16 June 2007

Google Docs Redux

I originally played around with Google Docs just to see if it can really someday replace Microsoft Office. I'm among those who love to see Microsoft's monopoly be broken to bring them down. I hoped that Google Docs would succeed one day, but didn't see how that would come about.

Recently, I have the idea of trying to collaborate with my siblings on documenting our journey from Viet Nam to the U.S. Lots of time when we get together, the talk would gravitate to how we managed to survive the boat trip out of Viet Nam, the living condition on the various Indonesian islands served as refugee camps, and our early days in America. Naturally, as we got older the details got murkier. So, before we all become senile, we decided that we should write it all down. Easy said than done. Surely, I can type up something, and I believe I did write it in my PDA. But then one of my sisters live in another state and can only visit us once a year at most. We need a mean for us to collaborate over the Internet and Google Docs is the answer.

My out-of-state sister already has a Google account so it was easy to send her an invitation to our Great American Novel that I've started. I'll just have to help my other sister and my brother open a Google account and then it's all up to them to contribute to the project.

The project will have details like exact dates, or as exact as we can recall, and other personal info, so it's highly unlikely I'll ever publish it for the general public to see. It'll remain a personal project for the four of us to read/edit. No need to give all those crooks on the Internet additional info.

However, from time to time, I'll share some snippets like the one below. Refer to the picture above for the physical features of Berhala Island as described in the text.

Of all the Indonesian islands that we stayed at, to me Berhala is probably the most memorable. It was the first island that we had a place to call home. We were lucky to bump into Grandaunt Luck, whose family was scheduled to be moved to Galang. Instead of selling the hut that they've built for themselves, they let us have it for free. It wasn't much of a home, but there was a front yard with a well to draw water from, a wooden bed for us to sleep on, a shower, and a kitchen area. Everything was made of some forms of woods and coconut leaves covered the roof and the "walls".

The hut was in a dead end street. A few times native Indonesians who wandered into the cul-de-sac would pretend to be visiting and stand around and engage us in broken English. Broken English on both sides, of course, because we ourselves only had a year of English before leaving Viet Nam.

Not too far from us was a stretch of sandy beach that, on the left (if you face the ocean), led back to the boat landing area. Unlike the neighboring Letung Island, Berhala was too small and insignificant to have its own dock. Rowboats would just beach themselves to let the passengers off, then the rower would push the boat back into the water and hop on the boat as the boat reached deeper water. To the right of the beach is one of the two mountains on the island. One time, along with a few other kids of the same age, I went all around both mountains. The mountain nearer to our hut, in whose shadow we lived, ended at the public toilet facing the Tulai Island. I'll arbitrarily call this toilet #2. There's a smaller stretch of beach there, but with the public toilet right there, I doubt if anyone ever bother to wade into the water. The second mountain started where the short beach ended and ended at the other public toilet, the one that faced Letung Island. Again, I arbitrarily assign the #1 designation to this toilet. Somewhere between the toilet #1 and the boat landing was an underwater walkway. On low tide, adults and teenagers could walk from Berhala to Letung. At the deepest point, the water was up to my chest. Back then I had to be already at least five feet tall. I used that walkway at least once. The island's natural beauty was pretty much intact and I was able to see the coral underwater in many places along the walk.


  1. Anonymous5:05 PM

    Wow, that maps & memory accounts brought back some adventure. I was on a boat (LA1953) among the first to land on Berhala. It was a very small & beautiful island. The coral was most prestine between it ans Letung. I remember every day I walked across the sand-bar during low tide to Letung to fetch water. My make-shift hut was also a stone throw from the beach facing Letung.
    I wish go back for a visit, but I wonder if there is transportation going there. John (jlim@supc.com)

  2. Recently found this map of Kuku and nearby refugee camps


    All these times I thought Letung and Kuku were on two separate islands. Now I know they are just small towns on the edge of the same big island named Jemajah.