Saturday, May 8, 2010

Written at other times

Things written in March or April or some other time.

Six months ago I bought a book, The Hill Fights: The First Battle of Khe Sanh. I was holding it for the right time and this (the day after getting home from hospital) was that time. As I read about this terrible battle that I’d been in, I thought about how over the years Jeff would say things to me about the way I was in Vietnam. Reading this book I began to understand what he was saying. About 1 in 7 (~15%) Marines actually fight. Of that 15%, not that many are what you would call true hard-chargers. The book made this clear and then I read this: “As soon as I told them I was wounded, they crawled over and patched me up.” I was one of the two that got to him. I even took his photo (situation described pp. 94-95). I was a hard-charger. And here is an amazing thing: so is Leslie. She is straight out of the Book of Five Rings – she’s burnt out and beat down, but never conquered. Photo: Taken at the Hill Fights
Written 2 days before I went to the hospital. Today I heard a talk by a distinguished physician (Harvard faculty, Director of Ethics and Palliative Care at a major medical center, and President of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship). The speaker talked about service and about Albert Schweitzer, who, before becoming a physician, was a noted New Testament and J.S. Bach scholar and a well-known organist (recitals still available on CD – here is example: What stood out most to me … Photo below: The reason why
  • Schweitzer suffered from major depression while he was in a French POW camp. Through his depression he became aware of “the fellowship of those who bear the mark of pain” – and he further realized that all people bear pain – and in this way (and other ways) he understood that we are One.
  • He discovered that the ideal is the human capacity to experience and express reverence for the miracle of life … and to act on that reverence.
  • The greatest happiness is through seeking and finding ways to serve. And he discovered that people who set out to do good should not expect others to help move boulders out of the way; in fact, others will sometimes move boulders into the path of those trying to good.

I thought about some of the people who put boulders in my path. What I wrote about this seemed unseemly, so it’s gone into the void of deleted.

About a week after I got home from the hospital I found out I'd been on a vent for a day & night. I had no recollection and still have none. I also realized I was 11 days in the hospital.

From 2007 trip to Burma

Pulled into Moulmein about 2pm. It's hot as blazes today - the first day without rain since we got to Hong Kong. Taxi man said 2000 kyats to hotel. I said, last time 1000. He said, Okay 1500. It turned out to be about a 1000 kyats ride to the Thanlwin Hotel. The closest room to what we wanted was a big room with shared bath and aircon that barely worked and a fan that turned at about 20-30 RPMs.

We caught a tuk tuk shared with two Chinese women with all kinds of gold and heavy perfume on to the Aurora guesthouse where they had no rooms available. Photo: The Breeze

We're really hot by now and everywhere involves at least one long flight of stairs and we're a little dehydrated since we've had only a few sips of water on the long bus ride knowing that there would be 2 stops at most. Actually the bus stopped once for lunch/toilet break (sorry I didn't get a photo of the toilet at the bus stop - which wasn't bad at all, for a squat toilet). So anyway, we're standing outside the Aurora GH, dripping with sweat, (I'm) feeling dizzy, wondering what we'll do if we can't find a room. I left Leslie sitting, dripping on a suitcase on the sidewalk while I took a moto to check out the Breeze GH. They had 2 rooms available, one for $15 with aircon and one really big one with 20 foot ceiling and big windows overlooking the river, but fans only for $18 - "natural aircon" says the man showing me the room. I say we'll take the aircon, but my wife will decide for sure. Back I go to Leslie and we load ourselves and luggage all into one trishaw - oh we were a sight to see! Photo: From the Old Moulmein Pagoda exactly as Kipling wrote: "By the old Moulmein Pagoda, Lookin' eastward to the sea,"

Lonely Planet says the Breeze is "funky, but adequate." By now we understand part of how things work, so asked if they turn off the electricity at night. He tells us they have a generator, so we take the aircon room. So here we are, in a room with tile walls like a giant bathroom (photo above) and glad to be here - especially given the ceiling fan that moves briskly. The Breeze is funky but okay and it's right on the huge Thanlwin River and our room very conveniently has a bowl for spitting betel nut juice into - what more could you want?

Several times on this trip Leslie has said, "My father would not believe it if he saw me now." I guess this continues that tradition.


Snowbrush said...

I didn't go to Vietnam, but I came close. The last time I was called for a physical, my doctor gave me a note saying I had passed seven kidney stones. I didn't know this. I just knew I had a stomach ache one night. Anyway, the note got me another year's deferment, and by then the lottery had been instituted, and my number was just barely too high to be called. I suppose the doctor was just doing me a favor, and not because he knew me well, or that I had any influence on him.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. As to what Schweitzer said about the bond between those who suffer, now that I'm in physical pain all the time, I understand that much a little. It doesn't help me to understand the experience of war, but it does create in me a greater sympathy.

CK said...

One of my thoughts while I was in the hospital was that it wasn't that far from being in a war. Uncomfortable, some degree of danger ... best avoided.

Snowbrush said...

Yes, hospitals are dangerous, and experience teaches a person the importance of remaining vigilant. On the other hand, no one is actually trying to harm you.