SIGNS AND NUMBERS

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

SIGNS AND NUMBERS

 

In France during World War I, my father said that one of his fellow American soldiers, a truck driver, was functionally illiterate. When asked how he was progressing with his army-enforced literacy training, the trucker confessed: “I’m a-gettin’ along faster with them numbers than I am with them letters. Whenever I see a sign, I can tell how fur it is, even when I don’t know whur I’m a-goin’.”

International travel would be immeasurably harder without signs and numbers. Fortunately Fran and I can read enough French, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Italian (as well as British English!) to help us decipher road signs in countries where those languages are used. Sometimes European languages can also be useful in former European colonies. But when newly-aroused nationalism in Morocco caused all road signs to be written only in Arabic, we were utterly at a loss. Oddly enough, modern Arabic does not use what we call “Arabic numerals.” Instead, numbers are indicated by some of those strangely-shaped letters in the Arabic alphabet.

Older sections of Nashville, Tennessee used to baffle tourists. Someone conceived the artistic notion of engraving street names on upright concrete markers, rather than painting them on overhead signs. The problem is, the average human eye is geared to take in several letters at a glance horizontally, left to right, but NOT several letters at a glance vertically, up and down. Some disgruntled Nashvillians even said those older street signs must have been devised by the Chinese!

Now that Cuba has been re-opened to worldwide tourism, many travelers have been baffled by written street addresses in older sections of Havana. They think they’re seeing double: Two names are given for the main street. Two numbers are given for the cross street. But the house itself is given no number at all!

Actually, there’s a logical explanation. Many older streets have been renamed, and locals often refer to the old familiar names. But many older houses have never been numbered, so the only way to locate them is by listing the cross streets on either side: “Between 14 and 15,” for instance.

I’m not sure where we were picnicking in the British Isles when we saw a sign that strictly warned us: “TAKE YOUR LITTER HOME.” We thought this was getting a bit too personal, because we had children and grandchildren with us at the time.

Since World War II, many American service personnel have ridden the Metropolitana train line that fans out from downtown Naples. Many of them have gotten off at the sign “USCITA,” thinking that letters almost like “US CITY” surely must point the way toward their military base. Eventually they have learned that “USCITA” is only the Italian word for “EXIT.”

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas

“FOR YOUR EMBARRASSMENT”

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

“FOR YOUR EMBARRASSMENT”

 

At the entrance to a store in Papua New Guinea, I once noticed this enigmatic directive:

“For your embarrassment, leave your bag at the door.”

 I figured out what the slightly slanted syntax really meant:

“To avoid embarrassment, leave your bag at the door so we won’t have to search it later for stolen goods.”

In our worldwide travels we have had several embarrassing experiences. Some of them even seem to have been especially planned “for your embarrassment.”

At a low-cost pension in Austria long ago, we were served a bountiful continental breakfast: Coffee, tea, and an abundant supply of bread and butter and jam. Our younger son, however, kept looking enviously at a soft-boiled delicacy sitting in an egg cup on a nearby table. The people eating there had already left the breakfast room, so we appropriated the left-behind egg for our hungry little boy.

What a shock to find ourselves being billed extra! Surely they had already charged those other people for a special order of soft-boiled egg; why should we have to pay for it a second time? I think there must have been some sort of language difficulty in that embarrassing situation.

Far worse was a time in Copenhagen when a Scandinavian airline gave us a free overnight which included supper and breakfast. The tourist-class hotels they customarily used were all full up, so we were sent to a more luxurious establishment.

That evening when we looked at the expensive dinner menu, I asked whether there were any limitations.

“No, no,” we were assured, “order anything you like.”

Our voracious teenage sons proceeded to load up their plates. Then – we were presented with the bill.

I protested. To my understanding, we had asked beforehand whether the free overnight came with any limitations on the included meals. After an unpleasant discussion, the manager of the hotel restaurant grudgingly agreed to absorb the added cost (or perhaps to include all we had consumed in the bill which was passed on to the airline). Again, something may have been lost in translation.

The most embarrassing encounter Fran and I have ever had with wildlife happened in Singapore’s magnificent Jurong Bird Park. At first, as we quietly stood in front of the kookaburra’s enclosure, he looked us over in silence. Then he began to get his voice warmed up.

That unforgettable cry which has earned for this native of Australia the nickname of “laughing jackass” began to echo all around. It got louder and louder until we actually felt it must be intended as deliberate mockery. And the raucous noise never stopped until we had stumbled away red-faced and moved on to the next bird!

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas

FROM NORTH TO SOUTH FOR A CHANGE

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

FROM NORTH TO SOUTH FOR A CHANGE

 

For the first six decades of our lives, Fran and I mainly traveled from east to west. Several times we flew a long, long way westward, in order to reach our place of international ministry in Indonesia. Several times we flew an equally long distance in the same direction, in order to finish circling the globe and return to our place of temporary home assignment in the U. S. A.

Several years ago Fran and I started asking ourselves: “Why don’t we try traveling from north to south for a change?” The results have been interesting, to say the least.

During north-south trips into opposite corners of southern Europe, we learned that both Spain and Serbia can boast huge places of worship – both many years a-building, both still incomplete. Belgrade’s St. Sava rivals Istanbul’s St. Sophia in size; Barcelona’s Church of the Holy Family features fantastic facades carved by sculptor and architect Antonio Gaudi.

But our three most impressive north-south adventures have been when we journeyed southward to South America, when we journeyed southward to New Zealand and Australia, and when we journeyed southward to the tip of Africa.

Where did we go in South America? Only four countries: Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. And we didn’t begin to cover nearly all of the scenic tourist spots offered by even those four.

During another major north-south adventure, we landed in New Zealand, where there are twenty times as many sheep as people. On scenic South Island we viewed glacier-crowned mountains. We saw multi-colored lupines blooming tall along the highways. We explored a rain forest only six miles away from seals fishing in a fjord. We panned for gold at historic mines from gold rush days, and actually found a tiny speck. We toured Christchurch with its many parks and spires, and Queenstown enthroned on its panoramic lake-front.

Moving over to Australia, we looked out through underwater windows as a semi-submersible craft glided over the Great Barrier Reef. We saw the penguins coming home to roost at Port Philip Bay. We viewed the vibrant modern cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

How about our third epic jaunt from north to south?

Once when we had short-term work assignments in East Africa, we got to travel far enough southward to go on safari in the Maasai Mara. We viewed the massive stone structures of Great Zimbabwe – similar to Stonehenge, and equally as mysterious. We even experienced the incomparable majesty of Victoria Falls.

But at that time we never made it all the way southward into South Africa itself. Fran kept on wishing she could see that immense country. Our sons and I kept on telling her that it was too far and too expensive.

Then came an unexpected special offer from the travel company we have used most often. This finally fulfilled Fran’s wish. And . . . we did indeed reach the very southernmost tip of the African continent.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas

STOPPING FOR SHOPPING

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

STOPPING FOR SHOPPING

 

Fran and I aren’t the only married couple of whom one partner likes to shop more than the other. When we see those islands of easy chairs in wide shopping malls, we sometimes say, “Ah, there’s the parking place for bored husbands.”

I don’t mind shopping when there’s a list and I know what to look for. Right after we retired I volunteered to take over the grocery shopping for our household. Checking off items, counting coupons, running down discounts – these can gratify my hunter-gatherer instincts. I used to get a similar thrill when browsing through used book stores.

But shopping just to be shopping, shopping with no specific idea of what you’re looking for – that doesn’t appeal to me at all. Because of this, when we’re travelling in a tour group I sometimes feel that the leader tends a little too often to announce: “Now, here’s the next place where we’re all going to be stopping for shopping.”

Yet we have done a limited amount of shopping when we’ve been out on the road. On our first family trip through Europe in 1969, we wanted to pick up a few small souvenirs for the sake of memories. I well remember going into a department store in Zürich and buying a small, inexpensive model of a Swiss mountain chalet which opened up into a music box. The salesperson showed us very carefully: “Turn the key exactly four times, no more.” We have faithfully followed those instructions, and to this day we can still hear the tinkling tones of a Swiss folktune.

On the same trip, we enjoyed a tour of one of Amsterdam’s many diamond factories. Of course we couldn’t afford to buy a diamond, but Fran still wears a pretty green tourmaline dinner ring as a reminder of that long-ago experience.

We treasure a tiny snuff bottle (although neither of us dips snuff!) that shows one hundred children at play. The Chinese folk artist used a split-hair brush to paint on the inside surfaces of the bottle. (I remember when we were shopping in China that a somewhat larger snuff bottle with only forty children painted inside it was also available at a much lower price.) 

During our world travels we have often found that we don’t really have to buy anything at all in order to garner lovely souvenirs – not even picture postcards. Tourism offices, art galleries, and museums offer free illustrated folders that can cover nicely for more expensive mementoes we regretfully leave behind us all along the way. 

We have also discovered during foreign jaunts that we’ve sometimes had to do our stopping for shopping in unexpected places: Several times we’ve needed to buy postage stamps at tobacco shops. And in Bandung, Indonesia, our grocery shopping became much easier once we realized that the best pickles were sold at the meat market, the best jam at the Austrian consulate, and the best milk at a rundown Dutch colonial house that didn’t resemble a dairy at all!  

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas

ECHOES FROM THE TOWER OF BABEL (III)

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

ECHOES FROM THE TOWER OF BABEL (III)

 

Genesis 11:1-9 in the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures tells how the Lord God once used confusion in language to stop the impious people of Babel from trying to build a tower to heaven. Echoes of this strange event are still resounding all over the world.

Once in Monrovia I asked a helpful librarian the word for a small native boat. She said, “Here in Liberia we call that kind of boat a KAY-noo.” It took me awhile to realize that she hadn’t actually taught me a new word in a West African language.

Once in Singapore our family was staying at a genteel boarding house. The scheduled dessert was gula Malaka“Moluccan sugar,” a delectable tropical concoction of palm sugar and sago. Our little boys looked askance at the strange delicacy, so we asked our elderly Malay-Chinese waiter if there was an alternate choice.

“Yes sir,” he replied. “We can serve them fairs.”

“Fairs?” I wondered.

“Yes, fairs,” he patiently explained, “a type of pruit?”

Sure enough, two small bowls of pears canned in syrup soon appeared upon our table.

Lack of precision in choice of words can be confusing. Once in London we tried to be properly British by requesting mint jelly to go along with our lamb chops.

Our elderly English waiter seemed almost offended. “No, no, sir,” he replied. “No, we have no mint jelly. But – we do have mint sauce.”

We happily ate our lamb chops with mint sauce.

Once on a domestic flight in Mainland China, we were given a snack with this most interesting label:

“This crisp, tasty peanut is famous as ‘bean fruit’ abroad. Its main             compositions: fresh peanuts, Kanbaikob, fine wheat flour,                         sutabirooza and cane sugar. Made according to a foreign recipe             and unique technology. . . . Is really tasty food of tourism and of             both Chinese and Wesern-Style meals.

“This peanut contains Vitamin E and eight amino acids which is                vital for human body. It can lower cholesterol levels, prevent                  arteriosclerosis and heart disease, at the same time it has a                      function of raising children’s intelligence and keeping human                  vitality.

“Point for attention: Consume at one time once you opened the               packet. . . .”

Once we opened the packet, we promptly consumed the contents at one time. But we kept the label as a souvenir for all time to come.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas

ECHOES FROM THE TOWER OF BABEL (II)

 

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

ECHOES FROM THE TOWER OF BABEL (II)

 

Long ago, a group of foolish people thought they were wise and skillful enough to build a tower up to heaven. Their motive, so they said, was to “make a name” for themselves so they would never be forgotten. In this they succeeded. Yet we remember them today not so much for their construction as for their confusion. According to the eleventh chapter of Genesis in the Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures, God confused their language so they could no longer understand one another.

How do you suppose God did this?

I have a notion He didn’t do it all in the same instant. Maybe He started out with words that were almost exactly alike, perhaps words with only one sound or one letter that was different . . . just enough to make the meaning hopelessly confused when somebody said one thing and meant the other.

I found that out the hard way when we were spending our first Christmas in Bandung. The Indonesian word for “stable” is kandang; the Indonesian word for “womb” is kandung. Remembering how and where the birth of Jesus took place, you can see why both words might be in a believer’s mind at Christmas time. Imagine my mortification when I said in a public service of worship that the shepherds had come to see the newborn Babe in the wrong one! (I felt a little better at a later Christmastime when I heard a native speaker of the Indonesian language make that very same mistake.)

Sometimes confusion between similar words can become even more embarrassing. The Indonesian words for “window” and “trousers” sound a bit alike; the Indonesian words for “hair” and “grass” sound even more alike. Many an unwary male missionary has startled an Indonesian gardener by ordering a haircut instead of a mowed lawn. Many an unwary female missionary has blushed to discover that she has asked an Indonesian handyman to open not a window, but the other one.

Even when you’re reading from the sacred text of the Bible itself, a minor slip of the tongue can result in major confusion. Many missionaries, while struggling through an Indonesian Bible lesson, have reversed two similar consonants. As a result they have solemnly read that the Lord Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a soybean.

The foolish people of Babel thought they could build a tower to heaven. I believe my Lord Jesus when He says, “I am the Way” – the only way to heaven. When I finally get there, I’ll be so glad that it won’t matter what language anybody is speaking!

 

¶ (Much of this blog post is adapted from pages 67-69 in Good News from Indonesia: Heartwarming Stories from the Land of the Tsunami,  © 2008, 2011 by Perry Thomas; used by permission.)

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas

ECHOES FROM THE TOWER OF BABEL (I)

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

ECHOES FROM THE TOWER OF BABEL (I)

 

Long ago the Lord God wanted to stop a certain group of people from an impious plan to build a tower reaching up to heaven. Did he send down a divine thunderbolt to topple their puny efforts?

No. Instead, He used a much more effective measure: He confused their language. (See Genesis 11:1-9 in the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures.)

Think how thoroughly that one simple act would have baffled the builders. You might ask for a hacksaw and get a pack of straw. You might request a plumb line and a brick mold. Instead, someone might think that at some time you wanted a certain action to be repeated sixfold.

Echoes from that ancient Tower of Babel have been resounding throughout the world ever since those long-ago days. Take for instance the Dutch word dasje, pronounced DAHSH-yuh. It is quite a simple word, a diminutive grammatical form referring to a small piece of cloth. Yet as Dutch seafarers explored many parts of the world, the word dasje had some unexpected linguistic adventures of its own.

As a result, throughout coastal areas of Africa you may hear the word dash. That means lagniappe: Just a little bit extra (such as a small piece of cloth) which is added to sweeten the deal. Meanwhile in faraway Indonesia you may hear the word dasi. And what does that mean? Merely a necktie . . . indubitably a small piece of cloth.

When an English verb has another word attached to it, sometimes the meaning can change drastically. I remember an air conditioner in some foreign hotel that offered this sage advice: “For just general all-round cooling, please control yourself.”

Nor are English and Dutch the only modern languages that are undergoing a constant process of change. Once is the Spanish term for eleven; native speakers pronounce it AWN-say. This word has developed a second meaning similar to elevenses in British Englisha snack to tide you over till the next meal.

Yet in Chile, once now means a substantial repast. In Frutillar, a Chilean city settled by German immigrants, Fran and I once enjoyed our once in the late afternoon. What an unforgettable feast of fruits and fritters, salty nibbles and sweet desserts!

And then there’s my linguistic theory (unconfirmed as yet by any recognized linguist) as to why English-speakers call a rice field a paddy. Actually the Indonesian word padi means, not the field, but the harvested rice which has not yet been threshed.

I believe some long-ago Englishman must have gestured toward a stack of harvested rice that had been piled right beside a rice field. He asked “What is that called?” The person who answered him didn’t clearly see  where he was pointing . . . and thus the word paddy entered our mother tongue.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas 

HEALTH ALONG THE HIGHWAY

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

HEALTH ALONG THE HIGHWAY

 

In May of 1969, our very first family jaunt from Southeast Asia across Europe and back to America was delayed because I was suffering from a persistent urinary infection. It would seem to be all healed, only to flare up again. We wondered whether our long-laid travel plans would have to be shelved.

Our kind family doctor at the local Seventh-Day Adventist Hospital in Bandung, West Java, finally agreed to our departure only one day late. He explained: “I couldn’t do it if you folks were heading for the Congo or Central Asia. But after all, Europe boasts some of the world’s  finest medical facilities, so go ahead!”

It turned out that the stubborn infection did indeed recur. I had to find another doctor in Amsterdam, then still another in Raleigh. In fact I was plagued by periodic urinary infections for a good many years afterward.

Certainly getting sick or injured while touring can tear up your travel plans.  Fran and I were with my brother and his wife when they were leading a tour group to Eastern Europe, including the Passion Play at Oberammergau. One day on the tour bus I realized that my face was feeling hot. When we made a rest stop, sure enough, I could sense other tell-tale urinary signs of that same persistent plague. Fortunately there was a retired doctor in the group, and he came to my rescue.

Once I fell in Munich and seriously damaged my kneecap. Thank goodness this accident didn’t happen until the day before we were heading back home. Blessedly, one of our adult sons was there in Germany to help me get to the plane. Then the other adult son was there in North Carolina to meet our incoming flight with crutches and a walker.

Actually ill health along the highway has bothered me all of my life. When I was a little boy, it was usually motion sickness.

I tried anything anybody suggested. I would look out the front of the car instead of letting my eyes be dazzled by all the scenes flashing by at the side. I would shut my eyes . . . or leave them open. I would try eating a little something before the trip . . . or eating nothing at all. The one natural remedy that definitely seemed to help was, staying cool and getting plenty of fresh air.

Once Mother and I made a long train trip together, from far western Kentucky to the Bluegrass Country. On the last leg of our journey, I seemed  to be on the verge of losing my breakfast again and again. When we finally arrived about noon at the church where a Baptist convention was already in progress, everybody was lining up on the front steps for a group photo. The day was unseasonably cold and blustery for mid-April. As Mother pointed out later, by standing there on those windblown steps I somehow managed to shiver myself out of feeling nauseated.

The affliction continued into my teens. Sometimes unfeeling people would scoff at me, saying “It’s all in your head.” After awhile I learned to fire back at them by retorting, “Yes, I’m sure it’s all in my head, because that’s exactly where it all comes out from.”

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas

RELATIONSHIPS ALONG THE ROAD

 

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

RELATIONSHIPS ALONG THE ROAD

 

Several times in tour groups Fran and I have met congenial acquaintances. We’ve assumed that these new relationships would continue. Yet . . . somehow or other they haven’t.

Once in Holland we ran into an old school friend of mine. Yet . . . neither of us followed up after the trip had ended.

Once in Tucson we spent a pleasant overnight with a couple we had met in Russia. Yet . . .  that was the end of that.

The one exception to this has been, our long-term relationship with Les and Marion Kearsley. We met this elderly Australian couple while on a tour of China. They seemed to take to us and to our young adult son who was traveling with us at the time. The attraction was mutual; we wrote back and forth regularly for a quarter of a century.

In the millennial year of 2000, Fran and I finally got to visit the Kearsleys in their home at Frankston on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne. They had especially bought for me some British-style knee-socks like those we had admired in Les’s wardrobe while we were touring China.

Our correspondence continued even after Les had died and Marion’s eyesight had failed, because their daughter still wrote letters at Marion’s dictation. Why did we hit it off so well with the Kearsleys, whereas most of our other “Relationships Along the Road” have never materialized into long-lasting friendships? I don’t know.

Sometimes developing new “Relationships Along the Road” can bring about interesting changes back at home.

At a professional conference in New York City many years ago, I met a young black man from Nashville, where Fran and I were also living at the time. Thus began a genuine interracial friendship between two young couples, during an era when that was still rather rare in a southern city.

At another conference in Nova Scotia, we met some folks from our own state who told us about the North Carolina Train Host Association, which we had never heard of before. For the next few years after that, I had a great time volunteering occasionally as a train host on the Piedmont, which runs every day between Raleigh and Charlotte.

Of course previous background and experience can strongly affect new relationships developed while traveling. We have been delighted to meet several Indonesian crew members on European cruise ships. They in turn have been intrigued to encounter Americans who can speak and understand their language.

And then there was that young Slovak woman who held a high management position on one of our cruise ships. She was Catholic and we were Protestant; yet she seemed overjoyed to help us set up an ecumenical Easter worship service onboard.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas

PET PEEVES AND PECULIAR PLACES (II)

 

¶ This blog started in 2015-2016 with two years of devotionals: “Midweek Meditations: Family and Friends.”     ¶ It continued throughout 2017 with short poems: “Midweek Moments: Creator and Creation.”     ¶ Now in 2018 comes a lighthearted travelogue: “Midweek Milestones: 6½ Times Around the World.”     ¶ For three decades we lived in a faraway place. Our travels, during those years and since, have brought us to a strangely uneven global total. Each blog posted during 2018 will actually be an excerpt from a paperback soon to be published — with cartoons, plus fuller accounts of our worldwide adventures (and misadventures!).

 

PET PEEVES AND PECULIAR PLACES (II)

 

Does a salted caramel factory qualify as a peculiar place?

How about a church-bell foundry?

We visited both of these in Normandy.

Does a circus qualify as a peculiar place? I’d say it does when you spend the night there.

Some years ago a Baptist-sponsored crew made a delightful film about a small family-owned circus in Indonesia. The film told how a majority of the troupe had turned to Christ and had then formed themselves into a traveling church. Fran and I were fortunate enough to be designated as official messengers. We got to deliver to our circus friends their own personal print of the half-hour movie.

At that time the circus had pitched its tents in a peculiar place: Brebes, a market town that surely qualifies as the little red onion capital of Central Java. Light-skinned foreigners are so rare that many of the local circus-goers were as curious to see Fran and me sitting on the front row, as they were to see what was going on out in the ring.

After the second performance of the evening, the hour was wearing on toward midnight. Finally the film’s many stars got to witness the official first showing. The scene was not unlike a neighborhood where families get together to watch home movies: “There I am, see me?” “Ah-oh, I know what’s coming next!” and so on. Then we did indeed spend the night in that circus, sleeping in a luxurious caravan which had been made especially available for our use.

Sometimes size – or lack of it – is what makes a place peculiar. Madurodam is a unique town in Holland because all of the buildings have been erected on a small scale. A grieving Dutch couple had it built as a memorial to their son, who died during World War II. Now children from all over the world come to marvel at this tiny town with its red tile roofs.

Not quite as spectacular but still worth a visit, is an older collection of miniature structures in the Cotswold Hills of southern England. This is the famous Model Village, which actually replicates the entire town of Bourton-on-the-Water on a scale of 1:9. The Model Village is an especially peculiar place because it even includes (of course) a scale model of itself.

What about those “Pet Peeves” mentioned both in this blog post and in last week’s? Here are a few of my own personal peeves:

Tea being served with the teabag sitting high and dry alongside the cup of hot water. Doesn’t everybody know it’s always better if you can pour the hot water over the tea?

Complimentary drinks . . . which don’t include any non-alcoholic choices for those of us travelers who happen to be teetotalers.

People who give directions to a particular place and then confidently add, “You can’t miss it.” I always can.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Perry Thomas 

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