Friday, April 25, 2014

Tracks - the story of Robyn Davidson

(Apologies to readers for neglecting this blog!)

Yesterday I went to my favourite movie theatre at Bribie Island to see "Tracks" - the story of Robyn Davidson, who trekked from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean way back in 1977.  I had started to read the book some time ago, and recently found that I had a copy of it - a book bought or given to my late father, who wrote his name and the date 1985, in the front of it.  The book has shown its age, with the perimeter of the pages yellowing.

I remember hearing the story, or reading the press about her ventures way back in the 1980's, and was pleased to see that eventually a movie was made of this extra ordinary adventure.

I marvel at her determination to complete the journey as there were many obstacles in her way.  It really is an inspiration story.  Indeed she had an element of luck with her as well - such an awesome journey.

I found the biography of Robyn very interesting too - especially her connection with the writer Salman Rushdie.

Another great Australian story with stunning photography of Australia from Alice Springs to the West.
Mia Wasikowska played he role of Robyn, and Adam Driver played Rick Smolan, the photographer for National Geographic.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Books on China

When I was wandering around Melbourne, I found a bookshop called The Book Grocer, which advertised books at $10 each.  I resisted, I really did, but in the end I walked out with a bag of books, and regretted it momentarily - especially as I had to carry them around with me and they were heavy.  Still, I reasoned with myself that I may not have found the shop again if I didn't buy then and there.

I came across a section in the bookshop on China - so three of the books were about China.  I have read one already and I am so pleased I did.

Er Tai Gao wrote a "Memoir of a Chinese Labor Camp" titled "In Search of My Homeland" which was published in 2009, by HarperCollins, New York.

I spent less than two years in China as an English teacher in 2008 and 2010, and have a deep fascination with Chinese culture.  It is such a complex ancient culture, and though we may have read bits and pieces abut life in China since the 1950's, it is such a vast country with many stories. 

Er Tai Gao (now living in the US) was a young art teacher, 22 years old in 1957 when he wrote something that offended the Chinese Communist authorities and was sent to a labor camp and lived under extra ordinary conditions until sometime in the 1990's when he was released and able to go to the US.

It is a horrific tale of abuse, and details some of the extra ordinary behaviour of those in power under Chairman Mao.  I found it very hard to read  - (only hard to read about what he and others experienced at that time.)  He certainly sounds to be an amazing man to endure all he had to suffer in the camp.

Anyone interested in Chinese history would find it very enlightening.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Movie - About Time

It is a while since I have seen a movie on the big screen, so after my day went from being organised, to being chaotic I farewelled my last "guest", jumped in the car and headed to Morayfield to see a movie.  I had not been to the theatre there in the huge Morayfield Shopping Complex, and arrived just in time.

Strangely there were only two others in the theatre for the whole movie - quite an odd feeling really.  The movie was About Time, which I had heard good reports on, though confess to not having read a review.

It was a story about a young man, who at 21 years of age, was told by his father that the men of their family had the ability to turn back time.  Though unbelieving when told, he went out and discovered he indeed did have this gift and used it to find a girlfriend, with quite hilarious results, and it did end up happily ever after!

I thought it was a long movie - it felt as it if it was dragging on at one point, though never, despite my fatigue did I feel like closing my eyes., and some I was annoyed by the shaking of the film, as if the camera man/woman had had a bad experience. Towards the end of the film there was quite a bit of shaky filming.

All up I'd give the moving 7/10 - marked down because of the over use of the dreaded "F" word.  I wonder how those who view films as some time in the future will regard this penchant for using this word so frequently.  It really annoys me to hear it so many time.

(There are, as always, some good movies coming up, so I plan to end the "drought" and see a movie more frequently.)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Binding Chair

(Apologies for neglecting this site for a long time......)

I came by this book in a strange way.  I was staying at my daughter's place, and beside the bed in the guest room is a bookshelf full of books - many of which I had read, but one stood out.  Those who know me, know that I often read historical novels and biographies of Chinese people, and this one was clearly a Chinese story.

I read a few lines, then spoke with my daughter.  "Did she mind if I borrowed it?" 

Her response surprised me.  "I think it is YOURS"

I declared that I had never seen it - so to this day it is a mystery - where did it come from?  Her daughter (13 years of age) is an avid reader, and she mentioned that she thought A would like to read it.  I declared that I would return it as soon as I read it.

The author Kathryn Harrison was not known to me - I set about to read.....    I learned very early that I would probably not give it to a 13 year old to read - some of the sex scenes were a little too much for such youth and even me.  I had no idea that the toe of a woman who had had her feet bound would be such an interesting sex tool!!!

It did take me a while to read it - busy life, moving, etc all got in the way, but I persisted and eventually got to the last page.  Phew!!!  It was indeed very well written, and again, as I usually do,  I learned much more about Chinese culture.

I did find it very confusing as the story jumped about a fair bit - and there were numerous characters involved.  Perhaps if I had been able to read it all in a short time I would not have felt so disconnected with it - but I did finish it.  I do think it would make a good movie - though it is a looong story and a film would have to cut much of it out.

I found this article - in fact a Reading Guide for the book - here.    Anyone interested in Chinese history or culture would find The Binding Chair a fascinating read.

I will look for her other books at some time, but have a huge pile of books to wade through at the moment.

In Melbourne recently I discovered the Book Grocer in Melbourne where books are $10 each or less. I tried to resist but found it impossible so added weight to my luggage with a pile of books, and have almost completed one.

I note that one can buy online from them too.  How exciting.

Kathryn Harrison has written a number of books - visit her website here to read about her and her work.  Website.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Poor Treatment

I write this comment here - as it gives some idea of the way nurses are treated in distant regions.  I'm talking about Western Australia here, but I suspect that nurses in many remote places are not always treated with the care they should be.

Imagine this.  A contract for 10 days of night duty at a remote town.  Five nights on, two nights off, and five more nights on.  The nurse who went to help - the country hospital was desperate - lives 350 kms away from this town, and I might add is in her late 60's.  She's highly qualified and has been doing this sort of relief work for several years.  Hardly inexperienced.  In fact extremely highly qualified.

After completing five grueling nights of work, she came off duty expecting to get some rest and sleep! Only to be met by officialdom requesting she move out of the accommodation, as someone else was due to arrive.  What?  So where was her alternate accommodation?  Drive home for 350 kms?  After working all night?  It seems that it was somewhat a secret - certainly no one when she arrived at this outstation, that she was required to vacate for her two nights off.  And have a round trip of some 700 kms between her working nights.    After much argy-bargy, said nurse moved into the local caravan park.

The argument is still going on - the person responsible for the contract is unavailable - it is a weekend of course, so a bit more difficult.

The nurse is a good friend of mine - in fact we did our nursing training together in South Australia many years ago.  She often tells me of the treatment of staff and indeed patients in small country hospitals.  I find it astounding!

We will see where this ends - but instead of breaking the contract and heading home and leaving them in the lurch for the lat 5 nights she was contracted to do, she is staying, reluctantly of course as she is so hurt by this, she'd rather head home.

Normally she is provided with accommodation (and some of it rather challenging) for the time of the contract - from the start to the end.  No other hospital has required her to drive home hundreds of kilometers on off-duty periods.

Sad, but true.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Another Bamboo Book

I bought this book for my Kindle - and loved it.  It is "Daughter of the Bamboo Forest" by Sheng-Shih Lin.   I like 'real books' but I love my Kindle too, especially when I am travelling.

I will load quite a few  books onto my Kindle before I set off on my round Australia adventure later this year.  I find it so convenient to read on my Kindle.

On Amazon this is what is said about "Daughter of the Bamboo Forest"

"Alone in the bamboo forest, seven-year-old Little Jade, still dressed in red silk after her father's recent wedding, wonders whether she will ever meet her real mother. DAUGHTER OF THE BAMBOO FOREST is a story set in war-torn, post-revolutionary China during the 1940s. From age seven to twelve, Little Jade longs for the attention of an opium-addicted father and clashes with a desperate, resentful stepmother. The young girl is inadvertently swept by the tides of history, encountering a plague that decimated a village, Catholic nuns in a convent school, and the fabled dragon king along the way."

It is quite a sad story really, about a little girl neglected by her parents, and living a life which is quite tragic really, but the reader follow Little Jade's journey which has quite amazing twists and turns.

The story is based on the author's mother's story.

Read about it/buy it here at Amazon. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bamboo Books

When I was doing research for my university assignment on I found that there were a few books with 'bamboo' in the title.  One "So Far from the Bamboo Grove" I found particularly interesting, as it was written by Yoko Kawshima Watkins, who relates the tale of life around the time that the Japanese lost World War II.

Her father was a Japanese government official working in Manchuria, and Ko, her brother and sister and mother lived not far away in North Korea's Nanam.  When it became clear that they had to escape, Ko, her mother and sister made their own way through North Korea to Seoul.  It is a riveting story.

There has been, since 2006, some dispute particularly about the planes that Yoko describes, but in the front of my copy, she explains that the story is as she can remember.

The book received many awards, including The Courage of conscience Award from the Peace Abbey in Sherbourn, Massachusetts.

I have thought long and hard about including the YouTube Video discrediting the author's story, as I find the whole thing offensive.  Yoko does explain that she was 11 at the time, and clearly she would have been traumatised by what occurred at the time.  One point that the
video makes is that bamboo would not grow in that part of North Korea as it is too far from the tropical zones where bamboo thrives. Bamboo actually does very well in cooler climates, and indeed does grow in places like the UK, Germany etc, and in Beijing, which is almost on the on the same parallel.

I do recommend the book, which I bought on Amazon, but I see it is available in Australia.