Q: What keeps you going -- especially after nearly being barbecued in Islamabad and being shot at in Jordan? What made you leave Wisconsin?
A: We really hadn't thought much about it, but we felt, why not? Wouldn't this be fun to go overseas and see a bigger part of the world? Perhaps fortunately, we went to Turkey. Found the Turkish people with whom I worked very attractive, hard-working, committed people, trying to build a modern country. It became very exciting. Psychologically, we were into it. Our youngest boy was born in Turkey, called Paul, after Paul of Tarsus, which is a village in southern Turkey. It was a very deep and rewarding experience. That convinced us that we'd like to stay in the business.
We then went out to Jordan. It was a very difficult time because that was right after the 1967 war. That was when the Jordanians and the Palestinians were battling in the streets of Amman. We had to evacuate all the dependents and many of the staff. Three or four of us stayed on to try and continue.
It was pretty bad. An assistant military attache from the embassy was killed. There was no government. It was like being in a city where if somebody came to the door to rob your house, you would call the police but nobody would answer. A civil war like that was a scary thing to be in. We were all living in separate homes in Amman, spread throughout the city. The rule of the game was -- don't carry any weapons. If somebody stops and wants your car or comes to your house and wants your furniture or your clothing, you give it to them.
Q: Did you end up having to do that?
A: The man with the gun is in charge. My car was stolen several times and after a few days returned. I can remember one time driving to work in the car. Complete silence on the streets. The ambassador had asked me to come down to the office. I got down to this traffic circle and a shot rang out. It hit just in front of the car on the street. I stopped the car and looked around to see if I could see anybody shooting. Didn't see anybody. Started in again. This time the shot hit the door handle on my side of the car. It scared me substantially. I sat there with the car stopped and thought for a few minutes "Well, this is one hell of a way to die," just sitting here in your automobile. So I didn't start the motor but coasted around the circle and went back home, calling the ambassador and telling him unfortunately I wouldn't get into work that day.
The foreign community at the time was encouraging the king to bring the army into Amman to stop the war because of insurgents against the police and the way the civilians were being hurt. The king said, "We're hesitant to do that because the military doesn't know how to fight this kind of a war with the commmandos. If they come in, they'll come in with their tanks and artillery and there will be terrible damage and loss of life in the city." So he held off until September of 1970 and then the military came. And then there was, as the king predicted, substantial loss of life, destruction of property.
Q: Your next post was Pakistan?
A: It was in 1976 that we went out to Pakistan. In November of 1979 the American embassy was attacked by large groups of people who had become incensed because of a report carried on the radio that Mecca had been attacked and the United States somewhow was associated with this. They came to the embassy and proceeded to burn it to the ground. Unfortunately, while the AID office was several miles away, my wife happened to be at the embassy having lunch. So she ended up to be one of the hostages -- 12 to 15 people.
A group of people inside the embassy all retreated to the vault. They tried to keep themselves from harm there. Whereas Anne and the group of people who were down in the American Club having lunch were taken hostage by the demonstrators. They were kept out in the middle of the compound and observed the entire destruction of all the buildings. That was a very fearful and emotional experience that we really didn't expect.
Q: How was she rescued?
A: The Pakistani military finally came to the embassy. As the demonstrators were attempting to take the hostages out from the compound and take them to the university, the military offered to assist the demonstrators in doing that. So the hostages were all put in several trucks, and proceeded toward the university. Before they got to the university, the military drivers of the trucks turned the trucks around, came back through the demonstrators and proceeded to a military camp in Rawalpindi, not far from Islamabad and kept the hostages safe in this military camp until the following moning.
Q: What were you doing?
A: In the meantime, I had thought that Anne, because she had been at the embassy, was in the vault with theeother people and was safe all this time. Relatively safe anyway. We had radio contact from the AID office into the vault. Because they had reported that there were 70 ot 80 people there, I had assumed she was one of them. It was not until I received a call about 6:30 in the evening saying that my wife was on the phone that I learned she wasn't there at all. I responded, saying "That's impossible. We have no phone communications with people in the vault." She had been through a different experience than those people. Had been a hostage, and was safe in a military compound.
I suggested she come home and she said in no way was she going to come home. She was still very emotionally upset as were the other hostages. They felt safe with the Pakistan military, under their protection, and were going to stay there until things calmed down.
It was one of those experiences I guess that you have overseas that you don't expect. It makes your life a little more rich.
Q: In hindsight.
A: In hindsight. But a very discomfiting way of going through it. Thank God there was no physical damage or harm that we suffered.
Q: Were your children around?
A: A 14-year-old, our youngest child, who was born in Turkey, was there in Islamabad at school. He had an experience similar to Anne's. The school was attacked by a group of young people. It was an international school with many Americans there. Some of the demonstrators had gone out to do damage to the school. The children in the school had all been put into the gymnasium in an attempt to protect them. Some Pakistani parents had gone out to the school. They made a major contribution in stopping the demonstrators from coming in. They helped transport the students away, delivered into various homes. The children stayed together in these homes overnight. We finally found out where they were and got them home again the following morning.
Q: So you were pretty isolated yourself?
A: It was a difficult experience.
Q: Why did you continue taking overseas posts? I'm not trying to suggest that you're bad luck or anything.
A: That was suggested when we were offered the opportunity to go to Tanzania. Some of the AID people in Tanzania said "Oh no, not him. He's bad luck." Fortunately, up until this time, the bad luck has not followed me.
I wanted to go to Tanzania because the president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, is one of the outstanding development leaders of the world today. His attempt at bringing the country ahead -- making sure that the benefits of development are spread to as many of the people as possible -- has been a very highly praised effort. He's an admirable person. I looked forward to the opportunity of learning about Tanzania.
Q: Are we giving them assistance now?
A: We have been providing about oh, $10- $15 million a year. About 2 to 3 percent of the approximately $600 million in total foreign assistance provided to Tanzania.
Q: Someone who knows you said that you have a special ability to "talk tough" to the Tanzanians -- whom you obviously respect -- and also the willingness to again "get out front and address the issues and push." Do you see yourself as somebody who's unusually frank?
A: I see myself as kind of a pushover, really. I feel there's a responsibility, however, in the foreign-assistance business, to really put things on the table. If you think that the people you're trying to help are making a mistake, you have a responsibility to so advise them. To do otherwise is not being true to yourself or respecting them. If you're not careful, you'll end up just doing lots of little things that are obviously good but may not have any significant results after you leave.
Q: Do you think this is where they went wrong in listening to donor countries? The Canadian wheat farm, the huge operation that has marginalized peasants? That they took what they could get because that was what was offered to them?
A: Well, as a matter of fact, most foreign aid officials feel the way I do. The problem of the Canadian wheat farms is not totally blamable on the Canadians, but on the Tanzanians themselves. These countries want the most modern technology. They want tractors for their agriculture. They want the most modern harvesting equipment. They want the best that is available in today's world. The problem is that many of those things are not appropriate given the other conditions in Tanzania or any other developing country. To provide trucks and tractors in situations where the country has not the foreign exchange to keep that truck or tractor going, doesn't have enough money to buy the fuel to keep it going, doesn't have enough money to keep the spare parts to keep it maintained, doesn't have the road network on which the road can run --.
Q: They don't realize this when they're seeking these?
A: Many of them will realize it but wish the problem away. They'll say, "Well, we'll get those roads built. We'll get the foreign exchange somehow to get the spare parts. Don't you worry about that. You just provide that tractor." On the Canadian wheat farms, the Canadians tried to convince the Tanzanians that it didn't seem very appropriate. The Tanzanians were insistent. Not wanting to overly interfere with Tanzanian decisions, the Canadians reluctantly went ahead with it. And that's where it gets difficult. When there is a fundamental dispute between a donor country and a recipient as to what's the best thing for them.
Q: Are there strategies that you yourself have vetoed against adamant Tanzanian wishes?
A: There are, yes. The Tanzanians came to us and wanted tractors. We said no. We will provide you with steel that you can then fabricate into plows and tools for your farmers. We strongly recommend that you use animal traction. Use the animals which are in Tanzania for your energy. Move up gradually from hoes which are used by human beings to using animals. Get the tools made in Tanzania by Tanzanians. Help them by providing steel.
They thought that we were short-changing them. That we were treating them as less than the knowledgeable and sophisticated people that they are. But we were successful, finally, in convincing them of the appropriateness of this approach. Traco Tanzaniators today are not the appropriate tool.
Q: Do you think that what they're doing is like the other 30 or 31 least-developed countries?
A: I suspect that the Tanzanians are substantially ahead of the other least developed countries. One is the education of the people. The health of the people. Very fortunate in having natural resources. It's a big country. It doesn't have the population pressures of a country such as Bangladesh. It has more resources and fewer problems.
Recently we were up in a seminar on using compost to supplement commercial fertilizer. There was a Tanzanian farmer there. He had designed a crude but effective planter and a vehicle that would dstribute his fertilizer properly. He'd done this out of his own mind. He was an inventor. He was an illiterate peasant who hadn't had the opportunity to become educated, but obviously had the talents and skills to invent and make such equipment. What was nice was the honor that was given to this man by the academic community. Here the president of the country is. The president singled him out as that type of Tanzanian who was really going to make a contribution to the country. And everybody stood back and complimented this uneducated but obviously competent man.
Q: Is there any post you'd really gladly live in again?
A: Oh yes. This is a fascinating world. Nepal would be fascinating. In Nepal, everybody walks because of the terrain and the difficulty in constructing roads. There's something very human about the fact that everybody walks. The highest official is walking on the path. The lowest laborer is walking on the path. You're passing each other and saying hello to one another. There's no big highway for the high officials to go by in their big black cars. The Nepalese are fascinating people. It would be nice to work with them. My age is creeping up on me. I don't know now whether I'll have that opportunity.
Q: How have all this series of experiences formed your children's lives?
A: There are pluses and minuses. I think they missed having one spot to call home. That's theirs. Now we try to say we have a home in Vienna, Va. But that wasn't their home when they were growing up.
Q: Do other people live in your Vienna home while you're away?
A: Oh yes. We have it rented out. That makes it a little bit difficult. Coming back and we can't go into the home again. So how can we think that's ours?
This last Christmas our oldest son came to visit us and our youngest son was on vacation from school so we climbed Kilimanjaro. That was pretty exciting. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in the world that you can walk up. At 19,600 feet there's no such other place on earth that you can get to the top without using ropes or crampons or things that mountain climbers use. The problem is the darn altitude. There isn't much oxygen. My wife and I were able to get to 16,500. My youngest son got to 18,500. It was only the oldest that got to the top.
Q: Is the United States ever exotic to you when you come back?
A: I don't have a tie to the America culture. Each time we come back it's a new experience. You say what are we bringing back? I'm bringing back a 110 power unit for an Apple computer that we had out there in the mission. Somebody plugged the darn thing into a 220 socket, and blew the power.
Q: Do you get frustrated with the general inward-lookingness of Americans.
A: I guess you always wish that the American public was a little more attuned and interested in international affairs. If you come back with slides of a foreign country, normally you can get through about 30 of them before people start to fall asleep.
Q: Even from Kilimanjaro.
A: Even from Kilimanjaro! They'll say, "How were things overseas? Where were you? Oh Tanzania. Tanzania? Now where is Tanzania? Oh yes, Africa, hmmmm. Is that anywhere near Cairo? Is that in Africa?"
And yet, the redeeming grace of the vast majority of Americans is the basic hospitality -- humanitarianism. Even though we may not know where a person's from, Americans are kind of interested in it. We're almost like the giraffe, which is the most curious animal in the world. I'm always delighted and amused by giraffes. They're always looking around. If they see a human being they come up to the human being and stare and look at you. They're curious animals. As are Americans.
Most of the people that I've met come back from the United States with a view of America that is so warm and so positive. Thank goodness it comes through, because I think sometimes we're so nasty to one another. Tanzanians come to the United States and I say, "Oh brother. If he meets some of us who aren't too pleasant to one another -- ." But in the end he comes back highly enthusiastic. "You have great people there and you're doing great things."