Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

When I wrote about Kyle, two postings back, it was prompted by a few different things.

Yes, a pal and I were discussing him because one of Kyle’s friends recently passed away.

But there were other reasons that prompted my writing. Soon realized it would result in more than one blog posting.

Here is one of them.

I was reading an article that disturbed me. It was the story of a decorated veteran, like Kyle, who also brought back something from Vietnam.

This hero’s name was Andrew. He came from a Southern military family. His father and brothers served our country. Andrew volunteered for Vietnam.

His position was “Forward Observer.”

The following is a quote from a guy who served with him.

“During the period when Lieutenant Brannan served, the Forward Observer had the shortest life expectancy of any category of soldier in Vietnam.”

Can you imagine what horrors he witnessed? What horrors he might have inflicted?

All accounts show that Lieutenant Brannan returned from Vietnam a changed person. He had experienced warfare. Like Kyle he had been exposed to Agent Orange. Family loss and weakening mental health only added to the trouble that was brewing ahead of him.

It just sounds like he couldn’t get it together after the war. He isolated himself. Couldn’t finish school. Wasn’t successful with his marriage. Was eventually put on meds. Lived in a plywood shack he constructed. Spent lot of time trekking alone in woods.

He was off his medication for a few days when he was pulled over by a young police officer for a traffic violation in 1998.

The end result is that Andrew Brannan killed a Sheriff’s Deputy. There is a video of the actual confrontation and crime. No disputing the video.

The video shows a man (who did not know he was being filmed) exhibiting erratic behavior. Dancing around weirdly. Then he grabs a rifle from his truck. If you notice his stance and movements toward the policeman’s car it would put you in mind of a soldier during the middle of a war scene.

No disputing the man wasn’t right in the head.

This veteran murdered an innocent, young man that day.

A heart-breaking tragedy for the family of the deputy. And so many others.

On January 15, 2015,  Andrew Brannan was executed by lethal injection in the state of Georgia.

His lawyers tried to get his sentence commuted to life without parole. But they lost their appeals. So Lieutenant Brannan, decorated veteran with severe PTSD, ceased to exist.

Just feels kind of rotten to kill someone who served our country by killing for us. So much wrong with that sentence. No pun intended.

In a prepared statement given to his lawyers, he said: ‘I am proud to have been able to walk point for my comrades, and pray that the same thing does not happen to any of them.’

In his official last statement, moments before the injection was administered, Brannan said: ‘I extend my condolences to the Dinkheller family, especially Kyle’s parents and his wife and his two children.’ 

I was discussing the death penalty with my friend, Jenny, on a recent visit to Malaysia.  There are many viewpoints on this very hot topic. We touched upon a few.

There is this one. How about we don’t kill anyone at all?

The guilty could suffer every day. Just like the surviving victims of their crimes. Or become remorseful. Or get help if they are mentally ill.

One “newly available” cell will not make a difference in America’s already over-crowded and over-burdened prisons. The death penalty does not deter.

Evil exists. I have no doubt about that. But not all criminals are evil. That’s another blog posting.

No one is above the law. Whether you served your country or not. Everyone needs to be accountable in a courtroom in they committed a crime.

The punishment, however, is the tricky thing. Especially for the U.S. because we actually have States that still practice the death penalty.

Side note: Along with more than fifty countries in the world. If you look at that guest list you’d reconsider going to the party. Not exactly the finest bedfellows.

So can a person who is or was mentally ill be executed?

Sure.

Usually not mentally retarded folks. But history will show more than a few, with IQs less than 70, got the chair or injection. More than a few.

Mentally ill? Jury is still out on that one.

Is everyone who commits an act of murder mentally ill? Even if it’s temporary?

I do not believe that the late Lieutenant Brannan, Bronze Star recipient, was evil. He was just very ill.

Andrew Brannan was a fresh-faced young man from the South who proudly served his country. He came from a family who all served their country. He was one of the “lucky ones” who came back.

But he brought something back from those jungles and it was called mental illness. In the form of PTSD.

Honestly? I think we killed him twice.

His lawyers might have failed him by not getting the “life without parole” sentence but it sure is tough for folks not to be emotionally moved by a young widow with small children. Especially when it’s the family of a police officer.

But who is really responsible and could this all have been avoided?

We (our nation) are responsible and yes it could have been avoided. If we never sent our boys off to war. If we never exposed them to chemicals and atrocities that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

But that horse is already out of the barn.

Nothing to be done for Kyle or Andrew. Too late.

What can be done for the many others who are still out there suffering?

Maybe every time we say “Thank you for your service” to a veteran it’s not just a rote “see how patriotic I am” reaction. Instead of that gratefulness recusing any work, charitable or not, on our part why not explore how we can actually support them. What if every “thank you” prompted a knee-jerk act of kindness of compassion? Being an advocate for their needs. Donating time or resources. Reflect on those suffering. Before posting passive-aggressive memes “Helping homeless U.S. Veterans before refugees” without doing anything except moving digits on a keyboard maybe take the time to actually help homeless U.S. Veterans.

So many opportunities to help so many.

In memory of the Kyles and Andrews who sacrificed their minds and their bodies.

For us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today, I was looking up into the trees at a local park. There is a bird call that I hear all day long here in Delhi. Belongs to the Brown-headed Barbet. A small bird with a green body.

Took this photo a couple of days ago. Not great quality.

barbet

For some reason I associate this bird’s sound with the noise at crosswalks. The one which signals blind folks that it is safe to cross the road.

So all day, like the Pavlovian dog, I just keep wanting to cross the street. Safely. Thank you, barbets.

I looked up trying to find the little sucker.

Imagine my surprise when this is what I see. In the middle of the day. Again, not the best photo taken with my phone. But I think you can figure out what it is.

owl1

Then I realize there are two sets of eyes on me.

owl2

Definitely not barbets.

So cool.

I was laughing because I attempted to take photos at different angles. In front. Behind. Didn’t matter because his eyes were always on me. Sort of like Jesus’ eyes in a picture my Aunt Rose Marie use to have hanging in her house. Always following. I thought of the old saying, “Eyes in the back of your head.”

It really is fascinating how their heads can do the 360 degree turn thingy.

The first time I have ever seen an owl, outside of captivity, was this past January. My husband and I attended an event at a place in Providence, Rhode Island. A Snowy Owl happens to reside on the roof. We caught sight of him while we were leaving.

Owls are cool.

To me.

I remember when my friend, Maria-Ann, and I ran a resale charity shop for a short while in Kuala Lumpur. We had a cute, wooden owl statue for sale. None of the Chinese customers gave it a second glance.

My friend mentioned that it didn’t give off positive vibes in the Chinese culture.

A lot of folks (from my part of the world) associate owls with age and wisdom.

Plenty of owls (with black, thick rimmed spectacles) on graduation cards in the United States. Every May stuffed owls or statues appear on the shelves in Hallmark stores. Ready to be purchased for the graduate-to-be.

Chinese do not have the same association. Believe owls are bad luck.

I get it. Everyone is different.

Here in India?

Owls are thought to bring good luck around the Diwali holiday.

That’s nice.

If sacrificed.

What?????

Folks looking to improve their financial situation think that the sacrificing of an owl will help.

India protects all of the species but there is a bustling black market that exists. Selling owls for hefty fees. All year round for different cures or luck but especially around the holiday.

You can even pay to have someone do the killing for you.

Now, we all have our beliefs, superstitions, etc. but I’m thinking if a person has to kill a living creature to enhance some aspect of their own life maybe a little regrouping is in order. A look at alternative, legal options in that quest for good luck.

Leave the owls alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I try not to be too superstitious. Been working on this for years.

Most are harmless enough, right? Maybe even a bit fun.

Not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk wouldn’t have actually prevented “Mother’s broken back.” But it might have made the boring walk down the street to Cabral’s corner market for a loaf of bread and a pack of Mom’s L&Ms a little less monotonous for a kid.

I remember when a bunch of us kids were passengers in Mrs. Gillett’s car. She was our neighbor but also our friends’ grandmother. That’s the real reason we were in the car. Anyway, when Mrs. Gillett came to the railroad tracks in the road she lifted her feet. Not for long. Maybe just a few seconds. Nope, she wasn’t doing it to strengthen her lower abs. She did it for good luck.

I still do it.

But I falter from time to time. Step on cracks all the time and my Mama is perfectly fine.

Recently, I was in a Delhi shop. Narrow as all get out. One of the employees had a ladder out in the middle of the floor. No way for me to go around it. So I waited. Waited some more. There was no way I was walking under that thing. No way.

Also have this other thing. I should always leave from the same door I entered. Not sure where that one came from but I am always aware of it.

But this is absolutely one superstition that should be left by the door.

Here is why.

In 2003 I was living in Dallas, Texas. On a February evening, many, many miles away in my home state of Rhode Island there was a terrible fire in a night club. It claimed the lives of one hundred men and women. And injured hundreds of others. Like horribly injured.

Young people were just having an evening out, listening to music and enjoying a respite from one of New England’s long winter nights. Like I did many a time. As you probably did.

Pyrotechnics (fireworks) which were meant to add a bit to the show ignited the foam that was used for sound insulation in the walls and ceiling. Within FIVE minutes the Station club in West Warwick was engulfed.

People could not see the exits due to the heavy smoke. There was also a massive crush as people tried to get out the main exit. The place where they entered at the beginning of the evening.

So there were different causes of death that night.

The following is a video, taken ten years ago, of my cousin John who was a firefighter in Warwick. It also features his bandmate (yes, singing firefighters) who was actually present at the Station when the fire began. The video is dated 2007 and John has recently retired as a Lieutenant. But the message in this clip is still as important today as it was then.

You do not need to leave from the same door you entered.

John is still in the band and after the tragic Station fire the group would post a floor plan of each venue on their website. He states how important it is to make note of an exit.

I also learned something yesterday that struck a similar chord.

A family that I knew in Kuala Lumpur was recently on a holiday in Yangon, Myanmar. Yes, the perks of living in Asia.

Seems that on October 19th they were asleep in their lovely, colonial era hotel only to be wakened around 3:00am by banging noises. Sounded like people yelling and pounding on doors. But the family couldn’t understand what they were saying. Maybe drunken revelry? Terrorism?

They tried the front desk. No one answering. Finally someone picked up and told them to evacuate immediately due to a fire in the hotel.

The two teen daughters left first and then the parents a few minutes later. The mom was sort of freaked about the separation but they were soon reunited and safe.

Police were shoving people aside and trying to evacuate but there was no clear communication, very disorganized and pitch black.

I want to just note here that this luxurious, teak and iconic hotel was considered a 5 Star property.  So it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The rules for your personal safety should always be the same. Regardless of the price tag. Or tag line.

Her advice?

“Don’t take for granted emergency exit information.”

She stressed the importance of staying together. Checking to see if there is a fire alarm and sprinkler in hotel room. Having a plan to meet up if separated. The importance of being close to your family and knowing where they are at all times.

This is the time of year when a plethora of seasonal activities will beckon. Many will welcome the opportunity for indoor, festive gatherings surrounded by loads of people. Seeing the Nutcracker, Christmas musicals, plays, concerts, sporting events and attending worship services.

Some will travel and spend time in hotels. Or pass through airports.

All happy as larks to be in places with closed doors keeping out the cold or staving off the heat.

Have fun but take note of exit signs immediately upon entering. Communicate a place to meet with family members if case you ever get separated. Don’t take for granted emergency exit information. Do your homework. And remember you do not need to leave from the same door you entered. Ever.

Wishing you and all of your families a safe holiday season. Hoping you employ these safety measures all year long. Some superstitions should absolutely be left at the door.

Update: My cousin, John, told me that he was actually supposed to be at the Station the evening of the fire. He did not attend because he didn’t want to be the “third wheel.” But a few folks thought he was there. Including his fire chief.

 

 

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A friend used to joke, “I’m like marble. I don’t want to be taken for granite.”

So goofy.

It’s true though. No one wants to be taken for granted.

But most of us do take people and things for granted at times. We just don’t think about it on a daily basis. Until we don’t have them.

Last Spring, my neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur lost internet connection for the entire day. Thank Jesus for the fancy iPhones so everyone could whine about it in group chats.

Wait, don’t folks around the world lose water, electricity and more every single day? If they even ever had access to them at all.

Luckily, I was out running errands. So the internet outage didn’t totally destroy me. And I had my phone 🙂

One of the errands was dropping off a carload of donations to a housing complex where many refugees live. It made me realize the clothes and household items we can sometimes take for granted.

That afternoon, I went with my then 12th grade daughter to school for her last day as president of a club she started three years ago.

This club allowed refugee students from a nearby volunteer run school to be bussed to her campus so they could play games, use the sports facilities, etc. It made be conscious of how something like a simple school campus can be taken for granted.

I was watching these lovely young girls and boys playing basketball and cheering for each other. Kids from Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

So many children displaced from so many countries around the world. Due to war and violence. A stark reminder that we can take our security for granted.

As my daughter was saying goodbye to her refugee friends they told her, “We will miss you.”

One young girl told her, “You’re so lucky you can go to college.”

Okay, wow. My daughter never really looked at it like that. It was taken for granted that there would be the opportunity for her to attend college.

Now this is totally human. We don’t tend to think about these things-these absolute gifts- all the time. Or think about the people-these absolute gifts in our lives- all the time. It’s really not sustainable to constantly be in a state of such focus.

But we should take more time to realize who and what we might be taking for granted. We absolutely should take more time to be mindful and appreciative of the gifts, comforts and blessings bestowed upon us. Communicate love and gratefulness.

We do plenty of things without giving them a single thought like…….

Hopping into the hot shower. Snuggling under the warm blanket with spouse, kid or pet. Turning on the tap and expectantly hold a glass under it. Waking up feeling fit and energetic. Flicking on the light. Cracking open the fridge. Pursing our lips for the perfunctory kiss at the front door. Saying the rote “I love you.” Opening the wallet. Closing the car door with the habitual thank you response.

Until we no longer have or we are faced with no longer having…..

Hot water. The warm cover over our bodies. The spouse, kid or pet no longer there. The surety that water will flow into the glass. Good health. The person at the front door. Electricity. The loved one on the other end of the telephone line. Money. The beloved parent in the car dropping you off one more time.

I wish all of you who are celebrating Thanksgiving a wonderful visit with family and friends. Enjoy and appreciate this special day. A perfect time to remember that the gifts, comforts and blessings in our lives should be like marble and not taken for granted.

To those who are not celebrating the holiday I wish you the same. A day of giving thanks.

One last thing. I’m very thankful for you all.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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You know what I don’t get?

When a serial killer is caught and family, friends and neighbors say, “I had no idea. He was such a nice guy.”

I do sort of get that those evil beings can be so cunning and devious that they could somehow slip below the radar.

But still.

No one has any clue that something might be a teeny bit off?

I feel like I really know my family, friends and neighbors. Know the words they use. Their phrases. Know their moods. Their likes and dislikes. Know if they are not quite acting themselves.

I am not normally a suspicious person by nature.

Okay, maybe there was that one time.

There was a serial killer in Providence for a very short while in 1984.

I was dating a guy back then and one day maybe the radio was on with a description of the killer. So I might have said something to him or looked at him in a strange, new way.

He was like, “OH MY GOD, Mary!!!!!!!! YOU DON”T THINK I’M THE …………!!!!!!!!”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m the one who’s nuts. But it’s good to be aware, right?

Last year I received a text from my friend and neighbor Nancy.

Receiving the text was not at all unusual. We were in daily contact. Especially due to the fact that we were both living on our own with the daughters in Malaysia while our husbands were out of the country. So if we weren’t with each other we always knew where the other one was on any given day.

But what was unusual was what I read in this particular text.

“How was your day, love?”

I blanched and immediately thought there was some type of homicidal maniac at her place. Holding her hostage and forcing her to send out weirdo texts.

She’s never, ever called me “love.” Or anyone for that matter. That I can recall.

I then thought she was leaving some hidden clue in this message. Like a bread crumb on a trail. Like, “Help me, Mary. You know this isn’t my lingo. I’m in real danger!”

I text back right away as I’m putting on my shoes. Ready to run two houses down if needed.

My text probably went something like, “Everything okay???? What on earth is going on over there??? Feeling fine?????”

Knew something wasn’t quite right.

And I was 100% correct.

Her response text?

“Lol. That text was supposed to go to Curtis.”

The husband.

Who, in my presence, she always called, “dear.” So, not sure where this “love” thing was coming from but it doesn’t matter.  I’m not all that current on sexting.

This posting isn’t really about serial killers. Chances are pretty good that we will not be neighbors of one. Please God!

It’s really more about listening to your instinct. Being aware. Knowing when someone is not themselves. Truly knowing family, friends and neighbors and not missing any clues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am visiting Kuala Lumpur for a few days and really enjoying seeing the many delightful friends I’ve made over the last five years.

Staying in a nice, clean hotel. Staff has been great. No complaints.

Until.

Yesterday, I was finishing up something when the guy came to clean the room. When I made my way out of the room he had just finished making up the bed.

I came back a bit later and he was gone. Noticed a stain on the bed cover. Looked like someone spilled coffee. And the mark obviously didn’t come out in the wash. Certainly knew it wasn’t me since the only thing I drank in the room was water.

Besides, it was a new cover. He had taken mine off and put the “fresh” one on the bed.

Left to meet a friend for coffee and when I returned the fellow who cleans the room was back. Making up the bed again.

I said, “Oh, you’re back.”

He replied that he was changing the bed cover because of the stain. Or something like that.

What I wanted to discuss-but didn’t want to lose him in conversation-is why on earth he kept the stained cover on the neatly made bed? Once he discovered the stain why not take it off and go find an unstained one?  

Weird.

This morning I hopped out of the shower and grabbed a neatly folded towel. It felt strange. I then took a good look at it. It had holes in it. Torn and worn.

towel

Weird.

I’m not blaming the cleaning guy (stain boy) who restocks the towel shelf in the bathroom. Because it was probably already folded in the laundry when it got to his cart.

Here’s my question.

Who folded it and thought it passed muster?

We’ve all folded a towel, right? And we all know that no matter how you fold a towel chances are pretty good that you would notice if it was torn nearly in half. No?

I’m not making a fuss. I thought both incidents were sort of funny in an odd way.

I will give my feedback to the hotel. But I’m still really curious.

 

 

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Thought I would share some photos taken while I lived in Malaysia. They made me smile. Or laugh. Or shudder. Or just pause.

monkeysign

Who would try to feed that bad boy?

sadam

Ummm, okay. Not sure I would ever be a regular customer.

hairysoup

Why are people always complaining about hospital food?

guyonroof

I prayed, “Please don’t slip in your socks!” Most of the fellas go barefoot.

impulse

Not exactly sure what this is but I think I could use one.

naancorner

Fast service no matter how long it takes. Good to know.

Needed cash so I was excited to see the ATM. Until. Sigh. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion.

normal

Day at the zoo. Adult wristband. Validation!

blinker

I know it shows no right turn but that blinker was flashing anyway. Hope they’re okay.

shoe

Those folks obviously didn’t read the sign.

dunkin

Dunkin Donuts. Not just donuts.

hospitalsign

Sign in the hospital. Way to motivate.

mothergoose

Pretty birds just wandering around the neighborhood near school. On the correct side of the road.

pvd

So proud to have grown up in Ode Island. Malaysian heat toasted my bumper sticker.

pink

When you’re not like the rest of the gang.

carparked

This photo was taken by a friend. LOL.

amma

I will leave you with this one.

Who’s a mess? Amma mess.

 

 

 

 

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