Marco Polo II

One may be married for better or for worse, but that shouldn’t include six week overseas vacations. If I ever tie the knot again, that will be written right into the marriage vows, you betcha. I use the word vacation here loosely, because the treks my wife Brenda and I have done over the past twenty seven years could be considered holidays only by those basket-cases who run through Death Valley in the middle of the summer.
Burma being the latest. That was two summers ago, or was it three ? Painful memories have clouded your correspondent’s memory somewhat. Brenda had wanted to see the movie ‘The Lady’, the fascinating portrait of the political career of Burma’s democratic champion, Aung San Suu Kyi. Being something of a political junkie myself, I tagged along.
Big mistake. “Let’s go to Burma,” Brenda declared soon afterwards. “We’ve never been to southeast Asia before and we’ll be on the cutting edge, getting there before it becomes too popular and the prices rise.”
That’s a good one, I thought. Southeast Asia during the summer in a political dictatorship in a country where most of the roads haven’t been paved and with three kids to drag along. I’ll humour her along for awhile, then put this hare-brained idea in the dumpster where it belongs.
Oh yes. Now that would be a good one. Like I’ve really been able to discourage my wife from her favourite hobby in the past. There was the trip through Yugoslavia and the Greek islands where I nearly drowned in a pounding surf after burning my leg on a moped. And that 1988 trip to the Soviet Union where we were nearly detained at Customs after flagrant illegal trading in Russian currency on the streets of Moscow and Leningrad. And what about the time we lost two year old Adam for awhile in Morocco in what we had suspected was a kidnapping ? Not to mention that month-long trip to Peru where hiking Machu Piccu seemed like a cakewalk after that nightmarish trek into the Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and where half of us were throwing up and most of the rest had diarrhea. And don’t get me going on that year we spent in the south of France while I did a teaching exchange. “Wait a second”, my colleague and boss Chris Goodsir interjected one time while I was regaling him with calamities and misadventures during our twelve month stay in Europe. “Weren’t you living in Provence half an hour away from the Meditteranean, spending weekends in Nice and northern Italy and Christmas in Switzerland”?
I nodded. “God, how I suffered !”
So you can get the point. Travelling with Brenda ain’t for sissies, but there’s just enough of a certain je ne sais quoi thrown in, like catnip for kittens or crack cocaine for Mayor Rob Ford, to keep me coming back for more.
Which is why I stayed mute as Brenda surged ahead with what she loves most, planning another journey, filling me in on our itinerary of indecipherable and unfamiliar names while I half-listened, mumbled my responses while giving most of my attention to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Only one of our three children stayed out; Liam, our oldest. Having been the sickest of us all in Peru, playing Texas Hold’Em on the internet held more allure than another family vacation on the other side of the world. He probably knows something we don’t, I thought to myself.
“There’s a small problem, ” Brenda mentioned to me a couple of weeks before takeoff. We all can’t get on the same flight to Bangkok because Adam hadn’t agreed to come along until just now, and moving one of us over onto the other flights would cost us a steep price hike. So should I just book Adam and Rachelle on that flight to Washington-Tokyo-Bangkok and keep us on the Ottawa-Paris-Bangkok flight ?
We’ll meet up in the hotel room in Bangkok.”
“Well…ummm, I’m not sure about…”
“No problem. Adam’s just finished first-year university. Surely he can guide Rachelle through a couple of airports.”
So that was easy. We did meet up in the middle of the night in a hotel room in Bangkok, none the worse for wear.
Two days later we found ourselves in Rangoon, the capital of Burma, or Myanmar, as it was now being referred to. Adam had vowed to keep a journal, a promise he did actually keep for one day.
I glanced at it partway through the trip. It didn’t take long to read, as his journal read, “Spent the day in Rangoon. Saw a naked kid taking a crap in the street.”
A few days later, after battling the heat and viewing the poverty of this developing country, he said to his mother, “Next year, why don’t you just arrange a holiday in Pakistan ?”
But nothing deters our modern-day Marco Polo. For the past six months she has been talking of arranging an international teaching exchange for one of her two final years in the profession. I told her I’m not going.
Stay tuned.

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