And She Sounded Like Don Quixote
I have written over three dozen essays about the effects that my mentor, Don Quixote, has had upon me for several decades. Don Quixote, which was essentially an autobiography by Miguel Cervantes, is a story about a knight-errant that dreamed seemingly impossible dreams as he joisted with his windmills. Over twenty years ago, my daughter was in Spain and asked me what I wanted her to bring back from Spain as a gift. All that I wanted was a picture of Don Quixote. While she was in Spain, a friend of hers did this pen and ink drawing of the knight-errant. It is one of my treasures.
However, this isn't the Don Quixote riding toward a windmill but rather a defeated knight-errant. Interestingly, this drawing is actually a pictorial expression of a lesson that we all need to learn. We will often be defeated like he was. Nonetheless, get up and fight the next windmill.
I have learned my mentor's lesson. "Campbell, you won't be successful all the time. That is a given. In spite of that, don't quit." I listened and haven't quit, even when failure stares me in the face.
Case in point. I went to Myanmar for a long list of reasons a couple of years ago. However, at the top of my list was to sit down with the Lady, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and interview her. I can't name a rival of hers in the entire world when it comes to fighting for human rights. There is no one. The Lady has paid an extremely high price for her dedication to human rights in Myanmar. She lived under house arrest for years and paid emotionally and physically for her joisting with the military dictatorship in Myanmar for decades.
I tried for months, prior to leaving the States for Myanmar, to contact someone who was able to get my request to her. But, it was to no avail. I failed. I know how Don Quixote felt when he failed as he joisted with windmills.
While in Myanmar, I tried many additional times and failed again. However, one of my guides, Moh Moh, and I had long discussions about my desire to talk with the Lady. She understood what my dashed dreams felt like. After my return to the States, Moh Moh and I would exchange emails every couple weeks.
In one of the email exchanges, I mentioned that I was interviewed by a committee about a job that I wanted. I told them that I wanted to find a part-time job in a church so that I could return to Myanmar. Interestingly, I believed that I had something to offer some struggling church. I had danced with death twice and knew about the struggle to stay alive. Most of the churches were dying on the vine themselves. It would be like Lazarus helping them come alive, which would benefit them. However, I would have additional income to return to Myanmar. There were things that I needed to do in Myanmar including interview the Lady. After talking with the committee for an hour or more, they said that they were going to look into my request and get back to me.
My meeting with the committee took place over two years ago. I haven't received a call, email, or letter from the committee. As a consequence, I wrote to Moh Moh about this joisting with this windmill at which I failed. In Moh Moh's reply, essentially she sounded like Don Quixote. She didn't want me to give up with my dream to interview Aung San Suu Kyi. It was as if Moh Moh was saying what Don Quixote said in The Impossible Dream.
And besides, Ti Ti, Moh Moh's daughter was looking forward to beating me again at Scrabble. The first time we played, I lost. I'm old enough to be her grandfather, playing an American game in Myanmar with a 9-year-old in my language, and I still lost.
It was then that my hauntings began. If I failed a couple years ago, what am I doing differently now? I told Moh Moh and all my friends in Myanmar about my seemingly impossible dream. The only difference this time was that many more people were contacted. However, that didn't seem enough.
Then it dawned upon me. I emailed Tin Htun, a friend of mine who was one of my tour guides in Myanmar, for Lady's address in Yangon. I emailed Tin and then began a long letter to Aung San Suu Kyi. Then the hauntings continued. In my letter to her, I included a handful of links to my website. What I needed was to send her not a regular letter but an email. In that way, she could merely click on the various links. However, I didn't have her email address. The hauntings continued. Nevertheless, I recalled being told while in Yangon that the US Embassy was next to or at least near to the Lady's home. Therefore, I would write an email to the ambassador and request him to forward my enclosed email to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Then the haunting again began. The American ambassador doesn't know me. We never met. Then it came to me, my congressman, Rep. Pete Visclosky, helped me before when I was teaching an American college class in China for several weeks. We traveled all over China and Tibet for nearly an entire month and were ready to leave China to return home. However, somehow my name appeared on a watch-list in China. Finally, everything was resolved, thanks to his help.
Therefore, I asked Rep. Visclosky to forward my email to the American ambassador in Yangon so that he could forward my email to the Lady. All of these pieces were coming together...finally. That being said, it was all due to Moh Moh pushing Don Quixote's point of dreaming the impossible dreams. Now, the reality of my dream to talk with the Lady doesn't seem impossible. I believe that will happen.
What still seems questionable is beating Ti Ti at Scrabble. My first loss was humiliating. When I return to Myanmar, I will try again.
The following are pictures of Moh Moh, and Ko Ko along with Ti Ti and her younger sisters.
These two photos are on my wall in my office.
Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.
Visit the The Last Lecture page to read more about this topic.
Visit the My Hauntings page to read more about this topic.
Visit the "Don Quixote" page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Man in the Arena page to read more about this topic.
Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.