Oh, the places you’ll go
Outside of Proverbs, there may be no better send-off words than Dr. Seuss’s lines in “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” the last of his books published during his lifetime. The rhythms roll as the author describes life with all its variables — from soaring to high heights and seeing great sights to being left in a Lurch on a prickle-ly perch. Still, success is predicted, pep-rally style.
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
I wonder if Dr. Seuss ever had a son take that “waiting mountain” bit seriously. Last week I told you about ours and his Grand Tour idea, which has involved a fair share of mountains. Last weekend he did a two-hour hike up Mount Batur in Bali. He tells me that it’s an active volcano, and that seeing the sunrise from its peak, with the ocean on both sides and a monkey on his shoulder, was one of the most unforgettable experiences of his trip.
“That monkey looks a little scary,” I point out after he sends me a picture. Then a video of him swimming with a bunch of manta rays comes through.
“Aren’t they a little close?” I quiz him. “And manta rays — isn’t that what killed Steve Irwin?”
“No, ma’am. That was a stingray.”
There are other types of unforgettable experiences. And feelings. And realizations. For a guy transitioning out of the military, being in Vietnam was significant. “Seeing the effects of war 50, 60 years later was heartbreaking and humbling for me,” he says, referring to adults and even children who today bear lingering physical scars. “War doesn’t end when peace treaties are signed. I haven’t dwelt on that enough in my studies or my experiences.”
Speaking of conflict, there’s always some happening in Burma, known now as Myanmar. But I wasn’t thinking too much about that when Son No. 3 made it across their border. I was thinking of Adoniram and Ann Judson and a thick book I devoured way back when about their missionary life called “To the Golden Shore.”
Unlike Judson, our son went in country with a fellow believer who grew up there but fled as an adult, eventually becoming part of the Free Burma Rangers. Like Judson, our son felt unwelcome. The government (border agents) really didn’t want him there, even for the day.
Weeks later he was at a church service in the Philippines. Someone asked him to read aloud from the book of Luke from his Bible, but he couldn’t. Couldn’t read from most any other New Testament book either. They’d been ripped out and given away to English-speaking Burmese during his time in that country.
Among the surprises of the trip are two of political concern. Son No. 3 is quick to point out that “this is my experience and how I’m translating it, just the face-to-face interactions I’ve had in my limited time in these countries.” But still, what stands out to a Mississippi boy who’s spent six weeks in Southeast Asia?
First, the over-reach of China.
“Their mentality of world domination is clear and apparent in Southeast Asia. They move into these countries, buy land and hotels and other spaces, and start controlling the real estate market. They gain influence because people are dependent. In some places there’s a higher value in learning Mandarin than in learning English, and that’s a big shift.”
Second, there’s Trump.
“Everywhere I go I hear negative comments about President Trump and how he’s affecting the global market. My question is usually, ‘Why do you care so much?’ It doesn’t make sense to me. They feel like America’s influence is so great that everyone should have a hand in our politics. The only media they get is left leaning, so they think things in America are terrible. I met three Aussies who thought our economy was struggling. I enjoyed telling them the truth.”
The exception was the Philippines. He says folks there love America: “They appreciate our historical presence. They honor the American men who liberated them and died there during World War II. It’s drastically different than the rest of Southeast Asia.”
His experiences are giving the Traveler some perspective. He’s grateful for his country, with its laws and accountability. Controlled traffic. Proper sewage systems. Clean water. (He hasn’t drunk tap water since July.)
Oh, and freedom.
“It makes me concerned about our desire to move away from democracy. Democracy is rare and wanted by the rest of the world.”
Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.