from Sandy Needham

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Germany Dispatch

AnkeIt was time to return to Germany and see Anke Borsdorf Vorndamme, our American Field Service exchange student from 1964 at Tulsa Central High School. My sister Donna was a high school senior that year, along with Anke. I had visited her in Bielefeld in 1967, and she and husband Klaus had visited the US a couple of times since then; we had last seen them in the early ‘90’s in New York.

After spending a full year with the Needham family, Anke was a family member for life. Our parents were her parents. We also loved referring to her real parents as Mutti and Vati!

Anke met me in Hannover and we drove to her current town, Herford. We were able over the next few days to enjoy the orderly, nature-rich sights of Herford, the near-by spa town, Bad Salzuflen, and Anke’s original Bielefeld. The common denominators in these towns are orderliness, quality everything…the stores offer such fine materials and craftsmanship, and a deep appreciation of nature’s beauty permeating all.




Here is a street in Bielefeld:                                        Here is the serene cemetery where Mutti and Vati are buried:cemetary


Here is a certain plant that ‘catches’ the salt from water as it flows past, and the entire wall where this transpires in the spa town of Bad Salzuflen:

salt water close-upsalt water wall










Here are Anke and Klaus leading the way on a country walk near their house, pictured with the red roof on the right:

Dapper couple

Vorndamme house










Living room with berriesThis fine level of quality typified every inch of Anke and Klaus’ house, where a state-of the art kitchen complete with amazing German utensils and gadgets amazed me daily, and where all furnishings and structural workmanship surpassed anything I remember seeing. The doors were perfectly soundproof and the fixtures everywhere were extraordinary examples of contemporary, functional design.





gehry museumAnke and I visited the controversial Frank Gehry museum, Marta Herford, and while enjoying many pieces in a contemporary exhibit, also had plenty of giggles - like the high school girls we used to be - at the pretentiousness of certain installations. What fun!








Let me start with the most impressive things about Anke and Klaus: Anke is a principle in an organization (Kinderschutzbund)that provides family support and tutoring for children of immigrants and poor Germans. Anke was specifically assigned to a Romani (Gypsy) family a couple of years back and had many interesting stories to tell. I cannot think of more timely and forward-looking work, as the assimilation of these children is the best hope for Europe. She is also president of another organization, so is busy in her retirement, for sure. She was a professor of history and German at a gymnasium (high school for the college-bound in Germany) for many years. Her recent advent into painting just blew me away:

Anke's paintings

In addition, she is beautiful – just gorgeous coloring, features and figure, on which her clothes always look so great. She prepared several meals that could have qualified for the finest restaurants: asparagus wrapped in a thin prosciutto-like ham; pumpkin soup with shrimp, pine nuts and pine nut oil – exquisite; and with chef Klaus’ help: bratwurst from the grill with red cabbage. Klaus is active in the kitchen, too.

Klaus is the head of the region for a German bank. This hadn’t been announced yet, but his region had just won “One of the 100 Best places to Work” because his organization is so employee-friendly and has great policies and benefits. Wow. Something for all bankers to aspire to! He was very proud about this (as was I!). Klaus seems to take his hard work in stride, including many weekend events he or they are obligated to attend on behalf of the bank. He is looking forward to retirement, though they recently asked him to stay 3 more years, to which he has committed to two. What I like best about him is his easy, graceful manner, infused with humor and impeccable kindness.

We were able to see one of their two daughters, Britte, along with her new baby, and their son Jan, a college student.


Here are Klaus and Britte; Uncle Jan on the right:

Klaus & Britta












Still crazy

Newton had joined us from Poland for the weekend, but flew back one day ahead of me, as I could not get the same flight on my award ticket.

I had one great shopping day in Hannover before flying back to Natal by way of Frankfurt and Lisbon. I cannot quite describe the shock of landing at the Natal airport after having been immersed in the order and efficiency of Germany. Brazil just seemed starkly outrageous when it took one hour and twenty minutes to leave the airport after landing, due to the lack of logic and organization (worse than usual!). It started with luggage from our crowded flight appearing on two different carousels, neither designated for the flight. Then after a few bags, there was a 20-minute lull where about half of the passengers passed between the two locations with their luggage carts, trying to anticipate which one would receive the balance of the baggage. Then that mess was herded into a single file backed-up customs line, where one man questioned each passenger before exiting. THEN everyone had to get past the hugging families that invariably BLOCK the exit from customs, causing more back-log. It was jolting!





  1. You are so right about German engineering and quality. I think maybe some of it is due to the fact that the Germans are so aware of efficiency and the proper way to do things efficiently. Further, they are the one country where rules are made and are not to be broken. There just seems to be a sense of the best way to do something and so that's the way it is done. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip.


  2. The pictures are absolutely stunning! What a beautiful place. And a friendship- over so many years- and at such a great distance- priceless.



Click on left arrows below for Archive Dispatch titles.

Blog Archive