Into My Mind

Friday, September 21, 2007

...Notes From My Travels...

This is going to be a long review, so you've been warned.

Notes From My Travels is Angelina Jolie's written accounts of her work with the UN and the countries that it has brought her to like Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Cambodia etc.. It's written by her because the format is like a journal, the tenses are off and there are a few fragments that I noticed. As a fan, I'm familiar with the way she speaks and it's exactly the same way she writes. I also read blogs so I'm used to reading that type of informal writing style, others may not.

Her trip to Cambodia was great yet difficult to read because my parents and my aunts and uncles are refugees who lived through the Khmer Rouge's horrific reign. Even though it's been thirty years, the country still hasn't fully recovered. Like most people who have never been to a third world country, Angelina was shocked to see the extreme poverty that most of the people are living in. The way she describes the country, its people, the refugees and the camps is accurate because it matches up with what my parents have told me.

One of the very few faults with this book is the many times she writes about how grateful she is. It gets redundant but there's one moment in Cambodia where it's appropriately stated. For those who don't know, Cambodia is basically a hot and humid jungle with bugs that ravage your flesh. It was her first night there and she couldn't stop itching her feet, it was the only time she complained. The very next day she went to a refugee camp and met a man without a leg. It was a humbling moment and she did feel embarrassed and ashamed.

She also visited Tuul Sleng, the Genocide Museum. The museum itself used to be a school before Pol Pot turned it into a prison. *THIS NEXT PART IS GRAPHIC. SO IF YOU"RE SQUEAMISH SKIP THIS* In each cell there are pictures of men, women, and children being tortured. Some people slowly had their skulls drilled into even while holding their children. Others were chained to their beds until they were tortured, beaten, or starved to death. They threw babies in the air caught and killed them by the blade of their bayonets which is a tactic that is used in Darfur.

After seeing these horrific images, Angelina had nightmares and since she travels to Darfur from time to time, she probably still does. In the media, she sometimes depicted as being heartless, opportunistic and that her work with the UN is only for PR. I understand the doubt but I personally think it's ridiculous and offensive. "Heartless" people don't travel to these countries to be surrounded by those who are devastated by disease, war, and extreme poverty. Even the biggest PR whores like Paris Hilton don't dare to travel places like Darfur even though it would attract what she loves the most, cameras. There are plenty of humanitarians who do great work in these countries but unlike Angelina, they don't have a constant spotlight on them. We know the media needs something shiny in their face to lure to real issues and Angelina is very bright. She's trying to shine this spotlight on something that is actually relevant.

This book was written during her marriage with Billy Bob. Before she started to work for the UN her life was work and him. He's mentioned sporadically throughout the book. With each trip, it became obvious that she had discovered a world beyond hollywood, Billy Bob and herself. She was growing and she was a finding a purpose in life instead of wildly drifting through it. As cliche as it sounds, they grew apart because she grew up. Her goals didn't coincide with Billy Bob's. Even he's admitted that they shouldn't have rushed into marriage because neither of them were ready for it.

So, if you're having one of those, "WHY ME?!" days, I highly recommend Notes From My Travels. The people that she meets and helps have been through hell have lost everything except hope for their future. It's also amazing to see Angelina evolve from a wild child actress to a compassionate woman and humanitarian. And we see it through her eyes, not the tabloids, her critics or the media's. There are young rich and famous women who are self destructing and wasting what they've been given but here's one who isn't. By finding a real purpose in life, she saved herself and hopefully, others like her will follow her lead.



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