I am a 75-year-old man who lives in Thailand with my 30-year-old wife. One day, we may have a child. I would like to have my child learn from my mistakes and to glean the positive aspects of my experience.
I would tell my child that my life was not easy. At age eight, during the Second World War, I had to testify against my mother in court. My father won custody, but because he couldn’t afford to keep us, he sent us three children to an orphanage. Mean nuns, poor food, loneliness, and bullies were my daily fare.
At seventeen, I dropped out of high school to join the army paratroopers. The Korean War was over when I got there in 1956, but Seoul was still a bombed-out shell of a city. I loss good friends, due to landmines. This still haunts me. Poverty in Korea at that time made an indelible mark on my soul. Teen-aged girls sold sex so the family could eat. Kimchi was made with the most plentiful meat—rats. The American army shot children who were climbing over our fences to get food from our garbage cans. They would do this at night when one could not tell if it was a North Korean trying to infiltrate or a child seeking food. An officer in charge once told me, “Don’t freak! She was just a gook.”
My memoir will show my child how my life was an adventure. My hitchhiking throughout North America, Europe, North Africa, and Asia presented me wonderful experiences. I also hopped freight trains to cross the USA. Some of the highlights of these adventures were teaching in a one-room school with no electricity or running water in Canada (grades 1 through 8). This school was a hundred miles, on a dirt road, from the nearest town. I also taught English in Papua New Guinea for two years, in China for four years (I have many stories about China in 1990), and other countries for a year or less.
My story will tell how in Missouri I built a house from scratch with oak trees cut from my property and cut into lumber by a portable saw mill. The entire house was built for under $1,000.
Marriage has provided me with an unusual insight into relationships, and I want to share these. My six marriages to very different cultures and different personalities have given me a wealth of perspective. I never married a bad woman and am still friends with all of them. I am having the best time of my life now in Thailand with my wonderful Thai wife.
Maybe other people would like to hear my story other than my future child. One must remember when bad things happen: “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)
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