A few hundred metres from where I live is Mỹ Khê beach. Since I moved to Danang in August 2017, I’ve been running or walking on the beach most days. I head down a back lane, cross the busy main beach road, and down a short path to the beach. At the bottom of the path is a guard’s hut, which is primarily to prevent unwanted visitors entering the swanky resort just to the right of the path.
Just before APEC, last November 2017 (i.e. 2 months ago), I took this picture looking south. That part of the beach was roped off and guarded – many of the international delegates were staying at the resorts further down the beach. It was also just before Typhoon Damrey hit the Vietnam coast.
The second picture was taken a few weeks ago (late December), only about 6 weeks after the first picture. The erosion of the beach is dramatic. This doesn’t seem to be a seasonal event from what I can tell. Perhaps the damage caused by the typhoon has precipitated a sustained loss of sand, some sort of permanent lowering of the coastal shelf; or perhaps it’s a dramatic rise in sea level.
The third picture was taken a few days ago (mid January). The guard’s hut is now tottering, and previously buried sewage or water pipes are exposed to the waves.
To the south of the guard’s hut, large palm trees have been undermined and are falling into the sea:
I also used to be able to run north, up the beach from the hut, but now, even at low tide, the waves cover the beach, as shown in the photo below. A number of bars, restaurants and cafes along the beach are threatened with inundation, especially if another typhoon or wild storm hits this coast.
Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A very moving, well-written story, especially considering this is his first novel. It tracks the life of a girl, Eileen Tumulty, growing up in an Irish family in New York and her subsequent adult married life. It is a story about early-onset Alzheimers. It is a story about the reactions of friends and family to the devastating diagnosis, of the challenges of continuing to try to live as normal a life as possible as the disease takes hold, of the struggles of negotiating the American health system, the difficulties of juggling job and carer responsibilities, the self-centredness of youth, the challenging relationship between parents and son. All of these things are woven into the timeline of the progressing illness.
The book is long: 101 chapters, though many of them are just a few pages long. However, I found it gripping from the start. The characters are well depicted, with empathy but without making them flawless. We see Eileen’s dedication and her tendency to be spendthrift. We see her husband Ed’s intelligence as well as his obsessive personality. We see their son’s slow realisation of how much his parents have done for him, after years of being an ingrate.
It is a terrific book about a difficult subject; a subject many of us worry about whenever we forget where we put the keys or can’t recall the name of a famous actor. Well worth reading.
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The Quiet American by Graham Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was part of my English school curriculum back in the 60s. I re-read it whilst working in Vietnam this year (2018), and it still felt fresh and relevant. The central theme, of a love triangle between a beautiful, young Vietnamese woman, an older English reporter and a young American, takes place in French occupied Vietnam. The Viet Minh are fighting the French in the 50s, and the Americans are standing back, subtly interfering, and deciding if and when to make their move. The love triangle can be seen as a metaphor for the ongoing war.
Greene writes beautifully. His observation of wartime Vietnam, of political intrigue and of the relationship between the three lovers, is acute. Many of those observations can still be made today, in particular the phenomenon of beautiful, young Vietnamese women with much older Western men. Why does this happen? In Greene’s view, love is an illusion, a romantic notion. Relationships are more utilitarian. Fowler, the English reporter, has no illusion that Phuong loves him, except in a simple way dependent on him providing security for her. She provides emotional and physical comfort for him. Pyle, the young American, pretends a romantic love, but his version is one of saving her from Vietnam, and taking her back to become a conventional American wife – a bit like imposing American style “democracy” on Vietnam rather than allowing the Vietnamese to make their own choice.
“The Quiet American” is still a great read. Perhaps the conclusion is a bit too “pat”, a trifle contrived. This apart, it is a classic of 20th century English fiction.
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