Saturday, January 27, 2007

Readings and musings...

Another week is over, almost, and I am another week closer to my February 21st contract end. All I can say is come on 2/21!

Happy birthday to my little brother Christian, who turned 16 yesterday... way to make your big brother feel old. It's hard to believe that the curly haired kid that used to run around the house in his diaper will be clamoring for a driver's license soon... yikes!

Shout out to ol' Scotto as well who has made his way back to Japan and is now completing his training in Nagoya before his first emergency teaching gig in Toyama prefecture. Got a call from the young lad this week and it was quite nice to hear that Aussie accent!

In the past 2 weeks, I've read three books, two of which were bought in and directly relate to Cambodia and Vietnam.

The first of these books was "First They Killed My Father" which was written by Loung Ung.

Loung was only 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh. The book recounts her amazing struggle for survival in the new Cambodia being built by the Khmer Rouge, where starvation and forced labour become a way of life. Loung ended up losing both parents as well as two of her siblings to the "rough times" that Cambodia went through until Vietnam invaded and forced Pol Pot and his cronies back into the jungle. After reading this book, I was left with a huge amount of respect, not only for this little girl but also for the countless other Cambodians who no doubt share similar stories. They survived this horrible time and have come out on the other side more resilient. Not a day has gone by since leaving Cambodia that I haven't thought about it, I certainly left a piece of myself back there and I will return some day.

The middle book was "Cell" by Stephen King, which was a bit of a diversion. Turned out to be a zombie book with some pretty good twists, though I was a bit disappointed with the ending...

The book I am just about done with now is "The Girl In The Picture" which chronicles the story of Kim Phuc whom fate chose to become the face of the Vietnam War. The title is self-explanatory, if you look at the cover below.

Kim Phuc was part of a group of civilians who was mistakenly attacked by a South-Vietnamese war plane as they tried to escape a a firefight between Viet Cong and South-Vietnamese forces in her village not far from Saigon. The pilot mistook the group of running people as VC and dropped a couple of canisters of napalm over the area, killing some and injuring many. The photograph which was snapped by a nearby photographer won him the Pulitzer Prize. The book is a fascinating account of village life during the war years where the nights belonged to the Viet Cong whose guerrilla tactics eventually forced the US out of Vietnam and won them the war. It goes on to describe the attack and its consequences as well as Kim's reluctant role as a propaganda tool for Hanoi and her eventual defection to the West. Very interesting story, and even more so having been on the ground where some of the events mentioned in the book actually happened. Always interesting to recognize street names and to be able to picture the exact location of something you're reading in a book.

I can't believe it has been a month since our trip. On this day one month ago, we were on our way to Vietnam from Cambodia, having just spent an amazing afternoon with the orphans as the Apsara Arts Association. How far away that now seems to me. I am just a short couple of weeks from the end of my contract and with every passing lesson I see the time that I will have to say goodbye to my students getting closer, and I see it will not be easy. A couple of them have already had tears well up in their eyes as they talk about saying goodbye... good people, every last one of them. It's been a hell of a ride these past 2 years, one hell of a ride.

I unfortunately have to give one more of my precious Sundays to the cause, and am thus working tomorrow afternoon. I am finding it difficult to participate in such things, knowing that my time is almost up. The only thing that made me accept is that one of the other teachers would have had to do it if I didn't. In an attempt to make something productive out of this waste of time, I'll start working on helping the new guy make a smooth transition. The worst part about these damned extra days of work are that they cut into the already limited time I get to spend with Yoshiko. Thankfully, it won't be much of an issue soon as we will be finally moving in together with the end of my contract coming also meaning I will be vacating my company apartment. February 8th and 9th are the moving days, looking forward to it!

On the skiing front, 2 outings have taken shape... the next one will be to Daikura on February 4th, and then either Alts Bandai or Takatsue on the 18th. If I can keep the pace with a ski trip every 2 weeks, I'll be satisfied I think... and I should start planning the Hokkaido trip too.

One more interesting note is my total lack of interest in photography so far this year. Could be that after doing photography in Vietnam and Cambodia, Japan now seems a bit lacking? I dunno. I may have to set some time aside and do a picture outing some day soon.


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