Another year is passing and the holidays are just around the corner. Again we write about our own little world while history was being all around us. Our confrontation with the radical Islamic world seems to be increasing but I have to agree with our President that we need to take preemptive action because there is no alternative by which our free and open society can effectively prevent the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians by fanatic terrorists. In Michigan we have over a 1000 miles of unprotected shoreline that is readily accessible by boat from Canada without detection. Canada’s immigration policy makes it easy for terrorists to slip across. Hopefully somewhere along the line we can stop this fanaticism peacefully and let common sense prevail.
Without the snow to ski on our winter was boring and so we decided that a little trip south would be the thing to get us out of the doldrums. Thus we spent a week at the “Emerald” coast in the Panhandle of Florida, with its beautiful water and beaches and a warm sun, unfortunately not warm enough to swim. Also included was a visit to Bill’s Shanghai friend, Atta in Sarasota with wonderful evenings of recollecting our days in Shanghai.
Our great event this year was our three-week trip to Egypt in March and April. This Elderhostel trip was evenly split between Cairo and surroundings and the Upper Nile area including a seven-day cruise on the river. Our lectures on Egyptian history, religions and culture, including Modern Egypt were given at the American University in Cairo and field tours were to the pyramids, the Egyptian museum, Islamic and Christian Cairo, Alexandria, the bazaar and other sights of modern and old Cairo. I don’t think that you can appreciate the massiveness of the pyramids and the engineering feat it took to build them until you stand in front of them. The treasures of Tutankhamon are mindboggling. The effort of the United Nations in lifting the temples of Ramesses II and his Queen Nefertari at Abu Simbel to avoid their drowning in the waters of Lake Nasser is a wonderful example of how nations can work to together to save a cultural icon. Truly a modern engineering feat that again you can’t appreciate until you stand in front of those giant statues. The temples and monuments at Luxor, Aswan and up and down the Nile are overwhelming. Again and again you ask yourself: How did they carve the stone with the simple tools that they had 3000 to 5000 years ago? How did they move these giant blocks of stone? Where did they find the gold and precious stones? Even our modern inventions fade away in the light of the achievements of that civilization.
Because of the political situation in the Near East our original group of 22 dwindled down to 5. Thus we had a personal tour and in some instances were upgraded to deluxe quarters and service. Yes, there were student unrests and demonstrations against Israel and America but even though we were caught in one, we were never in any way accosted or molested, although we certainly looked like American tourists. The dislike, if not hatred of America is not surprising after you have seen the Arabic newspapers, listened to Arabic radio or watched Arabic television. The distortion of the news and the hate and venom spewing forth against Israel and by association against America is unbelievable. We have been told that there is Saudi money behind the operation of these radio and television stations and not just Saudi but royal Saudi money. Makes you wonder who are our friends and who are our enemies!! Egypt may be poor but it has the richest cultural heritage of any country in the world. It’s a must see! Despite the magnitude of what remains, too many of its treasures were stolen, lost or removed. Some fortunately can be seen in Museums around the world. When not provoked into a political or religious frenzy, the Egyptian people are friendly and hospitable. Also don’t think of them as Arabs. They were a civilized society long before there were any Arabs across the Red Sea from them.
The rest of the year pales in significance when compared to Egypt. Our summer was again mostly spent at the “Summons” on Grand Traverse Bay with sailing and tennis and entertaining children and grandchildren. On the serious side though Bill is still trying to put his Shanghai memories into a meaningful book. A rough draft should be completed by year’s end. A few clients keep him professionally in the picture. Our children are doing well and are still spread out over Texas, North Carolina and Virginia. The grandchildren are growing like weeds, are all athletically active and are doing amazing things with computers. As we think back on the “primitive” tools of our own early professional careers, let alone school, what a revolution computers have created.
This fall we visited friends in the San Francisco area and spent some time in Carmel and on the California coast, Nancy Bartlett-Lee among them. However the big reason was to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of our good Shanghai friends Nick and Vera Shlyapin with a big party in a Sonoma county wine cellar. Our own 50th is coming up next year and we intend to celebrate it with a lengthy trip to Europe revisiting those places of good times in earlier years and hopefully see some of the removed treasures of Egypt. We are keeping our fingers crossed that our health will allow us to do so. So far so good though! One of the things we could not fit in was Italy and so we took a tour with the Michigan Bar Association to revisit the splendors of Tuscany and the area around Naples, staying in small Italian resort towns. We stayed in the mountain towns of Chianciano and Fiuggio north and south of Rome respectively and did excursions from there. The renaissance cities of Sienna, Florence, Assisi, San Gimignano, and in the South, Pompeii and Capri were some of the places we visited. Again we marveled at the accomplishments of the builders and artists of that period. And so the year ends.
The snow is falling, a cold wind is blowing, the tree is decorated and the fire is warming. Its Christmas! Its quiet and our thoughts turn to our family and friends. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday. May next year bring you good fortune and good health and may it bring peace to all of us.
Bill and Nancy Sandt
© 2004 Bernd W. Sandt. All rights reserved.