Completion of Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West with excerpt
By Emma Palova
For my NaNoWriMo 2019 project, I am working on the completion of my memoir Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S.A.
I am averaging 1, 643 words a day. At some point I will have to increase the daily word count to reach 50,000 words by the end of November.
What propelled the saga ahead was my mom’s diary written in Czech in a pretty cursive spiral – bound diary with hard cover with yellow roses and a futuristic dateline: Big Rapids- Florida, 2019- 2020. My parents Ella and Vaclav winterize in Venice, Florida and mom wanted the diary back before they leave. So, I got right on it.
After writing about mom’s experience of the Soviet invasion while she was on a therapeutic spa stay in posh Carlsbad – Karlovy Vary resort in 1968, I made a firm decision that this is movie material. I will write a screenplay and see it to production.
Mom’s writing is very graphic. She is so visual that she could draw the layout of their apartment in Khartoum, Sudan in Africa from their stay until 1969. I remember the large bedroom and the built-in balcony full of sand after the sand storms.
As the writing moves between Africa and Europe, I marvel at mom’s experiences. Sometimes, I am even jealous like today, as I read her memories from Africa and the Middle East. We each have different memories, and I was a mischievious kid with my own agenda.
Here is an excerpt from the chapter ” In her own words.”
I was a pharmacist, and it wasn’t that the profession was narrow and had nothing to offer, but I didn’t want to nurture vain ideas of travelling. So, Sunday afternoon trips to the dam in Luhacovice or Bystricka were the only means of breaking up the gray of ordinary days.
The first bigger trip was our honeymoon to the Krkonose mountains with the old Tatra and mother’s comments: “I hope the poor car will make it.”
When we arrived in Harachov, we sent a message to my parents: “We’ve arrived under Mount Blanc.” At that moment, it never occurred to me that one day I would indeed be looking at the majestic highest mountain in the Alps.
After five years of marriage, we had two children: Emma and Vasek. I was working part-time in a pharmacy in my hometown Vizovice and my husband Vaclav was teaching physics in Brno. He would come for the weekend to Vizovice, because I couldn’t find a job in Brno and we had no place to stay there. We were on the waiting list for an apartment, that we got in 1965. We didn’t have a car or money to furnish the apartment. My husband found out that the president of the university in Khartoum, Sudan was hiring English-speaking professors to teach different subjects. Vaclav’s English was excellent and he got the job. However, I did not know about this.
At the beginning of November, Vaclav announced his decision that he will be leaving for Sudan on Nov. 20, 1964. I gave him my blessings and never thought for a moment that I would go with him. I continued to work in the pharmacy and my boss who loved to travel kept asking me when was I going to fly to Africa.
In the spring of 1965, when I finally applied for a passport and got my vaccinations, Vaclav wrote me a letter that he was coming home, because it was the end of the school year. The university paid once a year for round trip air tickets for the entire family, regardless that he had just started teaching in November. The school year in Sudan ran from the beginning of July to the end of March; it was followed by a summer break lasting three months.
Those three months were also the worse months in Africa weather-wise filled with sand storms “Habub,” rain and heat. Khartoum lies on the 15th parallel close to the equator; it is the second warmest place in the world. It’s a dry tropical country with very little rain. A road stretched 50 miles north of Khartoum and 50 miles south and dead ended in the Nuba desert.
Three rivers ran through the city: Nile, Blue Nile and White Nile. We arrived in this city in July of 1965. When we got out of the plane at the airport in Khartoum, a hot wave like coming from an oven, hit me and I couldn’t catch my breath.
We rented an apartment from the university close to Blue Nile. The apartment was spacious with two built-in balconies, that were not screened, so the kids played there together with lizards and salamanders. The apartment had running water, a refrigerator and basic furniture- beds, table, chairs and two armchairs in light green color. There was no TV or air conditioning. The stores were open in the morning and evening and closed in the afternoon due to heat. Khartoum was a dead town in the afternoon.
The main boulevard was lined with stores full of merchandise unlike in Czechoslovakia where we always had to stand in line for meat, vegetables and also for toilet paper.