A few days ago Claudia phoned me. “Mutti, what are we going to do about Hettlich’s History this year?” Of course, we were always going to include 2007 in the story; not all of this year was bad.
December 2006 saw the whole family united for a wonderful Christmas. We did not know that it would be the last Christmas with all of us together. Frank and Dorise set off immediately after Christmas on our Great South American Journey. Taking off in Southern Germany, we touched down in Spain (Jerez) and then flew on to Dakar. We spent New Year’s Eve on the ‘phone, as we could not find aviation fuel for the onward journey. Frank eventually flew via Mauretania (to refuel!) and then crossed the Atlantic to Recife/Brazil where I was waiting for him. His blue eyes were sparkling when he arrived – tired, but inspired – at the hotel. Once again he’d done it.
We left Recife for Brasilia to visit Margi and Gerard. The approach was critical, as we ended up in the midst of a tropical thunderstorm. Our earthrounding friends Margi, Gerard and Norton showed us Brasilia and gave us important tips for the South America Journey. Next stop: the Iguazu waterfalls – gigantic. I won’t forget the round of golf there either… Frank had to push the golf cart around three holes as the battery was empty. Following a spectacular flight over the falls we moved on to Buenos Aires and met Martin. Once again we were given every conceivable help, especially with obtaining permission to fly to the Falkland Islands – no mean feat!
It was one of Frank’s expressed goals to fly to the Falklands himself – and we did it. Via Commodore Rivadavia, with a small detour to El Calafate and to the Perito Moreno where we got the first impressions of the glacial world, we eventually arrived in the southernmost city of the world: Ushuaia.The weather was poor on approach and we had considerable head wind (apparently normal there). I didn’t like it at all when we started gathering ice on the wings – but suddenly the Beagle Canal appeared below, Ushuaia was glistening in the sunlight and I thought “How wonderful, that we can experience such beauty together”.
We received a cordial welcome in Ushuaia (Martin has many contacts). We went sailing with Jonathan and Roxanne, met Jennifer and Colin who were flying pole-to-pole in a helicopter. Everybody was just indescribably friendly. Onwards we flew to the Falklands; what an aviation challenge! My favourites out there were the Emperor Penguins. They weren’t bothered by our presence at all; a great experience. We’d not come across anything like it before. Back into the air and off to Chile where Rodrigo looked after us and happened to introduce us to Josefina who made it possible for Frank and I to fly to Antarctica in a Uruguayan Military Hercules Aircraft. That was ace – although the landing in dense fog did induce a peak of adrenaline. Frank investigated all, was busy networking with fellow aviators and made it clear that his future goal was to reach Antarctica with Gommi.
We moved on to the most wonderful spot on earth: Tierra del Fuego – a place of outstanding natural beauty. In 2009 the Hettlichs will embark on a memorial journey to Tierra del Fuego. Onwards to Valdivia we travelled about, visiting exchange students. Visente and his parents invited us and we had lovely hours together. Amazing how the German language is still alive out there. Visente’s family and Consuelo’s father saw us off at the airport and we took off to cross the Andes towards Buenos Aires. We spent several nice days there and managed to seek out another exchange student – Carolina – by boating to Montevideo.
The next day we said our good byes. Frank flew to Brazil in the morning and I took a flight to Cape Town. You all know that it was Frank’s last journey – an indescribable loss.
We have lived on in the way he would have advised – finding the positive things in life. We can’t change events and have adopted his motto “every end has a new beginning”. We miss him awfully, but it feels like he is always with us.
On 8th September 2007 – our 40th wedding anniversary – we opened “Frank’s Heaven”, the most beautiful kindergarten in the Cape. We returned the smiles to those children and are very proud of what we have achieved together with our friends. Thanks to all of you who made this possible! Of course, a lot remains to be done and plans for a baby crèche are being drawn up as we write. Dorise and Bianca visited Tembe Elephant Park and can report that the school we made possible there is in great condition – what a wonderful legacy. Frank did leave his footprints in Africa forever!
Following Dorise’s return from South Africa, the inability of many of her countrymen/women to deal with bereavement hit her like a ton of bricks. It was hard, unexpected and almost broke her. Meanwhile however, the “terrier” Dorise has prevailed. If someone doesn’t have the courage to talk to me, I’ll simply talk to them!
The practice is going well – thanks to Edgar’s support. Our patients were and are very understanding.
Malaika graduated from dental school on 25th October and will officially take on the practice from 1st January 2008. She’s planned to undertake work on her dissertation in Spring ’08. Our friend Thomas had the idea and will support her in traveling to Nepal where she will perform studies on the oral health of trekking/mountaineering folk at heights of up to 6000 metres. We are very proud of Malaika and very happy for her.
Bianca decided to remain in Texas for another year and continues to work in small animal neurosurgery at the Texas A&M University. She also started her German medical dissertation – she’s doing Frank proud. In August, Bianca spent some time traveling the African bush with Dorise. We explored Swaziland – it was fantastic. With some South African friends we went bush-walking in the Krüger National Park, then had the great luck to witness this years Reed-Dance which had 50 000 participating girls.
Claudia is currently training in Paediatric Allergy/Infectious Diseases in London (the only post in the UK offering this training combination). She is spending the week in “Keyworker Accommodation” – the kitchen is shared between eight people and a variable population of cockroaches…. Robin meanwhile is still in Manchester working hard and counting the days until Claudia comes home! When not working hard, they escape to the African bush too (Zambia is wonderful!).
Christmas we are all spending together “Am Deich” and as every year we had our St Nicolas Celebration together with friends, in particular our dear friend Bernhard. Frank is here with us – we can feel it, he watches over us and does not abandon us.
We wish you all a wonderful Christmas and the very best for the New Year. Our message to you: Live every day as if it is your last! We have always kept this in mind and are very thankful for it, as we have really made the most of it as a couple and as a family.
With lots of love,
Your Hettlich Family
PS: We really enjoy reading entries in the guestbook. Do you have any fun stories that you experienced with Frank – please share them with us!