We gained a lot from our work in SE Asia. The most important was our questioning of how people made sense of the world…how they acquired and processed knowledge…the role of enculturation in this. As foreigners we were referred to as white ni**ers. We were assured that we were good white ni**ers, but ni**ers nonetheless…a lower form of life. We got to know discrimination from the inside out. This did not bother us, although it did affect many aspects of how we were able to live there. So how did people come to these conclusions? …what had we taken for granted growing up in our own culture(s)? How could we effectively educate people in our native land now that we were returning there with understanding and compassion? It was clear that we no longer accepted the values of our culture but through having become enculturated overseas we were internally of two very different worlds, able to see the world from two distinct and radically different points of view. We no longer bought the lies on which we had been raised.
After applying and traveling for three months upon our return Carol found a job teaching. With the collapse of agriculture in the 1980’s I was virtually unemployable in that field at the time. Looking for a place to live we answered an ad; the landlord’s name was Walt. It was a red brick duplex made from the first story of an old dairy barn on several acres of land, mostly in fields and forest. He lived in half and rented the other half. It was a delightful setting. We hit it off immediately when we met him. He desperately wanted us to move in. So we did. And over the next couple of years we worked at healing one another. As we got to know one another we started having long talks about our lives. He worked as a print man at a large newspaper, going to work at night, running the paper for the next morning’s distribution. He too had had overseas experiences that had affected him his entire life; he had been a Marine and fought hand-to-hand on Okinawa in WW II. Now a widower he drank heavily. He often told stories with tears in his eyes. He was a huge man. And he was violently against all war, a veteran for peace.
It was interesting, he went overseas to change people through war and we went overseas to offer peace and development, but many of our questions and insights and conclusions were of the same cut of cloth in the end. And he fell in love with our daughter who had been born in SE Asia. He would do anything for her. He often took her for walks through his gardens and read stories to her while seated on his colossal-sized knee in his gazebo, his hand totally enveloping hers so gently. He wired a shop for me to start a woodworking business there on his property, so I became a business owner and worked there into the night after my wife came home from teaching, eventually making sand blasted wood signs.
And our next door neighbour was of the same experience as Walt, but of my generation. He had been a Green Beret who now vocally and forcefully opposed all war…another veteran for peace. And he and his wife took to us immediately as well. He would die only a few years later from cancer linked to the use of Agent Orange.
Eventually over the net couple of years I began to look at graduate programs that studied the underlying psychology of religious practise. I interviewed with Bernie Spilka but found his then-statistical approach to be far too sterile to answer my questions in applied epistemology.
Walt taught me how to raise honeybees.
We felt like strangers in our own country; we felt like the sky was the limit. We felt like we had treasure in earthen vessels; we felt like we had new wine in old wineskins.
What to do next?