I do want to thank every one of you who thought of us in this sad situation by writing letters or greetings or phoning us, which helped us through these difficult months and weeks of Edith's illness. Thinking of you all with much love,
Ruthie and all our family need to start building a new life, and gossip can be very damaging. Greetings,
Ruth Baer will present a session on "How My Hutterite Schooling Prepared Me For Life On The Outside." J.S. Hofer and M. M. Maendel are presenting "The History Of The Hutterians." Bruderhof Woodcrest School director Ian Winter will present "Hutterite Children: Preparing To Face The World In The 21st Century."
For those of you who have visited us, you know what I mean by 'early Bohemia' life style. I warned Rhea of what to expect and she responded, accepting our offer. I was somewhat concerned as I had just finished renovating one bathroom and was working on the second. Anyhooo -- I went to San Francisco International Airport Friday afternoon, leaving Walnut Creek at 3 P.M.
For those of you unfamiliar with West Coast traffic and San Francisco Bay area specifically, anyone who attempts heading out of San Francisco on a Friday afternoon is either crazy or a masochist. There are stories (true) of taking several hours to go a few miles. Maybe it was an omen of the visit, but wonders of wonders, Rhea and Becky arrived on time and we were able to make it home in under two hours! Charlie had graciously offered to stand in as host for few hours if the traffic was bad, but we did not have to avail ourselves of his offer. Traffic was moderate and we had no problems
The bad part was that the weather was bad -blah-blues-blah bad. Foggy and overcast, so none of the scenic wonders were visible. We arrived home to a fire in the fire place and bit of supper. Rhea is an extremely interesting person, not one to fit in any mold. She and Becky told us quite a bit of their travels and experiences of the past year.
Becky and our girls, Nancy and Sarah, seemed to get along right away. I just asked the girls for a report and Sarah said, "She (Becky) taught me some new tricks on the roller blades!" I am afraid Nancy and Sarah were somewhat of an influence on Becky. The girls watched TV and video movies a lot (when not roller-blading). As Becky said, TV programming in their area of Australia is almost nonexistent.
One of the pleasant things of KIT is the meeting of new people. In this case, through the Welhams we have made some new friends. It is always interesting to learn of new people and new views. Being a teacher, Rhea had a different view of life and the people of Australia. With typical Ostrom luck, Diane's car, the wagon we use for guest transportation, quit. We had to use my pick-up.
I don't know if Rhea was being polite or really did not want to make the tourist circuit. Instead, we had some very interesting discussions ranging from difference of life and education in various parts of the world to the content and meaning of the Celestine Papers/Celestine Prophecy. We ended by discussing cabbages and Kings yet were not able to resolve any major world issues. It worked out well as the weather was rotten and we didn't have real reliable, comfortable transportation. We did go to visit with Kevin and the people he is staying with at San Rafael. As a side detour we went to Stinson Beach, a rather nice but small beach on the Pacific Coast. Again, the girls seemed to have a great time getting wet (it was rather late in the afternoon when we got there and also very cold).
We, the KIT staff, had hoped to get together one evening for the 'traditional dinner' at the local Asian restaurant on 24th Street near Ramon and Judy's, but it didn't work out. Instead, we let the girls pick the place to eat and they chose the local "Sizzler". I don't know how national the chain is but they serve a good smorgasbord. Nancy and Sarah like it as it is rather informal and one can 'make their own' dinners.
We got them packed and ready on the 8th and again, made it to the airport with minimum hassle. We saw them off, they were headed for Los Angeles where they connected with their flight home. It is one of the positive aspects of KIT that, through the Wellhams, we have met and made interesting new friends.
by Andres Tapia and Rudy Carrasco, in Rifton, New York.
Men in plaid button-down shirts and overalls held up by suspenders and women in bonnets and sixteenth-century-style skirts are industriously busy around the room. One logs on to the Internet to check the day's electronic mail messages and postings to the group's web site. Another handles calls on its 800 number for orders for the movement's line of old-fashioned wooden kids' toys and state-of-the-art disability equipment that contribute to the community's $20 million in annual revenues...
Lately, the agenda for this Anabaptist religious group has been brimming with controversial issues, including a passionate campaign for a stay of execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Black Panther journalist on death row who was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. There also have been painful splits with other Hutterite groups and fending off of ex-Bruderhofers' accusations that the Bruderhof is a cult...
Many who encounter the Bruderhofers' commitment to fundamental Christian principles respond with admiration. Catholic thinker Thomas Merton used Bruderhof founder Eberhard Arnold's book "Why We Live in Community" as the "completely Christian answer" to the question of genuine community living.
Living out Christian ideals, however, has not made for a tranquil journey. Throughout their history, the Bruderhofers' road less-traveled has embroiled them in public and internal controversies...
FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE: The Bruderhofers' radical pacifism leads them to butt heads naturally with the state over issues such as the death penalty and in the process end up as part of unusual and controversial coalitions. In the Mumia Abu-Jamal case, the Bruderhof are working alongside the NAACP and Move, the urban, secular, African American, politically radical group that made headlines a decade ago when Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on one of their buildings...
HUTTERIAN SPLITS: Although the Bruderhof have found unity in opposing racism and social injustice, they have found themselves increasingly as splintered and isolated as when their movement was founded.
From the beginning in 1920, the relationships between the Bruderhof and the other Hutterite groups have been complex. At that time, Eberhard Arnold, Johann Christoph Arnold's grandfather, founded the Bruderhof in Germany. According to Rich Preheim, assistant editor of the Mennonite Weekly Review, when Arnold established the Bruderhof, patterned after the sixteenth-century Hutterites, he did not know that the direct religious descendants of Anabaptist leader Jacob Hutter were living in North America, organized around three colonies. "Since then the 'traditional' Brethren, the Western Hutterites, and Arnold's Bruderhof [Eastern Hutterites] have had an on-again, off-again relationship, which is now off," Preheim says....
FALSE ACCUSATIONS? In recent years, another struggle for the Bruderhofers has struck closer to home.
For more than a year, the Bruderhof have faced chronic friction from a group of people who have left, 200 of whom loosely identify themselves as Children of the Bruderhof (COB).
COB's accusations against the Bruderhof include punishing dissent with expulsion, preventing some former members from communicating with family still in the group, trying to harass ex-members into silence, and not adhering to all the tenets of the faith. Bruderhofers admit mistakes, but they accuse COB of misrepresenting circumstances.
A typical example of this verbal sparring is an accusation by COB member David Ostrum that Bruderhof elder Arnold compromises his pacifist position by owning a permit to carry a handgun. Arnold acknowledges that a few years ago he acquired a gun to deal with rabid animals on Bruderhof property, but within two months, he realized that having the weapon was a bad idea and sold it.
Central to the disputes is what COB members believe is the needlessly harsh discipline of children and the overly restrictive control of adult members. In addition, COB members also have been prevented from seeing relatives still among the Bruderhof. Bruderhofers say family members want it that way, and that children are expected to abide by strict morals.
When teenagers graduate from high school, they make a decision whether to join the Bruderhof as adult members. As for adult converts to the Bruderhof, the Hutterites say they let them know up front they are expected to renounce private property, tobacco, television, and premarital sex. "The decision to join the Bruderhof community is the individual's," says Ian Winter, a Bruderhof leader. "No one is forced into any decisions."
Recent meetings between the Bruderhof and COB members attempting reconciliation have only accentuated tensions between the two groups.
A PROPHETIC WITNESS: As the Bruderhof face the challenges of societal injustices and of unresolved internal issues, their community life continues to attract handfuls of refugees from American materialism.
In 1990, physicians Diane and Paul Fox and their four children were living an affluent, hectic lifestyle that left them weary and burdened.
"My first response when I visited [the Bruderhof] was excitement and joy," Diane Fox says. "My second response was, paradoxically, one of dismay. It became more and more clear to me that in order to attain the freedom that Christ was offering me in community, I would have to give up all the false freedoms that I had worked so hard to acquire: all the money, all the status, all the apparent security."
Yet, the family has adjusted to the simple lifestyle. "My service is small: I practice medicine, I take my turn at preparing a meal or watching the children, I run an errand, answer the phone occasionally." Diane Fox says. "The miracle is that we receive a hundred fold for the small service that we do. The cars are maintained, the meals prepared, the laundry and cleaning done, the daycare provided, the gardens tended, the children taught, the elderly cared for—all for love, and all for free."
A vital part of the Bruderhof ministry has been to provide a Christian witness to the fact that there are viable alternatives to American consumer-driven living. Derek Perkins, executive director of Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena, California, has been helped by Bruderhof interns for seven years.
"The Bruderhofers believe that the radical teachings of loving your enemies, serving the poor, being nonviolent, and holding all things in common of Jesus are for the here and now," Perkins says.
Preheim, however, expresses caution about such a lifestyle. "Living in community can be a dangerous thing," Preheim says. "Intentional communities don't have a successful record."
Although the Bruderhofers agree that their radical discipleship puts them on a collision course with American culture, they confidently intermingle Christian community living and social activism into a potent vision of faithfulness.
Back in July at the successful stay of execution hearings for Abu-Jamal, a letter was read from Bruderhof member Richard Thomson, in which he said that if the stay was not granted, "I want to offer my own life and accept the lethal injection... so that [Mumia] may live and your law be satisfied."
Copyright 1995 Christianity Today, Inc./Christianity Today Magazine
How come that nobody on the bruderhofs has this courage to look for the truth up close at their own doorsteps, concerning the outrageous injustices perpetrated by them against their members, ex-members and their children??
Continuing on page 28 in the same issue (where they write concerning Mumia's case): "The attempt of silencing this 'voice of those silenced-to-death' is obvious. His books and publications bring to light that which everybody should know."
A paragraph further, it reads: "We felt that he had to perceive the significance of the call of Jesus in The Sermon On The Mount in new freshness!
May I ask, "What call?" How Chaff-Sequa!! It appears that the same brain-twister is guestimated with different criteria.
Concerning The Hornet's Nest with the ex-Bruderhofers and their children, the procedures of the Bruderhof come clearly to light in the following sequence: 1. Silencing-to-death all and any gripes and reproofs. 2. Ridiculing. 3. Threatening 4. Go on the attack, take legal action.
May I ask, "Is this the perception you Bruderhofers have gained by your elucidation in new-freshness of the call of Jesus in The Sermon On The Mount?"
On the one hand, the Bruderhofers go into lucid detail about this murderer of the policeman and his death sentence, and on the other hand they sue the ex-Bruderhofers and their own children over the use of the name "Bruderhof" and also, call the police against other of their children for trespassing on their parents' property. Whereas these people who had only small squabbles in the past with the leadership and were put on the psychological scaffold for this by the Bruderhof, are now publicly sued by the Bruderhof leadership.
Again: How Chaff-Sequa!!
I am enclosing three little recent 'Innisfree' poems [see "Poetry" section -- ed.] which will have a more general acceptance, I guess, than the others. Jere Bruner is really gifted -- I like his poetry, and Susanna Alves Levy is superb at re-creating those early Paraguayan times from the viewpoint of an adolescent. About 25 years ago when she was living in Porto Alegre, Susanna invited Roger and me to visit during the summer. Roger was writing his book and she also was experimenting with short stories. They compared notes and encouraged each other. Afterwards, she went to Switzerland and England, where we did meet again.
I've been very pleased to hear from my daughter, Betty, that friends of hers have read Roger's book with great interest. Jean-Pierre likewise found someone very interested, so it's good to know that there's a wider interest than just the ex-membership of the Bruderhof. Of course, these were friends of one of his children.
Betty has just been visiting me and saying that I should have a computer to cope better with correspondence, etc. Leonard made the same suggestion, but I pooh-poohed him. But apparently Betty thinks I am not too stupid to learn how, so I'm letting the idea sink in... Actually the idea of writing more has been waiting in the wings for me to get sufficiently detached from my passion for planting things. Once you've planted them, you have to weed them and water them and harvest them and dry them and, in the case of beans and onions, keep a constant check on them lest they get beetles or start to rot. There's also the coffee, which takes an awful lot of work if you do it all yourself. But by now, of course, I don't like any other coffee. However, I really have begun to change my priorities...
From all the news one watches and reads, I get more and more the impression that there just isn't any way out for humanity. We've gone astray and are hopelessly lost. I remember Roger and I saying that to each other about ten years ago, observing the inexorable spread of rubbish everywhere brought on by our so-called civilization. It did seem to us that there would have to be some cataclysm to wash all that away, and it's not just the physical rubbish, but the moral rubbish everywhere as well. Best Wishes to KIT staff and others,
My uppermost feeling, over the years is profound gratitude that I was pushed out of the confinement of the community and have had the opportunity to experience many things. The older I get, the more broadminded and eager I am for new experiences and wider horizons. The more self-confident I am, the more tolerant I become of belief systems and life styles different than mine. I realize, more and more, how tolerant and flexible God is, and how there are myriads of roads up the mountain.
I recently came across the following passage, spoken by Sai Baba of India, which I thought you all would enjoy and be able to relate to:
"It is good to be born in a church, but it is not good to die in it. Grow and rescue yourselves from the limits and regulations, the doctrines that fence in your freedom of thought, the ceremonials and rites that restrict and direct. Reach the point where churches do not matter, where all roads end, from where all roads run. Pardon the other man's faults, but deal harshly with your own."
This passage is not only applicable to our experience, but to the experience of all limiting belief systems that have held humankind captive over the millennia. So the more humanity can break free mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically, and pursue honestly a path of "truth," everyone's individual truth, the more society will be liberated.
I am currently reading a book that deals with all these things in a refreshing and unorthodox manner. The title is Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, by Neal D. Walsch. For anyone out there who is asking questions regarding the very basic questions of life, this is a thought-provoking book that goes to the very heart of man's search for meaning and direction. Greetings of love to all of you,
This has been a year of change. On March 15, we became grandparents with the arrival of Tristen, Reuben and Jeanne's new son born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Reuben is doing an English major at the University of New Mexico, and Jeanne, full-time mom at this point, is planning to go back to school for her Master's in Social Work. They are seriously considering moving back to the D.C. area, which would definitely thrill the grandparents!
After 30 years (for David, less for the rest) with the Church of the Saviour, it became clear this year that as much as we loved the people and the missions of C. of S., it was necessary for us to find a faith community that provided a strong peer group for our three younger children. After a long summer attending a variety of churches, we finally settled on St. Stephen's and the Incarnation, an Episcopal Church in downtown D.C. St. Stephen's has a strong mission in Loaves and Fishes, a meal program, and a sense of commitment to the neighborhood children who come for tutoring after school as well as for church on Sundays -- both important factors in our choosing.
Wendy continues as Director of Kidspace House of Ruth Child and Family Development Center, for families who are homeless and at risk. Recently they moved to larger quarters and currently are working hard to get the necessary approvals to open their expanded program. They are looking forward to opening a new component serving infants and toddlers and their families, as well, early next year.
David continues as Director of Finance and Administration for Manna, Inc., building and renovating homes for low-income families in D.C. He enjoys the unique combination of financial management and mission that Manna provides in building some 60 homes per year. To keep fit, David took up running this June. All was well until he recently suffered a short-term foot injury trying to run 10 miles in 90 minutes. (A 57-year-old male ego is a terrible thing to behold!)
Viviane turned 12 this summer and entered middle school (6th-8th grades) in the fall. She is clearly a pre-teenager with an increasing interest in science and how things work. She and Eliana are showing their Brazilian blood be becoming top soccer players in a local community league. Eliana (11) continues to enjoy gymnastics and is taking violin lessons again this year. Paulo (also 11) raises guinea pigs, plays soccer and the clarinet, and accompanied Christmas Carols on his African drum in a special church service and as entertainment for the Loaves and Fishes Christmas dinner.
One of the joys and feats of our lives is keeping up with three very active children!
We discover ever more deeply that the message of the Christ Child for us is to be present in some very real way in the lives of the less fortunate. Our prayer is that we may all become increasingly faithful to this calling. Blessing to you and yours,
I think that the Klapsmuehle has really gone off the deep end. When I read what the beginnings of this place were -- and the beginnings indeed were very humble -- then I really wonder how it is possible to maintain the basic foundations of their founding faith, especially because of the way that they live it up now with their Gulfstream jets, motor coaches and other very modern conveniences. I do not mean by this that the Klapsmuehle should restrict themselves, like their Amish cousins do. I believe that the Amish cousins lean too far the other way. But at least the Klapsmuehle should stop circling in the clouds before they run out of fuel and walk on the earth on two feet as their forefathers did!
Something else I do not quite understand is the breeding of dogs imported from Great Britain and the breeding of German police dogs. These police dogs, I understand, have to be trained with commands spoken in German. These commands are very abrupt and generally spoken or shouted in a loud voice. This seems rather contrary to the gentle beginnings of this commune, and also hard on the members' vocal cords. I have noted a growing harshness in their choral singing which I ascribe to the constant shouting of gutterals at these dogs. Perhaps breeding ostriches might be a gentler pastime for them, don't you think? And more harmonious with some of the other Klapsmuehle behavior that we noted of late, having to do with their heads and how they position them vis-a-vis piles of sand.
I often have wondered what the world is coming to! Now I am wondering what the Klapsmuehle is coming to! I simply cannot put the pieces together in regard to what their early beginnings were like and what is happening now. Even though I am a learned professor by profession, and my brow furrowed by lo these many years spent in deep thought over Klapsmuehle issues, all this seems to be Hoehere Wissenschaft. I do not seem to be able to keep up with all that is happening! Of course, some people might say that I am old-fashioned, but then it really is not a bad thing to be old-fashioned when it comes to practicing certain virtues -- and avoiding the pitfalls of legalism, moralism, materialism and false humility (upside-down spiritual pride). What do you think, Professor Denkenlos?
I would be most happy to read your response to my musings on the Klapsmuehle. Your Faithful Savant,
His thoughts were in his pocket when another thought came to him: why was he trying to change her this time? She had her annoying sister to deal with -- they were sisters. Maybe the problem was that he wanted to change her sister.
He had come out for a smoke. She smoked too, but with the children, she had other rules: not in the same room, not without extra ventilation, and in designated parts of the house. She was a watchdog about all this now with her third child. It was easier just to step outside.
He stood looking at the distant blue of the land, turning the cigarette packet over in his pocket. First he had let her make him change his habit of lighting up at home, anytime, any place. Her initiative had been for ashtrays confined to certain spaces. Then it got to be only in places with ventilation. He blamed all this on her sister who was always hounding her about the health hazards of secondary tobacco smoke.
Finally he took out a cigarette and lit it. Smoking was not the problem today. Why did he want to change another of her irritating ways? He had managed to negotiate several of his own demands also. She had smoked his brand on occasion, but he would go without rather than share her choice. He watched the smoke curl as he rested his arm on the chain link fence before lifting his eyes to the horizon again.
Why was it so easy for her sister to set him off? He always took it up with her. He contemplated the smoke twisting up in gray-blue trails that spread out and dispersed. It was a frosty morning, the air almost still. The smoke made a vague diagonal across the view.
This was his vista. Often he thought of painting it and sharing it with the world. His first girlfriend spent all her free time painting, but that was the most experience he had had with paints -- watching her. His wife had many similar movements. He knew the pleasure he derived from watching her was the first and most lasting attraction.
The tobacco took longer to smolder without being toked. He concentrated on the smoke wreaths and thought he saw her movements in its caressing curls. It blurred the scenery.
Going outside to smoke was an old habit. He had started smoking at too young an age, and outside the house was where he went.
He knew that to paint what he saw during a smoke break would take some time. A cigarette's few minutes were about enough for him to thoroughly enjoy admiring the landscape. Some day the weather almost demanded that he try to fill in the shadows on paper. Today the color of the smoke matched the distant hue, and also seemed to ask something of him.
He stubbed out the cigarette and turned his steps toward home. Should he take up painting as a hobby? He could probably make the time. Painting did take time, even if only indulged in occasionally. He reached the house.
Home is something that takes a lifetime to define. Then the next generation takes up the work of defining it.
So we've sold the old homestead and in April moved to Highland Farms Retirement Center, just about 10 miles away. We've scaled down our possessions and living space (to a small cottage), but still have room for a few guests. We have a large garage for projects, tools and reference materials. We also have a great garden and an oversupply of raspberry bushes (come taste our raspberry jam or 'leather')...
Our Asheville Friends Meeting is larger than ever, and so we have been meeting in the Black Mountain area, and plan to start a new affiliated meeting this coming year, nearer to home. Our sons and their families also have moved this year -- Paul and family to Bloomington, IL to continue with State Farm Insurance, and Glenn and Judy to a new home in the Philadelphia area. We look forward to the new year, to travel, to service, to learning, to meeting new people, and seeking more sustainable answers to caring for the earth. Love from us both,
Three Poems by Norah Allain
January 24, 1996
During the war she was amazingly brave. You know that all the Jews from Amsterdam and Holland were taken to Auschwitz and Dachau. First they took them to a camp not so far from here, "Westerbork." From there, the train took them out of Holland. As the trains were absolutely packed with people, many died in the train even before they left. Aunt Nettie was a nurse in the TB sanatorium near Bilversum and was asked to carry the dead. Aunt Nettie thought, 'I cannot do anything for the dead, but I can for the living.' Together with another nurse, they carried away living people on the stretcher and let them run away in the woods. They were busy with the fifth person when she felt the gun of an SS officer against her chest. He said, "I have seen what you're doing, and you are lucky, because I'm an Austrian. A German officer would have shot you on the spot." But Auntie just went on until the train left. Also she hid away two children in the sanatorium, and was much afraid whenever the children cried or suddenly ran outside to play. But they managed to get them safely through the war! All these things have given me a great respect for this brave little woman and therefore it was a privilege to do all the things for her that she had asked me to do. She sure was a character, and we will not forget her. Much love for now, and greetings to all...
Evi Pleil's father, Leo Dreher, was very kind to me. He and his wife, Trautel, always invited me to their home when I was a child in spite of the fact that they had nine children of their own. I felt at home with them. Leo was a rebel, and I think he and I were able to relate well to each other, as I too was a rebel.
Leo always stood up for what he felt was right. He did not bow down to the Commune Servants of the Word. Therefore he was mostly in bad graces with the Servants. Leo told me to persevere and to hold on to the things I felt were right. He encouraged me to stay true to myself, not to give in and bow down.
Leo always said, "Nadine, do not give in, do not give up!"
I am grateful for that support. I will always remember Leo as a man with a very loving heart, a big heart, always ready to help others who were in need or who were depressed. I have had the privilege to read a transcript of Leo's funeral and memorial service. I am very impressed how Leo, even in his old age, continued to be himself and help others.
Evi, you had a wonderful father! I am honored to have known him personally.
Night was falling now. There had been a spectacular sunset with clouds shaped like huge dazzling towers, fantastic celestial constructions in an azure-coloured sky, red-golden blinding rims framing the heavenly architecture. We had been moving slowly into this tremendous, awe-inspiring sky. Our small convoy consisted of two lurching and groaning wagons, each drawn by two horses, with a spare pair of animals tagged along at its rear. Our immediate destination was Puerto Rosario, the nearest port on the great Paraguay river, where we were going to board a steamboat to take us downstream to Asuncion. The wagons were tightly packed with boxes, cases and bags. Seating arrangements were a couple of wooden planks that had been placed loosely across the wagon's sides.
Our old army lorry, normally used for these trips, stayed behind in the Loma Hoby Bruderhof this time because of the pouring autumn rains which were soaking and messing up what was already a bad road full of potholes. Entire stretches of the red clay had been turned into orange-golden ponds and murky puddles. Treacherous craters lurked greedily beneath their surface, waiting to lure the lorry's tires into their depths to break axles and drivers' backs. It was just too risky, the vehicle would only get stuck. So the horse-carts had to do.
Our small group of travelers were extremely tired by now. We had been on the road since dawn. The journey seemed to promise no end. There were roughly sixty kilometers to cover, and with this kind of weather and the terrible road conditions, it would take ages to reach the port. I had never done the trip to Puerto Rosario in a horse-drawn wagon before. Come to think of it, I had never gone to Asunci6n before. I was still half dazed at finding myself here.
The driver and co-driver sat huddled under tarpaulin on the front plank of our wagon. Myra Strong and I were half sitting, half crouching on the board at the rear. From time to time we'd try and rearrange ourselves on a box or bag, because the seating was so hard. I had wrapped myself in a poncho, the widely used protective cloak of prickly hand-woven wool. This kept out the chill, but the damp penetrated everything, although a second piece of tarpaulin had been thrown over our part of the wagon for extra protection, held up above our heads by some pieces of wood sticking up from the sides of the cart.
Myra planned to stay in Asunción only for a fortnight or so. I wasn't quite sure why she was going. I felt much too shy to ask her. It probably had to do with the hospital. She was one of our doctors. For me, it was going to be somewhat different. As the wagon lurched and the wheels gently groaned I re-traced the months that lead up to this new adventure.
Once I took part regularly in the Gemeindestunde meetings, life became a little less prone to trouble with my parents and other grown-ups alike. I noticed that they were taking me more seriously, which nurtured and furthered my self-confidence considerably. I also began to make serious efforts in order to control my bouts of bad temper, because now I couldn't get away with them just like that anymore. After each and everyone, I had to "clarify" the reason for my bad mood, which brought with it the usual Aussprache, the tźte-a-tźte I still so much hated. And then, of course, the subsequent apologies. Humiliation all round. I was still the same person, I knew, so if I wanted to pamper my pride, I'd have to control my behavior. I still had the occasional tiff or stand-off, especially with my mother, over matters that continued to infuriated me, among them the way she treated my younger siblings. or tried to control the books I read. Ah yes, those books! The community had quite an assortment. They arrived from Europe and America, mostly donations. The books needed to be classified according to contents and suitability for the various age groups. Mother was one of the 'censors.' She devoured books, just as I did. It must have been one of the most delightful tasks she was ever given. I took full advantage of it. I read everything. Now and then, there were books with 'iffy' contents. I always knew which ones, because mother said I mustn't read them. She used to put them under her pillow, to keep them safe from me while she slept. But she usually slept very deeply, and very noisily. Mother had a hearing problem. She switched her battery-run hearing aid off when she slept. So she certainly didn't hear me when I crept into her room. I usually managed to gently pry out the book from under the pillow, without waking her. I made sure that I read while she slept, and spirited the book back before she discovered what had happened.
There were times, though, when I wished that I had listened to her. Die schwarze Spinne by Gottfried Keller was the worst. Those horrible nightmares! But then there were books such as Ernst Wiechert's Die Majorin which simply left me puzzling what on earth mother had been worried about. Yes, true, there were all those hidden passions. Throbbing desires. But the way it was written and portrayed, it was all so beautiful! The tensions made me breathless, my pulse raced. But so what! There was no vulgarity. Only beautiful, grown-up desire. I knew that it was about physical desires, but wasn't that human? Especially if these fictitious people had nothing to do with us? I was sure that their stories were acceptable even on the Bruderhof. So I never quite understood mother's anxiety.
Another point of contention was the way I chose to dress. The community's dress code had become less strict. Women and girls were being more adventurous, wearing slacks, shortening their hair, sometimes discarding sleeves altogether on light summer blouses. Even the obligatory Kopftuch, the polka-dotted head scarf uniformly worn by the women until recently, was largely left at home somewhere in a forgotten corner.
I wasn't interested, really, in the reasons behind all this innovation. For me it was quite enough to be more in tune with what I perceived fashion should be. Compared with pictures I had seen of what people wore in the outside world, we had been using pretty quaint and old-fashioned garments. I had a very precise idea, for example, how long my skirts ought to be. I wanted them to show just enough of what I believed were attractive calves, and I shortened my dresses and skirts accordingly. Alas, mother wanted that seam to descend at least another ten centimeters. So a battle of wills ensued. When the skirt arrived back from the laundry, mother lowered the seam. When I wanted to wear it and discovered that its length had been tampered with, up it went, in quick generous stitches. Out of the window I jumped in quiet flight, so mother wouldn't see me and my new skirt length. And so it went.
Of course, being taken more seriously now made me more pliant, on the whole. I listened more attentively to what they read or spoke about in our meetings. It meant a lot to them, so it ought to mean something to me. I was quite determined, from time to time, to find the truth within it all. I worked hard at myself. I practised being good. One couldn't partake of the communal prayer if anything stood between oneself and another person of that gathering, an I truly wished to be honest with myself and with others in that respect. My goal was to become an upright, happy, trustworthy young woman who everybody liked. It seemed that I was getting closer. One of the girls had started to call me "Sunshine" and "Sunflower." It was flattering. I enjoyed it. But then, I wanted very much to be popular.
On the other hand, drifting was easy. I still had no wish to advance myself in any studies or profession. I satisfied my overall curiosity by going to the further education courses offered. I took typing lessons. We had evening classes where we learnt about the world outside. Political systems were explained -- not that these intrigued me much -- and we were taught about other world religions which, come to think of it, was rather daring. And then, of course, there was music. We had a marvelous teacher. She had a beautiful contralto voice, and we attended the music theory and practical lessons with enthusiasm. She conveyed energy and taught us discipline. I had been learning to play the violin, and those lessons became enjoyable once I realised that they were not a chore, but real fun.
So for many months I rode the waves effortlessly and hoped that no one would rock the boat. Until one afternoon, when Maria, the Loma Hoby housemother, asked me would I come to see her for a chat. I became uneasy. What had I done wrong? Whenever she wanted a chat, it was because of Mother who needed someone whose authority I respected to talk me into shape. What was up?
"Simone," Maria said, "have you given any thought to your future at all?"
Ach that! My future! I grinned sheepishly. What could I say? I hadn't, of course. "Not really," I mumbled. I felt quite relieved.
"Well then," Maria said, "we have an idea. I think you will like this."
I became curious. "Oh yes?"
"You know, Simone," she went on, "you're sixteen now. We think it is about time that you work somewhere where you will get a bit more -- well, how shall I put it? A bit more life experience?"
I froze. What was she talking about?
"And so we thought," Maria continued, "as the Bruderhof- house in Asunci6n needs a new Hausmädchen..."
My thoughts went into a spin. Hausmädchen! The girl around the house. A cleaner. She scrubs the floors, does the washing for everybody. There must be at least thirty people in the Asunci6n household. It means cooking, keeping the place ship-shape.
It didn't sound like something I was keen on. In fact, at home I hated those chores. No, for honesty's sake, my dislike didn't have anything to do with the work. It had to do with Mother. But in truth, it really was a kind of job that didn't tax one's intellect. I could maybe daydream, while the rest of me toiled?
On the other hand -- Asunci6n! Wow! I would be in the outside world, so to say! I would at last see for myself how the rest of mankind behaved, did things and went about their lives. And I would finally leave home! That alone was worth it. My curiosity was awakened. It sounded good. And why not? There surely was adventure in it! I bet if I had asked them to let me go to Asunci6n, they'd be suspicious. Here they were actually offering it to me!
"Laura and Werner Frishman will be the houseparents this year," Maria said into my thoughts. "You know them well, Lorraine being your friend."
I nodded. Yes, I liked the Frishmans. "What about the baby?" I wondered aloud. Little Bobby Frishman wasn't yet a year old.
"Oh, of course he's going," Maria answered quickly. "But Lorraine will stay behind." She looked at me sharply.
It didn't matter. Lorraine and I hadn't been spending much time together anymore. We were drifting apart. Anyhow, among the people in Asuncion were a number whom I knew a bit. My oldest brother Peter was already there, learning the trade of carpentry. It would be exciting to get to know the others. The longer I thought about it, the more attractive it all became. It certainly didn't matter about Lorraine.
I agreed quickly.
Maria was slightly surprised, but her pleasure at my quick decision was obvious.
"Well, Simone," she said, "how good of you. Then let's set your departure for, hmmm, in a couple of weeks time?"
That fast! Suddenly my heart began thumping. I was in it now, and no matter what qualms I'd have later, I wouldn't turn back. Too much excitement beckoned suddenly. This was beginning to look like a very nice turn in my little life!
"Do my parents know?" I suddenly worried that they might not want to let me go.
"Oh yes, my dear," Maria said. "They are quite in agreement."
The next fortnight went by in a whirl. I had the distinct feeling that history was being made for me and by me. I was in constant high spirits. I was given lots of time off to spend with my family. My youngest brothers and sisters would be most affected by this move, especially Lily. She was still only six. She had always been very attached to me and would probably miss me sorely. But for the moment her eyes shone and glistened, and I spun tales about the wonders and adventures waiting for me in the big city jungles of Asuncion.
My siblings shared my excitement. It made things easier. I let them help me sort out my belongings, those items that were deemed my very personal things, and to decide what was coming with me and what was staying behind. In our community, nothing was mine, as the Bruderhof preached and practised community of goods, where everything was shared. All things belonged to everybody. Of course we regarded certain things as our own, like clothes and shoes, one's comb, or a bar of perfumed soap one might have received on one's birthday. These kind of things. But as far as I knew, nobody had many of them, anyhow.
In the end it all fitted into a large, strong leather suitcase, all new and honeycoloured, with its fine smell of new leather. Apart from my clothes and shoes -- and I had been given a few new ones! -- the only other item of great importance, really, was my diary. And that had been safely stowed away at the bottom of the case.
And then I was ready to go.* * *
"Hoa-hup!" the wagon driver called, gently pulling in the reins. The horses came to a halt. "Let's give them a break," he said.
It was pitch black by now. One could just about sense where to put one's feet when climbing off the wagon. We seemed to be in a wide open area, grassland to our left and right. The ground was still damp, but it might just be possible to get a fire going so that we could prepare a meal and hot mate. The second wagon drew up. Its four occupants joined us. Someone produced a flashlight. We wandered over to what turned out to be a small wood island, where we found a few fallen branches and twigs for the fire.
Suddenly, like a spirit out of nowhere, a handsome young man stepped into the circle of light thrown by the kerosene lamp. We hadn't seen or heard him approaching. He looked friendly. He was talking quickly, in Guarani pointing to a spot of light nearby. We gathered around.
"He says it's his house back there," our driver said. "He's inviting us to join him and his family. We can cook our meal on his fire."
We followed him while two of our men made the wagons safe and hobbled the horses. The stranger's house, or rancho, was typical as ranchos went. Its smooth floor of bare earth, firmly stamped. Mud walls. The untidy roof thinly thatched with grass from the campo, the prairieland. There was only one room, where the family slept. The thatch extended over a verandah-like area supported by a couple of rough-hewn uprights. It was wide open to the whims of wind and weather. Here they cooked on an open wood-fueled fire surrounded by some stones with a tripod and hook for their cast iron cooking pot or kettle.
The young couple had three small children. While the man arranged the fireplace so that we could prepare our meal of rice and corned beef, the children's coalblack intense eyes watched, paying attention to every detail. They were very shy, and wouldn't smile. Myra, who spoke Spanish and some Guarani, tried to coax the oldest from behind it's mother's skirt, offering a sweet. The child wouldn't come near her. Its mother giggled and chattered. She was obviously pleased to have us there. She stayed by the fire, sitting on her haunches and drinking terere, the bitter yerba brew, from a gourd through a bombilla, the silver sucking tube. It was passed around. The men obliged. When Myra and I declined, the woman laughed.
I was touched at these people's hospitality and curious to see at such close quarters how they lived. It wasn't the first time that I had seen a rancho such as this one, but it was the first time that I had been invited. They had so little. I felt incredibly wealthy and fortunate. It was shaming.
It surprised me how relaxing and restful the stay turned out to be. Our hosts were complete strangers and only a few from our group understood their language. Usually I felt dreadfully ill-at-ease with strangers, but there seemed to be no need for shyness here. Sitting on an old wooden box and leaning against one of the rancho's posts, I listened. No one was paying any attention to me. The crickets were busy with their night song. A cool wind spread the smells of earth, bitter herbs and wild flowers. I could hear the rhythmic sound of our horses cropping the grass somewhere nearby, and the occasional eerie cry outside only made it seem more peaceful. The others chatted, laughing occasionally. I felt separate from it all, but safe. It was good to be peaceful tonight.
Soon we moved on. The horses, grazed and recovered, were caught and hitched up. As we bade good-bye, much laughter rang out. Then we were off again, into the night, the kerosene lamp now hanging from the front arch of the tarpaulin, swinging gently to and fro while the horses plodded along, nodding rhythmically, pulling the wagon onward to the west where, somewhere, that great river moved forever south.
It was mid-afternoon of the following day when we arrived in Puerto Rosario. I was aching all over. Every joint and muscle hurt as I stiffly jumped off the wagon.
Jakob Weiler had expected us. His ice-blue eyes looked me over appraisingly. I blushed deeply, and remembered that I used to like him. He was now the caretaker of this house and yard, the stop-off point for Bruderhof travellers in Puerto Rosario. I knew Jakob well from quite early in Loma Hoby. He was a hero. He had been bitten by a rattlesnake when he put his hand in a pile of mandioca cuttings. He lost a finger but survived the poison. When I was a little girl, he had to tell me his story again and again. I never could get enough of it.
And now he looked at me in that way! I was dismayed. I didn't like it. I couldn't fathom what had befallen him, and felt uncomfortable in my own skin. There seemed to be an ingredient of danger in that look. I stayed out of his way.
We weren't going to have much time for rest. Our passage on the Aurora had been booked for seven o'clock that night. We cleaned ourselves up as best we could. With a cold splash of fresh water in my face and a change of clothes, I was ready for the last lap of our journey.
We left early for the harbour. Apart from our own luggage, there were quite a few wooden crates and boxes, sacks and bags going with us. There were cases containing items from Isla Margarita's turning shop intended for the shelves of the Bruderhof's retail store in Asuncion. We also were taking unaccompanied luggage that needed to be reunited with persons who had travelled to Asuncion earlier.
It was dark again by the time we got to the river. The port itself was quite precarious. We had to scramble down a narrow muddy path leading steeply to the river's edge. In order to board the Aurora, we had to walk across a couple of wooden planks lying side-by-side, with only a couple of ropes to hold onto. The boards were whipping up and down with every step. My stomach jumped. The big river sent its waters racing under my feet. I felt dizzy when I realised how fast the current flowed.
The deck was totally overcrowded. The pungent smells of water weed, raw fish, cooked food and sweat hit me. People sat, stood and lay around, covering every inch with their bodies and belongings. A few hammocks with bulging bodies gently rocked to and fro right in our path. One could hear chicken cackle and pigs squeal, while the porters shouted, wolf-whistled, jeered and laughed, heaving the loads onto the vessel and adding to the din. I was scared to walk through this mass of human bodies. How on earth were we going to spend the night on this thing? It began to feel a bit terrifying. But Myra, who had done it before, was undaunted. Laughing at my timidity, she told me to just walk, walk. Keep moving.
We squeezed past and through them, stepped over them, brushed against them everywhere. All this body contact! I felt flustered. We found the cabin. It was a tiny, somewhat shabby, room with three bunk beds, hardly any space between them, each containing a threadbare old mattress and smelling slightly musty. A spotty old mirror over a tiny wash basin, yellowish from rusty water. I tried the tap. No water. A narrow door hid a small shelving space. The cubicle was nothing to write home about, but at least it was a cabin, and we needn't crouch with the people on the open deck. What a relief! We were sharing with a stranger, but she was a woman, so this posed no problem.
We arranged ourselves as best we could. I took the top bunk and lay down. I felt shattered with exhaustion, but there was just too much still going on. I lay with open eyes and listened. The sounds and smells were amazing! Then suddenly the boat's engines picked up, the vessel shuddered, and I realised that we were leaving port. I shot out of the cabin. The river bank was receding. Shouts carried over the water from the porters and other bystanders. Their silhouettes had vanished. If someone from the Rosario house was still on the embankment, waving good-bye, the night had swallowed them. It seemed even darker after the flickering light of the cabin.
I closed my eyes. The air moved fast across my face. The rhythmic throb of the engines and the rush and swish of the river as it speeded past the boat was a sound I never wanted to forget. It was carrying me away into the big wide world. I opened my eyes. Thousands of stars were twinkling above me. The sky had cleared, a fresh southerly breeze cooled my hot cheeks. I tried to see the river bank, to pierce the dark. It was impossible. The night was too dense, the shore too far away. A shooting star suddenly flashed. How beautiful!
The din on the boat's deck was fading. Most of the passengers had settled down for the night. From one corner, women's voices criss-crossed each other in busy chatter. The repeated roar of male laughter indicated that somewhere someone was telling a strong of jokes. A baby's crying soon was hushed by its mother's soothing babble. A child began to scream willfully, but was quickly silenced by the laughter and banter of its surrounding family.
'It's time to turn in,' I thought. 'Tomorrow, Simone, when you wake up, you'll be in Asuncion!'* * *
And there it was, this city. The amazing expanse of houses stretched as far as the eye could reach -- and beyond. It was dizzying to imagine the extraordinary number of people living practically on top of one other. I had heard a lot about Asuncion, and in my books I had read about many towns and cities, of people and their ways of life in them, although nothing could equal the actual experience.
But the noise! It was unbelievable, this constant din and hubbub. Not even the nights were undisturbed. If it wasn't voices shouting, laughing or quarrelling, then it was the continuous traffic noise from all the cars, buses and howling trams.
Worst of all was the music, or what they called music. Everybody appeared to have their radios on all the time. It came at you from everywhere, spilling out of their open windows and insinuating itself into your every thought. I detested the pathetic voices of these people who were so convinced that they were singing. This was wailing, whimpering rubbish. It was so irritatingly, so pointedly about the kind of love I had been taught to disdain. They brayed about all those vile carnal passions, those despicable physical desires, all that kissing and touching, those sentiments that were totally void of the sublime, elevated and spiritual meaning of true love. How could they! So disgusting! They didn't have a clue!
I felt quite superior.
Then there were so many hazards. At least it felt as if constant, immediate danger lurked permanently just around the next bend, an undefined threat to me and my fellow Bruderhof House inhabitants -- especially the female ones. We were encouraged to walk the streets preferably only if accompanied by one of our men or boys. In bright daylight we were all right and safe, on the whole, but even then it was wiser if we went in small groups.
The many soldiers frightened me. They were everywhere, on street corners or patrolling the pavements, often in pairs. They carried firearms. It was intimidating. They stopped people at random and demanded identity papers. If they weren't satisfied, they put them in prison at a whim. Especially the young men. They always looked for young men of calling-up age. They needed them for military service. There was a shortage of men in Paraguay, I was told, ever since so many were killed during that terrible war with its neighbouring countries eighty years or so ago. Although that was a very long time, even now, they said, the country hadn't recovered properly from those dreadful losses.
Our boys were safe, however. They got a baja, a kind of permit which entitled them not to go into the army. From time to time, one of the Witness Brothers -- brothers with special spiritual authority, practising to become a Servant of the Word -- came to Asuncion to apply for another batch of bajas for the next group of eighteen-year-olds. The boys in Asunci6n just had to make sure that they always left the house with proof of identity, so nothing could happen to them.
At night, the front gate to our house was locked. This also came as a shock. In Primavera, no one locked their house. It was unthinkable. Yes, of course, certain premises were locked for obvious reasons, like the teachers' room in the School Wood or the library during certain hours. Certainly the Servant's hut when he wasn't in. But the houses that were our homes -- never!
Only once in Primavera had dangerous people roamed the neighborhood. This occurred a few years earlier when some marauding soldiers had suddenly come on the community grounds demanding livestock and food. They stole cattle and took away our horses. They carried shotguns, at least that was what the schoolchildren whispered to each other. A revolution had occurred in Paraguay was what I heard. The Partido Colorado, the Red Party, had overthrown the government of the Blues and installed a military dictatorship. One name was mentioned often -- General Alfredo Stroessner. I knew that revolution was like war. And in war, unthinkable things happened.
But Primavera was much too peaceful a place for me to believe seriously in any tales of war. Even so, for a time, while the danger of the plundering strangers persisted and such things were truly happening in the neighbourhood, we were not supposed to leave the village unless we were in a large group and accompanied by at least two adults, preferably men.
Here in Asuncion, though, exposure lay in wait everywhere. Men wolf-whistled as you walked by. They put their face close to yours, saying things in your ear that you didn't understand, but it was clearly rude and filthy, judging by the dirty laughter following you. This was disconcerting, more so because I blushed so easily. My dignity was deeply offended. I hated it. Sometimes these incidents couldn't be avoided, so I decided to pretend they didn't happen, and learned to ignore them as best I could. I tried to steel myself against such moments because I knew that if they noticed that I felt vulnerable, they'd behave even worse. And I also learnt to judge situations in advance, and to avoid spots that could invite offensive instances, by crossing the street well before being caught out.
Within the confines of the Bruderhof House, or out and about but part of a group of my own, I nonetheless felt safe. Life here was like being permanently in a Jugend group. The greater part of us were young people, boys and girls in pretty even numbers, mostly studying, going to college, preparing for or already at the University, or learning a specialised trade somewhere in town. So, from the very moment of opening my eyes each morning down to the last speck of awareness at night before falling asleep, I was surrounded by young people, all of them imbued with an equal joy of living, and appetite and energy for life, like myself. There was always much singing, laughter and banter. One had an intimacy with the boys, unheard-of in Primavera, because here it was most natural to spend one's time together, from breakfast until late at night.
It was nice too that my brothers Peter and Martin were here. Martin, one-and-a-half years younger than myself, joined us a short time after my arrival. He was learning the trade of mecanico at Peter's school. I got on especially well with him.
Actually there were two Bruderhof houses in Asuncion. The main one, or "Upper House" as we called it, was on Fulgencio Moreno street. Here I lived and worked as Hausmädchen. It was an ample, white-washed house, built in the Spanish colonial style, in the middle of a leafy residential square. I thought it was rather posh. The property lay higher than the street, so entry was through a cast-iron gate and up a flight of stone steps.
There was also a small three-storey house stuck into the front left corner of the property, one room to each floor, the bottom room on street level, the second on the same plane as the grounds of the main house. We nicknamed this tiny lodge "villa-i", or "little villa." One could access it from the street as well as from within our grounds.
The front porch of the main house was supported by two tall cylindrical pillars, its floor covered in symmetrically patterned tiles. The wide entrance led straight into a large, high-ceilinged hall, its floor handsomely tiled in black and white. Four sets of solid double doors in dark mahogany, two on either side, led off this hall into large bedrooms. The Frishmans with little Bobby had the first room on the right. The other three were occupied by us girls, while occasional female visitors, on their way to or from Primavera, would be accommodated in any one of them if a bed was available.
At the far end, a large door lead straight into our dining area. Four simple tables and benches seated up to eight persons each if we moved together tightly. On one side of the dining room, behind a carved mahogany screen, was the women's bathroom and a small matchbox-sized bedroom right next to it with a capacity for two beds and not much more. Opposite was another tiny bedroom, again just big enough to house two girls, or maybe a married couple, if required. On the immediate right, leading off the dining room, stood the pantry. It contained a large ice chest in which we kept the perishable food. Ice blocks were supplied once a week. I had never seen such big pieces of ice before. It was even more amazing to me that they could be man-made!
In passing through the pantry, one entered a long half-open annex, part of which housed our kitchen, with the laundry to the left and a covered drying and ironing space. Next to the kitchen parallel to the main house and alongside the southern periphery wall, another set of annexes had been built that housed a few more bedrooms. Here the boys had their living quarters.
Behind the main house and facing east lay the patio and most of the open grounds of the property. On warm summer evenings we often moved the tables onto the patio to eat supper outdoors. It was a pleasant alternative.
Wide steps led through a free-standing arch of masonry and up toward the back of the property which was surrounded by a high brick wall. Just to the right of those steps stood a tower of black-painted metal and steel about thirty meters high. A set of rattling metal steps led to its top and to a platform surrounded by waist-high railings. The views from up there were truly magnificent. To the west the great river Paraguay moved steadfastly, carrying boats and vessels of all speeds and sizes up and down its course. To the south, the Catedral de San Pedro with its crumbling masonry was visible in considerable detail even at this range. To the north, and at some distance, one could discern the highest building of Asuncion, the IPS. It housed the government's health and social security departments. Toward the east the city spread gently uphill.
At the back of our grounds was a patch where we played volleyball. Here someone had attempted also to grow vegetables, but the soil was poor and the harvest never that splendid. To one side against the north-facing brick wall stood the men's showers and toilet facilities. Some trees and shrubs grew in the centre of the grounds, among them a few guava trees. The guavas were all right, although somewhat spindly. Beneath them a circle of stone benches and a stone slab table offered a quiet spot for letter-writing or reading, while the restless house-sparrows held their chirping contests in the surrounding shrubs.
The other Bruderhof House was closer to the city centre. We called it the "old house" because for many years it had been the only one. When it became necessary to expand, the one just described on Fulgencio Moreno street was purchased. It had a small shop at street level where we sold our turned artifacts. The property was long and narrow, stretching way back into the middle of the block. A string of rooms followed, a few somewhat ramshackle, one of which was reserved for packing the goods and purchases routinely shipped to Primavera About halfway along was a patio overshadowed by leafy old trees growing just behind the wall of our next-door neighbors. Further on and up some narrow lichen-covered concrete stairs were a number of rooms occupied by couples, also used for visitors on their way through, or by single men who worked there.
The communications station occupied one of the smaller cubicles just off the patio. The short wave radio transmitter was old, but provided a vital link for daily messages to and from Primavera, with contacts usually made in the early afternoon. It was fascinating to eavesdrop. The vicious whistling and searing sounds coming in from the ether made you wonder who else was out there. How on earth anyone could understand what was being said, heaven only knew. Sometimes they used the noisy old black box to listen to football games, especially our English brothers. Their normally sedate behaviour changed completely. With their heads glued to the old set, they suddenly would shout, slapping their thighs with delight and laughing gleefully. They really enjoyed it.
At the very back of this sliver of property lay the office. Here they handled the accounts and listed the goods going to Primavera. Just outside, in a tiny corridor full of junk and old furniture, was the telephone. I never even lifted the receiver. I was terrified of this apparatus. Here they also prepared the mail to be sent back home or to the other bruderhofs abroad. And, last but not least, here we sometimes laid siege to Werner Frishman, begging for a few guaranis, the native currency, to buy sweets, or to buy coffee and cake in a real cafe, like a person of the outside world.
Yes, money. I had my first real encounter with it here in Asunci6n. Only once before had I laid eyes on some guaranis, in Loma Hoby at the Pforte, the gate-house, where the Paraguayan field hands came to collect their pay for working in our rozados, the plantations and fields at the edge of the forests. I saw money there once, but I didn't know how it felt. In Asuncion, I learned how to use it. We never had much -- just a few notes. I spent them on nice things like sweets and so on, on pleasurable little unessentials.
The notes were shabby and dirty, with a sweetish, sickly, unpleasant smell. Laura Frishman had very strong opinions about money. It was an absolute 'must' that we wash our hands after touching it.
"Please remember," she said, fixing her deep dark eyes on us, "these notes have been touched by many dirty fingers, slipped through hands that may have been in contact with tuberculosis, with leprosy. There are many terrible illnesses out there. Don't ever forget to wash your hands! Is that understood?"
We obeyed, of course.
We were a close-knit group. I was quite happy most of the time. On Sunday afternoons, we often piled into the pick-up truck and drove to the Jardin Botanico, the botanical gardens. It contained lush park landscapes and peaceful woods, with pretty knolls, brooks and ponds. Such a relief! Its fresh air and cooling greens offered a pleasant and welcome break from the noisy and dusty city. I felt revived whenever we went there, and it made up for my occasional bout of homesickness. It wasn't so much Primavera's people who I missed, or my family. I longed more for Primavera, the place, for its nature, its silence, so different from this lively and bewildering city. I ached for the immense and serene starlit skies at night, for the shrill monotony of the crickets' song, and the eerie and woeful call of the nightjar. I missed the warm days with its breezes billowing my skirt when I walked alone through sunny lanes. I missed those quiet, reflective hours in my cedar wood. At times, I was overcome by a sense of intense sorrow, a feeling that somehow I had lost my paradise forever, that place I had inhabited as a child. It made me want to cry and cry and cry. But even crying was not possible in the city. There was no privacy for such tears in our household. So I had to mourn in secret, and in silence.
Werner and Laura Frishman knew how to keep me busy, though. They visited the market once a week. and sometimes I was allowed to accompany them. Countless tightly packed stands displayed all sort of goods, but we focused on the edibles, the fruits and vegetables. I found the shouting and jostling quite appalling and enervating, and the smells were pretty foul. One needed to be wary about where one put one's foot. And a fairly good command of the Guarani language seemed a necessity, I thought, mixed with a considerable amount of Spanish, if one wanted to be able to bargain on an equal footing as the market traders. Laura hardly spoke Spanish, let alone Guarani, but somehow she always managed to get their prices down. She must have used some kind of sign language. Her lively eyes were attentive to every change of countenance in the targeted grocer. She would stand there, sorting the items she wanted, holding one of Bobby's diapers in her hand, often pressed to her mouth or face as if half hiding behind it. If she got her way at the stand, she'd glance quickly at Werner, and a chuckle seemed to rise from deep within her, quietly shaking her bosom, the finely etched laugh lines in her face spraying outward like sun rays from her eyes.
One morning the doorbell rang at the Upper House, as it often did for occasional deliveries. I was sweeping the dining room.
"Do go and see who it is, Simone," Laura called from her room.
I skipped through the hall to the top of the stairs, but abruptly stopped in my tracks. A filthy-looking man stood on the street, looking up at me. His eyes were startlingly blue but bloodshot, his face covered in grey stubble, his greasy hair clinging to his scalp. He was barefoot and I saw soiled bandages around the front part of one foot. His shirt and trousers were quite dirty. A blue-eyed beggar! Blue-eyed people were of European descent, ! thought. It was staggering! The Europeans I had seen here, so far, were all quite well-off.
The man stared back at me. I stood transfixed, as if hypnotised. I didn't know what to do.
"Who is it?" Laura called. She stood at the window, Bobby seated on her arm.
"Oh," I stammered, "it's... it's -- a beggar, I think."
"Ah, yes," Laura replied.
I was perplexed. She sounded as if she was expecting him. She came outside and handed me Bobby.
"Uno momento", she said in broken Spanish to the man, and smiled. He saluted, touching his forehead with his fingertips. They knew each other! I became even more intrigued.
"Stay here," Laura said, 'I'll be right back." She disappeared in the direction of the kitchen. Holding Bobby tight and with increasing unease, I couldn't help staring at the man. He stared back. To my relief Laura returned quickly with a bulging brown paper bag.
She gave it to him. He thanked her and hobbled away.
"Who is this!?" I demanded of Laura.
"Ach," she replied with a sigh, "he comes sometimes to ask for money. You know that we don't give them money. I always give him something to eat, some fruit, a loaf of bread."
"Does he come often?" I asked.
"Oh yes," Laura said. "And I hope Juerg will be at home next time. I want him to have a look at that foot." Juerg Hafner was studying medicine.
The episode suddenly changed my perception of Laura. Here she was, quietly feeding and looking after a beggar. I worked at her side, and had never even noticed. What a Samaritan! It made me uncomfortably aware of my own indifference to the widespread poverty and the many beggars in this city, among them countless children. It suddenly shamed me to be enjoying such a good life with all the riches surrounding me. Yes, it was true that I was chronically hungry, although in Asuncion we ate much better and more plentifully than in Primavera. But if I compared myself with those poor ones outside in the streets, I was well fed and looked after.
Laura somehow sensed my hunger, and let me have a glass of milk every night. It tasted like so luxurious, so chilled and creamy, fresh from the ice chest. Yes, I had a good life, and I felt that I ought to be more charitable and compassionate. Like Laura.
I cherished Laura and Werner. They truly had become my surrogate parents, and their little Bobby was a treasure. As the only baby in the household, he received a great deal of attention. His enormous black eyes followed everything and everybody in utter fascination, and his willing little smile enchanted even the most awkward of residents. He was a good baby. He fitted in.
As for my job as Hausmädchen, the housework wasn't that bad after all. Everybody pitched in, especially on Saturdays when no one had to go out for lessons. That was usually the day for a general good clean-over of the communal areas and bedrooms. The student nurses whitened their shoes and starched and ironed their uniforms and little white butterfly caps. The boys swept around the house, raked the grounds beyond the tower, or washed the slabs of the patio, splashing each other in the process. Everyone bubbled with energetic good spirits. The house teemed with activity, while happy laughter and enthusiastic singing echoed from every corner.
Activities were plentiful. We met with Asuncion's Jewish youth group for folk dancing and discussions. A number of them were planning to join a kibbutz in Israel. It sounded fascinating. At the American Cultural Centre we went square-dancing, and the German Goethe Institute let us use their library. We met regularly with German-speaking families. One family in particular welcomed us for frequent song evenings. They loved it and of course so did we.
We held our own dance evenings. There was an electrical gramophone, a decent one, not like the wooden box thing back home that had to be wound up manually. The records came from the American Cultural Centre. Peter was the music expert. He went weekly to borrow fresh sets of records. The gramophone was set up in the hall. What acoustics! Sometimes Peter played a record first thing in the morning, when it was time to get up. Suddenly the most heavenly sounds flowed into your consciousness as you drifted gradually out of your dreams into a world already stirring and coming alive. We thrilled to Beethoven's pastoral cadences, Bach's spiritually elevating fugues and cantatas, or Mozart's musical banter. How sweet a way to begin a day!
Our Gemeindestunde and household meetings also were held in the hall. Initially, I felt painfully self-conscious. The circle was so small! It seemed too embarrassingly intimate. Where should I look! You couldn't escape the closeness. So I studied the floor tiles. I hardly dared shift my foot because it might be seen as fidgeting. What a relief when we sang! I could rest my eyes on the song book for a while. Not that I needed it. I knew all the lyrics by heart, but it was a break from tracing the floor patterns.
With the passing of time, everyone became increasingly familiar. This eased me a bit out of the embarrassment I felt in our spiritual get-togethers. After all, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and we were given a lot of encouragement, especially we younger ones Werner spent much time with us and we held many deep conversations. He gained our confidence easily, drawing us out of ourselves and making us feel important. He knew how to listen, and understood what we meant. With him it was easy for me to lose my sense of uncertainty and shyness. We philosophised earnestly about life and its meaning, about God and the Universe. It was informal stuff, said in the kind of words we chose to use. But it still penetrated to the core of our search for the true meaning of Community Life.
Yes, we young ones had embarked on a very serious quest. If we gave our lives to the Bruderhof, to its church and the Holy Spirit, we needed to understand what it really entailed. We needed support and guidance in our spiritual travels, someone to clarify and illuminate every question and doubt, so that we might find The Truth, The Light, The Only Way of Life. Werner gave us just that.
So I began to see a bit better what total surrender meant. Giving myself up entirely and absolutely. No if's and but's. No willfulness, no selfish wishes. To become like a blank sheet of paper on which God would be able to write his commands and desires. Humbleness, meekness. Relinquishing that ever-present pride of mine. Becoming quiet within, and learning to listen to the voice of God telling me what was right and true. Thinking lovingly of all brothers and sisters, looking out for their well-being first and foremost. Making a virtue of patience. Becoming empty of all ambition, all plans and hopes for the future. Laying it all in God's hands, and trusting that He would provide. Sharing all thoughts, fears, joys and sorrows. Being like a wide-open blossom. Giving myself completely. Bringing an end to the "I", and becoming "We."
Did I want all this? I thought I did.
Thus I set out on that grandest of journeys, my great spiritual quest for total and absolute unity with God and mankind.
Mankind being the Bruderhof, of course. But God knew about that, and, anyhow, He was on our side. He knew and understood everything even better than myself So it was all right.
I used to hear more about the Rhoen Bruderhof from Waltraut Wiegand, who was in charge of the laundry in Isla the first year. I never met such an aggressively masculine type of woman before! She was full of tales about the hardships they had undergone in Germany, where she had been in charge of the pigs! It was at this time that I learned to appreciate the full flavour of the phrase damals auf der Rhoen, about which we were so often to laugh in later years. We were a jolly group who worked together in the laundry, with Edith Barron making our mouths water talking about lovely things to eat, when in actual fact our diet was terribly monotonous and one-sided, only redeemed by the fact that there were plenty of oranges. Our laundry man Jones used to go and fetch a whole sack for us from the woods.
There were many hardships to endure in the first years, but it was all a big adventure, with the future shining golden before us, so that nothing seemed too hard. I was particularly fascinated by the gradual process of finding out more about the previous history of the community and the individual people. I gathered that some sort of cloud hung over the death of Eberhard, a feeling of guilt in connection with it, because he had broken his leg but had gone travelling from one hof to the other (the Rhoen and Liechtenstein), trying to overcome some disunity between them, and finally had to have an operation from which he did not recover.
Whatever the facts, the guilt complex was obviously there, and this came remarkably into evidence in connection with the deaths of one or two babies in the first months. Various people expressed the feeling that we were somehow to blame, all of us. It was on account of our sins. I had a strong reaction against this idea. I thought a lot about the strangeness of the death of small children. Why should this be? But it seemed to me quite wrong to connect it with a feeling of guilt. Later that year Trautel and Leo's little son Felix died, and as I had been in the mother-house with her I felt specially strongly for her. Then the Sumner baby was found dead one evening, and at the end of the year Cristina Kleiner died of croup. I remember also that we had one room at the end of one of the halls that was used as a hospital, also for Paraguayans, and once when somebody died there, the relatives came and watched by the body and made an awful lot of noise lamenting. It was quite lugubrious.
Our little Andre was such a happy child. Sometimes he fell asleep over his dinner in the kindergarten and rested his head in the plate of food, and so I found him when I came to fetch him to sleep at home at midday, as they still did then. Hardi then represented that the children must sleep together in the kindergarten, but I and some of the other mothers would much have preferred to keep them ourselves, and I remember us criticizing Hardi and Edith, saying they only wanted to get rid of theirs because they couldn't manage them, which was probably true. But they had tradition behind them -- it had been done on the Rhoen, so it must be done again. It was the communal way.
Here I have hit upon another cause of conflict. I often had the feeling that I had to defend my family against being completely swallowed up in the community, and although I disliked working all day long with the children (I had some spells in the baby house and toddler house and even one or two in the school again), I very much valued all the times when we could be together as a family, and in fact the family meant more to me than anything else. Nevertheless I was very devoted in the communal work, and so was Roger, and careful not to obviously put the family first, but in our genuine feeling it came first. I never really understood those for whom, apparently, everything communal came first. According to Bruderhof ideals they had right on their side, and one felt oneself coerced on many occasions, at least I did, not permitted to be the natural mother I was.
However, my memories of Andre, up till the time he became ill, are all happy. I loved taking him for a little walk of an evening before supper, when there was time. We would go down to the gate below the laundry that led out on the great wide campo, or we'd go wandering down by the sawmill, through the henwood. Perhaps it belongs to the aforementioned theme to recall that once, about this time, Roger and I had a day together when we took a horse wagon and went to the neighbouring village (a great novelty for me), and on the way home we saw a little rancho on the slope of a hill, surrounded by its bit of cultivated land, and a feeling took hold of both of us of how lovely it would be to be just living there, only our own family, with no one to interfere, no crises and difficulties and problems, just us on our own. But Roger said that unless we really wanted to do it, we shouldn't talk about it any more, and he was obviously right.
Round about this time, I worked for a few weeks with Waltraut in the Hen Wood, and I'm not quite sure why I was taken away again. I probably didn't quite come up to scratch! I certainly didn't like working with her very much. Not only was she so aggressively masculine, but she was also terribly conceited and everlastingly talking about what she had done on the Rhoen, etc. So I was glad to leave her and go back to Norah Caine and the laundry. We both got ourselves into difficulties at this time over the food question, as we were both feeding mothers, and the laundry was the worst place to be in from the point of view of getting a bit of something extra, and the ordinary food was really very poor.
At that time, I literally felt faint with hunger very often, because we worked like donkeys and sweated away in the heat, and poor Norah and I, I'm afraid, got very envious of some other sisters who worked in the babyhouse, kindergarten or kitchen. We didn't have such hard physical work but had a chance to eat something more interesting than the everlasting greasy goulash and mushy mandioca.
The sister who was our particular stumbling-block was Lini, who worked in the kitchen. This was because she never gave us anything when we had baby-watch or hof-watch and fetched our dinner early, whereas it was the usual thing to give sisters who had such a duty something from the special food. It was quite clear that she just didn't like us.
Finally I developed a bad conscience by talking in this critical way with Norah and knew it was up to me to take the lead and put a stop to it. I went and spoke to Margot, who was Housemother at the time. I always liked Margot and found it possible to tell her. Afterwards we both had something to say at the Gemeindestunde, and that took some courage.
Further than that, I went and spoke with Lini, because I couldn't bear the feeling that something was between me and any other person. I think it hurt her quite a bit, and I don't think she was the sort of person who was really capable of analysing her own motives at all clearly. Somehow or other, because I really was longing so much to break down the barrier between us, it worked, and we had quite a warm relationship together after that. The affair had a sequence that always stuck in my mind: Philip Britts had been elected Servant some time before that, and he came to speak to me. He didn't seem to think I had done so right to talk to Lini like that on my own. I guess that, on the first impulse while she was feeling hurt, she had gone to him. I was very surprised because I had screwed up my courage like anything and done what I thought was right. But I suddenly realised that, to an impartial observer, things could look different from how they appeared to me. This was the first inkling I got that the subjective feeling one has of being right is not necessarily correct, and it was quite a shock. What strikes me as significant is that I was led to find this out by the pain it caused me to find myself separated from someone by a negative feeling.
In those first years in Loma, the old Rutenberg estancia building was still there, and at first we still had a capataz who worked for him, a German who had been many years in Paraguay and had a Paraguayan woman and four or five children. Later there was another capataz called Feli, who looked a very fine figure of a man as he rode on horseback, but terribly primitive and strange to us Europeans. There is something in most of us that responds to this primitive life, however. Sometimes I became aware of this unconscious pull. It is the same with nature there. Those wide campos spread for miles with not a sign of human life, alternating with the primeval jungle, that both seem to threaten to swallow us up. I think only those who come in a large group like we did can survive. I well remember the mixture of fascination and fear that the forest aroused, a fear after dark.
Once in the first year, before we had somewhat tamed the surrounding forest, Roger had the idea to go to the Orange Wood on a free evening. It grew dark and I became really terrified and expected at every moment that some wild animal would leap out at me. Of course there really were wild animals in those woods too, but they scarcely would have attacked human beings without some provocation. To the fascination of the forest belong all the strange and melodious bird sounds, both day and night birds. Those which I loved most were the mournful ones. They will echo for ever in my memory. No wonder people have thought of birds as spirits! Of a less romantic and vaguely threatening nature was the howling of the monkeys, heard especially at dawn and just before a storm. I think the beating of tom-toms must be something like that. There also were other, smaller monkeys that used to throw oranges at us when we walked in the Orange Wood. Then we learnt of the local belief in the Yaciyatere, who is supposed to be a dwarf-like creature living deep in the forest and liable to do you some mischief if you venture there alone or get lost.
It actually happened that little Otto K., who was almost a dwarf, became lost in the forest himself in the early days. With his grey ragged beard and unkempt look he was seen by some Paraguayans who ran away, thinking they had seen the Yasiyatere. Philip Britts wrote a poem about this mythic being:
Much could be written about the birds and animals we came across, and which somehow formed a part of our life. I remember how much I missed the continual noise of the insects, for instance, when we moved down to El Arado.
Hardi and Edith Arnold were sent to Loma fairly soon, Hardi to be Servant. I didn't like Hardi very much at this time, and neither did Joan Britts. We felt very much how proud he was. He just was not one of us, and he disturbed the happy comradeship that we had felt together on our own. For one thing, we were all co-workers. There was a tremendous amount of practical work to do, and although I loved doing it, it put me off to see him just sitting around idle or walking around looking at everyone else do the work. I felt he jolly well could have done something too instead of which he expected to get special food and extras like wine just on account of his title. Fritz Kleiner, the steward, was a complete contrast to him, and I respected and liked him.
Nevertheless, I felt that Hardi was an improvement on his brother Heini whose extraordinary performance the year before, when he was supposed to be dying, had left me and many others feeling out of our depth and distinctly suspicious. It seemed to be all so put on! So when he was sent to Asuncion to recover and Hans Zumpe, Georg and Hardi were left to take over, I felt relieved. The negative impression that Joan and I had at the beginning rather wore off as time went on, no doubt because Hardi took the trouble to be at his most charming and win all the Loma members over to him.
The next events which I remember were the death of Edith Arnold, who was very young and pregnant at the time. This was to be followed that same year by the death of little Matthew Goodwin, of a 7-month-old baby of Balz and Monika, and last by the death of our own little Andre. Edith died rather suddenly and unexpectedly; we were called together and I was standing right outside her room in the hospital watching through the window when she breathed her last. This made a deep impression on me, and particularly I felt a terrible pity for poor Hardi. He was sent up to Isla soon after that to give him a change of scene. That was in April, and in August Matthew and the baby girl died, Matthew of meningitis, and he was deathly ill for many weeks. It was their first child, and I admired them both for their courage in accepting the blow.
The early years, during which we lived under very hard conditions, were in one way the best, because we were nearly all young and full of hopes for the future. The community was constantly expanding, and at the beginning of the second year a new Hof was founded in Loma Hoby, and Roger and I and Philip and Joan were chosen to go there first. This was wonderful, as we were very good friends. First we lived in the old estancia house, with the usual curtain dividing us. Joan did the cooking and I the washing, and we must have looked after Pauli and Andre between us. One day I had a big bath of water on a bench and Andre managed to tip it over. It collapsed on top of him, I quickly rescued him and he came up spluttering but unhurt, and Joan and I roared with laughter.
Soon a few more families were sent down, and we used to eat in a large tent, and soon after the first hall was built, and then the second and after that the little Sonnenherz kindergarten above the laundry. One of the next families to arrive were the Vigars, and for some time their three children and our two formed a little kindergarten group, of whom Andre was the youngest. They were given an open room at the end of the first hall, and one day poor little Andre stepped into a large pot of very hot rice pudding that was standing on the floor. The result was a burnt foot and subsequent confinement to his bed, and I can still see the little fellow crying with frustration in his bed by the baby house, from where he could see the other kindergarten children playing, or catch an occasional glimpse of me. As more children came there was a division of the small children into a toddler group, to which by age Andre belonged, but the attempt to put him in this group was a failure. He had been used to more freedom, and simply howled until he was put back with his old playmates.
We moved to the hall, next door to the Kleiner family on one side, and the Harries's on the other. Another big crisis occurred -- which one I forget -- and we travelled frequently to Isla for communal brotherhood meetings. I was expecting our baby Cisco, and was sent to live in Isla a week before he was due, and he was born during one of these long meetings. A day before I came home, I took Cisco and went out for a walk in the Orange Wood and nearly got lost. I must have walked about three miles. Georg was Servant in Loma, and he arranged to have Cisco presented in the Gemeindestunde the same morning I came home. I remember how delighted I was on my arrival to find that Fritz had made me a door in my absence, where before we had only a curtain and the hot north wind blew in all the red dust. And Sekunda had fixed up the brand new wooden bed with a mosquito net and some pretty star or something for the baby to look at, and there were flowers in my room and fruit. I was so happy, and Cisco was a sweet little baby and I just loved those six weeks with him. I remember embroidering a beautiful orange-and-white butterfly on a green playsuit I had for him, and it lasted for them all.
By then we had three children and were still living in one room in the hall. I believe Margaret and Fred Goodwin lived behind us, and Fred was the storekeeper. Roger worked in the forest and was often away all day. I used to listen anxiously for the sound of his horse's hooves coming home. When he was home in time, he would sometimes wash Pauli and Dede, as we used to call him, and we felt ourselves becoming a real family with our three children!
Sometimes Roger had to be night watchman and sometimes he had sawmill duty in the evening. If it was a free evening I would go down and keep him company a bit. I remember that old steam engine was quite dangerous, and once he had a big shock because it nearly exploded. To this period belongs the memorable New Year's Eve when Roger was night watchman and had access to some extra wine after the meeting was over. Elfriede Braun and I -- and maybe a few more -- were given some, and I ended up by not only giggling a good deal, but being unable to walk straight anymore. I still had to feed Cisco when I got home, and was afraid of letting him drop! It seems odd, but I always remember that incident with particular satisfaction. I hardly could have been said to have enjoyed it -- in fact, I was sick -- but I felt it was one in the eye for the worst moralists. Nevertheless, I never did it again.
At the beginning of November, 1943, our little Andre suddenly fell ill. He became all at once dreadfully apathetic, and I knew that it was serious. At first he did seem get a little better and no one thought he would die, and then suddenly things took a different turn. He could no longer speak or recognize me and seemed to suffer from a terrible tension in his whole body. He had meningitis, and that meant there was no hope for him, for even if he did recover, his brain would be damaged. Roger and I, of course, continued to hope until the very last, except for the last afternoon, which was so ghastly that one could only pray for the end.
Andre died right after his third birthday. His death was extremely distressing for everyone, let alone for our family, and so naturally we asked ourselves why all these lives were cut off in such an untimely fashion. Personally, it took me five years to get over Andre's death, especially because he had suffered a lot and I had to watch it. Moni was often there during the month of his illness, and other sisters also took turns staying up with him all night, as I was expecting Jean-Pierre. It was wonderful to have the support of the whole community, including the children, throughout this ordeal, and the love meal at which everyone remembered Andre gave me a lot of strength. I gathered all the cards, poems, songs and other mementos, and wrote down all I could remember about him, and this helped too. But there seemed to be a tendency, about which I was not very happy, for our leaders to suggest that there was a connection between a death in our midst and something for which the community ought to repent. There was always this call to repentance, while it remained vague of what we were supposed to be repenting. It would take me many years to realize that the stirring of guilt feelings was a powerful weapon in the hands of an unscrupulous leader. However, I am not suggesting that all the leaders were unscrupulous and power-seeking; the guilt syndrome was a part of our reality and we were all caught in it together.
All seemed to be going well, and then another blow fell. It turned out that Hardi and the other Servant (Bruce Sumner or Peter Mathis) were involved in some plot to get us more directly integrated with the Hutterians. I suppose he expected that that would insure the position of the Arnold family and do away with the democratic tendency. So they had to be excluded, and Georg took over, and I think it must have been at that time that Philip was made a Servant.
Through all the years that we were at the Bruderhof these two tendencies were manifested, the one representing a strong feeling for individual freedom. According to this tendency, the community would exist and function by the gradual working out of all individual differences and arriving at a decision without forcing anyone. Admittedly this would happen within the belief that there only could be one right decision and only one truth, but the way to arrive at it had to be the way of patience and tolerance and mutual understanding. The other tendency was quite different, and consisted in a belief in strong leadership. Of course this was believed to be strong spiritual leadership, but it became only too evident as the years went by that there was no leader amongst us who could stand the test. There would be times when the situation and the challenge of the moment lifted everyone, including the leader, into a purer atmosphere, well above the normal spiritual level. For a time, he might really be leading according to the spirit of Christ, but soon we all slipped back again. The position of the Servant was a definite temptation for the unconscious urge to power, and to a lesser extent so were all the other services. I am sure that there were some Servants who had not aspired to the position and were not a prey to this temptation. It looks to me now as though the tension between these opposing tendencies kept our community life fairly healthy for many years, until finally Heini got the upper hand and fanaticism took over.
I myself have been to colonies on all three Leutes and have found many similarities from colony to colony. His claim that there are a great many differences between the Leutes is not true. A Hutterian colony is based upon the teachings of the Holy Trinity; therefore there are few differences. Individual Hutterites are different, as they should be. Hutterian life does not create clones but individuals.
Secondly, I take offense with Youmans' claim that Hutterites are in fact trilingual. Hutterites have difficulty expressing themselves in English. As a daughter of a Hutterite (Prairieleut) I would like to claim that Hutterites can only express themselves in Hutterish (which they call German when in fact it is a Tyrolean dialect). Youmans' claim that Hutterites are increasingly dependent on their High German is wrong. If the Hutterite population were trilingual, they would not have a Hutterish accent.
I have been taught by Hutterite Elders that the interpretation and writing of sermons was not allowed. Perhaps this too is another generalization.
I would like to state that as a student of the Hutterites, I have found many discrepancies within published research on the Brethren. Although my focus has been the lived experiences of Hutterite women, it would seem as if Youmans perpetuates many of the myths and stereotypes that surround the Hutterian Brethren.
Youmans claims to be an expert on the Hutterian Brethren, but his letter to KIT contradicts this. Yours Truly,
The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy, spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty -- a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.
At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer's clothing, and he was big, drunk, and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the baby was unharmed.
Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that one of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.
I was young then, some twenty years ago, and in pretty good shape. I'd been putting in a solid eight hours of Aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I liked to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. The trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of Aikido, we were not allowed to fight.
"Aikido," my teacher had said again and again, "is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it."
I listened to his words. I tried hard. I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the chirnpira, the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.
"This is it!" I said to myself as I got to my feet. "People are in danger. If I don't do something fast, somebody will probably get hurt."
Seeing me stand up, the drunk recognized a chance to focus his rage. "Aha!" he roared. "A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!"
I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to make the first move. I wanted him mad, so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.
"All right!" he hollered. "You're gonna get a lesson!" He gathered himself for a rush at me.
A fraction of a second before he could move, someone shouted "Hey!" It was ear-splitting. I remember the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it -- as though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something, and he had suddenly stumbled upon it. "Hey!"
I wheeled to my left; the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little, old Japanese man. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.
"C'mere," the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. "C'mere and talk with me." He waved his hand lightly.
The big man followed as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman, and roared above the clacking wheels, "Why the hell should I talk to you?" The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I'd drop him in his socks.
The old man continued to beam at the laborer. "What'cha been drinkin'?" he asked, his eyes sparkling with interest. "
I been drinkin' sake," the laborer bellowed back, "and it's none of your business!" Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.
"Oh, that's wonderful," the old man said, "absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake too. Every night, me and my wife (she's seventy-six, you know), we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it out into the garden, and we sit on an old wooden bench. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great-grandfather planted that tree, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Our tree has done better than I expected, though, especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It is gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening —even when it rains!" He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling.
As he struggled to follow the old man's conversation, the drunk's face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched.
"Yeah," he said. "1 love persimmons, too ... "His voice trailed off.
"Yes," said the old man, smiling, "and I'm sure you have a wonderful wife."
"No," replied the laborer. "My wife died." Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. "1 don't got no wife, I don't got no home, I don't got no job. I'm so ashamed of myself.." Tears rolled down his cheeks; a spasm of despair rippled through his body. Now it was my turn. Standing there in my well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was.
Then the train arrived at my stop. As the doors opened, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. "My, my," he said, "that is a difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it."
I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat, his head in the old man's lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy, matted hair.
As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with kind words. I had just seen Aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it was love. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the resolution of conflict.
Financial Statement, October 1995-March 1996 Carryover from previous quarter Peregrine/KIT balance $ 3982 XRoads Fund balance $ 1022 Total $ 5004 $ 5004 Income: Oct-Dec '95 donations $ 1296 Jan-Feb '96 donations $ 1742 Book/Annual sales $ 424 XRoads Fund $ 200 ______ Total $ 3025 $ 3025 _______ Total Income plus Carryover $ 8029 $ 8029 Expenses: KIT printing $ 1280 KIT postage $ 1240 Other printing $ 188 Accounts Payable $ 657 Office, misc. $ 368 Xroads Fund (bal. $655) $ 567 ______ Total Expenses $ 4300 $ 4300 _______ TOTAL Cash on Hand $ 3729