Full Title: Here We Are & There We Go: Teaching and Traveling with Kids in Tow
Author: Jill Dobbe
Publisher: Orange Hat Publishing (2012)
Number of Pages: 163
How long it took me to read: 2 days
Where I got this book: Uncustomary Book Submission
Like a Moth to a Flame
How could I not want to devour a book about two married teachers traveling the world with their children? Marriage and children are two of my favorite topics these days, and overseas teaching is one of my many paths not taken, one that I still dream about and wonder whether I’ll ever get to do. But even if I don’t end up teaching in a different country, the desire to drag my family around the world for the sake of travel is strong in me. The description of the book, paired with the cheery cover of a happy family crossing the world, enticed me from the start and I couldn’t wait to start reading.
I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:
5. “As we began the climb through the trails, tromping further and further up the steep hill, we found ourselves amidst the quiet, stillness and reverent calmness that existed in the air all around us. As we finally reached the narrow path at the top of the hill we all stood together in awe gazing dreamily at the thousands of closed butterfly wings clinging tightly to the trees, while huddling together against the cold morning air. They looked like they were sleeping as they clung close together in bunches on the tree bark. After some time, the sun started peeking out behind the clouds and that was the moment when the butterflies started to slowly awaken. It almost sounded as if a gentle rain was beginning to fall as more and more wings started opening and fluttering and some butterflies slowly began to fly.” (pp.119-20)
4. “As we packed up and Dan carried my new purchases out to the jeep he grunted and groaned trying to find room for it all to fit. After finding a little bit more space and shoving my purchases into the jeep, he then gave me ‘that look,’ while remarking, ‘The only reason you like traveling is so you can shop! I really believe that the world is just one big shopping mall to you!’ ” (p.126)
3. “I feel that as citizens of the world, we can always learn better ways of doing things if we keep our minds open and accept and respect the differences in people and governments. As a teacher in an international school, I saw how students from very different backgrounds worked together, and accepted each other unconditionally. As a mother, I wanted Ian and Ali to grow up to become globally aware and live in a community where everyone is accepted for who they are despite their race, color, or religion.” (pp.45-6)
2. “Everything that we saw and did together we experienced as a family. We reminisced and talked about how we survived making and leaving friends behind, starting over at different schools, as well as putting up with the long months between visits home to our families. Of course, we did get to travel across the globe and experience some of the huge expanses of ocean, rainforest, savannahs, and desert that exist across the earth. Our travels inspired and captivated us, but there were also those times when all that traveling became tedious. We all carried on however, didn’t complain, and found the good wherever we went.” (p.128)
…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…
1. “In the course of our travels, homes became any place we could be together. Most importantly for us, homes weren’t about the material items inside of them. Instead, they were our refuge and where we spent time alone together talking, playing, and lounging.” (p.34)
Conversation with the Reader
While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:
“I’m just about to start the book, and I’m already jealous. Dobbe’s adventures are the ones I’ve wanted since I was young. Now they’ll have to wait since I have a family to consider (in addition to some bills that need to be paid off). But I’m happy to live vicariously through books and to consider what life might have been like for me if I had chosen a different path at the beginning of college, rather than floundering about until I suddenly graduated with a concentration in creative writing and a handful of anthropology credits that never amounted to anything.”
“Though I am putting my personal desires for travel on hold for the time being, I am a strong believer in uprooting your entire life for the sake of a new opportunity. This is my father’s doing: growing up with a father who spent most of his youth traveling across America with the circus just does something to a person. He had left the circus profession by the time I was born, but had already moved my mother and two older siblings around a lot before I showed up. While I was growing up, he had multiple jobs and we ended up moving around often for those, too. Among other things, he was a taxi driver, a car salesman, owned a chimney sweep company, worked for FEMA, taught at a local college, owned a toy store, and was (and is currently) a pastor.
“Growing up and seeing that yes, you really can be whatever you want to be, always made the idea of a career seem strange to me. Someone going to college for one thing and sticking to that one thing until they retired with a gold watch, or what have you, baffles me. So does the thought of staying in one place forever. There are endless possibilities—why do just one thing? Why live in just one town?
“My husband worked laying tile for eight years and is fantastically talented. During our second year of marriage, while I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with our first child, he told me he wanted a change, so I told him to go for it. Within months, he was employed with a start-up company making fishing reels. Shortly after that, we moved to a town I was unfamiliar with, into a house I had never seen before. We’re now an hour away from his family and two hours away from mine and I still haven’t really met many people. Regardless, I am happy that we did it. We have been learning what we are capable of and making decisions without looking over our shoulder to see who is watching. There is a strange sort of freedom that comes along with that.
“No, a one or two hour move is not the same as taking your family from a small Wisconsin town to live on the island of Guam, but I think it always takes some amount of courage to step out of your comfort zone and take a chance—any chance. In taking that chance, Jill says that she and her husband Dan learned to trust and lean on each other; I think it strengthens a marriage to remove the safety net and rely solely on your spouse.”
“I can easily relate to the fear that comes with being strapped for cash and wondering how to care for a baby under the circumstances! I can’t help but smile when I read Jill and Dan’s oft-asked question: ‘What did we do?’ For me, I ask that question retrospectively, looking back on poorly budgeted months and wondering first where all our money went, and second, how we managed to eat, let alone pay rent. All I can figure is that God must slip cash into my bank account when I’m not looking, because honestly, I should probably be homeless.”
“I love reading about Jill and Dan’s late-night drives in Guam. They remind me of the ones we would take down to the water.
“Last year, before our big move, we temporarily spent a few months in an old farmhouse. That place gave me the creeps when I was alone in it with my baby. There was little I could do to distract myself as there was no Internet and no TV, my books were all packed and in storage, and I had poor cell phone service (which didn’t really matter since my phone battery had reached the point where it died after ten minutes of use). My husband was working ten-hour shifts an hour away from me, so he was gone at least twelve hours a day, usually more.
“During those months, I spent many hours packing my son and my dog into the car and driving around, exploring neighborhoods, following ‘For Sale’ signs, and collecting brochures on houses that cost half a million dollars or more, dreaming I lived in any one of them. When my husband was home, he didn’t like to be in the house any more than I did, so we would occasionally go on ‘dates’ where we would pick up fast food and drive down to the water, eating pizza or hamburgers while our baby and dog slept in the back seat.”
“It’s fascinating to read about the lifestyles of people living in other countries. Guam sounds dangerous and uncomfortable, with the disrespectful students who smoke cigarettes in class, the crime, the garbage, and the packs of wild dogs. Singapore sounds so glistening in comparison! As a country that incarcerated and publicly caned a high school student of Dan’s acquaintance for selling contraband chewing gum, I can’t help but wonder what Singapore would do to the kids in Guam who flattened Dan’s car tire with a rusty nail.
“My sister told me about a book she read once where the author mentioned a train ride he took in Asia, sitting across from a Japanese mother and her toddler. The toddler spent the trip with his face and hands pressed against the window. When they reached their stop, before leaving, the mother took the time to clean off the smudges her child left on the glass. I think about that every time I see parents shrug off the messes their children make in public.
“What if we all felt compelled to tidy up as we went along? What if we were all respectful of public places? I remember a night when my husband and I were dating: we were eating at a restaurant and sitting near us was a man out with his teenage son. His son threw up in the booth after eating. Without a word to anyone on staff, the man tossed a napkin over the vomit, settled his tab before anyone discovered what had happened, and walked briskly out of the restaurant. I still can’t get over it. What a different country it would be if we all considered the effect we have on one another.”
“I wonder how I’d react if that were me in Ghana, witnessing a mob of men bludgeoning a thief, being told that that’s just how they handle things there.
“I know America is unlike other countries, but at the same time, we are so vast and varied that different pockets of the country seem to me to be like different worlds. For instance, I spent four years of my childhood in a small country town where everyone knew one another—largely because most of them were related—and they all saw one another in church on Sundays and knew everybody’s business. I remember my shock when we moved from that small, gossipy community to a large metropolitan area and discovered, among other things, that there were men who dressed like women! This was unheard of where I had just come from. Also, just as there are cities where you’d be stupid not to bar your windows, there are rural communities that leave their doors unlocked all the time—but of course, these communities are largely inhabited by people who grew up using guns and wouldn’t think twice about shooting an intruder, and everyone knows it.
“In one town I lived in, there was a secluded riverside road inhabited by watermen, fishermen, and their families. These people had lived there for generations and had even adopted their own distinct accent. I don’t know this for a fact, but I was told more than once that police never went down that road because ‘they take care of their own.’ According to some rumors, this meant chopping up offenders and putting them in crab pots for the crustaceans to munch on, but that may very well be nothing but local legend.
“Yes, I may be passing judgment on more brutal cultures from the safety of my own home, I think if I were really in Ghana, I’d have to step back and take an anthropological view of things: while I may have moral qualms about it, it isn’t my business to question how things have gone on for years in a place I’ve never been. The people there must know the risks they take by stealing. And questioning people who don’t mind beating someone to death doesn’t seem like a good idea, anyway.”
“I admire Jill and Dan so much in their struggles to adopt. On either side of the adoption process, there are people on courageous and difficult paths. Having been close to many adoptive parents and adopted children, I have seen how time-consuming and often painful the process of adoption can be. But not withstanding all the difficulties, the adopted children still manage to share a love and a bond that is beautiful and unbreakable, which is something both the parents and the children deserve.
“I also have two close friends who placed their babies for adoption. I know that so many women (and men, too) are seen as abandoning their babies when they give them up, and of course, that is true in some cases. But in others…my friends showed a great deal of love and courage in carrying their babies full-term; it can’t be an easy thing to say, ‘I can’t give this child the home he deserves,’ and it must be even harder to find someone who is deserving of sharing that bond with your baby—the bond I knew instantly at the very start of each of my pregnancies. I can’t imagine the pain my friends felt when they said goodbye to their babies, especially when I think of the surprising emotion that came with giving birth to my first child, meeting him after knowing him for months. But it is an act of selfless love to give your baby whatever he needs, even if he needs something other than you.
“One of my friends placed her child for adoption when she was nineteen. Some thirty years later, he found her, and it was like a piece of her heart had been returned. She was able to see the fruit of her choice: her son had grown to be generous and friendly, well-liked and intelligent. He was able to share an amazing bond with his adoptive parents and his younger brother, to fill a gap in their lives that no one else could. Now married, he and his wife are enjoying the first years of their daughter’s life together, something that started with his biological mother’s decision to give him the best life she could. It’s so beautiful to hear that things worked out so well, as I know that she quietly counted every birthday since she said goodbye to him, that she never stopped loving him.
“While I was not there for that goodbye, I was there for another friend’s goodbye. I can vividly recall the pain on the mother’s face as she explained that she did not want to see the baby again, that she couldn’t even bear to hold him. She sat alone in her recovery room, not selfishly, but bravely. Down the hall, I watched the baby’s biological father as he held his son for the first and only time; the men involved in unwanted pregnancies are often either forgotten or hated, but there was nothing to hate in this scene as his mouth smiled while his eyes spilled over with tears. He didn’t understand why the baby wouldn’t stop crying. I still remember the sadness on his face, wishing for him that this single moment with his son would be peaceful.
“I also remember the face of the adoptive mother, a woman who had tried hard to have children of her own and couldn’t. I watched her hold the baby in tender, hesitant arms, as though she were afraid she may break him. She had that same look of baffled joy and overwhelming love that all new mothers have, as though she couldn’t believe her luck that this dream of hers had finally come true, that she finally had a place to pour all of the maternal love that had been brewing inside of her for years in her search for a child. I understood then that in breaking their own hearts, the baby’s biological parents were mending someone else’s.
“These are the things that make me believe, on both sides of the adoption process, that the struggle and heartbreak are worth it. With the desire to take in a child and call him their own, I hope very deeply that Jill and Dan are able to fuel their courage, keep up the fight, and fulfill their dream of finding that love.”
“I didn’t need to be told the Dobbes’ new family dog was a lab! With all the bounding, largeness, shedding, shameless floor-peeing, and protecting from invasive bugs, it seemed obvious to me. While we don’t have any scorpions to contend with, my lab Molly will come running to destroy any insect I deem too large for me to crush beneath a napkin. I regularly send her after spiders, beetles, millipedes, and the strange, furry mystery bugs that make it into our house from time to time.”
“Dan’s fight against the undertow in Puerto Escondido is chilling. Sure, I live on the water, but I can see the land on the other side. When we go out in our kayaks, we never go past a point where I can’t see land. I feel fine out there. The ocean, on the other hand, is terrifying to me. The idea of being out in a vast expanse of nothingness, with no land in sight and a seemingly bottomless drop beneath me upsets me so much that I have to will my brain back to land any time I imagine it. Similarly, the thought of being able to see land but not reach it is a nightmare to me.
“I get the same discomfort when I look at the sky sometimes and consider that it may very well go on forever. It’s the endlessness that scares me. I sometimes think that the reason I always had such a hard time in math was because I know numbers don’t stop; they go on eternally, in two directions.
“Perhaps my earthly finiteness is intimidated by infinity.”
“After reading many a tale of Jill’s shopping excursions, I have to laugh when her husband finally confronts her on it. It’s okay, Jill—I may not be one of them, but I know plenty of women who look at the world as a giant shopping mall!
“I sometimes wonder if there is something wrong with me as a woman that I don’t enjoy shopping. As a teenager, I definitely spent my fair share of afternoons wandering through malls, but this was mostly as a way to hang out with friends in a climate-controlled environment without our parents. When it came to spending money, I preferred to spend it in restaurants, which are also climate-controlled and don’t have family members peeking in on you. While I occasionally enjoy a store that sells antiques or hand-made arts and crafts that have real stories and fingerprints attached to each item they sell, bookstores have always been the only stores I could happily spend a few hours exploring. But really, what’s the point of that when the library will let you take things home for free?
“On the other hand, my mother-in-law is an enthusiastic shopper and I often wish I had the stamina to keep up with her, just for the chance to commune. But after an hour of browsing, my eyes are unable to focus on things and sounds become white noise. Trinkets and unnecessary articles of clothing never tempt me as I always translate the cost on the price tag to the cost of food. I rarely feel compelled to buy non-essentials, and would rather look at something pretty, appreciate it for what it is, and then leave it behind, as if I were in a museum.
“I tried to explain this to my mother-in-law, but she responded in a reassuring voice, ‘You’ll probably feel differently once you have money.’
“I’m not sure I would, though; trinkets need dusting and I hate dusting even more than I hate shopping.”
“When Jill talks about the overwhelming experience of shopping in an American grocery store for the first time in ten years, she basically sums up the feelings I have every time I have to buy food. There really are a ridiculous amount of options! Normal grocery stores are bad enough, but I almost had a panic attack the first time I visited Costco. The massive aisles of toilet paper piled up to the ceiling seemed so surreal to me that I actually took pictures of my sister posing beside the boulder-sized packages.”
“Throughout my journey with this book, I would lift my head every few minutes to read out various anecdotes to my husband, who is not much of a reader himself. Looking up from fishing reports, he’d nod at me, half-listening, but I knew he was mostly thinking about fish.
“Finally, at dinner, I asked in frustration, ‘Doesn’t this book sound fun to you?’
“ ‘Not really,’ he answered.
“ ‘Really? Traveling the world, seeing other countries? Just read the back of the book—’
“ ‘I don’t want to!’
“ ‘It says right on the back that they were nearly mauled by lions! This doesn’t sound like a fun book to read?’
“He clarified: ‘I don’t want to read about someone else traveling the world. I want to do it myself.’
“It occurred to me that the same jealous tinges I got while reading Jill’s book are probably not unlike the feelings my husband gets while reading reports of giant arowana caught in the Amazon; if the world is one big shopping mall to Jill Dobbe, it’s one big fishing excursion for my husband.
“For now, though, we must wait to have our adventures, saving up our money while paying down our debts. But I have to say, I’m more than happy to read the family travels of the Dobbes while waiting!”