This week’s Humans of Chapelboro continues Tamara Schenck’s story. Schenck was born in the Ukraine before she and her family immigrated to the United States in 1952. She later worked as a model and lived all over the world with her husband, a foreign service officer. Read part one here.
“Every posting had its real advantages and disadvantages. Hong Kong was like a big toy store. Life was so good there, we had servants. The Hong Kong island is about 40 miles all around. It’s tiny. We had Morris Mini cars, and we could go to the beach. It was great. And good food! We made wonderful friends there. The Chinese really take you in. Some places are so family oriented they don’t, but the Chinese accepted us and we just had the most wonderful time. Even though our cultures are so different they still liked us and we had some just exceptional relationships.”
“Then unfortunately we had to pack up again, and leave. We went to Bangkok, Thailand. Life was good there too but the heat was oppressive. In February, which was the coldest month, it would go down to 72 [degrees Fahrenheit]. The Thais would put hats and coats on their kids. You’d go to the beach, no one would be there–you wouldn’t swim in the winter!”
“Then we went to Afghanistan. That was just a whole other experience. It was like going back 100 years. Living conditions were basic. Camels walking down the streets and little old men carrying big baskets of grapes on the donkeys. It was kind of dangerous living there, too. Not so much robbery or minor offenses, but if you ventured out of town and went on your own you were really taking chances. We had quite a few Americans killed–mainly hippies who were coming through and just thought it was Nirvana with all the hashish available. But we did travel a lot, and it was just an incredible experience. Just something you don’t have anymore. In a way, it was one of our favorites because we didn’t have TV, we didn’t have radio, no newspapers. We made our own entertainment. We played tennis and we had all kinds of affairs and galas and dances with the embassy people. I think we made our best friends there between the Americans and the British and French, and even some Russians.”
“I went back to Ukraine with my sister in 2006. I have a cousin there, who lives in an area where all the upheaval is now. Where the Russians have come in. But this was before. We were very lucky that we went to visit before. Now we wouldn’t dare. I just…couldn’t imagine living like that, after comparing it to our life here. They had nothing. They have nothing. Tiny little apartment, just meager possessions. They used to have free education and free health care, and very inexpensive housing. But that has changed. Now my cousin is getting very little pension. I think she said between her husband and her, the pension is about $80 a month. Even so, they just opened their arms to us. They couldn’t do more than they did for us. We tried to pay them back. I correspond with my cousin and we tried to send them money. Oh, I just feel so sorry for them. When we came back we just almost fell down on our knees to kiss the ground we’re walking on. We are just so happy to be here.”
Photos by Aleta Donald. See the entire Humans of Chapelboro series here.