Columns

2009.03.25 Tom has the travel bug

on . Posted in By The Way

My brother, Tom, must have made the mistake of asking if I needed any help while he visited last week. Of course I suggested that he write a column. He accomplished the task while riding the train between Jackson and Chicago.


By TOM GREEN

This year’s flu shot did a good job at keeping away illness but it didn’t prevent the travel bug from seeping back into the blood of my wife and me. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to return to Southeast Asia to teach for two years at Jakarta International School in Indonesia.

From 1999-2002, Ginny and I taught at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, allowing our family the chance to explore and experience living in another culture as well as traveling extensively throughout Southeast Asia.

Now that our two daughters are established in college, this seemed like an excellent time to make another foray to further experience and travel in this area of the world we came to love.

Indonesia is a country made up of approximately 17,500 islands. We will be living on the second largest of them, Java, amidst 13 million other people in the capital city of Jakarta. Most of the islands are heavily populated, as Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world.

The country is predominately Muslim, making it the answer to a trivia question: What is the Muslim country with the largest population? Ginny and I look forward to exploring the islands and the surrounding waters. Indonesia offers some of the world’s finest coral reefs, a natural resource that is rapidly shrinking.

Knowing I would be out of the country for a while, I took advantage of my current school’s spring break and traveled back home to Morenci to visit family. I found cheap flights from my home in Minnesota to Chicago and booked Amtrak from Chicago’s Union Station to Jackson’s train depot, which I found out to be the second oldest train depot still in use in the country!

If you aren’t worried about arrival time, Amtrak is a great way to travel. The tracks between Chicago and Jackson pass by the steel plants of Gary, hug the Lake Michigan coast, often follow rivers, and wind their way through woods and farms of southern Michigan.

I took along a GPS unit and discovered Amtrak occasionally reaches over 80 miles per hour, but more often it’s not going quite that fast. Apparently the freights rule the rails, as we had to stop once in a while to let other trains through.

Here are a few suggestions to make your Amtrak trip more comfortable: be flexible on your arrival time, the temperature varies so dress in layers, and pack a lunch for the best food.

It was good to be back in my hometown. Some things always remain the same and others are shocking to the occasional visitor. I can’t get used to Parker Rust Proof disappearing from sight. I remember as a child PRP being such a massive structure and now there is no evidence that it actually existed. I remember one school year when students were bussed there during a tornado warning. It was the only time I was ever inside the complex. I did spend a lot of time biking on Mill Street, occasionally stopping to release some pressure on the brake valves on the train cars.

I got in some hikes along the Bean last week, admiring the annual spring-cleaning by the floodwaters. David and I discovered some areas of fossil laden pebbles newly exposed by the flood. Returning from Riverside Park, I stopped for a visit to the Old Cemetery, once with my brother and once with my sister. Each time we left with many questions. Was there an influenza epidemic in 1847 that accounts for the many deaths that year? How can there be a grave as old as 1810? Is there a record of the burials? How many of the trees were planted after it became a graveyard? History is quickly eroding away on those old gravestones.

Once I satiate my travel bug in Asia, I will be back to Morenci’s Old Cemetery to feed my history bug. It seems no matter where I travel—to Java, the historic Jackson depot, Bean Creek, or the old cemetery—there are discoveries waiting to be made.

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