when meeting people in the elevator. And even a GPS can’t find where you’re going.
- Hawaii: advertised as little Asia but no, it’s pure America.
- Saudi-Arabia: The place where beautiful women are kept in hiding and your head gets cut off if you dare looking at them when they come strolling out after 11 p.m., or for saying something about their beauty.
- Lebanon: A Falafel tastes as good as a bomb.
- Jordan: An oasis in the desert and the only place in the Middle-East where I could ride a horse, have dinner in the open with a lovely woman, and feel at home, and where I might have stayed if she had said “yes.”
- Guyana: Loud. Loud dogs, loud crickets, loud vehicles, loud music, loud people but great curry and the best rum in the world. Drives on the wrong side of the road because the British stole Guyana from the Dutch in the 100-year European wars. Beautiful and savvy women, always showing a pleasant smile; and everything stays the same.
- Surinam: Neighbor of Guyana and awfully isolated but Surinamers don’t mind. People speak fluent Dutch (the only country outside Holland and Flemish Belgium that does) as Surinam was a Dutch colony until 1975. My greatest shock was that while speaking Dutch they are not Dutch at all, and their beautiful women bite.
- Curacao: The place to live but too expensive to retire.
- Bonaire: For scuba divers and iguana lovers only.
- Jamaica: The place where I spent my Millennial and tore both of my shoulder tendons when climbing back into my capsized sailing boat, leaving me burdened with lifelong Jamaicanitis.
Why should we be surprised that so many like this memoir/coming of age story? On a first Goodreads giveaway of only 2 books it got some 600 entries!
(If the links do not function- sorry, a WordPress Issue- kindly copy them into your browser/url)
Whose memoir starts off 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 remember her from when she came to visit us during World War II when she lived near us in Arnhem at the house of her grandfather, Baron van Heemstra, with her mother and two stepbrothers. She told me she practiced for ballet at the Arnhem Conservatory. I drove her in my pony wagon but did not really know what she was talking about!
The Audrey picture above and the dancing one below are private pictures that nobody else has! I donated them to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.
Thirty years later we met again in Geneva when she was an accomplished and widely acclaimed actress, with two great sons. Many people knew her then but few people knew her as a young, beautiful undiscovered star at age 13 (picture left).
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. The other woman who till to-day, remains an anchor in my life is my grandmother, who appears in the book as “Lady D.” 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, thinking, yes, that’s how my grandmother was, too!
Then follow the heartwarming females that upset any young lad growing up!
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.
Paris upsets anyone’s love life. Hundreds of books and movies ballyhoo about it, and you don’t believe it until you get bitten yourself! That city does it to young people, especially if you speak its language of love, as I do. Imagined, dreamt of, hallucination, or wishful thinking, probably all of the above, turned me topsy-turvy. 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 the author 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 but when the relationship sours because of differences in viewpoints and objectives in life, he breaks up once more, only 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 is. 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 African woman, strolling on a hill who 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, ever. 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 she did.
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 between the cracks. He finally met the woman he felt comfortable with. The opposite of what he had imagined.
I think this is the element why so many want to read this love story. It’s out on Amazon. com, Kindle e-book, paperback and hardcover. Don’t miss out on these stories, they inspired me to write them, and they will inspire you when you read them.
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN – MEMOIR AND ROMANCE
KIRKUS REVIEW; “A WISTFUL MEMOIR…“
AMAZON.COM KINDLE, PAPERBACK AND HARDCOVER.
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, whom 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 storyline.
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 my 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.
Oh boy! What was Steve mad! Ranting like Jillert Amane! The great all time supporter of the all time Olympic US Blade Skating team! His “investment”did not pan out this time. Cutting “Dutch” Tulips furiously in half on Prime Time TV! Showing contemptuously the famous Dutch “wooden shoes” that are only used in “Holland” to please the American tourists. At some point I was afraid he would throw the wooden shoes at me from the screen. What a show.
OK, the Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema touched a bit hard on the favorite US national sport, “football” (which is called “voetbal” in Holland translated into “soccer”in the USA and then made into “football” here, but the “foot” is only used when punting for a goal, whereas in the “real football” it’s all with the foot. Rugby, called after a town Rugby in England where it was developed in the 16th century, is a bit of a mix, but played without all the overdone body armor as in US football). But was Jillert not a bit right with the current criticism in the US media on NFL stars turned “knuckleheads” for the rest of their life after so many head-injuries?
I take issue with the hurt of the American media saying that Jillert’s “rant” was “Anti-American”. That is a typical self-conscious reaction. His point was that if the USA want to participate in international speedskating, it needs to better prepare to win, and maybe spend a little less on national football, which is not an international sport. Holland is not anti-American but your best friend, and friends quibble occasionally. We all remember Shani Davis, an AFRICAN AMERICAN on SKATES!, winning the all round world championships in 2005 and 2006 and gold on the 1000 meters at the 2010 Olympics. What happened to the team?
Now, let’s go down to Steve’s accusations that the Dutch don’t even know how to call their own country; “Holland”, “Netherlands”, “Low Countries”, or whatever. It’s YOU, Steve, who doesn’t know. It’s them “foreigners” who call us that.
Item: “The Netherlands” MEANS “Low Countries”. “Nether” means “lower”.
item: in 1588, the Dutch and the British beat the Spanish Armada! “Viva Olanda”! Stands for Holland.
item: in 1688, William III “stadholder”of the then “Republic of Holland” (it was not The Netherlands yet, though the lands were low) beat the French Louis the Fourteenth to french fries (translation: smithereens) by becoming King William III of England through his marriage with Mary Stuart, affectionately called “King Billy”in Scotland and Northern Ireland (yes, that’s the same guy of the College of “William & Mary”). Louis the Fourteenth reportedly said: “ces salauds des Pays-Bas” (those bastards of the “low lands”) – Vive les Pays-Bas!
item: around 1614, the Dutch established “New Netherland” (Nieuw Nederland) along the Hudson River, which became “New Amsterdam” and remained so until the British took over in 1665 and named it New York. That’s a good one. You weren’t even Americans then! I’m sure that if at that time we had the Amsterdam coffee shops you Americans love so much, Holland would have stayed by popular demand and you would not have needed the Boston Tea Party with all its current ramifications.
item: New York has a famous Holland & Holland gun room, a town called “Holland”, and so many other things called “Holland”, including double-dutch and going dutch, not to forget my dutch uncle.
We call “Holland” “Nederland”, which means “low land”, since a good deal of it is below sea level, but you foreigners prefer “Holland” to “The Netherlands” because it’s shorter. Can we help that?
And please don’t throw those Dutch shoes at us. You would miss them. It is reported you wear them at home for comfort.
As for the Olympics, coach Jillert Anema was right: speedskating is a world sport, and US football is not (he was joking that you always think you ARE the World, but you aren’t anymore since Michael Jackson passed away). USA (350 million people) won second place with 28 medals (11 gold), Norway (5 million people) won third place with 26 medals (9 gold) and LowLand Holland alias The Netherlands (16.8 million people) won fourth place with 24 medals (8 gold). In sum Norway did best. But USA Meryl Davis and Charley White were fabulous in figure skating. Just wonderful. I loved them (but your Canadian neighbors think Putin rigged the figuring to help Obama out of his care mess). The Dutch are speedskaters and you do what you are good at, internationally.
As for the Blade US Skating team, why not just buy them
After all, the US team’s T-shirt you showed on TV was made in Bangladesh!(Donate now and help put skaters on track for winning Olympic medals — plus, for any donation over $30, you’ll receive a Colbert Nation/ Speedskating shirt!)
Your TV sports guy says football is much more “exciting” than two guys or girls racing “round and round”. True, speedskaters don’t pound on their competitors, they only do “sport”. That’s boring.
And why do you call us Hollanders “Dutch”? Again, not our fault and it’s so confusing. We call ourselves “Nederlanders”, but in English that sounds too much like “Neanderthals”. The great American informed people might not know the difference. So better keep it at “Dutch”. Dutch derives from the word “Deutsch”, the language that developed in the Germanic countries in Europe as of the Renaissance. Dutch are not “Pennsylvania Dutch”, these originate from Germany. English-speaking people pronounced Dutch language “Dutch” because it was part of the “Deutsch” or “Germanic”languages. But the Dutch language is quite different from German (compare for example Spanish and Portuguese). But why then was President Reagan nicknamed “Dutch”? Nobody really knows, unless from Reagan’s Memoirs that his father nicknamed him “Dutch” because as a baby he looked like a “fat Dutch boy”. Wherever he got that from is a mystery to me. He may have looked at that ad showing a Dutch boy smearing his bread with Dutch butter and growing up “strong”.
So, Steve, stop confusing us names. Get your skating team to use Dutch butter and the USA Blades will go speedy gonzales like your Amtrak or our TGV.