Friday, April 17, 2015

40 Years ago today...


Cambodian countryside in 2011
I haven’t been a very good blogger over the last couple of weeks and am sure I have missed a lot of good posts!  Mostly, I have been busy, but I have had a number of good afternoons of sailing.  Sadly, in this hiatus, I learned of the death Ron, who blogged at Buddies in the Saddle.  Cancer, that horrible beast, finally beat him.  I enjoyed learning about the literature of the American West from him and his personal posts about his battles with cancer were examples of courage and some damn good writing.  Although I never met him in person, I will miss reading his blog and our interactions on Facebook.

Now, let me take you back 40 years …

Wilmington, North Carolina was tranquil the spring of 1975.  It had not been that way for most of the springs since 1968, following the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.  That spring and the next half dozen saw rioting.  But by the spring of ’75, all seemed to be at peace, at least at home.  I was in love, having taken a date to the Azalea Festival Coronation and as the azaleas began to fade, we were getting more serious.  Graduation was approaching and I was trying to figure out what would be next after I left the halls of John T. Hoggard High School forever.   By the time azaleas were blooming, I’d finally gotten around to signing up for my draft card  (a few months late).  They were still issuing them, even though no one had been drafted in a couple of years.  The card, which was supposed to be on  you at all times, became a valuable commodity as friends who were not quite 18 years old begged to borrow it so that they could buy beer (at this time, in North Carolina, you could buy beer and wine at 18).  If the draft had resumed, I doubt my card would have been coveted. 

Cambodian Village in 2011
My last class of the day in my last semester of high school was Shakespeare, taught by Mrs. Cobb.  I sat in the back, near the window, with the only other guy in a high school of 3000 who was sure enough of his masculinity to be seen studying Shakespeare.  Actually, the class was a pleasant surprise with a dozen girls for each of us.  But as the spring began, we were more interested in what was happening in the world, especially Southeast Asia and to a lesser extent, Angola.  Over lunch, we’d read Newsweek or U. S. News and World Report or Times as well as the local newspaper.  Then, before class began, we’d discuss whether or not the United States would intervene to stop Cambodia and then South Vietnam from falling to the communists.  We were both 18, and both had our draft cards even though they hadn’t drafted anyone in a couple of years.  But at this point, when things seemed so chaotic and desperate, we wondered what might happen.  We wondered what life in Canada might be like… 

Phnom Penh in 2011
I especially remember the day Phnom Penh fell.  I didn’t know things had gotten so bad.  Cambodia had been a place I wanted to visit Cambodia ever since reading an article when I was in Junior High (I think the article was in QST, a magazine for Amateur Radio operators) about the country.  The jungle ruins and the idea that there were a few Hams (Amateur Radio Operators) in the country made me curious.  But I knew that I didn’t want to visit the country on a ticket issued by Uncle Sam.
 
After the Mayaguez Incident in May of ’75, I don’t remember hearing much about Cambodia and the autocracies being committed by the Khmer Rouge until a few years later when refugee camps in Thailand were being overrun with fleeing Cambodians.  In 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and replaced the horrific government of Pol Pot who had killed over a million people—nearly ¼ of the small country’s population.  In 1984, The Killing Fields came out in the theater and we got to see first-hand the horrors of what happened.  In the early 90’s, I read Haing Ngor’s book, Cambodian Odyssey.  He’d starred in the movie and his book of his personal experiences showed that the movie was tame compared to what had happened inside the country.  It wasn’t until 2011, that I finally visited the country.  It’s a beautiful place with a rich history, but there is something haunting about it. 
work on restoration (a good metaphor for the country)
Today is 40 years since fall of Phnom Penh.  Click here is an article that talks to those who survived the horrors that followed:  Phnom Penh Post article.
temple near Ankor Wat
Next up (unless something else comes up) is my report on my latest three day trip into the Okefenokee Swamp.

26 comments:

  1. Very sorry to hear of your loss, Sage. Vietnam was certainly a tragedy.

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    1. Thanks, Ron will be missed. There is so much suffering in the world, hopefully Southeast Asia will continue to heal, but in places like Cambodia, it will take a long time.

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  2. I'm sorry to hear about Ron. I didn't know him, but I'm praying for his loved ones.

    A blog hiatus sounds like a good idea right about now. This A to Z is at the point where it's tiring.

    That was a neat history lesson. Remember something like that...that was a scary time. It's good to document what you remember.

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    1. The discipline of doing a blog for 26 straight days is more than I've signed up for!

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  3. I can't believe it has been four years ago you made that trip. Seems just like yesterday. It is always sad to lose a fellow blogger but the one good thing is that his passing was known and didn't leave his fellow anonymous readers guessing.

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    1. Sometimes it doesn't seem that long ago, but there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then. Ron used his real name in his blog and we were also friends on Facebook--he wasn't able to post much lately, but his family kept his facebook friends informed.

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  4. I suppose when I was 18 I was far more focused on what was happening to me than what was going on in the world.

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    1. Our focus on the larger would probably had more to do with self-interest as it had only been a little over two years since they'd stopped the draft and if we were to go back in, they would have probable needed to reinstate it.

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  5. So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, Ron. I always am interested in your stories and travels, and I know life does get in the way of staying in touch blogging. But we see you when we see you! Enjoy your travels and your lovely world of spring where you are.

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    1. Thanks, I'll keep trying to write stories!

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  6. So sorry to learn of your friend Ron's passing. Even though we don't meet our e-contacts, we give pieces of our souls to each other through our writing. That's as human an interaction as it gets, I think.

    I haven't been to that part of the world. Travels can give us bittersweet experiences. In the backdrop of beauty, there are too many sad circumstances. I look forward to learning more from you, Sage.

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  7. Learning from me? I've been learning all about Martha Stewart from you! Your Martha Stewart erotic A-Z blogfest is raunchy but humorous! Has her publicity guru (or hit man) contacted you yet?

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  8. Sorry about your blogger friend! That's an interesting bit of history you shared. I enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it and Ron will be missed on here.

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  9. Sorry about your blogger friend! That's an interesting bit of history you shared. I enjoyed reading it.

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  10. Dear Sage, a break from blogging may be very refreshing, especially if you feel stressed by the deadlines, so no worries.

    I’m sorry about your blogger friend Ron. I clicked on the link to his blog and I must say that his last post was deeply touching. I’ve also read the Phnom Penh post article and am still impressed at the horrors of war it describes and how much the population suffered.

    I’m looking forward to read your report on your trip to the Okefenokee Swamp!

    Leni Qinan (back from a long blog pause)

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    1. Speaking of breaks, Leni, it's good to see you back spinning your tales!

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  11. I'm very sorry to hear of your friend and fellow blogger passing away from cancer.

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  12. Oh wow. I'm so sorry about your blogging friend. We do become close in our time blogging out here and it's heartbreaking.

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    1. It is true how we come to know and cherish people we've never meet face-to-face.

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  13. Sorry about Ron.

    It was awful what happened in Cambodia, shocking and tragic.

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  14. I've heard about Ron from Charles and I'm very sorry. I hadn't read his blog before but I read a few of his posts now. The one about his estranged son was very touching and very sad.

    Your post is a fine piece of memoir. There are so many tragic things happening in the world...

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  15. I haven't traveled as much as I wanted, but I imagine many places are haunting with what went on in certain locations. I'd still like to visit them, though. I'm sorry to hear about your friend's passing.

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  16. My friend Somrit is from Cambodia - he can't go back and misses it very much. That is an amazing photo at the temple there.

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