Volcano Child - A YA Novel in Progress by Candy Gourlay
Two weeks ago, Mouse decided to dig his way to London.

17 January 2008

People In the News - Real People

The news about the Kabul hotel bombing on Monday looked like just another bombing.

News reporting makes death and destruction so routine.

But I was horrified when I read this eyewitness account in my friend Steve's blog.
I looked at my car, I couldn't believe what I saw. Blood, guts, black marks from the bomb blast everywhere. The Land Cruiser from behind was filled with bullet holes. The 2nd suicide bomber had detonated himself 5 meters away from the car once he got inside and his finger ended up in the back of my Land Cruiser, and his thumb was on my dashboard. I peered inside the back of the Land Cruiser through the broken glass and saw the finger. I am not at all accustomed to seeing those types of gruesome items up-close. It was pretty damn disgusting. The lack of respect for their lives was proven in this heinous crime.
Among those killed were a Filipina girl manning the gym reception, an American on a treadmill, several hotel workers, and some security guards - apart, of course from the attackers themselves.

As an ex journalist I can tell you - these people you read about in the news?

Well, they're people with jobs and things to do and lives to live. Real people.


06 January 2008

Island Children at Work and at Play

From my travel blog This is Boracay about revisiting Boracay Island in the Philippines

Everywhere on Boracay, there were children working.

Like this boy who tried to sell us coconut drinks while we were on a snorkling trip.

Boracay coconut vendor

And up and down the beach, there were children selling snacks, glow toys and knick-knacks or trying to charm tourists into purchasing parental wares (massage, island-hopping tours, pirated DVDs). Late at night there were children collecting bottles and other recyclables that littered the beach to sell at to a recycler.

A young girl with a broom kept her father's sand sculpture smooth and untrammeled by the passing traffic.

"Please give a donation, my dad built this," she told me, pointing at a date etched in the sand which indicated he had constructed the edifice that very morning.

I noticed during my stay that the sandcastle remained where it was, the date changing daily. The sandcastle was sufficiently magnificent that I didn't mind parting with a few pesos for the privilege of photographing it.

Just a few feet away from the sandcastle, this boy was building his own little version. No question, another future king of the castle.

A boy of about eight years approached me with a handful of glow sticks.

"Buy a glow stick, ma'am?"

"No, thank you."

"For your children?" the boy pointed at my daughter playing with her friend in the sea.

I raised an eyebrow at him. "It's rather sunny, don't you think, to be playing with glow sticks?"

The boy laughed. My logic made sense to him. He performed a perfect Jackie Chan back flip in the sand.

"Wow, you're really good at that," I said appreciatively.

He put the glow sticks down. "Wanna see some more?"

A girl nearby threw down her glow sticks. "I'm much better than him!"

More children joined, each insisting that their acrobatic skills were better than the other's. I sat and oohed and aahed as each in turn performed cartwheels and flips and bridges in the pliant white sand.

The crowd of children grew. They jabbered at each other in what seemed a multitude of languages.

"What language are you speaking?" I asked the first boy.


"Muslim? That's not a language, is it?"

He laughed and told me the name of his dialect which I didn't manage to record. "Have you lived on the island long?"

"A long time," he nodded.

"How long?"

"My dad brought me here in grade three."

"What grade are you now?"

"Grade four."

At which point all the children clamoured to tell me where they were from - which was everywhere. Provinces up and down the Philippines. They came with their parents, they said. And their parents came to work.

Then, almost as suddenly as they had surrounded me, the children gathered together to play a game - the sort you might find in any schoolyard around the world, except they were sitting on the finest white sand, on the shore of a beautiful island.

They played raucously until the sky began to glow orange at sunset.

The sunset was a signal for one of the bars that line the beach to turn on some disco music full blast. The children leapt to their feet. It was like the scene from Where the Wild Things Are ... let the rumpus begin!They danced and they danced.

Then when the night finally closed in and all the fairy lights had switched on in the coconut trees, they collected their glow sticks from the beach and went back to work.


An Acrobatic Childhood in Shanghai

And a happy new year to you all from Shanghai!
Shanghai Acrobats
We caught a performance by this acrobatic troup in an old theatre populated by tourists from all over China. To say the show was amazing is an understatement. I've never seen a more appreciative audience, gasping and squealing at every incredible moment.

Crowd-pleasers were these two contortionists who smiled placidly as they bent their bodies into impossible shapes.
Shanghai AcrobatsLike this:
Shanghai AcrobatsThen there was the boy who performed feats of balance on a tower of chairs.
Shanghai Acrobats
His colleagues kept adding to the chairs until they stood 10 high!
Shanghai Child Acrobats

It was truly amazing.

At the end of the performance, there was a brief burst of applause as the troup bowed then they all stepped back politely as the audience began to quieue to have souvenir pictures taken with them.

The acrobats stood patiently, applauding after every photo was taken. It was obviously part of the job.

Not for them, wild adulation and flowers at the stage door.

Coming away from the performance, heart still pounding, there was one thing that stayed with me.

These performers - they were all children.

The contortionists must have been 10 at the youngest. The boy acrobats - and there was a whole troup of them - were teenagers, voices still unbroken.

My Westernised sensibilities bridle at the thought of rigorous training, daily performances and lost childhoods. And yet my Eastern heart chides me for this soft reaction.

Given the realities and extreme inequalities of China, an acrobat's life and the future it assures on the stage may be as good as it gets for some.

Other childhoods, other places.