The farthest I’ve been from home is Bagan, Burma/Myanmar in 2005.
A very adorable older Burmese fellow snuck up to me while I was sitting on the second level of a temple, watching early morning filter through the plain spotted with similar temples and spires.
"Excuse me," he said cautiously. "What are your feelings on Mr. Bush?"
I shrugged, admitting I had not voted for him, nor was I very fond of his policies.
His face lit up and he sat down beside me. It was like I had answered the right secret code. I opened the door to criticize a country’s leader. The man was living in Australia, working as a doctor, but came home to Burma to visit family. He didn’t like what had become of his country. He wanted to come back to stay, but he didn’t feel safe here.
It was a beautiful country. Old in ways I could not imagine. On the same college trip, we went to Thailand and Cambodia. The purpose of the trip was to look at temples, which were all amazing. But more than that, I got to leave the US for the first time, and it was to see a vastly different world. To see landmine victims begging in the streets. To see sunrise over Ankor Wat and wonder what the place had been like with people who used it other than tourists swarming all over it. The highs and lows were so vastly different from my experiences here, I was in love with the region for a long time.
Yesterday my mom posted a picture on Facebook of my 5 year old brother Sam wearing a pair of shoes he picked out for his first day of preschool.
She explained to him in the store that they were really made for girls. Sam then told her that he didn’t care and that “ninjas can wear pink shoes too.”
Sam went to preschool and got several compliments on his new shoes. Not one kid said anything negative toward him about it.
However, my mom received about 20 comments on the photo from various family members saying how “wrong” it is and how “things like this will affect him socially” and, put most eloquently by my great aunt, “that shit will turn him gay.”
My mom then deleted the photo and told Sam that he can wear whatever he wants to preschool, that it’s his decision. If he wants to wear pink shoes, he can wear pink shoes.
Sam then explained to her that he didn’t like them because they were pink, he liked them because they were “made out of zebras” and zebras are his favorite animal :)
I would say ninjas don’t wear pink because it’s flashy and would draw attention to themselves, but you know what? I’m more afraid of the ninja that DOES want to draw attention to himself.
Kudos to the mom. I hate those shoes on any child, boy or girl, but that is an opinion of aesthetics, not morality or gender roles. Part of being a kid is the adventure of dressing yourself and the tacky outfits that come along with that.
I have two funny stories involving the Volvo I had in high school and part of college.
Twice the story, half the funny.
Story 1) When I say I was in a hit and run accident, I mean it quite literally.
I stopped for a bus unloading kids. They didn’t. They crashed into me going pretty fast.
They got out, apparentally walked over to glance at me (a witness snapped a photo of one of them glaring in the direction of my car while standing in the middle of the road). Then they ran away on foot, abandoning their Oldsmobile. The cops never contacted me so all I can figure is they were unable to trace them via the car. It was not the best of neighborhoods, so that may not be a surprise.
Literal hit and run! (rimshot)
Story 2) In high school I learned that when I broke down in bad neighborhoods, people flooded to help. I had a flat tire on Samuell Ave, right where all the night clubs and liquor stores are along the wet-dry border of the city’s ass backwards liquor laws. People kept pulling over to help, including a family of Hispanics that didn’t speak much English. Also, in the above story, lots of people stopped to help.
The summer before I went to college, I got a flat tire just outside of University park, across from where the Central Market is now. Nice area. Broad daylight, plenty of people going through. Pleasant day. I remember watching SUVs of guys drive by, the passengers blankly staring at me as I changed the tire by myself. The “How strange she’s doing that alone” stare.
Then a homeless guy came up to lend a hand. He had a busted boom box, a dirty shirt with a marijuana leaf printed on it, and a smile. These were the days before I had a cell phone, mind you (hey kids, once upon a time we weren’t constantly connected to the world). And if I had more sense I would have just run into the nearby Borders. But I was already sweaty and grimy from the task started and so I didn’t leave my car. He stood by and watched, offering encouraging words. Once I got the spare on, he decided to try tightening some of the bolts. Righty-tighty was not a lesson he had learned, apparently, so he undid some of my work. I took over again and he went back to being my personal cheerleader. As I was finishing up, he put an arm around me and yanked out a disposible camera and took a photo of both of us. I finished up, thanked him for his “help”, hopped in my car and was ready to go home.
Now, first of all, this was an old car. The AC didn’t work. Secondly, it was August. So I drove around with all my windows down, and since all the windows were down, I never bothered locking it while the car was in motion.
So while I was waiting to turn into traffic, this homeless guy just hops in my front seat. I’m wide eyed at the sheer fact that he did that while he’s casually asking for a lift. Just a few blocks down Greenville Ave, he said.
If I was smart, I would have just put the car in park and jumped out, and ran to the shop and, sweat and grime be damned, get some help.
Instead, I looked at him and lied. “I can’t. I’m going that way. Faaaaar that way,” I said, gesturing up the road in the opposite direction. I remembered I had groceries in the car. “I’ve gotta get these home before they go bad.”
Reluctantly, he accepted that and shuffled out of my car. Then I peeled out and drove several blocks in the direction I had told him I was going, JUST in case somehow he managed to catch up with me at a stop light going elsewhere.
So, if out there, if it survived, if it was ever developed, is a photo of me with a mouth agape “DURRH?” face, with a homeless man smiling beside me.