Thanks to Myanmar and Dr. Marchand

I will tell people about the educational and experiential value of travel whether they wish to hear it or not. It is critical to our learning about the world in which we live. We need to get out of our comfort zones called neighborhoods. See America and the rest of North America. However, that is only a very small portion of the world. Fly to anywhere. Go to Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, or any of the Pacific islands. Just travel. It is the greatest learning experience possible.

Dr. Marchand Dr. Marchand
When I came back from Myanmar (Burma) a couple of weeks ago, I went for my six-month checkup with my cardiologist, Dr. Marchand. I take a little white pill to keep my blood pressure down. All is well, but there I was in his office on a high as how I imagine a drug induced high would feel. I was wound. I told him that in a half century of travel throughout the world, I have never returned home more excited about a country than I am about Myanmar. I have spent nearly a total of two years of my life traveling, going to school, and teaching overseas. Over all those years of traveling, I have never returned more informed, excited, and inspired than with any other of several dozen different countries than Myanmar. I have loved all the places that I have gone, but Myanmar is at the very top of the list. Trust me.

I went on telling Dr. Marchand about the people and places that I had just seen. I went on regarding my excitement about their futures even though they live in an oppressive military dictatorship and make less than $100/months. In spite of those obstacles, they work hard providing for themselves, family, and their society's efforts to work for human rights. They also are excited to talk with you as someone who is visiting their emerging nation. I was impressed...very impressed.

There I sat with Dr. Marchand going on about my excitement. Finally, I settled down enough to ask why am I so wound-up. I could not explain it. He would know why someone who was in his early 70s had this buzz.

I recall an article that I wrote about Jack and Owen. Jack is old enough always to ask why. Owen can only point at things in amazement.

Al, Jack, and Owne

Jack wants to know about the wondrous world in which he finds himself. He pushes his question until the answer is something that he understands and can accept. Jack is 3 ½ years old. I am 71. There I was sitting with my cardiologist who I trust completely sounding like an older version of Jack asking, "Why?"

Dr. Marchand looked at me and replied that it was due to my endorphins. I assumed that much even though my doctorate is not in medicine. My response to him was again a simple, "Why?" I was doing what Jack does...push for an answer that I could understand and accept. There we sat in a quiet examining room asking again why.

Dr. Marchand simply looked at me and said, "You have seen the light."

On seeing the light

On seeing the light

He did not explain his statement. However, I got the message. I have seen the light.

Having addressed my why question, Dr. Marchand sat for a moment looking at me without saying anything. Once he saw that I got his message, he added, "I'll see you in six-months."

I left his office feeling what Vincent van Gogh felt like...having also seen the light. I returned to the States celebrating the most educational and experiential trip of my lifetime. I tell everyone to travel...and it pays off. This trip certainly paid off for me.

Van Gogh...Starry Night</span>

Van Gogh...Starry Night Over the Rhone

As I am processing Dr. Marchand comment about seeing the light, I know that I will have to spend a long time addressing a fuller understanding regarding seeing the light. Trust me: I have begun the process.

However, one beam of light that is clear to me is what I learned while in Myanmar. For one thing, they view life differently than probably most Americans including me. We tend to be impatient in our lives wanting things done or corrected quickly.

This is particularly true of me. I want to improve things and have them done quickly. Politically, dealing with the conservative right, especially the birthers and tea party, is a perfect example of my impatience. I have written many articles about Forrest Gump's comment: "Stupid is as stupid does." I would love to have anyone reading this essay to name one positive movement in the history of America or the world that conservatives started. I teach history at the college level, and I cannot think of one. This intellectual disconnect of the political right rattles me, and I am impatient about getting others to see the light.

Aung San Suu Kyi Aung San Suu Kyi
However, I am not the only person rattled by political conservatives. One of the things that I learned while in Myanmar was the virtue of patience especially facing insurmountable odds. Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15-years of the last 21-years under house arrest.
Min Ko Naing
Min Ko Naing and many of the 88 Generation Students Group have spent much of their adult lives in prison. These and many other dissidents have fought for human rights and democracy in Myanmar for a half century at a great cost to them. However, they continue.

Their level of pursuance and patience is for a valid cause. They work for their country's political independence in spite of the reality that it will not materialize in the next month or year. Having talked with a handful of leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group, I doubt whether any of them believe that they shall overcome soon. They have endured torture, beatings, incarceration, and many other forms of inhumanity so that the next generation or the following one might experience something of the freedoms that we in America take for granted.

Protester in Yangon

I took this picture at a protest rally Min Ko Naing invited me to attend in Yangon. Here was a man with Stoic determination. Regardless of what it has or may cost him, he will not give up fighting for freedom. He and Myanmar have miles to go before they slept, but they are still fighting with the realization that their generation might not experience it. Nonetheless, they are working for a higher goal that might come in the next generation.

As Dr. Marchand said, "You have seen the light." Now, I have to take what I have seen in Myanmar and apply it to my life. I will give up my goal of changing the entire world in my lifetime. I also realize that I will not succeed in every endeavor to which I put my mind during the remainder of my life. That does not matter. What does matter is helping the next generation as they work for the betterment of the world whether in Myanmar or here in the States. I will do what I can to help them journey down the road of life.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

On Seeing the Light

On Seeing the Light

Visit the On Seeing the Light page to read more about this topic.

An old man and his grandson

An Old Man and His Grandson

Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.