By Claire Taylor
Six months isn’t much time, but it’s enough time to change a life forever. It was October of 1990 when David Krise, a thirty-year-old small town man with an accidental mullet from a haircut gone wrong, left for a trip across Europe with his wife. The six months that they spent travelling shaped his outlook, his relationships, and his future.
David was raised in Mancelona, Michigan, which is so small that it is labelled as a village on the maps that actually include it. He says growing up he had practically no experience with diversity. After he left home, he studied for five years at a Bible college, “I think there were three black students the whole time I was there,” and then went on to seminary, which had similar levels of uniformity. Growing up in this way shaped his world view at the time. The world seemed like a simple place, but that would soon change.
David had always wanted to travel, but he had been focused on touring the U.S. Other than a few camping trips in Canada, he had never left the United States. His dreams of adventure began to evolve when he got to know someone who had experienced living overseas. “When I met my wife, she’d grown up in Hong Kong… I began to develop an interest in travelling internationally.” A world of possibilities opened up in David’s mind and so, after a few years of marriage, the couple set out together to explore new countries.
But things didn’t start off smoothly. “What we planned to do was go to Israel for a year, live on a kibbutz and study Hebrew.” As a Christian, the idea of being able to live in Israel was a dream, but that possibility was soon destroyed by the outbreak of violence: “shortly before we left, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, which eventually culminated in the first Gulf War.” David continued, “So we never ended up making it to Israel, which in itself was a significant thing because I really wanted to go and Rebecca, my wife, still wanted to go, but our families didn’t want us to do that.” This change of plans taught him a lesson even before the trip began: “It was a good time for me to realize I belonged not just to myself but to others as well and there’s certain responsibilities as an adult that I had to other people, to not put our lives at risk.” And learning to listen to other people’s concerns may have saved the couple’s lives; the areas where they would have stayed were hit by scud missiles soon after.
The Gulf War continued to play a role in David and Rebecca’s trip, even without a visit to Israel. “I remember the build-up to the war… on Christmas day… We were sitting around the table with these people from all over the world. There was this one Canadian guy who was really conservative and he was like, excited for this war to start… it was the first time in my life I’d ever been like, ‘why, why would we want this to happen?’ I’d never thought through those things before.”
As a small-town kid, the violence that David saw in Europe shocked him. One of the first places they visited was Ireland, which was in political turmoil. The conflict was between nationality, class, and perhaps most significantly to David, religion. David and his wife took a bus heading to Derry, Northern Ireland. The bus was full, but at the last stop before the checkpoint “everybody got off except us and one lady.” The couple found that the city of Derry was beautiful and the people were kind, but it was practically under lockdown. The streets were filled with British soldiers, and the tension was present even in peaceful moments. “I’m sitting there sitting out in a public square at a table drinking some tea, having a pastry, and then I looked over, and 150 feet from me there’s a team of six soldiers with M16s… I’d never seen anything like that.”
Being exposed to that violence was one of the things that began to change David’s world view. “Those kinds of things are eye opening, you realize the world doesn’t live in the kind of peace and safety that we traditionally experience in the U.S., and I don’t think we experience that kind of peace and safety and comfort anymore in the U.S.” David went on to passionately discuss the horrors of gun violence in America, reflecting “It’s a totally different world that you inhabit, that my children inhabit.” He is amazed by how drastically things have changed since 1990; when discussing having to cross borders he remarked, “I had to show a passport once, I think.”
Even at the time, David knew that he, and his world, were changing. “You’re looking at the foundation you’ve created for yourself in your culture and your country and your religion and your experiences, and you realize not all the pieces of the puzzle fit together anymore… there’s something going on in you where you’re taking things you’ve believed for years and rearranging or jettisoning them.” David grew up with the belief that everything was black and white, but the trip caused him to begin to realize that the world is a far more complicated place. The things he saw abroad made him say, “I don’t have to have an answer for everything… It was really the beginning of that process in my life, and I was thirty-one years old. It took a little time to get there.”
The trip ended at six months because the couple ran out of money and had to get home for a friend’s wedding, but the travels’ effects were lifelong. “That is what eventually propelled me into the career path that I’m in now.” David and Rebecca went on to teach English in Japan, and now, David University. They have raised their two children to respect and appreciate other cultures and are famous among their friends for their fantastic Asian cuisine. Appreciating diversity in every sense of the word has become an integral part of David’s life, and without his trip to Europe, that may have never happened. David said that the trip across Europe changed “not only how I view the world, but how I view myself, how I view opportunities, how I view people and other cultures.”
Professor Manning had this to say about Claire Taylor’s work. “I thought Claire had a really good intuitive feel for writing. She pulled a lot out this interview. She made good editorial choices about how to shape the collection of experiences as a result of travel. It was interesting to see what she did with non-dramatic but good material. I think next time she might work on getting different or better material. She made this material work, however!”