Archive for the 1 Category


Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2013 by klustgarten

so similar to Israel

October, 2013—On assignment to produce a video for Coway, a global corporation established in Seoul 24 years ago that designs/manufactures state-of-the-art home wellness appliances.  In many ways, the company exemplifies the soul of South Korea.  
Seoul city hall park


South Korea is a miracle.  That is also said about Israel and for similar reasons. Survival is a big one.  From 1950 – 53 it was almost consumed by Communism, overwhelmed by the military might of the North in a surprise invasion.  Thanks to the United Nations, especially the U.S. Armed Forces, under the command of Gen. MacArthur the Communist North was pushed back to the original Military Demarcation Line, which still splits the country following a 1953 armistice agreement.  Israel fought back and survived a similar aggressive attack after WW II.   

 When the Korean War ended, Gen. MacArthur concluded, “Unless a miracle happens before us, it will take 100 years for the country to restore.”  That’s the second miracle.  Like Israel, it only took 30 years. 

 South Korea was in ruins after the war, its people were refugees in their own country. Families were separated permanently, cut off in the middle, their fates sealed on one side or the other of the Military Demarcation Line.

 By 1970, South Korea was actually poorer than North Korea.  Yet in just 30 years, the South became an economic giant at the start of the 21st century, Asia’s fourth largest economy. 
Seoul skyscrapers
How this small country of 50 million accomplished it after total devastation is for books and documentaries.  What I saw was the power of Democracy in the thriving South dominating over the sad failure of Communism prevailing in the North.  Like Israel, Democracy triumphed over dictatorship at its border, but still forever vigilant about constant threats.   

 Seoul is a modern, civilized 21st century safe city, population 20 million (greater Seoul), where politeness is high and crime is low.
view from my hotel window
Like Israelis, Koreans seriously value education.  I’m told that 80% are fully educated, completing high school or college.  The airport, skyscrapers, City Hall, palace parks, restaurants, shopping districts are marvels of the super modern. All signs are in English.  
Seoul city hall kids watch fountain, POV
Innovation is another miracle.  Like Israel, it is evident in electronics, telecom and autos with behemoths like Samsung, LG Electronics, Hyundai.  Even entertainment, Gangnam Style, helps drive their export economy.   

 A Coway team leader likened Korea’s economic growth miracle to Israel’s with admiration, “Only they are so far ahead in Nobel Prize winners,” he said.  Like Israelis, Koreans pray for peace.  They yearn for reunification of their country, thus their families.  Peace bells and monuments to veterans of the Korean War appear everywhere. 
Imjingak Memorial Park, Korean War Veterans Memorial
Americans are appreciated for saving them from a life under a “Dear Leader” dictatorship.  It was refreshing to feel the  gratitude, as it was in Israel.

 My most moving experience in Seoul was at the magnificent Korean War Museum, where the war’s profound importance and reenactments are unforgettable.
War Museum, statues kids, thank you
 In Israel, the most moving experience was also at a war memorial, the astonishing Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Both are documented reminders of horrors overcome in such a short period of time.

 Add to that, the Dorasan train station, a pristine perfect passenger station ready to roll to Pyeongyang.
Dorasan RR station, schedule to Pyeongyang in English
The northernmost train station in South Korea, Dorasan sits well groomed as a symbol of hope for reunification the moment a Dear Leader says, “all aboard!”  I felt sad for the station’s long, hapless wait for that moment of connection, but South Koreans maintain it with a positive attitude of not “if,” but “when.”  
Dorasan RR station platform

 In the same day, as the museum and train station, I experienced the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) only 35 miles north of Seoul.  A contradiction in terms, here lies the most heavily militarized and hostile border of land in the world:  estimated two million troops locked and loaded in close proximity, land mines, barbed wire, heavy military hardware, trigger incidents and incursions.  Yet between the deadly lines of an uneasy truce 2.5 miles apart lies an untouched natural preserve peacefully inhabited by endangered species.  
DMZ, Dorasan Observatory, illegal photo of buffer

 Like Israelis, South Koreans are enterprising, turning a negative into a positive.  They discovered four infiltration tunnels at the DMZ built by North Korea for a post-armistice invasion. The South Koreans turned two of them into tourist attractions on their side of the line. The word is that Kim Jung Un is pissed because South Korea is raking in tourist money from the tunnels that his side built.  He wants a cut! 
DMZ Pavillion entrance, K 2
And he wants a kickback from their souvenir shop built at the DMZ, now the South’s biggest tourist attraction!  Insanity is surreal.  
DMZ souvenir shop (in English)

  Do South Koreans worry about him?  They all said no.  Every year there is a saber rattling incident perpetrated by the North.  As in Israel, on the Democratic side people have taken measures to deflect a possible attack and go about their lives hopeful, building, growing and prospering.  

 More Korea photos with commentary are in “Web Albums” (in the “Blog” heading) or .     
Karen Lustgarten



Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2011 by klustgarten

On assignment to write/produce/direct a mini-documentary for the humanitarian volunteer medical NGO called CHIMES (Calif.-Honduras Institute for Medical & Educational Support). CHIMES brings free medicine from the US and organizes missions of volunteer medical professionals from the US, Cuba and Honduras who together deliver health care to the Garifuna people. This is a distinct ethnic group living in the poorest region in this second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The village, Ciriboya, is so remote that most have never seen a doctor or a pill and they die of treatable diseases because access to the village is so challenging.

CHIMES raised funds to buy building materials for the Garifuna Medical Center in Ciriboya where medicine and health care are provided free of charge (free clinic). The entire community helped build the modest center to serve remote people for miles around.

The Garifuna people descended from a blend of Africans and indigenous Caribbean Indians (Caribs). Two 17th century Spanish slave ships bound for the West Indies shipwrecked off St. Vincent Island; the African captives swam to shore and to freedom. They integrated with the Caribs forming a new ethnic group with its own distinct language and culture. Also called Black Caribs, they were later rounded up by the British and transported to Honduras.
There are some 200,000 Garifuna today, mostly in Central America. Proud of their heritage escaping slavery, they nonetheless live in poor, isolated regions with impassable roads, are ignored by the Honduran government and discriminated against by the Latino population. They are bi-lingual (Garifuna and Spanish) and some speak English. My Spanish served well enough.

The Cuban government responded to their need for medical professionals by providing several hundred Honduran Garifuna with full medical scholarships to study for a medical degree at Cuba’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM). Upon graduating, they committed to return and serve their people. CHIMES is helping to build outpost clinics where the Honduran Garifuna doctors can deliver health care to their people living in remote jungle areas.

August 6—Miami/San Pedro Sula airport/La Cieba
The cameraman and I are warmly greeted at the airport by Bill Camp, founder of CHIMES, and his wife Katherine along with US doctors and nurses volunteering on this medical mission. I bring a carton of OTC medicine donated by PL Developments; the doctors arrive with many cartons and tubs of medicine.

Bill drives us in an air-conditioned van for three hours along a single lane paved highway. We pass gorgeous countryside, lush green, thick with palm trees, vegetation, crops and rolling green hills. By contrast, the primitive living conditions, thatched-roof huts and rubble are distressing. People sit in the shade idle, children have nothing to play with, adults have no jobs. Others walk or bicycle with heavy sacks of goods along the dangerous shoulders of the road in the sweltering heat. We sleep overnight at the air-conditioned La Quinta Hotel in the city of La Cieba, the most comfortable place on the journey.

Aug. 7—La Ceiba to Ciriboya (5 ½ hours)
The next morning we start out on paved highway for awhile which turns into crushed rocks. The road is bumpy and potholed for another hour, but we are warned to brace ourselves for a lot worse. Sure enough, the further away from the city, the more remote the region, the bigger the rocks and the greater the potholes in number and depth.

While bumping and grinding over impassable roads for 4 hours, I marvel at the dedication of Bill and volunteer medical personnel who soldier this 8 ½ hour road trek several times a year! It is exhausting and dangerous. I’m concerned about the tires holding up on such hostile roads; if one blows we are stuck in a remote region. Only a few pick-up trucks an hour are passing us.

We arrive in Ciriboya on the Caribbean Sea via impossible roads dotted by primitive mud and wood huts. The one-lane driving bridge over a swollen stream to our destination is broken in pieces. So Bill drives our diesel van down into the muddy water, which comes up to the top of the tires as we cross to the other side. I’m thinking we won’t make it, the van will fill with water and we will all die. Miraculously we cross to the other side. Non-diesel vehicles don’t make it. And that’s how we enter and exit the road daily, confident we have to do it because the government will never show up to make bridge repairs.

Except for beds and indoor plumbing, our accommodations lack everything else including air conditioning, screens on windows and electricity at night. We were advised to bring our own towels, sheets, pillows, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, special bug spray, flashlights, Cipro and anti-malaria pills. Everything I pack will be donated to the Garifuna people when I leave.

Aug. 8–Medical Conference
Some 120 volunteer medical personnel from the US, Cuba and Honduras (Garifuna) are convening in this remote area of Honduras for a 10- day medical conference conducted by Dr. Luther Castillo Harry, a Garifuna MD and medical director of the Garifuna Medical Center. CHIMES, AHMEN and MEDICO are among the participating NGOs who are also setting up a medical brigade. The medical seminars are conducted in small community center buildings, where information about treatment methods is shared.

Hundreds of locals line up outside in the heat at the intake doors to see doctors and nurses from the three countries working in the medical brigades. They need health services for lacerations, dental problems, severe pain, bad backs, malnutrition, stomach parasites, malaria, pre/post natal care, pediatrics and more. Some medical personnel make house calls to deliver services.

Bill has committed to help Dr. Luther Harry deliver medicine and health care to his people. At the modest Garifuna Medical Center, locals are already lined up outside to see medics. Cartons of donated medicine are loaded from the truck to the pharmacy, which is not air conditioned, and medicine is dispensed to waiting patients.

There are no restaurants here, so Garifuna women cook three meals a day for 120 conference attendees. The food is tasty, typical Spanish dishes. It remains a mystery how they pulled it off in primitive conditions.

August 9
After a couple of days videotaping, we must head back to Progresso a city near the airport. It’s an 8 ½ hour journey without stopping. We are in a different truck with a different driver and thanks to Cipro I’m gratefully recovering from last night’s illness. Once again, the potholed rocky road presents a four-hour roller coaster nightmare before rubber finally meets asphalt. I conclude that for the isolated Garifuna, access to health care must start with a paved road, but the Honduran government will never build one. Even if they don’t, volunteers will always come.
More photos from the field are at KL


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ANTARCTICA: How I kept Warm in the World’s Coldest Climate–14 clothing items (gear) that worked

Posted in 1, News, Travel with tags , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by klustgarten

I received the assignment to produce a video in Antarctica for a polar expedition company (Quark Expeditions) with mixed emotions: thrilled about an adventure of a lifetime/ fear of freezing. The freezing part is justified: I have Raynaud’s disease, a medical condition defined as a hypersensitivity or allergy to cold that can cause hands and feet to discolor.

Being cold-challenged, I wear a sweater when entering a supermarket because the refrigerated sections make me shiver. Same with air- conditioned buildings. Snorkeling in Hawaii was impossible without a wet suit. Winters in Washington, D.C. froze me out with multi-colored hands, and for 10 years I bundled up on the beach in Los Angeles.

Antarctica? I have spoken the name of that continent maybe once in my life and turned blue.

The subject of the mini-documentary was a tourist adventure expedition to Antarctica for 10 days that included land and water activities and encounters with penguins and seals.
With a little luck, drugs and a gown of down, I had hoped to survive the expedition to tell the tale and declare a victory over supermarkets.

I did extensive research about gear/clothing for extremely cold climate, but did not find a clear and detailed list. Finally, a week before the voyage and no clothes for it, I walked into an upscale ski store to be outfitted. I left with $800 (incl. tax) worth of layers/gear, not including the boots and parka (provided by the expedition company).

After 6 days in the Antarctic peninsula (South Shetland Islands), I can report that the gear worked to keep even me warm in some seriously cold weather.

How cold was it? Antarctica is an ice continent; the coldest, windiest, driest (and highest) one on Earth. It is gorgeous and mysterious, accessible to tourists only in summer.
Although it was mid-November (summer), temps were mostly in the teens (F). But with wind chill from blizzards, some days were well below that. It got up to the 40s one day, a few days hit the 20s or teens without wind for a few hours, but mostly it was windy and snowy much like I imagine Canada in winter.

Visiting 12 islands, I rode daily in a zodiac boat from ship to shore, went hiking in the snow, kayaked,

camped overnight in a pup tent on ice and snow during a blizzard, visited a couple of scientific research stations, took zodiac tours of glaciers and icebergs;

and spent hours following, observing and photographing penguin colonies, seals and birds. Regardless of the weather conditions and activities,

From someone with Raynaud’s disease in Antarctica, this is the list of clothing to know about because it all worked in sub-zero temps.

Keeping warm starts with 3 layers and the unique fabric technology of each layer.

1. Base Layer (top/bottom): warm-wear moisture transfer fibers (MTF)

The MTF base layer is a patented knitting fabric that fits like second skin. It’s a tightly knit polyester micro fiber blended with Lycra. The MTF yarns create a weather barrier to keep you warmer and dryer because moisture from perspiration gets dispersed and evaporated quickly. Looks like tights; is machine wash/dry.
(retail: $55/each, top/bottom)

2. Mid layer (top/bottom): Thermolite fiber technology (95% polyester, 5% Lycra)

Thermolite is soft, flexible, durable insulation for movement and warmth. This is a slightly heavier layer than the base layer, yet thin. The inside of the fabric feels soft and warm; the outside is smooth. The top piece has a half-zipper to pull over the head. This layer can also be worn alone, but on top of the base layer the two kept me very warm. Machine wash/dry. (retail: $79 each, top/bottom)

3. Outer layer: waterproof/windproof/durable layer worn over the mid layer (ski pants, parka)

a) Ski pants: Gore-Tex fabric: shell 100% polyester; lining 80% polyester/20% nylon; insulation 100% polyester

The lightweight ski pants didn’t restrict movement. Gore-tex 2-layer shell: a thin, soft polyester lining inside and a thin, sturdy outer shell. The pants have features: expandable waistline, brushed tricot pocket liners for warmer hands, waterproof leg zippers, zippered cuff bottom openings in the legs with inner boot gaiters with elastic gripper to help prevent water from getting up. My legs were kept warm and dry getting in and out of zodiacs and in blizzard conditions. Machine wash/dry (retail: $279)

b) Parka: 100% thick nylon outer shell, 100 % polyester (fleece) inner jacket with 100% nylon outer top

This is such a crucial garment that Quark Expeditions refers to it as a “piece of equipment for the polar regions, not a fashion statement.” Quark manufactures and provides the parka to each passenger complementary. It can also be purchased from their Website.

It’s a 3-in 1 miracle of construction that ensured my survival. Long enough to cover my butt when sitting in the zodiac, the parka is lined with a zip-in-out fleece jacket liner that doubles as insulation and also as a stand-alone fleece jacket in warmer weather (40s or higher). The outer yellow shell of thick nylon with lined hood and neck straps was fully waterproof/windproof. Without the jacket lining, it serves as a water-windproof jacket. The entire “piece of equipment” is loaded inside and out with pockets, zippers, Velcro fasteners, snaps, hook rings. (from Quark: $250)

4. Foot layers (sock liners, socks, boots)

a) Sock liner: Thermasilk fabric (80% spun silk, 20% stretch nylon)
This thin, light, soft fabric sock comes just under the knee. Wash/wear (retail: $12/pair, 2 pair)

b) Socks: SmartWool fabric (a wool-on-wool Duroyarn fabric technology).
My feet, including toes, were kept warm and dry. Machine wash/wear (retail: $21-26/pair, 2 pair)

c) Boots: Quark loaned these to each passenger for the duration of the voyage because boots are indispensible. They were lined, rubber, sized boots that came up between calf and knee. (from Quark: $140)

5. Hand layers: Gore-Tex storm-proofing

a) Glove liner: Dryride Thermex fabric, 4-way stretch with sticky grip palm.
The thinner liner was warm enough to wear by itself for short periods of time (like when taking photos)

b) Gloves: Gore-tex 3-in-one fabric for sub-zero conditions with top zipper pocket for a hand-warmer. I needed gloves with fingers, which are not as warm as mitten style gloves. Even with the glove liner, hands got chilly at times because I forgot to take glove warmers to put in the top zippered pockets. (retail: $65/liner and gloves)

6. Neck: 100% acrylic neck warmer worked perfectly to keep out wind. Machine wash/dry (retail: $12).

7. Head: 100% acrylic snug -fitting hat to forehead that covered ears worked well. Machine wash/dry (Retail in Ushuaia: $7).

8. Eyes:

In blizzard conditions, I wore goggles with interchangeable silver/amber lenses for brightness and they kept snow and wind out of my eyes. (retail: $65). Otherwise, I wore a pair of plastic, full UV-protection sunglasses, or nothing some days.

9. Camera: a DrySac or moisture protector was needed for expensive camera equipment. Cameras with lithium ion batteries did fine. Unfortunately, I had a digital camera that used AA batteries. They kept freezing so I was unable to take many photos. Same problem with the mini video camera. But I did have some luck:

See photos of Antarctica:

See video of penguins:

See guerilla video of Antarctica:

View the mini-documentary about the expedition:

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