First let me wish my hero a very, very happy birthday.
Paul or Daddybird as we know him is not a stranger to all of us UAE social media community folks. He is larger than life (pun intended) in the way he embraces it and celebrates it. Along with his wife Karla (her post will follow soon), I love his adventurous spirit and the non-judgemental style of accepting everything as they are. My father used to tell me to do just that – accept people as they are – and to a great extent I do that but Paul is a very strong example of doing just that with great aplomb. He also has the knack of finding the most amazing hidden (or not so hidden) food gems and responsible for me and a few of us to rediscover the magic of Deira alongside Arva of Frying Pan Adventures fame (her post too is in the pipeline).
So here are his responses to my heroes questions – in his own words.
What inspires you to do what you do?
Uh, what is it I do? Oh, the wandering around and finding interesting things and good places to eat? Why that? Well, my momma alway told me, “You were born with suitcase sand in your shoes,” which apparently means that I’m just naturally a rambin’ man. And as if nature wasn’t enough, nurture had its part too since my family moved around quite a bit while I was growing up. My parents were struggling college students when I came along, so there were several moves just in my first few years, including campus housing and sometimes with relatives. Things settled down a little after that, but the longest we ever lived in one place was four and a half years. (But there were some other major life changes during that period too.)
In my adult years I’ve still moved around quite a bit. I lived the longest in Portland, Oregon- seven years- but Karla and I moved twice during that time.
So, my experience has been to have a change of scenery every so often, sometimes a complete one. It’s rather been ingrained as a comfort zone in me, to tell the truth; after a while I get an itch to have new surroundings, even when I’m living somewhere that I like and enjoy.
Another important factor is an epiphany that I had while I was still fairly young. After a few moves, I noticed a pattern in myself: a tendency to eventually, after a new place had become familiar, find myself longing for the last place we had lived and wishing that I could go back. Even if I hadn’t been overly fond of the place when I was living there, there were always things that I missed, which took on much more meaning to me after I moved away. Not so unusual really, even though it wasn’t full on homesickness like some have after a major move, but it was still rather impractical. So it occurred to me that this pattern would likely repeat itself when we moved again, and that in the future I would eventually find myself wistfully longing for the place that I currently lived in. I realized that it would be much more practical to enjoy the place where I was currently living NOW. Since I could always remember good things and good friends of previous locations, who and what around here would I miss later on, after the next move? “Well,” I told myself, “you’re here now, enjoy them now!” From then on I actively focused more on enjoying my current surroundings, and not just that, but spending extra effort to find more than just the obvious things, those perhaps less noticeable aspects that might be even more interesting and enjoyable.
So that’s a big part of me; moving around, finding interesting stuff where I’m currently located, enjoying it as much as I can, while I can.
Quite fortunately, Karla enjoys exploring and checking out new places and new foods too. So she’s usually game when I want to go look around somewhere. In fact if we get too busy and tired to get around to it for a while, she’ll say, “It’s been too long since we had an adventure.”
Who is your hero? Why?
Quite a few heroes and inspirations, but for the top honors I would certainly have to go with the obvious, almost clichéd response of “my parents”. My Dad and Mom are good people who I would like to have as friends even if I wasn’t related to them. They have always generously given their time and effort to others; money too when they could, but they’ve never had a lot of that. My father is a natural scholar who very much enjoys studying many subjects, but he also enjoys sharing the knowledge he has gained with others. He received a degree in Math in college, and later on a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies. His working life reflected these dual tracks, as he divided his career between computer programming and being a Christian minister. He would be much more well off these days if he had stuck with the computers and stayed in Silicon Valley, as many of his friends did, but he left high tech several times to preach and teach at small churches in small towns for very little money. Our family vacations were frequently spent at Bible camps and Christian workshops rather than the usual family activities.
When situation and finances dictated, my Dad would go back to computer programming for a while, but he would still find opportunities to assist at church congregations in need of good teachers in his spare time. This back and forth between duty and necessity in my Dad’s career is what brought about our many moves as a family. My Mom was well prepared for this existence as she had a similar upbringing; her father was a Christian preacher too, as well as other jobs. She started teaching Sunday School at a young age, and was always involved in church activities. But preaching and teaching has appropriately been just one facet of my parents’ dedication, they have served others in many other practical ways as well, organizing activities for various groups, always being on call for people in need, and facilitating the collection and distribution of food and other items for those who required assistance. Even though they have gotten older and have “retired”, they still devote much time to teaching and helping others in a variety of ways, including often being stand-in grandparents for families who need babysitting. They have their warts and shortcomings, but they’ve consistently tried to do their best to be a blessing to others, and they are great examples.
If you had a choice of becoming one of your (all time – dead or alive; real or fiction) favourite characters, who would it be and why?
Hmmm, a bit of a toughie. My favorite characters, both real and fictional, are people who persevere in the worst of circumstances. It’s one thing to admire them and try and emulate their finer qualities, but to actually go through what they did is a tough thing to consider.
A favorite real person is Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. His life had as much adventure as any of the characters that he wrote about, but even more hardship and tragedy. He was born into a noble family that had fallen on hard times and barely scraped by. As an adult he became a soldier and was a hero, but was injured and maimed in doing so. Before he could reach home and possibly reap the rewards of his good service he was captured by pirates and spent 5 years as a prisoner in Algiers. While enslaved he was a great encouragement and help to his fellow prisoners. He attempted to help many escape, and when his plans were foiled by others he took the blame fully upon himself, to his own detriment. When he was finally ransomed and returned home, family debts still loomed and he had to take difficult and tedious jobs as a government collector of taxes and goods for the ongoing Spanish war efforts, which he managed to do well, but was not well paid for it. Late in life he finally found success and fame with the novels he wrote, although his share of the profits was miniscule. He was a remarkable man who lived in remarkable times, but I’m not sure that I would rush to jump into his shoes!
For a fictional character, I’m rather fond of Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of the space cargo ship ‘Serenity’ in the “Firefly” TV show from a few years ago. He also was a man who persisted in spite of great difficulty and loss. After being on the losing side in an interplanetary civil war, he chooses to get a sturdy ship, a good crew and take whatever jobs that can be had shuttling between worlds, even legal ones when he can get them. It’s a tough existence with many dangers, but Mal manages to act as honorably as possible in spite of living on the lawless frontier of civilization. It might be fun to live a life of such freedom, but you’d have to constantly worry about being shot, robbed, arrested, cheated, having a hull breach, or being attacked by Reavers.
I think I need to find a character that I can like who is really rich and has an easy life, but is still a nice person. Then I’ll volunteer to be them. ;-)>
When are you happiest?
There is not much that I like more than walking around and exploring, especially in a new city or area. Some exploring can be done by car or bus, but you really have to get out and walk around to get a good look at a place and really become familiar with it. Both hiking the countryside and strolling through a city are equally enjoyable to me. There’s always something interesting to find. London, Heidelberg and Singapore are particularly fun cities to explore, as are the older parts Dubai, especially Deira and Bur Dubai. Out here in Fujairah, not only is there plenty to find in town, but there seems to be multiple historic and archeological sites to see at almost every wadi and hillside. It’s always great when Karla and I are in a new city or area that we haven’t been to before and everything is new.
What pisses you off most?
Mean people. As the bumper sticker says, “Mean people suck.” I can’t think of anything that gets my ire up faster than seeing someone mistreating someone else, especially when power is being abused to do so. There are times when gruffness or rudeness can be tolerated or even called for, but deliberate meanness and abuse is unacceptable.
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Well, a million dollars ain’t what it used to be, is it? When we were kids and said “a million dollars”, we meant being set for a lifelong pursuit of luxury and extravagance. These days one would need to be a bit more cautious and do some careful investing to make a million dollars last significantly.
Somewhere to retire to would be nice. A little place in or near Hay-on-Wye in Wales would be lovely. Hay is a small town in a beautiful agricultural area that is home to 40 or so new and used bookstores and a celebrated annual literary festival. Pretty much perfect, I think. But it would be cheaper to get a place in or around Portland, Oregon, which is also pretty much perfect.
Having plenty of money to travel would be nice too. Again, with “only” a million dollars, one would have to travel more frugally to make it last, but I prefer frugal travel anyway. It’s much more fun to stay in unassuming digs in more ‘colorful’ neighborhoods and frequent simple local markets and eateries. Posh establishments bore me.
Of course the most worthwhile endeavor if one had a lot of cash would be charity work of some sort. But rather than just gifting large sums, it would be beneficial to channel efforts into sustainable projects that could grow of their own accord, once established. As one possibility, there are lending programs that help people start their own jobs and businesses, such as Kiva and others. Another way of doing this might be to start some responsibly run businesses that not only give employees skills that they can take elsewhere, but that also pay a greater share of the proceeds to the people that actually perform the work than to those in the boardroom or executive positions. Crazy talk, I know.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
As a lifelong shy and awkward person, I’ve had so many embarrassing moments that it’s a bit hard to narrow them down to a “greatest hits”. Even worse, there are many moments in which I should have been quite embarrassed, but wasn’t, at least not nearly as much as I ought to have been. In middle school once, we were doing a Shakespeare play and as part of my costume I was given a pair of tights to wear. Being extremely awkward and body-conscious, the thought of wearing tights out in front of the whole class- even thick ones as they were- horrified me. So I pulled the tights on OVER my jeans. Yes, I looked quite ridiculous, and felt so, but I still preferred it prancing about with virtually naked legs. Oddly, I was not ridiculed nearly as much as the situation invited; quite surprising since there were some rather snarky sorts in that class.
Also, I should have also been more embarrassed by the fact that when I enrolled in college- the first time- I was so belated in getting my application paperwork submitted that I received my letter of acceptance from the admissions office through campus mail, after I had already moved into the dorm. But then I suppose the college administration itself should have been rather embarrassed about this. (And a great many other things as well, to tell the truth.)
What has been your most sublime experience?
The birth of my daughter was certainly the most wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced, as well as many other moments during her infancy. When she was first handed to me and I spoke to her, she opened her eyes wide and looked at me as if to say, “Oh! So that’s where that voice has been coming from!” She was a joy from the start; a very alert and curious baby, who wanted to be held up so she could see what was going on around her. When I cooked, I had to hold her because she wanted to see what I was doing. If put her safely aside for a moment because I was handling something hot, she fussed until I picked her back up again. It made for a bit of juggling.
I’ll always cherish the late nights spent during teething. As I would talk to her and carefully apply a bit of ice to soothe her pain, she would look up deeply into my eyes until she drifted back to sleep. Since the time of her infancy we have mostly been apart, unfortunately, but we are still very close.
If you want to connect with Paul, here are his links:
Blog (Jointly with Karla): http://livingthetravelchannel.wordpress.com/
Have fun getting to know him.