Woman in Kenya
Sorry that ENHANTÉ had to be away for a while due to a surgery in the house, but we are back alive and kicking with more of Africa. Why? Because it’s so big and so intensely fascinating.
Let’s start with that EQUATOR! Learning geography in secondary school, I never dreamt of experiencing being at the Equator. A picture of my dad drew my curiosity even more.
This picture was taken near Pekanbaru on Sumatra. Dad was selling his world’s best Van Vollenhoven’s Beer in what then was the Dutch Indies, now Indonesia.
I followed suit at an “Equator” boot set up in Burundi, reportedly to commemorate the meeting of Stanley and Livingstone in 1871 about ten miles south of Bujumbura.
Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
I worked on Côte d’Ivoire from 1985 to 1987, definitely one of the most intriguing periods in my World Bank life. The country was led by Président Houphouët-Boigny (nicknamed “Le Vieux”), a remarkable personality. In the early nineteen-eighties, he designated Yamoussoukro as the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, instead of Abidjan. Yamoussoukro was his birthplace. The village was previously called N’Gokro and renamed after Queen Yamousssou who was in charge of N’Gokro at the time of the French colonization. ‘Kro’ means ‘village’ in the local language.
Houphouët was assisted by a French “Technical Assistant” not less illustrious than him: Antoine Cesareo, a gifted and powerful civil engineer, born in Tunisia, who became the Director of the General Directorate of Large Works, and with whom we dealt in all our transport and urban works projects financed by the World Bank. He was, among others, the supervisor for the construction of the Basilica of The Notre Dame in Yamoussoukro, a prime project undertaken by Houphouët. It is reportedly larger than the St. Peter in Rome (which caused friction with the Pope) and cost a fortune that superseded by far the Ivoirian budget. The cost became a bone of contention with the donor community, in particular the IMF and the World Bank, but if it had not been for Cesareo, it might have cost even more. I only saw the leveled construction site (looked like two football fields). It was completed in 1995. It has a capacity for 18,000 followers, but as a rule, less than 1,000 attend the mass on Sundays.
photo credit: Felix Krohn
Another interesting feature of Yamoussoukro was Houphouët’s palace. The whole family lived there. Reportedly he himself lived modestly only in a small part of the building.
More interesting were the crocodiles that populated the groove along the palace. They were a gift from the President of Mali (Côte d’Ivoire has no crocodiles) and were fed fresh meat every day. Once a gardener got too close, got caught and was devoured.
I took this picture in 1985 when Antoine Cesareo accompanied us to Yamoussoukro.
Yamoussoukro housed a huge hotel – also handled by Cesareo – and several other buildings, among others an engineering institute, all generated with the overview of Cesareo’s “Grands Travaux.”
Below a picture of the formidable Cesareo, signing off on an urban project we had negotiated with him and his staff (all French) in 1986. The great Cesareo oversaw personally most of the civil works, roads and other infrastructures in Côte d’Ivoire and became the major cost cutter and anti-corruption activist.
The amusing aspect – for me as a Dutchman – was that Houphouët insisted on French technical assistance helping him govern Côte d’Ivoire as he had no confidence in his African civil servants. French being the French – including the World Bank staff on my teams – frequently had loud arguments among each other, defending the service they were assigned to, the African staff just looking on, stone-faced. Even while negotiating in Washington – and Cesareo was a shrewd and tough negotiator – I had to calm down the French ‘shouting matches.’
I am signing off on our negotiating results on an urban development project with my good friend François Amiot looking on.
These particular negotiations lasted a whole week till late in the evenings. The last evening, while we were battling the final conditions of the agreement at 10 PM, it had kept snowing heavily over the Washington D.C. area. We didn’t know, but many commuters traveling home got stuck on the highways and had to abandon their vehicles. It was complete chaos. When we finished, our Ivorian guests could not find a taxi. Cesareo and his staff had to walk to their hotel in the deep snow. Cesareo on his black pumps! He was not amused, as we heard. I remember driving home that night to Alexandria on a deserted 395, lined with hundreds of abandoned cars.
Left, a glimpse of Hotel Ivoire (Intercontinental) in Abidjan Cocody where I often stayed. The next three pictures show the Golf Hotel located at the Abidjan Lagune. From its beach, I could watch the contours of Abidjan where I had worked during the day (shown below). When I stayed there in 2001 on a consulting assignment with the African Development Bank, Gbagbo overthrew President Konan Bedié who, in the early nineties, had been selected by Houphouët to succeed him (over Wattahara, who had been running the Government during Houphouët’s last days). I had to ‘evacuate’ hotel Golf in haste – with dead bodies in the streets – and could just catch the last Air France before the airport was closed. Gbagbo threw the Ivory Coast into utmost disarray for ten years until Wattahara (a former IMF Director) was finally elected to put Ivory Coast back on its feet.
Much of what you see above are state-of-the-art works overseen by Cesareo.
Above a few pictures of Côte d’Ivoire’s lovely beaches where one could spend the weekends, eat the best lobsters freshly picked from the sea, and watch Ivoirian parties with fanciful ladies dancing the booty.
Next time Cameroon
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
Travel for us means diving into the storage room in the bowels of our residence to find the right suitcases for the umpteenth trip. Our problem is that we (well, you know who “we” is ) never threw out the old suitcases when “we” bought new ones. So we have a bunch.
Among the legions of suitcases, there are a few reds which are easy to single out at the baggage claim when everyone has black. And when everybody got red, we got panter skin types. Staring at us is ‘Big Brother’, for surplus shipments to ‘Third World’ locations in need. There are some more suitcase pictures, but that would be ‘repetitive.’ You get the ‘picture.’
Next, follow pictures of some places we traveled to. I regret we didn’t have cell phone cameras in those days with their enormous storage capacity. We didn’t have the same urge then to take pictures of everything happening. Now we have to collect them from photo albums. My dad went all over the world for his beer business but took mostly 8mm movies that have deteriorated. We took videos we watched on VCRs. VCRs are gone now, too, and we had to have them transferred to CD-Roms.
OK, here we go, starting from when we worked for the World Bank. That’s a bit like ‘Join the Navy and See the World.” Except that we saw ports only occasionally for work (transport was one of my fields). Mostly we saw capitals and the interior, of which our memory kept many wonderful images that are unfortunately locked up in our minds. I wish there was a mechanism that would allow us to transfer them onto photo paper, like a scanner. Who knows what the future holds.
The world we saw is very large and we may have to do it in parts, starting with Africa, then Asia – South East and Far East – the Caribbean and the Middle-East. But first some left-over honeymoon pictures of 1974.
Joy at a ‘slave hut’ on Bonaire (1974). They were built entirely of stone and hardly tall enough for a man to stand upright in (Joy is 5’7, so you can imagine). Wikipedia: “From 1816 until 1868, Bonaire remained a Dutch government plantation. In 1825, there were about 300 government-owned slaves on the island. Gradually many of the slaves were freed and became freemen with an obligation to render some services to the government. The remaining slaves were freed on 30 September 1862 under the Emancipation Regulation. A total of 607 government slaves and 151 private slaves were freed at that time.” Those were bad days and the Dutch feel very shameful about it.
Bonaire: A flock of Flamingos flying off. Of the three Dutch Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire) little Bonaire is environmentally the most fascinating and a heaven for scuba divers.
Bonaire – a coastal rock formation.
A peaceful look at Puerto Rico’s coastline at San Juan.
Joy at a castle in Toledo near Madrid (1974).
And admiring windmills in Portugal.
Visiting flamboyant Georgetown, Guyana, and
Admiring its flamboyant trees from home.
Flying to Guyana Interior.
Getting ready to see the Kaieteur Waterfall
Kaieteur Waterfall, 226 meters deep, 113 m wide, surrounded by wilderness. Most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen.
Back at work at the World Bank, with the car parked in front of the office (impossible now!). Besides, the main office building was entirely replaced years later. Picture taken by Joy.
John’s office at the World Bank, picture taken by -surprise- Joy (years later). The window looks out on the IMF across 19th Street. The files on the radiator were to protect me from the secondary smoke from inhaling/exhaling Frenchmen/women in adjacent offices. Thank God those smoking days are over!
We will be going to Africa next time.
Why should we be surprised that so many like this memoir/coming of age story? On a first Goodreads giveaway of only 2 books it got some 600 entries!
(If the links do not function- sorry, a WordPress Issue- kindly copy them into your browser/url)
Whose memoir starts off playing with Audrey when they were kids (she 13 and he 7) , only to discover ten years later that she has become a famous movie star winning an Oscar in Roman Holiday with the great Gregory Peck? I remember her from when she came to visit us during World War II when she lived near us in Arnhem at the house of her grandfather, Baron van Heemstra, with her mother and two stepbrothers. She told me she practiced for ballet at the Arnhem Conservatory. I drove her in my pony wagon but did not really know what she was talking about!
The Audrey picture above and the dancing one below are private pictures that nobody else has! I donated them to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.
Thirty years later we met again in Geneva when she was an accomplished and widely acclaimed actress, with two great sons. Many people knew her then but few people knew her as a young, beautiful undiscovered star at age 13 (picture left).
Sam says: This is a heartwarming collection of short stories that portray the path of boy meets world with realism and sensitivity. Perhaps most surprising are the different relationships that each story portrays – some were romantic, while others were more familial or close friendships. Those qualities, combined with the historical backdrop and international perspective, distinguish this book from the more typical and predictable storylines, making it a five-star read!
Get it at:
This may be the reason why so many want to read this story. But it’s not just Audrey. The other woman who till to-day, remains an anchor in my life is my grandmother, who appears in the book as “Lady D.” Who does not love their grandmother like the author does?
Sure everyone’s grandmother is something special! This one was, a Grand Dame who left an indelible mark on the author’s mind and soul. Many want to read it, thinking, yes, that’s how my grandmother was, too!
Then follow the heartwarming females that upset any young lad growing up!
And the first real love? That girl that knocks you of your socks when you are just 17?
Get it at: http://amzn.to/1QIL94B
If I told you that picture with the beloved girlfriend was taken in a heavily guarded Jesuit boarding school you would not believe it, but it’s TRUE.
Then that lovely pianist in Paris.
Paris upsets anyone’s love life. Hundreds of books and movies ballyhoo about it, and you don’t believe it until you get bitten yourself! That city does it to young people, especially if you speak its language of love, as I do. Imagined, dreamt of, hallucination, or wishful thinking, probably all of the above, turned me topsy-turvy. Everyone who went through the same experience, and many did, wants to compare with someone else’s experience, just to be able to say, yes! that’s how it felt! Yes, that’s how it was! And then to think that I and my adorable pianist ran into Sammy Davis in the Hermes store, getting his broad smiles and autographs on her shawl!
Get it at:
But the author ran into big troubles, too. Did anyone mess up because they met spider woman when they started their professional career? I did! Nothing more distressful then getting enamored by blond hair, artic blue eyes, a most enticing bright smile and a sexy seductress grabbing you by your….well you know what. Readers don’t want to miss that desperate episode. The author got out of it thanks to the blessing of his gods…oh boy, how that seductress could have destroyed his life…Remember that fabulous song “Here she comes! she is a Man Eater, Ho Ho Ho!?” Watch out!
And then he escapes to Switzerland, meets a loving woman but when the relationship sours because of differences in viewpoints and objectives in life, he breaks up once more, only to fall in love with a Norwegian Viking on the skis slopes that ends up in tears on both sides.
Ach! How difficult young life is. Loving and living love and it never stays the way it is. Why does it have to be that way?
Dan Dwyer writes: I had read the author’s vignette on Audrey Hepburn a few months ago when I was looking for something short, different and personal because my daughter is a big Hepburn fan. Mr. Schwartz did not fail me then nor has he failed me now with his compilation of the women he has met in his life. This latest work, Some Women I Have Known, talks as much about the man himself growing up amount the fairer sex, which he learns almost too late in life has a decisive advantage over a man too eager to find life’s companion.
Get it at:
And so the deep sufferer left for Africa. Only a desperado would do that. But he got mesmerized by a dark figure, a magnificent African woman, strolling on a hill who wanted something from him. No, not sex, not earning money to give her beauty away. She wanted freedom, away from mistreatment, longing for the moment she could employ her talents, flying away to unsurpassed heights, dislodge herself from imprisonment in a suffocating society, forced marriage and abusive treatment. A beautiful bird from the jungle, begging to be let loose from its cage to spread its wings and shoot out to heaven.
I don’t think I can ever forget Nyira, ever. I don’t know where she is now, what finally happened to her when I got her out, but she did get her chance to live a better life and she did.
And that’s the moment where young minds settle and reach some sort of maturity. It’s what they call coming-of-age. We all go through that one way or another. The only thing this author can say is that he was damn lucky he did not fall between the cracks. He finally met the woman he felt comfortable with. The opposite of what he had imagined.
I think this is the element why so many want to read this love story. It’s out on Amazon. com, Kindle e-book, paperback and hardcover. Don’t miss out on these stories, they inspired me to write them, and they will inspire you when you read them.
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN – MEMOIR AND ROMANCE
KIRKUS REVIEW; “A WISTFUL MEMOIR…“
AMAZON.COM KINDLE, PAPERBACK AND HARDCOVER.
The Christmas and New Year period is a great time to read or gift a few heartwarming stories to suit the holidays!
ENCHANTING THE SWAN ends at Christmas, a moving end which I will not give away here. You can read the novel at http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o and at http://bit.ly/1Kw8gys (Barnes & Noble). Consistent 5 star reviews so far: Dan Dwyer comments: If you like old fashioned romance stories, you will like Enchanting The Swan. Paul and Fiona meet at the College of William and Mary in Virginia where they fall in love after playing “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens. There’s more to this story than Dewey eye romance. John Schwartz has written a fine romantic thriller than doesn’t let go until the very end.
Neal Cary, professor and cellist at William & Mary, writes: Enchanting the Swan is a beautiful story — full of suspense, drama, and enduring love centered around music. John Schwartz has created a whole world, and a wonderful escape. The characters jump off the page with such personality and imagery that this book could make a great movie. Enchanting the Swan is a very enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly.
MJM Orlean writes: John writes beautifully – I found the book difficult to put down – an easy read, full of intrigue, love, passion, international travel and dubious banking business, and lots more – a must read.
You can still get it for a good read at the fire place: http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o
or at http://bit.ly/1Kw8gys. ENJOY!
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN is a memoir /coming-of-age story. Our unforgettable Audrey Hepburn was a central personality in our home and especially for me, as we met as children (she 13 and I 7 ) in Holland well before she became a beautiful and revered film star. Of course, our lives became very different and I only touched hers at her outer sphere, but she did remember me! It is one of the more striking stories in SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN.
You can still get it at http://amzn.to/1QIL94B
Readers seem to like it: Sam writes: This is a heartwarming collection of short stories that portray the path of boy meets world with realism and sensitivity. Perhaps most surprising are the different relationships that each story portrays – some were romantic, while others were more familial or close friendships. Those qualities, combined with the historical backdrop and international perspective, distinguish this book from the more typical and predictable storylines, making it a five-star read!
Kendal writes about the Audrey story: I adore Audrey Hepburn and love to hear new stories about her. Can’t get enough. And this short story was a nice little peek into her life, especially pre-fame, as a young girl… loved it.
Micah Harris writes in similar terms: A pleasant account of an exceptional person. There’s always something poignant about beautiful people recovering from ghastly times. Thanks for the read.
Dan writes: I had read the author’s vignette on Audrey Hepburn a few months ago when I was looking for something short, different and personal because my daughter is a big Hepburn fan. Mr. Schwartz did not fail me then nor has he failed me now with his compilation of the women he has met in his life…One charming and not so charming adventure after another, however, ended the same way until he finally met the proverbial woman of his dreams. She luckily for both shared the same dream.
And how did we!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and pleasant holidays!
John and Joy