Silvia stayed with friends in Jamaica, towards the end of 1938. Her dream was to travel on to Bali, having read a book called The Lost Paradise, but it was too far away and too expensive to get there. A friend in Jamaica, called Susan, agreed to travel to Los Angeles with Silvia, from where she could then make her own way on to Bali.
Together they set off for LA, via Panama. For some reason they spent ‘several weeks’ in Panama but there is no indication as to how or why. Eventually they boarded a Japanese ship, the ‘Santos Maru’ on which Silvia is listed as an ‘artist, widow’. She notes that the Japanese sailors have sylph-like figures but are difficult to draw after drawing negroes (sic). They both found the Captain and crew difficult and felt the British were persona non grata, whereas the Pacific Ocean was pussy-calm and wrinkled, like curdled milk.
They landed at San Pedro, in the Port of Los Angeles, on 29th May 1939. On arrival she was terrified the Customs officials might tear off her few bits of jewellery and all kinds of trouble might descend on my head. Her trunk was opened and when an officer found some of her drawings inside, a cheerful exchange ensued which provided a lovely welcome to America.
LA was only 30 miles from Hollywood, which is where Silvia went to stay – in a hotel for part of the time and with friends for the rest. At this stage, Silvia didn’t keep a diary (annoyingly!) and so the account of her time in Hollywood is brief. We don’t know if her friends were fellow actors, nor if she earned any money, nor what happened to Susan.
After six months, she scraped together enough money to pay for a ticket to Bali. To do so, she had to sell jewellery and borrow money and half-starve myself but it was worth it. Following, the outbreak of war, her friends discouraged Silvia from crossing the Pacific but she set off in spite of their concern.
It seems her stint in Hollywood stood her in good stead in subsequent travels. When she ended up in hospital in Calcutta, the magic word ‘Hollywood’ produced the usual effect. Nurses sprang up from nowhere and crowded round my bed. She’s been to Hollywood, they told each other – I had achieved a social status.