|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.