When I walked out of the YMCA this afternoon, I did not feel happy. In fact, I was pretty near depressed. I was dissatisfied with the discussion and furious with myself - I felt I had acted stupid and arrogant. So I decided to head on over to the bookstore and find something to cheer myself up.

 Unfortunately nothing really seemed to do the trick. I wandered up and down the aisles until the people working there must have thought that I was insane. After a while, a familiar title caught my eye. It was by no means a cheerful title, but I picked it up anyway, somewhat absently, just to see what it was about.

 Half an hour later, I was still standing there. My eyes hurt, my back and neck were stiff, and my ankles are still swollen. But just then I was completely into the book. Unashamed, I kept on reading while standing in the aisle, until I had reached the end. I rarely ever cry while reading books, even the most tragic ones, but let me tell you, I stood there, and I felt my eyes water. If I had been at home I would have wept.

 Some heart-touching romance? Don't think so (and besides, what would that have to do with camp anyways). The book was "The Rape of Nanking", and it was a non-fiction book full of nothing but stark, naked facts.

 Was I cheered up? (- -;) I don't think so. In fact, if someone Japanese had been nearby while I was reading the book I honestly think that I could have very happily murdered them. If you haven't read the book, read it. It is simply horrifying. I read it and all I could think was, how? How could ANY human do such things to another human being? You thought Hitler was bad? He was a saint compared to the Japanese in Nanking. What they did.... it was just incredible. I could go on and on, but I'll shut up now and get to the point.

 No, I wasn't cheered up. But I *did* feel somewhat better. It made my problems and annoyances shrink until I felt silly being worried about the interview in the first place. It also made me think again about what we had discussed.

 Our topic, by the way, was Asia's advancement. Which pretty much covers everything from peace to women's rights. I mentioned above that I was dissatisfied with the discussion. Why? I felt that it had been self-centered on Korea, instead of thinking about all ten countries that will be participating in the camp next month.

 The main problem I had was that everyone mainly spoke in Korean (although this problem seems kind of selfish, since *I* have more trouble with Korean than English). I KNOW that just because you speak English fluently is not a good reason to attend the camp. I realize that the YMCA is trying to gather more creative youths instead of focusing on English skills. I think it's a great idea, and I agree that being fluent in English isn't good enough to be picked. BUT at the camp everyone will HAVE to speak English. What other common language is there for us to communicate in? Or do we all speak Chinese and French as well, which seem to dominate most SE Asian countries? I know it's just a "practice" debate but I don't feel it's helping matters. I think it should have been conducted in English, or at least MAINLY in English. What good will it do if the kids at camp have brilliant ideas but can't express them?

 The main problem I had however (and although I can't speak for the other debates I think this will be a common point) is that the discussion seemed to be centered on (you guessed it) Korea. I listened a *lot* more than I talked, and when I did get the chance to talk I was intimidated by everyone else around me to use Korean. Therefore I blundered and wasn't able to make a clear point. Well I'm making it now, damn it.

 Everyone (or almost everyone) voiced their opinion that cultural development should be considered more important than economical - since no one nowadays has to worry about food. For Korea? Why not. It's way past time. The black list that the civic groups made should have been made long ago. Materialism needs to be kicked out - high time it was. Fine and good. But what about the other ten countries? Many of them are poor and still worrying about how to feed their people. Some are still in turmoil and in the midst of war. Would you like to try to discuss cultural development with them? They'd laugh in your face. Do you know how hard it is to find information about Laos and Cambodia and Vietnam and Brunei on the Internet? Not how many people they have and stuff like that, but stuff like customs and legends? You're welcome to try. (And if you do find any, for heaven's sake please send me some - -;) What does this tell us? Until all SE Asian countries are economically secure, we are in no position to discuss topics like cultural development.

 Nanking is, of course, somewhat of a dramatic example of conflict in Asia. But it is certainly not the only one. I have had the chance to read about the history of each country (and get real guys, how many of us know ANYTHING about the ten countries that are on the list, other than where they are?) and I hate to tell you, but we are anything but one big happy family. "History repeats itself", they say. And did anyone bring this up? Don't think so.

 I admit that we haven't learned enough in school for any of us to be aware of the situations in other SE Asian countries. But I do think that selfishness lies at the bottom of all this mess. Not only us. Other countries are just as selfish as we are. And of course, being selfish can be called instinct. But the time has come, I think, for us to resolve conflict - to admit, to repent, to forgive, to forget. To *understand*. To *help*. To *share*. Apart from whether we receive the opportunity to go to camp, perhaps this would be a good chance to us to rethink what really is needed for the common advancement of Asia as a whole (although to be honest, perhaps we aren't all that interested in it unless we *get* to go to camp. ^^;)

 As an ending, I just want to comment that I was sufficiently humbled to hear many people around my age talk quite intelligently on international topics, and that with a little luck this camp will be a brilliant success. Three cheers for everyone who had to go through those grueling two hours of debate! ^_^

elienta@hotmail.com