Verona Chambers: A Tale to Tell, Part II : Things Not Found in East Germany

We already explored Verona Chamber’s experience in East Germany and her arrival to West Berlin under the arm of a democratic country in Part I. Now, in Part II, we will explore Mrs. Chambers’s experience coming to America.

 Mrs. Chambers, freshly released from Russian territory, experiences her new life in a free, democratic land.

 “I can’t even explain to you,” said Mrs. Chambers. The difference between East and West Berlin was astonishing.

 Principal Tom Chambers, a student studying abroad in East Berlin, was also astonished at the difference.

 “It was like I stepped out of a color movie and stepped into a black and white one,” said Mr. Chambers.

 The aftermath of the Cold War was still in effect. Houses were run-down and in crumbles. It was dirty and colorless. Coming to a new world, she was shocked at the differences.

 One of her first experiences was with an information office.

 “I saw the sign [that said] information office and was all glad, but I didn’t see a door,” said Mrs. Chambers. “So I’m like ‘Dang-it!’ So I went towards it [the building] and all of a sudden the glass opened up! Because it was an automatic door, right? I was like ‘Holy cow!'”

 Even through her shock, Mrs. Chambers decided to keep her cool and hide her shock.

 “Then I thought, ‘Okay, I’m gonna pretend because I feel really stupid.’ See, I was 30 years old then, and with 30, you are kinda supposed to have an idea on how life works,” said Mrs. Chambers.

 Right after they left East Berlin, they went to a restaurant.

 “It got dark and the lights were on. And they said we were going to a restaurant. It was so colorful. The seats were all colorful and everything and the lights…they were all beautiful,” explained Mrs. Chambers. “Then they asked me what I wanted to eat and I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t even seen the menu. Then they told me it was all written on top.”

 “I thought it was the most beautiful restaurant in the entire world,” said Mrs. Chambers. It was Burger King.

 Another thing that caught her attention was a CD.

 “The thing was so shiny!” said Mrs. Chambers. “I didn’t want them to put it in because I wanted to look at it so badly! It shone so many different colors.”

 After seeing so much color, compared to no color at all in East Berlin, Mrs. Chambers thought she was going to go into shock.

 “If you don’t see much color in your life and then all of a sudden [you do], you have a brain overload,” said Mrs. Chambers. “Never in my life will I be able to sleep again! Because I close my eyes and you know what I see? Those fingernail thingies, the plastic ones where they have all different kinds of colors.”

  Mrs. Chambers recalls when she got her first calculator.

 “In East Germany those things didn’t exist. So for me to have one of those things, was like, a really, really special piece,” said Mrs. Chambers.

 Her uncle, who she had been staying with, sat down with her and explained to her the many new things East Germany did not have.

 “I thought, ‘Oh my God! I don’t know nothing. I’m stupid!’ Well he had this thing laying on his table and I thought ‘Ha! If he takes this and tries to show me that, I know what that is! It’s a calculator!” said Mrs. Chambers. “And he takes it and I’m all ready to say it, and he, instead of showing it to me, he goes like-” she pauses to make two clicking noises with her tongue, “-and the TV comes on. That’s when I started crying.”

 Although she was really embarrassed about her lack of knowledge, she didn’t hide her astonishment, like with boiling water on a stove. Her friend boiled water on the stove right in front of her and, being used to having to start a fire, she was amazed.

 “I poured it out and put a new one in because I wanted to see if it works again, right?” said Mrs. Chambers. “And it did.”

 Mrs. Chambers felt really embarrassed to be in a new country and not know anything about the technologies available.

 One memory that Mrs. Chambers remembers is when she was reunited with her friends she had to leave behind when she left East Berlin.

 She explains how one morning she woke up before anyone else, and she heard the doorbell ring. Being a courteous guest, she didn’t want to open the door. She looked through the peephole on the door and saw her brother-in-law and her friends.

 “Well that was impossible,” said Mrs. Chambers flatly. “After I had lost everything, after I went through all that craziness, crossed the border with permission, which you didn’t get easily [it was impossible they had done the same in that short amount of time].”

 “So I thought, ‘I get it!’ They have a hole in the door where I can see my friends, all [the way] over in East Germany. That’s the coolest thing!”

 After the doorbell rang again, she opened the door and to her shock, her friends were actually standing there.

 “They’re there. They’re really there,” said Mrs. Chambers.

 Her friends explained to her how the Berlin Wall had been taken down the night before, and since she had left her address with them before she left, they were able to find her after leaving East Berlin. Mrs. Chambers was upset she had to go through all the trouble to get permission to leave and then not long after the wall was taken down, allowing everyone to leave.

 Even though leaving East Berlin could have been a much simpler expedition with a bit of patience, her story interested many people including a former US president, a Russian president and a German chancellor.

 “Since my story is so screwed up, they used my story,” said Mrs. Chambers. “And I got to spend the day with Bush Sr., Gorbachev and Cole.”

 Although she is happy to live in a free country, she does admit she misses things about Germany.

 “What I miss [about Germany] is, people in Europe in general, they take more time sitting down and socialize. They just sit together and talk a lot. Because here [in the United States] is more set up,” said Mrs. Chambers.

 But the feeling goes both ways.

 “But when I’m in Europe, I miss America,” admits Mrs. Chambers. “I miss the vastness of the country and the people. American people are just so super-friendly. My favorite part of America are the people.”