After months of absence it was not easy for me to go back to work again. We had traveled for more than six weeks through different countries of Asia. In all the Asian countries I visited I felt very relaxed, as most of the peoples' lifestyle was that way. I lived in a society where the lifestyle was very fast. On this trip I saw people from a different part of the world, how they lived and what they did. It took me several weeks to get back into my normal work schedule. So many things came in my mind. Had this trip spoiled me in some ways, or was I comparing their lifestyle with mine?
I kept asking myself if the daily pressure I had to deal with, the long ride to work everyday to get to the job, and the long hours I spent at work were all worth it. I saw people in Asia in little villages where families had ten children without a steady job and just living without a pay-check all year, and here I was worried if I would miss a pay-check. All of this went through my mind, and sometimes I wondered if I should have ever taken this trip and seen all of this. But with all the comparing and thinking I did, I knew that I was living in a society where I just couldn't give up a job for which I had worked for so long.
It was the year 1982. I had just celebrated my 49th birthday. I had almost 21 years service with Southland Corporation, and most of those years I had worked in Quality Control. When I returned to work I overheard some conversation that some of the management staff had complained that I received a three month vacation with pay. I acted like I never heard anything about it, but I knew I had to very diplomatic because my general manager who had given me the pay and time off. Rumors were going around that our general manager wouldn't be around for too long.
When Southland Corporation built this computerized milk and juice plant, their main objective was to be able to serve the Eastern shore market of the U.S.A. In order to do this we needed a production volume of more than 100,000 gallons a day. We had reached days of 100,000 gallons, but not a daily volume as Southland Corporation wanted. So, several management changes were in process.
Before all of this would happen I wanted to distribute a letter about trip to different departments in our organization just to let them know how I was able to take this trip, what I had seen and how my feelings were about the people I met. For several days I kept thinking, how, and what I was going to write about. So at two o'clock one morning I had this urge to write. On this quiet, early morning so many things suddenly flooded into my mind. The letter was as follows:
March 15, 1982
Dear Southland friends,
On behalf of Lu Lu and myself, I would like to tell you about our long-awaited trip to Asia, which was made possible by patience, determination, and the Southland Corporation Profit Sharing Plan.
Because I hadn't flown in an airplane for the last five years, I must admit I didn't feel very comfortable on take-off, but I was too proud to tell any of the more than twenty friends who came to the airport to say "Bon Voyage". A flight to the West Coast really shows how big our country is, and our five days of sightseeing in San Francisco made us understand the meaning of the song, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco".
Our next stop was Hawaii, where suddenly you are in a completely different world. The sunshine, beautiful beaches and palm trees make you feel completely different. We were fortunate to be taken around by a cousin of mine who has been living there for several years, and we were able to see much more than the usual tourist spots.
Hawaii to Hong Kong was one of the longest flights - 11 1/2 hours - and after another 3 1/2 hours of flying time; we landed in Singapore, which turned out to be our favorite city in Asia. We spent a total of three weeks in this city, and really enjoyed its climate, cleanliness and efficiency. The difference between Singapore and Jakarta, Indonesia, is like day and night. In Jakarta, masses of people exist in poverty and unbelievable living conditions. We left here with some sadness, thinking of those masses of people surviving with so little yet still managing to smile.
We visited Bangkok next. This is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and the smog created by motorcycles and cars is terrible. Everywhere there are monks in orange robes. The temples and palaces are just beautiful, and we enjoyed the food, which was reasonable and delicious.
My stay for one week in Burma, one of the most untouched cultures in the world, was both a sad and a happy experience. Sad in that in spite of all the calls to Burma and running back and forth to the Burmese Embassy, both here and in Bangkok and Singapore, I was not able to get Lu Lu a visa to visit her own country. It was heartbreaking for her, being so close to home and still unable to see her family.
She returned to Singapore to stay with friends and wait for my return from Burma where I was given a VIP welcome at the Rangoon Airport by my many Burmese friends. Burma is one country that has not been spoiled by modernization. The oxcarts and buffalos still do the labor.
I was able to spend one day in a remote Karen village visiting Lu Lu's daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Later, on a plane trip North of the Shan State, I saw mountain scenery you will never see in any part of the Western world.
I wish everyone could make a trip like this once in a lifetime. The international friendships we made in Washington enabled us to visit these countries and see things no ordinary tourist is able to see. The contrast of culture is so extreme it gives you a shock. You can't help loving these people. Their lifestyle is so simple and easy. Family life is their first priority.
I am a man of all people and love every culture, but there is a softness in my heart just seeing how those people live their daily lives. I left all those people with great love and affection, thinking we all came into this world for some purpose. Some of us are more fortunate than others, and I was one of the fortunate ones to see all of this. My weeks of traveling around Asia left an impact on my life I won't forget. I felt very comfortable and happy in that part of the world. I also felt very sad leaving that part of the world, and will never forget all those dear people.
Lu Lu and I want to thank the Southland Corporation Profit Sharing Plan for their understanding and cooperation. Without their help, this trip would never have been possible. We also want to say thank you to Mr. Angelo for his cooperation in giving me the time off, and all the other staff members of Embassy Dairy who shared in making my trip unforgettable.God bless you all,
Sincerely and most affectionately,
Lu Lu and Jeff.
My letter was well received, and for many weeks whenever I met someone at work, the first question was: "how was your trip". As the time went on, my trip experience faded away. Sometimes it seems that I never had taken this trip, and that it had just been a dream.