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.
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.