Essays on Thai Folklore (Thailand)

Spirit House

by Phya Anuman Rajadhon

When I was in northern Thailand with friends, we played a game of How Do I Know I’m in Thailand?

* Poinsettia trees
* Color, color everywhere
* Spirit houses

I bought this book intending to delve into wat exactly, a spirit house is. (Ha ha) And why they appear on the roof of every department store and hotel in Bangkok – even the Pizza Hut.

I wasn’t expecting to get an Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader for linguaphiles, and travelbugs. But it was delightful – and dense – your brain needs processing time.

Published on the “auspicious occasion of the 80th anniversary of the author’s birthday” in 1968, it includes a sweet foreword from HRH Prince Wan Waithayakon Kromun Naradhip Bongsprabandh and a number of typos.

Before spirit houses, however, a word about Thai:

Siamese Language Bites

book coverYou can’t understand a people until you study their language. Thais call their country “The Land of Smile” – and they have hundreds of different smiles and meanings. I think they enjoy the ambiguity. Thai is tonal, a very Eastern concept.

I have a Thai friend who lives in Fang in northern Thailand. Her name can mean five different things, depending on which tone you give it – rising, falling, flat – I forget the rest. The one she likes best means “Rainglass”.

Historically, the Thai people are said to have come from Southern China. According to the author, “One group became the Shan of Burma, another group became the Siamese of Thailand, another became the Lao, and a number of the Thai with many tribal names [went to] Tongking (Vietnam) and Southern China and even Hainan Island.”

The Siamese in Thailand mixed freely with the Mon (Chinese) and the Khmers (Cambodian). Says the author, “It affected radically the Thai; physically, linguistically and culturally.” Although he doesn’t say how or why Indian people came into the mix, written Thai script has roots in India.

Thai scriptAgain, the author: “Southern School of Buddhism used Pali as its vehicle of thought and language, while the Northern School and Hinduism used Sanskrit. Here they became mixed through their tolerations of one another, unlike that of the religions of Semitic origins; and to add into its melting pot, the indigenous and popular belief of animism was also thrown into it.”

NOTE: As you can see from the quotes above, native English speakers may have to read this book twice: First, to enjoy the charming liberties the author takes with our language; Second, to understand what he is saying about his. (Also, be warned that this book has not been proofread very well.)

ADDITIONAL NOTE: How I wish the harsh, war-worshipping Arab-Semites had practiced “tolerations” of each other. Even the Thai language is tolerant. In one part of the book it talks about how Thai “can’t be bothered” with grammar. It’s that SouthEast Asian easy-goingness that Westerners often misperceive as lazy rather than peaceful.

We Are All One

poinsettia treesI am often surprised to find similarities in folklore between divergent countries; but I really shouldn’t be. The first Thai folk tale in the book concerns a prince who receives three wishes. In the Thai version, an argument between him and his wife results in his body being covered with either male or female genitalia. A second wish removes the offending knobs, but takes away his own body as well so he has to spend the remaining wish on becoming a man again. The author has traced the origins of this tale back to the Mon, and further back to India.

Well, it came to England too. When I was about ten, I remember reading the fairy tale of the woodcutter who wished for endless sausages and was cursed by his wife with a sausage stuck to his forehead. As a child, I gnashed my teeth in rage at the stupidity of grownups. People my age would have wished wisely! What is this tale supposed to teach us? Miracles aren’t real? Or perhaps, as the Japanese say, “Those who eat poisonous blowfish are stupid, but those who don’t eat blowfish are stupid too…”?

To finally satisfy my curiosity about this universal fairy tale, I found a list of interpretations by country.

JungleEstonia: “Whoever fails to take immediate advantage of unexpected luck will lose it forever.”
Persia: “Thus the man lost his three wishes by the lack of wit in the woman.” (Sorry, dudes – it takes two to tango.)
India: “He who cannot think for himself and will not follow the advice of friends, will push himself into misfortune, just like the weaver Mantharaka.”
England: “Lower your expectations. Be content with what you have.”

But the Hungarians take the gold medal in my opinion:

“They, however, made a hearty meal of the sausage; and as they came to the conclusion that it was in consequence of their quarrelling that they had no heifers, nor horses, nor sucking pig, they agreed to live thenceforth in harmony together; and they quarreled no more after this. They got on much better in the world, and in time they acquired heifers, horses, and a sucking pig into the bargain, because they were industrious and thrifty.”

Beliefs & Spirit Houses

Bangkok WatCountry yokels throughout time and across worlds have believed, whether through jealousy or perceived differences, that city dwellers are sinful and evil – and visa-versa. (Think wandering desert tribes vs cities in the Old Testament.) Dr. Rajadhon tells us that city Thais used to be cautioned to never take food or drink in rural areas, lest they be poisoned by someone testing local medicine on a stranger. A kind of Thai voodoo, this “conditioned poison” could be made operative by a secret word from the practitioner if they had been wronged. Sounds like wishful thinking to my modern Western ears.

A folk tradition I do believe, however, is the one where he says Buddhists think that the reason men become bald first on the top, or crown, of the head, is because that is where the spirit slips out at night for [what I would call] astral travel…naturally this disturbs the hair.

Spirit Houses

NagasRiotously colorful Thailand with its glam and glitter was such a relief to my spirit after conservative, boring, mono-chrome, unpainted Japan.

The spirit houses were part of it. Apparently when you disturb the land with construction, you must build a beautiful little house for the spirits you have bothered with your bulldozers. Lovely.

This book is an excellent resource for those who have traveled to, or are interested in, Thailand.



Head Cook at Weddings And Funerals And Other Stories of Doukhobor Life (Canada)

book coverby Vi Plotnikoff

Normally, I don’t enjoy short story collections from the same, unknown-to-me author. But this linked collection of short stories was a treat. It felt like curling up on the green ceramic stove I saw in the Doukhobor Discovery Centre near Castlegar, B.C., (in Grand Forks) and smelling the home-baked bread and borscht, which they call borsh. The author is a Canadian woman of Doukhobor descent, and the stories are all set just north of the border near my Spokane home.

Language Note: I’m currently studying Russian with the Rosetta Stone, and I could recognize many of the foreign words in this book…barely. Obviously the Dukohobors spoke some kind of dialect. If I remember my geography correctly, they were from an area in the Ukraine so perhaps that is why.

Most of the stories are set in the 1950s and center around young Ana, just as the times are changing and tradition is being challenged. Rebellious Doukhobor girls  are starting to run off to Vancouver to sing in cafes rather than continue milking, plowing, and planting as their mothers and grandmothers did.

Some stories flash back to the youth of Ana’s mother and baba (grandmother). Ana’s babushka came to Canada when she was four years old, after the great persecution of the Doukhobors back in Russia.

The Peaceniks

I knew, of course, that the Doubkhobors broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1700s. I knew that they had a big bonfire and burned all their weapons and refused to fight for the Czar. I knew they were persecuted for it, and that the author Leo Tolstoy donated the profits from his last novel to help thousands of them resettle in Canada.

women in traditional costumeI did not know that in Canada, they refused to join the Canadian military or to take a loyalty oath to the Canadian government. But it makes sense. They felt their duty to God came before any duty to Queen or Country. That is why many of them moved from Saskatchewan, where they first settled, to B.C., where many remain today. I didn’t know that Doukhobors parents refused to allow their boys to march in parades or in gym class – “Doukhobors don’t march”, says the book. It’s too militant.

The stories deal with all the issues that Ana has growing up:

1) Being one of a majority sect in which the minority have become terrorists. (It must have felt a bit like being Muslim today.)

newspaperSons of Freedom

The Sons of Freedom is a Doukhobor sect which eschewed peace (in other words, everything that made them Doukhobor in the first place and brought them to Canada). They started bombing things and people and gave the rest of the Doukhobors a bad name. Ugh. In retaliation, the Canadian government sent Mounties into their villages, rounded up their under-age children, and took them away to be locked behind barbed wire in boarding schools where they were only allowed to see their families once every two weeks. They were forcibly taught to read and write, against the parents’ wishes.

2) Being a girl in a religious sect where men have all the power.

One heart-breaking story in the book involves Ana finding a long braid with pretty ribbons tucked away in a box. It is her baba’s.

“Why did you cut your hair, Bab?”
“Because I had to.”

We learn that the young Natasha was very proud of her beautiful hair. One day the newlywed hears her mother-in-law and young sisters-in-law crying. She’s terrified that her Dmitri, away working on the railway, has been in an accident. No. The religious leader of the Doukhobors far away has pronounced a new edict. Long hair, he says, is unsanitary. It’s too much trouble when the women have all this other work to do. All Doukhobor women are to chop their hair off short – immediately.

Talk about men controlling women’s bodies. Talk about abuse of power. UGH

Tolstoy StatueNatasha thinks about running and hiding, or going to her mother’s village. But all the women in her mother’s village are under the same edict. Soon there is a knock on the door and the village barber appears, clippers in hand.

Without her glorious head of hair, Natasha thinks her thin face looks like a rodent’s. Like any modern woman with a bad haircut, she wonders if the way she looks will make her husband stop loving her. She never truly feels beautiful again.

The Immigrant Story

3) Finally,  there is the tension that all immigrants and emigrants face: Being Canadian and Duokhobor at the same time, with the prejudices each has against the other. Being poor. Wanting to fit in. Each new generation gets closer to the new country’s customs and attitudes and further from the old. The grandparents and grandchildren no longer speak the same language. The old customs, the group memory starts to die.

I am fascinated by the immigrant story. It is my story too.  Four short generations ago, my mother’s people lived in Denmark and spoke Danish. Generations before that they lived in Ireland – as did my father’s people – and spoke Gaelic. Now we are Americans. For how long, I wonder? And what language will my descendants speak? Would they recognize the themes of my life? Will they face the same challenges?

Five pirogis for this book.


Into the Heart of Borneo (Borneo)

Friends of mine cycled around the island of Borneo in the 1990s as part of their Numbum World Tent-Camping Tour. They told great stories, of which I remember three key points:

1) Air conditioning is bad for you and causes chills which can lead to fever and flu.

2) Butterflies in Borneo are the size of dinner plates.

3) The Sultan of Brunai, the richest man in the world, is so paranoid that he will not allow foreigners to purchase maps of the place. This makes cycling difficult.

book coverOh, and I think there was something about always holding your shoes upside down and shaking them, lest they contain a dangerous tropical surprise.

Redmond O’Hanlon, also dry-witted and British, says much the same in this funny and fascinating travel book. I recognized so many of the experiences he describes from having cycled myself – solo – in Malaysia and Thailand. And in India and Japan with my friends. Everything is bigger in the tropics – check. Wonderfully, the flowers. Horribly, the insects. It’s always too bloody hot. Check.

And never, NEVER ask what you are eating until after you have finished it. The one time I broke this rule I discovered that a Japanese sashimi bar had served me raw horsemeat.

I’m Sorry, But This Dish Is So Nasty That I Could Not Possibly Eat It *

* An actual phrase in a 1920 English/Japanese phrasebook

In the following scene, British poet James and naturalist Redmond have hired three Iban trackers to take them up a local river into the heart of the jungle. In mid-nowhere, James cooks up some local vegetables for himself, Redmond, and the three Iban.

Turkey berry<<James took up his spoon and began to eat. “Makai! Makai!” he said, pleased with himself.

Dana sniffed and looked about, concerned. Inghai laid his mug aside. Leon prodded his hot pile of teron pipit with a forefinger and licked its end, gingerly. James had that look that cooks get, that evident readiness to avenge an insult with disproportionate violence, so I tried a mouthful. They tasted a bit like school peas, or rather they tasted a bit like school peas might if you took each one and injected it with a small dose of that particular haemorrhoid cream which is made from the oil of shark’s fins. A tiny movement, to my left, caught my eye. Dana’s tattooed hand had made a quick flip towards a bush.

Badas!” said Dana, wiping his lips and putting down his empty mug. Badas, Jams!”

kingfisher bird
Indian kingfishers are beautiful, but Borneo’s really take the mosquito.

“Just a squillionth part too rich, do you think?” said James.

“No, no. Perfetto, ottime. Vegetables at last, entirely thanks to you,” I said, as the haemorrhoid cream squeezed itself between my teeth, flowed thick and viscous and warm beneath my tongue, oozed up to oil my epiglottis.

“Ouches! Ouches!” shouted Leon suddenly, jumping up from his seat on the jungle floor, clutching his buttocks, knocking his tin over, stamping on the ground with his feet. “Ants! Very bloody ants!”

“Never mind,” said James. “There’s a bit more here.”

“No, noes, thank you,” said Leon, rubbing his stomach. “Badas. But now I full up.”

Inghai gathered up the tins to wash in the river, and took the mugful of teron pipit with him.>>

I regret to say the two Englishmen are not nearly as clever at getting rid of the special fish stew that is next on the menu, served by the Ibans. It is bad enough when Redmond thinks the bubble-gummies floating on the surface are the swim bladders of the fish. But when he asks what they are and is told they are the intestinal parasites that live IN the fish…(a delicacy…)

Well, you see why that rule exists. (Btw, teron pipit, or turkey berry, is described by Wikipedia as a key ingredient in some rodenticides and in Haitian voodoo. Dana, the Iban chief, describes the taste as similar to rat shit.)

 The Locals (Human)

Iban man on the river
Iban man on the river

It’s quite interesting to read about all the different tribes of Borneo and their customs. Besides the fierce Iban hunters, we encounter the Kenyah and the Kayan in the interior, while Leon likes to tease James about the headhunting practices of the Ukit who slip through the trees, unseen except by the hairs on the back of your neck. In earlier times (but still as late as World War II) they shot poisoned blowdarts at their enemies.

The cities are populated by the Malay and the Chinese. (In my experience you really can’t go anywhere in southeast Asia without tripping over a Chinatown. Displaced Indians also seem to have settled across the region.)

 The Locals (Animal)

An orangutang
Orang Utang means “Man of the Forest” in Malay

Borneo is one of the richest rainforests in the world. The creepy dangerous fauna is part of what makes this book so enjoyable to read from your air-conditioned, Elephant ant-free home – a home in which you are not likely to encounter any of the 600 species of snake in Borneo. Where you can stroll out of doors without acquiring a coat of leeches. Where life may be dull, but it’s usually safe.

For a time, after the advent of Darwin’s theories, Borneo was thought to have been the cradle of civilization. Although that proved to be wrong, you can see why it had a run as a valid theory. The intensity of the jungle, where everything grows so ferociously, and the presence of the wonderful Orang Utan, once thought to be Early Man with a slight speech impediment – are just two of the factors that fueled this theory.

Orang Utan San Diego Zoo
Orang Utan at the San Diego Zoo. Digital photography leaves much to be desired – my old manual Cannon EOS would have recorded him as very orange, which he was.

Great read. Five bottles of arak (rice brandy)!

NOTE: Proofreaders and editors of English will notice I have not adhered to AP style regarding the quotation of passages from a book.

By beginning with << and ending with >> I have avoided the whole messy business of using single and triple quotation marks for speech inside the main quote.

I feel that since the purpose of punctuation is to clarify rather than confuse, this is perfectly acceptable for my personal blog.


I Dreamed of Africa (Kenya)

I Dreamed of AfricaAround 1942, while Kenneth Carr was showing his African slides to Americans, helping Great Britain’s war effort as requested, Kuki Galman was toddling around her native Italy without a father. She had not yet met her dad, as he was living in the hills with the partisans, fighting Germans.

Like Land of a Thousand Hills, this memoir is the story of a white woman running a ranch in Africa, but it is a very different book.

I often wonder if wanderlust, the impulse ascribed to me once by an ex-fiancé as “having restless feet” is a byproduct of nature or nurture. Kuki Galman received a healthy dose of both. After her hero father returned from the war he became fascinated with Saharan Africa. He took his daughter on trips to meet the Tuareg and their camels in the desert – but she says that was not her Africa. She wanted giraffes and gazelles.

She Dreamed of Kenya

Kuki arrives in Kenya for good in 1970, ten years after the country’s independence. Times are not as troubled for her as they were for the Carrs, a few decades earlier and a few countries away in Ruanda and the Congo. Unfortunately, fate has a whole truckload of personal heartbreak waiting for Kuki. Africa is just the backdrop for the last two tragedies.

The first occurs in the opening chapter of the book, in which she and a group of friends are driving to a new fish restaurant in the Italian province in which they live. A lorry causes a terrible car accident, which kills the driver’s wife and cripples Kuki.

Indian lorry which has crashedA Word About Lorries

A lorry causes the second tragedy three short years later and I do not think this is random. Lorries all over the world, but especially in Italy, India, and I surmise, Africa, are dangerous. Drivers are often half-trained, sleep-deprived, daredevils hopped up on speed. (It was a lorry performing an illegal U-turn on the northern Italian Autobahn in the early 1990s which caused the horrific car accident which left my friend K. with a permanent and her friend Thomas dead. For three days, K. lay unconscious in an Italian hospital as a Jane Doe – her parents in Germany were frantic. Lorries are a menace. Something needs to be done.)

So it takes eight months for Kuki to walk again, but one leg is now permanently shorter than the other. Like my friend K., she has acquired a permanent limp in her early 20s. The driver in the accident, Paolo, visits her faithfully in the hospital. They fall in love. He longs to get back to Africa – his first wife did not like it there, preferring Milan – and it’s music to Kuki’s ears. She too longs for a fresh start. They pack up her small son from a first marriage, his two motherless daughters, and fly to Africa.

By the way, from the descriptions of people being flung from the car during the accident, they weren’t wearing seatbelts. I know, it was the 1960s. People, please: Wear your damn seatbelt.


Giraffes and gazelles
Photo courtesy of Hiral Chauhan

Viktor Frankl, the concentration camp survivor and psychologist who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, says that the difference between those who made it and those who died often depended on finding a reason to live. To find meaning. To fight despair.

What I liked about this book – and it’s a tearjerker – is how Kuki emergences from the cocoon of pain and grief where she could quite easily have stayed. She looks up. She looks around and sees that Africans are losing their heritage – their connection with nature and with tradition. She sees that the old healers who use jungle plants to cure disease are dying out and that no new students are coming to take their place, much like the Mayan healer Don Elijo laments around the same time period, in Belize.

(*To see more amazing Kenyan wildlife photos check out Hiral’s blog at DreamWorld.)

RhinosKuki sees the ancient safari paths of the elephants disappearing beneath concrete and crap shopping malls faster than the wise old animals can adapt. She sees the rhinos disappearing. But she notices that many seem to come to her ranch for shelter. And she thinks…I am still alive. The animals are still alive. I can do something. I have to do something. So she takes her cattle ranch on the edge of the Great Rift Valley and turns it into a Rhino Sanctuary and Nature Conservatory, in memory of her loved ones.

The Dream Crushers

I am always surprised by the people who tell you that you can’t. What has made these people the way they are? Once, while camping in India, my friends and I met an obnoxious Indian lawyer who kept repeating the phrase “You’ll never make it over those hills to Jaipur.” (He also insisted that there were two religions in America: Protestant and Catholic. Which one are you? He refused to believe me when I said “Neither.”)

my painting of an Indian elephant
My guache of an Indian elephant by Jaipur

We cycled easily to Jaipur the next day. And ever since, I have regarded naysayers with more than a little skepticism. Kuki too had her naysayers – from a  teacher who scolded her for writing about wanting to go to Africa when she grew up (Why don’t you write about something normal, like becoming a mother or a teacher, she was told…) to a friend who sent her a postcard saying Africa had taken so much from her, why not cut her losses and come home to Italy.

But Kuki was made of sterner stuff. No way was she abandoning her graves. Kuki Gallmann is a five-times best-selling author. Chances are you’ve never heard her name, thanks to the Ameri-centric publishing industry. Oh wait, there was a movie with Kim Basinger. I bet the book is better.

Newspaper clippingAmong Kuki’s accomplishments:

  • Archaeological sites have been discovered on Ol Ari Nyiro (her former cattle ranch) – this is a happy echo of her childhood in which she and her father would find old Roman coins in plowed fields
  • Her Black Rhino Sanctuary supports the largest-known undisturbed population of endangered black rhinos outside Kenya’s national parks, and is a refuge for over 450 elephants, 4,000 buffalo, zebra, cheetah, and leopard. This includes melanistic leopards, lions, gazelles and antelopes.
  • Ol Ari Nyiro also contains the only protected indigenous relic forest remaining in the area. This includes natural springs, 62 man-made lakes, and the Mukutan Gorge. The conservancy supports over 450 species of birds; 85 on the IUCN red list for vulnerable and endangered species; over 800 insects – many of which are rare, and 2,350 species and subspecies of plants identified so far, some of which are unique to the conservancy. (Rare bugs – UGH! But, good for them.)
  • In 2009 during one of the worst droughts in Kenya’s history, Kuki started an emergency nursery school, a famine relief and feeding programme, that has so far benefited over 35,000 women and children and is ongoing

Earth is our Mother














An Extraordinary Woman

And all this came about because of how Kuki Gallmann reacted to extreme personal tragedy and loss – by reaching out to try to heal the hearts of others, and by standing for those whose rights will always be second to the rights and desires of humans – wild animals.

Well done, that woman. Well done.

I can’t help but note that in the early photos from both Kuki Gallmann and Rosamund Carr, there are sad dead trophy elephants shot by their husbands. In later photos, live animals being hand-fed by the women. Hm. Of course then I think about Sarah Palin bathed in caribou blood, grinning from ear to ear. UGH. I guess the love of murdering animals is not confined to the male gender. I am eternally gratefully there are people who are equally passionate about protecting life. Even life which people persist in regarding as that of a “lower order.” What nonsense. The Earth is our mother – we are all connected. We Are All One.


Land of a Thousand Hills (Ruanda)

book coverRosamund Halsey Carr’s life was profoundly changed by a small breeze that blew a man’s red hat off his head and across the road.

The man was a hitchhiker. Rosamund and her husband were driving away from their life in the Belgian Congo on their way back to New Jersey. They had given up on Africa.

But when they stopped the car to fetch the hitchhiker’s hat, it would not start again.

They learned it would take two months to get replacement parts and fix the car. although they eventually divorced, they stayed in Africa. That changed everything.

Colonialist Caveats

Rosamund and kids
Roz founded Imbabazi Orphanage on her plantation at Mugungo in 1994. It’s still in operation.

Rosamund Carr was an extraordinary person. She stayed on her plantation through the genocide, protecting all the Hutu and Tutsi workers she could, even facing down machete-wielding thugs by telling them “Go ahead, kill me, an old white woman.” (They didn’t.) She founded an orphanage after the genocide. She made one of her black workers her business partner. She helped women workers who were beaten by their husbands. She genuinely seemed to love many of the Africans without patronizing them.

But, and I hardly see how this could have been avoided, she was a woman of her time. In the memoir she seems completely oblivious to the atrocities committed by the Belgians in the Congo. (She mentions only that the people “thank” the Belgian government for “governing them so well” before independence.) She expresses shock and regret that the Europeans kicked off “their” property by Congolese soldiers are now unable to pass that land down to their children and grandchildren as expected. She takes European life in Africa as a matter of course instead of a Colonialist phenomenon.

Nonetheless, she was a much better European than most. Perhaps because she was an American. (To Africans back in the day, all white Westerners were called Europeans. Like how the Thais call foreigners farang, which means “Frenchman.”) Rosamund’s husband was the big game hunter and explorer Kenneth Carr. When she first meets Dian Fossey, who is working with the mountain gorillas, Fossey stipulates that she NEVER mentions Carr’s name in her presence. She doesn’t. Rosamund admits to not liking Fossey at first – the outspoken animal rights advocate seems to have been an aquired taste. Though not mentioned in the book, Wikipedia suggests that Fossey may have captured suspected poachers and had them stripped and beaten with stinging nettles.

Ahead of Her Time

Hutus Tutsis and Batwas.
The Tutsis are very tall…many over seven feet. Hutus are moderate. Batwa pygmies are often under four feet tall.

In many ways, however, Rosamund was ahead of her time. She originally married Kenneth, as I suspect many women did in those days, because she was an adventurer born into the wrong gender. Even in 1949, there was no way a lone woman could do what she did without marrying that kind of man.

But once in Africa, she starts striking out on her own. First she takes a job managing a plantation. “Kenneth was livid that I would even consider such an idea. He said it was improper and unseemly and that I was utterly incapable of handling such an enterprise on my own.” Then, she starts driving. (For their first three years in Africa, he didn’t “allow” her to do so.)

It’s a shame that the country of Ruanda has been so scarred by genocide and civil wars. (I certainly won’t be visiting anytime soon.) Because there are so many wonders there. Including the Mountains of the Moon (the movie King Solomon’s Mines was filmed there). Including Batwa pygmies, the original inhabitants, most of whom stand less than four feet tall. The Batwa were pushed into the forest by the first wave of invaders, the Hutu. Then came the Tutsi. Then the Belgians.

And of course, near and dear to my heart, the gorillas. And the elephants. I Elephant Stamp from 1959absolutely hate that they shoot elephants which trample on the pyrethrum plants. In one poignant scene, Kenneth shoots a bull elephant who has come down from the mountains with four females, but the beast doesn’t go down. Thinking that he’s missed, Ken doesn’t try again.

The elephants stand there for hours. When they finally move off, the bull falls over. Turns out Kenneht’s shot killed him instantly – but the females surrounded him and held him upright until they could no longer bear his weight. Elephants are special. They should always be protected.

The Plant That Made it All Possible

Pyrethrum PlantsLike many Europeans, Rosamund managed, and then owned, a pyrethrum plantation. The pyrethrum plant, with its pretty white flowers, was discovered to be a powerful insecticide during World War I. The story: A company of soldiers bedded down in a field for the night. When they got up the next morning, all their body lice were dead.

Fair Warning: This book will crack your heart wide open and allow a lot of liquid to leak out of your eyes. Kind of like what happened to Lake Kivu when an earthquake made a crack in the bottom. All the water drained away. Many of the African characters you come to love in the book will be slaughtered senselessly. But Rosamund Halsey Carr clearly shows us that there can be good in the world too. The children of Ruanda are resilient, if only they are given a chance.

This is an extremely enjoyable memoir of a life well lived, and well loved.


Monthly Progress Reports

Dog Ear That Page!

Apologies to my junior high school librarian, but mark your pages. (Hello, Mrs. Matthews!) I am declaring today, August 1, 2014, my Blog Readers’ Day! Thanks to all of you from around the world for stopping by. I love meeting you.

In honor of you, Dear Reader, I decided that one of the next six books I seek out for the blog will be from YOUR country. (I always want to get them in groups of six…don’t know why. Hm, pie and flashlights.) Below are my blog stats listing the visitors I’ve had and which country they’re from. I’ve already done some countries, so:

  • Canada
  • Thailand
  • Singapore
  • Indonesia
  • Mexico and
  • Austria

it is your turn!

Thank you so much for visiting. Come back again soon!

views by country