Maybe it was the stories he heard from friends, or the displays of bravery, generosity and decency shown by its heroes in the old black and white films. Perhaps it was the aid that arrived in the midst of natural disaster, or the ships that sporadically brought sailors with their cute, bright outfits and festive military bands to his country's shores. Or was it possibly the stories told by relatives who had gone there and returned with tales of splendid cities, smiling people and natural wonders?
Like many other teenagers during his era, life forced him to earn a living from a very young age, delaying education for later in life, but he never gave up his drive to improve. To him, the Fabled Land in the North represented a way of living that he never experienced until the very autumn of his life, but with which he felt familiar, on account of imagining it often.
In his mind, it was a wondrous place where a person could reach his or her dreams through mere diligence, ingenuity and honesty, rather than by the family or social class he was born into. A realm where what one became was determined by one's resolve, desires and abilities, rather than by circumstance, ethnicity, family connections, gender or political affiliation. A place where people were compassionate, where the young's moral and ethical upbringing was central, where the disabled and old-aged were cared for, where individuals from all parts of the world, including his, were welcome with a smile. A nation where amazing things were continually being discovered or invented, and where knowledge was widely admired.
I do not know if a place with so many worthy attributes ever existed or will ever exist. Perhaps it is only a collection of ideals for the kind of country we all would like to live in, if we could. Still, whether real or imaginary, to that land he so enthusiastically spoke of, I say: I salute you!
To dad, on the second anniversary of his departure, July 2017