Sunday, December 03, 2006

John and Johnny

This is about my two favorite guys named John (or any other name). Son John is in Southeast Asia. Over the last year or so, John decided that he had made enough money and wanted to see the world. He sold the Ferrari and his condo in San Francisco, liquidated his share of U Street Lounge and quit his job. His goal is to travel and do some charity work along the way.

Here is John's first email home:

I am in Singapore, a small city state at the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia. There are three major ethnic groups here; Indian, Chinese, and Malay. The result has been an interesting mix of the three cultures, along with the British colonial influence. For example, everyone speaks his original language (Hindi, Mandarin, or Malay) and English as well. The people have been very nice and helpful. I am staying at a youth hostel called The Inn Crowd which is in the Little India neighborhood. (Apparently, 37 still counts as "youth".)

There are very few Americans visiting here, mostly people from England and Australia, with a sprinkling of other Europeans and a few Canadians. There is even a woman from Wales who spoke Welsh, and I got a little teasing for not knowing that Wales is a country. It’s strange how the city is decked out for Christmas. Christians are a small minority here, and yet the city is decorated with pine trees, candy canes, holiday music in every shop, and young women dressed in Santa outfits.

My itinerary is tentatively to travel up the west coast of Malaysia, into Thailand around Phuket for some diving. Then I’ll go into Burma/Myanmar, traveling up to Rangoon or maybe Mandalay. Then I will head to Bangkok, Thailand and fly to southern India to spend time at the school and orphanage in the Kerala area. My flight will return to Bangkok, and then I will probably get a one-way flight to Hanoi in North Vietnam, and travel down Vietnam to Saigan and the Mekong Delta. Then a slow boat up to Mekong through Cambodia and Laos, visiting places like Ankor Wat and Luang Prabang along the way, ending up in Bangkok again.

I have set up a Personal Travel Website at I will send you an email notification each time I update it. However, you need to agree to receive my Update Notices. To start the brief two-step process, click the following link and follow the instructions:

So far, everyone I’ve met seems to like America, but some don't like American people (ugly American stereotype) or American culture (McDonalds) or American foreign policy (Iraq). But that is not everyone. My new Brit friend Julian loves Starbucks and Hollywood movies, and he thinks American people are great as well. But it turns out that the British are almost as disliked as Americans by the Europeans, so we are in the same boat.

Interestingly, several people mentioned George Bush and assumed I did not vote for him since they have never met a single American who did. I guess that makes sense since most backpackers from the US are young liberal college kids. The rest of the world has really bought into the red state, blue state myth that all the smart people live on the coasts of America and are Democrats, and everyone in the middle are stupid hicks who voted for Bush. I am happy to crush their stereotype by explaining that I tend to vote Republican, and therefore for Bush, due to many issues such as school choice, lower taxes, individual retirement accounts, and a general preference for personal freedom and responsibility instead of equality and a nanny state. They don't really know where to go from there. Just meeting an articulate Bush voter with all their teeth already blows their minds.

That’s my boy!

Johnny Walton is my grandson (Carolynne’s boy) and is on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He is a Sergeant in the Army 82nd Airborne Division and a Kiowa helicopter mechanic. Here is his latest email.

Work has been more constant recently. Regardless of how hard I work, when I complete one task, something happens and there are five new problems to be fixed. I'm not complaining because I like to be challenged and it was a bit slow for a couple of weeks, but I'm ready for it to slow down again.

Yesterday we had a squadron football game, junior soldiers against the senior citizens. The old folks were no match for the youth of the unit. Final score: 23 juniors, 6 seniors. It was fun, but over too quickly.

Now, watching what little bit of news I can on the internet, I'm wondering what can be done to get control of what's happening here. I don't listen to everything in the news because a lot of it is distorted and really doesn't describe what Iraq is really like. I just hope there's more thought put into fixing this situation than just saving political positions. I honestly never agreed with this war, but it does me no use to complain about it and now that we've dug in I believe we need to fix it. When I get back I've got stories for you, things I can't put over the internet. Sorry I didn't write this email very well and it's all running together.

I feel bad asking for things for Christmas but I really just want some more books. I've been through eight so far and I've only got one more. I like books about things that can help me. Not saying they have to be non-fiction, but I'm not really interested in reading a story. My Mom and Dad bought me a guitar which I play every day. Making music is something I've always enjoyed doing. It helps me release everything and forget or deal with what's bothering me at the time. I could also use a drawing pad and pencils.

But, now I must go, work is calling. I’ll talk to you later, Love ya, Johnny.

Lee is packing up his Christmas boxes: chocolate chip cookies, books, drawing materials, beef jerky, baby wipes, batteries, phone cards,… all the things for an American hero in a strange and dangerous land.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were young and male I would do what John is doing. To me that is the second most beautiful part of the world. Naturally America is 1st but their culture etc is so different and also so beautiful.


9:29 PM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

12 04 06

Wow! What an interesting set of adventures the Johns of your family are having! You must be proud. Both are on a quest to help the world and have taken different paths to get there. Glad to know they are safe and doing well;)

10:26 AM  
Blogger fetching jen said...

What a noble young man John is. Bill, let me know what else he and his compatriots need. We up her in Sacramento would love to send some care packages! What kind of reading materials? Music books for guitar? Puzzles?

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill you must be so proud of your Grandson. What a man!!! My oldest son was in 82nd airborne. God bless and protect him and all the others.

I feel like I know your son and grandson. I am a bit jealous of John. I always wanted to travel like that.

Take care Bill,

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


My heart goes out to your grandson. I hope he and the rest of the troops can come home soon! As you said, God is in charge, and He will lead the Way.

God Bless,

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update. I have visited Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, specifically Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands, the islands of Lankawi and Panang. I found it to be a very enlightening cultural experience. I especially enjoyed the many Buddhist temples and the quiet coastal village setting of Panang. Lankawi has miles of remote beaches with small offshore islands. Cameron Highlands is a cool temperate region in the mountains where strawberries and roses are abundant. I miss the exotic fruit such as the Durian and Mangostein and the plentiful food vendors.

Thank you for sharing your stories—it was a walk down memory lane…


6:37 PM  

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