Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The story behind a travel writer July 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:57 AM
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Several months ago I told my daughter I would plug her writing. So I am, in this post. But I’ll also tell you about her as a person, because the person you are shapes the writer you become.

Miranda at the Las Ruinas de Quilmes (Quilmes Ruins) in the Tucuman province of northwestern Argentina.

MY DAUGHTER MIRANDA could work as a full-time professional travel writer. She’s that good. And I’m not just saying this because I’m her mom. You can decide for yourself by clicking here, to examiner.com St. Paul.

Miranda has written some two dozen articles about Argentina, where she traveled twice to study, do mission work and intern. Today she’s back in the U.S., working as a Spanish medical interpreter in eastern Wisconsin.

If she had her druthers—meaning no need for a steady job to repay college loans—Miranda likely would be living in Buenos Aires right now. She loves the city, Argentine culture and food, and Argentineans that much. That shows in her writing.

Yet, even though my daughter isn’t living in the place where she’d probably prefer to be, she’s at least working in a profession that allows her to follow her passion—Spanish. There’s much to be said for that. All too many people go through life working jobs they dislike simply to pay the bills. That is an unfortunate reality.

I understand her love of language. I graduated from high school with a plan to pursue a German degree in college. But I quickly realized that, because I didn’t want to teach, the idea wouldn’t fly. So I followed my other passion—writing. I majored in journalism and minored in English.

I sometimes wonder how things might have been different for me if I had gotten that German degree and had been willing to leave Minnesota. Unlike my fearless daughter, I prefer not to travel. I purposely raised her, though, to love adventure.

From little on, Miranda has been her own person. She ran, not walked, everywhere as a preschooler. One winter, when she was about four, she insisted on wearing a skirt every day. Often she would close herself in the cramped toy room, now my office, and play for hours by herself. She would tell me to “go away.” She was a strong-willed child, still is as an adult, and that serves her well.

For a long stretch, she was fixated on horses. She drew horses, played with toy horses and checked out every horse book she could in the regional library system. She thrilled in riding roller coasters.

When Miranda was diagnosed with scoliosis and had to wear a full torso back brace 24/7 for a year (or maybe two, I’ve forgotten exactly how long) during high school, she drew on her inner strength and determination. She seldom complained, although this couldn’t have been easy.

She is brave and independent and strong. The last time Miranda boarded a plane for Argentina, she didn’t even have a place to permanently stay for the duration of her internship. And when she was mugged in northern Argentina, she handled the situation with maturity and composure that exuded confidence. I was the one back home struggling with the attack.

I tell you all of this because I am proud of my kind, caring, compassionate daughter. As an interpreter, she works in a profession that allows her to directly help others.

As a sometime-travel writer, Miranda continues with an interest that began in high school and continued through her studies at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Communications Studies compliments her other minor, International Studies, and her major, Spanish.

Already in her Wisconsin home of eight months, my daughter has found a church and embraced a wide circle of friends. Two Hispanic families in her apartment building have “adopted” her, inviting her to family celebrations and dinner and now, she says, Christmas. (Just to clarify, if she’s not on call, I expect her back in Minnesota for that holiday.)

She’s got a good life in Wisconsin. And even though I wish she lived closer than 5 ½ hours away, at least she is not 6,000 miles away in Argentina. For now Miranda seems content to simply write about her previous life in South America, when she’s not too busy with her new life back in the Midwest.

Miranda celebrates the Argentine World Cup soccer victory at Plaza de la Republica in Buenos Aires. The balloon is soccer legend Diego Maradona, at that time the coach of Argentina's national team.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo courtesy of Miranda Helbling

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Reflecting on graduation speeches by three generations of Minnesota women May 27, 2011

Wabasso High School, where my niece will give a speech tonight as class valedictorian. My mom and I also graduated from WHS, although the building looks much different than when we graduated in 1951 and 1974.

Arlene Bode Kletscher's 1951 graduation portrait.

SIXTY YEARS AGO 18-year-old Arlene Bode stepped onto the stage at Wabasso High School and gave a commencement speech, “Our Part in the Fight Against Communism.”

While that seems an unlikely, unsuitable, topic for an address by the class valedictorian, my mom says you need to remember the time period in which she wrote and gave that speech.

This was 1951, at the height of the Cold War, the era of bomb shelters and fear of the Soviet Union.

My mom espoused patriotism, encouraging her southwestern Minnesota classmates “to be patriotic and vote…so we can keep our freedom,” she recalls. She has a copy of that speech tucked inside her WHS diploma.

She found the speech recently when pulling out her diploma to show her granddaughter, Hillary Kletscher, who graduates tonight, also from Wabasso High.

Hillary, like her 79-year-old grandmother, is the class valedictorian and will speak at commencement. When I texted Hillary early Thursday afternoon, she hadn’t yet titled her speech. But, she said, the “main subject is change and how it’s good but we have to hold onto what we learn from the past.”

I won’t be there to hear my niece’s address. But I intend to ask her for a copy, just like I plan to get a copy of my mom’s speech, which I’ve never seen. These are parts of our family history, words reflecting the time periods in which they were written, words of hope and wisdom and patriotism (at least in my mom’s case).

Hillary will step onto the WHS stage tonight and speak on change, yet remembering the past.

Audrey Kletscher Helbling, 1974 WHS graduate.

That my mom kept her speech through six decades impresses me. I say that specifically because I have no idea where to find the speech I gave at my graduation from Wabasso High School in 1974. It’s packed in a box somewhere in a closet in my home, but I possess neither the time nor energy to dig it out.

I remember only that, as class salutatorian, my farewell address included a poem. What poem and by whom, I do not recall.

In 2006, my daughter Miranda graduated as valedictorian of Faribault High School and gave a commencement speech. Given that occurred only five years ago, I should remember the content. I don’t. I recall only that she held up a test tube to make a point.

I am also making a point here. Thankfully much has changed in the 60 years since my mom spoke on “Our Part in the Fight Against Communism.” While the world today remains in turmoil, at least the intense fear, felt by the Class of 1951 during the Cold War, no longer exists.

We have also moved beyond the turbulent 60s and 70s, a time of rebellion, anti-establishment, and anti-war sentiments and discontent over the Vietnam War experienced by my class, the Class of 1974.

By 2006, when my second daughter graduated, we as a nation were beginning to recover from 9/11, yet we lived in an increasingly security-focused society.

Today my niece graduates in a day of continuing economic uncertainty, when young people are struggling to find jobs and when Baby Boomers like myself worry about our jobs and retirement.

Yet, through it all—the Cold War, Vietnam, September 11 and a challenging economy—we remain four strong women living in a free country where we, individually, spoke freely, representing the classes of 1951, 1974, 2006 and 2011.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Travel stories from Argentina November 10, 2010

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Castle at Estancia La Candelaria in Argentina.

 

AS DIFFERENT AS my second-born and I are—she’s a fearless traveler, I’m not—we share a common passion and talent. We are both writers.

I never purposely led Miranda on this path, although I suspect that my endless reading aloud of books to her as a child instilled a basic love of language.

She chose to pursue writing on her own with me offering encouragement from the sidelines. In high school, she served as co-editor of the student newspaper, never backing down even when challenged by the principal. At the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, she also wrote, and edited, for the student newspaper.

Last week Miranda began freelancing for examiner.com, St. Paul. She’s a travel writer with the online entity, and a darned good one. She focuses on Argentina, her adopted country, and the place where she’s studied, done mission work and interned. She just returned from Buenos Aires three weeks ago after a 4 ½-month stint there, her second time in that South American capital city.

Since her return to Minnesota, Miranda has been searching for a job that will utilize her Spanish-speaking skills. She has a Spanish degree and wants to work as an interpreter or translator. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that she opted for minors in international studies and communications studies.

While she searches for employment, Miranda is volunteering with a local charitable service center, helping with Spanish interpreting.

She is also staying connected to the Latin America culture via those examiner.com, St. Paul, articles. She’s penned some interesting features about gauchos, a Buenos Aires cemetery, a favorite pancake restaurant and Mafalda, Argentina’s most popular comic strip. But don’t take my word for it. Read for yourself by checking out the travel section of examiner.com, St. Paul.

 

 

An Argentine gaucho

 

 

Statue at Chacarita Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

PHOTOS BY MIRANDA HELBLING

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling