By William G. Muir
In the past several years I have thought of places I would like to travel internationally. Like most Americans I have not been beyond the border of this country. Although I did live in Texas for a few years when I was a little boy, not too far from the Mexican border. But as I get older I would like to visit other lands and get a sense of the lives of the people that live there.
Now there was a time when I was around 11 or 12 years old when I was going to go live in Germany for a couple of years. Actually this was back in the 1980 during the Cold War so technically I was going to be living in West Germany. Back then my father was in the Army and he was going to be stationed over in West Germany for a number of years.
I don’t know how much of West Germany I would of gotten to see while I was there. We would have lived on the US military base while we were over there. My two sitters and I would have also been attending classes with other American children who’s parents were also stationed there. This would not have been the foreign exchange student program. We would have been taught in American school with American teachers, it just would have been in a different country.
But unfortunately I never got to go over to West Germany. In late 1985 early 1986 there was an indecent that occurred that led to my father parting ways with the army in mid-1986. My chance to travel across the pond was put on indefinite hold. But one of these days I will make it over to Europe and Germany will be one of my stops when I get there.
While I would like to visit Germany one day along with France and Italy as well, they are not the first place in Europe that I would like to see. Since I was a young boy in elementary school I have always wanted to visit England. Of course when I was that young I thought that England was the whole island that England is on, which includes Scotland and Wales, and Ireland. Since I have gotten older I have learned that area is what is known of the British Isles and I have come to understand some if not all the relations that all those countries have to each other.
There are two reasons I want to travel to the British Isles one day. The first is that not only this countries founding but it’s initial building comes from the people that lived on these two small islands. Growing up and learning about how the early history of the United States was shaped by the British caught my imagination. I wanted to know what those countries were like.
The second reason I wish to visit the British Isles is Scotland. I have always held a soft spot in my heart for Scotland. As a child the image of Scotland for me was a man wearing a kilt. In a country were every man you know wears pants and women being to wear them on regular basis as well a man in a kilt just shouted out individuality. Sadly though I think the Scots no longer wear the kilt as an everyday item.
I also wish to visit Scotland because that is were the Muir family comes from. There is a part of me that wants to walk in the foot prints of my forefathers and foremothers. I want to see where it is that I come from. I want to eat a Hagus. I want to hear the bagpipes playing on foggy morning while standing on the bank of Loch Ness. But most of all I would like to visit Castle Rowallan, the Muir family castle.
Today the British Isles falls to number two on my international tour destination. The place I want to visit the most right now is the one place I would never wanted to visit when I was ten. Back then I didn’t really hate this place or the people that lived there, I was just more nationalistic in my youth. The place was Japan and this was back in the 1980’s when Japan had a big share of the American market when it came to automobiles and electronics.
Another reason I think I was not so fond of the Japanese people in my youth is that I tend to not like things that the majority of people do. And back in the 80’s Americans loved things that came from Japan. They might not have been fond of the people, I can’t remember if they were or were not, but things that came from Japan were huge. People were walking around with Sony Walkmans listen to music. Driving around town in there Toyotas and Hondas so they could go out and get themselves so sushi to eat.
But as I have grown older my nationalism has nearly disappeared. I no longer despise Japanese or any foreign built car anymore. While I have yet to buy one, cause I am Ford man and always will be, I have looked into Toyotas and Hondas as possible options. Who knows one of these days I might actually buy one. What led to my shift in attitude towards foreign cars is this. 1) American cars are not 100% built in America. The big three auto companies are global cooperation now and have production plants in many different countries. Even the vehicle built in this have parts that come from some factory outside the United States that the big three does business with. 2) Foreign auto companies have also become global cooperation and they have plants in the US now. Where I live in southern Indiana it is located between a Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky and a Honda plant in Greensburg, In.
As I have grown as a person the Japanese have become fascinating to me. At one time I had a Japanese couple working for me when I was an second assistant manager for McDonald’s. To this day they were the kindest people I had ever met. They were a little on the quiet side but that was because they had not been in this country very long. But when you could get them to talk they were always polite and always gave compliments to their fellow employees. A trait that many of my employees could have used more of.
The reason I want to go Japan is because I know so little about it. I grew up watching Japanese cartoons such as the Transformers. I rode around in my friend’s Toyota Corolla. I have bought countless numbers of electrics that were built in Japan, but yet I have no clue as to what Japan and the Japanese people are like. Sure I have read articles posted at Cracked.com that have discussed aspects of the Japanese culture. But I take this with a grain of salt. First off these articles are written by individual from the west looking in from the outside at the Japanese culture. But beyond that the articles are all about the stranger things found in Japan.
I’m sure a Japanese writer could find all kind of weird things to write about American culture if their focus was on mainly Rednecks, NSCAR, Heavy Metal Fans and Emos.
Having spent most my life in Smalltown USA I cannot think of a place that is more different from the one I know than Japan. No matter what there culture is like it cannot help but be different. They live way on the other side of the Earth of course they are going to be different. For thousands of years the East was separate from the Western world. Except the odd trader that travel along the silk road there was next to no contact between the two cultures. They had that time to develop as a people.
Their languages, the food they eat, the religions they practice, the society they have built is all so much different then ours. Their ancestors had the very same brain as our ancestors here in the West. Yet by being over there and not here they had to use those brains differently than our ancestors did. They had different sets of circumstance they had to deal with. They had to learn to live in the environment they found themselves in. They had to learn to hunt the animals that lived in that part of the world. They had volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis to deal with. They are people forged by the land they live in.
If you ask me what is the one place I would like to visit before I die, I will tell you Japan. But that is not the only place I would like to visit. If I ever get the chance and the money I would love to travel the world. I want to party in Brazil at Carnival, I want to get drunk at Oktoberfest. I want sample the cuisine of the far East. I want to see the vineyards of Italy and France. I want to experience an English Christmas. I want to be an international citizen.