Friday, February 19, 2010


Pearl Harbor.

Chapter 9 is the shortest in the book.

The action is all in the Dutch East Indies. The way Big Mak describes it, it seems like Indiƫ fell in slow motion. Over time, apparently, the brutal colonizing machine that was the Dutch East India Company (VOC) grew to depend on inertia, with everything continuing because it had always been that way. As it became clear that the local army wasn't nearly enough to fight off Imperial Japan, vague hopes developed. It was thought that help would either come from Americans in Hawaii or the British in Singapore. These hopes evaporated as various places in Asia fell like dominoes: Hong Kong, Guam and Singapore. While Hawaii was never occupied, the Pearl Harbor attack meant that the Americans weren't going anywhere for a while.

From there, Japanese occupiers came into Medan on bicycles. His sister Tineke saw them and thought, "Is that an army?" The parents were separated. Their father was sent to Burma, diverted from a hard camp because he was a minister. He mentioned feeling guilty years later. The innocent often feel guilty. Those who built the camps were guilty. The Mak children remaining in the colony and their mother went to a camp.

At the end of each chapter about the war years, Geert Mak turns over the pen to his brother, Hans, whose work appears in italics. It seems that the Japanese put everyone in camps, without really knowing what they would do. This contrasts with German camps, which had the machinery of death installed ahead of time. Hans remembers teachers starting school again and writing in sand when they ran out of paper. He also remembers having good times. The women grouped together, based on their husband's associaciations. Mrs. Mak hung out with another minister's wife, and they had something on Sundays that approximated a church service.

As I described earlier, this chapter was hard to read.

I have been listening to Dutch also. At times, I can put together what's happening, stringing words together, getting the gist of what's going on. Yesterday, I watched TV and listened to the news.

The problem with learning any language, is that a language is so large that there are many parts which seem unrelated. For example, I can listen to the news and figure out what is going on, but sitcoms where people are talking to each other and speaking differently are more difficult.

Yesterday, I had some improvement, in that I could listen, read captions for the deaf, and know what everyone was saying. Still, the effort was so intense, that I couldn't make the leap to comprehension and put together the story.

The experience was similar to the way I listen when interpreting. I get out what was said, and try to predict what logically would follow. I don't always remember who said what after a few minutes have gone by.

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