Right Place at the Right Time

Afghanistan, 2009

We keep busy almost every minute with meetings of all types. One of the highlights a couple of days ago was listening to Soraya director of women’s rights in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. She was extremely energetic with a sparkle in her eye. She spoke of the work they did to protest and successfully change the Siai (forgive my incorrect spelling) family law. She invited us to attend a women’s conference Afghanistan – India – Pakistan Trialogue for Peace that just happens to be while we are here. So yesterday we attended the opening and met with many different people during a tea break and lunch. The day before yesterday we visited Shinkai Zahine Karokhail, a member of the Afghan National Assembly, in her home experiencing her dedication to women using her position to prevent unjust laws from passing for women and to create a better position for women. It surprises me just how much access we have had to these people. Must get to breakfast to give me energy for the days activities.

Beautiful People

A twenty-five year old mother.

Afghanistan, 2009

Afghanistan – In Love Again

Afghanistan, 2009

Our group has arrived safely in Kabul and we are staying in a nice quest house with a beautiful open court yard surrounded with morning glories, roses and a large bird aviary filled with chirping canaries. It really is good to be back. Yes I can see many changes beginning with the new airport built right next to the old one – lots of marble. Customs was very quick – only a few on the plane and not many foreigners. I recognized much and yet recognized very little. The landscape is the same with many more glass covered taller buildings that have been here four years ago. The approach to the airport is a newer 4 lane road and there is much road construction to deal with the terrible traffic.

Our guide and driver are experience and knowledgeable. Are heads are being filled with very candid discussions with NGO’s, members of Parliament, business people….. Mush more to write later. Our days are so full that is difficult to find the time to write.

I wanted to give you a flavor of the beauty of the Afghan people from some photos taken in a tent city across from our hosts for an amazing dinner with ministers form the government, journalist, members of the royal family…..I get a head of myself. The poverty is heart wrenching. Sorry for the tease but I must get to breakfast.

Speaking at Bogota Conference

The promised photo of me speaking in Bogota.

Brief Account of Speaking in Bogota

Bogota, Columbia

For those that have been following this post before I go on to the second leg and original reason for this post, I will share with you my experience at the conference Museum communities and Reconciliation. I spoke on the second day of the conference after participating that morning with all the participants and donors in a open discussion. We had been handed the day before our assigned questions and I had the opening one concerning weather I thought that museums could act as truth commissions? I had practiced my talk that morning adding changes based on the previous days participants clarifying and giving a few more details. Then I panicked, “What was I doing there amongst all the participants that were dealing with life or death as they spoke out for truth in their communities and created memory space and museums for the disappeared in their communities. So I called Frank, my husband, almost in tears out of how humbled I felt. With his calm voice, my feet once more planted firmly even if a bit shaky on the ground grabbed all my stuff so that I could check out, met my friends and headed for the museum and the morning discussion. It was a fascinating open debate with numerous views. To summarize we most felt that museums were not truth commissions and should not take the place of but could act very responsibility to give truth and open the publics eyes to discuss and experience difficult and troubling concepts and issues surrounding specific events and that we hold a great deal of responsibility to collect information relating to these events making it available to the public and perhaps the very truth commissions that might arise.

The afternoon talks took place in a larger hall in a library for a large Columbian Bank one of the sponsors with video conferencing to several other communities. After getting off to a late start realized that there would not be time for me to participate in the question and answer period and that I would respond later via email so that I could leave immediately to catch my flights to JFK/Dubai/Kabul. The participant before me was a very sweet Dominican nun who unfortunately like all of us had a large subject to cover in 35 minutes and went over her given time. My talk went well and as you can see from the two photos [one in this post and a second in the next post] to an audience of approximately 250 to 300. From the well wishing and thanks I received as I left the hall I felt blessed and sent on my way.

Jorge the driver to the airport was waiting and we headed off literally in the sun set for a traffic jam, crazy but safe driving to the airport to arrive on time to be checked and rechecked an pat searched before arriving at the gate meeting a women born in Lima, Peru who now lives In New York City who had watched the towers fall. I told her of the Tribute Center and she felt that it was time to visit and find her own sense of peace

First Day in Bogota, Columbia

Bogota, Columbia

Arrived in Bogata, Columbia at 5:30 this morning to watch the sun rise as I was driven by Jorge who picked me up to take me to the hotel. The hotel is close the ridge of Mountains that are on the east side of the city. The conference, Museos Comundades y Reconciliacion [Museum Communities and Reconciliation]. Today the three of us that have arrived – Professor Ciraj Rossool from the History Department of University of the Western Cape, South Africa; Phil Gordon, manager of the Aboriginal Heritage Unit, Sydney, Australia; and yours truly – had a really good lunch in a small cafe on the corner of a cobble stone street. Great conversations over lunch discussing repatriation, working with various communities, communities from conflict, the history of Columbia and what Cristina and others hope to see happen and the role they are playing. I am learning constantly. Also seeing the similarities of much to do and little funding and few and fewer staff and yet the ideas and what is being accomplished is amazing. So nice with the diverse accents in the conversation mix.

We have had a beautiful blue sky and fluffy cloud day. I wandered some around the hotel this morning through a very manicured park. The city of 7 million people seems quite quite considering.

We also had a lovely tour in English of the Gold Museum full and I mean full of beautiful Pre-columbian gold artifacts. With my love of Peru and understanding of the shamanic traditions I was seeing many transition pieces of half man half bird or jaguar or frog or bat. Some pieces were very tine and others large but each had an amazing amount of detail.

The organizer of the conference is taking us to another part of the city for dinner this evening and we will be meeting more people tomorrow for a discussion among the panelist for the conference.

I am very honored to be representing the New York State Museum and the US. I met the women from the US Embassy funding this trip for me. Also over lunch got the questions about President Obama and what did I think……

must get ready for dinner.

Fund Raiser Success/Getting Ready


Thank you to all those who have supported this project. With all your generous donations I have raised enough to pay for my plane fare and a portion of the trip expenses.

I will now be leaving in the wee hours of the night/morning of September 22/23 for of all places Bogota, Columbia. Now you say, “Where did that come from? I thought she was going to Afghanistan?” I am with a three day stop to deliver a paper for work. I work at the New York State Museum with the World Trade Center collection and will be talking about how exhibits can assist with the reconciliation and healing from a tragedy. Other panelist are from the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam; Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. So Needless to say I am working on my talk which needs to be written for simultaneous translation.

I will be arriving in Kabul on September 27th. Still no specific on what we will actually be doing in Kabul. This doesn’t entirely surprise me. Business is handled differently in Afghanistan. At the moment the delegation will be given a dinner to meet with past and present government ministers, NGO heads and Kabul intellectuals on the evening of the 28th… something I never would get to do on my own.

My biggest process right now is packing for two different places and with all my camera gear staying within the weight limit. Perhaps the next entry will be from Columbia.

Witnessing for Peace

Afghanistan, 2004

One day you see a friend. The next day you see a brother.

I will be returning to Afghanistan September 25, 2009 for almost one month. As with my previous three journeys of discovery since my first encounter in Afghanistan in 2003, I will be witnessing and gathering information from the people I meet concerning the current situation in Afghanistan. It has been almost four years since my last visit to Afghanistan and much as happened in that time. What we hear from the local media and government agencies does not address the everyday lives of the Afghan people. We hear much about the effects of the continuing war and little about the programs and projects that strive to support and assist the day-to-day needs of the Afghan people.

The first part of my journey I will be traveling with a small group from Codepink, a women initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect our into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. Codepink rejects foreign policies based on dominance and aggression, and instead calls for policies based on diplomacy, compassion and a commitment to international law with an emphasis on joy and humor. This delegation seeks to enhance understanding of Islam and Afghan culture as well as the role the Afghan people want the U.S. to play building a lasting peace in Afghanistan. Participants will return with a first hand understanding of the political and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and experience the rich cultural heritage kept alive amidst more than thirty years of conflict. I am volunteering my photographic services to this program and will be making a record of our experiences as travel in the country. We will be visiting a women’s hospital and several development projects outside of Kabul. The itinerary has not yet been finalized.

During the second part of this journey I will volunteer my photographic services to National Organization of Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR), and I will be staying with my dear friends Tom and Libby Little who have spent the past 30 years of their lives working with and developing this program. NOOR has been providing eye care to the people of Afghanistan since 1966 and provides the majority of eye care in the country. The program is involved in all levels of eye care and includes a strong training component. NOOR is a model program of teaching, guiding and empowering the Afghans to develop their own eye care programs throughout the country.

As time and safety allow, I hope to visit some of the programs that have been started by and/or assisted by family and friends of victims from September 11, 2001. They include girl’s schools, orphanages and programs for widow women.

Because of my continued interest in clothing and textiles I hope to visit some of the women and men as they carryout their traditional handcrafts of embroidery and carpet weaving. This will be combined with a visit to the Turquoise Mountain Foundation’s Center of Traditional Afghan Arts and Architecture where master craftsmen train the next generation of artisans in woodworking, calligraphy, and ceramics.

Each of these interests fit together as a jigsaw puzzle to inform of the current conditions. My heart will be open to learn from the unexpected.

The cost of this fast approaching journey­— fees, airfare, photo equipment and supplies, housing, food, local transport and translators — is approximately $5,000.

I would be grateful for any sort of contribution, large or small, whether money and / or prayers. I welcome your suggestions about making this journey. You can also help by organizing a showing of a digital multimedia presentation or photographic exhibition after I return this winter or in the spring. Please visit my web site (www.globalvillagephotographer.com) for examples of my photography and writings concerning Afghanistan. As the conditions allow I will be writing a blog while I am traveling (globalvillagephotographer.blogspot.com).

Donations can be sent to Connie Frisbee Houde, 22 Elm Street Albany, New York 12202 and/or look for an announcement concerning a fundraising event in mid September that will include the sale of my note cards and an auction of some of my Afghan photographs.

In gratitude,

Connie Frisbee Houde

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Artist’s Statement

My goal as a photojournalist is to depict the spirit and sacredness of people and their surroundings. The cultural heritage and way of life of many different people are often threatened by global events, war and industrialization. I focus on the nobleness of these people and their lands as they strive to keep their autonomy, culture and community alive. While each group maintains its own cultural identity many attributes, expressions and concerns of living are universal, creating a sense of brotherhood, a global village.