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LifeStory Episode 20

Updated: Apr 1



Blog Host, Marcia Rosen.

Author of “My Gangster Father and Me,”

Available May 2024 at Independent Bookstores and on Amazon.com

 

Also, Author of 12 books, including My Memoir Workbook, has presented numerous Memoir and Mystery Writing Programs for nearly 20 years.


LIVING MY CHILDHOOD DREAM…

…TWENTY-THREE COUNTRIES…SO FAR. (Edited Version)

BY

JONATHAN FEINN

 

 

I’m a gay man who had an active fantasy life beginning in my early childhood. In my thirties, I took my first trip to Thailand. I found the warmth of the Thai people irresistible in spite of my inability to speak Thai. I soon observed the apparent ease Thai men were able to express their pleasure in friendships with other men. It was very common to see young men with their arms around their friends, walking arm-in-arm down the streets, teasing one another, and enjoying their friendships- so different from my experiences growing up in America where any demonstration of overt affection toward other men is automatically linked to sexuality. On that first trip to Thailand in winter, I remember how much I appreciated the warm climate, the beauty of the beaches and the delicious foods and fruits I had never eaten before.

 

One of my most memorable trips was to Morocco where I lived for several days in a tent on the Sahara Desert. The beauty of the changing desert at differing hours of the day and evening and the shifting sands in differing colors and shadows lingers forever in my memory. From time to time, I saw several camel drivers whose bodies were covered in thick blankets to protect them from the intense sun. One morning a small group of us traveled by camel to the tent home of an indigenous family who lived on the desert. This was my first experience riding a camel. Though it took several efforts to mount the ‘beast’, I loved the experience, however, there were several times when the camel lurched forward to snatch some insignificant green weed and I feared I’d fall off. When we arrived at the tent home, I couldn’t quite believe it was possible for a family to live successfully in such a remote setting.

 

I was very surprised to see an irrigated field of healthy- looking green plants in rows where vegetables were growing happily together. The family had a horse, some goats and two lambs. I discovered the young daughter made small models of differing animals from scraps of wood and bits of colored cloth her mother obviously provided for her. I was aware the family were all dressed in hand-made clothing and was quite amazed at the girl’s creativity, noting the animals she created were placed at the edge of the tent and for sale. The horse in the collection I selected has no traditional saddle, but tiny silver-colored beads had been glued in the shape of a saddle. It’s one of my ‘treasures’ which sits on a shelf in our bedroom containing remembrances from many of the trips I’ve taken.

 

One of the most significant trips took place in my early fifties when I returned to Thailand after recovering from a heart attack and bypass surgery. It was in Bangkok that I met a younger man who to my surprise was not Thai but Sri Lankan. We’ve now been together for thirty-five years and were married in 2014. I’ve been to Sri Lanka to meet his family and was touched by the beauty and ambiance of this island country.

 

I’m very fortunate so far to have visited 23 countries living at times with families in differing cultures. My career as a teacher offered me opportunities to travel during school breaks and summer. Though I was aware of my attraction to young men in different cultures, I never shared my ‘secret’ with any of the families. Now in my eighties, my passion for traveling continues unabated and there are several countries still on my ‘bucket’ list.  Travel for me is exciting, educational and brings me much joy. Travel brings pleasure and expands our life experiences. Among the many lessons I learned in living with the families and speaking with interesting people in differing cultures is that all people strive to reach the same goals, to find satisfaction in work and acceptance and love from their family members and friends.  

***

Jonathan holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and was trained to serve both as a teacher and administrator providing guidance to staff and to children and adolescents with identified emotional disturbance and behavior disorders. He has served as a consultant to differing programs in both public and private school settings and was the director of a high school off campus learning center serving students who required part-time placement outside the main building. He has held faculty positions at National College in Evanston, Illinois, and Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania where he taught students studying for both master’s degrees and state certification. Prior to his retirement, he taught gifted elementary students in a ‘pull-out’ program. He is currently retired and continues his love of travel. To date, he has visited 23 countries where he developed meaningful and lasting friendships with people in differing settings throughout the world.

Jonathan Feinn, Feinnj1@msn.com 




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Charlene Dietz
Charlene Dietz
Apr 02
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Hi, Jonathan. As a fellow traveler and educator, your article brought back memories. I loved Morocco and the Iberian peninsula; however, I've never been to Thailand. My friends who have, say it's a wonderful place. I suspect as administrators and educators, if we were together we would converse for hours. Thank you for sharing some of your worldly journeys as well as a small part of your personal one. Charlene Bell Dietz

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