Sunday, December 29, 2019

COPE Center in Laos

COPE Center, Vientiane
This morning I walked to the COPE Center in Vientiane, Laos. The visitor center is part of a larger complex that is focused on the continuing victims of a war that ended nearly 50 years ago.
Sculpture made from cluster bomb materials
Walking past buildings dedicated to supporting those disabled by unexploded ordnances (UXO's) such as a special gymnasium and wheelchair fitting, signs pointed me to the visitor center. In front of the building was a sculpture made from different components of cluster bombs. Next to the entrance, a cluster bomb casing was repurposed as a planter.

Inside, one of the video displays played this (above) video. Posters listed some staggering statistics of the horrible bombings that occurred in Laos from 1964-1973.
A few statistics:

  • Over 270 million "bombies" (small bombs contained within large cluster bombs) were dropped over Laos during this time period.
  • 580,000 bombing missions were conducted
  • Between 10-30% of all "bombies" (over 80 million) failed to detonate and are still dangerous
  • From 1996-2009, nearly 1,100,000 unexploded "bombies" were destroyed by UXO Lao.
  • Laos is the most heavily bombed country; more bombs were dropped here than in all of WWII. 
The center had a small theatre for watching a selection of videos. The one I watched featured some of the victims of these unexploded munitions, particularly the small "bombies." Examples of some victims' stories included a mother whose leg was blown off when the heat from her cooking fire detonated a bombie. Or a rice farmer who when using a tool to plant rice accidentally hit a bombie.. Having lost vision in one eye and one leg amputated, he no longer is able to support his family. His children have had to drop out of school in order to help farm in the same fields that may contain more UXO's. The video also showed children using metal detectors to find scrap metal left from the bombing raids, irrespective of the real dangers of encountering UXO's. 
Prosthetics "wall"

The COPE center also helps fit victims with more lightweight prosthetics; these give victims more mobility than even the clumsy, heavy ones they may have fashioned themselves in their villages. The organization also provides community outreach, going directly to remote villages to provide equipment, repairs, medical assistance, etc. Funding is also provided to enable victims to come to rehab centers, receive surgery, etc. 

While in Luang Prabang, I visited a similar visitor center. Posters there described how programs continue to occur in educating villagers of the dangers of UXO's  - what they look like and what to do if they encounter a UXO. Specially trained people are working at locating and destroying the UXO's, enabling the cleared land to be safely used for farming or residences.  Due to the large numbers of UXO's remaining despite continued efforts at locating and destroying the bombies, it is estimated that it may take nearly 100 years for Laos to be free of this scourge that continues to negatively impact the economy of Laos and its citizens.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Malian Woman with Blue Shawl

My latest artwork, a color pencil of a Dogon woman from Mali, West Africa. It is the first time that I tried out my new set of 24 Polychomos color pencils.

Having just finished pounding millet, it feels good to sit down. Although such work is quite physical, I am grateful that the Lord has provided us with a harvest, despite the sparse rainfall this year. In addition to that task, I also managed to make several clay pots this morning. I’m pleased to say that my young daughter is coming along quite nicely with her pottery skills. I enjoy teaching the young women the Dogon songs as we pound away under the baobab tree. Tonight we will be singing hymns as we dance around the fire in our village of Nombouri. I always look forward to gatherings with fellow Christians in my village. How blessed I am; How great Thou art!

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Stringing the Marigolds

My latest artwork, Stringing the Marigolds. Pastel ©2019 Melissa Enderle

All around me, the Kolkata flower market where I am working is abuzz with energy. With both the festivals of Diwali and Kali Puja happening at the same time, there is an insatiable demand for strung marigolds. They’re being sold as fast as I can string them! I’m happy for the extra business but look forward to when I can go home and leave this noisy madhouse. After our evening meal, my family and I will set out to partake in the celebrations. That means more noise, but of the fun variety!

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Terracotta Warriors - Bronze Chariots and Weapons

Clay figures were not the only thing present in the pits. Encased in large wooden coffins were two bronze chariots of remarkable state of preservation, discovered in 1980. Both bronze chariots, each led by four bronze horses, are now in on display in the Exhibition Hall. 

Chariot #2
About half life-size, the chariots are thought to be for Emperor Qin as he toured around in the afterlife. Each of the chariots had over 3,000 accessories. The one known as Chariot #2 has separate back and front rows, with the empty back row reserved for the emperor. A replica of both chariots can be seen at the Shaanxi History Musuem in Xi'an.
Over 40,000 bronze weapons were recovered from the pits where the Terracotta Warriors were buried. These were not just simulated weapons, but ones that were fully functional. Weapons included over 37,000 arrowheads,  as well as spears, swords, daggers, crossbows, battle axes, bayonets, and more unique ancient types.  

Despite being over 2,200 years old, the weapons were still sharp. These military-grade state-of-the-art weapons were also never used, indicating that they were made just for the Terracotta army. 
Reconstructed crossbow with mechanism from the burial pit
When studying the crossbow triggers, researchers determined that the parts were very uniform, made in molds and in small batches. Assembly of the standardized, five interlocking parts happened in small workshops – not in large assembly lines. The crossbows are capable of piercing modern armor and kill with a single strike. Read more about the weapons in this article.