Archive for July, 2007

Abe: “approval was regrettable”

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Monday’s passing of the U.S. Congressional resolution calling for Japan to publicly recognize its history of wartime sexual slavery “was regrettable.” (IHT)

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Presidential Office praised the act:

The resolution is expected to offer a chance for the Japanese government to change its attitude toward history, said Presidential Office Spokesman Cheon Ho-seon at a briefing.

“The Japanese government must be well aware that the best way to reach a reconciliation is through an honest review of history. We can be very good neighbors,” Cheon said, adding “we expect a changed attitude on the part of the Japanese government.” (People’s Daily)

It seems terribly ironic that Abe chose to use the word “regrettable” only to further deny Japan’s dark wartime past (a better use for the word might have been “Japan’s wartime history of sexual slavery was regrettable“). Abe should understand that acknowledging historical fact is absolutely essential for the well-being of the international community, for those who have been victimized, and for the education of future generations.

He must also understand that this resolution doesn’t signal a personal attack; no one is asking him to personally own up or accept blame for his nation’s past, but simply to afford people the truth. Indeed, the personal attacks are mainly coming from inside his own country, from the majority of citizens who want him out of office over the recent pension system scandal.

The truly “regrettable” thing here is Abe’s disconnect with reality. The world knows what happened, his own people are tired of him, and it appears it’s time for a change. Get with the times, Abe, or get out of office.

Point It Traveler’s Dictionary

WHEN traveling, I feel it’s always in the best taste to at least try to speak the local language, however much one may butcher it.

During my time Beijing, the Lonely Planet phrasebook I brought along was a big help. But truthfully, an untrained ear trying to pronounce Mandarin’s tones meant I got a lot of blank looks when I ventured beyond “Ni hao” (Hello) and “Xie Xie” (Thank you). So I ended up doing a lot of pointing; this made for some interesting surprises – like pointing to “breakfast,” without a clue of what might come to the table.

This is the central idea behind the Point It travelers dictionary, which I picked up at the MoMA shop in New York a while back. This thin book is divided into basic categories – Food, Hotel, Transport and Shopping, etc. – with each section featuring photos of things like place settings, animals, modes of transportation…anything you might need to find the word for.

Though the photos look like they’re from circa 1970, this looks to be an extremely useful reference – there’s no need to carry around a bunch of dictionaries if you’re crossing through countries, and I imagine one could just pick up on words as they went along, instead of trying in vain to pronounce poorly-romanized words from phrasebooks.

Sadly, I’ve yet to have a journey where I needed to use the book. Whether it’s the travel essential the publishers claim it is, I’m not sure, but you can bet it’s coming with me on my next international flight.

This Week’s Wandering News

  • In this shrinking world, new conundrums – both intricate and mundane – confront us daily. For Joyce Hor-Chung Lau of the International Herald Tribune‘s Paris Globespotters blog, it was seeking out the perfect French restaurant for her lactose intolerant Chinese parents; her observations create a comic narrative on how dining-cultures collide.
  • If you want proof of how pollution has become a truly global crisis, a team of Belgian scientists say you need only look at the Penguin Guano.
  • Blogger FiftyViss reports that a decade after Burma joined with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), little progress has been made.
  • Even as tourists trickle in to the Eastern European capital, recently-polled citizens of Budapest say they aren’t so satisfied with their city.
  • Australian Paula Constant is hoping to be the first woman to trek the Sahara by foot – but even in the oblivion of endless dunes, political strife has put a hold on her journey. Story at The Age.

This Week’s Wandering News is a collection of travel-related links from the past week TDT finds interesting. It is normally posted every Sunday.

Summer and Goodbye

EARL leaned over the kitchen sink, a Pabst in hand and tears running down his cheeks. “Fuck!” he yelled, shaking his head, perhaps mad at himself for getting emotional, looking like he was wondering how it would go from here.

In the living room Jared was tearing up, too. But he was more resigned – after all, it was him who was leaving. No fan of drawn-out goodbyes, I just gave him a hug, saying “We’ll see you out in L.A, man. It’s never over.”

The party had gotten loud by then; garbage cans were filling up with emptied bottles of brew and people were still mingling on the porch as the hours stretched to midnight. But in the kitchen a moment was being made, the dim light encapsulating a relic of friendships forged. Earl, Jared and Phill clinked their drinks together, wiped tears. The rest of us sidelined, observing an emotional toast to companions, long nights, summers and inevitable departures. People were laughing again.

I left the party feeling awkward, sad and a bit wobbly. An undecided moon hung in the sky like it was tacked to an inky corkboard. I rode my bicycle home, wondering if I should have said something more. Wondering if I should’ve stayed longer, tried to push back the night, spent more time with my friend. But the moment for goodbyes had already passed into an oblivious past. This departure was an important one, an especially bittersweet one, but it was truthfully one of many more to come – friends would leave, I would leave. Cities themselves would shift in meaning as their populations rotated. It’s never over, I had said…and there’s never any going back.

The morning came, the beer and whiskey still lingering a bit but nothing black coffee wouldn’t fix. I rode to the coffee shop, met up with friends from the previous night, and eventually Jared rolled up as well. We all sat and chatted just like any other day, talking about bikes, travel routes, life. A while later Jared stood up. Time to go. A new context, another chance to say goodbye, safe journeys.

We had a good man-hug, pats on the back. “See you soon,” I said, hoping things would work out, and really wishing I hadn’t stuck out my hand as if we were just going to shake hands like we were strangers.

Iraq: Reasons to Celebrate, Mourn

The Iraqi national soccer team won a victory over South Korea in yesterday’s Asia Cup match, via the NYTimes:

As the Iraqi national soccer team eked out a 4-3 shootout victory over South Korea on Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis poured into the streets in a paroxysm of good feeling and unity not seen in years.

It was more rapture than celebration, a singular release of the sort of emotion that has fueled so much rage and fear and paranoia. But this evening, at least at first, it seemed diverted into nonstop car-horn bliss; spontaneous parades clogged streets from Erbil to Karbala, from Basra to Mosul, from Ramadi to Baghdad. [Full]

While I’d normally be bummed to see a loss for South Korea, given the current situation in Iraq it’s clear which nation needed this more.

Tragically, the halcyon moment of revelry was fleeting for Iraqis, as two suicide bombings tore through Baghdad killing at least 50 people and several men used the cover of the crowd to violently end their personal vendettas.

Will the nation of Iraq ever know unity again?

TSA: Keeping Us Safe From Sanity

Via Mike at Vagabondish, a seven year-old Florida boy is on the national “no fly” list, as he is clearly a terrorism risk:

Michael Martin is only 7 years old, a typical youngster who enjoys skateboarding and playing drums. Because he shares a name with a known or suspected terrorist, he has run into roadblocks three times before boarding an airliner, Krista Martin said.

Each time, she was unable to quickly obtain a boarding pass for him online or via an airport kiosk. She had to march to a check-in counter to sort things out, which she said was mostly an inconvenience but also “exasperating.”

Apparently, in a nation that uses predator drones and can digitally spy on its citizens, we are still not quite at that technologically advanced stage where we can discern between a small boy who enjoys drums and a suspected terrorist.

Just for context, a quick search for “Michael Martin” in New York state brought 157 results. Keep us safe, TSA, keep us safe.

Bon Voyage to ‘The Daily Kimchi’

incheon international airport. photo by d’n’c.

The famous Korea blogger Gdog of The Daily Kimchi is heading home tomorrow – or rather today, Korea time – as his teacher’s contract recently expired. I’ve kept track of his posts for the past half-year or so, and as many of his dedicated readers also surely feel, it’s sad to see him go. His well-maintained blog grew rapidly and did a lot to generate interest in Korea, showing a light-hearted (and food-centric) view of expat life in Seoul.

Bon voyage Daily Kimchi, hope to see more posts from your next destination!

Welcome to TDT. This blog is no longer active. Read about it here.

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