International House NYC was founded in the autumn of 1924 and ever since every autumn, alumni around the world hold I-House Days to get together and celebrate its founding. Last year there were 21 events in 13 countries and the NYC alumni team are busy connecting with alumni to schedule this year’s events.
The NYC I-House alumni association was started by Harry Edmond’s secretary in 1925 and as Berkeley and Chicago opened it also covered those Houses too. Back in those days they published a little booklet with alumni information in, which was effectively your passport to friendly alumni around the globe. Eventually as the years ticked by and the number of alumni grew, each House started to look after its own alumni. The NYC alumni association grew to a point when in its hey day there were 100 active chapters around the world. To find out what is planned for 2019 visit https://www.ihouse-nyc.org/news_events/ihouseday/ I hope that we can expand the number of events from last year and get even more alumni involved as we get another year closer to the 100th anniversary in 2024.
Newer to the International Houses World Wide family is I-House Alberta, which is celebrating its 15th Birthday with an event on the 8th of September. Sadly I cannot attend in person but I am very honoured to have been asked by Leslie Weigl, their current Director, to speak by video link to the students. We are keeping fingers crossed that the technology will work. Alberta welcomes about 150 students a year, from over 40 countries and whilst it is smaller than many other I-Houses has a very active programme and works hard to make it a home away for home for its residents. https://www.ualberta.ca/global-education/international-house
Also celebrating this year is the International House in Romania, Westgate Studios. It is celebrating 10 years since it was inaugurated. It is the largest House in the International Houses World Wide family, being home to around 800 residents. I am very much hoping to visit it soon https://www.westgatestudios.ro/despre-noi
As I have reflected before keeping an International House running effectively takes a brilliant team who attract a diverse set of residents from as many corners of the world as possible and enable them to create international friendships whilst sharing their cultures. I am grateful to every one of those team members for all their work and passion to carry on what Harry and Florence started.
When I was planning my trip, I imagined that I might need a bit of space between my final event and going home to decompress and process what I had done. So I thought ending up in very rural Redding CT, where Harry and Florence had a place and Harry lived on and off in his life would be a good choice.
Having been away from home for pretty much 9 weeks, visited 18 countries, met with over 400 wonderful strangers i.e. alumni, from 7 different I-Houses and connected with even more over the multiple digital channels, taken 26 flights travelling over 34,000 miles, I think this was a good piece of forward planning.
It has not sunk in that I did ‘it’ yet. I met my goal of meeting at least one alumni in each destination and overall surpassed my expectations many times.
So it was that on my birthday, after a short and very lovely coffee with the I-House NYC Development and Alumni team of Julie Pape and Emily Wakeling, that Chris my partner took a happy but tired and somewhat emotional me off to find a hire car and drove me out of town.
Stopping for a very delicious birthday lunch at L’Escale in Greenwich, we then headed north to Redding CT. It is a tiny town close to some very pretty reservoirs which were still largely frozen. We were staying above a Yoga centre in the woods, I am not quite sure how we would have reached it in fresh snow, but as the weather gods have been pretty much with me all the way, we had beautiful ornamental rather than hazardous snow. The only noises as we stood in the woods were the running of a small river, the gentle crackle and drip of melting snow and the slight russell of the tree branches in the breeze. Perfect for a pause.
Sandy Edmonds, Harry ‘s granddaughter, who had joined me in Beirut, grew up in Redding in the house that Florence’s parents bought. Built in 1783 it sits on the green by the First Church of Christ Congregational. With Sandy’s encouragement via WhatsApp from Vermont, we broke all British reserve and knocked on the door. The rather surprised Associate Minister who lives there, Jane Moran, very kindly showed us around. The house has been very lovingly restored keeping the wonderful polished wooden plank floor, hand cut beams, as well as the fireplace which is huge, as it was used for cooking over and still has the original bread oven to the right hand side of it.
Also on Sandy’s suggestion we headed off to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which is near Tarrytown NY, to find Harry and Florence’s graves. As well as being the subject of a Hollywood film about a headless horseman, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is the burial ground for many famous people. I have been told that J.D. Rockefeller paid for Florence to be buried there in 1933. It is close to his country home at Kykuit.
Finding a grave on the site is not an easy thing, but with the help of multiple maps from the office we negotiated the many small roads to the right spot. Harry and two of his wives, Florence and Marie are buried together, however only Harry has a stone, which has “That brotherhood may prevail” inscribed on it.
I had a short ‘chat’ with Harry, thanking him from everyone I have met and all those I have not, who have ever lived at the Houses for putting his idea into action and transforming lives. I looked around at the snowy graves and thought his was certainly a life well lived. He was 96 when he died and his legacy lives on. I wondered if I will do enough that my great grandchildren will come looking for my legacy.
It seemed a good place to end my trip and begin what ever comes next. I am convinced that the International House idea is as relevant now as it ever has been and that the original Houses need to keep flourishing.
The light needs to keep being passed on, so this is not the end but a beginning too. I don’t know exactly what happens next but although I will have to get some gainful employment again, I will be continuing to tell Harry’s story and celebrating the residents who have passed through the Houses.
There is some finishing off of this trip to be done when I get home to England and reflections on travelling the world to share.
I know I will see many of those I have met again and who knows what ripples are yet to happen as a result of our meeting, that is the exciting part.
It is a very long time since I last came to Copenhagen. We drove up from Belgium when I was 6 or 7 to stay with friends of my parents, I don’t remember much apart from going to Tivoli Gardens and looking across the water and my mum telling me I could see Sweden.
It was in fact Sweden across the now bridge, that was my first port of call after arriving in Copenhagen. I had been connected with an alumna from I-House Sydney who lives in Malmo, Linda Jonsson. We had a delightful evening discussing educational approaches around the world as she is an IB teacher in an international school.
My only I-House NYC alum at this stop was Lars-Erik Houmann Christensen. He has a wonderful office in an old building in the centre of town. Over some very lovely traditional pastries we discussed student housing and how Harry’s ideas could fit in the current market place for developing new places for international graduate students to live in Copenhagen and beyond. I failed to get a photo of us so one of the square his office is on will have to do!
I wanted to see if I could find Danish press articles about Harry’s 1966 trip. I was searching at the rather aptly names Black Diamond building which is the Det Kongelige Bibliotek and had just found the relevant article when the power failed across that part of Copenhagen. Keen to get the article, I waited nearly an hour until the lights came back on, however the computer system did not so I had to abandon the idea. I did ask a librarian very nicely if she would find it and email it to me, so we will see…
It is not easy to find restaurants in the Nordics that serves the local food at reasonable prices, but with the help of Jake Kirk Pedersen (I-House Berkeley) we met at Klubben which manages just that. The portions were enormous and I tried the Danish meatballs which are different to the Swedish ones as they are friend not boiled and are accompanied by creamed cabbage.
We were joined by Julie Thayer Elming (I-House Berkeley) and John Venning (ISH London) and his wife Inez. With a wonderfully diverse set of backgrounds our conversation ranged from music to catalytic chemistry, from international education to digital journalism as well as friends and love formed at the different Houses. John met his first wife, a Greek lady, at ISH London when he was there in the late 1960s.
One of John’s hobbies is photography, so he bought his camera and accessories with him to the restaurant and so we have some slightly more glamorous shots than usual from his lens.
Julie had her I-House Berkeley umbrella with her to survive the rainy Copenhagen night. It still has an ‘If Found’ sticker saying Piedmont Avenue on it!
Jack provided the lovely green candle to go onto London and was the recipient of Anna-Maija’s white handmade, heart shaped Finnish candle, quite appropriate as Jack met Serena his Hong Kong Chinese girlfriend at I-House and we are all hoping that it continues as a beautiful I-House love story.
Danish Press article (kindly translated by Julie):
83-Year-Old Goes Around the World for Old Students
The founder of International House, Harry Edmonds, in Copenhagen (04-03-1966)
An 83-year-old American, Mr. Harry Edmonds, has arrived in Copenhagen, which is one of the last stops on his 104-day long world tour.
Harry Edmonds is the founder of International House in New York, which houses 500 students from a number of countries, during their studies in the USA.
International House is the life’s work of Harry Edmonds, but he has now reached an age, where his daily presence at the student house is no longer required, which is why he has set out on the strenuous journey to visit as many International House alums as possible all around the world.
The journey started out by passing the Pacific Ocean to Asia, where many trusty old students gathered to meet him. Now Harry Edmonds has arrived in Copenhagen, after a visit to Rom, Paris, Berlin. He was recently the center of attention at a celebration at The Royal Hotel, where 25 Danes, who were all former residents of International House, where present.
Yesterday Harry Edmonds toured Copenhagen with two of his dearest Danish students, the sisters Olga Butterworth and Hildur Lange, who arrive at International House just a few years after its construction I 1924.
The world tour goes from Copenhagen to the other Nordic capitals and afterwards to London, before returning home to International House in New York.
Image text: The 83-year-old Harry Edmonds is resting by the statue of Hans Christian Andersen with the sisters Hildur Lange and Olga Butterworth.
Love makes the world go round – Linda Jonsson – When Linda was at I-House Sydney, she would often go to the movies with her two best friends. One evening they were not available so she joined a group of 3 other girls to go and see a film. It was a romantic comedy and they all enjoyed the film. When they came out they were all exchanging their admiration for the rather handsome male lead in the film and the romantic storyline. It suddenly struck Linda that between them they represented 4 continents and 3 religions yet the themes of the film around love and romance were universally understood. It is a story that she uses with her students to this day when exploring how we are all more similar than different
Partying with I-House Friends in NYC – Julie Thaysen Elming – Julie was at I-House Berkeley in 2016 whilst she studied Media and Journalism. When her mum came to visit her and saw the Hall of History pictures she made a connection to Julie’s grandfather’s memoirs as he had written about attending wonderful parties with I-House residents in New York whilst he was living in the city as a medical scholar at Rockefeller. He was not a resident but as the international community was much smaller then in NYC he knew people who were and attended events with them. He wrote about how he admired the way the House tackled cultural divides at the time (especially in the wake of WWII).
Chance Encounter – Lars-Erik Houmann Christensen – A good number of years after living there Lars-Erik decided to stay back at I-House NYC when visiting on business. Returning from his meetings he decided to go into the Pub for old times sake. Walking in to his surprise, he found one of his best friends from his time at the House sat at the bar. The Australian in question explained that on Wednesday evenings some of the alumni who are in town sometimes come back for a drink (I am not sure if this still happens before you all rush to go). Lars-Erik and his Australian friend had a wonderful evening and Lars-Erik was reminded of his friend Anu Sid Hittle who lived in Hawaii, who he had not been in contact with for some time. So he decided he would get back in touch. He picked up the phone and called her number. A lady answered the phone and as soon as Lars-Erik spoke she said ‘Hello Lars-Erik’ instantly recognising his voice even after all the years. They have since met up in their home countries and countries in between and it is Anu who connected me to Lars-Erik too.
I was re-joined in Helsinki by my partner Chris which was very lovely and after settling into our Airbnb we even managed to find a Finnish restaurant, The Sea Horse for dinner, which is a rarity.
Once again the blue skies were following me so we were able to explore the seaside of Helsinki and the ice on the beach, a first for me.
Kaarin Taipale recommended Edberg Cafe as our Helsinki gathering point as it is one of the oldest cafes in town, founded in 1852. So perhaps Harry would have visited it on one of his trips here. She also advised I book which was lucky as is particularly busy at weekends.
There are probably rarely more than two Finns at any one time in the New York I-House so the numbers of alumni are small and many of them also live outside Finland, so I was very happy to have Anna-Maija Lindholm and Kaarin agree to meet me. I was especially touched as Anna-Maija and her husband Pekka (who has now been to so many I-House events and stayed there many times that he really is an honorary resident) delayed their trip to Spain to escape the Finnish winter so they could meet me.
Kaarin and Anna-Maija’s have both been long term I-House supporters and members of the World Council of Alumni but had never met before. Both had lots of memories of creating new international friends and developing new interests. For Anna-Maija, it was the many contemporary dance performances, that she attended with a fellow resident who was studying dance notation.
The Ekberg waitress was very helpful and offered to bring dishes for the candles to sit on and provided very smart Ekberg matches in a good old fashioned box.
My library quest in Helsinki continued to be interesting as Oodi the Helsinki Central Library only opened in December and it is an amazing space. The whole 2nd floor is devoted to meeting and working space along with the provision of other resources such as sewing machines, 3D printers, poster plotters or computer gaming rooms, which the locals can use.
There was a more limited selection of digitised newspapers and they only run up to 1950 so sadly no opportunity to look for Harry’s 1966 trip, but the librarian did find an article from 1928 about the New York House referring to the Cosmopolitan Club which was the club Harry and Cleveland Dodge started in 1910 after Harry met the Chinese student.
Saint Lucia Day at I-House – Anna-Maija Lindholm – In December Finns and other Scandinavian countries celebrate St Lucia Day. Whilst at the House Anna-Maija and the other Scandinavians decided to put on a St Lucia celebration. A suitably blond lady of the group was chosen as St Lucia and dressed accordingly with the headdress of real candles and her court of ladies were dressed in white sheets to escort her to the gathering. They started singing, accompanied by Anders Paulsson (see my Swedish Post), at the top of the grand staircase and with the enclosed acoustic sounded wonderful. They had also made Glögi, which is the Finnish version of mulled wine, which not only includes wine but often Vodka or other spirits to give it a greater kick. It seems that this batch had definitely been given the extra kick as Anna-Maija recalls those not aware of its potential strength, getting drunk very quickly! Anna-Maija was also the donor of the Finnish flag to the House as there was not one before she arrived.
The Wrong Bus – Kaarin Taipale – Kaarin recalled being out in the winter coming back to the House from down town and realising too late that she had managed to get onto an Express bus that went sailing past the House and into the areas that were a definite no go in those days. Kaarin recalls being in a very distraught and tearful state and not knowing where she was when suddenly a police car appeared as if by magic and she was rescued!
Semla are a special bun eaten in Sweden and also other Nordic countries (although each is a little different) originally just on Shrove Tuesday before Lent started, but was expanded to every Tuesday during Lent at some point in its history. They have nothing to do with Harry and his trip but as I am here and they are available, in the spirit of international food experiences, obviously I had to try one. It is a cardamon flavoured bun filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream. According to Jussi Karlgren, who I met for breakfast (note the bun was eaten later as it is a bit much even for me at breakfast time!) the really authentic ones have a triangle shaped bun cap dusted with icing sugar perched on top of the mountain of cream. So this is a good one.
As I have pretty much no information about Harry’s time in the Nordic countries I thought I would see if he had had any press coverage as he seemed to in many of my previous stops, so I headed to the National Library of Sweden.
It is a while since I have been to a big library, so once I had navigated the system to leave your belongings in lockers and take your essentials in a plastic bag into the area where the books and media are, I headed down to the Newspaper Archive section. A very charming lady helped me get set up and search the digitised archive of Swedish language newspapers. Sadly the search did not come up with anything from Harry’s 1966 trip but it did come up with lots of other references to International House, Harry and also Rockefeller’s involvement. It looks like they did a good job of PR at the opening of the House in 1924 with quite a bit of coverage and further coverage in the late 20s and 30s.
It looks like Harry probably visited Stockholm whilst he was in Europe around 1935/36 and again in 1953. One thing about Harry was that he never gave up and I think he lived his life in optimism that in every country he would find the people who would facilitate the opening of a new House. In Sweden it looks as though his efforts focused around a club for International Students being run by the business school now the Stockholm School of Economics.
It seems that a lady called Ingeborg Axén was involved in the plan and that money was not the issue but land was. Much of Stockholm was re-built during the 50s and 60s to a master plan and getting access to land to build things that were not on the plan was a challenge. As there are no more references to this potential House that I could find, I can only imagine that it never happened.
There may also have been a plan in 1960 to have an International House funded by the Rotary in Goteborg, there is no reference to Harry being involved so it may have been completely separate, although it is interesting that it was Rotary funding that helped build I-House Sydney.
Looking for articles about Harry’s 1966 tour I also came across articles documenting the visit of the two Swedish Princesses, Desiree and Birgitta, to Chicago in November 1960 which tells of them having lunch at the I-House.
Those of you following my trip will know that Stockholm has been one of my more challenging places to find people to meet, so no big gathering was possible here, but I was able to connect over email with a number of alumni and meet with two of them separately.
Jussi Karlgren had two stints at I-House NYC one when he was a bachelor, 89/90, and a later one, 95/96, when his wife and two very small sons came with him and lived in one of the flats. He is actually 1/2 Finnish and told me how with another Fin they had the Finnish stall at All Nations. They managed to get sponsorship from an importer of cheese, who provided them with a mountain of Finnish cheese (yes apparently it is a thing) and they found some black bread and did a roaring trade in cheese sandwiches.
His other recollection was of parties thrown by a young trustee of I-House at his very cool Central Park West apartment. Every month the trustee would put up a sign up list on the Claremont side notice board and when the numbered slots were full the list came down and those on the list were invited to the party. It was Beer and Pizza and also some additional lady guests from Barnard college! Somehow Jussi managed to get on the list a number of times….
My second rendez vous was with I-House NYC alum Anders Paulsson, who is a wonderful saxophonist and also passionate advocate for the preservation of coral reefs. He has managed to combine coral reef preservation, music and science in projects in Hawaii, Philippines, Stockholm, Costa Rica and Zanzibar and this year he will travel to Liberia to work with musicians there too http://www.coralguardians.org
The strangest thing meet Anders was that we quickly found out that both of us had volunteered in the 1990s for the same UK NGO, Coral Cay Conservation, which had taken us both to dive for extended periods in Belize and also the Philippines off Negros on Danjugan Island. We obviously had not done it at exactly the same time and Anders’ experience has inspired him to found the Coral Guardians project and also to compose related music. My diving was curtailed by the arrival of my children but meeting Anders has reminded me of how important this part of my life once was so one I must revisit.
Anders was a Fulbright Scholar and went to NYC to further his music studies on the soprano saxophone through the study of Jazz at the Manhattan School of Music. Arriving in 1985 at the House, he was presented a booklet on how to be streetwise in New York City, the contents of which were somewhat alarming. So much so it was about a week before Anders ventured out of the House. Being a lover of nature, Anders had a room over looking the park, unlike Jussi, who said that he had one of the cheapest rooms in the House but did have a distant river view courtesy of the guy in the room across from him who never drew the curtains!
One of Anders’ precious memories is of tutoring a young man in English spelling as part of the Harlem Tuition Program and of taking his tutee and mum onto the roof of I-House to show them the view. His other vivid recollection was of being stopped in the hall by a fellow Swede and being told the news that the Prime Minster of Sweden, Olof Palme, had been assassinated whilst walking home from the cinema with his wife. (Feb 28th 1986).
Anders had the privilege of playing for Nelson Mandela and also to compose a CELEBRATION SUITE for South Africa Celebrating 20 years of Democracy. http://anderspaulsson.se/site/tag/south-africa/ He said to me that in South Africa they had taught him that we are all one race – human, just with different ethnic origins, so the concept of racism is therefore absurd. Harry would have liked that thought.
As some of you know I have been trying to send my children postcards from every destination which has almost been harder than finding alumni to meet with! Two Postcard related things from this stop, first once I had finally found a post office which was in itself a challenge, Sweden turns out to be my most expensive postcard sending yet. 21Kr for each stamp which is approximately $2. The young lady at the counter said it is because they upped the stamp cost to handle things up to 50gms?!? It is a very pretty stamp though, in fact I was offered the choice two either the Tulip or the Queen.
The other news is that the handprinted card of an elephant bought in Mumbai and posted in Beirut at AUB (see post about postcards) did actually arrive in the UK! It took 19 days but it got there.
Where we ate – Vete-Katte, a wonderful old pastry and coffee shop, has two distinct halves to it and in fact two counters. The front is shiny and new and the back is quaint and cosy – definitely go to the back http://vetekatten.se/en/
Blue skies and sunshine blessed my Berlin stop along with wonderful hospitality from the whole Schomaker family but especially Katrin. She had been the mastermind behind our afternoon and evening gathering of the Freunde des International House and in keeping with the sociability of the German alumni had organised a great turnout.
The first part of the day was a visit to Schloss Cecilienhof, Potsdam where the Potsdamer Konferenz was held between Stalin, Churchill and Truman in 1945 at the end of the war. We toured the restored rooms where the three leaders and their entourage negotiated and debated what the next steps were for Germany following the war. It is a building with amazing history and with lovely gardens and near by lake was a great choice especially as we ponder the future of Europe with Brexit looming.
Our reflections on the politics and history of the palace took place over lunch at the old dairy on the estate which is now a rather wonderful micro brewery. Obviously some of the party had to see whether the beer was any good! https://www.meierei-potsdam.de
After a short pause it was time to head out to dinner. The Freunde des International House are one of the most active I-House NYC chapters in the world and last autumn they managed three gatherings in different German cities to celebrate I-House Day.
From the start of the I-Houses the alumni were encouraged by Harry and subsequent Directors to come together to celebrate the opening of I-House NYC in November 1924. I am not as familiar with what happens at today at Berkeley and Chicago I-Houses but last autumn the alumni team at NYC I-House worked with alumni around the world to hold I-House Day meet ups in a long list of locations including Shanghai, New York, LA, London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Honolulu, Manila and several others.
The Freunde group also work with the Friends of I-House UK chapter to mastermind a gathering of alumni weekend somewhere in Europe each year. Last year it was Edinburgh with over 60 people attending and this year it will be in Essen the 3rdweekend of September, alumni from around the world welcome.
Over the most enormous but delicious schnitzel I have ever eaten, I got to hear stories of time at the NYC and Berkeley Houses from the 20 attendees. We also welcomed Pooja Merchant who is the current Chair of the Freunde group and her new husband who both came along despite being about to move to the US from Berlin. Some of the group had also travelled great distances to join us from Frankfurt & Munich which was very touching.
For many of the German alumni who come together their time at I-House was relatively short as they were interns either for major banks or corporations. It is always striking to me that after only 3 or 4 months living at I-House their experience was so compelling and the friends they made so significant that many years later they are still meeting with the group. Harry would have been so pleased.
The blue skies and sunshine continued right through my stay as did the welcome and warmth from everyone I met.
Portrait Project– Morgan Randall – Morgan came from Texas to live at I-House Berkeley and immediately was struck by the possibilities of a more international angle to his career and life. Talking to him it is obvious that he really embraced every aspect and opportunity offered by time at the House in a purposeful way. This included finding a novel way to get to meet all of the residents in each of his two years at the House. He drew their portraits. Outside each room at the House there is a small whiteboard on which the name of the resident is written. Morgan started to draw a portrait of each person or people living in the room on the whiteboards. During the few minutes he was doing this he would strike up conversations that often lasted longer than the time it took to do the drawing and in some cases led to friendships he still has. He has continued his project ever since drawing people when he meets them using both hands at the same time. Here is mine, number 8371. To find out more about Morgan’s projects visit his website http://escher2hands.com Having enjoyed meeting Germans at the House Morgan decide to apply for a Data Scientist role in Munich which he got and has been living in Germany for the past two years. He has visited over 18 countries while he has been there and arrived on the overnight train from Munich to Berlin to join us for the event. Morgan later made this video as part of the I-House Berkeley Big Give in March 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51nJGhurr_A
The picture for this blog is the back of Quentin Dumont’s phone on which is a well worn I-House sticker, which I thought summed up the continual presence of time spent at I-House even if people are not totally aware of it.
Our restaurant for our Paris meet up, Flam’s was a great choice as we got to work our way through unlimited Flam’s (french version of pizza done on very thin pastry) which we shared trying all the flavours on the menu. It also turned out to have an I-House connection as the daughter of the owner of the chain of restaurants is a current I-House resident. We did not know this when Isabelle Sionniere found it but it seemed to confirm it as the place for us to meet when Quentin shared this with us.
It has been some 10 years since there was last a gathering of I-House alumni in Paris. Towards the end of our evening Virgine Pez Perard found the photos of that dinner and there was amusement from Isabelle and Claire Lauper as they looked at their younger selves.
At the dinner we had I-House NYC represented from Quentin who left only last year to the Salomon sisters, Pat and Carole, who were there some 30 years ago.
We also had Pierre Gottraux who was flying the flag for ISH London and he had carefully bought along his GOAT (what ISH London alumni are called) reunion 50 years of ISH celebration bag to show us.
Isabelle was the donor of the Paris candle and being a gold star shaped one it was a great match for the silver one from my Roman friends. She had chosen the star shape to represent the stars and stripes of the USA.
Admission by TELEX – Pat Salomon – The parents of Pat and Carole Salomon were not willing to let one of them go to study in NYC alone, so Pat and Carole went together. They started and finished living at I-House NYC together, however their road to living a the House was a bit last minute. The time for them to go to New York was rapidly approaching and still they had no accommodation sorted. With only a week or so until their departure to the US, there was no time to write and there being no internet or fax the only option was to use TELEX. Luckily their father’s secretary was willing to help and sent a TELEX to the head of their future program at Columbia. He said he would see what he could do but would need more information, which was duly dispatched bit by bit over the wire. Finally practically as they were leaving Paris for NYC they got the confirmation that they would be accepted to live at I-House. When Pat arrived in New York she decide that they should thank the helpful gentleman from Columbia and so took a bottle of Champagne to him. Arriving to give it to him she asked why he had bothered to help her and her sister, to which he replied that he had seen they were French and as he had been in the US Army in WWII and had been the first allied soldier to arrive to liberate Nancy he felt a strong bond with the French.
A series of fortunate mistakes – Isabelle Sionniere – Isabelle came to New York with a desire to learn and find work. Her paperwork made that difficult but despite that she gave French lessons to kids and worked in a variety of jobs whilst sub letting a flat. Whilst politely declining a nannying job from 5am until late in the evening each day to the mum who had offered it to her, she was connected to the father of the same family who it turned out would be willing to have her as an unpaid intern for a number of months. At around the same time a friend who knew of Isabelle’s challenges with her immigration status told her about the Green Card Lottery and encouraged her to apply. One of the places to do so was on Riverside Drive, however Isabelle did not quite get the address right and ended up going into I-House by mistake. Noticing the keys all hung up she wondered if this was an accommodation option (as her flat had come to an end and she was in need of somewhere to live). The resident manning the desk was not French but was learning French and was keen to practice so they fell into conversation. She explained that Isabelle could live there if she was a post graduate student or an intern, and so everything fell into place and Isabelle spent 18 happy months as a resident. One of the things that she took up whilst at the House was Ballroom dancing, which gave her continued pleasure for the next 20 or so years.
Giving and receiving – Clair Lauper – Arriving home after the dinner Clair sent me these three photos with the following explanation “coming to my door and fetching my keys to unlock it I smiled… the key ring is a gift I received from PS 306 (a school in the Bronx) in 1996 when I visited them with a group of I-House students to tell the kids about the countries we were coming from. A very poor neighborhood and really emotional memories from this visit… still have the drawings of the kids!”