This is testing for the new blog.
I've been pretty much off the web for the last six weeks or so.
I've moved to Woluwé-Saint-Pierre, which was a lot rougher than I expected it to be. I've been pretty busy at work too. But, it's Christmas, and even the lowly code monkey gets a week off at the end of the year.
I haven't been reading blogs, and for the last four weeks I've had only limited access to my e-mail. For those of you who have my "regular" e-mail address, I can't get to it until I manage to move a monitor from my office to my new appartment. My old e-mail at yahoo.co.uk is so spam-ridden it's hardly readable. So, use my work e-mail to get in touch with me. For those with my phone number, call me on my GSM because my 016 number obviously won't reach me anymore.
For everybody else - pedantisme -at- yahoo.co.uk is your best bet.
There isn't much here yet. I'm still putting the link list back together. [23/12/2003 17:15 Update: Link list is there, although in utter disarray as far as organisation goes. If you ought to be on that list but aren't, comment or drop me a line.] Tomorrow I'm hoping to scan in the next chapter from Grandpa Martens autobiography. I have brought some posts over from Blogspot. If you have any favourites to request, now is the time.
Christmas last year, I was in Winnipeg with my family. I had not planned to return last Christmas, but shortly before the holidays, my Grandfather passed away at 82 years of age. I returned for the funeral and stayed for the holiday.
Grandpa made a series of photocopied binders - four in total - which encompass a variety of autobiographical material, family history, and narratives from the old country. Since March, I have been editing them down and serialising them on my blog. It's been a long time since I put up a post from Grandpa. Since July from the look of it. You can read the entire series to date by clicking here.
After a long interlude of material from Russia, we are returning to Grandpa in the 1940's. The last post from Grandpa's life saw him on the farm in Saskatchewan in 1943, age 22. He had just received an indefinite differment from his draft board. At some point in 1944, Grandpa became a naturalised Canadian citizen. He doesn't mention it in the text, but there is a copy of his naturalisation certificate which refers to him as a British subject, not a citizen, since there was no such thing as a Canadian citizen until 1947.
But Grandpa came to aspire to something other than a life on the farm. He eventually left Saskatchewan again to finish his education and finds himself involved in the construction trade on and off through this period, and sweeping floors and cleaning furnaces much of the rest of the time. This gives rise in me to the odd image of my grandfather as Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except without the casual sex with ex-demons. He fell into construction simply because he needed the work and found that he was good at it.
This post covers the years from 1945 to 1953, during which Grandpa finished school, met and married his wife and had two children. But, he has a few more adventures in him yet. His story started in revolutionary Russia and the early Soviet Union and has taken him to rural Saskatchewan between the wars, but there is one more exotic location to come, as we will see at the end of today's instalment.
This post also reveals some of the larger context Grandpa is living in. Some traditional Mennonite institutions are beginning to break down in the face of social change. Increasingly, Mennonite society is divided between evangelicals who seem themselves as having a global mission and traditionalists who seek isolation from worldly affairs. This divide is not just visible in religion, but also in culture and especially in language. The divide over time took on a more and more linguistic tone, as adopting urban life, public schools and the English language became linked to one side, while Church German, Plautdietsch and rural living were left behind.
I do need to give you one more piece of information before we start. During the 1930's, Grandma and Grandpa Dick - Grandpa's mother and adopted father - had three more children: Irene, Wanda and Hedy. Grandpa just barely mentions their birth in his text, and I don't think I've included that material, but he mentions them again here. Also, the family name "Toews" is pronounced "Taves" to rhyme with "Dave's", and "Dueck" is pronounced "Dick." The reasons have to do with how people approximate German vowels in English and Plautdietsch.