Have you ever wanted to chuck it all and just travel the world? That’s what Jill Dobbe and her husband Dan did, going from country to country, teaching in schools.
From their first stop in Guam to the last stop in Mexico, Here We Are and There We Go chronicles the adventures of a globe-trotting family. The book reads as if the author is sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, telling about the amazing vacation she took. It has a folksy charm about it.
Their initial stint as teachers in Guam was peppered with fears of robbery. They worried that taking a walk in the middle of the night was not as safe as it had been stateside. What follows in this book is ten years of interesting anecdotes in different countries. Japan is a whirlwind of American food and Tokyo Disneyland. In Singapore, they throw a Christmas party for their friends, only to have the party crashed by Christian missionaries intent on converting someone. Also in Singapore, they live the heartbreaking story of adopting a child, only to have her die three weeks later.
Key details are occasionally left out. This doesn’t so much hamper the reader’s understanding of the book, but it does make one wonder why the author omitted them. For example, when Dobbe tells of learning about Shoichi Yakoi, the Japanese soldier found living in the jungles of Guam in 1972, there is no mention of why he was there or why he had evaded capture for so long: twenty-eight years later, he thought World War II was still going on. The inclusion of this detail would have made the story so much more interesting.
When I first encountered this book, I thought it would be much like “Learning to Bow” by Bruce Feiler – a recounting of his experiences during a teaching stint in Japan. Dobbe’s book contains many more anecdotes, more descriptions of her family’s attempts to adapt, and fewer introspective passages. That style seems to fit the subject matter, and the long span of time covered, well.
There are some choice moments in the book. Her children grow up to be multi-lingual travelers themselves. And then there is this gem: ““I have become much more empathetic and appreciative of other cultures that exist in the world. Through my many travels and experiences I have come to understand that America is not the “best” country on the globe as I was always raised to believe.” It would be nice if more people in the world came to this kind of understanding.
I felt the book could have benefitted from a round with a professional editor. While the errors were not too distracting, it did have a very few grammatical and formatting issues. However, I believe that readers interested in world travel will enjoy this book heartily, like a rich and personal afternoon spent with a friend.