Dayton Club History
PORTUGAL, LISBON. Our large group was divided among 3 different cities, Lisbon, Oporto, Portimao. Great hosting; many side trips with hosts; elaborate parties/dancing; Wonderful exchange. Visited Madrid, Spain.
EGYPT, CAIRO. Final decision to travel on this exchange was left up to Dayton club since plane hi-jacking had taken place about one week before our departure date. Majority opted to go--great decision! Home-hosting; much travel--inside pyramids, camel rides, heat and dust, much shopping. J.Comer had tea with Madame Mubarek, wife of Egyptian President; our group met with U.S. Ambassador to Egypt; group meeting with Governor of Cairo in Cairo Rotunda. Exciting.
INDIA, NEW DELHI, BOMBAY. Wonderful home-hosting, parties, traveled via bus to Bombay after one week. Visited raw countryside, met with natives. Shopped. Hotel stays, made long-time friends. Several have come to Dayton.
TURKMENISTAN, ASHKABAD. One night home hosting, mostly hotels, visited collective farms; very primitive conditions, terrible sanitation. Hosts were thrilled to entertain Americans. Provided lavish "goat" meals, much vodka! Always sat on floors, but occasionally someone would borrow
a table for us! Flew to eastern border to city of Chardzhou, all desert, visited a museum. Considerable ambassador illness. Turkmenistan no longer in program, too inaccesible.
RUSSIA, IRKUTSK, SIBERIA This was an around-the-world trip. Dayton, Ohio, London, Moscow, 3,000 miles east to Irkutsk, Siberia, Khabarovsk, San Francisco, back to Dayton. Home hosted in Irkutsk, great personal adventures with hosts. Had perilous experience crossing Lake Baikal,
almost capsized. (no more trips across this lake for FFer's). Enjoyed hosting Siberians in our homes. Tremendous exchange.
THAILAND, BANGKOK, CHANG MAI, MAH HONG SON. Home hosting provided for some, others had rented cottages; wonderful hosts, great food. Bus trip to extreme northern border, almost to Mongolia. Visited leper colony, schools, festivals, women with many rings around necks, elephants/jungles; unforgettable hike through jungle, cobras. An adventure. For the brave!
BOSNIA,, SARAJEVO, l996. This was the first Friendship Force to Bosnia. Shocked by war-torn city, very traumatic experience, very cold, December winter. Many VIP's: Dayton Mayor, TV media, Club Pres., professors--36 Daytonians participated. Exchange was result of collaboration of University of Dayton, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Council on World Affairs and The Friendship Force, to commemorate First Anniversary of signing of the Dayton Peace Accords. Home hosted, hospitality was overwhelming. This experience resulted in more exchanges to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Zagreb, Croatia; FF club was developed by Dayton club in Sarajevo, as well as a Sister Cities chapter with City of Dayton.
SEOUL, KOREA, l98l--chartered plane, simultaneus exchange. l00 Daytonians to Seoul, l00 So. Koreans to Dayton. Visited Seoul, Taegu, Demilitarized Zone, near Seoul. Wonderful exchange, treated like royalty. Koreans loved Dayton. We learned about kimche(!)
USSR- MOSCOW, l982. Mission (experimental in nature). Dayton chapter volunteered--we were considered "foolhardy" at the time by naysayers. We entered through Helsinki, Finland, stayed in Leningrad several days, later flew to Moscow. Somewhat precarious due to Communist country and
government restrictions. Difficulty obtaining visas. Much scrutiny and search upon entry--strip searching always a possibility. Frightening. l50 Ambassadors, teams of l0 each, reported to team
leaders; KGB constantly watching, cameras in rooms. No potable water, drank soda Citizens fearful to talk to us. We carried cards of introduction that we had had printed in Cyrllic, very successful idea. We convinced more clubs to go.
PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, later in l982. Mission. Another volunteer trip. Entered via Hong Kong on group visa. One stolen passport almost cost us our China visit. Exciting trip, we were conducted through China by CPAFFC (Chinese People's Association for Friendship With Foreign
Countries). Great Wall of China, Beijing (Peking Duck), Canton; flew thousands of miles, visited living quarters of peasants (no home hosting); tea brigades; silk factories; artistry shops, restaurants,
Yangtze River "Cruise," natives called us "old round eyes." Media accompanied us. We could have purchased do-it-yourself acupuncture kits!Were at Tianamen Square, played with kids, blew up balloons for them. They didn't know how!
WARSAW, POLAND l984, volunteered trip. About 80 Ambassdors. Strict military surveillance. No home hosting but visited citizens, churches. J. Comer was guest of the Bishop of Poland, dinner, etc. Discussed "Solidarity." Traveled on regulated airlines by this time. Very crowded, cramped facilities on trains in Poland, slept 3 bunks high, if at all. Soldiers forced us to leave trains while checking interiors, exteriors and beneath, plus semaphors above trains with large mirrors. Leaving Poland we visited Krakow (Black Madonna); also Auschwitz death camp. Very traumatic experience. Visited Prague.
However, our excitement burst like a bubble when the British Host City cancelled without warning, and Dayton was left with over l00 disappointed, mainly-school-teachers, who were preparing to fly to England in June. Feeling like we had egg-on-face, devastation hit the future of the Dayton Friendship Force club. In fact, Jeanne couldn't project ANY future for Friendship Force in Dayton whatsoever.
However, in April, l980, Friendship Force President, Dr. D. Wayne Smith, wanted to participate in an OAC (Organization of American States) conference being held in Cali, Colombia, in May l980. But in order to be eligible for this, he needed to have some affiliation with Colombia. After much coaxing, he convinced the Dayton club to make Cali, Colombia its initial exchange. (A learning experience for both clubs, since he apparently had convinced Cali to also participate in an exchange--also its first!)
Back to the drawing board to re-recruit at least another hundred or so people to go to Colombia in just ONE MONTH! Being in May, the same one hundred people could not participate since the teachers weren't available until June. Never before, and probably never since, has such a large exchange been put together in only four weeks. Being such a fledgling group, it was amazing that another planeload of people could be recruited for this adventure.
The exchange was to be simultaneous, i.e., our filled plane would fly to Cali, unload in Cali, then fill immediately with Colombians for a flight to Dayton, where Ohio hosts were awaiting their guests. Fare was approximately $300.00 round trip. However, instead of the l00 on board, approximately l30 people were there, leaving the Dayton club scrambling for beds, hosts and other accommodations (We were traveling via chartered planes at the time.) Arriving at 8 PM, the grouup was detained at the airport by customs authorities and not released for over three hours. One passenger had passport problems; one passenger carried an over-abundance of cash, plus his many soccer trophies; and one had a switchblade in his boot. Finally, upon their release, total
chaos erupted as over 200 people attempted to find each other--host to guest and guest to host. This was only a sampling of the "adventures" we were to experience during that two week period.
At the conclusion of the exchange, 28 Colombians had disappeared, not showing up to return home. U.S. Customs and the FBI were on OUR case, accusing us of assisting drug cartels, etc. (It took 5 years for authorities to finally locate and prosecute all 28--some in Florida, some in New York, some in California.) The others who went back had purchased so many items (e.g., baby cribs,, buggies, kitchen sinks and appliances, clothing (500 brassieres), a motorcycle, etc.) the plane was totally overloaded and the excess had to be shipped separately on a later flight.
Future exchanges improved as The Friendship Force developed, but only the stout-hearted attempted the early ones with us!
In l977, at the onset of The Friendship Force (now known as Friendship Force International), President Jimmy Carter requested each Governor to appoint a State Director to develop the Friendship Force in his respective state. Unfortunately, Ohio's did not materialize, leaving Ohio without representation for two years.
In August, l979, Jeanne Comer caught an intriguing article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, telling about this new "friendship group" that promoted inexpensive travel and an opportunity to make friends in other countries. The catch? Even after signing on, one wouldn't know his destination until a few months beforehand! Curious, she made inquiries of the FF headquarters in Atlanta, GA. The Friendship Force, eager to have every state involved, wasted no time in inviting Jeanne to the Second International Conference being held there in October, l979.
This was attended by several hundred people from all corners of the world. It was an awe-inspiring experience, to meet these diverse people who were so interested in developing friendship throughout the world. Jeanne was sold! As a result of her attendance - and willingness to become involved, not only did she get the assignment to start a club, but also had an actual exchange in hand--to England, scheduled for departure in June, l980!
With publicity assists from radio talk shows, psa's, a TV guest appearance and a newspaper article or two, our first exchange was actually fully recruited and workshops completed well beforehand.