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42

MAY 2015

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

From Africa to Europe, and Back

Our itinerary has taken us all over Africa and Europe, two

continents offering distinctly different lifestyles. While in the

northern European sphere, the procession of social events

continued apace; the great surprise to me was to fall, as Ameri-

cans seem to do, under the spell of history. In Paris we occupied

part of an 18th-century country house, three blocks fromMarie

Antoinette’s “Hameau de la Reine” in the park of Versailles.

Later, during our five years in the Netherlands, we wandered

along the cobblestone streets where the Pilgrims lived before

setting sail; it was unexpectedly moving to hear the American

ambassador speak on eachThanksgiving Day in the church

where the Pilgrims worshipped. The days were filled with much

activity, but living in Europe made it possible to observe up close

its weathered bones and to look into the shadows of its history.

By contrast, in Africa, history was being made in the full glare

of a hot sun. It was not the difference in weather between north

and south, but the political climate that had the deepest influ-

ence on our lives and lent great interest to the years we spent

there. This was the era of the African struggle for independence;

between 1952 and my husband’s retirement in 1981, the Third

World literally exploded. During this period, 50 new nations

were delineated on the map of Africa.

Our introduction to this powerful force came in Morocco, our

first post and among the first African countries to gain indepen-

dence. When we arrived, the French masters of the country were

in the process of exiling the popular Sultan Mohammed V to

Madagascar. Three years later, before leaving, the most violent

uprisings and massacres by the local populace took place outside

the capital, Rabat. But it was possible one sunny day to wheel our

first baby to the cliff overlooking the Bou-Regreg River and witness

the triumphant return of Mohammed V to independent Morocco

where his son, King Hassan, now reigns.

In the Ivory Coast (now Cote d'Ivoire), the political climate

was quite different. Here, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny had

chosen the path of conciliation with France and development of

his country. Our first Fourth of July reception was a milestone.

The usual heavy pall of heat had descended on the afternoon,

and it was necessary to prepare the hors d’oeuvres for 200 guests

with only one small refrigerator to keep things cool. But it was

well worth the effort when the president himself came to the

reception—a rare honor and a signal that he wished to under-

take friendly relations with the United States.

Our first close brush with violence came later, in Guinea,

where President Sekou Toure, a supposed Marxist who has

nevertheless proved to be his own man, had chosen indepen-

dence from the French community. Here, during a surprise

attack on Nov. 22, 1970, by a small invading flotilla, apparently

from Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau), we found our-

selves, throughout an entire night, stretched flat on the floor in

the company of some equally prone members of the staff and

Peace Corps, as bullets flashed past the windows and across the

garden into the palm trees. The months of terror that followed

were worse than the invasion. Except for diplomats, who were

presumably immune to arrest, the residents of Guinea could not

be certain who would end up in the sinister Camp Boiro Prison.

It is to be hoped that Pres. Toure’s current efforts to develop this

potentially rich country with Western aid will yet bring benefits

to a patient and gifted population.

Fond Memories

A happier meeting came in 1976 when my husband became

ambassador to three very beautiful countries in southern Africa:

Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. We found three indepen-

dent countries, nurtured in the English parliamentary tradition

and devoting their energies to the modernization process. In

this they were abetted by a large and dedicated expatriate staff

of experts from Europe, the United States (with extensive U.S.

Agency for International Development programs), China and

elsewhere, and by surprisingly generous grants of aid from Scan-

dinavian countries. Everyone, it seemed, wished to help, and the

resulting spirit of cooperation and energetic drive reminded one

of the frontier days of America.

From these relatively peaceful lands, the wartorn country of

It was not the difference in weather between north and

south, but the political climate that had the deepest

influence on our lives and lent great interest to the years

we spent in Africa.