Book Review: Here We Are & There We Go
In Here We Are & There We Go: Teaching and Traveling with Kids in Tow, author and teacher Jill Dobbe tells a revealing tale of naive travelers turning into global citizens. She and her husband, who are both teachers, decide on a whim in July 1991 to move their family of four to Guam and teach overseas. As she says, “At times it was frightening and we often asked ourselves, “What did we do?” but it also made Dan and I stronger and closer as we had to rely on each other for advice, help and friendship.” It is clear that they did not realize all they would learn and suffer from living abroad, but during their years of teaching in different countries, their fantastic experiences seem to outshine the daily dramas and hardships of working in foreign lands.
And they journeyed before the time of Internet and cell phones. Being on an island far away during a disaster in the early 1990’s meant they were completely separate from the mainland and no one knew what was happening, where they were, and they couldn't share any information about how they were surviving. They were obligated to depend on those around them and hope that those far away would not overly worry! Friends and family asked the Dobbes “What do you want to do that for?” and “Why would you want to take your kids so far away?” The Dobbes share their experiences of how much they and their children learned over the years, and why it is worth the risk and the leap to upend one's life and make a home somewhere else.
From children’s vomit on every car trip in Guam and unintentionally bathing in sewage after a hurricane, to often running out of money with each new country, and sitting in small tables on vacation in Japan, the Dobbes were willing to explore new places. Their tale of their heroic moments, from adopting Chloe, a Down’s Syndrome child in Singapore, to caring for household staff in Ghana and adopting another child, Bernie, who leaves them too soon, would bring another family to its knees. But the Dobbes are strengthened by their travails and are a great example of all people can learn by living in other countries. I think that any teacher considering living and teaching overseas should read this tale. Armchair travelers will also enjoy learning from their early mistakes and many journeys to new places.
The Dobbes say that “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.” In America, so many of us are tied to our things, especially our electronic devices. Being in a country with so many who do not have the means to buy what we see as essential helps us to realize what is truly important.
I can only imagine the terror their family in the USA went through while hearing about the hurricanes, tropical storms, and earthquake while they lived in Guam, the lightening storm they encountered flying back from vacation in Australia, their grandchildren with rashes and worms in the arm, snakes popping up in the yard and in the classroom, as well as eating strange meats, and surviving many gastrointestinal illnesses. As a traveler, I know these are the things that happen. While living at home, some of these situations arise -- but not with the same frequency!
The benefits of living abroad are having access to a wealth of treasures that most only dream about after reading National Geographic Magazine. The stories of being on Safari in South Africa, enjoying nearly private beaches on the coast of Ghana, as well as being included in a wedding and Bar Mitzvah in Singapore, should make any teacher ready to take the leap to working overseas!
I appreciated Jill Dobbe’s honesty about how hard it was for her and her entire family to make the transition back to living in America. As hard as it is to learn to cross the street or drive in a foreign land, after a decade abroad, returning to a supermarket (with over twenty cereal choices and whole aisles devoted to soda pop) can make you have a panic attack. While I am sure her two children appreciated being part of proms, Homecoming, and basketball games, they did notice that suddenly only white people surrounded them. Living abroad makes you more sensitive both to economic status and to cultural diversity.
As a teacher who travels, I was at first nervous to share my stories from far away with my students - but like Jill Dobbe I found that the students and parents love to learn about other cultures. I loved reading about the multicultural fairs that she arranged in her American schools.
As Dobbe says, “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.” I hope you to find a way to read about new places, dream about living there and possibly buy a ticket to try it yourself.
Want to learn more? Head to Jill's Facebook page:
Lisa Niver Rajna is the Geography Awareness Editor for Wandering Educators. You can find her at http://www.WeSaidGoTravel.com