Due to the nature and layout of this book I have taken the uncommon step of reviewing it section by section. Consequently, this is a slightly longer than normal review.
As frequently mentioned, reading, unless of technical or scientific material, is a subjective experience. Consequently, a reviewer’s comments and observations tend to reflect how the account/story impacted upon them personally as opposed to it being an objective technical exegesis.
‘Here We Are & There We Go’ is a personal account of the author’s experiences whilst, together with her husband and children, on teaching assignments in a variety of countries. During the reading of this tale you may well agree with some of their relatives, who thought them crazy to undertake such a lifestyle with their two young children; one and two years old at the start.
In the prologue Jill Dobbe effectively shares how, having been born and brought up in a provincial town, she has a desire to travel and see the world; the reader will find themselves empathising with her. However, before she can put any of her plans into practice she marries her soulmate and has two young children. Fortunately, her husband turns out to have similar desires and with both of them feeling restless, they ultimately venture out into overseas teaching assignments: both are qualified teachers.
Before continuing, a personal note: I confess to being a little disappointed. Having travelled fairly extensively I anticipated reading detailed accounts of landscapes, architecture, culture, history, social conditions and lifestyles of indigenous people in countries I had not visited. Though there is some of this in places it is limited. The tale is primarily, and was intended to be, about the family themselves. I had obviously taken the wrong approach and once realised undertook a second speed read through the story. Having set aside my preconception I was able to enjoy this account of a family’s adventures and experiences.
Their adventures commence on the island of Guam in the Pacific and moves to Singapore. In these chapters the reader is taken from occurrence to occurrence in quick succession. There are some descriptions of how local inhabitants celebrate certain events; what is considered bad mannered; and how daily life, such as shopping, was conducted. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to treat the reader to more details about the places themselves. For example, Singapore and adjoining Malaya have much to see and enjoy. Tiger Balm Gardens, in Singapore, are mentioned but no description of this unusual and intriguing place is given. There is also a quick reference to ‘exotic’ flowers but no mention of the myriad of different and wonderful orchids which are grown and cultivated in the area. But, as previously mentioned, the reader must bear in mind this is primarily an account of the family’s ‘personal’ experiences.
The third chapter, containing an account of the family’s five year stay in Ghana, Africa is very different and absorbing. It quickly becomes apparent they loved being there and the reader has a greater sense of involvement as the author shares their enthusiasm for the country and culture. How the scenery takes the breath away and how the locals deal, fairly or unfairly, with perceived wrong doing are but a couple of the qualities that come through.
The next chapter deals with the family’s stay in Mexico, which they choose on this occasion because it meant a less arduous journey to and from their home in Wisconsin. No longer would they endure twenty-four hour flights and could in fact drive to and from their home. It was also nice, as Jill points out, they were in the same hemisphere and consequently did not have to get up in the middle of the night to telephone their relatives at a reasonable hour for them.
The fifth chapter is very interesting as it highlights a condition few would have contemplated: ‘Reverse Culture Shock’. The family had been away from the United States for so long the children really had little idea of what life there was like and their parents had virtually forgotten. Jill Dobbe’s description of this reverse culture shock creates a feel for what they were undergoing. It, honestly, shows how easy it is to be quickly drawn into what is considered acceptable and necessary for life, whereas in fact many of the so called ‘necessities’ are nothing of the sort. She compares how they lived life without these items in foreign countries and got on well enough, even though it was uncomfortable at times. Certainly anyone who is contemplating, or has undertaken, such a life would do well to read this chapter before attempting to return to and resettle in their homeland no matter where that may be; the principles apply in general to all life styles, cultures and societies.
Besides recording experiences in the countries they stayed in the book contains additional information regarding journey stopovers. These are shared in chronological order though it may have been easier, for the reader, if they had been collated into a separate chapter.
As mentioned some relatives thought Jill and her husband crazy and irresponsible for taking their children into such an adventures life. Several could not even comprehend their desire to live in foreign countries, especially those not having the facilities they took for granted. This tends to be the general attitude of those who have lived in rural and provincial locations all their lives. Nonetheless, it should be acknowledged, difficult as it may have been, by enduring the hardships and difficulties these parents have provided their children with a broad, multicultural education and upbringing which will probably benefit them throughout their lives.
The writing style provides the reader with a sense of the author’s own voice. Should they subsequently meet her there is an intimation any conversation would simply be a continuance of the read.
For those considering a similar lifestyle this would be an interesting and informative read.
I give a three stars (3*) rating. If you are not a regular reader of my reviews, you may like to read ‘Assessing Book Review Ratings’ to understand my take on ratings.
The book is available in both paperback and e-formats: