In early January of 1981 I told my general manager that I wanted to take this trip to Asia and that I would like to have at least three months of leave. I would leave my job on the first of December 1981 and would return on March the first in 1982. I said to the general manager if my leave would not be very convenient to their work schedule he could hire someone to replace me, because if he would give me the leave or not I was going anyway. I had made up my mind and nobody was going to stop me. My general manager Mr. Bill Angelo was very nice and told me that he had to talk this over with Mr. Andy Mroz, our personnel director. When my general manager found out that I was also going to Burma he became very interested about it. During World War II he was in the U.S. Army and voluntarily joined the Merrill's Marauders who fought the Japanese in the Burmese jungles. He had a fond remembrance of the Burmese jungle people who saved many of their lives by helping them in locating the Japanese bases.
Having the personnel director as my friend, and the general manager in favor of visiting Burma I knew I was going to get my three months vacation.
Planning such a trip, requires months before you leave and all kind of things to arrange. It might sound great that you are going to take a vacation half way around the world, but there is a lot more to it than people think. First you have to figure how much finances would be needed for the time you are gone. The rent of the apartment has to be paid, insurance, etc. Certain things have to be looked after when you are gone. It is a great blessing to have some very good friends that you can depend on when you are gone. We had to make up a traveling schedule where we would go first, in which country we would stay with friends and in which country we would stay in the hotel. In our case we were very fortunate that we spent most of our time with friends. Then you try to find an Airline Company who gives you the best service for your money. It's very important that you get immunized for cholera, especially if you travel through Asia. I had to get our passports up to date and visit some Asian Embassies for visa information. It's always a guess how much luggage you have to take along. Most of the time you take along too much, especially when you get to the Asian countries you don't need that many clothes. It's too hot to wear a lot of clothes. Cotton shirts and pants are the best to take along when you travel through Asia. They are easy to wash and quick to dry. Take along comfortable and light shoes to wear. There were so many things to take care of before I ever started this trip that sometimes I was a little disappointed and felt like I should never have taken this trip. At work I was questioned by many of my co-workers why I should take off from work so long and spend so much money on this trip. Some of them were very supportive but others were very jealous that I was getting so much time off. My greatest supporter for this trip was my friend Andy. I had told Andy that I needed to withdraw $25,000 out of my Southland Profit Sharing savings. Andy told me not to worry about that, he would take care of it. All of our Southland Profit Sharing withdrawals had to go through our personnel director's office first. He would get in contact with Southland Profit Sharing headquarters in Dallas, Texas, and they would forward the check to our personnel director's office.
One day Andy came back from Dallas where he attended the regional personnel managers' meeting of Southland Corporation and handed me my check of $25,000. I still had several months to work yet before I would go on my trip.
Three months before we would leave for our trip I applied at the Burmese Embassy to get a visa for Lu Lu and myself. I was amazed by all the forms I had to fill our for just a week stay in their country. Just a week before we had scheduled to leave for our trip I received a visa from the Burmese Embassy. For some reason they held up Lu Lu's visa. We were told not to worry if the visa was not issued yet before we would leave Washington as arrangements would be made that whenever we would arrive in Singapore we could pick up Lu Lu's visa there at the Burmese Embassy in Singapore. We were given a name and address and whom to see at the Burmese Embassy in Singapore. Of course, under such promising conditions we left for our trip looking forward that both of us would visit Lu Lu's son. But things didn't turn out as they had promised us.
Lu Lu and I had traveled to Europe before by plane, but this was our first Asian trip. What I didn't know that booking this air-fare had to be done weeks ahead. It was during the holidays and everybody was trying to fly home. So I was not able to leave for several weeks. Since I was not able to leave right away, I went back to the Burmese Embassy and requested about Lu Lu's visa, but I was told the same story about the Burmese Embassy in Singapore. The closer the time came for leaving on our trip the more I drank to relax. The last two days before our departure I must have drunk close to a quart of gin. Before we left many of our friends came to see us at our apartment and gave us advice on what to do on our trip. Some of our Burmese friends gave us some packages to take along to give to their families in Burma. Many of them asked me to buy this or that. I needed a notebook just to remember all of this. I just said yes I will do this or that but I was going on a vacation and wanted to get away from all of this. To keep your friends happy you say you'll do this or that, but once you travel it works out all different than you had planned.