Year in Review 2009
This year's e-card is the evocative portrait of my mother by the painter Global Venus. Venus, born in Kosovo, discovered my article on Kosovo, and wrote to thank me for my honest, accurate and refreshing report. A few weeks later, she noticed the 1932 graduation photo of my mother on the Anderson Scholarship page. Venus, captivated by the emotion in that black and white photo, painted all night to capture it.
Venus, a true professional, wanted my feedback to know if she had gotten the physical aspects of my mother correct since she was working from a small black and white photo. I gently explained that my mother did not have brown hair and brown eyes, and then sent Venus some black and white photos that my father had taken of my mother along with a description of my mother's eye and hair color. Venus worked with me to get all of the information carefully understood, and then created the painting above. Venus gifted me with a high quality copy of this exceptional portrait.
Since my mother was called Andy during her adult life, Venus entitled the painting Portrait of Andy. See the web page that explains the artists approach, the techniques used on this painting and the poem she wrote to my mother. I think Venus has done a remarkable job of expressing my mother's quiet determination and showing the power of art over photography. I wish my mother was alive to see her painting, which is a tribute to her.
When I got a copy of the painting, I shared the information with relatives. My relatives in Sweden surprised me by publishing my email and a photo of the painting in the family association annual, Håbolssläktens Härold 2009. There in the middle of all of the articles in Swedish, is my email in English on page 24. That article included an anecdote about my full-sized birth certificate. I vaguely remembered that my mother told me when I was a kid about the doctor who had delivered me, but all I could remember was there was something special about him.
So when I got my birth certificate in 2009, I went to the Internet and discovered my doctor, Dr. J. Bay Jacobs, was famous in Washington, D.C. He was the Director of Maternal Welfare of the Health Department of the District of Columbia at the time I was born. The J. Bay Jacobs M.D. Library of the History of Obstetrics and Gynecology in America is named for him. Also his bequest created the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health which continues to be active. Dr. Jacobs and his wife Eva built a 4 story castle overlooking the Potomac river in 1938. The Castle is now a park.
My analysis shows that out of six billion people on planet earth, I am among the 100 most traveled people in the world applying either the TCC or MTP standard. In fact on MTP, I was ranked # 15 in the world on 12/15/09.
To put that achievement in perspective, the person who is # 33 on MTP has visited all 192 UN countries and all 319 TCC countries. He is also the person who recruited me to sign-up to MTP 3 years ago.
Here is a qualitative example: in 2009 I visited French Indian Ocean territory (Europa Island, Juan de Nova Island, Glorioso Islands, Tromelin Island) that President Sarkozy has not, Russian cities above the Arctic Circle (Norilsk, Dudinka), that Prime Minister Putin has not and American Pacific territory (Wake Island) that President Obama has not.
See my summary of 2009 travel for a list of travel highlights and color-coded data to see patterns of living standards. While visiting 29 UN countries, 56 TCC countries and a staggering 141 MTP locations this year, I took over 13,000 photos. Planning my 6 trips was a complex, time consuming process. These trips took almost 6 months of intense travel.
Travel of this scope and intensity is educational in the profoundest sense. My mind is filled with discoveries, surprising connections and indelible impressions. It is very difficult to explain the experience.
This year I visited scores of places that drive on the left. Driving on the left is quite common.
Here is some mood music before you look at the next 6 sections on my international travel in 2009. This uTube video is entitled the 156 Countries Sing Together for the Starbucks Love Project. I have visited all but a couple of these. Enjoy.
In 2009, after visiting West Africa for several years, I visited my 3 remaining countries: Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Then I visited Andorra and parts of Spain, Portugal, France and Italy in Europe. My trip included islands in the Mediterranean: the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the Pelagie Islands as well as islands in the Atlantic: the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores. For expert travelers, I will mention my visit to the Spanish exclave of Llivia.
It is a frustrating exercise to put an arbitrary limit of 10 photos for this entire trip, but that is what I did. There is a list of trip highlights plus basic statistics on these countries in my summary of 2009 travel.
Mali is one of the favorite places in Africa of seasoned travelers. The people are friendly and there are unique places to see and experience. In the fabled city of Timbuktu, salt is still distributed by camel along ancient trade routes. Timbuktu has ancient texts, mud houses, and interesting people. Our Toureg guide took us to his clan’s camp where we rode camels and experienced the peaceful quiet of the desert. The strange patterns in the sand were made by beetles.
Like much of Mali, people live in mud houses that need to be repaired after the infrequent rains. In Djenne, there is the largest mud mosque in the world. The Dogon country is another travel wonder with its cliff dwellings, onion farming, mask dancers, etc. Some of the masks are 2 meters long, yet these athletic dancers have gravity-defying jumps.
The long Niger river (pronounced the English way), flows thru many countries including Niger (pronounced the French way since its citizens do not want to be confused with Nigeria) and Mali. People do everything in, on and around this river: bath, drink, clean clothes, fish, etc. Clothes are spread out on riverbanks to dry.
For Europe, I will mention just a couple of things. I visited parts of Spain: Galicia, the Basque country and Catalonia where most people speak languages different than Spanish. I learned a few words that I enjoy using as a “test” when I meet Spaniards, and discuss with them the complexity of their country. There are many more Romance languages than most people realize.
Visiting the birthplace of Napoleon was a highlight. I learned that both of his parents were of aristocratic birth and his uncle was the bishop. The family tree is displayed on the walls. This is an Italian family: Buonparte. Napoleon was born only half a kilometer from the citadel, an ancient fortress still in active military use. He was sent to military school as a boy, and the rest is history. There are many statues, paintings and monuments to him on Corsica.
In March I visited the Gulf states of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai. These are all modern places that maintain their traditions, e.g., falconry in Qatar. On the other hand, they are ultra modern, the result of oil wealth. Since oil wealth cannot last forever, there are examples of latest techniques to save energy like the wind-powered building in Bahrain.
I also visited many places in the Indian Ocean: the Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius, Rodriquez Island, and all of the Comoros islands. The Seychelles have over 100 islands, and I visited all of the major island groups by charter flights. The sight of Aldabra island was breathtaking, but neither my photos, nor ones on the Internet due justice to it. The Comoros is very poor so I avoided photos of it except for the photo of the flora that got caught in the plane brake when landing.
Madagascar is another fascinating place to visit. It and the places the Indian Ocean mentioned above all have French influence in their history. I took photos of the damage caused by the coup which unfolded a few weeks before I arrived and I took many other photos in this interesting country; however, I decided to use the space below for lemurs!
Yemen is the real Arabia. It is a joy for serious travelers: untouched by crowds of tourists, filled with unique architecture, and a genuine opportunity to see a very different way of life. I would guess that about 10% of the men wear a dagger prominently in their belt. I saw a camel with blinders walking in circles in a shop doing the work of a machine. Outside cities, you see many scenes that are Biblical with small modern upgrades. I would contrast Yemen with Oman. Oman is another real Arabian country, but very clean and with almost twice the literacy and 8 times the income per person.
Yemen owns Socotra, an island in the Indian Ocean 300 kilometers south of Yemen and 100 kilometers off the coast of Somalia (home of many pirates). There are few tourist facilities, but this unique and wondrous place is on the wish list of every serious traveler. Among many unusual trees here, the dragon blood trees are my favorites. Note their size.
This was one of my best vacations ever. It is the second longest part of this Year in Review. I had a once in a life-time chance to visit the Scattered Islands, and I jumped on the chance, returning to Reunion, a French Island in the Indian Ocean, just 3 weeks after I had visited it for the first time. Only few dozen tourists have ever seen these islands.
TAAF, the administration the French Antarctic and Sub antarctic regions in conjunction with the French government decided to have a one time ecological clean-up mission to 4 of the Scattered Islands. These surround Madagascar. These islands are normally impossible for any tourist to visit. To subsidize this mission, TAAF decided to take 30 eco tourists. I was the only American. There were challenges, e.g., I had to have my doctor fill out their medical form after it was translated into English. I appreciate all of many efforts that TAAF did to accommodate me.
This trip also deepened my appreciation for the French and their culture. I enjoyed showing them my family tree on my iPhone so they could see that my first ancestor to North America was Jacques Hertel who came to Quebec when he was either 10 or 12. In 2003, I saw the port of Honfleur in Normandy where he left with the famous explorer Champlain in 1613 or 1615. See 4 photos at the end of that trip report. Jacques was the grandfather of my famous ancestor Hilletie. Hilletie, a member of the Turtle clan, was instrumental in the conversion of the Mohawks to Christianity.
Our ship, the Marion Dufresne, is a scientific research ship with specialized capabilities, e.g., it can hover over any point in the ocean. In addition to the crew, which included a Ship's Doctor, we had 30 tourists, 36 scientists and 10 journalists. The voyage was 4 weeks long and at the mid-point we stopped in Mayotte, which had recently voted to become a French department. (Comparable to Puerto Rico becoming a US state instead of a territory.). At each island, we picked up scores or hundreds of pallets of scrap metal which were stored in the ship or on the deck.
If you studied French, here are two examples. One is the free medicine in front of the doctor's office (one is very funny), and the other is a typical day's program. One of the activities was to stamp letters. Tourists and staff helped the Captain apply his franking privilege. This was a fascinating exercise that author Lucia Simion was photographing.
Our naturalist guides (Luc Baudot, Sandra Blais, Fabien Jan and Hendrik Sauvignet) would brief us prior to each of the 4 island visits (Europa, Juan de Nova, Glorious and Tromelin). Tour guides were well prepared and had an interesting range of personalities. Briefings included logistics like which group of tourists would be assigned to which guide for which hike for which day. The history of the island, which species of animals we might encounter, etc. were covered in a Power Point presentation. The briefing was in French, and essential info was covered afterwards in English for me & the guy from the UK. I enjoyed trying to figure out the briefing in French.
In the morning tourists would gather in a large room where sometimes Fabien, one of the guides, would teach me some French while we were waiting. The 30 tourists and 4 guides were shuttled 5 at a time via helicopter to the island. This was the only way for tourists to get to any island. We were very efficient and could get 5 tourists loaded into the helicopter, our multiple seatbelts fastened and lift off in about 45 seconds. The helicopter pilot was amazing. He ferried pallets of scrap metal (600 kilograms) from the island to the ship while the tourists spent the day touring the island. All of the scrap metal was removed via helicopter.
On Europa Island, Luc Baudot, our guide yelled out to get our attention. I was the second on the scene. A swarming, hungry gang of frigate birds were diving down, grabbing and eating a turtle hatchling every few seconds as they moved as "fast" as they could from the nest to the ocean. Almost all of them were gone when I stood over one and saved it. I waved my hat at the determined birds and shouted "no". Soon others were following my example and as a group we saved 5 hatchlings. We debated how long we had really saved them since other dangers lurked in the ocean.
On Juan de Nova, there were a lot of things to explore: a wrecked Korean ship (Kwang Myong), a lighthouse, a hundred-year old ruined mansion, ruined bagging machinery from bat guano mining, working mini rail cars, a cemetery, a ruined mini prison, the military base, the gendarme's building, etc. There was the off-shore wreck of the S.S. Totenham which ran into a reef in 1911, but we were not allowed to explore it. There were a few lumps of coal on the beach from it.
TAAF arranged a picnic for the all passengers, key crew, and the 14 soldiers and 1 gendarme. The French expect their food to be fresh and tasty. On the ship, no main dish was repeated during the 4 week voyage and we ate an incredible variety of food even kangaroo and emu. I was impressed how long lettuce could be kept fresh.
Thru out the trip I enjoyed many conversations with journalists on board. Our voyage was covered widely in the French press and even in the French version of the National Geographic. I was shocked that some of them thought that France would abandon control over these islands, but hope that the articles will alert the French public to value of these 4 nature preserves. They are jewels that France is administering well.
I also had many conversations with the French soldiers who occupy 3 of the 4 islands on a 45 to 50 day rotation. Many had served with US troops on UN or NATO missions, and were all very pro-American. The photo captures some of the French fraternité that is a core part of French culture. On another island I was deeply impressed by the extreme patriotism of Tony, a soldier in the French reserves.
The largest island in the Gloriosos (Grande Glorieuses in French) is roughly circular about 3 kilometers across and surrounded by white powdery sand. The photos record a few of the steps that scientists did: to capture turtles swimming in the ocean, to unload them from the dingy, to tag their flipper, to photograph both of their profiles (for individual turtle identification) and to release them to return to the ocean. About 8 or 9 turtles were so processed to the delight of the eco-tourists who photographed every step.
We were taught how to recognize the flipper patterns in the sand that these huge turtle make as they slowly pull their massive bodies up out of the ocean across 50 meters of sand in order to dig a nest at meter deep and to lay their eggs at night. In the morning they return to the ocean. The photo is a text book example. Can you tell which is "in" and "out"?
We spent a night on Glorioso in order to catch the actual act of the eggs being laid. Eggs are laid in about 5 minutes so it is hard work for the guides to find the turtles and carefully bring tourists up 2 or 3 at a time to see the magic moments of egg laying. We had a full moon and we had our head lamps with red filters so that we would not disturb the turtles. It was the naturalistic highlight of my trip to photograph the egg laying at 1:30 am!! The turtle was huge. Fabien explained the activities and thinking of turtles with sympathy and precision so we understood what we were seeing. Hendrik held a flashlight into the nest so I could get a photo by crawling in the sand and holding my camera down into the nest.
Tromelin Island is a tear-drop shaped island 1.7 kilometers long. The only trees and buildings are at one end. Unlike the other 3 islands there is no military presence here. Instead there is a weather station. One of the goals is early warning of storms that might damage Réunion.
In 1761 the French ship Utile wrecked with slaves. Sixty slaves were left on Tromelin and the crew took a raft to Madagascar. In 1776, another French ship rescued 7 women and an 8 month old baby -- the only survivors. A few people ventured into the sea to photograph the anchor of the Utile. Its cannons are in the ocean and on the beach.
Tromelin has a depression in the center like a saucer so you can see most of the island all the time you are hiking around it. It is covered in coral. Imagine a reef that became an island. The bird life is abundant! Unfortunately I do not have a professional camera like my French friends who got magnificent photos here and on Europa.
After 4 weeks of almost perfect weather, the voyage comes to an end. So many enjoyable conversations with fellow passengers, the crew, scientists, journalists, soldiers, etc. There were Walt Disney moments like swimming with a large turtle in Mayotte for over 200 meters, and watching the turtle laying her eggs.
The French enjoy the good life. So, of course, there was a final party -- and our guides dressed in crazy wigs. Everyone had a good time. Naturally, I had my adventure moving down the line!
This voyage was travel as it was meant to be!
In Réunion, Fabien Jan took Catherine, Henri and I on a hiking tour in the mountain slopes. I met several people from the ship on the streets of Réunion and in a restaurant came across and joined the birthday party of a Dutch scientist.
But my trip wasn't over. I went on to visit South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and storied Zanzibar!
One of the joys of travel is the unexpected. When I learned that the Zambezi River was at a 50 year high, I decided to take a helicopter over Victoria Falls. I had seen these Falls by moonlight back in 1976. The helicopter ride was superb. After the ride, I learned that there were also ultralight flights. I signed up for my first flight in an ultralight and while I was waiting for the pilot to become free a couple came up still dressed in blue jumpsuits from their ultralight flight.
I was about to offer to take their photo for them when I realized that it was John Lurtz who I had worked with for many years at Bell Labs. He retired early to help his wife who was battling cancer. She survived. There they were! The day before they had been bungee jumping. We had an emotional reunion, and a talk about old times.
John was a highly respected department head at Bell Labs, who was responsible for all the developments on Operator Switching Systems. In the early 1990s, I won the contract to build the latest generation Operator System for NTT in Japan, the largest telecommunications customer in the world. John was in charge of its development and I worked closely with him. It was such a delight to see him again and enjoying life with his wife in retirement. I even wrote a short article for the Circumnavigator's Log, our national publication, on our chance meeting.
In Lesotho, I had a laugh reading their weather predictor. Less than an hour later I was in an intense hail storm -- it was not predicted by the rock?! In Mozambique, I provide scale so you can appreciate how large this statue is of the General instrumental in subduing this territory for Portugal.
Zanzibar is a fascinating place at the cross roads of Africa & Arabia. Its Stone Town is a UN World Heritage site.
This section has the largest number of photos of any of my trips.
Moldova is a wonderful place to visit. Its breakaway region of Trans Dniester was like going back to the USSR.
I visited Ukraine in 1969. This was my second visit. Kiev is an outstanding place to see. It is the Mother City of the Russian Orthodox faith. In WWII, Kiev, Moscow and Leningrad were the major objectives of the German invasion.
Kiev, high above the mighty Dnieper river, has classic buildings, historic Churches and an outstanding WWII Museum. One detail caught my eye since I had studied it in college. There was the newspaper article of Stalin's first speech after the German invasion. Its headlines were his opening words: "Comrades! Citizens! Brothers and Sisters!" The people knew it was a desperate situation because he had never addressed them brothers and sisters before.
The Crimea, a very popular tourist place, is part of Ukraine and 90% of the people are Russian. I visited the Livadia Palace where the famous WWII conference was held between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, just 2 months before his death. I also toured the Crimean War battlefield where the Charge of the Light Brigade occurred. They were slaughtered due to mistaken communications between British officers. Another battle of the Crimean War is depicted in an amazing, photo-realistic panoramic painting that is 14 meters by 115 meters, one of the largest in the world. There is a new church on the spot were Prince Vladimir was baptized. He converted Ukraine to Christianity in 988.
This was my 7th visit to Russia. The first was 40 years ago in 1969. I traveled 17,000 kilometers by car, van, rail, ship and air. I visited over 30 oblasts, republics or krais (roughly equivalent to US states). I was amazed at the progress since my last visit in 2003. Russia has never looked better in its long history.I can sense the pride that Russians feel for their achievements. This was a super trip!
My trip had two interleaved pieces: 10 days of being driven thru European Russia by a driver named Rashid and almost 3 weeks in a small group of 8 experienced travelers to Russia including Bill Altaffer, who designed the trip.
Since I knew that my driver would speak little English, I relearned some college Russian including lessons on my iPhone based on the Pimsleur method. In Bill’s group, there was a Russian-speaking tour director and a PhD in Music who spoke good Russian. My very limited Russian was more than the other five.
What progress did I see in Russia? There are many new business buildings including malls and hypermarkets, many new apartment buildings and new private homes. New apartments are marvelous compared to those built during the Soviet era.
Government and commercial buildings have been restored. Some are classic.
Almost all Churches have been restored and there are many new ones. Golden domes are again a familiar sight in cities and villages as in most of Russian history.
Russia has entered the automotive age. Work is widespread on the highways. Surrounding greater Moscow is a busy, well-built 10-lane highway loop. I’m guessing that the number of new cars has doubled since my last visit in 2003.
Now motels are becoming common. I had my own 2 story dacha one night. It had a mirror on the ceiling. I had no problems eating the food at cafes along the highways or in towns. Four wheels means a new freedom of choice.
The gas stations tend to be larger and newer than in the United States. In some there are uniformed young women who pump your gas and check the air pressure in your tires. Most of the cars are imports.
I saw a couple of car accidents per day. Memorials beside the highway to those killed in auto accidents are common.
Under communism, Russia or its client states had to produce everything they needed. They were a closed system that had to re-invent everything. Now Russia is part of the world economy and one can buy things from everywhere.
In 1969, no American products were for sale in Russia. Now, for example, Coke is everywhere; McDonalds are growing (already 245 in service); American car dealers are seen (even Hummer); and the latest 3G iPhone was available.
If Lenin or Stalin could come back from the dead, they would be shocked at the American influence.
It is difficult to explain the vastness of Russia – 11 time zones -- and the emptiness. Even in European Russia you have large open fields surrounded by living fences of trees. Fields may be flat or rolling. It is lovely country.
There are vast forests in Russia - more trees than any other country. My favorites are the outstanding birch forests.
Perhaps 10% of Russian women are wearing high heels, and they do it with style.
One the characteristics of Siberia and Russia are wooden houses. These photos don’t capture the variety that you see. Many are painted in interesting ways.
During WWII, 20,000,000 Russians were killed. WWII Memorials are an indelible feature of Russian cities and villages. People put flowers on them regularly.
It is a surprise to see statues of Lenin, but Russians explain he is part of their history. Main streets are still named after him. In the 19th century, prisoners, like Dostoevsky, had to walk to Siberia in leg irons to prison. The year it took was added to their sentence. One ship, used to send Lenin into exile in 1897, was later used to transport Czar Nicholas.
Bill Altaffer has a deep appreciation for Russia. He got us into some places that few travelers see like the delightful Cold War museum, the sobering Perm-36 Gulag museum, the amazing Monino Aviation museum and cities above the Arctic Circle. Bill’s guest trip report can be read on this website. It has an overview map of our trip.
The Perm 36 Gulag Museum is a sign of Russia's maturity and acknowledgement of the horrors of the gulags.
Half of my time in Russia was in Siberia including visiting Norilsk and Dudinka, two cities above the Arctic Circle that even Putin hasn’t seen. Norilsk is the most polluted city on the planet with major metal mines. Does pollution look good as art? Bright Colors are now used in buildings to improve human feelings about gloomy conditions.
Mothers who protested inhuman conditions in Stalin's time were hosed down outside in subzero conditions and not allowed to see their children for 3 months. 80% of the people in most gulags died from terrible food, very cold shelters and brutal working conditions. The Golgotha Memorial has many monuments to the victims.
Many intriguing stuffed animals. Group poses with Ship Captain as part of Ceremony of Crossing the Arctic Circle.
We spent 5 days cruising on ship Valery Chkalov on the Yenisei River, fifth longest in the world, and traveled portions of the Trans Siberian Railway spending 2 nights and 3 days on trains. Since there are no north-south highways nor railroads in Siberia, it is necessary to fly or take a ship. Ship was almost 60 years old, part of war reparations from Germany.
Siberia has many large cities and they are usually on major rivers. Summers have long hours of sunlight and Russians love to enjoy them. There are a lot of flowers on display in Russian cities. Amazing to see beach volleyball in Siberia.
There is public drinking in Russia and you see people walking and drinking. Children are well behaved. Some scenes looked similar to the USA except there are no blacks in Russia and there are more blondes.
Russia is a pro-American country for tourists. Speaking some Russian is another plus. I received a couple of gifts from Russian strangers, was treated to tea by college students and met a 70 year old Russian man who explained to me that I was the first American he had met. It was a big deal for him. He couldn’t wait to tell his daughter.
Looking at him I could see that his life had been much tougher than mine; he looked older than his years and his teeth made you appreciate American dentists. It was a big deal for me to meet him as well.
My ten days being driven thru European Russia allowed me to see the countryside, to visit over a dozen cities and to determine common denominators. In addition to the photos above that I have showed, I wanted to highlight two cities I visited with Kremlins, the Russian word for fortresses.
Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga is one of the holy cities of the Russian orthodox faith. Like the holy cities of Kiev and Vladimir (also visited on this trip), it is located high above a mighty river. Its Kremlin is fully restored and these photos don’t capture its extent or height. A surprise was seeing a large statute to Valery Chkalov for whom our ship was named. In 1937, Chkalov was the first Russia to fly to America - Moscow to Vancouver, Washington in 63 hours!
In the Tatarstan Republic, the capital Kazan has a Kremlin surrounded by a white wall. Inside instead of a church, there is a new mosque. This part of Russia is Muslim. My driver Rashid, an ethnic Tatar who lives in Moscow, enjoyed the novelty buying a traditional Tatar hat. Kazan was clean and fun to explore.
Russia has a delightful complexity revealed to travelers who get off the beaten track. Here are a few fun photos.
Finally I got a kick from seeing the Don River, and decided to walk across the bridge to celebrate. I made a mental note to read the famous Russian novel, “And Quiet Flowed the Don”.
My first visit to India was in 1971. In 2009, I made my fourth visit. My travel agent described this trip as a race across India: all 30 states plus the Andaman Islands and Lakshadweep in 2 weeks. I also visited Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
First I spent 2 days in Jaipur, the Pink City, in the state of Rajasthan, a desert region. This is a prime tourist location with many gorgeous Mongol buildings in a style similar to the Taj Mahal. One ruler in the 1700s had an amazing collection of a dozen large instruments for astronomy. Streets are jammed with every kind of vehicle.
In the nearby Amber Fort, eager tourists take the 20-minute elephant walk up the hill to the Fort, a classic experience. I had my own elephant and driver. The fort has gardens and well decorated rooms with magnificent carving.
A fast overview trip across the whole of India is an excellent opportunity to see the common denominators and differences in this extremely complex country divided by language, religion, caste, tribe, geography, history, etc.
The contrasts in India are extreme. There are world class hotels with impeccable service. Rural areas are very poor with people living in the mud. India gained its independence in 1948, but still has not achieved universal literacy. Just as Russia seems “empty”, India is “full” of people. It is crowded. People spill over onto the roads.
There are noticeable cultural differences. For example, even in airports you may see bare-foot people. They are on a pilgrimage. On the other hand, I missed 3 planned states because airplanes were not allowed to take off when the ceiling was 1900 meters instead of the required 2000 meters. Airport security was strict.
Animals are part of everyday life. I saw cows, goats, camels, elephants, horses, monkeys, etc. Cows are holy animals, according to Hindus, and wander freely. Muslims don’t eat pork. So I ate a lot of chicken.
Northeast India, with a tiny land link to the rest of the country, requires special permission to visit. Our well-laid plans to visit Arunachal Pradesh via a public helicopter had to be changed when the Dalai Lama visited. Media & government officials got priority bumping tourists from the helicopter. We were driven on bad roads for 12 hours as our Plan B.
These photos were not meant as a well balanced picture of India, but to give you a taste for India’s complexity that seems, at times, contradictory. Remember India is an increasing economic success with modern buildings, airports, etc. Improvements have started on the highways. India has plans to visit the moon, but not to achieve universal literacy.
Most Indians I spoke to thought India was improving, but that it wasn’t fast enough. This seems like a fair assessment.
I have visited South East Asia many times. This trip completed the region with visits to Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Cambodia, Brunei, various regions of Malaysia and islands of Indonesia, East Timor and its enclave of Oecussi, and major islands of the Philippines. I visited the grave of my uncle, Charles H. Parrish, who was killed in New Guinea in 1943. He is buried in the U.S. Army cemetery in Manila. In addition, I visited Wake Island on the anniversary of the Japanese invasion in 1941 and several regions of Japan including Hiroshima.
In Burma and Laos, there are many Buddhist sites. The Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon is magnificent and the whole town of Luang Prabang in Laos is a UN World Heritage Site. There are Buddhist statues and monks everywhere.
The Angkor Temple Complex is a place that has delighted and mystified visitors for more than half a millieum. It is one of the wonders of the world. It is complicated because of its extent, the damage due to earthquakes and trees, the extensive carvings that tell stories of battles, subjugation and torture of prisoners, etc. A few small photos do not capture its vastness, nor its allure.
Brunei is a unique country ruled by the Sultan of Brunei. Its citizens enjoy one of the highest subsidized standards of living anywhere. Oil and gas provide the wealth. When the Sultan was coronated he was pulled by hand by the nobels in a special chariot. Malaysia has made enormous progress in the past decade since my last visit. It is a moderate Muslim nation that has adopted many Western institutions like Christmas and shopping malls.
East Timor is an independent country located on the Indonesia island of Timor. It has main portion and an enclave of Oecussi. As a Catholic country it did not want to be part of Muslim Indonesia. I took a charter flight including a guide from the capital of Dili to Oecussi. By visiting, I learned that Oecussi is the historical heart of East Timor where the Portuguese landed on August 18, 1515. There is a monument to 5 South Korean soldiers who were killed as part of a UN peace keeping force. Today things are quiet in this poor country.
Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, has enclaves of other religions. Bali is the largest Hindu outpost in the world. There are enclaves of Christians in the Moluccas. Indonesian Muslim pilgrims fly to Mecca from the new airport in Makassar. With its many islands and cultures Indonesia, seems more like a collection of countries. There is much to see. I even visited the hill where, Douglas MacArthur, my distant cousin, had his HQ.
This was my third visit to the Philippines, but the first since I learned that my uncle, Charles H. Parrish, who was killed in New Guinea in 1943, is buried there. There are more details on this subject in the Family section of this review.
As a Circumnavigator, I have attended some meetings in New York when our highest honor, the Order of Magellan, has been presented. Naturally, I wanted to see everything related to Magellan when I visited Cebu - his cross, monument and where he was killed. Magellan did not sail all of the way around the world, but his crew did, so his name is forever attached to the achievement. Magellan landed, planted a cross, and was killed 6 days later by hostile natives.
Wake Island was the only good news for the United States in the early months of WWII because the Japanese invasion on December 11, 1941 was repulsed by 400 Marines and about 800 civilian contractors. The Japanese lost several ships, momentum and face. Eleven days later the Japanese returned with overwhelming force and captured Wake. They stripped all Americans and made them wait for over 24 hours naked on the runway without food or water for Tokyo's decision on whether to kill them or not. Tokyo decided to send all but 98 to POW camps in China. The 98 that remained were beheaded in 1943.
Military Historical Tours arranged a charter flight to Wake Island on December 11, the anniversary of the repulsed Japanese invasion. This is a fine, unique and patriotic company founded by a former Marine colonel. I have traveled with them before to Iwo Jima (my report) and Midway Island (my report). One of their signature approaches is to bring veterans who fought in these battles on the charter to honor them for their service. There is an emotional impact to being with a 90 year old veteran where he fought and almost died as a young man and hearing what they have to say.
Wake Island is also, one of the most difficult places to visit for serious travelers, and it has been closed to travelers for many years. This trip had 5 members of the Travelers Century Club (TCC) who finished the list of 319 TCC countries with their visit to Wake. Most Traveled People had half of the top 50 ranked travelers in the world there, including myself, Number 1 ranked, Bill Altaffer, Number 3 ranked Jorge Sanchez, etc. We are convinced that this was the largest group of extreme travelers ever assembled in one place.
Four of us from the French Indian Ocean trip were also on Wake. We are from France, the USA, the UK and Germany. The community of extreme travelers is fairly small. Getting all of the TCC people together for a group photo is like herding cats. Top travelers are independent people.
Wake Island is where President Truman met with and fired General MacArthur during the Korean War on April 11, 1951. After Wake, I traveled to Japan to visit several regions and spent the night in Hiroshima. Two years ago, I visited the landing field in Tinian where the B-52s took off to drop the atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombs saved millions of lives because they gave the Japanese the excuse to surrender instead of a war of attrition fought on the Japanese home islands. Hiroshima today is a modern, beautiful city.
This year has been dominated by international travel. I made only 2 trips in the continental United States.
On February 28th, I flew to San Francisco and drove north to North Marin county to surprise Richard Latimer on his 70th birthday. Richard is a dear friend and I have known his whole family for over 40 years. As usual, the Latimers know how to do things right. His son Jason and wife Natalia rented a house in one of those places that make California famous for its rugged natural beauty for a long weekend celebration.
The photos show Richard reading the instruction manual for the pedometer I gave him. It is the same model that I wear every day, and you can get all the details in the next section, Exercise Program. Since Richard is a dear friend I was urging him to get more exercise to lose weight, feel better and live longer! I literally walk the talk.
The group photo shows his wife Lynn, and his 4 children: Dagny, Toby, Jason and Renee. Knelling are grandchildren Mykha & Maceo and daughter-in-law, Natalia. This is such a delightful group to be around.
In October, I flew to Texas for the 10th birthday of Cortlan Parrish. See Family Tree section. While there, I took a full tour of the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium, including: player's locker room, cheerleader's locker room, storage room for artificial turf (3 versions), etc. This magnificent building cost over a billion dollars, and has over 2,000 HD TVs, including the world's largest. Go to the photo gallery, and select "Stadium" on the menu. One of my takeaways from the tour is that everything is rentable: if you want to rent the locker room for a party, call up and get a price!
I drove to Austin to met this year's winner of the Parrish Computer Science Scholarship. See the Scholarship section. I also visited my first cousin Ashley and her husband Jim. They are such an outstanding couple. They give me hope for the future. Ashley arranged for me to join a private tour of the Texas State Capitol Dome including the area at the very top under the statue. It was a privilege to see the dome construction. Metal is used in places that appear as stone at street level.
New Year's Resolution Idea: 63 months ago, I got an Omron HJ-112 pedometer and my (achieved) goal is to average 10,000 steps a day (almost 5 miles or 8 kilometers). In 2009, I had another perfect year averaging over 10,000 steps a day each month. Given my heavy travel schedule, it can be a challenge, but I make getting my steps a priority. You can click the spreadsheet to enlarge it to see my day by day results. I'm proud of myself for getting regular exercise. Some people have followed my example. Walking is an easy way to get more exercise.
The beauty of a pedometer is that it converts all exercise to a common unit. The Omron pedometer is a handy device that I clip on my belt in the morning and take off at night. It stores 7 days worth of step counts. You can buy it at some drugstores or from Amazon using the link above. It is an easy way to motivate yourself to exercise.
In 1959 just 4 days after my birthday, I got my driver's license. So I have been driving for over 50 years. Back in 1959, the law allowed students who had taken driver's education including behind the wheel instruction to get their license before their 16th birthday.
This year another anniversary crept up on me, I turned 65. I'm officially a senior. The practical impact is that I had to sign up for Medicare. The new so called heath reform that the political class is working on will be financed almost half by cutting Medicare payments to doctors. This means many doctors will find it uneconomical to treat Medicare patients and will be forced to drop them -- oops that now means me. Bad bill for seniors. Bad bill for everyone. You can see why in spite of overwhelming one party control in Washington that the bill was defeated by mass public opposition.
On May 21, my first cousin, Carl Wilmer Anderson Jr, passed away in Stanford, California at age 75. Here is a photo of him and his wife Anne in Switzerland in 2005. Carl had a very successful career at HP where he started in 1956 when they had only 600 employees. Although I only met Carl once (at his home in Stanford in 2001), we could see that we shared the travel bug and careers in computer technology. Carl looks so much like, Carl Victor Anderson, our grandfather, who turned 17 on the ship immigrating to America from Norway.
On October 18, 2009, I was in Burleson, Texas to celebrate the 10th birthday of Cortlan Alexander Parrish, my great nephew. His grandmothers and step-grandfather were also there for the event. Cortlan and his parents, Amy Szal Parrish and Philip Charles Parrish, Jr (called PJ by his friends) all have iPhones. Cortlan is totally captivated by electronic games. I did get his attention with a laminated sheet of 2 pages on his Pilgrim ancestors on the Mayflower. (See Page 1: Diagram of his Ancestor Chain to Mayflower Immigrants & Page 2: a first-person My Pilgrim Heritage.)
On December 7, Pearl Harbor's anniversary, I was in the Philippines in Manila at the American Cemetery, the largest cemetery of American WWII soldiers anywhere, to see the grave of my uncle, Charles Herbert Parrish. Charles was killed in New Guinea in 1943 at age 24. My father told me that his mother was never the same after his death. Each of Charles' three brothers named a son with the middle name of Charles to honor him. This cemetery is American soil. It is well maintained, a credit to our country, and the memory of the 17,202 soldiers buried on its 152 acres.
I have permanently endowed 3 scholarships. The Anderson Scholarship, awarded initially in 1998, honors my mother, Herdis Anderson Parrish. The Parrish Electrical Engineering Scholarship, awarded initially in 2008, honors my father, Donald M. Parrish. The Parrish Computer Science Scholarship, awarded initially in 2001, was established in my name. Each of these scholarships is awarded to a college freshman each year. I have no control over the selection of these excellent students, but I hope, that these scholarships in some small way, help them launch their careers.
(Ann Goodyear won the Donald M. Parrish Electrical Engineering Scholarship in 2009. I don't have her info yet.)
Eleanor Moore is the Director of Scholarships at the Texas Ex-Students Association. Tiffany Grady and Jennifer Martinson work in the Computer Science department. Again this year it was my privilege to have an annual luncheon with them at the authentic Eastside Cafe in Austin.
Here are the 2009 winners. Click on their name to get more information about them. Click on their photo to enlarge.
The Circumnavigators Club is an organization for people who have made a trip around the world. I'm a life member and remain active in our local Circumnavigators chapter. I have served on the Board for over 10 years, and am the Webmaster. I also serve on the subcommittee that selects our Foundation Scholar each year. We send a Junior from Northwestern University on a 3 month round the world trip to pursue research of their choosing.
Here I'm with a former chapter President
Carol Narup at the home of Eleanor Briggs (seated). Eleanor has hosted a party every July as a fund
raiser to send a Foundation Scholar on circumnavigation each year. This is a life changing event for them and typically
they have gone on to Fulbright Scholarships or other awards.
The Sons of the American Revolution, one of our oldest patriotic organizations, requires proof that an ancestor fought in the American Revolution for membership. I continue as the Webmaster of the Fox Valley chapter of the SAR. After leading the chapter for 5 years, it was a delight to see that it continues to thrive under new leadership.
Our SAR chapter has two dinner meeting each year with a speaker. Here Dr. Skinner explains how the midwest region during the American Revolution set the course for American expansion in the years after the war.
The iPhone is the swiss army knife of integrated electronics: a GSM phone that works in 200 countries, a camera (still and video), a mini Mac OS X computer to browse the internet or do e-mail, a GPS device to locate yourself and get directions, an iPod for music and books, photo storage, your calendar and address book, and the app store.
The killer app is the app store. There are currently over 100,000 applications and they have been downloaded over 2 billion times so far. Applications are downloaded wirelessly and many are free with the rest being inexpensive. For example, Shazam, a free app, is indistinguishable from magic. It can determine the name of a song by just listening to it.
With an iPhone is there is no need to read a manual. It is intuitive. All you need is a 5 minute demo. You really owe it to yourself to get a demo at an Apple or AT&T store. This year I upgraded to the 3G S version of iPhone. I talked 3 friends into getting themselves an iPhone. They are glad they did, and already have more apps than I do!
In the photo I show my iPhone on Juan de Nova. I had it with me on all four of the French Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean. I believe that I am the first person to do this. I have found during my international travel that it is a very good strategy to talk to fellow travelers with iPhones. These are intelligent people with information to share. For example, a woman from Belgium in the airport in Timbuktu recommended an outstanding restaurant in Ouagadougou.
This year on my Mac, I used the face recognition technology on iPhoto to create a photo album of all the people who appear in my photos. Face recognition, while not perfect, is an amazing technology. Learn more.
Windows users keep moving to Macintosh. Here is a place to get started. You owe it to yourself to visit an Apple store. The latest version of OS X, called Snow Leopard, can also run Windows application programs at their native speed.
The photo shows John Enright (left) with his wife Marsha
and friends, William & Tamra Dale in front of the
Dream Theater where his new play
Ready or Not was shown in the Summer of 2009.
John is also an accomplished poet and a published author of the novel
My review is on that page.
This year along with Delta Greene and Don & Mary Brown, I saw three Shakespeare productions: Macbeth in January, Twelfth Night in June, and Richard III in October in the delightful Shakespeare theater in Chicago. The Shakespeare theater on Navy Pier is a gem. All three performances were well staged and a pleasure to watch. This is classic theater enjoyed with super people. Before the performances, we like to have a look at the stained glass exhibit on Navy Pier.
These books enriched my life in 2009. The book titles are linked to Amazon. I "read" most of the non-fiction books by listening to them on my iPhone after downloading them from audible.com. You can listen while walking!
Here are two timeless classics which I have recommended before:
Atlas Shrugged sales soared in 2009. This book, published in 1957, provides a blueprint to understand the age we live in, especially its philosophical errors. In one survey in 1991, readers ranked it second only to the Bible as the greatest influence in their lives. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (vol 1), published in 1776, explains how the Roman Empire, which its citizens of the second century a.d., thought would last forever, declined and fell. Its wisdom is written in stately, precise and majestic prose. It was the model Churchill used to learn to write and speak English.
This year's non-fiction pick examines the impact of the highly improbable - especially on economic events. It is an eye opener. A brilliant book that exposes a lot of sloppy and wishful thinking.
The most recent spy thriller by Vince Flynn about CIA agent Mitch Rapp is highly recommended. These are good vs. evil page turners about Islamic terrorists with complex plots and interesting characters. Flynn has a taut writing style coupled with high-concept plots. Great adrenaline-charged reading.
This a thriller by Nelson Demille that is set in Viet Nam of the 1990s. Demille does a series of flash backs that explain the Viet Nam war while telling the current story. As usual, Demille is a writer that can handle large themes and small details. He can be adrenaline-charged or analytical, and likes to flesh out his characters.
Once again Dan Brown, the master of arcane knowledge of history and symbols, creates a good vs. evil page-turner replete with minute attention to detail. This is not in the same series as his last two books, but it is in the same genre.
In addition to books, I enjoy listening to Teaching Company college-level courses while I walk. It's easy to download them into iTunes, then into your iPhone or iPod. Here are three recommended ones from 2009:
All three of these wonderful courses will expand your horizons and help you understand how things fit together. The Vikings had a profound impact on Western Europe, Russia and even Arabia, yet their history and way of thinking is not well know to most people. The Foundations of Western Civilization is a better known area, and this course is an excellent review. The Books That Have Changed History examines the great themes of human life and how the same values reappear over and over across the ages.
Finally, I want to recommend the Pimsleur Method for learning basic conversation in foreign languages. This year I used it to re-learn some Russian before my month trip to Russia. I was skeptical that an audio only method of teaching a language would work, but I was quickly impressed with the timed repetition approach used by Pimsleur. They also pronounce new words syllable by syllable in their own unique way to ensure that you have heard them correctly. I have heard good things about Rosetta Stone as well, but have no first hand experience.
All the best to you in Twenty Ten - 2010!