Student at a Cambodian Country School (photo by Esther Dunn)
We had the good fortune to visit an elementary school in a remote area along one of the tributaries of the Mekong River, a place where welcoming and exuberant children could barely wait to demonstrate their English language skills. “What’s your name.” and “How old are you?” were the favourites, but that was just the opening of two hours of interaction with the students.
Lynn and I spent part of our time with a ten-year-old boy (photo above) who appeared to be the oldest in the class. Although a bit shy, he focused intensely on getting the wording of his questions correct, then intently listened as we answered. Had he been born forty years earlier, he could well have been the boy featured in part of the story below.
Part I: Introduction to SE Asia and a Short Story from Cambodia
To gain an understanding of the progress the people of Indochina have made over the past 25 years, take a few minutes first to watch the three slideshows linked in the footer. While incredible natural and manmade beauty greet you at every turn; the happy, healthy and carefree people you see at school, work and play today, contrasts sharply with immense challenges the people faced from 1940 – 1990. Perhaps you are aware of these challenges and the progress made, but we weren’t and the more we learned, the more amazing it all became.
This series begins with a short, personal story which took place in Cambodia in the late 1980’s, a story of one boy’s quest to survive. His story was similar to that experienced by thousands of men, women and children whose lives were taken or shattered by war, genocide, starvation and disease. This story was related to us over several parts by our Cambodian guide.
Southeast Asia – Colonial Powers
Colonial Powers, as listed above, played a large role in the ebb and flow of the fortunes and misfortunes of Southeast Asia from the early 1800’s onwards. The French played a dominant role in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos and while it ended in war there are still many positive reminders of the occupation.
Part I: Introduction and the Rice Paddy
Part II: Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit (passcode required as post under revision)
Part IV: The Future Belongs to the Young
Part V: Travelling with Uniworld (In progress)
Part 11. Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Ordinary people do not start wars unless they are oppressed. Governments or dictators make wars with an ideological or expansionist purpose in mind. When this happens, ordinary citizens are pushed to fight whether they want to or not. This was no better expressed than in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”:
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Such was the case in Indochina where not six hundred, but an estimated 8000 times that many would be driven into the valley of death. The Viet Nam or Second Indochina War, was just the second part of fifty years of war that began when the Japanese occupied French Indochina in 1940. Following the departure of the Japanese and the French again occupied, then Communist North Viet Nam (formed in 1945 after the war) (3), began a push to remove the French who resumed their Colonial control status that was ceded to the Japenese for a few years. One occupying force simply replaced another.
Young People – A Majority in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos
The photo was taken in front of the Presidential Palace in Saigon (October, 2016 hdm).
This group of young people wanted a photo with two of our group from South Africa with whom they had been chatting. Virtually everywhere you travel in Viet Nam and Cambodia you will young people who are eager to exchange a few words and to have a photo taken with a tourist. Look at those wonderful smiles.
Part I: An Open Letter
Part II: Indochina Wars: 1940 – 1990
Part III: Resilience of the Human Spirit (in progress, Password Protected)
Part IV The Future Belongs to the Young
Part V River Cruising (in progress)
Part IV: The Future Belongs to the Young
The title, of course, is used in a figurative sense. As I grow older and particularly over the last 25 years (50-75), I have become convinced that forging a better world must be placed in the hands of positive, forward-looking young people. You might also include older people, but only if they have not become jaded and are willing to debate the issues with an open mind. Any discussion that focusses on Us versus Them is going nowhere.
Lynn and I have travelled to many countries that have only recently emerged from war or were controlled in whole or in part by vicious tyrants. It was pretty easy to tell how well the country was doing by simply talking to young people. If the young are happy and forward looking, we felt assured the country was moving in a positive direction, but if they were looking for a way out, it was a good bet the country was not doing all that well.
Happy Birthday Kari
The beautiful Tsusiat Falls where father and daughter took a well deserved rest.
All that is left of the father is his boots and socks. “Yaa! But you’ve made it over halfway Dad. That’s good isn’t it?” Guess who helped him?
It’s hard to believe twenty years has slipped by since we completed that magical eight day trek on the West Coast Trail with David and Jenn. What inspired me to prepare the following slide show and write this post was finding that old slide tray tucked away in one of the storage boxes. It brought back so many fond memories for me and I bet it will do the same for the three of you. As I was writing this post I spoke several times to David, as well as to your Uncle Barry and Auntie Agate.
Before getting into the details of the trek, take a few moments and enjoy the slides as they slip by. I tried to find music that expresses the love a Dad has for his children and, as well, displays the sense of pride that comes from having one of your children lovingly act as a mentor and guide in taking on a difficult challenge. The three songs were selected after pouring through dozens of father/daughter/son lists posted on the web.
Precious Memories, J.J. Cale
When You Need Me, Bruce Springsteen
Wildflowers, Tom Petty
The photos in this slideshow have also been uploaded link to the
McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page
Opportunities arise but once.
Life provides many opportunities for adventure, but when one declines an opportunity for any reason, it is most often gone forever. Having achieved a Golden Age in retirement and understanding this, when our oldest daughter Kari phoned and ask if I might like to join her and a cousin from Montreal, David McGregor and his friend, Jenn D’Aoust, in challenging the West Coast Trail, the answer came without a second thought, “yes”. Sure I had concerns about my ability to tackle that particular trail, but if my daughter thought I could do it, who was I to argue?
Also, it gave me comfort knowing she was an experienced backpacker, held an Industrial First Aid Certificate (just in case pops packed it in), had tackled that trail twice before and, being an extraordinary backcountry trekker had at one time considered taking up a career in the emerging field of Eco Tourism.
When this opportunity arose I was nearly two years into retirement, in fair shape and while I hadn’t recently attempted any long distance wilderness hiking, I remember Kari’s comforting words: “Don’t worry Dad, you can do this and, besides, I’ve got your back.” Hmmm! Of course, it was a done deal as when someone, particularly one of your children, offers to share a moment like this, It must be taken as the memories will last for the rest of your life.
Edna and Earl Davis (Lynn McNeill’s mother and father) at their Wedding in August 1943. Earl met Edna while serving in England and they married shortly after. After spending one night together, Earl shipped out for combat in Italy where he spent the rest of his war years fighting in a number of bitterly won battles. The couple were not reunited until after the war when Earl returned to Canada where Edna was waiting after having emigrated with dozens of other war brides.
The World at War: Remembering our History1
November 16, 2016. Until I watched the news tonight I had never heard of the ALT-RIGHT or 1488ers. Perhaps I just live a sheltered life. In any event, media outlets across the country are expressing outrage at the racist comments directed towards any number of minorities including Muslims, Chinese, Jews, etc., by the Alt Right Group. The following link takes to to one article.
CBC East York Alt Right Racist Posters
In order to gain a better understanding of who the Alt-Right represent, I checked out their Web Site but it was nothing like Britain First and other sites that openly preach racism and hatred. Following that, I found an article titled, An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right. I found the article informative to say the least and have become somewhat suspicious of the media slant on this. In post I am lead to believe the Alt Right Twitter account was suspended.
I encourage friends of every political stripes to take a few minutes to read the article and let me know your opinion. Send a private note if you wish. I have not put in my opinion here as I don’t want to taint your thoughts with mine. Suffice it to say I was very surprised.
Note: It is a fairly long article and it would be helpful to read to the end as speaks to a group known as the 1488ers, another group I had never heard of. Following are some of the comments on the Alt-Right poster. I can’t find a copy of the bottom half as this stuff seems quite new to the scene.
I have deliberately left out the location of the article and the authors name at the beginning. Both are included at the end.
An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right (verbatim)