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Monthly Archives: October 2012

REMEMBERING THE SOLDIERS AT JUNO BEACH

When we were driving to Juno Beach, I was thinking how nice it will be to listen to an English speaking Canadian during our 11:00 a.m tour. I guess I am a real westerner and forgot that we are a bilingual country. Our guide was from Quebec and in a broken accent told us that he was learning more English since he has been a tour guide for the Canadian Juno Museum! There were some French speaking tourists and of course English speaking tourists so he gave his presentation twice. He turned our attention to the following sculpture of the young soldiers and said that during the war, these young men turned into men. I wanted to quibble with his comment since most “men” don't have such horrific experiences to endure in order to be called a man. However, he is right – that they were no longer fun-loving, carefree young men who once only thought of who he was going to date, what kind of car he would like to drive, and where he would like to live.

 

Greg and I were in awe of the war proficiency of the Germans as we looked at the triangular concrete obstacles that they placed all along the coast of France and Spain to make it difficult for anyone to easily surprise them and attack them. We stood inside one of the many German concrete bunkers that protected the soldiers so well. If anyone was able to get close to them, they could see them and shoot them. If someone actually did get closer, there was an effective means of escape.

 

As I sat and listened to a letter that was written on the beach of Normandy, I was reminded again of how young the soldiers were and how as a lover or as a parent, I would have been overcome by anxiety waiting for those letters. Then I looked up on a high screen to see the names of all of the fallen Canadian soldiers who died believing that they were fighting for a good cause – democracy. I also remembered those men like Greg's dad who fought in Normandy and were given the privilege to return home. And I felt shame that as parents, Greg and I never took our children to any Remembrance Day activities to give honor to these men.

Soldiers and civilians were warned that their loose tongues could help the enemy reminded me of James comment about the tongue: (James 3:5) “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire.!” I thought some of the following posters were humorous, yet forceful about the impact of the tongue when used carelessly:


Before we left, I read the following poem that was framed very largely but didn't show very well on my camera so I thought I would just type it. It comes from a much longer poem, but what was on the wall was a very appropriate stanza:


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Beauty At Caen War Memorial

I don't always think people pay much attention to their mission statements but Greg saw the owner's statement at Les Bleuet's and we definitely saw demonstrations of his desire to provide good service. Two young women asked for a taxi to go to the bus station and instead, he offered to drive them. Later that morning, a couple inquired about going to Honflueur Hospital since the man had been in an accident and was doing poorly. Our motel owner didn't recommend going there and instead drove them to the airport so that they could return home to Brazil. In the afternoon, he

chatted with Greg and he recommended two restaurants. He told Greg he had once been a restauranteur and knew which ones were clean and had good food. He practices what he advises since when we walked into Deux Pont, there he was with three other people.

With the help of our waiter who knew more English than we knew French, we chose the fixed menu. We were rather impressed when he told us that much of the clientele spoke Spanish, Mandarin and English so that he has learned all three languages!

 

Before we arrived in France, I had learned that entree here means a starter and since we chose a fixed menu that included 4 courses, we chose poisson soup as our entree.

Then for our “plat” we had the “poisson du jour” which was a very moist salmon with a lovely sauce. We cleansed our palates with a small salad and two pieces of camembert cheese. By this time we were getting rather full but that didn't stop us from having our fourth course: Greg chose Creme Brulee and I chose Chocolate Mousse – both of them delicious and need I add, high caloried.

This morning, September 18th, we drove to Caen looking for the War Memorial. Unfortunately we failed to give a specific address to our helpful GPS and we drove through the centre of Caen and finally out onto the peripherique where we should have been much sooner. We had a longer drive but we were impressed by our GPS that made adjustments to our wrong turns. Greg who had been indifferent to having a GPS actualy said that he doesn't know how we would have managed without it. I had been concerned when we got our rental car that we were going to drive away without getting instructions on how to use it. I was rather insistent that we talk to the assistant there and she showed us what to do. We were especially grateful that she changed the language from French to English!!

We finally arrived at Caen and spent several hours at the War Memorial. I hadn't slept that well the night before and so I googled positive characteristics of Hitler wondering if the speaker I had listened to on the plane about Theology of Beauty was accurate: Does everyone have some beauty residing in them? Or can some people just be pure evil? Did Hitler have some spark of God in him? He didn't have much of a start in life having a father who beat him. However it looks like he was able to love since he had a positive relationship with his father's third wife. He must have appreciated beauty since he longed to be an art student until the school in Vienna rejected him. And of course during the war, he collected many art treasures. Perhaps this lecturer is accurate when she says we are composed of two realities: one that comes from God and one that is filled with illusions and deceptions. Most likely, false reality became more and more dominant in Hitler and finally squeezed out any indications of true and good beauty. Sadly, much of the German population became equally duped by Hitler's charisma and persuasive speeches. Therefore our experience at the War Memorial was much more sobering than our experience at Monet's garden as we comprehended what happens when we focus on pride, greed, hate, and imperialism. To think that it was after the war that a new term was necessary to describe the horrific attempt at destroying an entire race of people: Genocide.

However, just as the polar opposite of God's Beauty was apparent during World War II, we also saw many examples of goodness and truth as soldiers risked their lives to defend democracy, and as they risked their lives to run out into the fighting field to rescue another soldier. I appreciated Eisenhower's simple speech that he had prepared in case the battles in Normandy failed when he said that only he could be held responsible for failing – that the brave soldiers did everything they could. This war memorial became a perfect demonstration of how we have two choices: choose illusions and deception for our reality or choose God's truth and embrace nobility, courage, idealism, and heroism. Thankfully, these battles at Normandy lead to a reversal of Hitler's imperialism and there would soon be closure to this terrible war.

We returned to Honfluer and planned having an early dinner. Unfortunately, the second restaurant our landlord suggested was quite full. We were seated near the door and we were getting really chilled with the cold wind blowing at us. We decided to leave. We eventually ended up at the same restaurant as last night. Our experience wasn't quite as positive but we still enjoyed our four course meal. Sadly, it was too cold for a long walk to wear off at least one piece of our camembert cheese!



The next morning on September 19th, we left the pretty town of Honfleur.


 

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Uncategorized