International Ministries

A Look Back at History and a Cool Surprise For the Day

June 22, 2008 Journal
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I forgot what it was like to sleep in until this morning. The team did not have to leave for the day until 10, which allowed us to sleep in a little bit. We were also able to have a pretty American style breakfast (eggs, ham, fried potatoes, fruit, cereal, coffee, toast, etc.) and that was nice. After we were all finished with breakfast we embarked on our journey for the day. On the car ride to our first stop we were able to listen to a few sweet ballads such as, "September" by Earth, Wind, and Fire,"Thriller" and "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson, a few John Mayer songs, and we cannot forget "I Want it That Way" by the Backstreet Boys that helped us feel a little more at home. Needless to say we had an amazing lip syncing contest that would have impressed anyone.

Our first stop for the day, was the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. The memorial focuses mainly on the Hellfire Pass but discusses the entire history of the Burma-Thailand railroad that was built during World War II under Japanese authority, and is also depicted in the movie "The Bridge over the River Kwai." The pass received its name from the prisoners of war (POW's) who were working on the pass because of the hellish conditions they were forced to go through while building the railway in the pass as well as the torches that lit the pass so that they could finish the railway while working 16-18 hour long days. Of the entire railway Hellfire Pass consists of 523 meters of the tracks laid, which possessed some of the harshest working conditions, having to blast through rocks and carry them away while going anywhere from 8-25 meters deep just to lay the tracks. Around 60,000 Allied POW's mainly Australian/British worked on the railway along with around 200,000 Asian workers known as the "romusha". Of the entire workforce that worked on the railway it is estimated that around 102,800 of them died, 12,800 POW's and 90,000 romusha. Those who died, died due to malnutrition, exhaustion, disease, and torture. The entire railway was finally connected and finished on October, 16 1943 connecting 262 meters/162 miles of tracks. Although it was constantly attacked by Allied forces and then repaired by Allied POW's, the tracks that go through the Hellfire Pass are no longer functional today and most have been transformed into a hiking trail to commemorate all the people who lost their lives building the tracks.

After going through the museum we were given a chance to walk through Hellfire Pass where you can see the remains of the tracks. As we were walking the path I was drenched with sweat and the mosquitoes were absolutely ridiculous. I cannot imagine all that the workers went through in order to lay the tracks. To work 16-18 hour days had to be horrible. What made me feel even worse is that this is a story that I never heard about in my history class in school. These tracks claimed the lives of 100,000 people and I never heard about it, probably because it did not have to with American soldiers. Thinking about that kind of upset me, but then again you cannot cover everything that happened in the past in those classes, but it just seems that all you hear about has to due with America and very little of anything else, at least in high school.

As we were walking the pass back to the museum (Amber, David, and I) we met up with with Abigail and one of the workers at the museum and they informed us that we were not suppose to be on the pass without a guide, oops!!! We were then informed that our van driver refused to come and pick us up at a check point that was on a road that ran through the middle of the pass, even though he was told to by the museum curator.  No worries, because the worker of the museum threatened to call the tourist police on him, and after that he was more than happy to come and get us.

After he picked up the team we went and visited a small waterfall on the side of the road, which provided a much needed time of cooling down in the water. In the pool of water at the bottom of the waterfall we had a chicken fighting competition and Amber and I reigned victorious amongst the crowd of other people watching us who had to think we were crazy. At least their facial expression led us to that conclusion. I guess chicken fighting must be an American tradition. We all managed to make it up and down the waterfall ok, although the slick rocks caused a few people to fall but we all walked away under our own power.

The rest of the evening should be pretty quiet all that we have to do is eat dinner. At least that is all that we were told we needed to be done. Who knows what the leaders have up their sleeves!!!