Saturday, June 23, 2018

Baku Carpet Museum


Modern Baku


Golden Smile


Lunch, Azerbaijan


Mountain Man, Firuze


Mountain Woman, Firuze


Mud Volcanoes


Goat and Guide


Cowboy, Lihac



Mt.Ararat from Yerevan


Armenian Cowboy


Armenian Caucuses Wildflowers


Joseph and Peter


Seth, Kathryn, Hinda, Peter


Blog South Caucuses

June 23, 2018

Blog from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, New York City

Dear Family and Friends,

We just returned from a wonderful trip to the South Caucuses and New York.  We did not have access to a computer or wifi much of the time so writing a blog was impossible.

On May 29th, 2018, we left on a journey to visit the South Caucuses – Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, three former Soviet countries. It took 33 hours and three planes to reach Baku, Azerbaijan.  Were we tired?  You betcha!!

Baku is an extremely modern – 21stcentury – clean, avant garde architecture, along with ancient structures.  It is very wealthy because of the abundance of oil. The most elegant and pricey stores, cars, fashion are all in Baku. People call the expensive fashions and jewelry, Baku Bling.

Azerbaijani is very close to Turkish, and many people there do speak Turkish, and so do we so communication was pretty easy. 

One of the first things we had to address was getting Peter some insulin, Hinda forgot to take his from home.  We went to the pharmacy asked for insulin and they sold us the very same insulin he buys at home but at a fraction of the cost and no scrip needed.

Azerbaijan is about 99% Muslim but few head scarves to be seen. People were extremely friendly and hospitable, anxious to help even wanted to take us places rather than just give directions.  There are many park and fountains, lots of places where pedestrians only were allowed. 

There is lots of animosity between the Azerbaijanis and Armenians so mentioning one to the other was a no no. We visited a moving monument to the Azerbaijanis killed the 1918 massacre by Armenians and Bolsheviks.

One of the most interesting sights was the mud volcanoes, a couple of hours outside of Baku.  These are low gurgling holes in the ground spewing mud.  Extremely sticky slippery mud.  We drove a long time and then left our fancy Mercedes van for a 20 year old Lada for the ride to the volcanoes.  We slipped and got stuck due to rain the night before.  When we arrived, Peter proceeded to try to walk up to one of the volcanoes to get a good photo, but he kept sliding backwards, so the driver and our pretty guide Elnara were holding him up.  On the way down Elnara had to hold tight to him so he would not land in the mud. What an adventure! Hinda was taking photos but laughing so hard she almost dropped the camera.

We visited a small mountain village where Jews used to live as well as visited a couple of synagogues. There are 7000 Jews still in Azerbaijan all the rest have left for Israel or the states.  Oil wells dot the landscape with many of them in the front yard of people’s homes. We watched kids playing ball around the wells. We drove to a remote village, 7700 feet high in the mountains.  Visited an ancient Mosque. Peter was invited to the home of the caretaker’s house for tea.  At another high mountain village, Lihac, the river flooded the road and we had to be ferried across in a very old 4-wheel drive van.  On the way there the road was blocked with sheep, goats and cowboys herding them to high mountain pastures.

Would we go back to Baku? You bet we would!

After 6 days we left for the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia.  We were dropped at the border by our driver and guide.  They neglected to tell us the walk to Georgia was about half a mile uphill in the 90-degree heat.  We walked, carrying out heavy luggage, Peter cursing all the way.  We finally crossed in to Georgia and were met by our next delightful guide.  After cooling off and making sure the AC in the car was at MAX we recovered.

Georgia is about 99% Orthodox with ancient monasteries and churches nearly everywhere.  

One of our first stops there was a visit to a winery built into a long tunnel originally made for the military, it was so cold in there we had to wear blankets.  Just as we entered, we were entertained by a Georgian Folk Orchestra dressed in traditional clothing.  

We visited a summer house in Erekle, home to a Georgian King, and also a residence of the Rothschild family.  While we were touring the palace, Peter wanted to sit and rest, but it wasn’t permitted so the guide found a chair for him and moved it from room to room.  

The next morning, we found that we had slept a nearly 6.0 earthquake.  I guess we are heavy sleepers.

Georgia has the best tomatoes, beautiful mountains and scenery. Tbilisi, the capital is more of what we expected a capital city in the Caucuses to look like – older building, winding streets, old castles and churches, and also some very modern building.

As we drive through the country, we discovered that in some places close to the Russian border, sometimes someone went to sleep in Georgia and woke up in Russia because the border was moved a few feet or meters during the night.  But Georgia did not protest very much because they did not want to engage the Russians.

In all three countries, there was still a lot of nostalgia among older people for Soviet times when there was always enough food, work, medical, etc.  But this was not shared by the youth.  All three countries were extremely clean; gays are illegal, but neither are they open and accepted; and lots and lots of smoking, especially by men.  And the food in all three countries was beyond delicious.

On to Armenia, where you can see Mt. Ararat from Yerevan, but alas, it is entirely in Turkey.  It is about 20,000 high.

We were so lucky to find the mountainsides in Armenia, blooming with the most beautiful wildflowers of every type and color.  

In all three countries we saw cowboys and sheepdogs herding sheep, goats and cattle.

Yerevan, like Tbilisi has a mix of old castles and churches as well as modern building, but not nearly as modern as Baku.

People everywhere were friendly and helpful. Armenia is Apostolic.

It was moving to visit the memorials and museums to the Armenia genocide where about 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Young Turks in the early part of the 20thcentury.

So, now we are going to retrace our long journey, and go to New York City to celebrate Peter’s 80thbirthday.  We arrived in NYC a few days before his birthday and spent time visiting some of our favorite places. As we were checking in to our hotel, they asked if we were celebrating anything and we told them we were.  They upgraded us to a beautiful suite on the 11thfloor with a view of Manhattan.  We also went to see the Alvin Ailey dance group at Lincoln Center, that was a real treat, they were wonderful.  We spent one day at the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx where there was an exhibit of Georgia O’Keefe paintings.  We took a bus up there and Hinda reminisced about the places she had grown up and remembered family outings and friends.  On June 19th, Peter’s birthday, we were getting ready to go out to breakfast early in the morning there was a knock on the door of our hotel room and in walked Seth and his wife Kathryn.  SURPRISE DAD!!!  Boy were we surprised, and it was such wonderful surprise, they best birthday present anyone could have gotten. Later that day, Peter’s oldest and closest friend, Joseph came to meet us for lunch at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Really nice to see him. A day later Saul called and said he was in NY on business, could we meet.  We met him with Seth and Kathryn for pizza before we went to the theater.  

Spent the next few days with Seth and Kathryn enjoying NYC. It is always fun to be back home in NY. But especially when we can show it off to someone, Kathryn who has never seen it before.

Finally headed for home after 25 days on the road. Tired but happy!!!

Best to all,
Peter and Hinda

Friday, August 11, 2017

Young Water Girl


Even Younger Water Girl


Sunday


Best Way to Eat Fish


Blog 2


Blog 2

Kisumu, Kenya

August 12, 2017



Hi Everyone!



Usually I try to write to you from the office, but now I am writing this from the safety of my house.  Why?  Because I am under house arrest.  Yup, for the last 8 days, most people have been forced to stay indoors because of the Presidential Election tension around the country, but especially here in Kisumu, the heart of the political opposition.

The election was Tuesday, August 8th, and last night, the winner was announced – the current president, but the opposition candidate is refusing to accept the results. Here in Kisumu, stores have been closed for nearly a week, and people are stocking up on food.  Actually, there is only one supermarket open in the entire city and it is nearly impossible to even get into it, and there is not much to buy anywhere.  KMET has been closed since August 4th.  Streets are deserted of people and traffic.  Everyone is frustrated and bored.  On Friday morning, we were told to come back to work, but 2 hours later we were all sent home again because of the fear of violence, but it didn’t happen.  But where I live it is very safe.  We are all hoping that the opposition candidate – Raila Odinga will make a statement asking everyone to be calm, but so far, he has not.  Maye today.  People need to shop, go out onto the streets, go back to work, etc.  There is so much fake news circulating.  Only Trump would like it.  Last night there were helicopters buzzing around and gunshots, but not near here.  Just heard that a very nice supermarket where I often go to shop was destroyed last night.  Why?  Senseless!  Tribalism?  Politics?  It only hurts the people who have the most to lose.



Well, there are other things to tell you about too.



Next door to my house there are 5 large dogs who howl loudly several times a day that it is not even possible to talk on the phone or even to someone in the house.  The owner of the dogs promises to keep them quiet.  I guess you can tell the dogs to keep quiet, but you can’t stop them from barking or howling.



So many of my colleagues from work calling and checking on me to make sure I am safe.  Nice people.  I was even driven home on Friday morning with a “body guard”.  Thanks Monica and KMET.  You are taking very good care of me and I appreciate it.  I only wish we could all get back to work and do our jobs.  Hope by Monday.



There is an interesting program that KMET is involved in called MTIBA.  It is a health care investment plan where anyone can put money into a health account and use it for treatment for anyone in their family.  For each 100 Kenyan Shillings per month that you put in, the investors of the project add another 50 shillings, thus there is a very large incentive to save for you and your family’s health care.  It is a 5-year project.  In each locale, there are several health care facilities to choose from including KMET.



Since I know that many of you know what is going on here with the elections and the fear of violence, this is short only to let you know that I am ok and safe, and well taken care of and am not taking any chances.  Have lots of food and water.  I’m ok.



Love,



Peter

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sylvia, The Schnurman Pharmacy Pharmicist


Reading is Sharing


KMET Buildings Including New Top Floor


Elizabeth Hair Dressing Teacher


New Hairstyle KMET Student


It Takes Three


KMET Cooking Class


Monica - KMET Security Guard


Blog Kisumu July 25, 2017


July 25, 2017

Kisumu, Kenya

Hi Family, Friends, and Everyone!

Some you may know that I arrived back here in Kisumu on July 6, to work with KMET once again to finally finish helping them build the final phase of the KMET Building.  I think and hope that it will finally get done before I leave here on September 18.  In fact, we are planning to have a dedication just before I leave.  It will have been 8 years since Hinda and I first came here to help on this and other things in 2009.  WOW!!

Just a bit about the journey.  It was very long – some 26 hours or so, sitting in planes, airports, flying, waiting, and getting tired.  In the Dubai airport, a very kind woman came up to me as I was trying to buy a bottle of water and bought it for me.  These are the Muslims that Trump is trying to keep out of the United States!  Imagine!!

I am working hard and feeling it more than ever before, Part of it is that at work I am upstairs and downstairs so many times a day, and then when I get home to rest, there are stairs again, so I am constantly climbing.  Good exercise?  Maybe.  I hope so.

Home is in a nice part of town in a large compound with about 5 or 6 houses including mine which as 4 apartments.  The only problem is that it is a little further from work than I would have preferred, but it is very quiet and secure.  Actually, it is very close to the local zoo, which among other animals has lions which roar very loudly at night.  If you have ever heard a male lion roar you will understand.

One of my jobs is to help raise money to buy building supplies, pay the contractors, etc.  Two years ago I asked a particular hotel that we have done a lot of business with to contribute to our building fund, and they agreed.  Since then, they never paid their pledge which was fairly substantial.  When I came back I followed up with them and others.  Some have in fact contributed, but this particular place did not.  Last Friday afternoon when I had already gotten home, I received a phone call from them to come and get their check.  I tried to explain that I was home and would come the next morning or Monday.  “NO!  Come Now!!  Of course I did, but after waiting for 2 years, it had to be now or never.  Oh well!

The Presidential elections are scheduled for August 8 and there is a lot of tension here in Kisumu and around the country.  In 2007/8 there was a lot of post-election violence and many people were killed and injured and there was a lot of looting.  No one knows what will happen and all are hopeful that the election will be calm.  Our office will be closed for the day preceding and after the election so that people won’t have to travel.  Many people are stocking up on their food supplies, and I will also.

Because there is a fear of looting, some of the supermarkets have very little stock and sometimes one has to go to more than one store to get what you need.  But also there are some large supermarket chains that are having big economic problems and as a result, there are lots of empty shelves.  I mean EMPTY EMPTY!!

Cooking here are home means making everything from scratch and by the time I get home, I don’t want to have to chop and grate vegetables, make rice or some other thing.  The pots and pans leave something to be desired, the knives are dull, the refrigerator is small, so Hinda suggested I hire someone to help with the cooking.  I hired a college student to come 4 nights a week and do the cooking.  I pay her a fair wage, and of course buy the food, and then she also stays to eat and if there are leftovers – usually- takes them home to her aunt, uncle, and nephew where she lives.  Good for me!  Good for her!

So, I’ll leave it at this for the time being and send some photos.

Enjoy and love,

Peter

Monday, November 07, 2016

Eye Clinic Volunteer Optometrist Checking Reading For New Glasses Perscription


Assistant In The Eye Clinic With Eye Chart


Optometrist Examing KMET Client


KMET Eye Clinic

Dear Everyone,

I am very proud to tell you that KMET opened their first volunteer Eye Clinic.  It is staffed by an Optometrist that I met a couple of years ago, and this year when I came back here, he agreed to volunteer weekly in the KMET Eye Clinic. 

Some of you may remember that in 2011 I helped to start the KMET Dental Clinic which continues to thrive.

This Eye Clinic is just starting, but there is a big demand.  Many people here don't go to get their eyes checked, especially people who can't afford to get exams, let alone glasses.

Our Eye Clinic is low income, and the Optometrist that is volunteering also has a shop where he manufactures lenses for frames that he sells for a low cost.  He has even agreed to take a small down payment for the glasses and allow our client to pay the balance off and still get their glasses.

Yesterday, the first day, we saw 10 people; some of whom were our staff.  The Eye Clinic will be open every Monday morning from 8am to 1pm.

In addition to the Optometrist, Gordon Abonyo, he also brings an assistant, and all of the machines and equipment that he uses including an array of frames.  So we have to send a vehicle to pick him up each time.  Hopefully, we will be able to make the Eye Clinic permanent like the Dental Clinic, Lab, Medical Clinic, Pharmacy, and Youth Friendly Clinic among other services.

So, for me and for KMET, another great day.  I am very proud that I was able to do this.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Pink and White At Home


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

"Sunday""


Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Final Phase of KMET Building


Remodeling KMET Cafeteria


Juliet, KMET Intern


Blog From Kisumu November 2016


Kisumu, Kenya

November 1, 2016

 Dear Family and Friends,
 
I haven’t written before this because I have been pretty busy working, and I don’t usually carry my laptop home at night or on the weekends, but I have found a quiet moment today, so here I am.

 I don’t know about the weather where you are, but it is dam hot here!  In the 90’s every day with a bright relentless sun overhead.  We only had rain a couple of times, and except for once, it was not heavy.  The other night however, the heavens opened up big time with thunder, lightning, wind, and inevitable loss of power.

 The rains were supposed to have come, but they have not, and like the rest of the world, the weather patterns seem to have changed.  If there is global warming, it is surely here in Kisumu, Kenya, although there are places not too far from here where it rains heavily every night.

 I also haven’t taken very many photos – also because have been busy, but one that you will see on this blog is of Juliet, a young intern who I was teaching to photograph, and also got this nice photo of her.  The other couple of photos are from my phone and will show you some of the work I am doing.

 As you may know, I am helping KMET build the final floor of the building I started here in 2009, and subsequently added another floor and also another entire building.  But this is supposed to be the final phase.

 The photo with the “scaffolding” – Kenyan style is the building where we are adding the final floor.  The other is a small remodel of the KMET “Cafeteria” used mostly by the staff.
 
I am going to try to take one more photo to add to this blog of my good friend “Sunday” who Hinda and I love very much.  We help her with her education, and she also takes good care of me.  She is really a very good, kind, caring person, and I appreciate her company, although she has a very rough schedule between her university classes, her church attendance, and she has just gotten a job volunteering with the Kenya Red Cross.

 If anything, the roads and traffic have gotten worse.  If you haven’t been here, you wouldn’t believe it anyway no matter how I try to explain it.  The roads are so full of holes that roads is not even the proper word to use to describe them.  I have been traveling around town on the back of a motorbike – piki piki, but have decided that it is just too dangerous.  Most drivers don’t have a license and/or are drunk.  So I have been using tuk tuks – a small covered 3 wheel cart that holds about 3 people.  Very bouncy.  Safer, but not safe.

 But at work, the KMET vehicles take me where ever I need to go which is convenient and safe for me. 

I continue to learn Kiswahili and can get along pretty well,  and I have also learned some of the local language from this part of the country – Dhluo, the language of the Luo’s (Obama land).  But the most fun is to mix them up with English.  I have always been good with language and like to learn.  Even though I am a better speaker, Hinda always is able to understand pretty well even though she can’t speak.  So, after 56 years, we are still a good team.

Even though I am doing good work that I enjoy, I miss home.  I can’t work much past the midafternoon because I am a fast worker because of my “can do American culture” compared to a slower pace of life here, and the heat tires me out.

I have been doing a lot of fundraising which has been going well; negotiating contracts with contractors and other suppliers and “fundi’s” – workers.  So at the end of the day, am raising money and trying to not spend too much.  It is pretty much expected here to negotiate and bargain, and after so many years of this, here and around the world I can do ok at it.

The mobile phone system leaves a lot to be desired,  Most people carry two phones with two different numbers from two different carriers, but that doesn’t always mean that the phone works,  Last night, no phone service from 4pm to 7am this morning.

I do most of the cooking at home, but a lot of the meals are made from scratch so it takes time – except breakfast.  Have learned to be a pretty good cook I think.  My friends seem to like it, at least they say so, but also take extra portions.

And now a word about time.  You know there is African Time (I don't mean a time zone), and there is "mzungu" - white or American time.  "Ne'er the twain shall meet".  It is difficult to get used to sometimes, especially if you are a bit compulsive like me, and usually get to places early, rather then late.  So they say, "There is no hurry or rush in Africa", and a truer statement there never was.  I'm have learned a lot of things but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to be comfortable with African time.  On the other hand?  Maybe I should.  But then, I wont get as much time.  As George Bernard Shaw once said, "Give me enough time, and I'll write you a short enough letter".

So, I'm sitting here in my too hot office area, well past 2pm waiting for the bank to have called more than an hour ago to tell me the status of the KMET loan I have negotiated, and the most recent status update is "bado bado"  Not yet!  So I'll just have to wait as hard as that is for me.

Finally, like you probably, I am following the election back home and don’t know what to think.  I listen to the BBC radio news and also follow on line.  One week from today it will all be over and so I will come home to a new President Elect.

Well, maybe enough rambling for now.  I’ll be home at the end of November.  I miss home, friends, family, and dog Chico!

Love,
Peter  (Omosh – the name everyone calls me here at work.  Omosh is a nickname for Omondi – one who is born early in the morning – I was)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Necropolis, Samarkand


Registan Square Samarkand


Babushka and Grandson Khiva


Flowers for First Day of Schoo,l Bukhara


At Madrassa Site, Samerkand


Bride and Groom, Samarkand

 
 
 

Greetings at Bazaar in Samarkand


Man at Tomb of Tamur in Samarkand


Woman in Bukhara


Horses in Kyzilkum Desert


Yurt Camp and Morning Clouds


Norbek


First Day of School

 

Big Old City Wall and Small Man


Golden Smile