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Global Penpals

Letter 2 in our series.

Dear Ellen,

Thank you for your letter. I am looking forward to our global pal experiment! Do you have any idea who our readers are and whether they know anything about Switzerland like you do?? I hope we get an echo from time to time!

Please tell me what an x-box is – I don't have the faintest notion and in that case it probably has something to do with a computer-game!! - Fancy, I have a very similar recipe for a strengthening concoction; only mine comes from Macedonia – no water, just whiskey, lemon-juice, eggs and honey. Fantastic to drink and it does a good job!!

I have just returned from a week in Tuscany, Italy, where I stayed at a friend's house at the foot of the Monte Amiata in the midst of olive trees and vineyards. The landscape was beautiful, the sun shone – but it was bitterly cold!! - And before going to Italy I spent a day in Paris with Sibyl: all in all 11 hours on the train for 7 hours in Paris!! Crazy, but it was worthwhile: we saw a beautiful Bonnard-exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne, ate Sushi in the Galeries Lafayette, had coffee in the sun on the Place des Voges and took a walk on Ile St. Louis. And we talked about the time we met you and your family in Paris. Our kids were teenies - remember??

In your letter you mention our living side-by-side in Cambridge. This woke many and manifold memories. A precious one is the way we two met: It was on October 1st, 1967, a rainy and cold day, when my husband, our three small children aged 3, 2, and 6mths, and I moved into our rented house in Cambridge, where we were going to spend one year. My husband had received a postgraduate grant to to do research in public law. My father-in-law increased the grant, so the whole family could go along. It had been a very exhausting journey and a long day and I was relieved, when at last all our things were inside the house. And then our doorbell rang: it was you, dear Ellen, who stood outside with welcoming words and a freshly baked cake! Our friendship began instantly!

I just read an article in one of today's paper about the reduction of school classes in the canton (comparable to your "states") of Berne. Since last year 36 classes have been closed and by 2008/9 there will be a reduction of 107 classes. We were already confronted with this threatening fact when I was director of the schools of Berne, but now the fact has become a problem for the schools and the villages that have to consider closing their school and sending their children to the nearest larger town. A great loss for communal life! – Is the drastic decline in birth-rate also a topic in the US as it is in Switzerland and in the whole of Western Europe?

Maxie had a reading evening at her school last week. This meant her class (20 nine-year-olds) met in their class-room from 5 – 9 pm and read the books they had especially chosen for the occasion. Before starting the individual reading they told each other about their books. Can you imagine which book Maxie chose? One I had received for MY ninth birthday in 1944(!), my absolute favorite as a child. I have just started reading it to her! It is about a teacher's son, Hansi, who gets the opportunity of traveling around the earth to Japan with a rich Swiss businessman, his Japanese wife, their daughter, Ume, and a Swiss teacher. Their journey, life in Japan, and journey back brought the "sweet smell" of the wide world to me at a time when nobody could travel because the 2nd World War had closed all the frontiers.

I am so happy that summer is coming! My little garden looks charming and I shall now go outside and go on reading the papers. This is so time consuming that book-reading is mostly postponed to my holidays!

Much love,

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