Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. An Oshkosh Vehicle

Rafik, the youngest character in Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, undergoes a rather explosive journey in an Oshkosh vehicle belonging to the US Marines.

I hope you followed his footsteps thus far, from his home village of Nauzad, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan all the way to Camp Bastion, and through the Afghan desert.

The past – a journey of heroes in the pre-Oshkosh vehicle era

How interesting it was researching the vehicles used by the US Marines in Afghanistan! We are all familiar with the classical WWII image of a US soldier in a jeep.

US jeep WWII - journey heroes Oshkosh vehicle

With the need for an improved army vehicle dating back to the 1970s, it was in 1989 that new and improved combat vehicles, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV – colloquial: Humvee) were first used and soon replaced all tactical vehicles. The Humvee first gained national fame during the First Gulf War.

the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV - colloquial: Humvee). journey heroes Oshkosh vehicle

After 9/11, when US troops were deployed in Afghanistan, the Humvee proved perfect on the non-existing roads and rough mountainous terrain.

The Humvee has been in use for 30 years. It was praised by soldiers for its off road capabilities and became so popular that even a civilian version was created, “I’ll take one in red.”

The civilian model Humvee
The civilian model Humvee

The Humvee was much liked by the soldiers in the “pre-IED” (Improvised Explosive Device) era. The soldiers would “customize” it by removing unnecessary armor and even doors, making the Humvee more maneuverable and increasing their visibility.

Came Iraq War, the use of IEDs and car bombs – and the Humvee’s popularity decreased. Its new armored doors weighed hundreds of pounds and were hard to open and additional armor to the turret decreased its road stability.

A new vehicle for the US Army: the Oshkosh

The Oshkosh M-ATV is the new a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle used by the US Army and the US Marines.

There are high chances that you have seen the Oshkosh before and its interior – on which info and images are hard to find as are classified. The Oshkosh was the guest star on Iron Man, alongside Robert Downey Jr.

And you will see the Oshkosh wherever US Army and Marine Corps will be deployed until 2060. The standard Oshkosh has a two-inch thick windscreen, a reversing camera, and a bulletproof skin.

As the Oshkosh vice president put it, these new army vehicles have “the protection of a light tank and the mobility of a Baja race truck.” – yet they are “light enough” that a Sikorsky Stallion helicopter can lift one, or even two in their light-arms-resistant form.

You can see below an Oshkosh lifted by a King Stallion Sikorsky CH-53K helicopter.

How is the Oshkosh different from a Humvee? Read on.

‘The Humvee, colloquial for HMMWV, short for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, was a four-wheel-drive no-joke combat vehicle primary used by the Army and Marines up until a couple of years back in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The increased number of patrol ambushes, IEDs and suicide attacks against such tanks on wheels soon forced the soldiers to think out of the box and bolt steel plates to their Humvees for protection. Add this extra weight to the already low design of the Humvee and the Pentagon saw itself forced to rush back to the drawing boards and come up with an improved design for a combat vehicle, this time calculated with the safety of its four occupants in mind. Something strong enough to withstand the blast of an IED placed on the road, yet light enough to be transported by a helicopter. Fast enough to allow the driver to take off in a dangerous situation, yet better suited to the uneven Afghan terrain. The Oshkosh JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) came through and FOB Day owned a brand new one.

On Dunn’s request, Kent took his place on the driver’s ‘throne’, as they jokingly called any of the four seats inside the Oshkosh as opposed to the Humvee’s close to zero padding metal seats. Dunn took the gunner’s seat, on the left side behind the driver. Once the medical technician secured the child in the back seat an eerie silence settled inside the vehicle.

‘Listen!’ Kent’s eyebrows went up with his index finger.

Both Dunn and the technician cocked their heads.

‘I hear zilch,’ said Dunn preparing his video screen for the roof-mounted remote weapons station. ‘Ex-xactly,’ said Kent, watching the big gates swing open. ‘I have great appreciation for this bubble of toughness,’ he added, caressing the dark dashboard. Making use of the sleek touchscreen Kent looked like he was back in his gaming-days until his hand stopped on the auto gear-lever sticking out in the darkness. The muted hum of the Oshkosh’s V8 started at the simple press of a button and, after Kent slot it in into drive the truck began gliding forward.’

‘‘Bye-bye Humvee?’ Kent chuckled, ‘I love that stinky, creaky tough old-bull-dog.’

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Oshkosh US Marines new vehicle - journey heroes Oshkosh vehicle
The Oshkosh

‘The Oshkosh, an all-terrain, Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle was such a solid truck that nothing should have been able to shake it. In theory.

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

Yet nowhere is safe in Afghanistan and, soon enough, the Taliban have adjusted their attack technique with the arrival of the new US Army vehicles, the Oshkosh.

Will Rafik survive this journey alongside the Silent Heroes in the Oshkosh vehicle that’s supposed to be IED proof? And where will he go next?

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Silent Heroes

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Time in Romanian Folktales and Schrödinger’s Cat

Time in Romanian Folktales and Schrodinger's Cat

Recently I re-read one of best known Romanian folktales, Youth Without Age and Life Without Death, and something about the way time unfolds jabbed at my mind, yet only when I remembered Schrödinger’s Cat did it all fall into place.

What is Youth Without Age and Life Without Death about?

In a tiny nutshell, Youth Without Age and Life Without Death tells the story of a young prince who chose to leave his parents and kingdom to pursue a quest. What he seeks is what was promised to him before birth: eternal youth and a life without death. Of course he faces numerous trials but he also finds that what he searched for. And together with a lovely young woman lives the eternal youth he was born for, forgetting all about the life and the world he left behind.

Until one day… I won’t tell you how… when he suddenly remembers his past and his family. And as a heavy longing struck him he just has to go back and see them all one more time – although he is warned not to do it.

As he chases on his magic horse back to his native land he is amazed to discover how much the scenery changed and how the adventures he lived only yesterday are fairy-tales to those he meets along the road. And as he approaches the land of his birth he also ages at an alarming rate…

I do think there is a dual time lapsing in Youth Without Age and Life Without Death. While time passed at a normal rate for the humans left behind and actually the entire humankind, time stands still (or at least barely moves forward) for the hero once he finds himself in the land of everlasting youth.

And yet the two time zones are concurrent.

time in Romanian folktales and Schrödinger's Cat
Time in Romanian folktales and Schrödinger’s Cat

The time in Romanian folktale Youth Without Age and Life Without Death

The time that passed while the hero was away in his quest, away from family and the places where he was born, is indicative of his journey. A quest and a journey of initiation nevertheless. This time is measurable and irreversible for those he left behind, while his quest takes place in a different time, almost a parallel time, where the known means of time passing do not apply. Here, in this forever youthful land, the idea of time is simply erased or at least slowed down dramatically.

So how can the real time and the quest time be concurrent in fairy-tales and folk tales – and not mess with the story’s timeline?

Perhaps looking at the dual time continuum in fairy tales as a type of Schrodinger’s Cat experiment will save this writer’s sanity.

Time in Romanian folktales and Schrödinger's Cat
Time in Romanian folktales and Schrödinger’s Cat

What is Schrödinger’s Cat?

Just a note. No cats have ever been harmed during Schrödinger’s Cat experiment as this is a theoretical experiment and not a real one. It is a Thought Experiment, a Gedanken Experiment. An experiment one can only think of but never do in practice.

Schrödinger‘s Cat experiment was created as a visual teaching tool to illustrate how some people misinterpreted the quantum theory. But we won’t go that way.

I’ll describe the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment then I’ll explain how it illustrates the dual time lapsing in folk tales.

In his imaginary experiment Schrödinger places in a metal box fitted with a lock:

  • a cat;
  • a tiny bit of radioactive substance that is contained by a tiny vessel. Now here you can choose the quantity of the radioactive substance so that you know it will contain only a certain number of atoms because you want to have the possibility that after a certain amount of time (say one hour) there will be a 50/50 possibility that one of these atoms might decay radioactively and release particles;
  • a tiny Geiger counter – this instrument can detect if the radioactive release took place;
  • a tiny hammer connected both to the Geiger counter and to
  • a tiny glass vial containing cyanide.

The idea is that when / if the radioactive substance decays, it will triggers a Geiger counter which will cause the hammer to break the glass container releasing the poison that will kill the cat.

Or not.

The idea is also that one cannot know the outcome of the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment until one opens the box.

BECAUSE

Something can have both an absurd and a logical outcome. If you have something that can exist in two possible states the two states could be muddled together so you can’t say which is which.

Schrödinger's Cat
Schrödinger’s Cat – source

OR, considering the TIME in the Youth Without Age and Life Without Death folktale, TIME can exist in two different states or pass at two different rates at the same time.

In the metal box, during the time of one hour that it remains locked, there is a chance that radioactive decay might take place. But we cannot predict if it will or not and cannot tell if it did or not until we open the box. / The folktale hero, since he is still a human, might grow old during the time he spends away from his birth place but we cannot tell until he returns to his place of birth.

What is the state of the cat before opening the box? / What is the age of the folktale hero during the time spent in the land of forever youth?

The hero of the Romanian folktale Youth Without Age and Life Without Death, since he was born in a normal human timezone, will be affected by the passing of time as we know it. At the same time, the hero finds himself in a miraculous place ruled by a different clock and is also affected by it – he does not grow old. So, at the same time, he is old if you count the years passed on his birth clock and he remains young, based on the clock the miraculous world is ruled by.

And we have no way of knowing what the hero’s age is.

The conclusion of Schrödinger’s Cat theoretical experiment is that the cat is in a superposition of state of being both alive and dead.

The conclusion (at least mine) of the hero in Youth Without Age and Life Without Death is that he is in a superposition state of being both young and old / young and dead.

What are your thoughts on Schrödinger‘s Cat and Youth Without Age and Life Without Death?

As always, a gentle reminder to check my book on Amazon or Loot (if you reside in South Africa).

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Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

If you enjoyed the Romanian folktale Emperor Aleodor , the first part and the second part of Youth Without Age and Life Without Death do find out how it al ends below.

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

The prince spent a very long time at the palace without being aware of it, for he always remained just as young as he was when he arrived. He wandered about the woods without ever having a headache. He amused himself in the golden palace, lived in peace and quiet with his wife and her sisters, enjoyed the beauty of the flowers, and the sweet, pure air. He often went hunting; but one day, while pursuing a hare, he shot two arrows at it without hitting the animal. Angrily chasing it he discharged a third arrow, which struck it, but in his haste the luckless man had not noticed that he had passed through the Valley of Sighs while following the game.

He picked it up and turned toward home, but was suddenly seized with a longing for his father and mother. He did not venture to speak of this wish to his wife, yet by his grief and restlessness both she and her sisters instantly perceived his condition.

“Oh! luckless prince, you have passed through the Valley of Sighs,” they said in terror.

“I did so, my dear ones, without meaning to be so imprudent, but now the longing to see my parents is killing me! Yet I can not forsake you. I have already spent several days with you and have no cause to complain. So I’ll go and see my parents once more, and then come back to you, never to leave you again.”

“Do not quit us, beloved prince! Your parents died two or three hundred years ago, and if you go, we fear you yourself will never return; stay with us, for a presentiment of evil tells us that you will perish!”

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

All the entreaties of the three ladies, as well as those of the horse, were unable to quiet the young hero’s longing for his parents, which was fairly consuming him alive.

At last the horse said: “If you don’t listen to me, master, whatever happens to you will be your own fault. I’ll tell you something, and if you accept my condition, I’ll take you back.”

“I’ll accept it with many thanks,” replied the prince; “let me hear it.”

“As soon as you reach your father’s palace you will dismount, but I am to return alone in case you stay even an hour.”

“Be it so,” the prince agreed.

They made their preparations for the journey, the prince embraced the ladies and after having bade them farewell he rode away, but they sobbed and wept bitterly when he left them.

They reached the country which had once been the kingdom of the Scorpion Witch, but found cities there; the woods had become fields; the prince questioned one person and another about the Scorpion Witch and her house, but they answered that their grandfathers had heard from their great, great grandfathers that such silly tales had once been told.

“How is that possible!” replied the prince, “I came through this region myself only a short time ago,” and he told them all he knew.

The people laughed at him as if he were a lunatic or a person talking in his sleep, and the prince angrily rode on without noticing that his hair and beard were growing white.

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

When he reached the realm of the Woodpecker Fairy, the same questions and answers were exchanged. The prince could not understand how these places had altered so much in a few days, and again rode angrily on. He now had a white beard that reached to his waist, and he felt as if his feet were beginning to tremble.

Quitting this country he arrived in his father’s empire. Here he found new people, new towns, and every thing so much changed that he could not recognize it. At last he came to the palace where he was born. When he dismounted, the horse kissed his hand, and said:

“I wish you good health, master, I’m going back to the place from which I came. If you want to go too, mount quickly, and we’ll be off.”

“Farewell, I too hope to return soon.”

The horse darted away with the speed of an arrow.

When the prince saw the ruined palace and the weeds growing around it, he sighed deeply and with tears in his eyes tried to remember how magnificent these places had once been. He walked around the building two or three times, tried to recollect how every room, every corner had looked, found the stable where he had discovered the horse, and then went down into the cellar, whose entrance was choked up with fallen rubbish.

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

He groped hither and thither, holding up his eyelids with his hands, and scarcely able to totter along, while his snowy beard now fell to his knees, but found nothing except a dilapidated old chest, which he opened. It seemed empty, but as he raised the lid a voice from the bottom said: “Welcome, if you had kept me waiting much longer, I too should have gone to decay.”

Then his death, which had become completely shriveled in the chest, seized him; but the prince fell lifeless on the ground and instantly crumbled into dust.

Into the saddle then I sprung, The tale to tell to old and young.

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death (Tinerete Fara de Batranete si Viata Fara de Moarte) is a Romanian folktale discovered by Petre Ispirescu, Romanian editor, folklorist, printer and publicist, and first published in 1862 in local newspaper Țăranul român (Romanian Peasant).

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What I Hope Readers Take from my Books

hope readers books Furstenberg

I write with the hope that readers, while looking for a captivating and interesting read, a way to unwind and pass the time, will also find a novel that addresses their mind and their humanity, a book that speaks to their heart.

I write for the joy of it, but also for bringing into the light less know contemporary and historical characters. I write in an attempt to connect past and present, the readers of my books with the lesser known, yet equally mystifying and significant, aspects of our history.

hope readers books Pat Furstenberg
What I hope readers will take from y books, by Patricia Furstenberg

We naturally seek the stories of those who lived before us, of those who went through incredible experiences, of those who loved and lost, who followed their dreams and paid dearly for it; people who have already been there, done that. It’s a natural human impulse. Go with it.

What I hope my readers will discover in my books

Realistic, relatable characters and that they will want to know what happens to them, rather than just following the plot.

Heartwarming relationships.

A setting that will transport them to another location, another lifestyle, another time, while still enjoying the safety of their reading space.

A complex story-line, involving historical events, accurately depicted and an addictive storytelling.

That tingling feeling that keeps you turning the pages.

An image, a feeling that will stay with them long after finished my book. Readers have appreciated in my writing the occasional passages they paused upon to enjoy especially for their lyrical descriptions.

A positive feeling, hope, a smile, as my writing has been described as uplifting and heart-warming, “making the world a beautiful place”- although my stories are honest.

An addictive reading, fueled by a passion for the topic and for storytelling.

Although reality can be uncomfortable in places, books can hold a mirror to real life. But life is also filled with joyful moments, with laughter and appreciation for our blessings. I hope readers will discover both in my books, as I write poetry, children’s stories, contemporary and historical fiction.

poetry books inspired by true historical events

Gifts all readers reap out of books

Reduced stress and depressive thoughts, while instilling a sense of tranquility.

An increased IQ, a wider vocabulary and an improved memory.

An increased EQ, making us more empathic.

Improved analytical thinking and a deeper knowledge of what we want.

Also, reading as a form of mental stimulation slows down dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

hope readers books Furstenberg
What I hope readers take from my books by Patricia Furstenberg

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To Marvel at the Medieval Towers of Sighisoara Fortress

marvel medieval towers Sighisoara

Let’s further our historical journey and marvel at the medieval towers and walls of Upper City Sighisoara, the fortress, Vlad the Impaler‘s birth place. If we walk clockwise around the citadel’s defense wall or rampant, still 14 meters in height in some places, we’ll admire, in this order:

Sighisoara fortress - marvel medieval towers fortress. Tanners Tower

The Tanners’ Tower is one of the oldest, original towers dating back to the 13th – 14th centuries as it suggest its position too, retracted behind the wall. Its roof, slanted towards the inside of the fortress, suggests the same. It was built to guard and protect the courtyard of the Clock Tower nearby.

 Tanners' Tower Sighisoara, 13th - 14th century. marvel medieval towers fortress
Tanners Tower, Turnul Tabacarilor

The Tinsmiths’ Tower & bastion. At 25 m of height it has a specific shape: square at the base (the original foundation), then becomes pentagonal (probably late 15th century), and it ends octagonal at the top, while the roof has a hexagonal plan. It had one of the strongest defense systems of the Sighisoara fortress. One can still see the traces that Hungarian bullets left during the last siege, that of 1704.

The Tinsmiths' Tower & bastion, Sighisoara. Turnul Cositorilor. marvel medieval towers fortress
The Tinsmiths’ Tower & bastion with Riflemen’s Gallery – Turnul Cositorilor

Do you see the Rifle-men’s Gallery, adjacent to the Tinsmiths’ Tower – left side? It has a unique architecture in the Sighisoara fortress.

The Rope-makers Tower is high up on the hill and today houses the cemetery guard. But 200 years ago, the first family allowed to make a home here had to sound the church bells three times a day, at 7 am, at noon and 7 pm, and look after the cemetery.

Rope-makers Tower - Turnul Franghierilor
Rope-makers Tower – Turnul Franghierilor

The original fortress’ wall between the Rope-makers Tower and the Butchers’ Tower still stands. The Butchers’ Tower has a bastion as well and it dates from the 15th century. Initially, it was an octagonal prism, but during the 16th century, it was rebuilt on a hexagonal floor plan and raised to make it easier to defend the west side of the Citadel. For this reason alone, the Butcher’s Tower was armed with five arquebuses (a lighter type of musket and one of the first hand-guns with a trigger), and at least one cannon (as the cannonballs and gunpowder discovered here attest).

The Butchers' Tower. Medieval Sighsoara - Turnul Macelarilor
Butcher’s Tower – Turnul Macelarilor

Did you know that it was the Romans who discovered that towers made it easier to defend a walled fortress? Towers made it easy to give covering fire for the walls during an attack.

The Butchers’ Tower and the Furriers’ Tower saw many sheep a-counting while guarding the Törle gate in between. It was through here that each evening the shepherds returned with their flock from the pastures and proceed to count and separate the sheep. Of course, they would have had at least one dog to help them round the flock, to head them off or hold them up just by standing in the road, blocking the sheep’s way, and barking, to remind the woolly beasts who’s the boss.

The plain, square floor plan of the Furriers’ Tower dates its construction back to the 14th century, although it was rebuilt various times, latest at the end of the 17th century. Worth noticing are the narrow window-slits on the top, fourth level for dousing invaders with hot liquids. Over the centuries, fighters armed with spears, halebards, arquebuses, and even a small cannon manned this tower.

the Furriers' Tower, medieval Sighisoara, 14th century - Turnul Cojocarilor
The Furrier’s Tower, Sighisoara – walking into the fortress – Turnul Cojocarilor

The Weavers’ Tower was located between the Furriers’ Tower and the Tailors’ Tower. The Weavers’ Tower was demolished in the mid-19th century together with the fortress wall stretching between the Furriers’ Tower all the way to the Shoemakers’ Tower.

The Tailors’ Tower is a massive baroque-style construction, first mentioned in 1521. Located opposite the Clock Tower it marks the second entrance in Sighisoara fortress. Nowadays is the only access way for cars. It was rebuilt after the big fire of 1676 and today it looks like this:

Journey in medieval city sighisoara. Tailors' Tower, medieval Sighisoara - Turnul Croitorilor
Tailors’ Tower – Turnul Croitorilor – source

Look at the two passageways. They do suggest a 12th – 14th century construction and so are the two ancient porticullis, the metal latticed gates, that lock by sliding vertically to fortify the access way into the fortress.

As mentioned, this tower went up in flames taking with it the adjacent corridor where there was a storage area for projectiles and gunpowder apart from grains and halbards.

The Shoemakers’ Tower, standing since 1522, is quite a spectacular view, proving once again that the strength of a guild lies in its demand. Reconstructed after the fire of 1676 (when it exploded due to the large amount of gunpowder stored inside), it picked up the baroque architectonic influences of the late 17th century.

Shoemakers' Tower Sighisoara plaque - Turnul Cizmarilor - marvel medieval towers fortress
“Shoemakers’ Tower – although it dates from older times, it gained the shape you see today in 1681.” – Turnul Cizmarilor

This was my favorite tower! Do notice the small observation tower (lookout turret if you wish) on the roof visible in the picture below (there are two such towers), and the large windows, so not in the style of the Middle Ages.

Shoemaker's Tower - street entrance - marvel medieval towers fortress
Shoemaker’s Tower – the back entrance

These windows are post World War Two when, for a spell, the tower was turned into a depository of archival documents. The outside wooden staircase is very recent, since 2001.
Today it houses a local radio station.

Shoemakers Tower - roof. Medieval Sighisoara
Note the slanted roof to fend off piling of snow during heavy snowfalls
Shoemakers Tower, Sighisoara - new, wooden staircase
Shoemakers Tower, Sighisoara – the new addition, a wooden staircase

And if you climb the stairs you’re treated to a colorful view:

Shoemaker's Tower view on Sighisoara - marvel medieval towers fortress
A charming view from the balcony

One last look up the Shoemakers’ Tower before we move on, certainly a sight to marvel at as not every day we get to see such medieval towers and Sighisoara fortress is a place far away for many tourists.

Shoemaker's Tower - looking up. marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking up at Shoemaker’s Tower, Sighisoara Fortress

The Locksmiths’ Tower and bastion nearby were part of the main defensive system. This area has seen an explosive history: blown up during a siege in 1706, hit by lightning and burned down in 1809, demolished at the end of the 19th century, making way for the construction of the present Church.

The Ironsmiths’ Tower is a massive tower built in 1631 to protect the fortress and the nearby Monastery Church.

Monastery Church, Sighisoara Fortress - marvel medieval towers fortress
As we spied on the Monastery Church, nestled in the medieval Sighisoara fortress

The tower we see today dates from 1631, raised on top of the Barber’s Tower and rebuilt after the big fire of 1676. At the end of the 19th century it was repurposed as a fire-station. Medieval elements worth noticing are the consoles at the top, protecting the windows, and the machicolations (the floor openings between the corbels, the stones jutting from the wall at the top), and the slits and holes.

marveling medieval towers sighisoara / Ironsmiths' Tower, Turnul Fierarilor
Ironsmiths’ Tower as we saw it, Turnul Fierarilor

And looking up at Ironsmiths’ Tower from the pathway surrounding the fortress:

Ironsmiths Tower medieval Sighisoara  - Turnul Fierarilor - marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking up at Ironsmiths’ Tower from the pathway surrounding the fortress

Looking back – and suddenly it doesn’t look that massive, does it? Perhaps that’s why many attackers thought that they might take it on.

A snow covered path outside the walls of Medieval Sighisoara - marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking at the past…

And with one last look over our shoulder, thinking of its medieval atmosphere, with medieval horns, dark staircases and eerie views, we marvel one last time and bid farewell to the medieval towers of Sighisoara fortress and a snowy winter.

Remember to visit more medieval castles of Romania: Corvin Castle or discover if, without Mircea the Elder, we would have even had a Vlad the Impaler.

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