Rufus McGaugh, a semi-retired geography trainer, exhibits some souvenirs from his world travels in his Grosse Pointe house.
(Picture: Anthony Lanzilote / Particular to The Detroit Information)
It wasn’t a foul resort — other than the stopped-up bathroom, human filth, and rats roaming the room at night time.
In its protection, the joint was super-cheap and had nice cross-ventilation, helpful within the tropics. A complete exterior wall of the room on the 26th flooring in Cayenne, French Guiana, was lacking. One false step, and your journey takes an thrilling new route.
“I don’t need to brag,” mentioned Grosse Pointe schoolteacher Rufus McGaugh, 68, who’s simply printed a e book, “Longitude and Latitude, with Angle,” about his quest to journey to each nation across the globe, “however I’ve stayed within the worst resort on planet Earth. No person’s going to beat my story.”
McGaugh’s taught social research within the Grosse Pointe Public Colleges for 45 years, most of that at Brownell Center Faculty, the place generations of scholars bear in mind “Rufus” and his atypical, entertaining strategies.
McGaugh, who’s visited 252 international locations over 49 years, traveled each summer time, and utilized what he discovered the following 12 months in lessons enlivened by tens of thousand of his personal slides. (He’d be completely happy to indicate any doubters the 9 passports filled with customs stamps.)
Libya final Might was the final — as McGaugh notes, he left the laborious, harmful ones until final.
(If that looks as if quite a bit — the United Nations has simply 193 member states — McGaugh’s listing contains non-countries like Antarctica, in addition to numerous distinct geographic entities akin to Greenland and Puerto Rico, owned by different nations.)
Academics at all times marvel if they’ve influence. With McGaugh, there’s little query.
“Once I was 12 years outdated, I used to be fortunate sufficient to have Rufus McGaugh train me social research,” former scholar Katie O’Neill just lately wrote on Fb.
“I discovered the map of the world,” mentioned the Grosse Pointe Park resident, in addition to “Nation Joe and the Fish, the significance of studying the paper day-after-day — well-drawn political cartoon actually is price a thousand phrases, that dissent is patriotic, and the way a lot world there’s to see.”
All this from a trainer who by no means used a textbook when educating about overseas cultures.
Erik Nicholson, now nationwide vice chairman for the United Farm Employees, had McGaugh for eighth-grade English again in 1979.
“Each day, he made positive we had entry and time to learn the newspaper,” he recalled.
Requested how he’d describe McGaugh, Nicholson prompt, “actual, passionate, and visionary in a Rufus form of manner.”
Everybody tells McGaugh he ought to write the “Guinness E-book of World Data,” however he says the hunt was by no means about checking international locations off an inventory.
“I did it for me,” McGaugh mentioned, chatting in his Grosse Pointe lounge together with his spouse, Monica, who’s accompanied him on 74 of his journeys.
He traces the beginning of his obsession to his time with the fifth Marines in Vietnam. The demise and destruction he noticed there left him with a fierce starvation to see the world.
“I made a decision if I ever acquired out of that mess alive,” he mentioned, “I wasn’t going to let something cease me from seeing as a lot as I may.”
In fact, whenever you go to international locations from North Korea to Nauru to Nepal, you’re certain to have enjoyable experiences children will love, like getting arrested and interrogated by the Zimbabwean navy.
The primary query from the scary armed males was: “Why did you blow up our Air Pressure?”
McGaugh admits he was shocked. “For a man who often has the present of gab,” he mentioned, “even I used to be speechless.”
As luck would have it, Brownell Faculty performed an indispensable function in springing McGaugh from the navy jail the place he was held about 24 hours.
Nicely into the interrogation, they lastly requested what he did for a dwelling, and McGaugh mentioned he was trainer.
“Show it,” they demanded. And he did.
“I at all times carry my Brownell ID card to get into museums and castles cut-rate,” McGaugh defined. “So I pulled it out, and that modified the entire tone.”
Instantly his captors needed to know if they might get him one thing to drink.
McGaugh attributes the 180-degree change to the respect schooling enjoys in African tradition, however it’s additionally attainable that an American trainer’s ID clued the authorities in to the truth that they actually had the flawed man.
McGaugh was launched, he mentioned, “with no indication in any way why I used to be picked up.”
With scrapes like that, it’s straightforward to see how a intelligent storyteller may overcome even the stoutest scholar resistance to geography and historical past.
Take Tom Coyle, as an example, who was at Brownell within the mid-80s.
“I used to hate historical past and social research,” he wrote from Washington, D.C. “Rufus modified that.”
Not solely did these topics turn into his favorites, additionally they steered Coyle to his current calling.
After graduating from West Level and serving within the navy, Coyle entered the U.S. International Service, the place he continues to function a diplomat.
“I’ve traveled world wide for work and pleasure,” he mentioned, “as a direct results of Rufus’ affect.”
‘Longitude and Latitude, with Angle: One Man’s Quest to See the Whole World’
By Rufus McGaugh
CreateSpace Unbiased Publishing Platform
$20 at Amazon
and different retailers
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