#47. Achan: A Year of Teaching in Thailand (Elayne Clift)

Book: Achan: A Year of Teaching in Thailand, by Elayne Clift

Genre and Year of Publication: Travel memoir, 2010

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 192 pages

Briefly, it’s an account by an American woman of a year which she spent as a teacher in Thailand.

Comments: I had mixed feelings about this book.  The first part, where she describes her initial experiences of living in Thailand, her students, their families, her responses to a new culture, was interesting.  The second, in which she focuses more on visits from her friends and shopping trips that she took with them… much less so.   Overall, I felt it was a missed writing opportunity.

Challenges:  ebook reading challenge 2014; non-fiction reading challenge

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#19. Red Zone Baghdad: My War in Iraq (Marcus Fielding)

Book: Red Zone Baghdad: My War in Iraq, by Marcus Fielding

Genre: War Memoir

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 303 pages

Briefly, it’s an account by an Australian embedded military officer of his experience on a ten-month tour of duty in Iraq, Aug 2008 to July 2009.

Comments: Colonel Marcus Fielding feels strongly that the reality, and the quality, of the service of Australian military personnel in Iraq is neither well-known enough nor appreciated enough, especially in Australia itself.  So he wrote an account of his term there, as an officer embedded with the US military, “in the senior coalition headquarters in Baghdad, which managed coalition forces on a grand scale and laboured to try to rebuild a country of 26 million people.”

He paints a vivid and interesting picture – much of the actual information had to remain undisclosed, of course, but we learn something of the pressure, the challenges, the unceasing activity of the war machine… the description of the constant stream of computer information which was fed to his office 24/7 is amazing.  Fielding was very mindful of the lives of the “ordinary” Iraqi people and did what he could to help them in personal ways over and beyond what was strictly required by his post.

I am one of those people less than enthusiastic about western military intervention in other countries, with all its neo-colonial implications.  This account, coming from an Australian, was probably easier for me to accept than would be a similar account from a soldier of one of the bigger military interventionist countries.

I am spurred to read more about Iraq now, and particularly some contemporary Iraqi literature.

Challenges: Full House Challenge, for the category “Theme / issue you think is important”; Ebook Reading Challenge 2014; Non-fiction Reading Challenge 2014.

Sihpromatum – I Grew my Boobs in China

Book: Sihpromatum – I Grew my Boobs in China, by Savannah Grace

Genre: Young Adult, travel book.

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Briefly, it’s: the travel account of a Canadian girl who goes on a year-long backpacking adventure through China, Mongolia, and Russia with her mother, brother and sister.  Savannah was 14 when her mother decided to do this and – according to herself – she had no option, it was foisted on her much against her will, and she hated it.  At first.  But gradually she came to accept and appreciate it.  This is her account of the time in China and Mongolia.

What I liked:
– It’s an interesting story, one family’s way of responding to divorce!
– Savannah’s gradual ‘conversion’ from a very self-centred, narrow, materialistic view of the world to an appreciation of other cultures and values;
– the last 40% of the book, about Mongolia, gives a fascinating glimpse of a country very little known to me, with a hugely different civilisation and different values than those of the ‘developed’, western world.  I’d like to read more about Mongolia: its extremes of heat and cold, its vast spaces, wild horses and camels, and its nomadic peoples – poor and “undeveloped”, but rich in knowledge of the land and in hospitality towards strangers.

What I didn’t like so much:
– at first the author comes across as very negative, whingey, and self-pitying, pouring out negative energy all the time.  She must have been a PITA to live with.
– too much time at the beginning talking about the preparations for the trip; my Kindle showed I was at the 10% mark and they still hadn’t got on the road.
– I’m not a Young Adult, so some of the more teenage stuff wasn’t my cup of tea.

Anything else: I didn’t realise when I downloaded the book that it’s the first in a series. So I was disappointed that this book doesn’t cover Russia too.  And it seems from the website that many other travels followed.