Ben Oostdam story # 258


It was probably my last story that reminded me of my earlier contact with US Agencies, specifically U.S. AID and the U.S. Information Service (USIS) or USIA. Anyhow, this is a brief story of my pleasant 1989 sojourn as an AMPART.

I had hit upon the idea when I first heard about that program. Apparently the Agency sent out or invited groups of attorneys, Union representatives and the like, to meet and discuss with similar functionaries abroad or in the USA, respectively. When I enquired by phone to Mr Hugo Bayona, he was surprised to hear from a scientist, and a solitary one. Nevertheless, there was no objection to trying, he assured, and with the kind help of my then Congressman Robert Walker we secured a six week assignment to consist of three weeks of intensively scheduled events in the Caribbean (Barbados and Dominica), Syria and New Zealand, interspersed with one week at my own expense in Holland, and another in Thailand/the Philippines.

MAP of the West Indies
with major hot spots
(please click to enlarge)
I left with packs full of handouts, documents and reports as well as numerous slides.
In Barbados I was assigned to conduct a full day workshop on Environmental Science, met with the Ministers of Education and Tourism, and talked to a group of Museum members after a very thorough briefing session by USIA and USAID.
I also visited the Bellairs Meteorology station of my alma mater McGill University and took part in a geology fieldtrip to the newly opened Silver Sands Park.

Next, I was flown to Dominica to meet Mr. Felix Gregoire, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries (subsequently he switched to Labor and Public Works and presently Secretary of the Cabinet) who had orgazined the "Year of the Environment and Shelter (YES)", and had me meet with associates and a group of eager Boyscouts, as well as a fascinating Commune of Fisherman. I should not omit mentioning a fine early morning courtesy visit to the Hon. Sir Clarence Seignoret, President of Dominica, who treated me to sparkling conversation and Heinekens beer before 11:00 a.m.! USIA-8906_sched.1.jpg

I have no specific photographs of my one week visit to Holland, where I stayed with my sister Carla and her husband Hans, who went out of their way to show me a good time.

In Syria, I was met and briefed equally thoroughly in Damascus, then driven to the ancient port of Latakia, where I met a chemist who had "inherited" the function of boss of the maritime museum/ligthhouse/oceanography station and a few tons of unpacked oceanography equipment (unfamiliar to him) left over from a previous brief period of US-Syrian goodwill. I gave several presentations, met fascinating people at the University and helped produce a proposal which is still waiting for another interlude of goodwill.

antcar.jpg ant1.jpg noria_hama_syria.jpg
"Noria" waterwheel Hama
Syria-89.jpg USIA_re_Latakia-89.jpg Damascus-89b.jpg
Damascus-8907a.jpg Damascus_89aa.jpg Syria_89a.jpg

Rudy_Ben_Manila-87.jpg Here are some
photographs taken
in Manila where
I stayed with the
KLM Station Manager,
Rudy Klerekoper (left)
and his lovely wife
We made a scary
canoe trip
on a river "in flood" . . .

USIA-19890809gx.jpg In New Zealand, I appeared especially well informed because a chance meeting with the N.Z. Ambassador at a KLM party I attended in Manila, in my own time, the week before... Anyhow, I was separately briefed by numerous scientists and managers in Christchurch, Wellington and at the World's southernmost University: OTAGO. It was here I had the strangest encounters. The Chair of the Geology Department, a Penn State alumnus, took me for lunch and when I told him about my early career starting with a cruise on the WHOI RV "CHAIN" in 1969 - where I had collaborated on heatflow measurements with Clyde Lister - he interrupted me and said: "Clyde is right there, sitting by himself at a that table!" So Clyde and I met again, after the WHOI cruise in 1960 and a seismic profiling effort in Namibia in 1964 .... portobello_NZ-89.jpg

So I have excellent memories of this hectic period, because it appears USIA tries to wear out its AMPARTS. I made contacts which I kept up, especially with the most active workshop attendant in Barbados who was then an operator of Atlantis Submarine but subsequently went on to become Minister of Tourism, and with Felix Gregoire in Dominica.
Sadly, no further contacts in Syria - wished we would talk with them!
New Zealand is still up in the air, especially now that I found out that my former KISR friend, Vic Anderlini, is running a marine station there.
As to USIA/USIS, I think they were discontinued, much to my regret! I recall getting an invitation to do similar assignments at my own expense, but never got a round tuit.

LINKS: Felix Gregoire catching up with Gillian Cambers, 2002 - Syria-USA-1974
USIA - Thailand 1972 - David Gergen AMPART 1982 - Madeleine Albright -

BLO fecit 20070220 corr title 20140324 - USIA - cables and reports - stories