The Liberty Gazette
May 15, 2018Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Along the coast of Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, in a pedestrian section of cute boutiques is the Edmonds Bookshop. On our post-coffee shop stroll, we stepped inside to browse. Several titles interested me, but one stopped me in my tracks. A black and white hardback faced me from the top shelf. The cover art depicts a young woman looking out large windows onto the ramp of a major airport, jets taxiing and parking at gates. The picture grabbed my attention. The title made me curious: Imagine Wanting Only This*. I had to know, what did the woman in the airport want?
Sixteen days in Southeast Asia netted sixteen condensed stories, from the unsurprising diversion of our flight avoiding North Korean air space to stories of healing and discovering our sameness with people of different cultures.
Shortly after returning, we began planning our next trip –Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. This was similar to the trip we booked when Hurricane Harvey drowned more than our plans. At some point it hit me: I’ve never set out to visit all the places of genocide, but I can check many off the list.
Imagine being forced to leave your home, wanting only to go back to the way things were. You may know this yearning if your home was destroyed by Harvey. Home, as it was. Life, as it was, before tragedy upended your world.
The author is young and in a different place in her journey, yet I relate to her wish that cannot be. After the death of a close family member, she was drawn to places of pain and uncertainty. Many of the same places I have been. In her grief she replayed memories, coming to grips with the fact that things would be different from that moment on.
Like the people of Cambodia who suffered grisly tortures and death at the hands of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge communist gang; like Laotians whose lives were mutilated at the will of the Pathet Lao; like the good people of Saigon whose own countrymen, and sometimes own family members, forced communism and death upon them.
When survivors returned to Phnom Penh, they began to rebuild. The arts community led the way in healing. They taught their traditions to a new generation to keep their culture from extinction.
Or consider the case of Vietnamese who lived north of Saigon. When their families were allowed to leave the north, many had to rebuild their lives from nothing. Much of what we saw in Saigon was born out of desperation, compulsion to create something new when going home is not an option.
As Kristen traveled in search of meaning, she observed the phenomenon. People would rise again, build, start over, and live however they could manage. But behind them would always be those memories of the time before it all happened. And she imagined wanting only to come home again, as it was. An apropos wrap for our Southeast Asia series.
*Radtke, Kristen. Imagine Wanting Only This. New York: Pantheon Books, 2017.