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Monday, March 04, 2019

Mozambique, South Africa, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh Trip Report - 2000

Trip Reports

Subject: trip report.1

Friday, June 9, 2000
Maputo, Mozambique

Hi Everybody,

I've been away for about 11 days now. Started out with 5 delicious hours in Amsterdam (in transit to Israel). Took the train down to the center of Amsterdam. Drizzly and overcast but then the sun came out. Just walked around the town past canals and cafes and shops.
Great architecture, marvelous atmosphere. Amsterdam is my favorite city in Europe. So laid back, really diverse population. Friendliest people you'll ever meet. Had some delicious food, had some fun in a coffeehouse and headed back to the airport.

Had one of the most intensive security checks ever before boarding the plane to Israel. No wonder there hasn't been a hijacking related to Israel in many years. Arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv at 1am. More security stuff. I took a cab to my friend Harel and his family in the suburbs. Haven't seen him in about 25 years but he made me feel totally
comfy. He has a terrific family, Yemeni wife and 3 great kids. Great house with my own bedroom. A blessing after the long trip from SF.

Tel Aviv is thoroughly modern and not very representative of the Middle East. It was about 90 degrees most of the time during the day but comfortable at night. I was surprised that more people didn't speak English. Mostly Hebrew and of course Arabic. After "Shalom" I was in deep doo-doo but somehow you make your way. Went to an amazing market in the Old Yemenite section with lots of food and other goods for sale. Then a sort of yuppie neighborhood with lots of MacDonalds, The Gap and similar places. Enough! I left Tel Aviv after a day and a half for Jerusalem. After all, I only had 6 days in Israel.

It's only an hour and fifteen minutes by bus to Jerusalem but it's another world. What an amazing city! Now the real adventure began. I found a hotel just across from the Old City,
deposited my bags and went straight away into the Old City where Christianity, Islam and Judaism live (often uncomfortably but not always) side by side.

The Old City reminded me of parts of India. Lots of shops selling rugs, miniature stuffed camels, millions of hookahs, tea stalls (great mint tea like in Morocco), killer Middle Eastern food: Hummus, Shish-Kabob, baklava, pita bread, tabooli, etc. Tons of religious articles for sale, lots of young Israeli soldiers toting Uzis and the like…many Jews of all types, most interestingly Chassidim dressed in black with wool hats, long beards looking like they stepped out of Poland in 1820.

As it turns out it was "Jerusalem Day", so when I got to the Wailing Wall (“Wailing" because the Jews are decrying the loss of the Holy Temple) there were literally several
thousand young Israelis waving flags and singings Hebrew songs with great enthusiasm.

The Wailing Wall is the holiest place on Earth for Jews. It was built in the days of
ancient Israel and destroyed by the Romans. It functions as a kind of open air synagogue
and tradition says that if you write a prayer on a slip of paper and put it in one of the
innumerable cracks in the wall, then your prayers have a better chance of being answered.
I'm not very religious but I put a few prayers in the Wailing Wall in case I'm wrong.

I also went to Masada. Ancient fortress and national symbol for Israel.  Masada has a legendary status in Israel. The people of Masada were a group of about 1,000 Zealots, including women and children Here the fight for Israeli and Jewish independence was fought with such a strength and fidelity, that the people taking this as their last resort, chose to die rather than surrender to the Romans. With the fall of Masada, the
state of Israel came to an end for a period of almost 1,900 years. Moreover, the Masada
has an exceptional geographical setting - one independent mountain rising up about a
thousand feet, surrounded by breathtaking nature, overlooking most of the Dead Sea and
part of Jordan.

Anyway, I arose at 3am("but I'm on vacation!") to catch the minivan that takes one to
Masada, had a difficult hike up it and caught a glorious sunset. Afterward we went to the
Dead Sea and sure enough, you can easily float in it and read the newspaper or a book at
the same time. Very weird feeling. You feel kind of slimy afterwards from all the salt and
minerals. Luckily there's a shower there. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth.

Later we drove through Jericho "…and the walls came tumbling down!"). Other high points
were visiting Ramallah in the West Bank (talked with some Palestinians to try to hear
their point of view about Israel, peace prospects, etc.).. .walking the Via Dellarosa (the
way of suffering)'s where Jesus carried the cross, here's where he fell three
times, here's his tomb (in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre), here's where he descended
from heaven. Although the historical accuracy of all these claims in of great doubt, the
claims are that Jesus descended to Heaven within a few hundred yards of where Muhammad did
the same. I had no such luck.

I also visited a Jewish market a few hours before the Sabbath when things get really
frenzied and intense. Great video footage. I grew up really loving Jewish food and I must
say I NEVER saw such unbelievable, tasty Jewish food as I saw in that market. The cakes,
the cheese, the fruits and vegetables, the meats, the smells and colors and sounds. WOW!

I left Israel amazed and even more aware of its complexity than when I arrived. I feel
even more appreciative of the accomplishments, fears, conflicting claims and difficulties
related to the Jews, Christians and Moslems and others in the Holy Land. I had many
questions about the history of Israel so I picked up a huge history book to answer my
questions and it is a terrific read.

The next day I took a 5.5 hr. flight to Nairobi, Kenya…had a sleepless night at Nairobi
airport (arrived late, no airport hotel, early flight the next day) and 4.5 hr. flight to
Johannesberg, 2.5 hr. wait for Maputo flight, 1 hr. flight to Mozambique arrived quite
exhausted but very happy to at my sisters house. Now I have almost 3 weeks in Mozambique
and South Africa. So far I'm having a great time!

More later. For example, tonight I'm going to a Burundi refugee camp to hear a drumming
group in front of a bonfire under a clear sky...first time really seeing the sky in the
Southern Hemisphere...can't wait!


Subject: trip report.2.3
Monday, August 21, 2000 11:25 AM

Hi Everybody,

I'm in Pokhara, Nepal (near Annapurna, a 26,000 ft. mountain in the
Himalayas) and the trip is going extremely well so far, a little more than half over.
After Israel I flew to Maputo, Mozambique to spend time with my sister and her family. Her
house was extremely comfortable with a cook and other helpers and the food was
scrumptious. I deeply enjoyed meeting their many wonderful friends and colleagues.

I even discussed the possibility of returning to Mozambique in the future to work on
developing an AIDS counseling program which is desperately needed to fight the spread of
HIV. It's not quite as bad in Mozambique as it is in the neighboring countries and, with
international help, they would like to keep it contained (it's
already getting bad). I knew before I came to Africa that the AIDS problem is beyond
severe, but being here and visiting AIDS programs, as I did,really brings it to
consciousness in an extremely powerful way. There is a veritable tidal wave of suffering
in Africa and the amount of assistance is miniscule compared to the needs. the problems
are complex beyond comprehension.

We went to the bush to stay at a lodge and while two bonfires were burning,a truckload of
drummers from a nearby Burundian refugee camp arrived in dramatic fashion. They were in
incredible attire and played absolutely fantastic rhythms and danced and sang their hearts
out. I was a lot like your fantasy of Africa but very authentic and moving at the same
time. Mozambique was under strong Communist influence a few years ago and the streets have
names like,"Mao Tse Tung Blvd." and "Karl Marx Road". There are a fair amount of street
kids and it is one of the world's poorest countries, but the people are extremely friendly
and sweet. I also saw the National Theatre of Song and Dance who performed an amazing
dance drama with a strong message about AIDS prevention. Mozambique has a lovely coastline
and lots of good fish to eat.

South Africa was next. We drove past Kruger Park (saw a giraffe!) to
Nellsprit, a middle-sized town that was not particularly interesting. Then we drove to
Johannesburg to stay with some friends of my sister. We stayed at a very posh hotel with
tons of amenities and went to a cool flea market. Then we flew to Capetown, rented a
minivan and then the fun began. Every day was great! We went to Table Mountain (huge!)
and we had spectacular weather. There is a great revolving lift to the top and we spent
the whole day there and could see multiple vistas of the Capetown area.

Then we went to Robbins Island, where Nelson Mandela and many of his ANC comrades were
imprisoned for decades. It was very moving and inspirational to stand in front of his
extremely small cell (#5) and the surrounded courtyard. Our guide was a former prisoner
who spent over 20 years in prison on the island. He gave us "the real story". We saw the
quarry were they worked under hellish conditions for
many years. We also saw the bar where the guards used to enjoy themselves. One of the
people with us broke into tears at the sight, because several of her family members
suffered for years on the Island. I will never forget this experience. I  have purchased
and now read Mandela's Autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom". It is an excellent book and
I highly recommend it as a great read and a testament to the unquenchable desire for
freedom by Mandela and millions of his compatriots.

Then we went to the Cape of Good Hope at the very bottom of
Africa. One sign read, "Beware of the baboons!" We saw some lovely antelope and the view
from the lighthouse was indescribable. The views  were awesome, the light from the clouds
and sky amazing and watching where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans merge was really a

But really the high point was when we went to visit one of the townships (as in slum). We
were greeted extremely warmly, especially by the children. It was called Mandela Park. We
had mostly seen White South Africa and the contrast between the affluent White areas and
the Black area was dramatic. We saw the child care center, the health clinic (where we had
a talk with a man with AIDS who was unable to receive any of the treatments enjoyed by
those in the West), a
local bar (the beer was dipped out of a bucket and tasted really odd, to say the least).

We were invited into an extremely simple, small house for lunch
by a lady township resident and enjoyed her chicken, potatoes and vegetable lunch. The
hospitality made the simple surroundings feel like a palace to me. The man who arranged
the trip was incredible and a donation from 100 Friends was made for books in the kids
library and for tuition, school uniforms and books for a large numbers of young students.
We also visited the local wine country which was
excellent. I had an excellent visit with my sister and her family and she treated me like
a king. My mother died in December, and we had many long talks about our Mom and our
family and that was very, very satisfying and helpful to both of us.

Then I flew to Kenya (just for a day while I waited for my flight to India) and stayed
with a friend of my sisters. The most unhappy aspect of life in many parts of Africa is
one feels like one is travelling in a bubble. Because crime is so prevalent in many places
you are always locking your car doors, looking over your shoulder, lots of barbed wire,
security guards, alarms, calling ahead with cell phones, etc. Nairobi's nickname is
"Nai-robbery". Nonetheless I had an interesting time being driven around by my friends
driver. It was said being driven past the site of the former American Embassy where a
terrorist bomb killed, maimed and blinded so many people. It's just an mepty lot now and
you can still see borken windows for blocks around. There are lots and lots of Indians
living in Africa and lots to see and do, including a Masai market.

Next was India for my 5th visit since 1990. I flew to New Delhi via Bombay. In Delhi I saw
one of the most intense rainstorms I have ever witnessed. Everybody seemed to enjoy it. I
only stayed in Delhi a few days, mostly taking care of business but I spent such a good
time with my old friend Dr. Shankar Chowdhury and his family that I decided to go to
Bangladesh with him, which was not on my original itinerary.

Talk about hot and humid! India was about 90 degrees with 50% humidity. Dakha (capital of
Bangladesh) was about 96 degrees with 95% humidity. Dakha is very intense. Almost all
Muslim, friendly people, a city of more than 10 million, with over 350,000 rickshaws. The
5 Star Hotel was near mine to provide some occasional air conditioned relief.

One day I rented a taxi ($20 all day) and went to the waterfront (Sadarghat) What a scene!
There were jillions of boats of all kinds in the river, lots of people...and I didn't see
one other tourist. I rented a small boat to spend 30 minutes in the middle of it all.
People were very curious and crowds formed around me everywhere, especially when my video
camera came out...what hams! Everybody wanted their picture taken. I tried to accommodate

Then we went to a former palace which was filled with interesting items from the days of
the British Raj. The market was next. Wow! I found a great guide and he showed me all the
secret places. I saw the chicken market (also ducks, geese, chicks, lots of eggs, etc.),
the fish market (whew!),the place where they make jewelry, the embroidery makers, and many
other sights.

The traffic in Dhaka is what you image traffic to be like in hell.
They are fighting for every square inch! Traffic lights are merely a faintsuggestion that
nobody seems to take seriously. If the road is clogged, well, just go down the wrong side
of the street, or on the sidewalk! Pandemonium!!!

I visited an AIDS education center for drug addicts and had
a 1 hour talk with 6 of them through a Bengali translator about HIV prevention and their
lives. We also saw a condom demonstration. It was very moving andthey asked me to say
hello to the drug addicts in the USA! "Tell them to avoid AIDS but have a good time
anyway!" they said. I had some excellent food in Bangladesh including Hilsa, the famous
(and delicious)Bengali fish.

The next day I took a 7 hour train ride to Chittigong in the south. Trains are one place
you can really communicate with the locals and so I did. The scenery was splendid, filled
with rice patties, farms and villages (Bangladesh is the size of Wisconsin with a
population of 130 million!). So many people! So wet(this is Monsoon season so lots of
rain)! A spectacular sunset occurred during this train journey.

When I arrived in Chittigong I felt quite ill, and I booked a room
at the nicest hotel I could afford and spent the next two days in bed
nursing a bad cold, took about 20 naps and decided to leave Bangladesh. Too bad, I was
going to go to Cox's Bazaar (longest beach in the world) and visit some of the Hill
Stations to see some aboriginal tribes from Burma (Myanmar) but I just needed to get out
of Bangladesh. The heat only got worse. I flew back to Dakha then on to Kathmandu, Nepal.
I arrived last week.

I was last in Nepal in 1990 so it was great to return to this magical mountain kingdom. I
returned to the famous Kathmandu Guest House with a room with a lovely garden view. I went
to Boudhanath, the most important Tibetan Buddhist monument outside of Tibet. It was built
around the fifth century A.D. It is a huge stupa (a large, dome-shaped monument, usually
said to contain holy relics). People walk around it over and over and there were many
maroon-robed Tibetan monks. I arrived on an auspicious day: it was the Dalai Lama's
birthday! There are also many magnificent Tibetan monasteries in the surrounding area. I
found a rooftop where I was able to get particularly good video shots.

Then I went to Pashupathinath which is Nepal's holiest Hindu pilgrimage site: an amazing
enclave of temples, cremation sites (ghats), ritual bathers and half-naked sadhus (Hindu
holy men). It is a heady cocktail of Hindu (and to a lesser extent Buddhist) proceedings,
with some of the most interesting mythology on earth. I saw several cremations and met
with many of the colorful Sadhus. Many of them smoke hashish and marijuana extensively.
With each toke, the holy man intones, "Bam Shankar": I am Shiva. I met one sadhu who
supposedly lives only on milk. Another lifted an 80 pound rock with his penis (I saw it, I
have it on video and a photo to boot!). Fascinating place!

I also went to Durbar Square, a famous place with many interesting temples and Freak
Street, where many hippies used to stay in the '60's (my pilgrimage spot!). I had a lot of
fun in Kathmandu and spent some time hanging out with an Egyptian fellow. Kathmandu was
much more strange for him than for me, and I was sort of his guide!

The flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara was one of the most incredible parts of the whole
trip. Lasting only about 35 minutes, we were blessed with very clear weather. The views of
the Himalayas were beyond belief. The small prop plane could only hold about 20
passengers. I decided to be bold and ask the flight attendant if I could take a look from
the cockpit. She seemed to indicate that it would not be possible but said she would
inquire. A minute later I was waived into the cockpit. The pilot smiled and said that he
had been living in San Francisco for 4 years and he would be delighted to have me spend
5-10 minutes up front with him and the co-pilot. What a sight! I got magnificent footage,
especially as we began the ascent. The views of Annapurna and the surrounding peaks and
valleys are something I shall never forget.

I have been in Pokhara for almost a week now. It is still monsoon season so we have had
daily, cooling rains. The temperature here is quite comfortable and I have found lodgings
in a nice hotel with a garden and hill view. I have made a good friend here, a local
Nepali named Shakti Gurung who knows the area intimately and speaks good English.

For the last 3 days he has taken me around the area on motorcycle through the green
countryside, up hills and through valleys. The is the most restful and verdant place I
have been so far, with lovely Phewa Lake and the surrounding hills and mountains. We went
to a Tibetan Monastery and refugee camp and heard a Tibetan Buddhist prayer service,
filled with chanting, drums, horns and bells! Magnificent!

We also visited the people in the camps and felt extremely welcome. I went for a bicycle
ride through the countryside as well. Nice. I saw spectacular waterfalls and rivers as
well. Then we went to the local hospital (Western Regional Hospital) and met with
counselors and social workers from the Social Work and AIDS Prevention and Care Project.
We had a long talk and I told them about the 100 Friends Project. They were very honest
and professional and I will be leaving about $700 from the fund to help people in
desperate need of assistance. That is a lot of money here (7$1 equals 70 Nepali Rupees so
this is almost 50,000 can do alot with that!) The fund will be handled as a
"revolving loan fund" for the destitute and needy. For example, a 14 year old boy was
raped and is now HIV positive. His family is extremely poor (annual income slightly over
$230 per year). They will provide a job-training or income generating program (for
example, provide a sewing machine or something like that) for the boy and his father.
After a year or two they will be able to repay the money (maybe $100 or somewhat more) and
then someone else can use it. Some money will be used for purely charitable purposes as
well. I also visited the children's ward at the hospital. They invited me to go with them
to the red-light district to observe their AIDS Education Outreach Project.

Tomorrow I am going with my friend Shakti for a 9 or 10 day trek in the lower Himalayas.
We will stay in local teahouses or trekkers inns that range from quite primitive to fairly
comfortable. I am really looking forward to it, though I'm not exactly in tip-top shape.
I'll just have to take it slow and easy. It is not a dangerous journey at all. Seeing the
mountains much more close up ought to be great, although the prospect of rain and the
possible occasional leach (leaches!!!) does give one pause. Oh well, you only live once,
unless the Buddhists and Hindus are right about reincarnation!

After the trek is over I will visit my friends at the Western Regional Hospital again,
and then fly on to Kathmandu and then back to India. I will visit my friend Thierry in
Calcutta for a couple of days. I know him for over 10 years and he runs four homes for 82
boys and girls who were street kids and now live pretty good lives. I always leave some of
the 100 Friends money with him because he does such a great job transforming lives. Then
back to Delhi for a few days with my friend Shankar and on to Thailand, Vietnam, a last
few days of rest in Hawaii for returning home on August 12. Work begins for me on August
15th. Whew! What a long strange trip it's been.



I'm in Vietnam.

When I last emailed I was in Nepal, about to go on a 9 day trek in the Himalayas. I found
a great trekking guide by the name of Shakti Gurung through a recommendation on the
internet by a Professor from Santa Cruz. First he took me for 2 days by motorcycle through
small villages and monasteries in the Pokhara area, near the Annapurna Range. Then we
spent a day preparing for the trek, renting backpacks, raincoats, etc. and buying
medicine, hats, maps and so forth. We took a taxi for three hours to a place called
Besisahar. I was particularly worried about leeches, since this is the rainy season
(monsoon), but luckily I didn't encounter a single one during the 9 days. I was very happy
was Shakti Gurung...he took great care of me..."Watch your money here...go quickly here,
it's dangerous...we go this way, much safer..." As well as pointing out various natural
and cultural sights for me. great guy. I highly recommmend him.

The trip was probably the most difficult physical activity I've ever attempted (at 50
yet...what am I...nuts?) for we ascended over 8,000 feet in four days over very difficult
terrain. We had to cross dozens of streams, traverse small paths where there were recent
rockslides, take many detours and the trail was almost continously going up or down,
rarely flat. Despite the difficulties and exhaustion it was WELL worth the effort. Four
days mostly uphill to a place called Manang. One day of rest, then four days basically
downhill. Whew!

What I did see (and photograph and videotape)was nine days of hills so big that they would
only be called "hills" in the Himalayas; well over 100 gorgeous waterfalls, astounding
rock formations; a great closeup of 9 mountain peaks from 22,000 to 26,000 feet (Annapurna
range)on the fifth day; an avalanche (across the valley, luckily); lots of domesticated
animals including goats, water buffalo, cows, horses (including a colt nursing it's
mother), dogs, chickens, roosters, sheep, and donkeys. I tasted Yak Meat and Water Buffalo

Then there's the people: many Tibetans and Nepalis and a smattering of other tourists.
Lots of lovely villages, mostly Buddhist with Tibetan prayer flags, lovely stone
buildings, villages located at incredibly high places, prayer wheels, temples and gompas
(Tibetan monasteries). A LOT of smiling faces, especially the children. Highlights:
walking down the trail I see a man a bit smaller than me who turns out to be a deaf mute.
Spontaneously he and I walk towards each other until our noses touch, our eyes lock and
our foreheads meet and we both burst out laughing. I have no idea what it's all about but
it happened TWICE..with different guys. Never happened before in my my life.

Then I met a Tibetan monk who swore he met me in New Delhi 18 years ago. Great, but the
first time I was in India was 10 years ago. Oh, well. Nice thought anyway. There were also
a couple of families and individuals that got 100 Friends funds...including a family that
was dirt poor who adopted two lovely little girls because their mother went completely
insane and was unable to take care of them. Even though they are extremely poor
themselves, they still took them in and treated them as their own.

Then there was an old paralyzed Tibetan lady and a 65 year old cowboy who looked 100 years
old and was on a 52 day trip with his cows going
to a very remote place called Mustang who needed some money for food etc. So I ended up
with about 8 blisters, a whole lot of sunburn, exhaustion and a horrid night of bed bugs
that just about drove me insane. But as I said, it was worth it 100 times
beautiful and the people were ever so sweet. I'll never forget it as long as I live. We
didn't have all that much rain except for one day (we usually walked 7-10 hours a day)when
we donned raincoats for about 6 hours.

On the way back to Pokhara the road was closed for 6 hours because a bus driver hit a
young boy crossing the road. He broke his leg, then drove back and purposely killed him
because you pay a lot less for killing someone than injuring them in Nepal. The local
people were so angry they had to close the road because they were throwing rocks and
anything else they could get their hands on...the driver fled to the police station and
lots of riot police had to come in to quell the disturbance. Can you believe it?

Then I flew from Pokhara to Kathmandu to Calcutta, my favorite city in India. I spent most
of the time visiting with my dear French friend, Thierry. Thierry is the director of
Children's Rights Development Services. It is basically a group of homes for street
children in Calcutta (about 75 children). They have incredibily difficult beginnings in
their lives, some arrive as young as 3 years old. Sometimes they are abandoned by their
parents (who are unable or unwilling to look after them) at the huge Howrah Train Station
in Calcutta. Others are runaways from very difficult situations are have been physically
or sexually abused.

I came at the nick of time because Thierry's project was in severe financial crisis..the
electricity had been turned off, they were behind in their rent by several months and bill
collectors were hounding them (food, medical expenses, school tuition etc.) A fairly large
donation from 100 Friends gave them several months breathing room. They are in the process
of getting about 30-40 people in France who will sponsor some of the children. Hopefully
this will provide some financial stability in the long run.

By now, many of the children know me and they are incredibily sweet and loving, They call
me,"Uncle" and wrap their arms around me. Lovely! One of the older boys even invited me to
his wedding in 2008! I spent a lot of time with the kids and one night Thierry and I
stayed up until 6am just talking. I really love this guy..what a gem!

Then I flew back to Delhi for my last two days in South Asia. I spent most of the time
with my other dear friend, Dr. Shankar Chowdhury and his family. Shankar works for the
United Nations (UNESCO) and we discussed the possibility of setting up a counseling
program, which is desperately needed in Mozambique, sometime in the next year or two. This
possibility arose when I visited my sister and her family in Maputo, Mozambique earlier in
my trip. Shankar will be visiting me in California in September.

From Delhi I flew to Bangkok for a couple of days. It was great to be back in Thailand
after a 10 year absence. I went to the famous Wat Po Temple Complex for a glimpse at the
awe-inspiring Buddhist architecture and statues and the 150 foot long gold-embossed
reclining Buddha. I also got a fantastic massage at the local massage school located on
the temple complex. The man who gave me my massage (which including the use of amazing
herbs) was incredible.

I spent the rest of the day feeling like I was walking on air. Then I was able to taste
fabulous Thai cuisine, mostly from small little street stalls found all over the city.
Yum!!!! I also ate fried grasshoppers and friend frogs. Delicious! Also experienced some
of the wonderful if raucous nightlife for which Thailand is so famous. I feel sure that I
could live in Thailand for a number of years, as many foreigners have chosen to do.

After a few days I flew to Saigon. As we landed at Tan Son Nhut Airport I was flooded with
many feelings. The long, torturous relationship  between the US and Vietnam played a large
part in my youth and I started remembering the fear of being drafted, peace
demonstrations, the counterculture that grew out of opposition to the war, the way it tore
our society apart and all of the changes the war engendered in the American psyche...all
this flashed through my mind.

I promise not to say, "When I was in "Nam...) The U.S. Government wanted to send me here
for free back in 1968 when I was 18. I knew I wasn't going and I managed to get
conscientious objector status and a good lottery number so I didn't have to go. It's great
to come here voluntarily in a time of peace and also to leave the last portion of the 100
Friends donations. Saigon is about as dynamic a city as one could every find. Everything is here, a million
motorscooters and bicycles, wealth, lots of poverty, incredible food, extremely friendly
people, a million businesses of every kind, an amazing Chinatown, an American "War Crimes"
museum, an obvious French influence in boulevards, cafes and restaurants, crime, religion,
drugs, beggars, etc. etc. DYNAMIC and full of energy. I've been reading Stanley Karnow's
book: Vietnam: A History (companion to the award-winning PBS series). Great book and
terrific to read while I'm here. I went for a short trip to the Mekong Delta. Wow! Water and canals and villages and rivers everywhere...millions of rice farms. Highlight: Visiting a former Vietcong Guerrilla Camp. Of course during the war it was extremely well-hidden and it still shows. Homemade
underground bunkers, landmines (don't walk there!) hidden trails, well-hidden trails,
command posts and bunkers. After seeing this and reading Karnow's book it becomes
abundantly clear that this was a war that could never have been won.  Now I am spending my last few days relaxing at a place called Nha Trang. It's less than an hour's flight north of Saigon on the coast. A really nice resort on the Vietnamese coast with great seafood, excellent beaches and lots of islands to explore. Paradise. As always, the Vietnamese are extremely friendly...especially when they learn that I'm American. Go figure. Tomorrow I'm visiting a local hospital to dispense of the last of the 100 Friends
Funds. Feels good to make a small move in the direction of healing between our two countries, especially since Vietnam is one of the poorest countries on the planet. I have one more day to relax here by the South China Sea then it's back to Saigon and Bangkok to catch my flight to Hawaii for my last five days before I return home to the Bay Area. What a great trip around the world (and i've got great photos and videos to prove it)! I'm already planning my next trip! I want to retrace the Old Silk Route through Central Asia (Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China & Pakistan).. But that's another story! Love and best wishes, Marc Gold AKA Monmohan

Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2003 3:32 PM
To: marc gold
Subject: Re: Afghan tragedy and impressions

just pathetic what you wrote in your last email, i could cry...i can almost imagine what you
witness everyday right now. i wish i was there, i wish i was not in calcutta caught in lake garden
with 70 kids , but there in afghanistan doing something for the orphans. anyway, can t be
be strong and come back with good stories to tell people and raise more money. taht is my prayer.
i am going to cambodia next week for 11 days,. it was not planned but things seem a bit tough with
vibol and the staff so i am going to try to put some orders there. i am not happy to go one side ,
and happy the other side. only 10 days.
we are all fine here.
here the phone number of krishna in dubai. 00971-3463153,mobile phone. i ll send him a mail before
yoy come to dubai, i hope he will get it before you arrive, in case don t be surprise he does not
recognise you or if he slow making the connection between you and i.
i ll meet shuv in cambodia.
coryne is leaving in a few days.i am fine can t get sleep until late at night as usual.i might try
to go to afghanistan one day, i will surely try to do that as soon as possible.
all the best and keep us informed.
--- marc gold <> wrote:
> Dear Friends,
> Some of you have asked me for my initial impressions of Afghanistan. This is
> simply a feeble first attempt to try to share some impressions and a draft
> of my next report from the field.
> I have seen many, many tragic situations in my India, Cambodia,
> Tibet, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Burma,
> Indonesia etc.
> But this land has completely blown my mind, overwhelmed me, broken my heart.
> Some of the destruction I have seen is what I imagine for Berlin in 1945 or
> even Hiroshima. But much rebuilding is going on here in Kabul, one brick at
> a time, literally
> There are many many street children asking for help. And there are many war
> widows, coming to one on the street, covered in
> Bukhas...""'s heartrending. And when you
> give to one then five more appear...what to do?
> Every morning near the hotel Amir Khan goes across the street to beg. He is
> a victim of war and landmines. He has no legs or anything else below his
> waist.
> One arm is missing a hand. He has no device to help him get around. He
> simply uses his arms and stump of a hand to pull himself around. Donated
> $100 and this money will go a long way to help him survive in many ways.
> Because a crowd started to develop we explained the 100 Friends idea, give
> him the money and wished him well. A few moments later he was gone. But the
> look in his eyes haunts me..........You'll see the photos.
> Today I met a man named Zar Mohammed. He is looking after 700 orphans and
> another 2,300 are on the way.
> Read that again:
> He is looking after 700 children.......
> 2,300 more children are literally on the way coimg from Iran and Pakistan
> He has very little help. He is desperately trying to erect dirt and tent
> shelters before winter comes. I have seen the children and their condition
> made me weep. There is no clean water and 160 children were very sick this
> year. He owes money to some men for things he needed for the children.
> Yesterday they came looking for him, angry. He wasn't there so they beat one
> of the children, I met him today....broke my heart.
> Later today I will meet all of the 700 children. He is a former military
> officer and his former colleagues all laugh at him for doing this work.
> Donated $700. Another friend donated $800.
> Donated 15,500 Afghanis ($360) to the Guljam family in Cote Sangi in West
> Kabul. This group of families (23 people in all) were devastated by the wars
> in Afghanistan. Their homes were completely destroyed during fighting
> between different groups of fighters (Mujahaddin).  Helped this family
> purchase windows and doors so the kids and poor family will be warm next
> winter, the children have got VERY sick last winter.
> Their tales of being bombed are heartrending. One of the family members
> somehow found out that the fighters were coming to loot their house, rape
> the women, burn their houses and then kill all of them. They fled into the
> night with almost nothing but the clothes on their back. They then faced an
> incredibly treacherous journey into the mountains, always in danger from
> bandits, fighters or the elements. They finally reached terrible refugee
> camps in Pershawar,Pakistan where they lived an existence beyond
> comprehension for years. After the Taliban were routed they return to Kabul
> where they have been rebuilding their lives, literally one brick at a time
> out of the very ground they stand upon.
> The family was extremely happy to receive the assistance. I noticed that
> there was no radio, TV, electricity or other amenities. I bought them a
> radio/tape player and extra batteries so there would again be music in the
> house. The children especially were delighted. In typical Afghan fashion,
> they said I was now their brother and that for the rest of my life I should
> consider myself as part of their family. We explained the idea behind 100
> Friends and they seemed delighted. Finally, I told the children that they
> should give some Afghanis ($48 Afghanis=$1.00) to a person even more poor
> than them, at a time in the future that they could afford it. They loved the
> idea. All the children go to school and work doing anything they can to help
> support the family. Go to this link to see the effects of the bombing where
> the Guljam family lives:
> Other impressions:
> The faces of the people are incredible...and I am taking many, many photos.
> I have only seen Kabul and that is a VERY limited picture of the country. I
> am trying to arrange safe passage to other cities or the countryside but it
> is very difficult. There are many many NGO's here but the political and
> military situation in much of Afghanistan means that the majority of people,
> especially those livings in the provinces and countryside are getting little
> or no aid. Everything is difficult to accomplish here, you cannot imagine.
> Yesterday I met people from a small NGO who train children in puppetry,
> custome making, set design, acting, joke-telling, acrobatiucs, painting etc.
> They go all over Afghanistan doing this and children have performed in front
> of as many of 6,000 people (adults and kids).
> You must understand the significance of this. This land has been at war for
> 23 years. There has been no laughter, no joy, no singing, no dancing...let
> alone entertainment, especially for kids. I have seen photos and videos of
> these artistic and playful trainings for the kids and the
> performances.....It's very powerful and moving. So, there is some hope in
> the area.
> Look at their websites:
> Other impressions..just the utter dryness (drought has been going on for
> years), the incredible marketplace, women in Burkas, many people without
> limbs because this is the most heavily mined land on Earth, soldiers, US
> Special Forces, troops from Italy, USD, Germany, Holland etc. Many
> journalists and a cast of foreign characters that should be in a Hemingway
> novel.
> So, all I can say is I will be back, next time for a longer time. If you
> come here and you have a heart, you must stay and help. If not in person
> them from abroad.
> Love,
> Marc

What follows are some stories that illustrate my activities in Asia during the last three months. I may have sent you some of this material previously.

It is Afghanistan where the poverty and despair are the most compelling. This is my third visit to Afghanistan, the poorest country on earth outside of Africa. Despite the dangers here, I feel so strongly about trying to do what I can in my own small way that I will come here again and again.
I went back to the Allaudin orphanage. I was first there in 2003. There are over 500 children there, locked up like it's a prison and they are so short-staffed it is pitiful. They need everything: staff, food, clothing, medicine, books, and educational supplies, toys and so much more. It makes the children's program in Cambodia look like the Hilton.
Your donations have been used to help this Orphanage by paying for a desperately needed extra staff member ($500 for one year!). Right now one staff member supervises about 250 children by himself. Toys and educational supplies were also purchased ($500). Half of the money came from 100 Friends and half was raised by my good friend Guru Sewak, a social worker from Seattle closely associated with PARSA. We also saw Sierre, a 10 year old boy I first met in 2004. He has a hydrocephalic head (very large!) and I frankly was surprised that he is still alive because he doesn't receive the care he needs.
I worked closely with PARSA, a project assisting poor women and children in Afghanistan. They are really worth your support! They arranged for me to meet and help numerous very poor people in Afghanistan: See also:
Greetings from Afghanistan. I am back in Kabul after a wonderful visit
to Mazar-i-Sharif. It's about 430 miles from Kabul to Mazar.  I saw
some spectacular scenery on the way to and from Mazar. Huge mountains,
starry nights where you can see the Milky Way very clearly, fresh
fruit we bought including the sweetest figs I ever ate and luscious
honey-dew. We had no trouble whatsoever and from all reports that area
is, relatively speaking, one of the safest in the country.

No problems, didn't have any Taliban or bandits so that was a relief.

My friend Aimal showed us all around Mazar and we also saw where the
Taliban fought against Gen. Dostum and his US allies. I didn't see
even one white guy the whole time I was there. But Mazar was peaceful,
although one night there were lots of checkpoints due to a rumor that
terrorists had come into Mazar. This happens often and in point of
fact Mazar is very peaceful and has been for quite some time.

We saw a place near Mazar where Genghis Khan has a famous fort and
city over 100 years ago. Also saw the beautiful mosque where Ali, the
grandson of Mohammad is entombed.I also am lucky to have some very
cool friends here. One of them was even in the Taliban!

I visited the local hospital pediatric unit and met with the docs and
visited the sick children and their families. They REALLY need some
training in pediatric medicine so maybe I can find some docs who would
be willing to spend some time doing some training for them.

The other day I went with the Women's program I always work with
(PARSA) to a place about 45 minutes from Kabul, a safe area. It is in
the foothills of the mountains and they took me to meet two incredibly
poor families.

Both families lived in the most simple of dwellings, with no
electricity, road, government services, etc. The first family had
three members, an old woman (60, quite old here) whose husband was
killed by a bomb in the war against the USSR in the '80's. She has two
sons, one was at the house during my visit, he is 25 and mentally ill,
shell-shocked and unable to do anything, due to the effects of Russian
bombing during the war. The third family member was a daughter aged
23, didn't see her. I asked the mother what would happen to her son
when she died and she started to weep, as in, "I have no idea but
plenty of fears and what can I do?" They suffer terribly in the winter
from the bitter cold and they have no heat. They did have two cows.I
donated $150 from the 100 Friends funds for food, a heater, a rug (for
warmth), blankets and other supplies that are needed. Neighbors, poor
themselves, have helped this family with food on numerous occasions.

The second family was a family of 5. A young widow lost her husband
who had a heart attack 6 months ago. She was pregnant when he died.
The family consisted of the mother (widow), 4 girls from 3 months to 8
years old and a 5 year old boy. The children were dirty but cute as
hell, loved having there picture taken by me.

The father left behind several months worth of food, cooking oil, rice
etc. It is almost all gone now. I asked the Mother what she would do
when the food ran out. She said she would have to wash clothes and
tend animals for other families. She would get no money, only food for
her efforts. The eight year old girl would have to watch the children
whenever she had to work. I gave them $200 for food, a heater,
blankets, clothing, money to rebuild a wall, and other necessities. 3
of the children are somehow in school.

For both families the money will be managed by PARSA to make sure it
is spent properly and wisely.

My next big idea is to build a school in an Afghan Village in 2007. I
am meeting with people tonight to make a plan. I must admit I'm
excited about it. The Japanese Embassy here may give me funds for this

And now I am in Pakistan. I have been staying in the mountains near Kashmir next to a poor village. The people here have suffered a lot from the earthquake here last October. I used 100 Friends funds to help about 50 families get back on their feet, mostly with funds to start a business. The other day I purchased 20 sewing machines for various families, and I don't even know how to sew! Also purchased goats, chickens and set someone up in a tiny mini-market!

Pakistan is like India in many ways, the people are so nice. The conditions at the camp are very primitive; I have to use an outhouse as a toilet; the food is very simple; but it is very beautiful and at night you can see millions of stars. The staff I am working with are wonderful and have done everything in their power to make me feel comfortable. The village people are very welcoming and warm and deeply appreciate the assistance provided by 100 Friends. You can read much more about here if you want:

The next big idea is to build a school in an Afghan Village in 2007. I need to raise about $20,000 to do it. I am meeting with people from a local organization to make a plan. I must admit I'm very excited about it.

Back in Kabul in early July I used 100 Friends funds to help a number of families living under terrible conditions in the slums of Kabul:

In Sarandoy Slum the Tahia Maskah family received $150 for starting a fruit and vegetable business so they can support themselves better, improve their nutrition, children's education and housing situation
In Sarandoy Slum the Said Mohammed family received $200 for a family of 11 people that had been living on less than $50 per month; they will also start a business selling fruits and vegetables; the Mother (named Jauza) was horribly burned by a bomb during the war.
In the Zorobud section of Kabul $240 was given to the Keshekton Family in Kabul to start a business selling jam and chutney and bolani (sandwiches) in the marketplace. The mother (Nasrin) is a widow and she was barely surviving washing clothes (making $1 per day). Funds were also used for a bicycle for her son to take the good to market (she can't leave the house because she's a widow).
The Muhammed Khal family living in a Kabul slum received a grant of $160 to start a business selling an Afghan rice, chutney and beans dish using a pushcart she will purchase. This will significantly help this widow and her children (5 girls).
In early August an 23 year old student named Farook Wardok received a $110 grant to help him with his education; without these funds he couldn't stay in school
·Massouda, a 28 year old widow with two children received a grant for $100 to buy food, clothing, medicine and a sewing machine. She works in the fields, receives no money only a little food.
Shakilo is a 30 year old illiterate widow living in Ghorband Province . She makes 70 cents per days a receives some leeks to eat. Her son, 8 years old, has tuberculosis. She also received $100 which she will use to buy rice, oil, vegetables and a sewing machine.
Siamoy is a 25 year old woman, has three children and says she is mentally ill. She makes $1.00 per day working in the fields. Her husband is very sick and her three year old son needs surgery. She will use the $100 donated to her for her son's operation.