Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Armchair World Tour with Jill Dobbe



Who says you can’t travel with kids?  My husband, Dan, and I do just that as we set off with our two very young kids, first to live and work on an island far out in the Pacific, then on to the continent of Africa with a few stops in between.  Armed with strollers, diapers, and too much luggage, we travel to over 25 countries throughout a 10-year span, while working together as overseas educators. After surviving typhoon Yuri, almost being mauled by lions, and, nearly shot by a presidential guard, we happily endure all of the good times and bad, while living life to the fullest.  A decade’s worth of experiences and lifelong memories remain with us, as we return to the U.S., now with two teenagers in tow, and begin to experience our very own version of reverse culture shock.

I wrote this book mainly because I wanted to share our many travel stories with others who are contemplating living and teaching overseas or enjoy traveling, with or without children.  I want others to know that it can be done if you are willing to make it happen and are open to living a life full of adventures. 


Since writing her first memoir about her travels, Jill Dobbe has lived in Cairo, Egypt, Gurgaon, India, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where she now resides with her husband.  A Shawano, Wisconsin native, Jill continues to work as an elementary administrator overseas and writes on the side. Her two children are now adults and continue to travel on their own.  Every June, they all meet up together at their home on a lake in Wisconsin. Connect with Jill:     www.facebook/JillDobbeAuthor
Publisher: Orange Hat Publishing, Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
190 pp
ISBN: 9781937165215
c. 2012
$5.99 eBook
Buy from all online retailers
My review:Educator Jill Dobbe, along with her husband Dan, recount their journey to live and teach and visit all over the world. Thirty countries later, Jill shares this not-quite-over memoir of life abroad.

Beginning in 1991 in Guam, Dobbe discusses the culture, tidbits tourists would miss about living among different cultures – for instance, although tourism is a major trade in Guam, the beaches are dangerous. The first ten years and four countries of working overseas, Jill taught elementary school and Dan high school science. It wasn’t easy adjusting, especially as different cultures treat education much differently. Discipline, language, lifestyle, and childcare were all issues the Dobbes had to deal with.

Jill relates several lessons about traveling and working, such as most people wait months and months for household shipments to arrive and pass through customs; by which time the items arrive, they are nearly forgotten or the Dobbes had learned to do without.

Some of the more quirky, frightening and poignant experiences of Guam, Singapore, Ghana, and Mexico include having to pinch pennies until the first payday and needing to sell off possessions and keeping or throwing out even teaching materials, a babysitter who wanted to take one child on a family visit in another country; living through natural disasters of earthquakes and hurricanes; two attempted adoptions; maps that mean nothing, uniforms in daycare, needing day and night guards, shopping, shopping, shopping, lizards, cockroaches, and touring all over the work during holidays and vacations.

The Dobbes raised their children from one-year-old Ali and two-year-old Ian for ten years overseas. When the children were old enough to be in school, life got a little easier, and Jill wrote many times about how grateful she was to raise her kids globally. From 2001-2007 the Dobbes experienced a reverse culture shock in the craziest of all lifestyles—American—while they lived and worked in Wisconsin until Ian graduated from high school. After that, they returned to work overseas in Egypt and India.

While Here We Are and There We Go is primarily a memoir, I enjoyed the universal appeal of Dobbe’s story. Wisconsinites do tend to feel as though we need nothing else to complete us, and I well understood her complaints of enduring the usual Wisconsin questions, why would you want to go there, why are you doing that, how can you take you kids so far away? We don’t deal with things like cat scratch fever and mango fly infestations too commonly in the States.

Experiencing life in many cultures isn’t for everyone, but Jill’s experiences of meeting celebrities like Jane Goodall and the Clintons, seeing humpback whales, learning different languages and adapting to the most unusual customs wherever they went is like a vicarious world tour. Throughout it all, her main lesson is: “Home is not the material place but the refuge where we spent time together.”

Readers who love to experience different lifestyles, even from an armchair, will find much to treasure in Here We Are and There We Go.

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