Incomprehensibly small world

Ethan emailed me today that a grad school buddy who’s in Afghanistan is coming up to to join him for a bike trip this weekend in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. When my adventurous, talented son, Ethan, now 30, graduated from Mount Desert Island High School I gave him calling cards with his trademark “E” on the front. The address was simply “Planet Earth,” although he would have a real email address in college at

Here it comes, you say, When I was young…blah blah blah.

Okay. When I was in college, junior year abroad mean that the more sophisticated, wealthier students traveled to London or Paris. Needless to say, I didn’t go.

But both Brook — and especially Ethan — have made up for my lack of contact with the outside world. Brook spent a junior semester in Bali, and when she arrived at the home of the family she was staying with, her college sticker greeted her on the bedroom window. Small, small world.

I didn’t cross the Atlantic until I was in my 40s. I loved Paris for its continuous love affair with art and beauty; Israel for its long-buried and excavated thousands of years of history, and the freshest, tastiest tomatoes and cucumbers at hotel breakfasts; and my short jump over the Florida Strait to Cuba for its mojitos, plus my only experience at a Communist Party neighborhood gathering where young kids asked me to dance.

I’m curious about the rest of the world. I’ve got a new passport. I thought about applying for NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof’s trip to a developing country for journalists over 60 (like me). But I didn’t. Hell, I don’t want to sleep in a tent somewhere scary where I’d have to worry about more than scary bears eating our food. And I wouldn’t want to be bewildered by not understanding another language.

In Israel I found out that there are dairy/kosher/Italian restaurants, Sabras (Israeli-born) folks may make derogatory comments about Russian immigrants, and some Israeli Arabs may be very glad they don’t live in Gaza.

There’s nothing like an actual experience, right? I always felt sorry for my mother who watched everything on TV but had never been anywhere. One day she admitted that shopping in Hong Kong would be fun.

“Give me a bed and a blanket and some light breakfast,” as Greg Brown sings, but make it in a comfortable place — and I’ll go.

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