Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Part 4: The Wonder that was Baguio



"My Shangri-La has gone away... She seemed to drift out on the rain, that came in somewhere softly from the blue. Clouds roll by and hide the sun, raindrops fall on everyone ...."
- from the song by ELO


"Apparell'd in celestial light,
the glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;
turn wheresoe'er I may, by night or day,
the things which I have seen I now can see no more."

- William Wordsworth








In December of 1966, I turned 8 and later that month we celebrated our second Christmas in the Philippines with a trip north to the mountains and the city of Baguio.

For over a year friends of my parents had been encouraging them to visit the mountain city, telling them how pleasant and picturesque Baguio was. Barely 56 years old, the city had been built by Americans as a place to escape the heat and humidity of the lowlands. Despite having a 130 inch average annual rainfall, at just over 5,000 feet the city was quite cool year round. It was a popular tourist destination and would get quite crowded during the Easter season.

No matter how great it was, getting my Dad to part with money on something "frivolous" like a vacation was near impossible. But when he found out they could expense the entire trip off by attending the inter-denominational Religious Acculturation Conference they eagerly made reservations to stay a week.

Some of the various Mission denominations maintained "camps" in and around Baguio for the use of it's missionaries; the same Mission Board that ran the Guest House in Malate ran one in Baguio called Westminster. It had around ten little rustic cabins nestled in a grove of pine trees and a main building that had individual rooms and a cafeteria for those that did not want to cook.


Mom was horribly homesick for the States and cold weather and after being bedridden for so many months this would be a real treat for her.
Auring would be coming along to cook and watch us kids while my parents attended the daily lectures. My brother Andy was just weeks out of the incubator at St Luke's Hospital. A sickly child, he was Auring's "baby" and her favorite. I didn't mind, she had plenty of love to share and managed to find plenty of time to pay attention to us.
Baguio had an airport with daily flights arriving from Manila and there were air conditioned non stop buses that departed hourly. However, this was not for us. We got up early one morning before the sun rose and went to the Philippine National Railroad (PNR) station and caught the first train out to the foothills of the Cordillera mountain range, then took a bus the rest of the way up the mountain.
Like so many pre-war travelers before us, this was the quaint old way to get to Baguio. A little more complicated and a few hours longer, but cheaper, which is why my Dad selected it.The train ride was hot and dusty, stopping at each station along the way. Finally we arrived and gathered up our luggage and transferred to the bus. Our bus snaked its way up the canyons following a river. The road became much steeper, tiny streams of water crossing the road now and then flowing from little waterfalls. The change in climate from tropical to temperate was dramatic. Suddenly the air was much cooler, the scent of the Benguet Pine trees filling the bus. The traffic was very light, there were few buses, fewer cars. It was very exciting, we were explorers in a strange new world. Finally we reached the city and it was so cold to our bodies now accustomed to hot humid tropical weather.

We took a taxi from the bus station to the Mission owned group of cottages on a hill covered in pine trees. Some of the older cabins had stone fireplaces, the newer ones had kerosene stovepipe heaters. Auring went to the market to pick up some groceries, Mom started unpacking. I went out to explore.
All the cottages except the main building were perched on the hillside supported on one side with posts, underneath each cabin was the perfect little hideaway. There in the hard packed red clay I discovered someone had carved out a city of roads and caves perfect for my Matchbox cars.
That afternoon I found that the camp had a playground and that there were other kids there too. We soon made friends and would spend the afternoons and evenings playing Tag, Red Rover and Hide n' Seek. One kid had Matchbox cars too, so we began to spend part of each day playing and building new roads under the cabins.





That night after supper Dad lit the heater and the smell of burning kerosene filled the room. That scent became permanently embedded with my memories of Baguio, Christmas, pine trees and cool weather. The next morning we awoke shivering and were surprised to see the mist of our breath. Dad re-lit the heater while we waited for Auring to fix us oatmeal and hot chocolate.

After breakfast Mom and Dad went out to meet the fellow missionary "neighbors" while I went to look around. I discovered the camp had a library too, accessible only by a walkway on stilts. It was a magical place, if I close my eyes I can still smell the
quiet dustiness of old wood & books. Looking out the windows one could only see the tops of the pine trees, as if we were floating in the forest canopy. Inside, arm chairs and sofas were arranged in little reading areas around a big stone fireplace. There were larger tables for playing cards or games, smaller ones by the windows for writing letters.
Shelves along the walls held books, puzzles and board games. I quickly looked over the titles, skipping the religious section and went straight to my current favorite genre: Detective Mysteries. Nancy Drew, Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet, Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, The Message in the Hollow Oak, The ABC Murders, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It was a gold mine. Reading was my passion and I was always hungry for new titles. Over the years I would read almost every novel that little library contained.

We didn't see much of Mom or Dad that week, they were at the lectures all day and sometimes would go out to eat afterwards with other missionaries. One night we were invited down the road to a missionary's home for supper. Auring stayed behind with the baby and the rest of us walked down the hill. There were some boys there my age and after supper we went out to explore the woods behind their home. Keith
wanted to come along too, but having your 4 year old brother tag along was not cool. I said no, but Dad said

"Take your brother along on your hike"


(You may now remember I briefly mentioned this incident before) My street cred plummeted to zero with my new buddies. We were walking along a trail about 10 feet above a creek when Keith decided to leap off the trail into the water below. Anything to get attention. There was his fat little head bobbing and spinning away down the stream and I had to make a quick decision as to whether I should let the little squib drown or jump in after him. None of my new friends looked the least bit interested in getting wet. That is how come I only have three brothers.

So it was that a short time later we were walking back to the house, soaking wet, with Keith wailing his head off. There was no praise for saving the rat, only a lecture on not having watched him more carefully.
 
One afternoon Auring and I brought home a Christmas tree and Mom threaded popcorn into garlands and cut out ornaments from paper and pinned them to the tree. That evening carolers came by and sang us Christmas songs. "Scrooge" made a long drawn out pretense of searching his pockets for non existent money, but before he could turn them away empty handed, Mom went and got her pocketbook and handed out money to the smiling faces. I don't remember Christmas morning or opening presents, but I do remember having a traditional American Christmas dinner with turkey and dressing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy. Before the meal Dad said our family prayer with a few added sentences befitting the occasion: Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.



We didn't do too much touristy stuff our first time to Baguio. We went to the market, we went to Burnham Park. My parents bought some woodcarvings, woven goods and jars of the locally made strawberry preserves. Mom was happy to have American ladies to talk with, Dad was glad to have the American men to argue with. Auring had her hands full with the new baby and Keith (who was amazingly well behaved after his near death experience). And I had my own personal library. Mostly we relaxed around the camp enjoying the the cold fresh clean air. In the evenings we would go outside to watch the amazing sunsets, then Auring would make popcorn and we played Rook or put together puzzles. Sometimes there would be a camp fire and we would roast marshmallows. I think we each found a little bit of heaven that week we spent in Baguio.

Looking back I see now that Baguio was a microcosm suspended in its own time. The Philippines was changing but Baguio and it's citizens resisted that change. Clean and alive and fresh as the blue skies. And it was so different than the rest of the Philippines. The scents of Baguio were unique to the country. Even the smells of the open air market were totally different from those of Quiapo and Cubao.

But it was more than that, it was another world. The parks, sidewalks and streets were clean; oddly they still had their original American names. Traffic was much lighter, cars were of an older vintage. The homes vaguely reminiscent of the older lodge style of the twenties or thirties. Men wore suits or sports coats. Women wore dresses. School girls in uniforms, school boys in white shirts and ties.


The locals were cordial and friendly, speaking to us in English as we passed. In the early evening a siren would blast, people would stop, pause in silent prayer, then move on again greeting each other with an evening blessing.

Whenever I went to Baguio, I have always felt that time stopped, somewhere along that line where the Tropical Jungle met the Pine Forest. There hours were days and days were weeks and years stretched into decades. In the evenings the fog would roll in, as if to hide Baguio from the outside world, like Brigadoon.

Our own private Shangri-La.







Friday, July 17, 2009

Part 3: Life in Phil Am Village



"Being pretty on the inside means you don't hit your brother
and you eat all your peas - that's what my grandma taught me."

~Lord Chesterfield



"I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and then I knocked my brother down ... "
~Dylan Thomas






We lived in that house in Quezon City for a year. My dad found out he didn’t know much about Southeast Asian agriculture and had to go to college again while my mom stayed home and got morning sickness. Dad took some classes at Ateneo, then at the University of the Philippines and International Rice Reasearch Institute (IRRI) both in Los Banos. Mom spent her time between the bathroom and the bed. Auring gradually took over more of the household and cooking duties.

Dad wouldn't buy a TV, so I went next door to the neighbors everyday to watch my favorite shows: Popeye, Gilligan's Island, Combat! and The Man From UNCLE. We didn't know how much to unpack as we were still waiting to see if we could get visas to Bali. On our driveway there were huge packing crates filled with a five year supply of Carnation instant dried milk for a family of twenty. We had so much that Dad made us drink it by the gallon 3 times a day till the smell of milk made me vomit. One day as he was staring up at the huge crates he realized it would spoil before we could ever drink it all and ended up giving it to food banks for the poor. I never drank milk again for four years.

After Dad got rid of the dried milk he made me an aircraft carrier out of wood from the packing crates. It was great to look at but the wood smelled so bad it would make me sick when I played with it. I would be out on the driveway with my planes, landing them on the aircraft carrier, the sounds of their engines mingled with the sounds of me gagging. So I would only play with it till the headaches and nausea got too bad.




Andy was born in September of 1966 at Saint Luke’s hospital in Quezon City. He was a couple months pre-mature, which meant they grew him in an incubator till he finished hatching. Like Doc Bruce Banner they belted him with gamma rays till he grew up to be the tallest and have the most muscles of all the boys. After he got out of the hospital caring for him fell to Auring as Mom was taking language classes.

 


For our first Christmas in the Philippines Mom's parents came to visit. I got a bike and an electric car set. Auring bought me a Combat! playset that included a helmet, canteen, a Colt .45 and holster and the best of all, a Thompson sub machine gun. I was so cool. It didn't last long because Dad would yell "Let your brother play with your toys!"
One by one he broke all my Christmas presents. Except the bike, because he couldn't get up on it. Dad taught me to ride the bike like this: Put the kid on the bike at the top of the hill. Give the bike a push. Watch the kid crash at the bottom of the hill. Walk back in the house.

The night after the Grandparents left to fly back to the States, a strange thing happened. I was sleeping on the top bunk and I heard my electric car start to run around the track. It went round and round going faster and faster till it jumped the track. Then it ran across the room and under the bed till it hit the wall. The wheels kept spinning till the batteries died out. While this was happening my Grandfather walked into the room in his bathrobe and stood at the foot of the bed staring at me. I lay there frozen with my eyes just open to slits till he turned and walked out of the room. Then I reached down and jerked the covers over my head. The next morning I wondered if it had been a dream, but I found my race car under the bed with the batteries dead.
Aswang...

My brother Keith was a cross between Dennis the Menace and Charles Schulz's "Pigpen". Outgoing and friendly, perpetually in trouble and extremely filthy, he used to get hosed off by Auring in a bucket everyday in the front yard.One time while he was getting his bath he crawled out and picked up dog poop and ate it. Which is why the rule stay three feet away from me came in to effect. I never let him anywhere near me after that. 
He got to walking good and began to regularly wander off. This usually occurred when we had some place to go. Once Keith got the hang of it he took off every chance he got. He learned how to open the gate, so we put a lock on it. Then he learned how to climb over the wall. Sometimes we would spend a whole day looking for him. Well, actually I would usually only look for 10 minutes or so, then go watch TV at the neighbors. He usually would find some family’s home around meal time, let himself in and sit down with the family to eat. This could have been because of all the experimental food my parents were having back home. It was either animal survival instinct or he was a lot smarter than me. It must have been the former.The other excitement that year was when Keith backed off the diving board at the local swimming pool. Keith and Dad were in the kiddie pool and I was practicing my swimming in the regular pool. After a while I noticed that Dad was swimming in the pool with me. It never occurred to me to wonder who was watching Keith. Then I heard Dad yelling “get. off. of . there. right. now!”
I looked up and there he was out at the end of the diving board. So Keith obeyed. Because when Dad yells, you hop to it. He just swung over the side and dropped. Dad started swimming towards the deep end, but Keith didn't come up.

That moment stands frozen in time: the rings spreading out over the water where he fell in, the lifeguard ripping off his shirt, diving in, his shirt suspended in the air behind him. Dad still more than half a pool away. Silence. That is how come I only have three brothers.




Then lifeguard went down again and came back up with the soggy little mess that was my brother, coughing and crying. So many missed opportunities.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Part 2: Our Story Continues



"Mother is the name for God on the lips and in the hearts of little children."
~ William Makepeace Thackery




"Because I feel that in the heavens above the angels, whispering one to another, can find among their burning tears of love, none so devotional as that of "Mother," therefore, by that dear name I have long called you. You who are more than mother unto me."
~ Edgar Allen Poe





When we got off the ship in Hong Kong for a day of sightseeing we were surprised to see a big
WELCOME banner with our name on it and a crowd of smiling people carrying gifts. They shook our hands, hugged us and then we were hustled off in a big car. It was on the way there that they discovered they had the wrong family. So with some embarrassment and a request for the return of the gifts they quickly dropped us off at the curb and hurried back to find the "right" family. I tried to return my brother along with the gifts as compensation for their mistake but they made us keep him.

After Hong Kong our next stop was the city of Manila in the Philippines.
When we disembarked we were met by Mission Board representatives who told us we would be stuck in Manila for a while. While we were at sea, Indonesia was having something called a coup d’├ętat and no one was allowed to travel there. So all our worldly possessions were removed from the ship and we took up residence at a Mission Guest house in the suburb of Malate. It was a magical place on a quiet street that traffic somehow seemed to bypass. Inside the compound, time seemed to stand still, cicadas droning in the silence of the afternoon, dust motes suspended in the hot air. Well, it was quiet till we got there!
I was fascinated with the dynamic multi-cultural, multi-generational group that inhabited the Guest House. From newbies like my parents, to "old hand" missionaries and Peace Corp volunteers, they were a passionate bunch. Dinners were a grand affair presided over by the manager of the Guest House, "Pompey". Each meal began with a reading from a monthly publication called "The Upper Room", then was followed by several scripture readings and finally a prayer by one of the guests. All meals were served family style, between bites the old timers would regale us with stories of their adventures and mishaps over the years. Many of them had been in the Philippines for decades, some had been there before and during WWII. The tales of their trials and tribulations filled my imagination. Quiet as a mouse I'd situate myself close to their after dinner conversations in the "sala". The newbies would confess their failures and frustrations, the old timers would look at each other and smile, then dispense advice and explanations. They would argue politics and theology and I sucked it all in. As days grew in to weeks the situation in Indonesia continued to worsen. We could do nothing but sit and wait, so with time on our hands we took in the sights.

Manila had been almost completely destroyed during the recapture of the city during WWII. Twenty years later it was still rebuilding. But the economy was good, the peso strong at 4 pesos to a dollar; there was energy and promise in the air.



Manila was exciting and fascinating; The buses had conductors dressed in stiff Khaki blouses and deep red skirts, street urchins running between cars, jumping on and off buses and Jeepneys, selling Juicy Fruit gum and cigarettes. Shopping at Rustan's and Tesoro's on Mabini Avenue, more shopping in Cubao and Quiapo. Rizal Avenue and Roxas Boulevard ablaze with neon at night. We took in movies and went to all the tourist hot spots from the historic old Spanish fortress section of the city called Intramuros, to Luneta park,
the Bamboo Organ and strolled along scenic Manila Bay. I remember the lights of Rizal Avenue, the Jai Alai sign and all the giant movie marquee billboards.
The Sound of Music, Doctor Zhivago, Thunderball, Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, That Darn Cat!, The Great Race, Von Ryan's Express all up on hand painted billboards the size of a barn.

We began to learn new words: sala for livingroom, tsinelas for flip-flops; we began to sample the cornucopia of local dishes and fruits. Papaya and mango, suman and puto, lumpia and adobo. New names, new tastes, new shapes and new flavors everyday!
 
Just as we were getting used to our "home" at the Guest House, they made us move because we were driving "Pompey" and everyone else crazy. To get us as far away as possible and still give us access to the airport they found us a house a hour away in Quezon City.
It was a simple 3 bedroom ranch style track house. Bedrooms on one end, kitchen, living and dining rooms on the other. The only other thing I remember about that house was that there was a Jackfruit tree in the yard by the driveway.
Jackfruit looks like a giant watermelon with bumpy skin. The flesh inside is banana yellow and kind of tastes like a combination of banana and Juicy Fruit gum. Dad and I loved the fruit but everything edible in the Philippines was making Mom gag.

At meal times Dad had a rule,
"three bites or a lot". This meant you had to try everything and have at least three bites or he would heap your plate with it and make you eat it all. So, besides vegetables, this included all the things that kids love like liver, tongue, heart and other macabre Hannibal Lecter delicacies. In those days, before Mom gave up cooking, if it looked horrific and tasted nasty then you could be sure it was on our table.
Dad, why is this meat so rough and slimy?

"That's tongue and it is considered a delicacy!"

Dad, this smelly meat is still bleeding!

“That’s liver and it’s got lots of vitamins in it!”


And you had to have three bites. Including of course, the fat. You had to eat all the fat too.

“When I was kid we used to fight over the fat!”

Go for it Dad.


We had a big iron table with fancy scroll work and I used to wedge the fat and other nasty things between the curlicues of the table when he wasn't looking.

Mom could never figure out the ins and outs of open air market shopping. Always overcharged and the cuts of meat were of dubious quality. We had been in the house a month or so and were beginning to starve when my parents finally caved in and hired a housekeeper/nanny/cook. Her name was Auring and she was wonderful.
Auring was always there to talk to us kids, taking us on her lap, stroking our hair as she read us stories. Soon our house became a home and was filled with the delicious scents of her cooking. We all quickly got spoiled, we got used to having good, tasty meals, mom got used to having someone do the housework.

Auring knew lots of stories about ghosts and witches and other scary things to tell us right before bed. My favorite was the
Aswang.
It was a witch/vampire whose upper torso would detach from the bottom half and she would fly around looking for young children who weren't in bed after dark. She would grab them and then her extra long tongue would slide down their throats using it to rip out their livers and eat it and drink their blood! When the lights were shut off at night we always made sure we were in bed and with our mouths clamped shut tight!
Auring had a boyfriend who drove a taxi and he would come by once a week to take her out on a date.
I would anxiously watch her get ready, selfishly hoping that things wouldn't work out. Auring had been a housekeeper for some Norwegian people and she told us they had been mean, pinching, slapping and beating her. She seemed to really like our family so I guess they must have been real horrible for her to feel that way about us. She was a great cook, but more importantly to us kids, she loved us. We had a mother. Music filled our home; to Dad's chagrin the radio was on from the moment Auring got up till she went to bed at night. Most nights we kids would listen to the tango hour on the radio and dance around the room with her. Auring loved to sing songs of unrequited love and would belt out You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin' by The Righteous Brothers as she cleaned the house. Doris Day, Mario Lanza, Tom Jones, Josef Locke, Dusty Springfield, Dean Martin, her tastes were eclectic. The sounds of her singing lullabies to my brothers still echo in my head.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Part 1: In the Beginning



"
In principio erat verbum
et Deus erat verbum in terminus ero vox...
"
- John 1:1


"
But we see now through a glass darkly, and the truth...and the truth we see in fragments..."
- from The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco





We went to Bali, Indonesia when I was 7. At least that is where the ship was headed when we got on board in San Francisco. I don’t remember my parents telling me we were going to Indonesia. I do know that I couldn't bring much, which is just about nothing when you are a kid. I had this large Panda bear in whose lap I used to sit when I was a toddler. I remember freaking out when I saw him chunked in the trash when we were packing. This was a pattern I had grown quite familiar with over the previous 6 years whenever we moved. My stuff in the trash, Dad’s stuff in the packing crates.


We
didn’t move from Iowa to Bali right away, first, in 1964, we moved to Ithaca, New York (and then later to New Haven, Connecticut). There my parents attended missionary orientation centers for one year. They took sociology, anthropology and language classes at Yale and Cornell. They took psychiatric evaluation tests and had sessions with a psychiatrist to determine if they were crazy. He must not have been very good because both my parents passed with “excellent” marks.

I remember riding a bike with training wheels up and down the sidewalks. There was this enormous grassy meadow where we would fly kites and
Guillow’s balsa wood glider planes. Dad would take me to the corner store to buy the planes, comic books and Matchbox cars. At Easter they had a huge Easter egg hunt on that same meadow. I was totally amazed that someone would place candy and money in plastic eggs and leave them lying around. I gathered up quite a pile, but then my brother started to cry because he only got two. Dad yelled “Share your eggs with your brother!” I tried to give him all the hardboiled eggs, but Mom came over and started dividing everything up “evenly”. Somehow I ended up with mostly hardboiled eggs, Keith got more chocolate and the money “disappeared”. That night Keith first threw up a chocolate river and then filled his pants with something that looked like Hershey’s but didn’t smell like it. Payback is a bitch.

That summer I went to a genuine summer camp, Echo Ridge. I learned to swim and generally had lots of fun. One of the camp counselors looked like Sgt Carter from the
Gomer Pyle show. He was mean and yelled a lot. He was always screaming “get out of the deep end!” and “quit touching that!” One day after we had been playing dodgeball, we were marching back to the cabins and as we passed the pool there he was floating on his back with his eyes closed. A big pink target. I was at the end of the line carrying the ball. The next thing I knew that ball was flying through the air, over the chain link fence and hit him right on the stomach. Such a lovely sound. He went under and came up sputtering and yelling “who did that!?” But by then we had already marched on by.
















I don’t remember leaving Ithaca a year later and traveling to San Francisco. Nor do I remember boarding the SS President Cleveland. My first memory is of crawling into my bunk, and in the wall pocket finding two small model ships some other kid had left behind. We were all sea sick that night, even Dad the ex sailor and we hadn’t even left the harbor. But within a few days we found our sea legs and life on board turned out to be great.
For the next 3 weeks we would be at sea. Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and then Indonesia. Nothing to do but sit back, relax and enjoy the sights, the food and cruise ship entertainment. This part of the trip permanently spoiled my parents; the taste of not having to mind the kids was in their mouths.

They took full advantage of the daily childcare provided by the staff of the SS President Cleveland. Every morning they eagerly handed us over and we gladly went. There were activity classes, games and movies for the kids. I remember watching "Old Yeller", "Davy Crockett", "The Nutty Professor" and "The Absent Minded Professor". There was shuffleboard and a swimming pool on the ship and no matter what side of the pool you were on the waves kept hitting you in the face.

My brother provided daily drama. One day a week my parents had us kids to watch and in their self absorbed manner set Keith down for a moment. He immediately wandered off and sometime later it occurred to my parents that they were supposed to have two kids not one. Mom was running around screaming and waving her arms “Where’s Keith? He’s fallen overboard!” Horns blasted, deck hands were scrambling all over the place peering over the sides. The railings were ridiculously low and if you were short like a kid you would just go right under the rails. How they never lost any kids before that I’ll never know. I just stayed away from the railings on the main deck. I don't know how long they spent circling that spot on the ocean or how much it cost to turn the ship around. If you are wondering who was supposed to be watching Keith – it wasn’t me, I was only 7. And that is how come I only have three brothers.
We had fun and exciting stops in Hawaii, Japan and then we got to Hong Kong, which is where Keith (yeah, unfortunately they found him sometime later sleeping under one of the lifeboats) left my favorite ruby red Matchbox No. 32 Jaguar XKE in the taxi.

This is because my father said
“Let your brother play with your car!”

My brother was born to make me miserable and my father was his accomplice. Born with bowed legs, he wore metal braces on them to straighten them up. He was some strange
mechanical robot crawling, then walking about. Like some medieval torture device, every night they were tightened a notch or two. This caused some pain and he would cry every night before bed. At a very early age he learned that the squeaky wheel gets the grease; he whined and cried into getting his way with my parents. Exasperated by his constant need for attention, my Dad frequently pawned him off on me. Dad would do just about anything to shut him up. One time my father gave him chewing gum (why would you give a 1 year old chewing gum?) which he chewed till it was nice and sticky then he slapped it on the back of my head. Dad shaved just that part of my head, a little round bald spot, which is how I went to my first day of kindergarten.

We went to visit a friend of my parents and they had a big old bell on a tripod. My father said
“let your brother ring the bell first” and yellow jackets swarmed out, ignored Keith and headed straight for me and my face. Later when we got home Dad said “Let your brother shut the car door!” and before I could get my fingers out he slammed it on my hand and it latched shut. It took about an hour for Dad to pry the door open with a crowbar.
And then there was the time a few years later in Baguio when my father said
“take your brother with you on your hike!” It was December, it was cold and my brother promptly jumped into a fast moving creek. He hated water and never wanted to go swimming, so I guess he did it to spite me. I watched as he went swirling away down stream and I thought “well, that’s one problem solved.” But then I thought of my other, older, bigger problem and wished he had ignored my brother's whining. I knew somehow this all would be my fault. So, after some deliberation, I jumped in to save him. As we walked back to the house cold and sopping wet I pondered the story of Cain and Abel and the meaning of the words “my brother's keeper”.

This sea voyage was our introduction to the myriad of different cultures of Southeast Asia. This Japanese song was a big hit back in 1963 and I used to play it on the stereo even though I didn't know what the words meant. Whenever I hear it now it reminds me of Japan, Hong Kong and Manila of the 60's.