Bicycle Riding in Denmark

March 26, 2020

En español. Em português.

Integrated with its widespread public bus and train network, cycling is considered an important means of transportation in this small Scandinavian country, which has one of the world’s most modern bicycle infrastructures. Out of 20 cities throughout the world, and every year since 2015, the Copenhagenize Index has ranked Denmark’s capital, København (Copenhagen), the most bicycle friendly city in the world. If you like to ride your bike, Danmark is geared for cycling.

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A Typical Danish Bikeway.  Credit: supercykelstier.dk

Danskerne (the Danes) and Bicycles

The capital city of København (Copenhagen), which means the Merchant’s Port in Dansk (Danish), has a population of 633,000 people (2017), about 675,000 bicycles, and 120,000 cars. 62% of københavnerne (Copenhageners) cycle to work or school; 4 out of 10 own a car; and 9 out of 10 own a bicycle. In fact, since 2016, cykel (bicycle) traffic surpassed car traffic in the capital region, with 52% of households not owning a car. Danskerne on average cycle 1.9 miles per day in Copenhagen; 1.5 miles in Århus, the second largest city; and 1.6 miles in Odense, the third largest. 75% of bike traffic continues throughout the cold Danish winters, and 4000 to 5000 bikes are sold in Copenhagen annually.

Danmark has been a bicycle nation for over 100 years and in the 1920s and 30s, cycling became a symbol of equality and freedom. In the early seventies, when the land of Hans Christian Andersen and all countries of the world were investing heavily in cars and automobile infrastructure, things took a turn with the Mideast oil crisis and Københavnere, demanded that their wonderful Copenhagen, as the famous song says, be car free.

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26% of Copenhageners with 2 children own a cargo bike. Credit: supercykelstier.dk

Dansk børn (Danish children) start riding bicycles before they are six years old and are often seen at very early ages on their parents’ bicycles, which may be adapted with different parts and carriages to transport one or several children at a time. Danskerne actually invented the front wooden box transport bike seen here and below, which conveniently carries children or cargo in this bicycle nation. In school, children learn cykling (cycling) culture, rules and safety as part of their curriculum. 49% of all børn aged 11-15 cycle to school.

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The Danish Front Cargo Bike was invented in Denmark. Credit: christianiabikes.com

Danish Cykling Infrastructure

Among many other factors, perhaps the most important key to the Danish biking success is that cyklister (cyclists) have their own separate bikeways, which cars cannot access. København has about 249 miles of them, which are separated from car lanes and sidewalks altogether.

Geographically comprised of the peninsula Jutland, Zealand and numerous other small islands, Danmark is a wealthy and modern country of 16,577 square miles, which has 7500 miles of bikeways.  It’s built 13 bicycle bridges since 2017 and three more are under construction. The recently finished Dybbølbro bridge has 6 yard wide lanes in each direction to accommodate more than 22,000 daily bicycle riders. It’s also currently constructing hundreds of miles of “super” bikeways which connect Copenhagen to its suburbs. 

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A typical bike bridge in Denmark. Credit: supercykelstier.dk

The public transportation network works together with Danish bikeways. Commuter trains have a dedicated wagon for bicycles.  20% of Danish cyclists ride their bikes to train stations and 5% from the train stations to their destination. In Copenhagen, it’s 30% to 10% respectively.

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The Statsbaner commuter & subway Trains (State Railways) Credit: supercykelstier.dk

Health and The Environment

Cykling reduces health problems, work absences and it saves the Danish tax payer money on health costs. Danish studies show that for every 2/3 of a mile cycled, Denmark gains approximately $1.10 in health benefits in its medicare-for-all type health care system. In addition, cyclists in Copenhagen request 1.1 million less sick days versus non cyklister (cyclists), which translates as 215 million euros in annual savings. For every 746 miles cycled, one sick day is reduced. It’s also a great way for Danskerne to get fresh air every day and enjoy the outdoors, which clears your mind and reduces stress. 

The benefits of cykling to the environment speak for themselves. It reduces carbon emissions, pollution, noise, and traffic congestion. It uses public space more efficiently, creates a thriving urban life and makes cities more livable. In the Capital region, bicycle usage saves 500 tons of CO2 annually and Sjælland residents produce 92% less emissions when they stop using their cars and switch to cykler (bicycles). Danes consider cykling the present and future of mobility and smart city development. It also provides mobility at a low cost. 

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A bicycle dedicated wagon in a Danish Commuter Train. Credit: supercykelstier.dk

Danish Teknologi

Danes try to make cykling as convenient as possible in order to encourage it.  The grøn bølge (green wave) technology, which has existed in a similar form for cars in Denmark for many decades, are green LED lights adapted for bikeways which, when lit, mean that if the cyklist rides at about 12.5 mph he/she will catch the next traffic light in green, and will not have to stop. In addition, when it’s raining, some bikeways are fitted with sensors that allow longer green traffic lights. Danes are also constantly testing and implementing new technology to improve safety, for example LED lights that warn truck drivers of cyclists, when making a right turn.

Dansk bikeways also have a variety of cykelinventar (urban furniture) which add considerable comfort, such as service stations; monitors with all kinds of real time information like weather, number of riders, etc; air pumps; footrests; and  even bike-friendly tilted trash receptacles.

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Bicycle footrest in Denmark. Credit: supercykelstier.dk

The Danish Super-Bikeways 

Known as the supercykelstier, translated by that organization, the Sekretariatet for Supercykelstier (The Department for Superbikeways),  into English as the  “bicycle superhighways,” they connect the kommuner (suburbs) to København. The object is to increase long distance cykling commuting, and make it competitive to taking the train or bus, thereby reducing carbon emissions, and at the same time, improving the health of cyclists.  Other European countries are also constructing this new category of bike thoroughfares.

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The 4.54 mile in length C-82  Superbikeway in one of Copenhagen’s near suburbs. Credit: supercykelstier.dk

In 2009, most of Sjælland’s suburbs (Zealand, the name of the Island where Copenhagen is) started this joint project to build a total of 466 miles of these highways by 2045. A total of 8 have been built thus far, progressing from 7.5 miles in 2012, to 104 miles in 2019.  

Built with the vision of keeping Copenhagen and its suburbs as the “greatest bicycle region” in the world, the superbikeways make perfect environmental and financial sense. Danish research found that replacing 1% of all car trips in Sjælland with a bicycle, saves 23,000 tons of  CO2 . Bike traffic in the superbikeways increased 23% since 2012  and 14% used to travel by car instead.  The highest number of cyclists recorded on one superbikeway on a weekday was 29,000 and riders average 6.8 miles per day. In addition, there would be a 30% increase in car commuting if no one in the region used a bicycle.

The superbikeways will cost $319.8 million by 2045, and bring a total socio-economic surplus is $829.3 million, of which $667.7 million comprise the health benefits. They will also reduce by 40,000 the number of sick days per year.

A study by danskindustri.dk found that 10% additional cykling annually would reduce sick days by 267,000, decrease traffic congestion by 6%, and save $160 million in public health care. 

Meet Some Danish Cyclists

According to a supercykelstier.dk one month study, Mette, a 49 year old Danish woman who used an electric bicycle, saw a 5 year reduction in her body age by cycling 16.7 miles/day. She also saw her Body Mass Index reduced from 24.4 to 23.4 in one month.

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A typical Danish parent with her children. Credit: supercykelstier.dk 

Fiona Weiss, a Danish woman who has ridden a bicycle for 50 years, cycles mostly in summer and says “it gets the happy vibes going and allows me to discover places I would not see on the train, (keeping) my legs slim.” She also enjoys cycling on “a good winter day. If I feel like going to the seaside or forest for winter fresh air.”

Bettina Fürstenberg is a 52  year old Danish woman who used to ride her bicycle an average of about 10 miles a day until she had a serious bike accident in her thirties. She currently owns three bicycles, one being electric. She says cycling is the “fastest way to move around Copenhagen,” and it “doesn’t pollute the air.” She feels that “better and larger roads are still needed…with stricter rules for cyclists” such as “speed limits.” Although she hasn’t fully recovered from her accident, she still rides her bikes for “any kind of activity, like work, movies, parks, shopping, etc.”

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Outside area of a typical Copenhagen building. Photo by Jorge Carbajosa

Danish Bicycle Know-How

The Cycling Embassy of Denmark promotes cycling for cities throughout the world. It offers a virtual reality film featuring a bike ride in Copenhagen, a two day study trip in Denmark and prepares annual reports. Danes have numerous websites in English promoting cycling and their country. Many were used for this story and are listed below.

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Bicycle parking areas at Copenhagen’s Main Central Station. Photo by Jorge Carbajosa

Danish and English Linguistics

The Danish language is spoken in Danmark, Færøerne (the Faeroe Islands) and by a minority in Grønland (Greenland). It is mutually intelligible with Swedish and Norwegian, which descend from Old Norse. Icelandic, another language that comes from the Vikings, also comes from Old Norse.

The Danish language is related to English because they are both Germanic in origin. The Angles were in fact, Danes, who migrated to England in the fifth century A.D. In addition, Old Norse influenced English because of Vikingerne (the Vikings) invasions of Great Britain in the eighth century A.D. and in 1066 A.D. by the Normans (the North Men) who were also of Viking origin.

Most Danes speak English well and learn it at a young age.

Copyright © 2020 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

I would like to dedicate this article to all my friends from Denmark and specially to Bettina Fürstenberg, Birgitte Borgsmidt, Robert Clarke, Dr. Joe Asbury, and to world cyclists Jorge Balderas and Ignacio Durán.

Sources:

http://www.cycling-embassy.dk/

Cycle superhighways

https://cyclingsolutions.info/

https://copenhagenizeindex.eu/

https://denmark.dk/people-and-culture/biking

https://www.danskindustri.dk/english

http://www.m-w.com 

http://www.bing.com

http://www.google.com

https://www.etymonline.com/

McKay’s Modern Danish – English Dictionary by Hermann Vinterberg, David McKay Company, Inc.

An Introduction to Old Norse, E.V. Gordon, Oxford 1990

Local West African Women’s Organization Holding their Annual Fundraising Gala Dinner March 11th

February 6, 2023

If you would like to experience a Togolese night, with West African music and native dancing, and at the same time support a local charity, reserve the date of Saturday, March 11th 2023.

WO.S.A.T, a Chicagoan Togolese Women’s Association is hoping to raise $20K to fund water works projects in the Village of Danyi Gabi, Togo, and to provide much needed medical and school equipment and supplies.

In 2022 WOSAT funded similar projects in the Villages of Atoeta, Ahepe, Agbetiko and Batomé, with $12K they received from donations and membership dues. WOSAT also funded projects in Togo in 2017, 2016 and 2014. Many videos and pictures are available here.

WOSAT is celebrating their 15 year anniversary and International Women’s Day at Crystal Band Banquet in Lemont. Ticket information is listed in the video below. Donations are welcome for those who may not be able to attend by Zelle / Paypal / CashApp: wosatready@gmail.com .

Wo.S.A.T. Fundraiser Gala Dinner Party March 11th Promotional Video
School children at the Village of Ahepe in Togo, West Africa, receiving schools supplies from Wo.S.A.T members 2022
School children at the Village of Ahepe in Togo, West Africa with backpacks purchased by Wo.S.A.T. 2022
In 2022 Wo.S.A.T. provided hospital beds for women to give birth like the one we see in the far left to a hospital in Ahepe, Togo.
Village Elders, Ahepe, Togo, West Africa, 2022
In 2022 Wo.S.A.T. purchased school benches and tables for several school in the Villages of Ahepe, Atoeta, Agbetiko and Batomé, in Togo, West Africa.

Copyright © 2023 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

How I Defeated Depression

January 6, 2023

With a gratitude list. It was that simple. In the mornings I would make a mental note of the good and positive things in my life: 1. I am sober. 2. I am alive. 3. I am in college. 4. I have my future. 5. I am single. 6. I have a place to live. 7. I have food on the table, etc. If I didn’t make this list, I couldn’t get out of bed.

This was what my psychologist recommended and it worked like a charm. The list automatically gave me encouragement, willingness and hope. After this mind exercise in the morning, my depression ceased and I could get on with my day.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

I was 24 years old when I became seriously depressed. I was going through a difficult break up and I found myself alone for the first time after I had quit drinking 8 months before. I think I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions being sober. I also know I felt hopeless many times when I drank heavily.

My main depression symptom was that I found it very hard to do anything at all. All tasks were overwhelming and I could find no willingness inside of me. It was almost as if the limbs in my body had become too heavy and any kind of movement was too burdensome.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

I was not eating, not showering and not taking care of myself properly. I also had lost my ability to concentrate or focus. I was in college at the time and during lectures, whatever the teachers said didn’t register in my mind. When I tried to read the class textbooks, the words made no sense. I would read the same paragraphs several times, not knowing what I was reading.

What was saving me before I learnt about the gratitude list were the AA meetings, and I was going to as many as three every day. Sometimes on my way to the AA clubhouse my head was in such turmoil and unrest that all I could think about was the movements of my legs: Right step, now a left step, another right step. I had to focus and watch my legs or I felt I wouldn’t get there. The clubhouse became my safehouse, my shelter and my mental hospital. At the meetings I spoke to whoever was willing to listen. One night amidst my depression, I had a dream in which my AA friends were carrying me in their arms.

My brother also came to visit and stay with me that summer of 1992 when I was going through all this. He was taking a graduate class at the same university where I studied. His companionship and being able to talk to someone were of tremendous help. I’ve heard people say at AA meetings that “just talking about it” solves 50% of the problem.

Besides the depression, many of the very difficult feelings I was having were due to the break up. The emotions played in my head incessantly like a merry-go-round. And then when it was all over and my girl friend had completely left me, the pure depression truly set in.

I continue to do the gratitude list some mornings when I’m not feeling too emotionally well. It still works like a charm.

Every cloud has a silver lining my father would say. If one door closes, another one opens. Life is full of opportunity. The Higher Power gave us life to live and experience it.

Copyright © 2023 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment: Cottage Grove Ave Mural, and West to 41st Street

December 27, 2022

This part of the abandoned embankment is located between 41st Street and Bowen Ave and runs northwest from Cottage Grove.

Google aerial view between Cottage Grove Ave & 41st Street. The embankment is under the continuous forest of trees we see above. It is about 415 feel long (127 meters).

On 41st Street, between Cottage Grove Ave and Langley Ave, it has large walls on both the south and north side of the street. It also has a mural on Cottage Grove Avenue. Its south wall is visible from both Bowen Ave and in the alley behind a row of houses on the east half of the East 700 block of Bowen Ave. Its north wall is visible in the back of some apartment buildings located on East 41st Street that reach 41st St and West of the apartment buildings. The mural is about 13′ tall and almost 53′ wide, the lead artist is Bernard Williams and it was painted in 2003.

South Wall along Bowen Avenue to Cottage Grove, of the Chicago Junction Railway Embankment, winter 2023
South wall of the Chicago Junction Railway Embankment, Summer 2020 approx
Video of the North Wall of the CJR Embankment on 41st Street

The Ellis and Lake Park Station

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment: Ellis Ave to Drexel Blvd and Mural

Cottage Grove Ave Mural, and West to 41st St

North of 41st St to South Langley Ave and 40th St

South Langley Ave and north of 40th St to the Abandoned Vincennes Station

Vincennes Ave to MLK, along south side of E Oakwood Blvd, north of Paul G Stewart Apartments

The South Parkway Train Station on Martin Luther King Drive

The mural on the West side of Martin Luther King Drive

West of MLK Drive to Calumet Ave

West of South Prairie Ave to S Indiana Ave

Indiana Train station

South Michigan Ave to South Wabash Ave

West South Wabash to East South State street

West of South State St to S Dearborn St

References:

https://www.chicago-l.org

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenwood_branch

7 CTA train lines you never knew existed

The Morton Arboretum

The “L”, The Development of Chicago’s Rapid Transit System 1888-1932 by Bruce G. Moffat, 1995

Copyright © 2023 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment: Ellis Ave to Drexel Blvd and Mural

November 25, 2022

About 13′ tall, 52′ wide, and 430′ in length, its area being approximately 22,360 square feet, this part of the embankment is between Drexel Blvd and Ellis Ave. Its north wall faces 41st St and its south wall, an alley and an apartment building on Drexel Blvd. There is a mural on its Eastern Wall of Drexel Blvd.

According to https://www.chicago-l.org/operations/lines/kenwood.html the Chicago Transit Authority closed the embankment for public use (Kenwood Branch) in 1957 but the Chicago Junction Railway continued using it for commercial purposes until the 1960s.

The CJRE is about one mile long and it is located in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago’s south side. It is visible mostly along 41st Street, running from South Lake Park Ave, which is close to Lake Michigan, to highway 90/94. Some sections of it no longer exist and a forest has grown on top of it. Below is a video of this section of the CJRE and some photographs.

Aerial view from Google maps of the Chicago Junction Railway Embankment from Lake Park Ave to Drexel Blvd
MINUTE 2:55 is where you can see the section of the CJRE between Ellis Ave and Drexel Blvd
West wall on Ellis Ave
South west wall, Ellis Ave
Close up, upper west wall, Ellis Ave
Upper part south wall 41st St alley, north of 42nd Pl
South wall alley

The Ellis and Lake Park Station

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment: Ellis Ave to Drexel Blvd and Mural

Cottage Grove Ave Mural, and West to 41st St

North of 41st St to South Langley Ave and 40th St

South Langley Ave and north of 40th St to the Abandoned Vincennes Station

Vincennes Ave to MLK, along south side of E Oakwood Blvd, north of Paul G Stewart Apartments

The South Parkway Train Station on Martin Luther King Drive

The mural on the West side of Martin Luther King Drive

West of MLK Drive to Calumet Ave

West of South Prairie Ave to S Indiana Ave

Indiana Train station

South Michigan Ave to South Wabash Ave

West South Wabash to East South State street

West of South State St to S Dearborn St

References:

https://www.chicago-l.org

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenwood_branch

7 CTA train lines you never knew existed

The “L”, The Development of Chicago’s Rapid Transit System 1888-1932 by Bruce G. Moffat, 1995

Copyright © 2022 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment: The Abandoned Ellis and Lake Park Station

October 19, 2022

About 400′ long, 52′ wide, (20,800 sq. feet approx) and 13′ high, the abandoned Ellis & Lake Park Station is located between 41st Pl and 41st St, and between Lake Park Ave and Ellis Ave, and it is about a third of mile from Lake Michigan. The entrances on both Lake Park and Ellis are sealed. The 42nd Place station, which can be seen on the map below, and which was the closest to Lake Michigan no longer exists. You can see a 1955 photo of the station here.

1940 map of the Kenwood Branch, from Chicago Public Library
The Ellis & Lake Park Station, Lake Park Avenue Entrance
Aerial Google map of the Ellis & Lake Park elevated train station between South Lake Park Ave & S Ellis Ave. Many of the buildings have a view of the top of the embankment
The abandoned Ellis & Lake Park Station, Lake Park entrance, corner of 41st St, west side of Lake Park Ave
The abandoned Ellis & Lake Park Station, Ellis Ave entrance, west side of Ellis Ave, just south of 41st Street
Walled up door of Ellis & Park Ave Station
South wall, between 41st street and 41st place
Ellis and Lake Park Station South Wall, 41st Street alley

The Ellis and Lake Park Station

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment: Ellis Ave to Drexel Blvd and Mural

Cottage Grove Ave Mural, and West to 41st St

North of 41st St to South Langley Ave and 40th St

South Langley Ave and north of 40th St to the Abandoned Vincennes Station

Vincennes Ave to MLK, along south side of E Oakwood Blvd, north of Paul G Stewart Apartments

The South Parkway Train Station on Martin Luther King Drive

The mural on the West side of Martin Luther King Drive

West of MLK Drive to Calumet Ave

West of South Prairie Ave to S Indiana Ave

Indiana Train station

South Michigan Ave to South Wabash Ave

West South Wabash to East South State street

West of South State St to S Dearborn St

References:

https://www.chicago-l.org

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenwood_branch

7 CTA train lines you never knew existed

The Morton Arboretum

The “L”, The Development of Chicago’s Rapid Transit System 1888-1932 by Bruce G. Moffat, 1995

Copyright © 2022 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

The Abandoned Chicago Junction Railway Embankment in Chicago’s South Side

October 15, 2022

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment (CJRE) is in the Bronzeville and Kenwood neighborhoods. It used to be part of the elevated train system and it was closed to the public in 1957. The CJR Kenwood branch had six train stations of which only three exist today. It is about 1 mile long from Lake Park avenue to the Dan Ryan highway. There’s a small section of it that heads north and descends to ground level, from 40th Street to Pershing Road, and is West of Federal street. Some sections of the embankment, along with its train bridges, are still visible on the west side of the Dan Ryan, all the way to South Normal Avenue.

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment on Google Maps, outlined in yellow

According to the city of Chicago, the embankment is owned by the Cook County Land Bank Authority. I contacted them several times by phone and email with many questions, for example, what their plans are for the embankment, if any part of it is for sale, if they do any maintenance and if I can get a permit to walk on it and take pictures, but I have not received a response.

I love the majestic walls of the Embankment and the thick forest with several hundreds, if not thousands, of trees and shrubs that have grown on it. I find it fascinating how these trees and shrubs have grown on their own, although this is not uncommon in Chicago, due to our rich soil and abundance of water.

According to Ms. Lydia Scott, Director of the Morton Arboretum Chicago Region Trees Initiative, “Trees are very important for urban areas.” Ms. Scott directed me to a literature review about the benefits of trees for livable and sustainable communities.

From some of the photographs I sent to the Morton Arboretum, Ms. Julie Janoski, Plant Clinic Manager there, has identified several species present on top of the CJRE to be green and white ash trees, Norway maples, Tree of heaven, Siberian elms and alders.

Ms. Scott added that there’s probably also “mulberry, box elders, honeysuckles and likely other (weedy) species.”

From a layman’s perspective, I know having so many trees in our city reduces carbon dioxide, increases oxygen, and preserves some biodiversity in our city. Trees are of course also relaxing and beautiful to look at.

If you would like to see some videos of the CJRE, you can do so at my YouTube Channel.

In the near future, I will be publishing many descriptions, photos and videos of the CJRE in this blog. Here’s an index that will be linked with hypertext:

The Ellis and Lake Park Station

The Chicago Junction Railway Embankment: Ellis Ave to Drexel Blvd and Mural

Cottage Grove Ave Mural, and West to 41st St

North of 41st St to South Langley Ave and 40th St

South Langley Ave and north of 40th St to the Abandoned Vincennes Station

Vincennes Ave to MLK, along south side of E Oakwood Blvd, north of Paul G Stewart Apartments

The South Parkway Train Station on Martin Luther King Drive

The mural on the West side of Martin Luther King Drive

West of MLK Drive to Calumet Ave

West of South Prairie Ave to S Indiana Ave

Indiana Train station

South Michigan Ave to South Wabash Ave

West South Wabash to East South State street

West of South State St to S Dearborn St

References:

https://www.chicago-l.org

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenwood_branch

7 CTA train lines you never knew existed

The Morton Arboretum

The “L”, The Development of Chicago’s Rapid Transit System 1888-1932 by Bruce G. Moffat, 1995

Copyright © 2022 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

María del Carmen de los Ángeles Morales Hain R.I.P. 1/1/1933 – 1/8/2022

September 7, 2022

My dear mother: An international woman in a globalizing 20th Century (español)

She was born in Madrid’s San Antonio neighborhood. Her mother was very young so she grew up with her maternal grandparents until she became a teenager and she went to live to Lisbon for some years with her parents, who never married, and who had immigrated to Portugal during the Spanish civil war.

In Portugal she was unable to attend school because of problems with her visa, but she did learn to speak Portuguese fluently. She often had to help her mother, who was a single woman and she quickly learnt to do things on her own and get around Lisbon. After some years she returned to Madrid to live with her paternal grandparents. She was very interested in foreign languages and she enrolled in Spain’s Official Language School, where she met my father and studied German, Russian, English and French. She graduated in French and English. She also became a licensed stenographer and she kept her stenography machine all her life.

In the 50s after she graduated, she worked as an assistant teacher at Spain’s Official Language School. In 1954, Madrid’s British Council awarded her with a scholarship to study a graduate course at Cambridge University. Upon returning she started working as a bilingual secretary for the U.S. Air Force at Torrejón de Ardoz’s U.S. Air Base, where due to the dollar exchange rate she made more money than high ranking civil servants in Spain.

After almost 10 years of being with my father, she broke up with him and moved to Wiesbaden, Germany to work at a different U.S air base. She was there for almost a year but she returned to Spain and ended up marrying my father. She wore a black wedding dress because she was mourning her paternal grandfather whom she loved and admired deeply.

During my mother’s travels in Europe in the 60s she often encountered Spanish immigrants who only spoke Spanish and she helped them by being their interpreter.

After my parent’s marriage, my father was offered a job at the United Nations and they moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where they lived for two years. My mother was quickly able to find work at the U.N. International Labour Office as an International Civil Servant. In 1963, however, she was terminated for being pregnant with my oldest brother. To no avail, she appealed the decision to the U.N. but it does appear, however, that she was the last woman to be fired at the ILO for carrying a child.

My parents returned to Madrid and my mother gave birth to my oldest brother, José Ramón. She convinced and almost made my father apply for a job in New York city at Spain’s equivalent of the Department of Commerce. My father was hesitant because it involved taking a difficult English test but he passed it. Shortly after they moved to Manhattan. My mother was already a devote homemaker and in NY she gave birth to two more boys, my brother Eduardo and I.

In 1968 my mother went to Lisbon to spend some time with her mother while my father finalized his work in the Great Apple. They returned to Spain and my youngest brother Victor was born in 1970. Here is where my first memories of my mother begin. I remember she spent a lot of time cleaning the house and feeding us. My father always had a meal ready when he came home from work. During those years my mother worked on weekends at a hotel as a front desk attendant, since my father worked Monday through Friday.

In 1974 my father was transferred to Rio de Janeiro and there we lived right in front of Copacabana beach. My mother managed the apartment we lived in, the expenses and the two employees we had, a cook and a nanny. I remember she would sometimes clean the living room windows and it would scare us to death because she would lean out the window, sticking half of her body outside, and we lived in the sixth floor of a high-rise. She wasn’t one to be scared and she also didn’t fear death later in life when she realized her days were counted. In Brazil, I also remember many women coming to our home to do aerobics or yoga.

Two years later we moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. My mother said it would make us sad to leave Brazil, which I didn’t understand then but later I realized my parents were very happy in Rio.

In Denmark my mother quickly joined both the International and American Women’s Club where she was not only very active but very much loved. She had a passion for international cuisine and she perfected her cooking skills in those clubs, learning how to cook like a real chef. Sometimes she would host dinners for embassadors at home and she’d hire a cook and a waitress to make sure her meals came out the way she wanted. All this while being a full time homemaker, meaning cooking all the meals, making all of our school lunches, washing and ironing all of our clothes and managing the several fruit trees we had in our garden, never getting tired of making apple preserve. She was our right hand woman.

During the 80s the King and Queen of Spain visited Denmark and my mother helped my father organize an international reception for them for which the King awarded my father the Knight’s Cross of Spain.

In 1984 we returned to Madrid and since we, her children, were already older, my mother went back to work for the U.S. government, this time at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. There she received various awards, among others the Meritorious Honor Award.

One story I like to tell about my mother is that she once told me she couldn’t understand why when men abandoned their wives, the women would always keep the children. “Women are dumb. If your father left me, you and your brothers will go live with him. I’m going to enjoy my life.” It shows she was both a modern woman and a feminist.

My mother was never depressed and she was a tireless, selfless woman who never complained. She was an altruist, always kind, very proper and considerate towards others. She would do everything she could to help you if she could. Many people loved and valued her.

When my father died in 2009, my mother became my best friend. She was the only person I could call at any time and talk to her about everything.

I will miss you a lot mother. Thank you for all the support, the help and the life you gave me. You were always there for me, a tremendous support. I love you and I hope that I will see you in the next world and that we can remember this life, smile and laugh together.

María del Carmen de los Ángeles Morales Hain D.E.P. 1/1/1933 – 1/8/2022

August 24, 2022

Mi querida madre, una mujer internacional en un mundo que comenzaba a globalizarse en el siglo XX (English)

Nació en Madrid en el barrio de San Antonio. Debido a que su madre era muy joven, se crió con sus abuelos maternos hasta que fue adolescente y se fue a vivir a Lisboa unos años con sus padres, que nunca se casaron, y que allí habían inmigrado por la guerra civil española.

En Portugal por temas del visado, no pudo estudiar en la escuela, pero sí aprendió a hablar el portugués con soltura. En Lisboa tuvo que ayudar mucho a su madre que era soltera y aprendió rápidamente a hacer cosas sola y desenvolverse por esa ciudad. Unos años después volvió a Madrid y vivió con sus abuelos paternos. Le interesaban mucho las lenguas extranjeras y se matriculó en la Escuela Oficial de Idiomas. Allí conoció a mi padre. Estudio alemán, ruso, inglés y francés titulándose de los dos últimos. También se graduó de taquigrafía y conservó su máquina de estenografía hasta sus últimos años.

Al acabar sus estudios, en los años 50, se colocó de profesora auxiliar en la Escuela Oficial de Idiomas. En 1954, recibió una beca del Instituto Británico de Madrid para hacer un curso superior en Cambridge. Después comenzó a trabajar de secretaria bilingüe en las Fuerzas Aéreas americanas en Torrejón de Ardoz donde ganaba más dinero que altos funcionarios españoles por el cambio del dólar.

Después de casi 10 años de noviazgo con mi padre, se separó de él y se fue a Wiesbaden, Alemania a trabajar en otra base aérea estadounidense. Allá estuvo casi un año pero regresó a España y acabaron casándose. Se vistió de negro en su boda porque había muerto su abuelo paterno a quien tanto estimaba y admiraba.

Mi madre me comentaba que cuando viajaba por Europa en el comienzo de los años 60 que siempre ayudaba de intérprete a los españoles que inmigraban, con los que se encontraba y que sólo hablaban castellano.

Poco después de casarse, mi padre se colocó en las Naciones Unidas y se fueron a vivir a Ginebra, Suiza, dos años y allí con facilidad encontró trabajo de Funcionaria Internacional en la Oficina Internacional de Trabajo. A comienzos del 63 mi madre se quedó embarazada de mi hermano mayor y fue despedida. Mi madre recurrió esa decisión y parece ser fue la última mujer de ser despedida en esa organización por estar embarazada.

Volvieron a Madrid y mi madre dio a luz a mi hermano mayor, José Ramón. Convenció y casi obligó a mi padre que se examinara de inglés en el ministerio para una plaza en Nueva York. Mi padre con muchas dudas se presentó y aprobó. En 1963 se fueron a la Gran Manzana. Mi madre ya era una devota ama de casa y allí tuvo dos hijos más, mi hermano Eduardo y yo.

En el 1968, con sus tres hijos, mientras mi padre finalizaba su trabajo en los EEUU, fue a pasar una temporada con su madre en Lisboa. Volvieron a España y nació mi hermano pequeño Víctor en 1970. Aquí empiezan mis primeras memorias de mi madre. Me acuerdo que dedicaba mucho tiempo a la limpieza de la casa y a alimentarnos. A mi padre nunca le faltó la comida ya hecha cuando a casa llegaba. Durante esos años mi madre trabajaba los fines de semana en un hotel de recepcionista, pues los días de diario nos cuidaba.

En 1974 a mi padre lo trasladaron a Río de Janeiro, Brasil y allá vivimos en frente de la playa Copacabana. Mi madre administraba la casa, los gastos y dos empleadas que teníamos, una cocinera y una niñera. Algunos recuerdos que tengo son los de mi madre limpiando el exterior de las ventanas del salón en las que nos asustábamos muchísimo pues vivíamos en un sexto piso y sacaba la mitad de su cuerpo afuera. Miedo no tenía; tampoco la tuvo a la muerte cuando sabía que se estaba muriendo. También me acuerdo venían otras mujeres a casa y hacían aerobics o yoga. Dos años después fuimos a vivir a Copenhague, Dinamarca. Me acuerdo mi madre dijo que nos entristecería irnos. No lo entendí pero ahora me doy cuenta que mis padres eran muy felices en la ciudad carioca.

En Copenhague mi madre rápidamente se unió al club de mujeres internacionales y al club de mujeres estadounidenses. En ambos fue una mujer muy querida. En esos clubes debido a su interés en la cocina internacional perfeccionó sus habilidades culinarias y se convirtió en una verdadera chef. A veces organizaba cenas en casa en las que venían embajadores y contrataba a un jefe de cocina y una camarera para asegurarse que sus platos salieran como ella quería. A la vez era ama de casa, pues se encargaba de todas nuestras comidas, los sandwiches que llevábamos al colegio, toda nuestra ropa, lavarla, plancharla. También del jardín, de varios árboles de fruta que teníamos, de la que no se cansaba de hacer compota. Fue nuestra mano derecha siempre.

En los años 80 vinieron los reyes de España a Copenhague y mi madre ayudó a mi padre a organizar una recepción internacional por la que mi padre el rey le otorgó la Cruz de Caballero.

Volvimos a Madrid en el 84 y ya siendo nosotros, sus hijos, mayores, volvió a trabajar para los americanos, esta vez en la embajada hasta jubilarse. Allí recibió varios premios entre otros el Meritorious Honor Award.

Una de las anécdotas que me gusta contar de mi madre es que una vez me comentó que no entendía porqué cuando un hombre abandonaba a su esposa, por qué se quedaba la mujer con sus hijos. <<Las mujeres son tontas>>, decía, <<si tu padre se fuera, os vais a vivir con él, yo voy a disfrutar de mi vida>>. Demuestra que fue una mujer moderna y feminista.

Mi madre nunca se deprimió en su vida y era una persona incansable que no se quejaba de nada. Fue una persona altruista, siempre amable, muy correcta y considerada con todos. Hacía todo lo posible para ayudar al prójimo. Mucha gente la quería y la estimaba.

Cuando mi padre falleció en el 2009 mi madre se convirtió en mi mejor amiga. Era la única persona a la que le podía contar todo y llamar en cualquier momento.

Te voy a extrañar mucho madre. Gracias por todo el apoyo, la ayuda y por la vida que me diste. Siempre estuviste presente y fuiste un gran respaldo para mi. Te quiero mucho mamá ojalá nos veamos en el siguiente mundo y nos podamos recordar de esta vida, sonreír y reírnos juntos.

Copyright © 2022 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

The Tree of Life in the Universe

June 17, 2022

In essence we are carrying millions of years of Life in our genes. We were born from the Tree of Life in the Universe and we’ve evolved into millions of different Beings, freely roaming the world but we are from the same Tree. This Tree’s seeds and fruits, so to speak, perish and transform, but we continue to be part of the Tree.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

Copyright © 2022 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

Asilah

May 17, 2022

Remember the howling wind

against our backs,

pushing us forth

on that desert flattened beach

the waves crashed at our feet

splashing on our crispy clothes,

your voice mumbled in my mind

the slow movement of your dry lips

puffing on that burning popping greefah.

Remember how we walked for hours south

the stomping of my feet,

on the soft wet sand

stopping my body from falling ahead,

hearing the slow pump on my chest

the ringing of sand in my ears.

You blew fast words from your mouth

as the tide regurgitated the waves

the white foam boiling out of the sea.

Remember how we were free

walked without reason on that beach

never hearing what we said,

not knowing where we were.

Copyright © 1990 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

Photo by Maria Isabella Bernotti on Pexels.com