Travel to Africa and learn what distances mean. Starting with the continent’s size, it’s mind-boggling.
I begin with this map because few people realize how big Africa is. Just flying north-south over the Sahara takes a good 3 hours!
Most known for safaris and wildlife, the continent was marked by the famous TARZAN pictures with all types of animals crowding the screen, and movies like The African Queen and Out of Africa. Though on our business trips we saw several wildlife parks and walked through jungles, our work led us mostly to colonial-built capitals to talk with governments and the private sector and visit development projects in towns and the vast interior. While we were often struck by poverty, financial mismanagement and corruption, tribal and religious wars, health issues, women’s suffering and child abuse, we could not escape the beauty and magnificence of Africa’s scenery, and the personal warmth of the many Africans we met in so many of its 55 countries, of which 43 below the Sahara.
In this blog, we only show pictures of Africa’s beauty and some of its people, leaving the ‘political and socio-economic issues’ aside.
Let’s start with RWANDA – The first African country I traveled to. It was quite an experience: I was allowed to witness the plane’s descent to Entebbe, Uganda in the cockpit, in the early morning hours, and was thrilled when I saw the tropical landscape appearing. Only to find out at the airport that my luggage was left in London and that my connecting plane to Rwanda was delayed by a day or two because of bad weather. I still wore my sweater from cold Washington D.C. Spending 24 hours or more in my ‘hot-costume’ in a simple hotel meant enduring the first hardship of World Bank travel.
But we arrived in Kigali, finally. Rwanda is a populous place because of its fertile soils, but very poor.
Flying in over northern Rwanda is a bit like looking at the Alps from afar: mountainous with volcanoes, sometimes active with disastrous results.
The Virunga mountains in northern Rwanda near Ruhengeri resemble almost the shape of the Mont Blanc from a distance. In this area live the mountain gorillas. In 1975, I saw a few of them in the early morning hours, led by a small team organized by Dian Fossey, the American primatologist who lived there and studied these gorillas. Her work was made into the movie Gorillas in the Mist in 1988, three years after she was mysteriously murdered.
Dian Fossey – Credit Liam White-Alamy, picture borrowed from a 2015 BBC report by feature writer Melissa Hoogeboom.
The Nyiragongo volcano near Goma-Gisenyi at the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo taken in 1975. It had a two-kilometer-wide lava lake which fractured in 2002 and devastated a huge area of farmers and wildlife. Some 150 people got killed. The lava almost touched Goma. The volcano’s shape has changed as a new, lower level volcano arose near the old volcano. So, this picture is sort of a ‘relic.’ Nyira was also the name of the Rwandese Princess refugee I helped flee from Burundi later (see The Tutsi Queen in Some Women I Have Known – Kindle version: https://amzn.to/2L9U5rD).
Joy in Goma, on a “points trip” with me to Africa in 1979. World Bank professional staff were allowed to take their spouse on a business trip once they had spent 500 days (well, they said ‘nights’) away from home! Well-deserved. Dapper Joy had to take care of the 2 kids and drive through snow and ice while hubby was doing business in warm Africa.
Joy with me in Ethiopia near Addis Ababa in 1979.
Rwanda – reviewing progress of a tea-plantation project.
Rwanda – Getting stuck in a muddy earth road on our way to supervise works – 1975
Negotiating the price for help to get unstuck. My Italian teammate Melegari was good in negotiating with the villagers.
Rwanda – Construction of the Kigali-Gatuna road financed by the World Bank, which is part of the transit road to Mombasa, Kenya. I criticized the sharp angle of this part of the road which on the other side of the picture had a descent of at least 45 degrees. But the engineers shut me up because that was not ‘my business.’ The descent turned out a cemetery for African truck drivers, whose vehicles had often inadequate brake systems. But in the Bank, as a young officer, you don’t get medals for critique.
Rwanda – a local market in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
That’s it for now. Next time: Burundi, the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
Books to read:
Kirkus Reviews recognized Francine’s perseverance and that of the miners she stands up for and gave the manuscript a resounding positive critique. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-schwartz/francine/.
Just one click takes you to a good read!
Audrey – A Cherished Memory: A personal story of how I met Audrey. Proceeds of this two-story booklet (at Amazon.com) go to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. https://amzn.to/2JOcjL4
This is to inform you of the reason why ENCHANTÉ has been away: A “sabbatical” forced by accumulating events that prevent us from writing. However, we will be back in September-October, God willing – insha’Allah. Meanwhile, we will post some photographs from our past blogs, including ‘Mars Man’, with whom we started our blog. Mars Man may return to our blogs now that Mother Earth is moving onto them with the new Space Force.
Below are ‘identity’ photographs: from age 7 to ?, each one representative of a decisive period in the life of ENCHANTÉ.
Moving into the space age, below are Katharine, Mars Man’s earthly wife and anchor at OMAHA TV, and Mars Man in his Mars capacity of Mars City TV anchor. Next is Space Scooter One, with which Mars Man descends to Mother Earth, to spend time with Katharine and their mixed offspring, and do interviews on OMAHA TV in his Earthly Costume, as shown on the last picture.
Pictures are worth one thousand words!
Till soon with more of our picture album of previous blogs.
It did not dawn on me until I was at a Jesuit boarding school in Nijmegen, a city close to Germany and one of the centers of World War II fighting in The Netherlands. During the 1950s, a (strictly forbidden) girlfriend Marijke van Steen (probably happily married now with grandkids like me) took me on a bike ride to the Canadian War Cemetery at a small town called Groesbeek not far from where she lived. Having survived World War II as a child (from about 4 to 9 years old), I had intense and often graphic memories of those awful years of being occupied by Nazi Germany. I had seen aviators fighting in the sky, bombers dropping bombs, and German soldiers rounding up compatriots, including Jewish friends, and beating them up or shooting them in the street.
A downed British pilot once sought refuge in our house and disappeared again with the help of underground resistance fighters. I was 9 when we were finally liberated thanks to all those allied forces who fought their way through German armies, deadly fortresses of machine guns, powerful tanks, Junker fighter planes, Heinkel bombers and later the fierce Messerschmitts jetfighters.
While World War II memories remained lucent growing up, there is nothing more poignant to resuscitate those memories when you visit the warriors’ graves. Marijke showed me around.
Though she was a few years younger than I, she also remembered liberation in 1945. Yes, we were the lucky ones and could smile, like the people in the picture below.
Hand in hand we stood in front of all these white crosses while complete silence reigned around us in the Cemetery. Each white cross represented a scream in pain, a futile effort to fight death, a vain struggle to scramble to safety, grasping a twig before hurtling down a cliff or parachuting into a burning sea. Each white cross had comrades in battle, mortally wounded, or severely injured, alive perhaps but impaired for life.
Sitting together on a bench overlooking the extensive field of bright white crosses, we knew it was thanks to those brave youthful warriors we were still alive and could fall in love. When I was drafted into the army and crept through sand or waded through ponds with a rifle above my head, I remembered those who did this for real and made the ultimate sacrifice.
I am the guy with the broad smile in the middle, cleaning my rifle, all of us having great fun.
I was lucky as it did not happen to me, but for many American soldiers, it did, in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, the wider world. Arlington Cemetery, and the World War II memorial with its European and Asian theaters, are thoughtful places to realize how thankful we must be to those who shield us from harm and keep us safe. It is nice to say ‘peace through strength’, but we must not forget that that ‘strength’ means a lot of brave people, fellow humans, who are willing to pay the ultimate price when they have to, for us to keep enjoying our comfortable lives.
And so Meghan and Harry are married, like “we did.” “Royally.” Meghan, a mixed-race American woman and Harry a royal British prince. A fascinating story many are calling a ‘Cinderella’ story. Well, Meghan was not exactly washing dishes and cleaning house, nor was Joy. Meghan is an accomplished actress and a gifted person, and Joy was a clever and adored World Bank front office staff-assistant. Both are extremely charming. But it does sound a bit like a Cinderella story: Meghan is a mixture of a Caucasian father and an African mother. The gripping marriage scenes under clear skies (what a gift from Heaven to the UK!) beautified this ultimate contemporary event, which would have been impossible some forty-five years ago, when we married.
What a difference! I remember watching just-crowned Queen Elizabeth visiting Amsterdam with her Prince Philip in 1958. (The story goes she met him, a second cousin, in Greece when she was 13 and fell in love with him at that time already, writing letters to each other). The state visit to the Dutch Royal family was all stiff pomp, though cordial. Then followed the problems with growing-up children: Charles and Diana’s disastrous divorce, followed by Diana’s tragic death, Andrew and Fergy’s divorce, and daughter Anne’s divorce from Captain Mark Philips. Her third son, Prince Edward, is the only one remaining married to his first wife (Sophie Rhys-Jones). Queen Elizabeth reportedly acquiesced in Harry’s marriage for love to a US commoner of mixed race because she was tired of facing her children’s unhappy marriages. Harry and Meghan’s wedding pictures show that the royal protocol has fundamentally changed.
I can feel that difference probably more acutely than others: Joy Jaundoo – a Guyanese of East-Indian descent – and I, a Dutchman from Amsterdam, married in Washington, D.C. in 1974.
The only person reacting positively was my mother seeing her picture: “Wat beautiful children will you have.” The majority in stiff Holland was upset and against. “He better stay in America,” one noble uncle said. “Why doesn’t he marry one of our own,” one prominent American uttered (many Dutch said the same). An American friend walked out of the elevator when he saw the two of us together. “Don’t do that! You break your family’s bloodstream forever,” another friend offered. “Why don’t you marry a French girl,” a boss said. In Georgetown Guyana, the reception proved a lot warmer. It was mostly more accepting in the World Bank, an eminent multicultural institution where we worked. “In fifty years the whole world will be brown,” a supportive French girlfriend said. Working in a multi-cultural institution made adjustments to each other’s cultures surely a lot easier!
Guyana beach: Drinking coconut water is an art you have to learn before messing up.
Well, perhaps we had the foresight and were ahead of our time: what would that Dutch uncle say now? However, Meghan and Harry will find that mixing cultures and race does have its consequences. Their children will grow up in privileged circumstances but will still be faced with the fact that they are different from their peers born out of same-race families. As parents, they will have to compromise perhaps more than others. The mixture of different bloodstreams causes unmistakably unintended fallouts: how do the children feel internally towards others, to whom do they ‘belong?’ Do they resent the cards that they were dealt with by their parents’ decision? How do they adjust in their childhood and puberty, can they find a partner in their split world, how do they think about being put on this world still full of bigotry? All children and young adults have growing problems but biracial children perhaps more, requiring close parental attention.
Visiting home in Holland in 1979
We are blessed with two good-looking and successful children, with each showing the ‘remnants’ of our individual backgrounds. At my and my sister’s eightieth birthday anniversary last year in Holland at the Maarten Maartens House in Doorn, they were a tribute to today’s changing world. The pictures below of Joy, our children, family and friends clearly show that we and they are no ”exception” anymore. That has been royally confirmed.
Below follows a slightly revised column I wrote in 2014 at the time of the Hamas intrusion into Israël. I repeated it in 2017 in view of the anti-semitic resolution adopted by the UN Security Council, orchestrated by the outgoing Obama Administration and the disturbing anti-Israël speech by John Kerry. I repeat it again in the face of the Hamas riots regarding the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Noticing the continuing appeasement themes of the ‘liberal left’, it seems many still don’t see Hamas is mistreating its people by throwing them into the line of fire.
The UN is generally biased when it deals with Israël. Jerusalem was from millennia times in Jewish hands and was overrun by Arabs when Islam emerged in 630. The Holocaust was instrumental in assuring the Jews a State of their own in 1948. Jerusalem became “Arab” in 1949 when Jordan’s King Husain’s superior army overpowered the then still small Israëli army and annexed the Jewish capital. Israël took it back in the 1967 six-day war. The UN Security Council condemned this in the famous Resolution 242 which required Israël to “withdraw from the territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
ENCHANTÉ has Palestinian and Islamic friends. We sometimes agree to disagree but remain good friends. At a personal level, it works. At the political level, the Israeli-Arab conflict seems insoluble. Much is due to the anti-Israël media of the West, but also American and European antisemitic political forces. (more…)