Flash Back – Christmas In Germany.

My first Christmas in England had been spent in Coventry in the house of a pen friend- see my earlier post, Christmas in Coventry. Before I left Nigeria I had not known about the pen friend phenomenon. But in England I learnt that the European could be most curious about meeting and exploring new friends of all ages but especially the youth. In Coventry I spent Christmas in the house of a woman pen friend and I was surprised that the whole family including the husband welcomed me wholeheartedly. They were curious to know about Africa and Africans.

I had another pen friend, this time a nineteen year old German girl, Christa. In the earlier part of 1966 she and her friend, Freda, visited London and she was bold enough to come and visit me in my digs. She was very nice and friendly but insisted on limits. Our friendship was platonic. She told me she was an only child and I was surprised that her parents allowed her to go on such an adventure at her age to another country. But it did not take me long to learn that white children had a lot of lee way, independence. One heard of sixteen year old children taking off to Australia or Cambodia or India just for the excitement, to discover something new. The white youth mature early and take command of their lives early and their parents are understanding about this. The youth want to explore the world and are even given financial support to do that. That was a great difference between white and black people who are mired in ignorance, poverty, societal inhibitions and lack of exposure.

When Christa invited me to spend Christmas with her family in Ahlen in Germany I had my reservations. How would her parents receive me, a black man? How could they trust their daughter to that extent? Well, I went to Germany by boat across the channel and thoroughly enjoyed the train journey to Dusseldorf from where I went by bus to Ahlen, Westfallen. To my great surprise Christa’s father and mother were most welcoming and treated me so well and proved to be such good hosts. I played chess with her father virtually every day of my stay. To cap it all up she threw a party for me right there in their house. There were all these friendly youth, boys and girls in their late teens and early twenties at the time I was already twenty seven. It was a visit I would never forget. I enjoyed myself so much that the one month passed quickly. When I was leaving Christa’s father wanted us to continue with postal chess but this gesture I could not accept. The idea sounded strange to me aside from the fact that I was not so good at chess. This visit and the earlier one to Coventry added to my knowledge about white people and increased my admiration of their social system and their readiness to learn about strangers.

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