A recent legislative decision by Japan’s Shimane Prefecture has raised the blood level of most Koreans. (Read an article about the controversy here) A member of my adult class asked if we could discuss “Takeshima Day,” as the Japanese are calling it. I said yes, not knowing if it would interest too many of the learners, but it turned into a big discussion hit. All of the students, being Korean, despised this attempt on the part of the Japanese to try to legitimate their claims to Dokdo Island and its surrounding rich fisheries. Quite the controversy in the “Land of the Morning Calm.”

One of the other big South East Asian stories, and one that concerns me more than the Dokdo sparring, is the continuing drought in Thailand, Laos and other countries in that area of the world. Because my good friend Nai lives near the drought-stricken Mekong River and his farming family depends on the rain, I worry about his livelihood. I keep meaning to ask him how his family’s farm has been affected, but I’m not sure he would understand the concept in English. I’ve got a Lao phrase book and I ordered a Lao language book and cd package yesterday, so perhaps in a month or so I’ll be able to communicate with him more effectively.

As a further sign of impending spring, some of the ANU shrubbery is turning green. Now, as long as the “jealous spirit of winter,” as one of my Korean history professor friends puts it, does not blast us again, warm weather is imminent (I hope). This weekend is supposed to be nice, so I hope to haul the bicycle out of the apartment and give it a workout around town.