Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is The Khmer  Funeral Ceremony

Hello All, Todays topic is Khmer Funerals. Last weekend I was traveling back to the village from a weekend in Phnom Penh. I travel in vans called turihs. These vans are unregulated and the drivers want to make as much money as they can so they pack them with as many people as possible. The vans have bench seating so if you have an issue with maintaining personal space then riding turihs may be problematic for you. As you might imagine, they aren’t the safest either. Most Cambodians  ride motos, small motorcycles, that they use without any type of head protection. There are no hard and fast rules for driving safety. Red lights are often ignored. On a 2-lane road you might see a moto passing a car that is passing a bus all at the same time. Needless to say, traffic fatalities are a common occurrence.  So, as we were leaving Phnom Penh the traffic stopped and was backed up for a very long way. When we finally passed the accident scene, I could see that it had involved an elderly woman who was most likely traveling on the back of a moto without a helmet.

All cultures have a way of dealing with the death of a loved one. Cambodians view death differently than Westerners. In Buddhism, there is the belief that death is the end of a life cycle. Buddhists believe in reincarnation so the end of a life cycle evolves into another of birth, sickness, old age, death and rebirth. In the event of death, there are certain rituals that must be performed to ensure the person is able to move from one cycle to the next. The Buddhist monk plays a key role in many rituals including death. If at all possible, the monk will be in attendance as a person is dying because this is the time when the soul leaves the body but is still present. It is believed that the soul is in a state of confusion after leaving the body and the monk provides needed comfort to the soul.

Following the death of a person, they are placed in a coffin. The body is not dissected or embalmed but kept at the house of the family for up to 7 days, in the structure that is pictured, before cremation. The funeral procession to the crematorium consists of the monks, family followed by friends.  Mourning loved ones may shave their heads. White is the traditional color for mourning as opposed to wearing black in Western culture. The coffin is carried to the temple crematorium. Cambodians are cremated because it is believed that cremation allows the soul to part ways from the body. The crematorium that I have pictured here is at Wat Opot Childrens Community. The ashes and bones are placed in a stupa that is usually on temple grounds. Each stupa is designated by family. I have pictured some of the stupas at Wat Opot.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website. http://www.jimrizzo.com

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

 

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Hello All, and thanks for following me. This weeks blog post is about Wat Opot Childrens Community.  I know ther e is a lot of bad press out there about orphanages. People like JK Rowling are pushing an agenda to have them all shut down. I suggest that you make an informed decision before taking a position. I’ve spent time at Wat Opot. I’ve spent time at orphanages in Haiti and Guyana. I’ve heard the arguments. Yes, there are places that are unregulated and should be shut down. But not all of them. I can say this without hesitation. There are places like Wat Opot and this is their story:

Wayne Matthysse was a medic during the Vietnam War. He was one of only two that survived the war out of his entire company.  The company was out on a mission one day when they realized they were surrounded. They called in for help and that’s when they found out that they were on a suicide mission. There would be no help. Nobody was coming to save them. A shell went off close to them and hit one of the men. Wayne ran out to help him when another went off. Shrapnel shattered the left side of his glasses, blinding Wayne. They tried to call for help and this time a rogue helicopter pilot responded. He flew in and the company got Wayne and the other soldier on the helicopter but this, however, gave away their position to the North Vietnamese. Seconds after to chopper was in the air the rest of the company was slaughtered.  Wayne had only been in Vietnam for 2 months and now back in the US he found work on the Navajo Reservation for the next 12 years. Eventually he made his way to Honduras where he worked with a missionary and built a medical clinic for a remote village. He spent another 12 years in Honduras but due to the violence he was forced to leave. He decided to return to Cambodia. Without money, connections or even knowing how to speak Khmer he opened an AIDS hospice with a Cambodian friend he had met. Back then the medications for treatment were not yet available and little was understood on how AIDS was contracted. Therefore, people diagnosed with AIDS were often completely abandoned by their family and community. They were left to die on their own even if they contracted the virus through no fault of their own. Wayne offered these people a place to die with dignity and care. As more people died at Wat Opot they often left children behind that were now homeless and also carrying the virus. Wat Opot is no longer a hospice but an orphanage for these children. There are about 50 children here, many of which are HIV positive. Many of them have family but for one reason or another are unable to live there. Wat Opot offers them a safe and secure alternative. Wat Opot is about 10 K from where I live and I get up there when I can. Volunteers are welcome to come here and stay. Find out for yourself the facts about orphanages. http://www.watopot.org

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
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Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Cashews

There are so many agricultural commodities that are available here in Cambodia that are not available in the US. I could go on and on about the fruits that grow here that people in the US will probably never get to experience. There are so many different types but I suspect that would get boring if it hasn’t already. So, I wanted to do one more about cashews because I find them really interesting and relatable since we commonly eat them in the US. Cashews grow all around Cambodia in trees. This was a tree next to the bungalow where I was staying on Koh Rong Island. The fruit looks like apples and are edible, however, I’ve been told are an acquired taste. The thick stem growing out of the top of the ‘apple’ is the cashew nut. The stem is cut off the top and then the hard shell is split to get to the meaty nut on the inside. A traditional Khmer dish is cashew chicken. Chicken, cashews and vegetables stir-fried over rice make for a super tasty dish.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a short description of one of my books called Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. This is my favorite book filled with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

It’s 1930 and Carson Jones is a prison guard at the notorious Eastern States Penitentiary in Philadelphia where some of America’s most violent inmates and gangsters are serving time. Amidst the desperation of the Depression and a crowd of hostile convicts, Carson finds solace in an azalea garden behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art and in helping an inmate he believes has been wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death. Carson’s life begins to take a turn when he meets a beautiful young woman through a coworker. Her father is a judge and agrees to help him, but at a price. Carson is forced to choose between a life of meaning and purpose and leaving his friend at the mercy of a threatening warden who is becoming increasingly more unhinged. Though the life he has always dreamed of is finally within reach, is it worth it? In a novel chock-full of history and suspense, James Rizzo crafts a suspenseful narrative full of real-life history and page-turning intrigue.

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Uncommon Snacks

In previous posts, I have mentioned a few examples of the many snacks that Cambodians enjoy that many of us from a western culture might find…uh…unappetizing. These include a wide variety of insects. One of my friends here in Cambodia is raising crickets in large quantities for consumption which, honestly, are rather tasty. I’ve tried a few of these snacks and will rate them in this fashion;  tried, not yet tried, or rather die first. The ones in which I have included a picture are silk worm larvae- tried, grasshoppers- tried, crickets- tried and snakes- rather die first. There is a picture of what appears to be a cockroach. The Cambodians insist that it is not a cockroach, it just looks like one. It’s a big bug and you have to pull the wings and legs off to eat it or it gets caught in your teeth. I did actually try it once, under protest, but succumbed to peer pressure. Not pictured include tarantulas- rather die first and ants- not yet. I’m sure there are more but these are the ones I’m aware of. Although some might find the concept of eating bugs hard to swallow, they can be tasty and do provide much needed protein to the Cambodian diet. Bon appetit!

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a short description of one of my books called Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. This is my favorite book filled with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

It’s 1930 and Carson Jones is a prison guard at the notorious Eastern States Penitentiary in Philadelphia where some of America’s most violent inmates and gangsters are serving time. Amidst the desperation of the Depression and a crowd of hostile convicts, Carson finds solace in an azalea garden behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art and in helping an inmate he believes has been wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death. Carson’s life begins to take a turn when he meets a beautiful young woman through a coworker. Her father is a judge and agrees to help him, but at a price. Carson is forced to choose between a life of meaning and purpose and leaving his friend at the mercy of a threatening warden who is becoming increasingly more unhinged. Though the life he has always dreamed of is finally within reach, is it worth it? In a novel chock-full of history and suspense, James Rizzo crafts a suspenseful narrative full of real-life history and page-turning intrigue.

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Coffee

Since I began this blog, I’ve covered a number of agricultural commodities that Cambodia is known for including rice, sugar cane, silk, salt, and pepper. Another is coffee although I’ve read that the number of coffee plantations in Cambodia are in steep decline. Throughout the country, coffee shops are everywhere. In Phnom Penh, there is one on just about every street corner. This country drinks a lot of coffee, usually iced. The coffee plantations in Cambodia are located in the higher elevations of the northeastern highlands of Mondulkiri Province. Coffee plants are not native to Cambodia but were introduced to the country by the French. Cambodia, like much of SE Asia, was occupied by the French for almost 100 years from 1863 to 1953. The French referred to its colony of SE Asia which included Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as Indochina because it sits between India and China. The type of bean that is raised in Cambodia is robusta. There are many different types of coffee plants but robusta is one of the more popular ones being second only to arabica and about 40% of coffee production overall. Robusta grows well in the Cambodian Highlands due to the elevation and climate. Robusta is also the preferred type of bean bv connoisseurs of espresso. So in the pictures are what is known as the berries which are picked by hand. The workers picking the berries were shy and asked that I not take their picture. Inside of each of the berries are 2 coffee beans which are roasted and ground into coffee. I was never a really big coffee drinker but have found a nice cappuccino in the morning gets the day off on a good note.

============
Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a short description of one of my books called Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. This is my favorite book filled with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

It’s 1930 and Carson Jones is a prison guard at the notorious Eastern States Penitentiary in Philadelphia where some of America’s most violent inmates and gangsters are serving time. Amidst the desperation of the Depression and a crowd of hostile convicts, Carson finds solace in an azalea garden behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art and in helping an inmate he believes has been wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death. Carson’s life begins to take a turn when he meets a beautiful young woman through a coworker. Her father is a judge and agrees to help him, but at a price. Carson is forced to choose between a life of meaning and purpose and leaving his friend at the mercy of a threatening warden who is becoming increasingly more unhinged. Though the life he has always dreamed of is finally within reach, is it worth it? In a novel chock-full of history and suspense, James Rizzo crafts a suspenseful narrative full of real-life history and page-turning intrigue.

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Making Silk

SE Asia is known for many things and one of them is silk. Not far from Phnom Penh there is an island on the Mekong River that is called Silk Island. As the name implies, the island is known for silk production. Here there are people still producing silk from the worms and weaving it on large wooden looms. This island really has an island vibe that is relaxed and laid back even though it’s on a busy river.  To get to the island requires a series of ferries because as of yet there is no bridge. Silk production began thousands of years ago in China but was revolutionized with the invention of the loom. I suspect that the process has not changed much since then. As pictured here I am holding the silk worms in my hand. They make the cocoon that are the yellow looking cotton balls. The cocoons are placed in hot water so that the fiber of the cocoon is separated from the cocoon into a strand of silk. That strand is wound around the contraption that is pictured. Once enough of the silk is wound around it can then be woven into garments. You can see me attempting to weave some silk garment on one these large looms. It’s actually more complicated than one would think. To make the different patterns there are many pedals and levers on the loom. The silk is threaded through the loom using the spindle. Silk Island really feels like you are in another time and place where life was simpler and peaceful. A place where people live happy, quiet lives producing silk.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website. http://www.jimrizzo.com

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Jungle Trek

I live south of Phnom Penh in an area that is hot, flat and mostly rice fields. But there are areas of Cambodia that are mountainous and much cooler. They still raise rice in these regions but it is a different type of rice that isn’t raised in water paddies called dry rice. Dry rice is planted directly into the soil. In these higher elevations, there are fields of tall grass among pine forests that resemble many areas in the US. As you drop down from the higher elevations you will come into dense jungle. I recently took a guided trek into the jungle, sleeping in hammocks. This guided trek in particular was in an elephant sanctuary. I did see a critter that they refer to as a raccoon but looked nothing like the ones in the US. It looked more like a squirrel. There are also snakes, monkeys and gibbons but didn’t see them. However, the elephants and scenic waterfalls made it a worthwhile trip.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website. http://www.jimrizzo.com

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Halong Bay

A World Heritage site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. These designations began in 1975. In the US there are currently 22 of the total 981 sites worldwide. Examples include; Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Everglades, Yosemite and Chaco Canyon.

Halong Bay, Vietnam is one of these sites. There are thousands of these limestone islands that jut out of this ocean bay. The water is emerald green. The islands vary in size and the larger ones are forested and can support wildlife such as small monkeys and some sort of cat. I took an overnight boat cruise through the bay which is an area of 1,553 km2 so it’s a relatively large bay. At one point the boat stopped and were able to kayak around some of these towering natural limestone islands. We could even paddle around a floating fishing village which is pictured. We also stopped at a floating oyster/pearl farm. The cruise ship was great with nice staff and fine dining. The cabins were luxurious and with a balcony. I sat on the balcony with a nice glass of wine while cruising by some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen. Aside from the cruise, the town of Halong Bay is being converted into an amusement park. There is a beach but if an amusement park isn’t your thing then Hanoi is close enough to make the trip to Halong Bay and return to Hanoi when you get off the boat. I know I probably say this a lot but if you ever make it to SE Asia put this one on the list

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
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Sunset Over East by [Rizzo, James]

 

It’s 1880, Denis and Hope McConell are on a train traveling through Indian Territory on their way to Tombstone, Arizona. Denis has been hired as copyeditor of The Epitaph, the Tombstone newspaper owned by John Clum whose friends include the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday. Denis will be reporting on the events of the rapidly growing wild boom town. But after their arrival, he realizes that because of his association with the Clum and the Earps he has many dangerous enemies. After the loss of her husband, 19-year old Hope is on her own and forced to protect her infant daughter, a 15-year-old Chinese girl from the Chinese mining camp and a 15-year-old girl that had been forced into prostitution. She finds solace and friendship among the Chinese miners but they are under constant threat from brutal marauders who will stop at nothing, including torture and murder, to get what they want- silver. But the law will do nothing to protect the Chinese miners. Now Hope must now learn to defend herself and protect the others from the constant threat of danger with little resources and fewer options

 

 

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi

I’m not an expert on Buddhism so please forgive me if there are any inaccuracies in the post. My understanding is that there are three sects in Buddhism which are Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. I suspect they are much like denominations as in Christianity. The Dalai Lama is of the Mahayana sect otherwise known as Tibetan. Theravada is the sect that is practiced throughout most of SE Asia including Cambodia. I was surprised when I found out that Cambodians had never heard of the Dalai Lama. I knew there were different sects of Buddhism but I was confused when I realized that they did not know of him. I sorta viewed it as me knowing who the Pope is even though I’m not Catholic. So perhaps these sects have distinct differences but I don’t really know.

A pagoda is a Buddhist temple. Pagodas, more commonly referred to as Wats in Cambodia, are all over Cambodia which did not appear to be the case in Vietnam. There were some but I didn’t see them to the degree of prevalence as Cambodia. These pictures are of the Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi. Tran Quoc Pagoda was built during the 6th century, which is about 1500 years ago, by King Ly Nam De (541-547). It was relocated to its present location on a lake in Hanoi in the 1600’s. There are many former monks and Buddhist masters that are buried here. One of the more notable monks that is buried here is Zen Master Tinh Tri Giac Quan who, according to the Tran Quoc Pagoda, founded  Zen  Buddhism at this pagoda during the second Le Dynasty. If I understand it, Zen Buddhism is considered one of the branches of Mahayana Buddhism.  One of the more recognizable Zen Buddhists today is Thich Nhat Hanh who is originally from Vietnam but now living in France. At the pagoda is a graft of the Bhodi tree, the tree that Buddha sat under when he became enlightened, that is thriving. This is apparently a very old tree considering Buddha lived somewhere between 400-600 BCE. It’s truly a beautiful place. Walking around this pagoda, the reverence is palpable. It’s been a sacred place for a very long time.

=============
Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website. http://www.jimrizzo.com

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

 

 

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is The Temple of Literature

I’m living about 55 kilometers south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia which happens to be in the heart of SE Asia. Thailand on the one side and Vietnam/Laos on the other. Myself and a friend took an excursion to Vietnam last week. We started out in Ho Chi Min City, formerly Saigon, which is a 6-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh. Ho Chi Min is a huge and busy city. Our final destination is the world heritage site, Halong Bay. Check for my next post on Halong Bay because you won’t want to miss that one. Before we could get to Halong Bay we went to Hanoi. While Saigon is in southern Vietnam, Hanoi is in the north but still about 1000 miles from the Chinese border. I stayed at the Hanoi Rose Hotel, comfortable and inexpensive, with welcoming and accommodating hosts. From the hotel, we had easy access to both the French Quarters and Old City Quarters. Hanoi is filled with parks, lakes, old city streets, pagodas and museums. We were stopped on the streets by children and teenagers anxious to hear about where we were from and about our country. Pictured here is the the ancient Temple of Literature one of the many sites to see in Hanoi. The temple was built as a university in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius. Originally built to educate royalty but then opened up to others. The woman in white is wearing a typical Vietnamese formal dress. I think she was getting married or in a wedding party but was happy to take a picture with me. I went to several museums one of which was the infamous Hanoi Hilton where John McCain was held and tortured for 5 years as a POW. More on this in another post.  I also went to the war museum and spoke with a woman about the war. She told me that when the Americans entered the war they were considered invaders to their country. I didn’t disagree with her. How could I? After all these years the American government has yet to fully disclose why we were fighting in Vietnam.

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Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.
=============

This is the book trailer for my novel Azaleas Beyond the Prison Walls. Book sales are increasing so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that have supported me by purchasing my books. Although I’m no longer with Smart Cat Publishing, all my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Links are on this website. Hope you will take a moment to listen and enjoy.