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Tag Archive: "travelogue"

Brazil, a dream world of rainforest

Narration by: Shariq Ali
October 14, 2011
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[slideshow]

“Ladies and Gentlemen! This is your pilot speaking. Because of the heavy rainfall and clouds causing reduced visibility, this is our third and last attempt to approach the Sao Paolo Airport . If we do not succeed this time, this flight will then go to Argentina “
This announcement met the pin drop silence inside the fully packed 707 Airbus flight of Air Canada which remained in a continuous state of tilt and descent for the next 15 minutes or so after this announcement.
I glanced through the window in search of an expected view of high-rise down town of Sao Paolo but my eyes met heavy clouds and fog all around.
Soon the scene ended like a melodrama and our plane had a successful and masterly touch down on the runway.
The sheer silence was broken by a sudden round of applause and cheers as a  tribute by the passengers for the skilful job by the pilot. It was no doubt a tough landing and seemed more of relying on faith rather than the computerized navigation on the part of the pilot.
While waiting for my luggage, I felt extremely exhausted. I just wanted to lie down and sleep somewhere, anywhere.  My plan was to explore and look around Sao Paolo on my way back to Karachi from Fortaleza .
I was continuously travelling for the last 32 hours. From Karachi to Dubai to Frankfurt to Sao Paolo. My ordeal was not over yet.  After a two hours stay at Sao Paolo airport, I was due to take another three hours local flight to Fortaleza where I was due to deliver a talk as an invited speaker in the International Society of Burn Injuries (ISBI) meeting.
The only few hours rest I took was at the Frankfurt airport, an intermittently broken sleep on a comfortable couch of a very busy and noisy airport.
About an hour stay in multi-faith prayers room at Frankfurt airport was relatively peaceful.  As expected, McDonald’s fillet-o-fish was no different from anywhere else in the world. America ’s commitment to maintain the tasteless global monotony was remarkable.
Finally the busy luggage area at Sao Paolo airport was deserted.  Luggage belt was stopped.  A clear indication that my luggage has missed the flight.
Girl at Air Canada desk seemed efficient and pretty familiar and prepared for the situation. Although she uttered few words but noted down hotel address and  gave me 50 US Dollars equivalent of local money and a white cotton bag. Later I discovered that it contains a long-legged shorts, a T-shirt and a toiletries pack.
Plane was relatively small from Sao Paolo to Fortaleza but was jam-packed with a mix of people. Apparently from different background of race, colour and ethnicities, but carrying and behaving with a single proud title of being a Brazilian.
It was a bright post rain sunshine through the clouds. The view from my window during the take off was of a typical south American pollution free, fresh and wide open land having scattered patches of greenery peeping through the clouds. My imagination painted these green patches as thick, humanly unreachable Amazonian rainforests. No doubt brazilian jungles are fascinating and can capture anyone’s imagination.
There are enough archaeological evidences that these lands were initially inhabited by indigenous natives probably migrated from America and Asia when two continents were connected by land . They mainly survived on the coastal lines or on the river beds.
When Portuguese came to Brazil in 1500 AD, they brought various diseases with them e.g. measles, chicken pox, influenza and tuberculosis. Having no pre-existing immunity, these natives were killed in tens of thousands by these infections. This was the first gift from an advanced civilization to a primitive one. Greed, brutality and environmental recklessness then followed.
Fortaleza airport was comfortably busy but did not have the usual security concerns and tense environment one does commonly encounter at the European destinations. We passed through the long corridors with large glass windows and the impressive downtown of Fortaleza with many sky rise building was visible.
Language was a real problem. Very few can speak English and Portuguese is widespread. Fortunately the concourse had a stall with a large poster of ISBI conference and I reported there as the invited speaker.
Soon I was in a luxury hired car driving me through to the Luzeiros Hotel where my room was booked. On our way to the hotel, we went through various slum areas of Fortaleza and it was quite a contrast with the sky line of Fortaleza.
Surprisingly even these slums were comparatively well-built and relatively clean with no heaps of garbage than any of the south-east Asian or African slum in my memory. People living in these slums were mostly wearing shorts and tee shirts, noticeably clean and no one even the children were totally deprived of clothes which is a common site in Asia and Africa. Most of them were roaming around or sitting idly outside their homes and seem to have no work though.

Taxi driver fortunately turned out to be an Indian guy (about 0.5% population is Asian) and was able to speak English but no Urdu or Hindi. This was because of his two years stay and failed experience in Texas to work as a cab driver.
When he came to know that I have missed my luggage and I have a presentation to make next day, he suggested to take me directly to a very posh departmental store in Fortaleza first, in order to buy a very expensive designer suit. He was confident that I can successfully claim the money from the airline.
Brazil is now a fifth largest populous country and tenth largest economy of the world Official language is Portuguese. Lliteracy rate is 88%. Casting a vote is compulsory if you are aged between 18 to 65. Craze for football is widespread and well-known. They have won five FIFA world cups to the date and preparing and hosting another world cup in 2014. Climate is mostly tropical.
 It was wonderful to meet Tom at the hotel after a long time. We stayed and hang around together throughout our stay in Brazil. Hotel Luzeiros turned out to be a high-rise four star hotel just across the street of a very sandy and popular beach of Fortaleza. My room was on the 24th floor and through the window the entire promenade and beach was visible like a silent movie. Because of the height and glass window, it was a noiseless view.
The promenade and the beach, only a road across our hotel, was very colourful and full of life throughout the day and night. Unpolluted sea and sky colours were outstandingly remarkable. Food was of a high quality and I did not experience so much variety of options anywhere else.
People are very friendly and courteous but unfortunately very few speaks English. They are extremely good sellers. Bargain is a norm. Big shopping areas are no different from any other developed country. But these are not the places to do your shopping. Real fun are the market places with hundreds of small shops in a close area or building. Leather goods have no match world over. Me and Tom bought, shoes T-shirts and footballs for the boys.
This time the weather condition was worst for flying when our plane took off.  Plane struggled continuously against the fierce wind carrying the rain and clouds.  Finally the pilot had no option but to do crash landing in Amazon rainforest and amongst few survivors, I was the only one to come in contact with one of the indigenous tribe (approximately 50 at present still out there) who have survived through ages in these thick and remote jungles and have no contact with the rest of the world.
Then like Robinson Crusoe, over a period of time, I learn their way of hunting and survival. Amazon rainforest became my new home where giant bamboo plants can grow up to 9 inches a day. The trees are so densely packed that rain falling on the canopy can take as long as 10 minutes to reach to the ground. Sloths move so slowly in the moist tropical rainforest that algae are able to grow in their fur.
And finally the tribesman insisted and chose me to become their chieftain. I learned about 90% of those plants and their properties which are unknown to the present day scientists and human world and then finally decided to return to the civilised world once again with the discovery of using these plants for their anti cancer properties. Cancer is now treatable was the breaking news on CNN, BBC and all over the world. Press conferences, flash lights, TV cameras——ring, ring–ring,ring.
My bedside phone ring woke me up from this fascinating dream and I found myself in my hotel room. It was Tom reminding me that the coach will leave in 20 minutes time for the conference hall.
Shariq Ali
Acknowledgement for few images.
I am thankful for the following websites for few relevant images

BRAZIL Stock Photos Imageshttp://www.pbase.com/alexuchoa/favorites

Cindy & David`s bloghttp://www.travelingtexasduo.com/?p=1523

Value People, One more child in Jinja, Uganda

Narration by: Shariq Ali
June 7, 2011
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Source Cafe was the only decent place we (Interburns) found to have some reflection about the days activity over a cup of coffee in the small town of Jinja, 75 km away from Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

We ordered what we wanted and were about to be served and just began the conversation. Here comes a red softball and the two children chasing after. One was a local african street boy of about three years of age but the other boy was a European boy of almost similar age but with golden hair and blue eyes. In this remote town of Uganda, the friendship looked a bit odd.

Within few minutes we managed to uncover the mystery when RuthAnn, our Interburns colleague, introduced us with a family of Harry, Hen  and their 2 and a half year old son and a six month old gorgeous baby girl. They were accompanied by few local street boys.

We decided to come outside of the hall and sit on a table outside the restaurant just beside the main road of Jinja town and conversation began.

Harry and Hen runs a charitable organization in Jinja called  One more child . Their home is shared by thirteen orphans who lived with them permanently and in the evening, their house is a dressing room of a football club of street boys of Jinja.

On every Tuesday they serve a free meal and everyone on the street is welcome. They feed them, educate them and provide them mentoring of human values by organising schooling and playing football with them.

People like Harry and Hen are the source of inspiration for me. I thought I will share the glimpse of human decency with all of you. Attached are few photos of this encounter and our trip to Jinja.

Their website is www.1moreChild. org

Nepalese magic of leadership!

Narration by: Shariq Ali
June 6, 2011
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Dear Readers,

Being involved in Educational Workshops globally, I come across a lot of amazing people from all over the world. Our Interburns Leadership retreats and courses provide us a great opportunity to meet the real global leaders especially in lower and middle income (LMIC) countries and we mutually learn lessons of life from each other.

Shankar was one of the participant in our recently held retreat in Sylhut. There are many lessons to learn from his story.

I thought, its worth sharing it with all of you…

Dr Shankar Man Rai has established a surgical outreach team in Nepal with the help of US-based humanitarian organizations.He has helped gain treatment for more than 5,000 patients since 1992, many of them are children with cleft lips or palates or burns.

Shankar  is the son of a Nepalese army soldier and brother to four Gurkha Brigade soldiers who paid his way through school. Rai was the first in his family to receive an education as a boy. He hiked two hours every day at 6,000-foot elevations from his remote village to the nearest school.

Today, it still requires a three-day walk from his village to reach the nearest road and 18-hour bus ride to make it to Katmandu. But in the late 1970s, when Rai left home to go to college and then medical school in the Nepalese capital, he walked the entire way. It took 14 days, he says.

Shankar’s rural origins are the source of his dedication to the poor. Rai is a very modest man, but he has done incredible things in Nepal.Shankar says he spends two or three days a week visiting rural hospitals, performing surgeries and rounding up patients at clinics outside of Katmandu in 52 of the 75 Nepalese districts that remain open to travel. Because of his links with Global Humanitarian organization, Rai helps pay for the parents of postoperative children to come and stay at the district centers for extended speech and physiotherapy.

Shankar and his team are opening a small unit for Burn Care in Nepal. He has asked for the Interburns help. We are proud to help him. He along with some members of his team are due to go to Indore, our Interburns Training Centre for the SE Asia region, for a brief observational trip and training for his staff. Attached are some pics of Shankar (see above).

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