Dear Ezra and Lian,
Ezra, I know you think I’m pretty boring right now. Truthfully, I AM pretty boring right now. The thing is, I’m the wrong Dad to throw that down on. Consequently, your summer homework is going to be to read every last one of these letters again and tell me something about each one. I know you want your own youtube channel to broadcast video game commentary. (Homework, first.) Buddy, playing video games is NOT exciting. It’s fake excitement. Real excitement changes things. If nothing else, it will change yourself. Before you go down this path of gaming, I want you to take some action or at least watch people take real action. I am actually working on something to help us both do that. Lian gave me a Father’s Day in June. She answered the question “What is your Dad really good at?” Her answer; “Doing Laundry”. It’s long past time to make some changes in my life.
Starting around 1990, I started sponsoring kids with World Vision. When I was travelling around the world, I thought I should see where my money had gone. So I decided to visit a World Vision project in Indonesia. I had sponsored a child in Irian Jaya, a remote part of the country. That was not practical to visit, but I was going to visit one closer to the capital city of Jakarta. The problem was that in 1999, there was a lot of chaos in the country of Indonesia. There were riots. There was the overthrow of a dictator. There was the collapse in value of their currency the rupiah. After I had already left Canada on my Round-The-World ticket, there was a travel advisory issued to NOT visit Indonesia. However, I felt that this was an over-reaction to the situation (which generally they are). I decided to go anyways, but I was nervous about it. I hadn’t been that nervous since I crossed from West Germany to East Germany on the train in 1989.
When I landed in Jakarta, near the end of June of 1999, I didn’t know what I should expect. Was the city going to be in flames? Was the military going to be patrolling the streets? I had just recently been in India for the first time in my life. I was still going through the culture shock of that. As I disembarked off my plane, I was the only foreign, white guy coming out of immigration control. Almost, every other foreigner was staying away. As I walked out of the gate, I was besieged by taxi drivers, hotel and tourism touts. They all started shouting at me, when suddenly one guy saw the t-shirt I was wearing. “Mr. Bean! We love Mr. Bean!” They all started smiling and patting me on the back. Then they all walked away and left me alone. They stopped trying to sell me stuff simply because I was a fan of Mr. Bean and he was hugely popular at the time in Indonesia.
Because all the foreign tourists and business people had left the city of Jakarta, I got to stay at the 5 star Sheraton for $50/night. At the hotel, I had this 350 room hotel almost all to myself. There were about 3 other guests. Nobody in the restaurant or pool or the barbershop. The staff spoiled this backpacker. It was a fun experience, but I was totally out of my element. I actually moved to a hostel to save $50 for 2 nights. Everywhere I went in Jakarta, things were very cheap and public places were almost empty. Often, I would be would the only person walking around notable places.
On my 3rd day, I got picked up by a World Vision worker. We travelled to the island of Sumatra to visit a World Vision project. As we got close, I saw an entire neighbourhood burned down. The reason was because a mob of Muslims attacked this Christian village. Very briefly, what I saw of that project has kept me a World Vision supporter ever since. I saw money spent wisely to really help children and their families. It was making a real impact in a developing area.
The irony of this visit to Indonesia is that it was probably one of the safer places I have visited. I hope you learn from me, that there are no places angels fear to tread. There is a big old world out there ready to explore. There is definitely plenty of danger, but there still are millions of people who love Mr. Bean. I’m glad Mr. Bean didn’t listen to the travel advisory to Indonesia in 1999.