Sunday, January 02, 2005

Not so merry a Christmas - nor a Happy New Year

Life has been good for me for the last few days. My parents came to visit me for my "Promise of Marriage" celebration (aka: Lễ Đính Hôn) with my fiancée. Afterwards, we were off to Hội An, a small town midways up Việt Nam's coastline. We've been back for a couple of days. Tomorrow, we drive to Cát Tiên National Park. Holidays can be good, and this is one most needed by my fiancée and myself.

Life has not been good for others. On our engagement night, we heard that 10,000 people had died in the Indian Ocean Tsunami. When we returned a few days later, the local TV stations reported a death toll of 53,000 people. Now according to Wikipedia, which has been running its own commendably comprehensive coverage of the disaster, it is now up to 150,000. Indonesia deaths account for more than two thirds of confirmed fatalities, and Sri Lanka most of the remainder. Maldives - with a maximum elevation of 2.3 metres -  is is danger of being wiped out as a country.

Việt Nam (I'm glad to say) has been virtually unaffected by the tragedy. No known Vietnamese nationals were in the devastated areas. However, expatriates may have friends or family in the resort town of Phuket, Thailand. The local government has pledged about $150,000 aid to Indonesia, and $100,000 to Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. They may be relatively small sums, but then VN isn't the richest country in the world. It's good to see the country assume the role of aid donor - rather than its traditional role as an aid receiver.

The world can be such an indifferent place. Two tectonic plates rub together under the ocean, and the resulting waves kill hundreds of thousands. I'm saddened and overwhelmed by the tragedy. My heart goes out to those affected.