Motorbikes, Waterslides & Curry in a Yellow Submarine

Sorry to everyone for our lengthy silence—we’ve not been tramping in the jungle—just living a little too civilized here at Singapore.  At lunch today Max told me it was hard to blog when we are in S‘pore.  He said, “there’s not much to tell.  It’s not so exciting like other parts of our trip.”  I suggested that blogging is not just about the big adventures that we experience.  The trick is to find the story in the everyday. So here’s a blog I have been thinking about.

My ipod playlist is well stocked with Beatles.  The other day I was listening to The Yellow Submarine. On our homeschool expedition this year I am more keenly aware of the process of journey we are on together.  Just to remind you all the song goes something like this:

In the town where I was born,
There lived a man,
Who sailed the seas,
And he told us of his life,
In the land of Submarines,

So we sailed into the sun,
Till’ we found a sea of green,
And we lived beneath the waves,
In our yellow submarine,

-Chorus-

We all live in a yellow submarine,
A yellow submarine,
A yellow submarine.

There has been a subtle shift in thinking on this trip.  As the children are becoming more seasoned travelers, they have become less afraid, and I think more interested in the journey.   We are excited to sail the seas in our Yellow Submarine to a land beneath the waves.

One of the things I am most impressed by is the children’s interest in other people.  They are encountering other religions, styles of dress, foods, methods of cooking, eating, concept of beauty, status of men and women.  They like to see “Yellow Submarines” from other places.

This year, when they encounter another idea that is different than their own way of thinking—sometimes the response is curiosity rather than judgment.  In Cambodia we were astonished . “Look how that whole family is traveling on that motor scooter!  At home all children need to be in carseats!  I wonder if the little kids are scared?”

Our Yellow Submarine

The awareness that other people are traveling in “Yellow Submarines” is not new this year—this is a novelty of traveling that the kids love and the subject of many photographs.  But, what’s now just emerging is the self-awareness that we are in one too.

Last week we spent a lovely morning in a waterslide park in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Suntec Waterworld has pretty tame rides compared to Raging Waters, but seeing the diversity of the people was the real thrill.

Large family groups with women in black burqa and niqab (a full face veil) were having a great time.  The buqua is worn by some Muslim women in countries such as Saudi Arabia because they believe the face of a woman is considered awrahAwrah denotes the intimate parts of the body and are not meant to be seen in public.  Exposing the awrah is unlawful in Islam and is regarded as sin. The precise definition of awrah varies in schools of Islamic thought.

Many of the heavily veiled younger women were knee deep in the water holding tight to the hands of their children.  In contrast, their husbands (wearing western styled swim trunks) were free to swim and slide down the fast rides.

Emma and Max were both concerned about the discomfort and inconvenience of the burqa.  “It looks so hot” Max complained.  “If they want to keep their bodies private, why come out to a waterpark,” Emma questioned.  But why shouldn’t they enjoy the day with their families? It’s just our viewpoint that makes the burqa at the waterpark a problem.  I asked the kids to think about what my black racerback swimsuit looked like to the children of the burqa-covered mother.

Our Yellow Submarine must have laptop computers and black tea with milk.  We like to brush our teeth with mint toothpaste and eat fries with ketchup. Frogs are fun to catch and hold but not to eat.  These habits must make us strange to strangers but feel familiar to us.

Looking out a Porthole

Lunchtime was upon us (again).  Max said he really wanted Thai and Emma wished for Dim Sum.  So Josh and I split up and let the kids each have their preference.  When Max sat down at the table he said, “I really want Butter Chicken and Naan.”  Sorry Max– wrong cultural curry!  I was expecting him to be very mad and disappointed and in protest, just eat plain rice.  (This is what he would have done last year). But to my surprise, he asked if we could find a mild creamy curry with tofu.  We did and he and I happily ate our lunch.  I was very impressed that he was willing to look out his porthole and try something new.

Perhaps even at home in Corralitos we are traveling in a Yellow Submarine.  We spend our days inside our own predictable and safe submarine. Often we neglect to look beyond our comfort and noticing that the world beyond our view.

Josh and I were talking about this today.  He felt that one of the things that is so fun about traveling with the kids is that we get to see them looking out their portholes.  But even more — when we practice this level of engagement and attention — it reconnects us in the experience, and in life, in a much more interesting way.  He remembered this quote:

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Clearly it is true that our vision is limited.  As we look out the portholes we cannot see everything.  Our family is lucky enough to travel, but the lesson to look about us applies even at home- we have the power take our submarine to other places!  The changing view not only helps us to expand our view of what’s outside—but also enlarges our understanding of what’s inside.

Sky of blue
And sea of green
In our yellow
Submarine

-Chorus-

We all live in a yellow submarine,
A yellow submarine
A yellow submarine….

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