Photo Of My Father

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a tropical paradise. The island of Borneo is an exotic island and I always thought of my childhood in that way. My mind drifts back and forth to memories that are triggered as I focus on the old black and white photograph in my hand. My father was instrumental in my life, and I felt so proud of him. The photograph was taken while he was in England in the 1950’s, when he had won a 5-year scholarship to study law. It was unusual at that time for an Asian man to be included in the prestigious college he attended. My father was a well-dressed, tall, dark man with a broad smile. He had curly hair, from his Sri Lankan roots, which he slicked back with a sticky gel, like they did at that time. He lit up any room and was a real gentleman. In the photo my father is posing crouched down, wearing a suit and tie, and a boyish smile that draws you in. He had his whole life in front of him. In the background there’s a park with people and in the distance part of an old stone building with a spire.

My father was in his 20’s at the time the photograph was taken, when Britain still colonized much of the world including Borneo. The Japanese arrived in Borneo in 1946 and plundered the land. I remember my father telling me that one day, at age 16, there was no more school. The war ravaged on for some years. Then came the day the Japanese soldiers came to his house to take his father away. They had falsely suspected he was a spy. That would be the last time he saw him.

I put my glasses on to really inspect my father’s face in the photograph. His face did not reflect any of the burdens of the war in the 5 years prior, nor the grief of losing both his parents and a brother. What I see instead is the kindness in his heart and the compassion he felt for all people. I feel his sense of adventure and having a purpose in life. He knew how fortunate he was to have the opportunity presented to him. He approached it with courage and fearlessness.

As I glance again, I wonder who took the picture. I am most fortunate to be able to still ask him that question. Now at age 93, my father still has that same boyish smile.

I take a closer look at the photograph. I thought that my father’s face would reflect the bitterness and trauma from the war 5 years prior. As I search his face for any sign, I find nothing. Instead, it is the opposite – his face shows a softness, full of love and kindness. No revenge or blame is evident for losing his parents and brother. What I see instead is the kindness in his heart and the compassion he felt for all people. I feel his sense of adventure and having a purpose in life. He knew how fortunate he was to have the opportunity presented to him. He looked forward with courage, fiercely taking on the opportunity at hand with resilience, fearlessness and determination.

Adventures in Travel

Beautiful islands emerged out of the calm tropical sea. My family owned a small boat with a 40HP engine that we took out onto the ocean. In those days we would just drive the boat up to the shore and planted the anchor right onto the soft sands.

Clambering over the rocks with my father when I was young as we walked around the islands, holding his hand in the warmth of the sun is a moment I will not forget.

During one conversation he said how it was during the war, when the Japanese bombers would come down low.

Engines roared. Plane rides were exciting to me. Until the day an engine exploded on take off.

Flash-forward to now, I have a flying phobia. But I don’t let that stop me traveling to far-flung places.

Granada, Spain, had a small airport. I was reluctant to fly into it. I looked up plane crashes to discover there hadn’t been any. But I wanted to be safe anyway, so I flew into Madrid and took the five-hour train ride.

Houses perched delicately upon cliffs, colorful in the setting-sun hours, picturesque as we sailed the azure waters of Cinque Terra.

I was happy once I reached the summit, my altitude sickness faded into thin air.

Junk food is not my forte and when I’m traveling I eat as healthily as I can. Thailand and Vietnam suit me most, local pho or white rice with chicken. It’s different for me now since I became a vegan.

Kaleidoscopic sunset colors in Costa Rica reminded me of those in my hometown in Asia. Same latitude.

Longing for something a little different I took a trek to Iceland with my daughter.

Meeting like-minded travelers finds one talking to people you would never otherwise talk to.

Necessary, that when in Kingston, visit the home of the great Bob Marley.

Orphanages were everywhere in Cambodia. I visited one and made a donation to buy a school desk and computer.

Perfect visibility provided the best diving in Tahiti. It was my honeymoon. My son was conceived.

Quiet and contemplative was the moment I lay in the soft snow after a fall in the Swiss Alps, my skis nowhere to be seen.

Realizing there I was in Paris, and that that it had been 30 years since I last saw Rodin’s Le Ponseur.

Sometimes when I travel I bring my own pillow.

To travel is to change up your routine and your mind-set.

Unexpected weather forced us to abort a landing during a typhoon in Hong Kong reinforcing my fear of flying.

Very often I find myself afraid. My father told me he didn’t fear anything. We were different in that way.

Winding up in California may have been the best thing I did.

Xtapa, Mexico, I had to have a Bloody Mary before boarding the flight.

You only get one life. Live it.

Zigzagging along hiking trails is my daily ritual. I get the same feeling as traveling.