Christmas, time for family

I want to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone reading this blog! The most valuable institution in our life is our family. This is why I dedicate this entry to my family and its history that nothing will be forgotten and the history can be passed on.

I want to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone reading this blog – or in German Frohe Weihnachten! The most valuable institution in our life is our family. This is why I dedicate this entry to my family and its history!

Merry Christmas to all of you!
Merry Christmas to all of you who follow the entries on BeNicoMa.com and many thanks for your support, I am glad to have you here and wish you peaceful Christmas holidays!

Many conflicts divide our society, the different peoples of the world and the family as an institution suffer from restrictions, which are caused by our economic interests and the pressure, built up by our society… This should not be the case since the family is the only institution in life, that is not exchangeable and if you are peaceful and in harmony with the ones you are related to, everything is so much better.

With this entry I want to remember my grandparents, who both were Chinese, coming a long way during the time of Nazi Germany. This entry is dedicated to all relatives, as a source of history that our ancestors may not be forgotten …

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The inner family on a glance: Madga with Teh Wei on her lap, besides my father Teh Li, Teh Dscheng (Ted), Teh Ko and Teh Hsing – from left to right. In the back is my grandfather Ting Sheng. The picture is from 1944 or 1945, and was taken in Germany.

The name of my grandmother, Chao Ti Ling (that is her maiden name) and later Ma, means as much as “Call me the little brother” since Madga (mother) as we used to call her, was born into the Chinese part of my family solely with sisters. The name implies the wish for a son. She was from Wenzhou in China and was born in 1916.

Chao Ti Ling, with 16 years in China - We just called her Madga
Chao Ti Ling, with 16 years in China – We just called her Madga. For what she achieved in those tough times, she is one of my alltime idols, may she rest in peace!

My grandfather Ting Sheng Ma was merchant and much older than her. He was born in 1898 in the region Chekiang (Zhejiang) in China but I couldn’t get more detailed information about him from my uncle. Here you see some pictures of family members from China but my uncle Teh Ko couldn’t provide more information about them since he doesn’t know better. The pictures are all what is left as a connect to the Chinese background of the family in China and albeit from him, nobody speaks Chinese anymore, which is a pity.

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I use the Chinese letter for Ma as signum for my photography and in future I will apply it as a seal in all official purposes.

Our last name Ma is written like depicted here and the meaning is “Hemp plant under the firmament“, if you translate it into a western meaning. The name is rare in the meanwhile, since most Ma‘s are derived from the meaning horse. We don’t know much about our family background in China. My grandparents came alone in 1933, when my grandmother was 17 years old. They came with the Transsiberian train, via Russia, to Dingen in Poland as their first home in Europe. I could not find the Polish name for it nowadays but have the names of the other cities where my family lived in those times. They moved several times in between Germany and Poland.

All my uncles were born in Europe. My grandparents moved from their first destination Dingen to Łódź – which was called Litzmannstadt by that time. In Łódź, which belongs to Poland again after the end of WWII, my uncles Teh Ko (1935) and Teh Hsing (1937) were born. Most of the provided information was given to me by Teh Ko, who remembers lots of details, despite his age. Teh Tscheng (1939) – who was just called Ted later, because he moved to Canada to found his own family – was born in Poland as well. The family wanted to return to China in 1939 due to the ongoing and developing war on the countryside in the East. My grandfather was quite successful with trading by that time but the Germans took everything, which made their return impossible. A relatively big Chinese community lived in the Łódź area and many of them returned to China if somehow possible. In 1939/40 the family moved to Berlin. Their first home in Berlin was in Wallner Theaterstrasse 26, in district C2 in 1940. My father Teh Li was born in Charité in 1942.

Madga in Germany
Madga in Germany, before the times of color photography

In the winter of 1942/43 the bombings of Berlin started and Teh Ko remembers that they have been heavy. He remembers that the windows were clotted and covered with paper everywhere to prevent the breaking glass, due to the bombings, from scattering as dangerous slivers. He also remembers, that he was once hit at the leg by a shrapnel while leaving the bunker. In general he reports that they had relatively few problems with the Nazis. The only thing he mentioned was, that my grandfather should get retracted by the Nazis to fight for the Wehrmacht in 1942/43 – In contrast my father and my Canadian cousin Oliver claim, that my grandfather was forced to leave for compulsory labor in a camp but Madga prevented his vitiation by arguing with the Nazis how she should be able to feed and raise four boys without a father, that’s what she said herself. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between… It will be tough to reproduce the true happenings.

Due to the massive bombings families with many children were evacuated to the countryside – as Teh Ko states on a tractor – in the year 1944 and in a measure called “Storch“. They were moved to Dahlhausen in Brandenburg, about 110 km North-East of Berlin, close to Wittstock / Dosse, and lived initially in the house of Pastor Schmidt in the year of 1944. They were looted again, this time of the Russian red army, although the grandfather had buried everything. On the countryside they were shifted several times and in the same year 1944 my youngest uncle Teh Wei was born in Kutno, which was called Schröttersburg by that time and was part of Schlesien, but belongs to Poland again today. 

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On this picture are Teh Hsing, Teh Tscheng, Teh Li, Madga and Teh Ko from left to right and some unknown friends of the family.

After the war in 1945/46 the family returned to Berlin and lived in the Auguste-Viktoria-Strasse in Berlin-Grunewald. The children received Chinese lessons from their private teacher Gau Guan Shi. My grandfather didn’t return with the family, he traded with slippers in Poznan (Posen) of Poland, where he lived and worked in Loketka 26 to support the family, and while in Berlin, he carried luggage and traded carpets and china porcelain together with Teh Ko. The both were hawking, traded in the streets and in restaurants, my grandmother took care of the children by that time and the family did alright – both, my uncle and my father confirmed that, independently from each other.

In 1947 my grandfather moved to Frankfurt / Main and Teh Ko followed him in 1949, while the rest of the family remained in Berlin. In 1961 Madga opened the first Chinese restaurant in Müllerstrasse, Berlin-Wedding. Another business of hers was a shop for Chinese wares in Hauptstrasse, Berlin-Schöneberg…

To be continued!

If anyone can and wants to contribute to add to the puzzle of family history, please contact me via my contact form. The attached gallery shows different members of the family and the names and relations to me are given as far as I know. The idea and task to create this entry was granted to me by my cousins Oliver Ma from Canada. I met him, his sister Stephani Ma, and my little cousins Savanna and Etienne, his kids for the first time (that I remember) in 2013, during my Eastcoast Roadtrip. An awesome experience and we will see each other again! I wish happy Christmas Holidays to everyone and hope to be able to gather some more info during the time. Take care!

Eastcoast Roadtrip 2013: Sightseeing in Boston

Boston can be seen as an Eldorado for tourists. With its plentiful markets, the secure streets (even at nighttime), beautiful architecture and some major sights, the city is a contrast to many other Northamerican cities and should be on your list, when you visit New England.

You could get a firm impression of the Universities in Cambridge and of the Boston Nightlife. Now it’s time to present some sights to you, covered with the photography of this beautiful city to address your imagination. This is the view on Little Italy. The district of Boston is also called Northend.

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Boston and Cambridge are basically one unit, woven into each other, not separable. The elite is found in Cambridge, though. The campus of MIT looks quite industrial, the people of Harvard, that I dealt with have a certain kind of arrogance. I preferred the MIT definitively over Harvard, it seems more suitable for scientists, a place where excellence is born with every semester of inscription. The people you meet there remind you of the famous TV series Big Bang Theory, IQ > 150, very polite but a tad nerdy. In contrast to the busy Universities, Boston is quite a touristic playground, very secure for a Northamerican city and beautiful. This is an impression of downtown. This church “hides” in the big skycrapers.

You already could see the skyline from Cambridge, so I will just give you impressions from the city itself. It has great markets, it’s clean and you find top notch dining for a bargain. For seafood you should check out the Union Oyster House close to Haymarket. On Haymarket you can buy all kinds of fresh food for you, if you have an apartment during the time of your stay. And since I have been to Miami and New York City as well, I can compare and state, that you never have an uncomfortable feeling, walking around, not even at night. It seems very secure and people are in the streets at night as well. On the picture you see the Union Oyster House. I enjoyed the best oysters I have ever had at this place.

The oysters you get in Union Oyster House are from different areas. The personnel tells you exactly where they are from, and it’s just delicious.

The mixture of modern skycrapers, cultural offers, markets, old brick houses and the feeling of Northamerica make Boston special. It’s like good ‘ol Europe manifested in this city. And although I live in a tad rundown area of Boston, kind of a Hood compared to the rest of this shining city, I never feel uncomfortable. This security and minimal crime rate is due to the healthcare program of the city, that offers food and healthcare to homeless people for free – so nobody has to suffer hunger. In downtown you find the world famous Freedom Trail and some more touristic food and arts markets, like e.g. Quincy Market. Another impression of downtown, seen from the freedom trail and many more in the attached gallery.

When I walk around, I finally make it to the areas of the Boston Public Garden and the Commonwealth Ave. Should have spent more time there… Discovered this beautiful area too late, since I was busy one full day in Cambridge. It’s very European, very beautiful and exclusive. The second picture you can see, taken with the cellphone, is from a market along Newbury Street, the Copley Square Farmers Market. Check this area out, longer than me.

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On my last day, just before I continue to Maine, I walk all around the Southend. There is a market, which you should not miss, it’s called SoWa Market and Maura told me to go there, before I continue to Maine. I have the best coffee there, I ever had so far in the United States of America – quality comes close to the coffee in Austria! And the market is great, so many antique stuff, linen, foreign wares and great ecological food is offerd there. Make sure to hit it on Sundays!

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Boston is a great city, colorful, diverse, classy and secure. I would definitively go there again and can recommend it to you, as a contrast to many other Northamerican cities. It is very different from those and the many markets – I did not bring pictures from Haymarket here, that you definitively should visit as well – offer a great alternative to American Mall shopping, that can be found everywhere else over the country.

Eastcoast Roadtrip 2013 – Boston Arriving & Cambridge

The beginning of my stay in Boston and Cambridge is focussed on Cambridge and the best known Universities on planet Earth. I discover the campus, learn to differentiate between MIT and Harvard people and discover a stunning city in between.

Leaving Cape Cod is a tad sad. It’s beautiful there and the last day was vacation at its best and my hosting family was very nice. On my way to Boston I stop at the Mayflower memorial in Plymouth. It showcases the rebuilt Mayflower II of the first pilgrims who came to young America back in the day. At 1 PM I reach my Airbnb in Boston

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This is the rebuilt Mayflower II, a memorial for the first pilgrims who reached America. You find it in Plymouth, between Cape Cod and Boston.

I am a bit shocked in the first moment of my arrival. I will stay in Roxbury and the area looks a bit rundown, like in a hood. There are lots of people hanging around on the street. My host is not there, still at work. I follow her directions and claim the key out of a little lockbox, which lies on the porch. I need to sleep, am totally worn out, the jetlag is stronger than the days before. Want to be fit, when I discover the campus of the big two, MIT and Harvard in Cambridge. That is the plan for the afternoon. 

In the afternoon I start with Cambridge and get an overview over both Campi, starting in Harvard. My plan to meet up with a Professor from MIT manifests, I want to do it the next day, since it is already late. So I just continue to discover the campus and visit the Technics Museum of MIT, which is really cool! Sun already sets, when I come out and the mood over Cambridge is great and the view to Boston stunning!

I have to say, from the people I met, I liked the guys from MIT much more, nerds like you and me. The personell of Harvard is kind of arrogant, as some of the visitors have been at as well. I ask myself “Why?” – Shouldn’t people on the top of society be glad for their status and be grateful and polite? Especially the brats, who get this once in a lifetime opportunity by their dad, who they probably rarely see, because otherwise they would have better manners. If I compare both elitist factories, I prefer MIT for sure.

At night I speak to my host, she tells me I don’t have to be worried, the crime rate of Boston is really low because everyone in this city receives healthcare, even if people can’t afford it and nobody is just left behind to suffer poverty. And I can confirm that as far as I can walk around without any incidents – you get used to it very fast. My dinner is pasta and afterwards I continue the sightseeing and head into the touristic parts of Boston, but the pictures of Boston will be showcased in another entry, this one is focussed on Cambridge in regard to the photography.

At late night, around 10 PM, I hit the restaurant & jazz lounge The Beehive – I enjoy live music, a great blue cheese burger and awesome IPA beer. A really great experience to get enjoyable American beer!

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The dark lounge of ‘The Beehive’ is cosy, food is great, beer good and the live music really cool. Thank you for this recommendation from Toronto, Oli!

This is the first time, as far as I can remember, that the beer was actually good – I remember my times in Florida of 2008, where I never appreciated the offered beer on liquor stores. Scenic and en vogue South End really seems to be the place to be in Boston! And those are some impressions of my way home, since the Metro and Bus does not ride too long anymore, I have to walk home about 45 min…

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The next day starts again in Cambridge. I have a good overview how to get there – by Metro – and what to do. I want to see a Professor of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the MIT, but sadly she is on travels and a second Professor I had on my list, as well. But the Koch Institute of Cancer Research is an impressive building. Should I ever remain in Science, I’d be honored to work there. 

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Inside worlds famous Koch Institute at MIT
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The Koch Institute of Cancer Research, MIT

After this attempt – hey it worked great at Yale University – I take a walk over the campus of Harvard and decide to continue from the main campus to Harvard Medical School in the late afternoon.

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Inside Harvard’s holy halls
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Inside the Institute of Chemistry of Harvard University

The way to Harvard Medical School is interesting, since I go back to Boston by Metro, followed by tram I see a lot – the campus of HMS is not in Cambridge but in Boston. I would need more time in Boston as it seems… I can’t access the main building of the Medical School, stroll around a little more and by surprise run into the Pharmacy school. What an incident! I take a look around there as well, then I return home to plan the next tours, potential interviews and what to do at night…

Eastcoast Roadtrip 2013 – Beautiful Cape Cod

Indian Summer can be like true summer as well. The two days on Cape Cod are amazing, the sea is still warm, swimming possible, the city of Provincetown beautiful and the seafood great. This is true vacation and a very relaxed part of the roadtrip – perfect to recover from the flight and New Haven with Rolli!

While I planned this trip I haven’t had Cape Cod on my radar. I heard about it from a friend of mine a couple of days before I left from Europe. A spontaneous adjustment of the journey – a little beachlife never hurts! And it was worth it, it is a fabolous place and I found an affordable and great location with Julie in Orleans

After I come home from the beach, I am freezing a little bit. The sunset was worth it, though. The shower is outside under the porch of the house, I like that gimmick! The only thing that is not too nice about it, I have to take a cold shower and would be in need for a warm one at this moment. Doesn’t matter, we are not out of sugar, are we? I got my own room in the basement of the house which has access to the garden. For the night my plan is to prepare my pizza and teach Julie and her kids how it is done. They are a very nice family and Julie tells me that there have been travelers staying with them who creeped them out – I try my best to not do that and I think I am quite successful with that… 🙂

After a little chat with them I have my plan for the next day, I want to visit Provincetown – a gay and lesbian el dorado, at the tip of Cape Cod, like a Key West of New England – and I want to see the beach of Truro

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Provincetown is really peaceful. Some older gentlemen try to flirt with me while I do my workout at the beach, first jogging and afterwards push-ups and sit-ups. Beaches are perfect for that. I tell them that I am into girls, they chuckle and leave me alone. It’s no big deal and the people are very friendly here! I even can go swimming with pleasure. Compared to last night it is very enjoyable with 27°C and sunshine on this beautiful day! Here you get a little impression of the Herings Cove beach (just the cellphone shots, the others are in the attached gallery).

On my return to Provincetown I have lunch at Mojo’s – Julie told me to go there and she was absolutely right. The food is great, fresh from the sea!

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After this very welcome snack I continue to the beach of Truro. That’s the one the locals attend. Or nobody at all. I am alone for two consecutive hours and enjoy the calm, while I observe some harbor seals a little bit offshore. I go swimming again but listen to Julie’s advice, not to go in too deep where the seals are – Cape Cod is a known spot for Great White sharks and just in 2012 there was a severe accident. I prefer just to dip into the shallow water to cool down and sleep and dream the day away…

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And to finalize this wonderful day a little shopping never hurts, especially since the US prices are a steal compared to the German / European prices – I go to T.J. Maxx at night and get me a bunch of cloth – have done that the last time in 2008, when I lived in Florida to attend UF. What a great day – life could always be like that, I would not mind! Ah and there are some more pictures to come… 😉

Eastcoast Roadtrip 2013 – Round of three states

Throwback to the USA and Canada Roadtrip 2013: The second episode of this roadtrip begins in New Haven (CT) and since New England’s states are not too big, you can easily do three states in one day. The first stop is Mystic (CT) where you can have a look at the historic shipyard. For lunch and some gawking I chose Newport (RI), where the wealth of New England accumulates and the final destination of this trip is Cape Cod (MA), where I stay the next two days, before the trip continues to Boston (MA).

I continue, New Haven (CT), albeit of one of worlds finest Universities is not really a favorable place to live, not for a long time at least. At 11:00 PM life ends spontaneously, i.e. the streets get really empty, and everything of this city which is not directly on campus looks rundown and I heard the crime rate is really high if you leave the campus regions, where the campus police takes care to keep criminals off. The more it’s time to continue. Bobcat Cody woke me up early, he is awesome and I had the feeling I miss my cats at home in Berlin.

The first stopover is in Mystic. It’s just a little village which became famous due to its shipyard. There is a relatively nice museum and it’s a nice place to stay for some hours, take a coffee, or like in my case, have some breakfast. It’s is nothing really special, though and you could skip it as well, when you want to push miles. As you can see, Indian Summer is there, the leaves of the American oaks shine in bright red!

My next stop is Newport in Rhode Island (RI). It’s the place of the rich and famous, at least it was very dominant as a summer residence to those families. I enjoy my first lobster and I have to say, it is a delicacy which I would not be able and willing to afford in Europe. American pricing is just different, in regard to consumption, no matter if it is for cloth, electronic devices, or more or less luxurious food. The poor lobster was awesome – it’s true, New England is famous for its seafood for a good reason. What I love about America: Several older people wonder where I am from, when I skype with my cousin in Canada to assure that I will arrive in a couple of days – German accent most likely included. We get into conversation quickly. They ask me if the lobster really is as great as it looks. “Yes Ma’am it is!” 🙂

The cribs in Newport are very impressive – I show you some shots in the attached gallery. You can certainly see the wealth of this region and you feel it in the pricing compared to CT in regard to tobacco, beer, softdrinks – your daily needs.

At 5:15 PM I reach my final destination for the day, the half-island of Cape Cod. I stay in an Airbnb in Orleans with Julie and her family – she is not there on my arrival so I decide to head to the beach which I reach easily by car, passing through a dense forest. It is just beautiful and I decide to take a swim – it is not too cold after all!

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That’s me, just out of the water. It was fresh but not unbearable cold!

The day ends with a most beautiful sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. I love those moments, when I am alone, able to let the thoughts pass, not worried for a short time, just silent and in a status of meditation. It is beautiful and I feel blessed to be able to see all of this – already, although there is so much more to come!

My plan for the next day is to spend the day at the beach. I want to talk to Julie later what she can recommend. The weather is supposed to be splendid with up to 25°C – a perfect day to enjoy these nice beaches and to explore Cape Cod.

Shedule ready, steady for GO!

The upcoming tour gets more realistic to me and I have read a lot during the last days… I am looking forward to what expects me on my travel. Indian Summer shall arrive by that time and in particular my planned trips to the Baxter (ME) and the nature of Ontario (ON) are tingling!

Will definitively leave out Algonquin State Park in Ontario, it’s way too far away! Time to leave in about 3 hours, directed to Frankfurt, where I’ll stay over night. Tomorrow by that time ET I will be close to landing in NYC… Unbelievable!

Roundtrip Übersicht

12 days in the USA, 8 days in Canada so far – but plans are also there to be changed… I chose to go northwards first since the temperatures outside in the State Parks for hiking and swimming (maybe) by the sea in Cape Cod will be higher the earlier I get there. Indian Summer starts by that time, too – I hope for great views of unspoiled nature and colorful trees with snow covered summits. And my project No. 1 as resident of Innsbruck is – of course – to climb on Mt Katahdin (1605 m) located in Baxter State Park (ME). I am really curious to start, hope that weather will last and no hurricanes arrive by that time!

Some figures for the trip…

Datum Location [distance / day]
29.09.2013, So Arriving NYC / New Haven [150 km]
30.09.2013, Mo New Haven / Mystic / Newport [170 km]
01.10.2013, Di Newport / Cape Cod [120 km]
02.10.2013, Mi Cape Cod Area
03.10.2013, Do Cape Cod / Plymouth / Boston [100 km]
04.10.2013, Fr Boston
05.10.2013, Sa Boston / Salem / Camden [400 km]
06.10.2013, So Camden / Baxter State Park / (Millinocket) [300 km]
07.10.2013, Mo Millinocket / Quebec [270 km]
08.10.2013, Di Quebec / Montreal [260 km]
09.10.2013, Mi Montreal
10.10.2013, Do Montreal / Ottawa [200 km]
11.10.2013, Fr Ottawa / Kingston / Prince Edward / Toronto [500 km]
12.10.2013, Sa Toronto
13.10.2013, So Toronto
14.10.2013, Mo Toronto / Algonquin Park [600 km in / return]
15.10.2013, Di Toronto / Niagara / NYC [800 km]
16.10.2013, Mi NYC
17.10.2013, Do NYC
18.10.2013, Fr NYC
19.10.2013, Sa NYC Returnflight at 6 PM, time to 3 PM
20.10.2013, So FFM / IBK