Working at Camp King Oberursel in the mid-1980s

On one of the ‘Camp King Open House’ events, I ran into Lale, whom I had met in 1998, when both our sons were at the same kindergarten. At the time of the event, she told me of her employment at Camp King in the 90s. So this is her little story about how she got the job and what working there meant for civilians.

Q: You have German and American citizenship, I assume. Was it easier getting a job in Camp King with an American passport?
 
A: Actually, I only have American citizenship, because dual citizenship for Germany and the USA was not possible then (*Lale was born on U.S. soil, so the U.S. Government does not recognize dual citizenship with Germany). When we moved to Germany, my stepfather took a job with the army in Offenbach, and that’s how we got an ID card with privileges. When he returned to the USA in 1981, we had to turn in our ID cards. We were still able to enter the the military camp as long as another soldier would sign us in. We had to present our passports, nevertheless.
 
Q: When and in what position did you work at Camp King?

 

A: I was part of the cleaning staff for the military base. My favorite place to work was the gym. I was even once nominated “Employee of the Month” (Lale added, “a thorough cleaning goes a long way”, while laughing). This award made me proud in the sense of my work being appreciated. Once I was even asked to clean the top-secret underground offices. I only cleared the bins in the company of an MP. We had to leave the building immediately after that.
I can’t quite remember how long I worked there. It was only a temporary solution until I could find permanent employment. I worked there sometime in 1984.

 

Q: During your time at Camp King in 1984, what are your most memorable moments?

 

A: Oh, the fun times we had (snickering). At the former Disco ‘La Soiree’ in the Vorstadt (today: Bärenarkaden shopping center), we used to party and sometimes went back to the base to party a little bit more. Ela’s Stübchen was also a popular spot. A lot of friendships developed during that time, some in a romantic way.
Years later, in the early 90s… there was one scary moment when I saw G.I.s walking the Camp King fence with their machine pistols. This could have been the time of the Kosovo war. The soldiers, usually always friendly, were under some stress during that time. I tried to stay away from that fence as far as possible on my way to the then nearest U-Bahn station ‘Kupferhammerweg’.
It must have been during that time that leaving camp became more restricted – no entry between 2 – 5am.
Some went out nevertheless and then we just partied till 5am, when the gates opened again.

 

Q: In those years you mentioned, 1984 to early 90s, did you live close to Camp King? Did you hear the daily reveille calls? Some German neighbors found this annoying.
 
A: Unfortunately, I can’t remember this. Our apartment was facing the Feldberg Mountain, and so it was relatively quiet. But I do remember loudspeakers all over the camp. There were also announcements made throughout the day, but I can’t remember about what.
 
Q: You had mentioned a plain building near the tennis courts? Was this a special place?
 
A: Right between the tennis courts and the motor park, there was this square building, made of cement, and I believe it housed the computer server and all the equipment. Once I had to cover my colleague’s shift and my task was to clean the bins and this had to be carried out in the presence of a civil servant.
Thanks, Lale, for sharing this with us.
Ela’s Stübchen in the Henchenstraße has been closed for a few years. I was there once, it might have been 2010, and then it was called the Schnitzel Haus by some friends.

A Good Reason to Travel

What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.

— William Least Heat Noon —

Sketched by Momoko Fujita

Sketched by Momoko Fujita

On the Road in Canada – Hopewell Rocks, NB

After our short break in St. Martins, we stopped at Hopewell Rocks in the afternoon.

These rocks, often referred to as flowerpot rocks, stand between 40 – 70 feet tall. These rock formations have been caused by tidal erosion.

We got a family pass for two adults and two children for C$ 20 to get into the park. This photo was taken from above, obviously, and later we climbed down the stairs. The park ward told us there are 96 steps (round trip), which did not impress us much. We have more steps to climb up and down in our apartment building in Germany.

Hopewell Rock, Canada

Hopewell Rock, Canada

The view below is just as interesting. There are even more mushroom look-alikes along the side of the cliffs.

Hopewell Rock

Hopewell Rock

The ebb and tide leave the sea in a constant murky brown. This coloration I had only seen in floods before.

brown sea

brown sea

Here is a bit of information what makes the Fundy tides so special.

Fundy Tides

Fundy Tides

And yes, we heard of some dangerous encounters with moose on the road. Fortunately, we only heard about them and got to see the warning signs along the road. We did not spot a single one.

Moose crossing

Moose crossing

Now we are heading back to Halifax, where we originally started our road trip. We will be spending one night there before heading to Lunenburg for our final place to visit.

Notes From Malaysia and India

Nobuko, world traveller and occasional guest-blogger, is reporting from Malaysia and India (February 2013).

The second leg of my year-long trip began in Japan. I had some rare reunions which were fun! And I got to meet my 6-month old nephew, a new addition to the family. I got to eat raw and grilled oysters and noodles like there is no tomorrow.

I had my fare share of sake and shochu as I had nighty-night drinks at the end of the day… So, no wonder the time in Japan and the preceding month in the U.S.A. put back all the weight I had lost (8 pounds), and hence my mother’s comment “You said you lost weight, but it does not look like it”.

From Fukuoka, I flew with China Eastern via Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur (KL). I do not recommend China Eastern to anyone. The layover in Shanghai was supposed to be only 3 hours, but it became a horrible 8-hour wait without any announcement of a clear explanation. And they changed departure gate three times, again without a clear announcement.

Anyway, I arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 5 a.m. I wanted to go to Pulau Pnagkor, but the first bus from the KL airport did not leave until 9:30am. I killed time by taking advantage of using its free wi-fi.

The bus was served by Star Shuttle, with very comfortable seats and a blasting AC. The trip was supposed to take 5-6 hours, but we made it to Sitiwan in 4.5 hours. From Sitiwan, there are buses to Lumit 10 km away which has a ferry dock to Pulau Pangkor. The ferry ride was 40 minutes and the round trip ticket was 10 MR.

Pulau Pangkor does not have buses, so I had to get a taxi which was 15 MR – very expensive considering a mere 4 km journey to Nipha Bay, on the west side of the island. There are tons of guest houses there, but cheap ones are not in abundance. I settled in a Nipha camp dorm for 20 MR.

I like beach towns. I like reading while lying in a hammock. Basically, I don’t do too much of anything. But this time, I met a mother-daughter team from Japan. The mom wanted to go on a scooter ride, but both herself and her daughter were scared of driving it. Hence I came into the picture as a driver. It had been well over 10 years since I drove a scooter (in Thailand), so I was a bit scared myself – especially when I saw that the vehicle they gave us was not a scooter, but a small motorcycle (1000 cc).

I practiced for 30 minutes going up and down the same street. Then I got the mom on the back and made a circle around the island. After about 30 minutes, I got the hang of it and I was able to enjoy the ride and the view.

Just as Chinese New Year rolled in, I went back to KL. KL is a wonderful city! Bukit Bingtan’s Alor street has loads of eateries and come alive after dusk with neon signs and crowds of people. I met a friend of my friend there and we had dinner. I really wish that I had given more time to Malaysia instead of only just one week. The locals are friendly, food is great, and the infrastructure is good.

From KL I flew Air Asia to Chennai, India. I had no particular reason to go to Chennai, but I wanted to see a sea side city in South India. I took the  train from outside the airport to the Egmore area (17 Rupees). The train was crowded, but having been baptized in Mumbai previously (which was far more crowded and cut-throat to get on or off), it was an easy ride.

I settled in the Triplicane neighborhood and shared a 450 Rupee room with a young Japanese boy I had met on the plane. The couchsurfing group in Chennai is very active, so some of them came out to hang out a few times.

One member invited me to his wedding although we had never met in person. I went to the temple on the wedding day, but there were well over 50 weddings happening at the same time! So I could not find his party. But I was adopted by another party who had nothing to do with me, and I observed the wedding and even ate lunch with them. This is Indian hospitality, everyone.

Wedding in India

After Chennai, I took a night train (12 hrs) to Guntakal. From there, I took three buses which took another 5-6 hours, and finally reached Hampi. It is one of the largest open air museums, with ruins everywhere and most of them free to enter. I took a bike tour for 350 Rupees. It was good, but having been to Cappadocia in Turkey, it is pretty hard to feel the same magnitude of excitement.

Hampi, India

Sure, Hampi is Hampi, Cappadocia is Cappadocia, but… Hampi has a big pot scene with many tourists who look like hippies, but mostly the young crowd. The highlight of Hampi for me was meeting (and touching) the temple elephant, Lakshmi!!  If you give a 10 Rupee note, she gently takes it with her trunk and blesses you by touching your head with her trunk!!

She is massive, but makes no sound when she walks. And the way she walked had a funny swing to it, she was just so cute!

Blessing from Laskhmi, the elephant

From Hampi (well, really from the town of Hospet), I took another night train to Hyderabad, again a 12-hour ride. After reaching the train station at 6:45am, I took the city bus # 127 to Jubilee Check post, where the couchsurfer Arun came to pick me up. As he had to work that day, I took buses into the Old City part. This involved three buses and 90 minutes. In cities, the points of interests are spread out, and couchsurfers tend to live outside the center, so this was expected.

The Old City was very authentic. Charminar (4 pillars) offers a great view from the top. There are big pearl and silver/gold jewelry areas, but the merchants hardly ever approached me. So I was able to browse and look around in peace.

This night, around 7pm, there were three bomb blasts about 10 km from the Old City, which took the lives of 30 some people and wounded 50 more. By this time, I was back at the couchsurfer’s house, and only came to know about it by a phone call from a friend. My host came home with carry-out food since going out into the street involved many police check points.

The next day, public transportation was back to normal, so I went to Golconda Fort (again, three buses and 90 minutes ride). I like forts. I was completely in heaven when I had visited Rajasthan for this reason.

But the Golconda Fort was equally great. It offers a 360-degree panorama view of the city of Hyderabad. In one area, you can see modern high-rises and domes of the old mosques behind the fort wall – I think this view represents today’s Hyderabad very well. But the heat and dehydration took a tall on me – on my 3rd day here, I had a massive headache and felt exhausted. So I slept the whole day away – and wrote this.

A Good Reason to Travel

The happiest asks directions, even though he knows the way.

– unknown –

Somewhere in South Africa