Local residents share experiences as world travelers
By Nick Longworth
Maurice and Carolyn Spangler discussed recent trips taken to Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma) and other countries at a Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning presentation Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Open to all community members, the two-hour presentation discussed two trips taken by the couple during November and March of 2012.
Along their travels, the couple visited such cities as HaNoi, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Hoyang and Mekong Delta.
Carolyn Spangler – braving a broken foot sustained while playing with her grandkids – began the presentation by sharing personal reactions to the trip. Maurice then followed by offering a brief political and geographical history lesson. The couple finished the presentation together by showing pictures and answering questions from interested attendants.
Among the topics discussed were food and religion.
“I love the colors, the clothing and the jewelry was beautiful. I went crazy over it. Their food is out of this world, just the best I think,” said Carolyn. “They have a beautiful presentation when they serve food. The only thing we didn’t eat was uncooked vegetables, fearing they may not have been cleaned properly. But we managed to stay healthy and had no problems.”
“Religion is very important throughout the entire area, of course, to varying degrees,” Maurice said. “Indians brought in Hinduism and Buddhism and eventually Islam. Now Indonesians and Malaysians are mostly Muslim.”
From day one, some cultural differences were glaringly apparent.
“One interesting thing was how to cross a street. Almost everybody rides scooters, really fast through intersections and without stopping. But we were advised that if you want to cross, you should look for major traffic, of course, but just start walking across the street and don’t stop for anyone. It kind of frightened me!” Carolyn said.
“Apparently the people riding on the scooters time out your walking pace and if you stop, that’s when it really screws everything up,” Maurice said.
Differences in education, hygiene and environment were also noticed.
“In Vietnam, I think the education system is good. We saw colleges and schools around. All of our guides had a college education. But Myanmar was not so good. Children may learn to read, but they don’t have much formal education,” Carolyn said.
“The Vietnamese are the hardest working people I have ever seen, they are the ultimate capitalists. But dental hygiene is not very advanced and is a problem. It looks like it has been for a long time,” Maurice said. “The air pollution was so bad in Hanoi that I had to double up on my asthma medication and even use an emergency inhaler, which I would never use here.”
The trip, although picturesque and perfectly planned, did not come without its share of interesting moments.
“One day we couldn’t find our hotel so we walked around looking for it, which in a way was fun because we had a chance to just walk around the city by ourselves. One boy asked us, “do you want drugs?” and another wanted to give us a ride on his scooter to our hotel. We didn’t do either,” Carolyn said.
“We also saw the prison where John McCain was held prisoner. It was interesting to see how their propaganda spun it. They made it seem like an exhibit on how well the soldiers were treated there,” Maurice said.
The Spanglers insist that anyone interested in international travel visit Southeast Asia, citing not only it’s beauty, but also its overall cost effectiveness.
“The biggest expense was just getting there, once we were there the hotel was only like $15 a night,” Maurice said.
No strangers to traveling, the Spangler’s have been to Honduras, Bangladesh, China, Russia, Iceland, Mexico, Costa Rica and other countries.
Still, Southeast Asia remains an ideal destination for travel, one that they would frequent again.
“It’s a beautiful country with wonderful people and was a very enjoyable visit,” Carolyn said. “At one moment I thought ‘this is something straight out of National Geographic’, I mean, how many people get to see this and take pictures? I would go back in a second.”
The Spanglers previously did a presentation for the Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning on a trip they took to China in June of 2008.
“We have a wide range of topics; presenters relate to the audience,” said Marty Leistikow, board chairman of the 501c3 non-profit organization.
“People always come away saying ‘I learned something new,’ HCLL belongs to the community; it’s of this community and for this community,” Leistikow said. “We’re somewhat unique in Minnesota being that lots of communities have programs like this, but they are usually tied to a college whereas our group is a standalone and independent group. It just works.”