November 22nd, 2010 by Bill Keitel
The waves lap gently on the shoreline, the bike & walking path are being put to good use. I sit across the street and enjoy the vantage point, solitude and sunset interrupted with an occasional wave or nod from a passerby.
Tonight there is a walker on my side of the street, a Lao friend. He strolls by our house and after a few years of hello’s and pleasantries, he stops to visit in earnest. He wants to talk…and I want to listen.
We are both in business and we often visit about our mutual concerns. I inquire about a curious sport being played in Wgtn it is called “katoi”. It is a most impressive sport, played mainly in Laos. My friend explains, Katoi is a cross between volley ball and hacky sack. It is far more demanding than volleyball because there is a “no hands” rule, only feet,knees and head. The net is perhaps a foot shorter in height than a volleyball net…and yet these nimble Lao players are able to do a 360 degree flip and spike the ball with stunning proficiency, using only their feet. This sporting event takes place at Centennial Beach throughout the summer with very little fan fare. The majority of the public is consumed with baseball, football & hockey. The game of katoi is as demanding as any ball game ever played and in my communities lakeside park. Katoi is far more curious than anything I’ve encountered in recent years. I am stunned by the amazing agility of the participants.
The ball is approximately 7 inches in diameter and was traditionally made of Katoi vine. This ball has succumb to the modern age of plastics and seldom is made of traditional material. The original vine, pencil thin….might be hundreds of yards long…..so says my friend.
Our mutual comfort level allows us to visit on all topics and tonight we finally cross the Pacific to his homeland. A—- was a police officer in Laos and was educated beyond most of his countrymen, he went to “police officers school”. He was trained as a policeman in Laos and found the job to be rewarding and not to demanding of work. In the mid 70′s however, a crisis arose when he would not succumb to the communist rule. Horrific events followed, events that caused him to not even want to mention the word “communist”. I can hear his forced intonation , almost a repetitive studder,when he says the word, a word that still pains him to enunciate, c’c'communist.
A—- was treated cruelly by the communist regime and though he was of “educated background” that may well have been his undoing. The events that followed would test any persons ability to distinguish right from wrong. My friend confides how he has survived the indoctrination ethics of a brutal regime and its philosophy. The events unfolded and were as dark as any humanity has to offer up. He survived and escaped, but not without unspeakable & horrific deeds, his hands were intentionally soiled by their manipulative behavior. We was able to put into meanful reflection & understanding their ways of creating complicity.
If you knew only of his past deeds, you would want to avoid him. However, the entire story is one of patriot dreams & American Redemption, all can come true. This man and his family have become an asset to this nation, they quietly go about their business unnoticed by most everyone.
He could not endure under the communist regime and knew that if he fled…….traditional communist punishment would be meted out, his family and all of his kinfolk would be killed. His decision was to escape with his entire family. It entailed a complex scheme in which “escaping” took the lives of many in the police force, the same force that had murdered so many of his countrymen. A— could not suppress his vision of what freedom must be.
A– ‘s brother will remain safe in Laos….because he is cc Communist. They will never again communicate. A —cannot bring himself to think that his brother continues that path. As long as the current government is in place, A—- will never be allowed to return.
He has come to epitomize the American dream, he has very valuable property in California where he lived for many years. He decided to leave California wanting to get out of the big city and was tired of dealing with serious crime in his neighborhood. He also has Worthington property and a business. His children have more than high school educations and they have done well for themselves. His children drive expensive cars and even have enough money to gamble, A— is a bit annoyed. He is concerned that they don’t realize the importance of higher education. They don’t realize his own personal struggle to survive and get to this point in his life. A— is 61, he smiles and says he will retire in four or five years.
Our sidewalk conversation has lost all available sunlight..the street light is burned out and darkness surrounds us. As I say “la gon” ((goodbye) , I can barely see his smile, we both return to our homes, neither of us … afraid of the darkness.