Mary J. Breen was a member of CUSO, a Canadian volunteer organization similar to the Peace Corps, in Binatang, Sarawak, Malaysia from 1966-68.
In front of my prefab teacher’s house at the school, pink
and blue morning glories curled up the wooden handrail and spread out over the
landing. Even though this door was seldom used, I would regularly take a
cleaver and chop away those lovely flowers. Of course, in the steamy heat of
Sarawak, the vines would be back within days, and I’d start chopping again.
Perhaps I wanted to instill some order on my world, or perhaps I was obeying
some primeval urge to keep the jungle at bay.
course my children are going to grow up speaking German!” I don’t remember how
often I spoke words to that effect to friends and family I left behind in
Germany when I moved to the U.S. for college. That move marked the second time
I had left my home country, as I had already spent my middle school years in
America, and uttering these words seemed to reassure those left behind that my
native language would remain a part of me – at least theoretically.
Most visitors to Russia - and even those who have never been there - are familiar with at least two traditional Russian handcrafted items. The first and most widely recognized are the stacking wooden matrushka dolls. The second are the lacquered papier-mâché boxes.
[”The Morning of the Streltsy Execution,” lacquer plaque detail with mother of pearl. Original oil by Vasily Surikov, Tretyakov Gallery Moscow]