Maps and Territories

An occasional blog by an amateur map lover.

Friday, December 19, 2003

North Ch'ungch'ong Province of South Korea

In a Country Village on April 19
by Shin Kyong-Rim

The door has been rattling all night long
in the damp breeze sweeping down the alley.
Over the messy dung-heap by the broken-down wall
apricot flowers are in bloom, dizzyingly
they bloom, get plucked off, trodden down,
yet they bloom again, it's April.

I had reached a lonely village high up on the South Han River,
and as I wandered down empty streets free of curfew,
all at once the forgotten
battle cries of that day came to mind.
The days lived since then slant like motes of dust.
Time has passed like a rolling stone.

The night was dark, no one believed
we would ever hear that day's bells again.
I recalled a friend, his brow struck by a cold stone,
a friend fallen into so deep sleep,
blood staining his finger-nails.

It might be April, the wind was still chill,
despite apricot flowers, the sobs rose higher,
the damp breeze came clinging to the flowering branches,
whimpering like those friends' laments.
Azaleas bloom, and forsythias too, they get plucked off.
The night hardly grew any brighter.

From a collection of Shin Kyong-Rim's poetry at Korean Literature Today, Volume 1, No. 2, Autumn, 1996.
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Friday, December 12, 2003

The Piri Re'is Map

From the text on the mysterious Piri Re'is Map:

"This sea is called the Western Sea, but the Frank sailors call it the Mare d'Espagna. Which means the Sea of Spain. Up to now it was known by these names, but Colombo, who opened up this sea and made these islands known, and also the Portuguese, infidels who have opened up the region of Hind have agreed together to give this sea a new name. They have given it the name of Ovo Sano [Oceano] that is to say, sound egg. Before this it was thought that the sea had no end or limit, that at its other end was darkness. Now they have seen that this sea is girded by a coast, because it is like a lake, they have called it Ovo Sano."

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Friday, December 05, 2003

Ngiyaampaa territory from the "Map of New South Wales as occupied by The Native Tribes" prepared by John Fraser.

From the Darling Heights State School, Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness site, comes the creation story of the Ngiyaampa country and the Darling River in New South Wales, Australia:

This is the creation story of Ngiyaampaa country, as well as the land belonging to Eaglehawk and Crow. Now long, long time ago of course, in the beginning, when there was no people, no trees, no plants whatever on this land, 'Guthi-guthi', the spirit of our ancestral being, he lived up in the sky. So he came down and he wanted to create the special land for people and animals and birds to live in. So Guthi-guthi came down and he went on creating the land for the people-after he'd set the borders in place and the sacred sights, the birthing places of all the Dreamings, where all our Dreamings were to come out of. Guthi-guthi put one foot on Gunderbooka Mountain and another one at Mount Grenfell.

And he looked out over the land and he could see that the land was bare. There was no water in sight, there was nothing growing. So Guthi-guthi knew that trapped in a mountain-Mount Minara-the water serpent, Weowie, he was trapped in the mountain. So Guthi-guthi called out to him, 'Weowie, Weowie', but because Weowie was trapped right in the middle of the mountain, he couldn't hear him.

Guthi-guthi went back up into the sky and he called out once more, 'Weowie', but once again Weowie didn't respond. So Guthi-guthi came down with a roar like thunder and banged on the mountain and the mountain split open. Weowie the water serpent came out. And where the water serpent travelled he made waterholes and streams and depressions in the land.

So once all that was finished, of course, Weowie went back into the mountain to live and that's where Weowie lives now, in Mount Minara. But then after that, they wanted another lot of water to come down from the north, throughout our country. Old Pundu, the Cod, it was his duty to drag and create the river known as the Darling River today.

So Cod came out with Mudlark, his little mate, and they set off from the north and they created the big river. Flows right down, water flows right throughout our country, right into the sea now. And of course, this country was also created, the first two tribes put in our country were Eaglehawk and Crow. And from these two tribes came many tribal people, many tribes, and we call them sub-groups today. So my people, the Ngiyaampaa people and the Barkandji further down are all sub-groups of Eaglehawk and Crow.

So what I'm telling you-the stories that were handed down to me all come from within this country.

Thanks to plep for the link.

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Monday, December 01, 2003

Gilbert Islands in 1943
From the Perry-Castenada Map Collection of World War II maps

I joined the army half way through university and for six years I was a soldier. I then decided not to become a student again, but to apply to become an administrator in the Colonial Service. I was accepted, and appointed to the Gilbert & Ellice Islands (GEIC), a scattering of islands stretching across two thousand miles of the Pacific, a thousand miles north of Fiji and Tahiti.

Air travel was still in its infancy and very expensive, so I was sent out by sea. To Australia in a troopship full of other young people returning home or seeking new opportunities in Australasia. After five weeks wait in Sydney passage on a freighter going to Banaba to pick up phosphate. And after another six weeks a little GEIC touring ship sixty feet long (shorter than a cricket pitch) the last three hundred miles to Tarawa, the GEIC's capital. The whole journey took exactly 5 months. And with no air service to the GEIC my airmail letter telling my parents of my safe arrival took over two months to reach England.

Except for Banaba, a coral pimple less than a mile across and up to 200 feet high, every one of the islands of the GEIC is an atoll - nothing more nor less then a bank of sand on a coral reef. The highest point in the 16 Gilberts is 12 feet above sea level, and even on Christmas Island far away to the east, the biggest atoll in the world, three times this. No wonder the atoll dwellers in the Gilberts, Ellice, Maldives and elsewhere are apprehensive of global warming and the melting of the earth's icecaps.

All the durable buildings in the Gilberts had been destroyed in the fighting to expel the Japanese, who had occupied the islands in 1942. Even if the money had been there, no ships were available to bring in cement for walls or corrugated iron for roofing. So local materials - pandanus poles for beams, palm mid-ribs for walls and pandanus leaves for thatch - were used to construct all the many buildings now needed. Until world trade returned to normal several years later we all worked and lived in such 'bush' buildings, with their stick walls and mere openings for windows. Fortunately for the Gilbertese theft was a heinous crime (they use the same word for a rat and a thief), and it was quite safe to leave in full view objects still in very short supply, such as tools, knives, writing materials (over 90 percent of the population was literate) and tobacco.

Fortunately I had spent most of the time on Banaba learning to fish in the very deep (2000 feet or more) water outside the reef. My tutor was a Gilbertese police sergeant with a family to feed, who was glad of an extra hand in the bow of his outrigger canoe, and since he spoke little English - all education at that time being in Mission schools and entirely in Gilbertese - I perforce learned Gilbertese quite rapidly. It is a fairly simple language with roots in Malay, few difficulties in the way of pronunciation, and spelling when written which is 'straight phonetic' - unlike English! A week after reaching Tarawa I passed my elementary Gilbertese exam, and within a year I had passed at the advanced level - one of the steps towards promotion in the Service.

My first task was to go round all the 16 Gilbert Islands and 8 Ellice paying compensation for coconut trees felled in the war. I think the rate was £1 for every six trees destroyed: not much, but all that was available from Japanese assets seized as reparations, and enough to enable villagers, all of whom owned little plantations, to restore these. I spent seven weeks in a standard touring ship 60 feet long, travelling overnight between islands 30-100 miles apart and paying out small amounts each day to hundreds of victims of the war.

-- Mike Towsend in From the Window 5 (scroll down to find the piece)

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