Every year I would like to think that I get a little wiser and smarter, although smarter may not be a good term but more life lessons learned smart. Several years ago there was a book, Everything I know I learned in Kindergarten. Although I have found that to be true, I have come to realize that my Kindergarten book is different. It should be everything I learned was by watching the Wizard of OZ. Since I do not want to be called Dorothy, I will be known as Dorky in my version of the movie.
September 1st is our one year anniversary since arriving in Hong Kong. It has been an interesting year for this Dorky. As Mary Barbara and I review the past year, we have a lot of similar experiences and thoughts. She has been experiencing her own Wizard of OZ movie in which she plays Dorothy. However, what I have come to realize that each of us play Toto to each other. We have learned from each of our experiences, we support each other and we both have become that best friend that we rely on and have unconditional love. I would never give her the nickname of Toto as I would be the one in the doghouse, but the point is that we all are Dorothy or Dorky writing our own version of the Wizard of OZ, at times playing all the characters.
During this past year the Cowardly Lion has been in both Mary Barbara and me a good bit. With all the new experiences, there is always a little fear of the unknown. Whether it has been living in a foreign country, eating new foods, flying constantly on airplanes, having language barriers, walking down the sidewalks, black rain, paying bills, being healthy, and what is next week is going to bring. We have come to realize that we face these fears everyday no matter where we are in the world, even if we are in what we feel is safe in the US. We have become a lot stronger in taking on any and all challenges, and I would say that a year ago, the issues we face would be a lot scarier, but now we are not as fearful of the challenges. We now are able to take issues in stride and do not have as much fear with our life experiences. In fact in a lot of ways we are learning to relish each new experience. We have called our whole experience our amazing race. I still fight my fears. I go to India quite frequently and have reservations on a number of different fronts. I am learning my way around on my own, but still rely on others the majority of time to get me around. The country is environmentally challenging. When I leave I am exhausted from the pollution, the environment, the dirt, the trash, the traffic, the poverty and yes the food. I have never been a big fan of India food, so I sometimes have to hunt for food for me. Thank goodness there are McDonalds, KFC and Dominos, which gives me sense of comfort. I often tell people that the best Chinese food I have had since I left USA was in India, even though I live in Hong Kong. A lot of my India friends tell me that they eat Chinese food at least twice a week. I have a rough time understanding how people can live as they do in India and why others would allow them to live like that, but they seem to live as they know no other way. Several good stories have come from my time in India. I have been in meetings where they have quite frequent rolling black outs. I will be sitting across from someone discussing a topic, the power will go out and the person just continues talking as if nothing is going on even though we no longer can see each other. The other meeting I was in and giving a presentation in a very nice conference room, when a rat the size of my 13 inch shoe came running along the ceiling. I was dumbfounded but all the locals went right on with their business without blinking. I have gotten sick quite a bit more this year traveling. There has been a good many ideas as to why. It could be the airplanes where people are in a confined area with all kinds of coughing or it could be that I just have not gotten the rest and the travel has gotten to me. I am learning how to take care of myself on my travels. I like to think that I have started the fist bump in India as I do not shake hands as much as give the fist bump. As much as I have fought my fears, my wife has taken things full force. I get a chance to leave Hong Kong, am going to work and traveling. She has given up her job in the states, which means she is not working a full time job for the first time in probably 20 years. Not to mention that she facing a lot of the issues in Hong Kong on her own since I am traveling. I am very proud of her and her adjustment. She went in full force and has taken advantage of this opportunity. She is volunteering in several different facets of life, she is writing, maintaining our home, and now she is working by facilitating work in the states via the internet. However, we have really succeeded as a team. She is the one who learned the Hong Kong mass transit system and then taught me, she is the one who has learned how to live in Hong Kong and taught me, and she is the one who facing our fears head on and figures out how to not make it scary. I am very lucky. I will tell you that she is right on top of every storm that is within a continent of Hong Kong. A lot of our fears are handled by our own personal communication, access to the internet, IPhone, IPad, Skype and my personal favorite slingbox. We are able to talk to family, friends, stay in touch/connected to home and have access to know how to get around, language barriers, restaurants, cultural challenges and educational challenges in which the internet has been very vital to our success. I am not sure how anyone did anything before the internet. Our fears are not as much fears anymore, but just another exciting day in our amazing race. I have seen two people die this year in my travels. On one flight to Indonesia, two rows in front of me a man died in flight although they did not pronounce him until we landed. I saw a man in India after he had just gotten hit by a car lying on the road dead. India is a scary place to drive but a scarier place for pedestrians. Both of these events weighed heavily on me and my fears for weeks. Both I think that everyone has fears and everyone faces them differently. However on one transpacific flight from US to Hong Kong, we were about 40 minutes past Alaska. The captain came on the speaker to say that we were returning to make an unscheduled landing in Fairbanks, Alaska due to someone not feeling well on the flight. He then asked if anyone had Xanax or Valium that the doctor could use to put on their steward light. The plane lit up like a Christmas tree. I guess there are a lot more people who control that fear with modern medicine.
The Tin man wanted a heart. I will tell you that our marriage is stronger for this move to Hong Kong. This past year has given us even more of an appreciation for our friends and family. Skyping has been huge as this has allowed us to see the faces of our families. I remember last Thanksgiving how special it was when Mary Barbara’s family set up the computer at their family Thanksgiving and she got to see all their faces and talk to each of them. Both of our families have been huge in support of us and we cannot thank them enough in helping us make this amazing race. We were blessed with a visit from my sister, friends from Athens and looking forward to the upcoming visit from Mary Barbara’s daughter and father. It should be a good time. Mary Barbara has volunteered in many things in Hong Kong, but two which I must speak about are her teaching and military dinners. Mary Barbara has volunteered her time at a school teaching kids English. It has not been easy but has paid off huge for us and the kids. The other item is Mary Barbara is helping with the US military ships when they come into port to visit Hong Kong. She works the pier, directing the Navy personnel to where they want to visit in Hong Kong. We also will have 2 to 4 of these Navy personnel over for a dinner. She works hard in scheduling these events, but to see these kids’s faces when they get a home cooked meal, talk to their families on Skype and talk about the US, is extraordinary. I am always surprised at how young all these men and women are that serve in the US Navy. I am humbled at the things my wife does and the heart that she processes towards helping everyone. She has made me a better person.
The scarecrow only wanted a brain. During this past year, I have realized how uneducated I am and a lot of Americans that the world does not revolve around them. I am surprised on how progressive a lot of countries have become in education, mass transportation, streamlined government and building infrastructure. My impression of a lot of Asia Pacific I found was coming from James Bonds movies. What a poor choice of foreign history. I am constantly surprised at how people from other countries think about Americans, the US government and progress, both in a good well deserved way and a lot in a bad way, some of which is well deserved. During this time of economic recovery, I have come across many people who have made remarks in which they are happy to see what is happening in the US. However, just as many understand that what happens in US has repercussions on everyone. I worry about the education system in the US, as a see a more educated and informed Asia Pacific population and much more worldly than I feel most of the US population are currently. I would like to think I am smarter than a year ago but I am probably just a little wiser and more traveled as opposed to smarter. I also know that I learn something or multiple things everyday from large life lessons to small lessons. I learned that Pigs ear taste like an ear full of cartilage, that airport lounges are a hidden gem of delight, that you cannot get Reese Cups anywhere in Asia Pacific (I keep walking around with peanut butter hoping someone will get chocolate in it), that I really miss Wal-Mart and K-Mart, that I can speak every language but no one can understand me, and I learned how to convert Fahrenheit into Celsius. Although, if you just say it is really hot, that covers the conversion more than adequately.
I am not sure if I have found the wizard but I do know that there is no place like home. Mary Barbara and I talk often about our fears, our successes, our joys, our sadness, our triumphs and our happiness. I do not think we needed a wizard to help us get home, for the one thing we realize that this past two years have been some of the best of our lives. We understand that home is where our friends and family may be but it is certainly where we are together at that time. We know how much we miss our families and friends, how much they have supported us and continue to support us and that clicking our heals together does not work as well as Skype. We love our life and feel like we have won our version of The Amazing Race. So in the Wizard of Oz there is an ending of her waking up and I would like to think our adventure has yet to have an ending and our eyes are wide open.
Favorites of the Past Year
· Restaurant—Dinner at the Hong Kong “Zumas” with Mary Barbara
· Group Dinner—Hot Pot---always a great time
· Best Hike—Dragon’s Back
· Best Visitor—My sister
· Appliance—Hands down Air Conditioner
· Country—Love all parts of Australia
· Best concert The Eagles in Hong Kong, they still got it for old men
· Hong Kong Movie theaters—comfortable and pick your seat
· Watching WVU football on Slingbox while instant messaging with Drew and Steve
· Playing live version of Frogger on the streets of Hong Kong
I try to focus on positives and this list could be huge but I do want to name a few. They include the smell of street restaurants in Hong Kong, lack of one stop/one shop, Walking in rain with umbrella in Hong Kong, washer/dryer combo, no real vacation(always going from house to house or event to event), getting the hate stare in Hong Kong occasionally, no free refills, pollution and the cats not working to earn their keep.