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Thursday 5 January 2012

Big Backpack - Little World by Donna Morang

If I ever meet Donna Morang, I am going to give her the biggest bear hug I can - what an amazing, lovely lady.

At the age of fifty-something, dear Donna had that ‘eureka’ moment.  That moment when that something you know you want to do, but can’t quite put your finger on what it is, suddenly becomes clear.  Donna realised she wanted to go and teach English as a second language in……well, everywhere or anywhere in the world.  So an exam later and after acceptance into the ESL (English as a Second Language) program, she packed her backpack, grabbed her passport, credit cards and plane ticket, said an emotional goodbye to her daughters and off she went.  Mrs Indiana Jones in search of excitement.

Donna got more than excitement. Her first teaching consignment was in Mexico and in the few years that followed she visited and taught in Cambodia, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam.  Each country provided her with unforgettable experiences.  She was awed by the beauty of each nation, she had the privilege of participating in unique traditional ceremonies, such as weddings, she tasted weird and wonderful local cooking and unusual food.  She gained friends in fellow teachers, students she taught, the owners of bars, hotels, and people she bumped into on the beaches.  In 11 years, Donna experienced probably more than a good many of us in a lifetime.

As you read this chatty account of her travels, it’s not hard to understand why and how Donna got 110 per cent out of her travels:  because she gives 110 per cent of herself to everything she does and to those around her.  Donna was sometimes obliged to stay in unsavoury hotels/hostels, and her journeys were sometimes hard, even hair-raising, but she never once complained – it was all part of the experience.  The older one gets, the more one misses creature comforts, but not this lady.  She made friends with everyone she met, whether they were 6 or 60 – she is a people magnet. It’s easy to see her attractive personality and to understand what made her such a successful teacher – she understood her students.  She was a mother, a sister, a grandmother, a hairdresser, a teacher, a confidante – she was anything that anyone needed her to be, wherever she found herself.

Donna is 11 years older than when she first started her adventures and she hasn’t finished yet.  There are favourite countries she wants to revisit and more new places to see.  Donna is a unique traveller – she falls into each culture’s customs and way of life effortlessly.  If I was going to embark on a travelling adventure, she is the person I would chose to do it with.  I know that if I ever see a blonde lady with a kind face, a backpack and a cigarette (if she hasn’t yet kicked the habit!), it will be Donna Morang.

Donna wanted to share her experiences with us, the readers, hence the book.  At the end of it, I felt privileged to have done just that.

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