|Notes from the Editor
Debra Minogue Duke, 1973-74
firstname.lastname@example.orgIf you have news that you’d like to share with your friends via the newsletter, please email us. We would love to hear from you. Our goal is to pass on news about as many people in the Les Roches/Pres Fleuris Alumni Community as possible. To achieve this goal we depend upon your news, articles, and letters. We also welcome your editorial pieces, as long as they are respectful of those who may hold differing views. Views expressed by individual authors published in FOBwatch do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff. In light of the monumental Tsunami news and the related stories offered by our alumni, a large portion of this newsletter is dedicated to the Tsunami. Another newsletter is being planned for March with more information and details about the Como Reunion, who’s attending, who’s not, activities, travel arrangements etc. Hopefully all is well with everyone, their families and loved ones. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Jean-Paul Lewis – New FOB Co-Editor Named
JP’s family lineage includes his grandfather, Sinclair Lewis, the first American recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature (before Hemmingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner). Author of Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922) and Arrowsmith (1925) among many other novels. Also, there was his grandmother Dorothy Thompson. Ms. Thompson was a journalist, political activist, and columnist syndicated in 170 newspapers during the 1930’s. I only recently learned about her while reading Philip Roth’s bestseller novel, “The Plot Against America”, which describes Ms. Thompson and her active voice against Nazism during the Second World War. Finally his father, Michael Lewis, was a famous Shakespearean Broadway actor. JP has been a frequent contributor to FOBwatch by writing stories, editing and of course translating French text into English for all of us to enjoy. It’s a labor of love putting these newsletters together, and his skill, insight and professional opinion add a level of fun and credibility to the finished product. Bring your copies of his books to Como and JP would be happy to sign them – as he did last summer in Crans.
Hommage A Marcel Clivaz
That same evening at home, bad news started beaming on every television station, including CNN, BBC and seemed to get worse and worse as time went by. I then realized it was not the usual jitter being reported – and spent the rest of the evening glued to the news station. I tried to call some friends in the south but it was impossible to get through. From that evening onwards, for the next seven days, all we saw, heard and talked about was related to this tragedy. People in the south, along with thousands of tourists, were collecting bodies, searching for the missing, treating the injured and helping each other. The rest of Thailand became busy donating blood, clothes, food, water, medicine and coffins. Money also started to pour forth because cash was needed to pay for the rescue operations that involved hundreds of doctors, thousands of soldiers, volunteer students, workers and ordinary citizens that were mobilized to assist at either the relief centers in Bangkok or sent to the south to work in the fields.
Since this was our first national disaster on record, our country fell short in experience and equipment to handle anything of this magnitude. Fortunately, foreign aid started to pour-in from all over the world.
To sum-up the whole situation for me personally; none of my family, relatives, friends that I knew were injured or killed. Mike Johnson, who used to come to Phuket, was not there; Henri Noach left a week earlier, and Carl Michaelson, never made it to Thailand, thank God!
Since I speak French, English and Chinese, I went to help as a translator. My children also assisted as translators and helped the Red Cross in separating and delivering items. I am in the tourist industry, fortunately we don’t have any business interest in the south any longer, early last year our company sold its only piece of land in Phanga, which was situated between Phuket and Khao Luk, the worst hit area! The hotel donated money, clothes and sent personnel to the south as volunteers.
As for the country, there were more than five thousand killed and thousands are still missing. Damage to property, hotels and infrastructure are in the billions, and this does not include long term consequences. The damage caused by this disaster is so huge that it will take a long time before life can return to normal. On the brighter side, however, I discovered that the Thai people, to overcome this tragedy became united and contributed selflessly to aid everybody, including the tourists.
We still have a lot of hard work in front of us, but the show must go on. This is the first time I ever heard the word; TSUNAMI. I had never heard of this term and did not know what it meant. From now on, however, I will never forget its meaning and do not wish to see it again anywhere in the world! This article was written January 7- the numbers of casualties and injuries have since increased.
2005 has begun … with its good and bad sides….
With the children’s school holidays quickly approaching I couldn’t take the time to deal with my broken heart but had to come up with a contingency plan. Being the last minute, the prospects weren’t looking too good – everything was booked. Fortunately, at the last minute, December 19th, I heard from some dear old friends, who invited us down to their shining new bed & breakfast in Thailand. This was their “heaven” on earth on the shores of Phuket Island, and we were going to help them celebrate its inauguration on New Year’s Day. I can still hear my friend’s comforting voice saying “be brave and strong. I know a love that ends is very painful. But you have four wonderful children. We didn’t have the opportunity to be parents, but we’ve had the chance to give birth to this house. You will see, it’s a paradise, right on the edge of the water under dozens of palm trees; you will love it here and you will forget your unhappy love.” Things were looking really positive; I was able to book us on a flight for December 24th.
I called my Aunt Zia Stella in Rome (who many of you met in Bluche at the reunion) and told her that I was very sorry but my plans had changed and wasn’t going to spend Christmas Eve with her as usual – we’d be off to Thailand instead. Of course she was surprised and mystified by the sudden change in plans. She had already begun to prepare the meals. I tried to defend myself and recounted my sad story and that I wanted to get as far away as possible. Although sad and hurt, Aunt Zia Stella’s eighty-four years of wisdom helped her accept my selfish, painful decisions.
No sooner than I hung up the telephone I started examining my actions. The more I did the less comfortable I was. This didn’t seem right. Taking myself to a distant land to escape unhappiness was not going to solve my problem. All it would do is cause unhappiness to the one person in the world who means so much to me and my children and I couldn’t go through with it. With great difficulty, I rebooked us back onto flights to Kenya allowing us time to spend Christmas with Aunt Zia Stella and two weeks enjoying the beauties of Africa. Now I was back on track and everything began to make sense. Aunt Zia Stella was delighted. We were going to take her for Christmas Eve dinner in Rome and spend Christmas with her!
As I began to pack on the 26th to leave Rome, the news came on about the terrible tragedy in Thailand. As it turns out my dear friends were among the 260,000 people that will not wake up on Monday mornings or any mornings for that matter. There’s nothing left to complain about in life – it’s over. My two friends have disappeared, as well their bright new house. They were still sleeping when the Tsunami washed everything away. I take comfort in the thought that at least they went together, in their “paradise”, hopefully holding each other in their arms. The beach where they died doesn’t even exist any longer and the authorities say that a new map of the area will have to be drawn as soon as possible.
As I sit in the warmth of my comfortable home in Ibiza at my desk in front of the fireplace, with my children playing around me, I reflect on what might have happened had I gone through with my previous plan. At the same moment I flash back to the movie we viewed on the flight to Kenya – “Love Actually”, a wonderful masterpiece. Just the medicine I needed to cheer me up.
I wanted to share this story with you, my dear new and old friends, to help you remember as it’s helped me, not to focus on the bad side of life but consider the good things in your life. This is just my reminder that we are really lucky people. We are definitely privileged people – being part of the Bluche Family. Wishing you all the best for 2005!
An Ex-Pat’s SE Asian Experience Thirty-Something Years Ago and Reflections On Recent News
We usually had a good view from the air during the 6:00 am chopper commutes Medan to Lhok Sukon or Lhok Seumawe. Dawn is near 7:00 am as Indonesia straddles the equator. So near the equator, dawn and dusk are very short, compared to Europe/NA, where it’s more drawn out. Indonesia is an archipelago, or series of volcanic islands that sweep over 3,000 miles from northwest (Aceh) down the straights of Molacca to Java, the Sunda Sea, Balil, and on to Irian Jaya (Borneo). The western and southern coast of the big islands of Java and Sumatra are generally very steep, with isolated coves giving limited access to the sea, but with little developed road infrastructure. The eastern and northern coasts are a very flat coastal plain covered with rice paddies. You might recall that the straight between Java and Sumatra was widened by a few miles at the end of the 1890’s when the volcano Krakatoa erupted — I think the geophysicists estimate that more than a cubic mile of material was ejected, then the sea flooded the remains.
History in some sense is geography. One of the reasons the west and south coasts of the islands are so steep is that the 100 inches of rain per year, earthquakes, landslides, monsoons, typhoons and tsunamis scour the unstable landscape. What’s left is rapidly re-inhabited by folks who have limited choices – although the archipelago is 4,000 miles wide, the flat land is on the order of 5%, with a population near 200 million. Population densities of this magnitude are difficult to comprehend as well the fatalistic attitude of “God’s Will” that makes social living possible in such dense conditions.
Volcanoes, earthquakes, and extraordinary sea and tidal events are common there — surprising as it may seem to CNN employees who pose as “journalists” relaying naïve and ill-informed information.
I had two sorts of simultaneous jobs while I enjoyed my work in Sumatra. The first was to engineer and construct the multi-billion $ facilities to produce natural gas, process it to very cold liquid methane, or LNG, and ship it out to Asian buyers, in partnership with the host country national oil company, called PERTAMINA. The second job was to convey technology and our company’s work methods to the PERTAMINA staff assigned to us (aka Technology Transfer or Outsourcing). Needless to say, the economic gains from the huge project were concentrated at the high levels of the nation, and did not filter down to the needs. We often thought that 95% of the country’s GDP flowed thru the bank accounts of the top 2,000 families, while everyone else made $1/day. At least the country was self sufficient in food – thanks in part to the likes of the missionary who married us. The Reverend was in Sumatra to raise a Christian flock (Sumatra was then about 2/3 Muslim and 1/3 Christian), and also participated in Rockefeller Foundation Grants to import cubes of new born chickens, to distribute to the rice farmers and teach them how to pen them up to keep them healthy, and fatten them up for egg production. It was a long task for him. The results of additional protein were easily observed in the increased height of their children. This is similar to the Japanese experience with their first post-war generation kids who were 2-6 inches taller than their parents.
I heard today that the relief flights were delayed when a 737 hit a caribou on a runway. It’s lucky the plane was able to be moved. While we were running the quarry on the Piritu River, we trucked millions of cubic meters of gravel to build the well sites, 24 hours per day. The locals soon realized they could tether their water buffaloes in the road, so when the big Kenworth trucks ran into them after dark, they could claim compensation – if the truck driver survived. The water buffalo usually didn’t total the tractor-tandem belly dump trailer combo, unless the driver was moving over 60 clicks. I wouldn’t suggest that claims for compensation was the case in Banda Aceh this time, but I am fairly confident that airport security would not routinely exclude herded caribou from the excellent grazing along the runways — besides, caribou are cheaper than gas engines and lawn mowers, employ more herders, and the local pilots usually know enough not to hit them.
Back in 1976 it was an odd/reminiscent situation, for those of us who’d served in Vietnam. We’d jumped into Vietnam era choppers with pilots out of the movies, (Belgians with Gauloise hanging, gaunt American Sky Cowboys, French and Dutch expats), drove past people washing, cooking, making ablutions in the same ditch alongside the road, traveled over some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, 10,000 shades of green and other pastels, built a modern technological masterpiece that enriched the local national oil company by the millions per day, and yet the local economy was barely better than when the Dutch colonized them in the 1600’s. We built roads, schools, modern housing communities with hospitals, ports for the many thousand of people who worked in the plants; most of them were Indonesians after the plants started up. We were not able to develop cross island roads, as the national oil company had a monopoly on asphalt production necessary for macadam surfaces, and was unwilling to share the material. Nor were we developing a middle class, as the incumbent shopkeepers were usually Chinese, and the Muslims periodically had purges, from boycotts to business fire bombings to running “amok”. “Amok” I think originated in the over crowded Indonesian central islands. Insh’allah.
Back to resources – I have a biased view that the Indonesians certainly had the opportunity to save enough money in the 26 years they have been producing LNG in Sumatra to provide roads, tsunami warning systems and sanitary conditions for their people. That they plainly failed to care for their own is attributed to the unbounded avarice of their rulers. The army has the equipment, but they are mostly from Java, and have a Hindu/Islamic view that only their families are worthy of investments. I would think it only fair that the Suharto Family interests should donate 10 cents for each dollar of overseas aid that is given – or it should be extracted from them, as they extracted their nation’s wealth over the last 30 years. If only I were king…
I have heard the teeth gnashing from CNN that someone is to blame for the tragedy, with the usual prejudice that it is due to a criminal act of some corporation or other, and that the USA has to make it right. I would suggest that simplicity is not accuracy. For instance, the suggestion that better early warning systems could have saved countless lives, if only the previous USA administrations hadn’t been so…..etc…..etc.
Have you any idea how difficult evacuation of large numbers of people can become? The closest parallel I have is planning quarterly plant evacuations of 20,000 people used on my last big construction project in Qatar- we had a fleet of buses that could move 6,000 people. Using the same schedule and muster points as we used for the daily meal commutes to and from the camp to the plant, rehearsed every week, it still took us an hour.
Those in the isolated village Ashre, had no chance. When the tide rushes out to expose the reefs, the knowledgeable run the other way – not as the tourists who rush out to loot the coral. Do you think the people in Manhattan or Hong Kong would put up with evacuation training every month, when they firmly believe the volcano/quake/tsunami would “never get them”? Appropriate appreciation of risk and contingency planning for low frequency/high impact events would appear to be rare. Did you ever think why the palisades on the west bank of the Hudson are so steep? Hint – it wasn’t the last glacier that cut them that way, and left all the other hills rounded over. New York’s last big one was before the Dutch arrived. The next one is probably over due.
Anyway, we’ll be making donations to the relief organizations in due course, I just wish they had lower overheads and higher deliverability compared to the value actually delivered to those most in need. If most of the present USA charities had to survive on the low overheads of businesses, they would have gone bankrupt long ago–but thankfully they still survive to do some good.
Reunion 2005 – Unforgettable!
If you’re just tuning in – newsflash – back by popular demand, THERE IS GOING TO BE A LES ROCHES REUNION THIS SUMMER IN LAKE COMO. Yes, Italia!Last summer in Crans, Massimo Ciceri graciously offered to host this event. Although he has enjoyed past reunions, in the Bahamas and Suisse, he would like to show fellow Les Roches alumni friends’ real Italian hospitality! He has been formulating his plan ever since. All has been going smoothly in his planning, until he got somewhat sidetracked in December. His wife, Federica, delivered their fourth child two months early! As they were driving from Rome to Como, to their surprise, Federica went into labor in Bologna (half-way home) and delivered Martina. All is well, little Martina is home safely and growing rapidly. We are all expecting that she will be part of the welcome committee upon arrival in July, and the newest member of Les Roches’ “Next Generation”.
Of course, for a four year Les Roches veteran this was merely a small bump in the road. The foundation for the reunion is still well on its way. Here is what we have so far:
Where in the World is Lake Como?
A Good Reason To Attend Reunions
For myself, the children of my friends from Les Roches and Pres Fleuris that I have met over the years reassure me that our society is not doomed. So many times I have met members of the younger generation that I feel don’t know much nor care about the unbelievable problems that face humanity. This does not hold true, however, when I converse with the teenagers of my friends who were in Switzerland. Although our children are far more advanced in education, especially in applying technology to societal advancement, they share many of the passions, concerns and quest for perfection that we strove for over the past decades. They want to make a difference as we did. As a parent, I know how critical this attitude is, because life is so short.
It has also been a joy to watch our children form bonds among themselves so when after we are all gone, they will continue our struggle and lean on each other for emotional and professional support as we have done.
Get the Recently Released DVD of LR/PF Yearbooks from 1968 to 1973!
If any of you are interested in large volume scanning services, I can highly recommend Baystate Scanning, the firm that created the PF/LR Yearbook DVD. You can find them on the web at www.baystatescanning.com.
“The Ruptured Bridge” Takes on a Life of Its Own
Debra Minogue Duke
Sue Ellen Lewis
Marti Boone Mattia
Susan Seipel Sturgis
Celebrating Their 50th Birthdays in February
Heard on the Internet:
More visitors to New Delhi:
Congratulations to Marti Boone Mattia
PF Alumni in Vail, Colorado
Paul Wirth writes ……..
More photos ……..
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