My youngest daughter Gracie is traveling in SE Asia. Now. Right now. She has been there since late August and will not return until mid October. In spite of my fears, I have been a good mom and hopefully haven’t projected my concerns and reservations and have supported her plans to go. But I have encouraged her to travel with open eyes though.
Eyes open to potential dangers. Eyes open to people that might seem like friends but are not. Eyes open to laws that might be different. But I also encouraged her to travel with eyes open to the beauty of the landscape, the richness of the history, the culture, the people.
I am proud to say that for the first part of her trip, she was with a group that brought school supplies to the children of Thailand in some of the poorest neighborhoods. In her travels with this group she also visited the city of Yangon in Myanmar. And because she has lived a fairly comfortable and privileged life as the white daughter of a middle-class American, her eyes have been opened to the poverty that lies there, in SE Asia, and I think it shook her. I will not share what she witnessed or experienced, that is her story to share, but as educated readers and writers we know. While most of us have never seen it first hand, we know.
Yes, my daughter was in Myanmar. Last week. She was in Myanmar while news of executions, genocide, ethnic cleansing and dislocated people in Myanmar poured out on the news. Stories of villages burning and overcrowded Refugee camps housing Rohingya Muslims who had fled to Bangladesh. I waited for my daily text, letting me know she was fine, and I held my breath.
And now I have to be honest, with North Korea’s bomb threats, with hurricanes devastating the Caribbean and Gulf Coast States, with earthquake death counts rising in Mexico and with wildfires burning out of control, this situation in Myanmar would have been simply another layer to the horror that assaults us anytime we turn on the news, or read a FB feed, leaving me feeling helpless, irrelevant and frankly numb. But this time it wasn’t. It had my complete focus and I held my breath.
Gracie is now in Hanoi. I can breathe again, although in an ironic twist, she is in Hanoi as I sit to watch the Ken Burn’s series about the Viet Nam war. The connection is a little disturbing, but I am OK. She is having a lovely time, finds the country beautiful and spoke of a spectacular sunset bike-ride through the rice paddies. But again, that is her story to tell.
I encouraged her to go. I remind myself that she is a student of the world, well read, smart, curious, compassionate and caring. I wonder where this trip will leave her? Eyes open I am sure. And while she is traveling with eyes open, I will be here, at home, in comfort with my breath held, waiting for that daily text telling me she is having a great time.