From: Chris Friedrichs [mailto:
Sent: Thursday, February 13, 1997 7:08 PM
To: Friedrichs, Martin
Subject: Here is the India report


Hello, As you can see I have returned from my trip to India and Hong Kong.
I am sending this message to various members of the family and a few friends
who might also be particularly interested.  I had two mishaps towards the
end of my trip, which I will describe in due course, but despite that on the
whole it was a very successful trip and I am glad I went.
ISRAEL: You probably heard from Rhoda already that she and Jeremy returned
from Israel on January 12.  Despite various colds and flus and the like our
three weeks in Israel, with a brief side-trip with the boys to Egypt, proved
very successful. It was wonderful to be with Ellen and Jonathan, to get
acquainted with Ellen's neighborhood in Tel Aviv, and  to see both the
kibbutz where Jonathan had spent the fall and the kibbutz near Eilat where
he has settled in to spend the coming months.  I also gave a talk at the
University of Haifa and did some research at the archives in Jerusalem.
Among other things, I was excited to discover the working papers of
great-great-grandfather Rabbi Salomon Herxheimer at the Central Archives of
the Jewish People in Jerusalem.  As you know I have some papers from Rabbi
Herxheimer but I knew that a much larger body of material had been donated
by our grandmother Didi to the Jewish archive in Berlin in 1935.  Until now
I was not sure if these papers had survived the war and if so where they
were.  They were not at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York (which has just
a few Herxheimer papers) and I knew that they were no longer in Berlin.  But
it turns out that they are in Jerusalem, having been transferred there
sometime after 1945. There was no time to do any serious work with these
papers but I made an inventory of what is there; when I have time I will
make a good clean copy of that for future reference.  And now that I know
exactly what is there, I might try to arrange to be in Jerusalem sometime to
really do some work on these papers.
INDIA: I flew with Rhoda and Jeremy to Frankfurt and on January 12, after
one night in Frankfurt, I flew to Delhi.  I was in India for just under
three weeks and went to Amritsar, Agra (for the Taj Mahal), Jaipur, Bombay
(now known as Mumbai), Varanasi (formerly Benares) and back to Delhi. I
spent hours upon hours walking in all these places and it was all
fascinating. Since it was winter, the weather was delightfully
temperate--warm days and cool nights.
The high point of my trip in some ways was Amritsar.  I was eager go there
because Amritsar is the holy city of the Sikh religion and there is a very
large and influential Sikh population in Vancouver.  The Golden Temple in
Amritsar, which is sort of the Vatican of Sikhdom, is a beautiful and quite
inspiring complex of buildings.  In 1984 this complex had been taken over by
Sikh separatist militants until they were blasted out by the Indian army,
but now the temple is completely tranquil. Amritsar was also interesting
because it was the one place I went to in India which was not geared to
tourists and indeed I seemed to be virtually the only westerner there.
Every place else in India it was more exhausting to see things because one
is constantly beset by people who want to sell you things or give you a ride
in their cab or show you their shop or shine your shoes or whatever, and one
spends a lot of time politely but firmly declining countless offers. No
doubt many of these unwanted offers reflect the poverty of people for whom
one customer might make a real difference, but these endless approaches also
arise from a cultural style of dealing with visitors. This aspect of
travelling proved quite tiring.  Still, everything I saw was extremely
worthwhile.  The staggering wealth of the Mughal rulers of India really
becomes apparent from all their lavish architecture, of which the Taj Mahal
is the most magnificent but still only one of countless examples. I visited
a few universities and found the campuses in some cases quite beautiful but
the libraries sadly deficient both in terms of their collections and in
terms of the way they are run. A lot of the time I simply wandered through
rich and poor neighborhoods trying to get a sense of the urban geography and
the street life.  I will spare you more details but it was all very
rewarding and informative.
FIRST CATASTROPHE: I followed all the usual rules for travellers in India
about drinking only bottled water and being careful where to eat and was
rewarded by having none of the traditional stomach trouble. But the day
before I was going to leave I had a catastrophe anyway.  Eating a perfectly
ordinary meal such as I might have had at home, I experienced my worst case
ever of food getting blocked in my esophagus--I was coughing and totally
unable to swallow even a sip of water for more than a day.  I was reluctant
to try to have my rather obscure problem dealt with in India so I made
provisional plans to cancel my stay in Hong Kong and fly directly from Hong
Kong to Vancouver to have the matter attended to. Fortunately on the flight
from Delhi to Hong Kong my esophagus finally cleared and I was able to
swallow again--but it had taken 30 hours (the previous extreme maximum had
been 6 hours).  Of course I have started a new round of medical tests here
in Vancouver but it is not clear that anything can really be done about the
stricture in my esophagus. So in the meantime, ever since that episode, I
have put myself on a strict diet of only liquids and pureed foods, nothing
more solid than yoghurt or pudding.  I may pretty much be on that diet for
the rest of my life, which would be an inconvenience but of course I can get
all the nourishment I need in this form and it would still be vastly better
than having that experience again.
(See also note below.)
HONG KONG AND SHENZHEN: Anyway, since I could swallow again by the time I
reached Hong Kong I reverted to my original plan of spending four days
there, visiting a college friend who has spent the last nine years living
there and in Shenzhen, the capital of the Special Economic Zone right across
the border in China itself.  Hong Kong was fascinating in any case and all
the more so because of its close economic relationship with Vancouver.  Of
course after three weeks in India I had a powerful sense of being back in
the West. I stayed at the guest house of the (English-language) University
of Hong Kong and the contrast with Indian universities was predictably
sharp: the library is superbly organized, the collection is totally up to
date, the computer catalogue works more efficiently than UBC's and so on.
We also spent a day in Shenzhen, which was even more interesting than Hong
Kong. Shenzhen has experienced what may be the most dramatic case of
urbanization in the modern world, having gone more or less from a village of
10,000 surrounded by rice paddies in 1980 to a metropolis of five million
today. The skyline consists chiefly of construction cranes. They are already
tearing down four-story buildings put up ten years ago to replace them with
20-story office towers. It was exciting to see the place.
SECOND CATASTROPHE: My friend and I were riding in one of Shenzhen's
countless mini-buses when the driver took a turn too rapidly in the rain and
the bus crashed onto its side. All the passengers were severely shaken up
though none, I am told, had major injuries. I was able to get out of the bus
on my own but then fainted briefly on the sidewalk.  We were taken to a
hospital where my blood pressure was checked and my injuries dressed and
then we were released to the hotel.  By the next morning I was OK again,
though I woke up with a number of aches that are slowly disappearing.  I had
lost both my glasses and my hearing aid in the moment of impact. Someone
from the bus company actually found my glasses and brought them to the
hotel; the hearing aid was not found but the bus company promised to
reimburse me for the replacement so I will send the bill to my friend and he
can see if he can really collect.  It seems there are lots of episodes like
this in China and they are dealt with  rapidly by handing cash to the
victims rather than getting involved in any legal issues.  But I wonder if I
will ever see any money.   Anyway, I was lucky that it was not worse and I
was able to get back to Hong Kong and catch my scheduled flight to
Vancouver.  Despite this mishap I am glad that I saw Shenzhen because it was
quite an experience to see a city practically expanding before my eyes.
So that is my report.  I think it should bring you all up to date.  Regards
to all,
Christopher

Note: Some months later the medical problem described here was substantially
resolved by a gastroscope procedure, and I am pretty much back to a normal diet.
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