|Richard Kunzel launching Rizal's Commemorative Stamp|
VN: How do you spend your spare time in the Philippines? Were able to try our mountains?
RK: Unfortunately, it is very time consuming to approach interesting mountains in the Philippines, when you live in Manila. Sorry, I am still in the planning phase: may be Mount Apo, may a trail to a peak in the Eastern Cordillera…
VN: How would you compare your Philippine experience with your stint in Mannheim, Germany?
RK: In Mannheim I was the young beginner, the greenhorn, the German teacher, the one who did not properly plan and see his future. On the other hand: The world, the encounter with foreign cultures, the travel adventure had already their places und their spaces, which was enforced by the marriage with my wife, at that time a Lufthansa air hostess. A well earning girlfriend and wife, myself a travel guide – this could have gone on, Goethe-Institut Mannheim was more some kind of a side line; my wife’s father was at least happy that Richard began to earn his own living. Hehe – it was good time.
VN: Or in Singapore?
RK: Singapore got me down into the working life. Every day 8 hours – not at the Goethe-Institut, but at the German Singapore Institute, a vocational training Center for metal engineers controlled by the Singapore Economic Development Board. My wife: gone were the year with Lufthansa, at least Singapore was inline and her former colleagues, pilots, stewardesses, friends passed through our wonderful old style house. Pap was happy, when he spent some happy hours with his wife and the two babies at the East Coast. No more Himalaya.
VN: Or in Murnau (Bavaria)?
RK: This was the end of heavy working Singapore and living in an urban environment of busy-busy South East Asia. MURNAU, situated by the foot of the Alps, sleeping between Fresh Upper Bavarian lakes, meadows, forests, cows and MOUNTAINS to walk on – with the babies / no no sorry: the young kids following us asking: “When are we there?” Yes – teaching German language again. The last time, before…
VN: Or in Istanbul (Turkey)?
RK: Istanbul opened its doors for me – just for 6 months of replacing the colleague in charge of cultural programs – doing exercises in a discipline that would keep me busy for the next 22 years. My family flew to see me in Istanbul – big name. But the daughter started crying when she sat in my small, simple, rather dark rented apartment. The last time then came Murnau for a formal transition period of a couple of months, and the leap into the world of international glamour – though a colleague warned us: They had found a collapsed jogger in Cairo, his lungs black.
VN: Or in Cairo (Egypt)?
RK: Cairo – the noisiest and dirtiest city in Africa, they said. We stayed there eight and half years, longer than any other Goethe colleague at a Middle Eastern posting. We had a wonderful time here as a family and as representatives of German Culture. I had the privilege to be entirely responsible for the cultural work, without responsibilities for the whole institute. What a luxury. They let me stay in Cairo until our children finished the German Scholl there. It was a life between school, Goethe-Institute, invitations, cruises and eating out on the river Nile, spending nights under stars in the desert, travelling in salon-cars of the Egypt’s special trains during excursions done by FREA (still remember? Friends of the Railways of Egypt and the Arab World).
VN: Or in Almaty (Kazakhstan)?
RK: Almaty / Kazhakstan? Munich Head Office, give me a break... let my wife and me first see how it looks there, no idea, what a change! And then? A wonderful impressing mountain range. Our past life as tour guides in the Himalayas came back into our minds and noses, Central Asia: in our young years Sovjet Union, unreachable for individuals and adventurers, and now, all of a sudden, no more Sovjet Union, wow – and my Russian was not forgotten. Ricarda, come on, you’ll learn it. And it was my wife, who dropped the letter in the German mailbox on our way back to Cairo – the letter where I wrote: “Yes, Munich head Office – send us to Kazakhstan!” – First time director of an institute. In a post-Sovjet society. Muslims yes, but long forgotten after 70 years of Sovjet rule. A society in transition. Shamanism and artists trying to get rid of Moscow’s dominance of life and arts. Phantastic. Kazakhstan was our happiest time. May be not, funny.. the kinds were already out of the house, studying in Bremen the daughter, later again Cairo. Learning to fly on Lufthansa’s Flying School in Bremen the son. But we enjoyed nature, Kazakh food, a Kazakh-German writers’ project n Almaty, Bishkek, Osh (Kyrgyzstan), a Kazakh-German architects’ project in Atyrau (never heard of the oil city by the Caspian Sea?). Every year Moscow, conference of all Goethe directors of Central Asia, one time Minsk (Belarus), my last conference in Tbilissi / Georgia… I knew already: Hotel Mandarin Manila next.