Humanity in Beirut

Friday 8th February 2019 – Beirut

Beirut was one of the stops I was most looking forward to when I set off, not only because I had never been to Lebanon, but also because it was not so long ago that sadly the war prevented all tourism here and still when you tell people you are coming they ask if it is really safe.  

It, along with the other middle eastern countries were also important in the International House story as from the beginning of the Houses they have had Arabic, Jewish, Sunni, Shia and Christian residents from the region all living side by side.  This has often involved heated debates but at the end of the day they have shown each other respect and sought to understand and developed tolerance and friendship within the I-House context.  

For someone who has been lucky to live in relative peace in the UK, seeing the bombed out and bullet hole ridden properties around the city was disconcerting and sad.  My taxi driver told me about how he and his wife escaped to Saudi during the war, but when they had children they could not afford the schools in Saudi and his wife and 3 children returned to Lebanon in the midst of the War, I could not imagine the daily worry for him and his wife through that period. Thankfully they all survived and he now had 5 grandchildren. 

It is nearly 30 years since the fighting stopped and restoration and regeneration are also everywhere.  There is a focus on design and elegance, art and food and the long and fascinating history of the country.  More than this the people are charming, we were welcomed and helped by everyone we met. 

Sandy Edmonds, Harry’s granddaughter

This stop was also special as Sandy Edmonds, Harry’s granddaughter, joined me from her home in Vermont.  Sandy is my father’s first cousin, but family politics meant that they only met a very few times.  She is the most wonderful woman, a true lover of art and people, having been an art teacher for many years in US Public Schools.  So, it was a delight to explore Beirut together.  

Main gate AUB

I do not have any information about what Harry’s actually did on this stop, but with his close connection to the Dodge family I imagined that he would have visited AUB (American University Beirut) as Bayard Dodge, was president from 1923-48 and Dr. David Stuart Dodge held various positions from 1961-97. http://www.aub.edu.lb/President/Pages/history.aspx

Ada Dodge Hall named after Dr. D. Stuart Dodge’s deceased daughter

Harry may perhaps have met with Samuel B Kirkwood the president at the time.  Originally, we were going to have the honour of meeting Mr. Khouri, the current AUB president, but he was called away on business so we did a campus tour instead. 

AUB tour by Ali, in the pouring rain, they gave us some very smart AUB umbrellas!

Our guide Ali, a current AUB student in Finance was utterly charming and showed us around the beautiful campus. 

The re-built main College Hall at AUB

The University kept going as far as possible through the war and he showed us the tunnel that allowed the medical students to get to the hospital from the campus to go on duty without going up onto the street.  Parts of the campus were destroyed including the main hall, but have been re-constructed and they even have a very funky building by Zaha Hadid http://www.zaha-hadid.com.  

Zaha Hadid building at AUB

There is an cedar grove in the middle of the campus that were planted by the founder Dr Bliss and are still standing. I imagined Harry standing by the President’s House which has the most wonderful view out to sea, or perhaps he even got to go in! 

View from the President’s House at AUB

After our tour we met up with Chicago I-House Alum Rajab Ghazzaoui, who is currently working at the AUB business school.  Over coffee he was able to explain more about the complex politics of Lebanon and the region and also the challenges of daily life in Beirut. These include electricity being rationed to 3 hours a day for most householders, unless they have a generator, the traffic and lack of public transport.  The newly formed government is a welcome sign, but the continued corruption that is endemic makes it hard to keep hope of real change, good jobs and growth. The war forced many to experience living overseas either, mostly in Europe or Saudi Arabia so they have a broader perspective that you might find in other countries.  

Coffee with Rajab Ghazzaoui

My event at this stop was to be hosted by Dirk Kunze, I-House NYC alum and his team at FNST Lebanon & Syria in their very funky office space Garage 664.  FNST is a German not for profit focused on liberal principles and political education.  They operate in around 60 countries and focus on promoting freedom and dignity in all areas of society and hold events that encourage international dialogue, rights for minorities and democratic control.  

Dirk Kunze being interviewed by the media at my event

This event was to be very different to all the others on my trip as it was open to the wider public as part of FNST’s Alphabet Series of events.  We were letter ‘H’, fitting for Harry!  The title of our event was ‘Humanity in the times of populism, the value of international networks’.  So we could weave together my event and what FNST do in their work.  

Raya Gaffer El Hassan, Minister for the Interior Lebanon

On my quest to find attendees at the Beirut event I had contacted an alumna of International Student House DC, which is part of the World Wide International Houses group, Raya Haffar El Haasan.  Raya had been Finance Minister of Lebanon and I though it would be wonderful if she could come.  To my delight she said she would.  

The panel for the discussions including 2nd from right Omar Chatah (IH NYC)

Last weekend Dirk emailed me to say that in the formation of the new and long awaited government Raya had been made the first woman Minister of the Interior.  He thought that this would probably mean that she would not be able to attend.  However, this proved not to be the case.  Raya amidst the whirlwind of her appointment, made time to come because she wanted to tell the audience how important her time at ISH DC had been in shaping her understanding of the other and how she applies this to her work.  She was totally delightful as we chatted before the event began and she and Dirk helped light the candles at the end. 

We had 50 people attend the event, I would love to say I was the draw but Raya in her new role, was that, but I got to share Harry’s idea, the I-House story and also welcome the other alumni in the audience, Omar Chatah and Naoki Takyo from I-House NYC and Rajab Ghazzaoui from I-House Chicago.  It was so lovely to have Sandy Edmonds there too to hear both from Raya but also others about how impactful their time at the House had been on their outlook and lives. 

Alumni, Raya El Haasan (ISH DC), Dirk Kunze (IH NYC), Rajab Raab Ghazzaoui (IH Chicago), Naoki Tokyo (IH NYC)

I will definitely be coming back to Lebanon, I want to see all the other things it has to offer outside of Beirut and truly hope that with continued dialogue and perseverance, the Lebanese people will feel they are living in a thriving and stable country. If you haven’t been do put it on your list. 

Story Snippets…. 

Surrogate Mothers of I-House Chicago – Rajab Ghazzaoui – Having been used to living at home whilst studying for his undergrad, when Rajab was accepted to UChicago for his Masters the thought of finding an apartment and all that entailed was daunting.  So he phoned the accommodation office and they gave him the options including the I-House.   He called them back to ask ‘one flat fee and everything is included?’, ‘Yes’ they said. He was instantly sold.  Arriving at the house he decided to take one of the student jobs and ended up working in the office of the Director Denise Jordan and her team.  They instantly took a shine to him and he ended up with not one but three surrogate mothers, who helped him navigate his time in the House. From explaining how the washing machines worked to ensuring he was eating properly or up to date with his admin, they were there to support him.  He says that he really grew up whilst he was there.  

Challenging stereotypes at Fall Fiesta– Naoki Takyo – Every year at I-House NYC they hold the Fall Fiesta, where the residents showcase culture and food from their countries.  Naoki, said that he had recently found the VHS tape of his Fall Fiesta at the House (I am impressed he still had something to play it on!) and that re-watching it he was reminded how he wanted to break the stereotype that all Japanese are very serious and have no sense of humour.  He and his fellow Japanese residents were dressed in Kimono and it seems that Takyo raised more than one laugh from the audience, achieving his goal. When I asked him and his wife about how he had done this it seems that “what happens at Fall Fiesta stays at Fall Fiesta”, but I think it involved some dance moves and showing more leg than you might normally under a Kimono! 

Appreciation of the ‘other’– Raya Haffar El Hassan – Excerpt from her speech at the event – “For us residents, ISH (International Student House DC) was a home away from home. It provided a safe shelter from the harsh realities we, as international students, had to confront in trying to adapt to new surroundings and environment. During my stay I was fortunate to have built strong and lasting friendships with many of my co-residents. Friendships, I am happy to say that I still have to this day. These are the kinds of bonds that survive the passage of time. My friends were from all over the world – Nigeria, Colombia, Peru, Morocco, Eritrea, US, Denmark, just to name just a few. What a wonderful place ISH was and I am sure it still is. The bonds I was able to form lessened the feeling of homesickness and were essential for my mental and emotional development and wellbeing. I cannot begin to explain how important and life changing living at ISH was for me. The House offers a crash course in the importance of cultural diversity and appreciation of the ‘other’. It makes one re-examine engrained political and religious views and allows for the better acceptance of one another. So when I received Alice’s invitation to attend this event I did not hesitate for a minute, it instantaneously unlocked all the cherished memories I had from my time at ISH and made me jump at the opportunity to re-live them again and to meet other residents in Lebanon who might have shared similar experiences…. I believe this prepares us to become international citizens better equipped for careers in the Global market and provided us residents with a much larger perspective on life.”

Post office PS – for those that are following the Postcard saga (see Postcard blog post) – Lebanon proved the most challenging to date. Every request for stamps was met with a blank look. Whilst I was at AUB, our guide Ali said and there is the Post Office on Campus. So I popped in full of hope that they would have stamps. Well I may as well have asked for transport to the moon as I showed the man behind the counter the postcards. He asked a colleague and they decided eventually that the franking machine could provide the postage and I handed over $3. He promptly put my postcards in his drawer. I protested and he took them out and put them on his counter nodding that he would do the franking and put them in the post. I had to leave then, so I did not see that done, and I very much doubt they will ever arrive in the UK! Leaving Lebanon, I spotted a post box in near my departure gate at the airport. The only one I had seen in my time there. I made enquiries at the newsstand nearby about stamps pointing at the box and once again a look of incredulity from the cashier. After a lengthy explanation about what a stamp was, he went ‘ahh stamp, NO only outside at Lebanon Post!’

Airside post box in Beirut airport

Delights of Delhi

Thursday 31stJanuary 2019 – Delhi

Way back in the mists of planning this trip, I contacted the Executive Director of I-House Chicago, Denise Jorgens.  She is truly an embodiment of everything my great grandfather would have wanted for someone running one of the Houses.  She immediately embraced my project and when she saw that one of my stops was Delhi, offered for the University of Chicago Centre there to host a tea as my event. https://www.uchicago.in/about-us/

Aditi Mody, who runs the Centre, is an I-House Chicago alumna and so here and her team were equally enthusiastic.  

So, it was that I was warmly welcomed to the U-Chicago Centre.  Being India where attendance is sometimes problematic, even when people have said they would come, Aditi and I were quite prepared for it to be just the two of us having a lovely cup of tea. However, we had the most delightful crowd of alumni and friends of I-Houses join us as well as Bill Mitchel Associate Provost and Exec Director of UC Arts, who was visiting India for the first time. 

I had been particularly excited about meeting two of the I-House NYC alumni, Mr Narendra Jain, who had emailed me that he had met Harry in 1966 when he came to Delhi on his world trip and also Professor P.B. Mangla who had also met Harry when he was at the I-House in the early 1960s. 

Mr. Narendra Jain

Mr Jain, arrived looking about 20 years younger than his 91 years, clutching a plastic folder of carefully preserved papers that he had saved since Harry came 53 years ago! It turned out that Harry’s visit to Delhi was his first ever to India. It was used to inaugurate the Delhi alumni chapter of the I-House and Mr Jain, had the list of names and addresses of the 60 people who became members at that time.  He also had press clippings and the letter outlining Harry’s arrival and the dinner that Harry was to attend to inaugurate the chapter, of which Mr Jain was going to be treasurer.  Finally, he shared a hand written Christmas letter from Harry which had been sent to alumni which he wanted me to keep.  I was quite simply overwhelmed and touched by this wonderful man and the fact that he had so carefully preserved these memories over all these years. 

There used to be a passport to the world of alumni you could visit
Harry’s Christmas letter to Friends around the World in 1977

I have been staying at the YMCA Tourist Hostel which is perhaps not what one would call luxurious, there is a bed and hot water and a simple breakfast.  However, it must have been fate to choose there as it turns out from the letters that Mr Jain shared that that is where Harry’s dinner was held in 1966, with the US ambassador Chester Bowles and his wife attending.  The dinner cost 15 rupees per couple!   (Harry had worked for the YMCA in his early career so that may have had some link too.)

Prof. P.B. Mangla, had come to study at the Library and Information Technology school at Columbia on a scholarship in the early 1960s which set him off on a career that saw him live in 8 countries and travel to over 50. He has long been associated with University of Delhi and held many positions including Dean of the Faculty of Arts.  His time at I-House helped him navigate the cultures of the countries he worked in and visited and as he recounted often found him meeting I-House alumni in far flung locations.  

Vikram Mathur (ISH), Prof. P.B. Mangla (IH NYC)

It was very lovely to have a mix of I-House NYC and Chicago alumni which allowed them to share stories and similarities and differences between the Houses.  We were also joined by Vickram Mathur who lived at ISH London and is now one of their Trustees.  The ISH alumni are very active still in Delhi (and elsewhere), at a recent event they had around 60 attendees.

After I had shared some of mine and Harry’s story, we went around the room so everyone could introduce themselves and share some of their I-House stories.  I always love this bit as with a range of ages and careers it is so fascinating.  Once again the emotional connection to the Houses as a homes away from home, even many years after leaving was washing around us as well as the images and stories from lifelong friendships made over food, whilst dancing, playing ping pong or surviving snow storms in Chicago.  

Lots of candles at this stop, we had Mr Jain and Prof Mangla light them
Arant Nath – Editor of the Caravan giving me his book

I left the U-Chicago event with a huge smile on my face, so glad to have met such wonderful alumni and so touched that Harry meant so much to those who met him.  

My next stop was a Speakers Dinner for the One Globe Forum https://www.oneglobeforum.comwhich was being hosted by Harjiv Singh an NYC alum. He and his German Sakura Sweetheart wife, Julia, met at I-House in the 1980s.  Julia had taken me out to lunch the previous day and had shared their love story, which has partly informed her first novel ‘Leap of Faith’. https://www.amazon.com/Leap-Faith-Julia-Regul-Singh/dp/8129124807?fbclid=IwAR1lRftV0nlwfyqdWvrJjACaK5iGwmhwx_R-Bjp7TEZo5w3rGWQZ70h6uGg  Julia was 24 and coming to do her Masters in Urban Planning at Columbia.  Arriving at I-House the first person she met after being greeted by Romeo on reception was Harjiv.   She went up in the elevator to her floor and as the doors open there was Harjiv and his roommate in their room opposite ‘checking out’ everyone arriving on the floor. Despite Julia’s view that she was too young to get into a serious relationship and consider marriage, romance blossomed and they now have 3 children and are happily navingating a wonderfully complex cross cultural life in Delhi.   Because Julia was not always to be found in her room at I-House, it seems that it was used to accommodate a variety of visitors, many of whom I met during the evening, which gave others the opportunity to experience the House even if not official residents!

Harjiv and Julia Singh

I must also mention the lovely dinner that Anil Chauhan and his wife took me for the night I arrived in Delhi.  Anil, also a NYC alum, was off to Bangalore on business so could not attend the other events.  Anil promotes India Biotech and was wonderful at bringing me up to date with India politics and economics.  Anju teaches home economics and so was a brilliant guide to try all the things on the buffet that I would not normally have done.  I went back to my hotel feeling very full. 

Anil and Anju Chauhan

In the press article Mr Jain shared, Harry is quoted as saying “This is is my first visit to India. I have been round the world three times by ship but never touched an Indian Port.  I now regret not having been here before and not being able to stay long enough now.  I’m too old to cover the whole country, but perhaps in a year or two I will make a special trip to India.” Sadly, I don’t think he ever did but he was certainly warmly welcomed on his visit.

Story Snippets…

Chai and Samosas– Shahana Basu – Chicago I-House has culture hours and one of the ones in Ishaan’s time that was most popular was the ones hosted by the Indian residents which featured Chai and Samosas.  She also recalled how when the I-House Chicago was under threat of closure the alumni rallied round and reversed the decision through a concerted campaign of letter writing about the importance of the I-House to the student life at the University. 

International Students’ House Delhi– Tista Bagchi – Tista shared the work of Anjani Kumar Sinha Ph.D (1935-2018) who set up International Students’ House at Delhi University and modelled a lot of activities on the I-House in Chicago where he was a resident in the late 1960s. Mr. Sinha died in 2018 after a career which saw him promote the I-House ideals of tolerance, understanding and international friendship. 

House Hunting – Sonal Shah – When Sonal arrived in NYC to study she was all set to find a flat to live in for her time there. She had looked around and had found a potential flat mate. However she then heard about I-House from friends. Encouraged to apply she was excited when she got a place, but slightly worried that the potential flatmate would be annoyed, however apparently she was very understanding and so Sonal was able to go off and enjoy her time at the House without feeling bad.

A Bengali Welcome – Aditi Mody – When Aditi arrived at I-House Chicago on her first day to her surprise she was welcomed by the then President of the I-House, Professor Ralph Nicholas, in perfect Bengali. Aditi had grown up in the State of West Bengal speaking Bengali so Prof. Nicholas made her feel immediately like I-House would be home for the next few years. Prof. Nicholas area of expertise was in South Asian societies and cultures with an emphasis on Bengal. Aditi did say that her Bengali heritage may have been why she often enjoyed meals with the Professor and his wife during her time at the house, creating warm wonderful memories. https://anthropology.uchicago.edu/people/emeritus-faculty/ralph-w-nicholas

Thai Trip Inspiration

26th January 2019 – Bangkok

Harry’s round the world trip in 1966 was inspired by a Thai gentleman – his name was originally Toa Amranand and subsequently changed in 1915 to Luang Nathanbanja as he was honoured for his work by his country. He was a member of the Intercollegiate Cosmopolitan Club from 1921-23 while he was studying Political science and public law at Columbia.

Phyla Vidura-Dharmabinet

Harry set up the Cosmopolitan club as a result of the success of the original Sunday Suppers. He wanted to be able to support newly arrived international students and also to give them somewhere to socialise, debate and connect with each other. It was seeing the success of the interactions there that led Harry to the idea that he needed a way to have the students live together to really benefit and foster the understanding, tolerance and international friendship that was his vision.

Luang was given the title and name Phya Vidura Dharmabinet by the Crown in 1929 and served his country in a variety of roles including Judge of International Court, Director-General Legal and Vice-President of the National Assembly. Harry must have engaged Phya in the I-House idea as he was a member of the Building Committee for I-House NYC and laid the corner-stone of the House.

Even when he returned to Thailand, his correspondence with Harry must have continued over the years as Harry describes Phya asking in his Christmas Card for him to come and visit Bangkok and Thailand.

Over 40 years after he left New York, Harry was still on Phya’s mind and realising that Harry must now be in his 80s he offered to pay some of Harry’s expenses if he would come and visit him. Never one to turn down a funded trip to meet alumni, Harry of course said yes and as he was going as far as Bangkok he decided to make it a world trip, the one I am re-creating.

So here I am in Bangkok. This is where my timeline and Harry’s start to diverge slightly as Harry spent two weeks staying with Phya and his family. He describes Phya living in a small palace with a lovely atmosphere and how he was a ‘connoisseur and an expert on the raising of orchids’.

Researching anyone with a Thai name has proved challenging, they can be spelt differently in english script and decedents often have very different names. However with persistence I have narrowed it down to a name and a location in the same area as the Bank of Thailand complex off Sam Sen Road and the family surname today.

I have written a letter of gratitude to the decedents of Phya, that he funded Harry’s trip which has then become the inspiration of my trip and led to the already unbelievable experiences of the last 25 days and those still to come.

My 15 Baht boat ticket

I wanted to hand deliver the letter to the address that I had, not because I expected the relatives to want to see me but more so I could see where Harry had stayed. So I set off on the river boat from Sathon Pier to Thewes Pier, enjoying the riverside world of temples, shopping malls, tumbledown warehouses and homes large and small as they flashed by.

Leaving the Pier, I walked along the canal down to Sam Sen Road. The canal is lined near the main road with stalls that are like mini garden centres stuffed with beautiful plants and flowers and of course Orchids. I love Orchids anyway but these were so gorgeous, from delicate white with the palest pink edges to huge flashy purple flowers all bobbing in the breeze that was blowing in from the river.

I was drawn into the peace of Wat Noranartsoontarikaram, where a lady sat with her back to me in a loose flowered top cross legged and motionless meditating in front of the raised buddha, with the breeze rippling her hair. She looked totally at peace. I wondered if Harry had been here, I imagine as it was so close to where he was staying that he may well have been.

Wat Noranartsoontarikaram

Going round the corner onto Sam Sen Road with my letter in my hand I was hopeful that I might find the house and either post it in or give it to a smartly uniformed guard (I know the family are still well to do). However Thai addresses are far from simple and even with the help of a lovely young man at the post office and various kind people in the vicinity, it eluded me.

Having planned for this eventuality with my friend at the post office I applied the 5 Baht stamp he had sold me to the letter and decided that I would post it in the post box nearest to where I thought Harry would have been staying.

Having done that, I walked up onto the edge of the bridge that towers over the Bank of Thailand complex and took photos of the renaissance buildings designed by the German Architect, Karl Dohring which were commissioned by King Chulalongkorn for his son Somdet Phrachao Borommawongthoe Chaofa Boriphat Sukumphan Kromphra Nakhon Sawanworaphinit (some name to learn to spell!) in 1932. I believe that the Palace Harry stayed at was in a similar style and was on this compound somewhere.

The Bank of Thailand complex with the historical Karl Dohring buildings taken from the bridge

I am not expecting an answer from Phya’s relatives, but I am truly grateful for his generosity to Harry and his engagement with the I-House idea and how that lasted through his long life.

The view Harry would have had from the area he was staying across the river

Random aside….   Bangkok is very very full of tourists possibly because of the Lunar New Year, so I took refuge from the mid-day sun and the tour bus gaggles into a long building at the edge of the park by the palace. It was cool and airy and turned out to contain an exhibition about the Thai Kings. Looking for postcards at the end of my visit I turned over the picture below to find that it was H.M. King Chulalonkorm, the Crown Prince, and his sons at Taplow Court in Maidenhead (where I live), England on 7th August 1897. My great grandmother on my mother’s side had grown up in Taplow in one of the large houses there so my mum and I were imagining her great grandparents being invited to tea to meet the Crown Prince of Siam, who would have seemed very exotic. He certainly had a lot of sons!!

H.M. King Chulalonkorm, the Crown Prince, and his sons at Taplow Court in Maidenhead

Manila meet-up

20th January 2019 – BGC Manila

Bonifacio Global City has sprung up in the 20 odd years since I last visited Manila. Sitting in the 9th floor apartment of a friend from my MBA, I can see out over a park which seems to have trapeze and circus skills being taught at all hours of the day, I can see fancy restaurants, an art centre and shiny offices, not necessarily the image that some would have of Manila.

In the Early Bird Breakfast Club restaurant, I was joined for brunch by three alumni from three houses. Leah Jordano from NYC, Neil Tan Gana from Berkeley and Virginia Teodosio from Sydney.

Professor Virginia Teodosio who is still passionate about her work on cooperatives and sustainable farming

We were reflecting on Harry’s arrival in Manila as reported in the iHouse World Newsletter Vol 2. no 1. He was met by 28 alumni at the airport and amongst his visits was ‘courtesy call on President Marcos’! I am told by my new Filipino friends that President Marcos was very early in his tenure and at that point things were looking positive as to his outlook and leadership of the Philippines so it would have been a great honour for Harry indeed.

He had a packed schedule with visits to the President of the University of the Philippines, the Rice Research Institute, a dinner at the Commercial Bank & Trust Co. Building and a farewell party!

We were also reflecting on the challenges of gathering a group of I-House alumni in Manila today considering that the Filipinos have been a strong presence in the resident group right from the start of I-House NYC in 1924. Filipinos students started to arrived as pensionados (or sponsored students) in universities like Colombia and NYU in 1903. Between 1910 and 1948 14,000 Filipino students came to study in the US, with many choosing the West Coast universities, and so some would no doubt have lived at I-House Berkeley.

In Chicago the 1940 census recorded 1,740 Filipinos living there and the majority are cited as having come to study “to acquire the American Diploma they believed would boost their place on the Islands’ ladder of success.” So all three original I-Houses have strong Filipino connections.

We continued my candle relay handing over the Taiwan candle in a Taiwan Beer Glass that Grace Hong gave me in Taipei, to Leah who had bought my Manila candle. It seems that Manila Wax Commercial have the monopoly on candles in Manila and Leah had chosen one of their Yellow ones (they come in White, Red or Yellow). I was also able to give Virginia and Neil one each of the tea light candles that Tudor had bought to the Taipei event.

Leah had also kindly bought me some very tasty dried mango…

I then had a very lovely and unexpected afternoon of sightseeing with Neil, who took me to the newly refurbished Natural History Museum and to see the sights of Rizal Park, which on a Sunday afternoon was packed with families enjoying their afternoon. Our trip led us to discuss the joy of spontaneity which Neil said is a big feature of the I-House experience, where by joining up with people and saying yes to doing things it opens up new understanding and builds international friendships. Just as Harry had imagined it would.

Sources: Unintentional Immigrants: Chicago’s Filipino Foreign Students Become Settlers, 1900-1941, Barbara M. Posadas and Roland L. Guyotte, Journal of American Ethnic History Vol 9, No. 2 pp. 26-48

The Filipino Diaspora in the United States July 2014

International House Japan

13th January 2019 – Tokyo

International House Japan, is part of the I-House family but is not an I-House as most of you would know it. After New York, Berkeley, Chicago and Paris were completed, Tokyo was high on Harry’s ambitions for having an I-House and it seems that the educational establishment in Japan was also keen. So in 1937 Harry set off to Japan on the invitation of the Cultural Relations Society in Japan. He spent 3 months in Japan working on finding a site and drawing up plans. He also returned in 1939. Unfortunately due to the outbreak of WWII the plans were put on hold much to Harry’s frustration.

In the post war era Kabayama Aisuke and J.D Rockefeller III revived the idea and in 1955 International House Japan was opened. It is a cultural centre with accommodation for its members, a library and a cafe and restaurant open to the public with the most beautiful garden.

Despite it being winter in Tokyo it was warm enough to open all the doors of our conference room and sit outside to share I-House stories. My visit to Tokyo had co-incided with Denise Jorgens, the current Director of I-House Chicago’s visit. So Denise and her husband Anil Trivedi, who is both an NYC and Chicago I-House alum, were able to join the event and share their first hand experience of running a House.

Mami Urano, arrived in the most beautiful Kimono in our honour, it was a family ‘hand me down’, or to me just exquisite.

Mami had also bought the relay candles for the event which were hand painted with Sakura (cherry blossom).

Despite the small but perfectly formed size of the group discussion over tea about the spirit of I-House was lively and full of stories. Thank you to all my new Tokyo friends.

Story Snippets…

No Norwegians – Anil shared that at a candle ceremony the different country groups were gathering so they could say the pledge in their language and a Pakistani was organising a group to say it in Urdu and invited another Pakistani man to join them. The man looked around and said that he saw there were no Norwegians represented and as he spoke fluent Norwegian he would like to say the pledge as the Norwegian representative.

The Kissing Bench – My partner Chris was sharing the story about how the doors between the men and women’s accommodation at Berkeley I-House were mysteriously removed in the 1960s and never went back up, which was followed by Denise sharing that at I-House Chicago there is a ‘Kissing Bench’ as this was where many a kiss was shared before the couple had to go their separate ways into their part of the building (men and women being housed apart). Anil then shared that those using the bench were those not willing to pay the 50c bribe to the desk staff for a blind eye to be turned…