The Quiet American

Written By: Charles - May• 12•08

53  bar falls 29.88 4mph NE dewpoint 33 Beltane   sunny

               First Quarter of the Hare Moon


                                  The Quiet American

Here’s my buddy, Mark Odegard in Thailand.  I can’t tell if this is the palace grounds or not, but I do remember just this sign.  It made me stop and think, too.  He’s just finishing up a safe sex exhibit for UNESCO and says he has come to love Thailand. 

Southeast Asia has a fascinating pull.  Mark and Mary succumbed to it years ago and have spent much of their adult lives there.  I’ve visited only once, but the memories are fresh and pull me back.  Part of the allure, of course, is the unfamiliar.  Southeast Asia as a place has figured little in American thought and history with the notable exception of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.  In those instances subjugation, not understanding was our goal, so the cultures and the people there remained opaque.

Another part of the attraction is the sense of confidence in their culture that these small countries have.  Thailand has not been conquered since the Angkor days of Khmer invasions.  Cambodia, though pummeled and ruined by first the U.S., then the Khmer Rouge, has a sweet, ancient flavor that overcomes even those dismal moments.  Singapore is a confident, bustling country, Asia lite as my sister says.  Malaysia has an old culture, too, layered over now with Islam, but still retaining a rotating monarchy and other traditional customs.  Burma remains largely the old days when the flying fishes went to play in far off Mandalay.  It retains a more traditional cast because the ruling junta has placed an umbrella over the country, blocking out the light and keeping the people subservient.  Indonesia has a huge population and much diversity with its many islands, but its Indonesian reality seems strong to me.

It is also cheap, easy for Americans to navigate financially and in that regard much more appealing than the Euro dominated Europe.

Since I travel often to become a stranger, an outsider, a foreigner, Southeast Asia fulfilled my need at each stop, but each time in a different way:  food, ruins, people, cities, colors, art. 

Someday I will return

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