Maria’s Note: Maria Bonaventura here, managing editor of Postcards From the Fringe. Over the past few months, Tom has revealed a lot about himself, including his struggles with depression. He has also shared how traveling helped him get out of the mental hole he was in… and how his world-wide trip redefined his relationship with his three kids and his soon-to-be-wife-again, Kate. (Catch up on all that here.)
But along with that, Tom has had some confronting experiences. One of the worst was his visit to a scene of the Rwandan genocide. In today’s postcard, Tom shares with you the details of what he found there. It’s not for the faint of heart.
MEDICINE HAT, ALBERTA, CANADA – In April 1994, as the Rwandan genocide was unfolding, local authorities sent thousands of refugees in southwestern Rwanda into a large school on the top of a hill near Gikongoro, where they were told they’d be safe from the killing.
But it was just a ploy. They assembled the refugees there so they could more easily murder them…
First the authorities cut off their food and water until they were starving. Then, on the night of April 20, they sent in killers using spears, hoes, hammers, nail-filled clubs, machetes, rifles, and grenades.
Over 50,000 people were (savagely) murdered in ONE night. The bodies were then buried in mass graves to hide the crime. Young children were found nursing their dead mothers’ breasts, and thrown alive into the mass graves.
Later after the genocide was over, the mutilated bodies were exhumed, preserved in ghost-white lime, and put on display as a memorial. Many of the bodies are missing limbs. Many of the skulls are cracked open. And many of the bodies are the tiny little corpses of children.
Kate and I visited the site (without the kids) when we were in Rwanda on our round-the-world trip…
Last year, Kate and I visited the Rwandan site where more than 50,000 people were murdered in one night
Talk to you again tomorrow.
– Tom Dyson
Many kind words for the Dyson family today. Readers also turn to life insurance (and how the inflation Tom sees ahead might affect it)… and Tom’s “hard-and-fast” rule to buy stocks only when the Dow-to-Gold ratio falls below 5…
Reader comment: I was leaving the "Whitespot" restaurant in the Coast Hotel on Wednesday morning about 10 a.m. and who did I spot in the lounge area? None other than Tom and family; I almost stopped and said hello, and wish I had, but I was in a hurry… Welcome to Vancouver, a typical winter day, cool and wet! All the best, and have a well deserved celebration with family and friends. Dress warm for Alberta!
Reader comment: It was a real pleasant surprise to see my previous email letter getting printed, as "generally" it does not happen. This is another example of how it is different with your Postcards. I do not recall the last time that I read not only the complete blog from the same person, but also all the readers’ letters in reply to the author. The letter from the Dutch lady thanking the bomb-plane pilot is touching. This shows the power of what your blogs bring out for so many people across the globe.
Reader comment: I hope you’ll start writing your book soon, while your memories are still fresh. You have so much wonderful material… and writing a book is not so difficult, in my experience. Good luck.
Reader question: Do you worry about inflation reducing the value of your life insurance savings until it’s no longer what you need or hoped for?
Tom’s response: No, because I have inflation protection through owning gold. Also, I intend to borrow against the policies at some point soon and invest in an income-producing (inflation-immune) asset.
Reader comment: I feel as though I have been tripping with you, Kate, and the kids. It has been wonderful. You are so different from the person you describe in deep depression. I bet you are amazed at how far you have come since then, and count your blessings.
I know what this is like as I have done something similar, but I was on the end of some abusive relationships for some years. I have been healing for the past four years, and I have to pinch myself as to how far I have come from this person who was so unworthy, non-deserving, etc., to actually loving myself enough to be the strong person I am today. And I am totally at peace. Blessings to you all in whatever you do from here on in.
Reader question: I’ve been reading your postcards for the last couple of months. I look forward to the part of the day when it pops up in my email box. I’d be interested to get your perspective on the Canadian economy, and Alberta’s economy, in particular. It caught my eye when you mentioned it a few postcards ago, that you were coming to Alberta to visit your brother. I’m from Edmonton, and in the last few years we’ve seen quite a slump, but not nearly as bad as Calgary, or some of the more rural parts of the province. That might change soon… not necessarily for the better. There are definitely some opportunities in the slump. A friend of mine is a house flipper, and had one of his best years this year.
He also just bought a commercial property for a fraction of the construction cost. He’s one of the exceptions. Hope the weather is mild for your visit. The next couple of nights are expected to be a bit chilly here. In the meantime, enjoy Vancouver; it’s a beautiful city. If you have time, Victoria is very nice. Also, if you have a chance to travel by rail from Vancouver to Edmonton, you’ll be treated to some nice scenery along the way. As for speed, it crawls compared to the bullet trains in Japan. Looking forward to more postcards! Thank you for sharing your trip with us.
Reader comment: Congrats on your arrival back to the western world – although I would venture that Vancouver is anything but close to reality for most of North America and the western world. There is an excellent Netflix documentary on the wide wealth disparity right there in Vancouver. Your circumnavigation was rather equator centric, I note. Not critically, mind you… I’d suggest more northerly – southerly extremes on the next juncture. Scandinavia? Australia? New Zealand? Won’t be as inexpensive. But perhaps equally – or more – enlightening?
Reader comment: Hope all is well. As an avid reader of your postcards, many times I wanted to offer you and your wife my two cents on what constitutes "safe places" around the world, but I hesitated because I didn’t want to spoil your family’s fun. Besides, it is all about one’s perspective as to what places are safe or not. I traveled to Japan with my family about 12 years ago, and we all loved it. It was safe, the food was great, and people treated us with much civility.
However, since 2011, I have been reading a lot about the food in Japan, especially the food offered to the tourists. All of the rice, seafood, and vegetables harvested in the Fukushima area have been used in cooking food at hotels, motels, and restaurants all across Japan because no Japanese consumers would buy them, and no neighboring countries would buy them, either. In fact, Japan took South Korea to the World Trade Organization for refusing to buy seafood from waters near Fukushima. Japan won in the first round then lost in the second round. Children in Tokyo have radioactive cesium in their urine far above the safe level. Now the Japan government has made it illegal to measure the radiation level at any school across Japan.
Besides the security-related safety level, please do not overlook safety in terms of air quality, food, and sources of food. My wife and I are sensitive to poor air quality. We refer to 2.5 micrometer PM (particulates matter) wherever we go and live. We spent years in South Korea for work as a family. I once spent two weeks bedridden because of coughing induced by PM generated in China, swarming over the Korean peninsula, which happens very often. I had my kids stay home and skip school up to seven days in a row at times due to the heavy smog from China. I religiously wore 3M masks in Korea, which made me look conspicuous, but nowadays PM filtering masks are selling like hotcakes in South Korea, I heard.
I wanted to mention these to you, but not while you were enjoying your trip in India, China, and Japan. It is not like your family was gonna stay there forever. I didn’t want to ruin your spirit. But now that you are back in North America, I thought I wanted to share my concerns with you. Best wishes to you and your family.
Reader comment: Please stop thinking about suicide. I, too, struggled at many junctions while dealing with my family situation, and considered committing suicide. Many fathers go through the rough patches and phases; we fathers love our kids more than anything else in the world. There are so many fathers who are in worse shape than you and I were, yet they move on, endure, and try their best to enjoy their life. Life is indeed precious, and we should not forget that. Having said the above, I wish you and your ex-wife/fiancée all the best.
Reader comment: “The way Penny fell onto the floor was… softly. I can’t explain it, but she seemed to float down from the top bunk and land gently. I’m convinced this saved her from a serious head injury.”
Upon reading this, I am convinced God’s hand gently eased her to the floor. No, you can’t explain it, but that is the mysterious ways in which God works. Many blessings to you and your family.
Reader question: Question on the Dow-to-Gold ratio. Since this is more or less a timing of the market scheme, what if the ratio does not reach 5 but bottoms out at 7 to 10? Will you begin conversion of gold somewhat before a ratio of 5, or are you hard-and-fast on the 5 ratio before making a move? Timing is somewhat of an art, and calling bottoms, though easier than calling tops, is still difficult. What flexibility on the 5 ratio do you have in mind, if any? You probably have the big picture right, but the preciseness of 5 has me a bit worried.
Tom’s response: I understand your concern. And I agree that timing is an art. I’ll be watching the Dow-to-Gold ratio and the other measures of stock market valuation. And I’ll also be paying attention to the trend and the sentiment.
I expect to be looking for signs of a “bottom” at Dow-to-Gold levels far below 5. So 5 is a “hard-and-fast” rule for me, in that no matter what happens, I won’t exchange gold for stocks at any value above 5. It’s sort of my lowest bid and a line in the sand.
Reader comment: Love your postcards and believe you do not have to be traveling the world to continue a very interesting blog. So please keep it up. You have us now, and we want to see how you continue. Also, I love the brevity of your notes. I know copy writers can get very lengthy, making us want to skip to the end to see where the treatise is concluding…
Reader comment: I really enjoy your postcards and have read almost every one. Your travel stories are fascinating. I am retired, and have cashed in all my retirement policies into gold bullion and mining shares. Not having been a trader I am not in your league, but still live comfortably in an English country village in a paid-off bungalow on the equivalent of US $35 per day. My wife and I have absolutely no desire to travel the globe as you have, roughing it, with your story of Delhi belly absolutely reinforcing this, although we do very much enjoy reading of your escapades. We spend our time volunteering in the village and we are also very involved in church activities.
It takes all types to make the world! Our bullion is stored by a London Bullion firm (at extremely competitive storage rates) which has vaults around the world so the customer can choose where they want it stored. Sales are easy in any amount one chooses at the daily bullion price, and proceeds are paid into one’s account in under two days. We find this a better and more efficient method than actually having the physical in hand, with the consequential storage and selling hassles when we want to withdraw our proceeds. The bullion is audited daily, with the totals in each account’s public nickname, and published online. I hope you and Kate can come to grips with the change when your travels cease. We will really miss the postcards.
Tom’s response: Thanks for writing in! Kate and I find your notes very encouraging. Please keep writing us at [email protected].