Pa Pa Al’s Grandfatherly Advice
To Ti Ti Who Doesn’t Need It.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to Ti Ti, one of my granddaughters in Taunggyi, Myanmar. She is 14 and in 9th grade. Like most grandfathers, I’m always trying to help her and her two younger sisters.

I told Ti Ti about how the Chinese have a great reverence for the older generation. They see them as venerable. Today, I consider myself young, but, in just over a week, I’ll turn 76-years-old, which will make me an old man. Okay, it will make me a venerable old guy. Therefore, this essay is for Ti Ti and her sisters, but you might benefit also.

In my email to Ti Ti, I asked her what would she want to be when she grew up and got out of school? This is the part of her email about my question.

I haven't thought all the five things yet. But the first thing I want to be when I grown up is inventor. Just like I told you five years ago. Cause I want to make the world better and also I want to serve my country.

Next, I want to be a data scientist since I am interest in Science, math and engineering.

The next one, I want to be a travel blogger. The reason is I love travelling and love natural beauty

To be honest with you, I had no idea of what a data scientist does until I googled it. Nevertheless, Ti Ti is brilliant, and I have reinforced that reality every time I email her. Also, in Ti Ti’s email, she mentioned taking placement exams.

Now I am sitting in the Exam. I am sure that I will pass the exam with high marks and I will try to be like that. Also,I will do the folders at your DB. I am still need to do it.

Ti Ti is sitting for her exams, which from my perspective is a done deal. I am sure she will do extremely well. However, Ti Ti is also my assistant web administrator. She is writing captions for the photos that I took on my last trip to Myanmar. Can you imagine how many times that I have told her how proud I am of her? Nonetheless, I’m never satisfied. Hence, this essay is a restatement to her.

Ti Ti, there are three people that can help you in life. They are Mark Twain, Mae Jemison, and Norman Vaughan. So, let’s start with Mark Twain.

Mark Twain

Ti Ti, actually, that wasn’t his real name. His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He and I had Scottish ancestors. He was born just before Halley’s Comet appeared. He predicted that he would die upon its return. “I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet.”

Interestingly, when someone, like your PaPa Al, asked him what he wanted to do after growing up, Mark Twain said he wanted to be a riverboat pilot. Pilots are the same thing as captains of a ship, but the pilot steers the ship in rivers and not at sea. If Mark Twain lived and worked on Inle Lake, he would be a pilot to avoid having his boat hitting something in the water. Someone would throw over the side of the riverboat a rope with a weight at one end. It also had markings on it every six feet; mark twain meant twelve feet, which was safe to sail on that part of the river. That was the origins of his name, Mark Twain.

A riverboat on the Mississippi

Interestingly, Mark Twain started a club for girls called the Aquarium Club and the members were called Angel Fish. Hey, you, Snow, and Fatty are my angels.

This statement, from Mark Twain, parallels what I truly believe. “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Ti Ti, that is true. Now, let’s move to Mae Jemison.

Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison is another type of pilot. She doesn’t sail on rivers or Inle Lake, but she did in spaceships. She was on the STS-47, which was the fifth Space Shuttle mission. There is a great deal to say about her and America. There are two Americas: the good one and the bad one. The bad America created slavery in the Southern States. The American Civil War was fought to free blacks from the inhumane treatment from other human beings. However, we, in the 21st century, are still dealing with the offspring of that bad America. Donald the Dumb, our fake president, is its manifestation. Donald the Dumb doesn’t like Barack Obama, because he is black. Of course, I don’t like Trump, because he is a dumb racist.

Donald the Dumb isn’t as smart as he claims. He doesn’t even recognize Mae Jemison’s name. Nonetheless, he wouldn’t like her, because she isn’t as white as Norwegians. She was born in Decatur, Alabama, but her family moved to Chicago, which isn’t far from where I live. Whether she is not white as a Norwegian has nothing to do with her as a person. She said, “Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.” Ti Ti, Mae Jemison is a dreamer like Bobby Kennedy and me.

Mae Jemison was always on the cutting edge of living. Regarding dreaming dreams, she said, “The best way to make dreams come true is to wake up.” Now, that statement would rattle sexists and racists like Donald the Dumb who is both a sexist and racist. She tells you as it is. In the bad America, men are allowed to say what they want in any way they wish. Women should merely be quiet. Donald the Dumb is such a sexist.

Mae Jemison also wrote, "The future never just happened. It was created.” Ti Ti, you are the master or pilot of your ship. She pushed the issue for you further. “Greatness can be captured in one word: lifestyle. Life is God's gift to you, style is what you make of it.” Your style is parallel to hers. I watched you with your younger sisters. Your style is, in a large degree, a caring style. Ti Ti continue on in whatever profession you pick. You are free to be you, a caring person.

Mae Jemison was the first black female to venture into outer space. Ti Ti, if Mae Jemison was in Taunggyi, she would say to you, “It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.” Finally, Ti Ti, let’s move to a mentor of mine, Norm Vaughan.

Norm Vaughan

One of the reasons that I picked Norm Vaughan is that he is the closest parallel to who I wish to become. I have written about a riverboat pilot and an astronaut. He was an explorer in the Antarctic. He was one of the group that went to the South Pole with Admiral Richard Byrd in the Antarctic Expedition from 1928-30. Instead of being in a boat or a spaceship, he moved around in a dog sled. Imagine traveling in the cold winds in the Antarctic. That took determination and courage. On my birthday, meteorologists predict that it will be -26º to -31º Fahrenheit, but it will be partly sunny.

Norm Vaughan was born in Salem, Massachusetts but moved to Alaska. While there, he competed in over a dozen Iditarod Races.

The Iditarod

Interestingly, he lived a long and exciting life. He was born on December 19, 1905 and died on December 23, 2005. If he were still alive, he would repeat his favorite saying, “Dream big and dare to fail.”

This video is a short video about Mark Twain.

This video is about Mae Jemison.

This video is about Norm Vaughan.