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275th Meeting - Tuesday, June 27th 2006

A Chameleon's Tale: True Stories of a Global Refugee

Book Launch and Readings By Mo Tejani

Having lived and worked in four continents of our planet, Mohezin (Mo) Tejani has been a global nomad all his life. Though born in Tanzania to Indian parents, Mo called Uganda his home for the first 18 formative years. Along with 80,000 other Asians forced to flee Idi Amin’s reign of terror in Uganda, Mo fled as a refugee, first to England (the colonial motherland) and then to America of the late Sixties and early Seventies. While educating himself with degrees in Literature and Creative Writing, he won the Avery Hopwood Award for poetry and taught English and literature in California, and upstate New York. During summers, Mo hitchhiked all over North America to learn about his new life from the open road. Trekking through the desert Badlands of Utah, cooking up trout curries next to glacial lakes of Wyoming peaks, meditating in the Florida Keys, playing Indian tablas in the sand dunes of Death Valley or even dancing till dawn at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, Mo patiently searched the continent for a place to call home.

Repulsed by the Vietnam War and its consequences in North America, Mo headed south, embarking in a two-year overland trip from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego, to master the Spanish language on the road. Riding on top of Salvadorian trains into the jungle or sleeping in Inca baths at Machupichu, Mo embraced the Mundo Latino as his own until, one day, just like Uganda, army tanks rolled into the Peruvian town (where he was living) to slaughter villagers in the market square. For the next five years, in SE Asia, Mo worked with thousands of Lao, Khmer and Vietnamese families in refugee camps all over South East Asia helping to ease their post war resettlement into America. From then on, for the next decade, empowering the poor all over the world as trainer and rights activist of marginalized groups, Mo found his home through his work using Thailand as his nesting place.

Over the last three years, Mo has returned to his original passion –writing. The first volume of his memoirs— “A Chameleon’s Tale: True Stories of a Global Refugee” —published in June 2006, is a reflection of his life of travel and the continued search for a home. Mo currently lives in Chiang Mai and writes articles and feature stories for various magazines in the region. His ‘stalking interview’ in Bangkok with 2001 Literature Nobel Prize Laureate V.S. Naipaul recently appeared in Untamed Travel magazine.

Mo Tejani - an Indian Muslim by ancestry - was expelled from Idi Amin's Uganda in 1972. Torn apart from his family and exiled from the continent of his birth, he was suddenly left homeless, with little sense of his own cultural identity. Over the next three decades on the road, he worked with non-profit agencies, learned a host of new languages, met fellow cultural nomads in forlorn and faraway places, and became involved in some of the world's most significant historical events.

In this entertaining, globetrotting memoir, the author travels through all five continents in search of a place he can call home. The trials and tribulations of 'identity shopping' in the 'multicultural supermarket' of today almost bring him to the brink of alienation, but, as he discovers over the years, there are many along the road who are ready to lend a helping hand. Join him on his journey as he seeks liberation from his cultural change and the catharsis of realizing his true identity.

" Hold on tight for a wild and whacky ride over a 34 year span from Asia to Africa to America with Mo's camera eye on pivotal events." Joe Cummings - Author, Lonely Planet Thailand Mo writes about Mo - I developed a passion for the world of books and travel early on in life in Africa. After exile from Idi Amin's Uganda in 1972, I have traveled extensively around the globe for the last 34 years.

Mo writes: Along the way, I have picked up an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts, and two Master's Degrees in Literature and International Studies, all from American Universities. I have taught English in Uganda, Canada, United States, Guatemala, Ecuador and Thailand. I have written several articles and stories in various travel magazines and currently live in Chiang Mai. A Chameleon's Tale is the first volume of my memoirs. For my talk I will give a brief introduction on the writing process of the book, followed by a 10-15 minute reading from the book and then open the floor for questions.

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