I stood there staring at the spine of three DVDs. The cases were solid white with the names of numerous locations around the world. They appeared to be DVDs that were converted from a previous video tape recording, possibly a home movie, but quite possibly also a series of generic travel videos… the kind that would play on a loop in the corner of a travel agent’s office.
I decided to buy one of them and see what they were. Ten minutes into it I stopped. I got in my car and ran back to the shop, before it closed, to grab the other two. They were amazing.
Here is what I do know, based upon the content of the 6 hours of video footage:
– The two discs of China and Japan consist of a newlywed couple, Jesse and Elene, hopping countries via a cruise ship and paying tour guides to show them the local sights. Along for the trip is her mother, Julie. Yes, mother-in-law has joined their honeymoon! The cruise seems to have been a gift from family and friends as a wedding present. The year is 1988. The first disc has two minutes of Thailand before it hops to China… which means there were other videos. They are my white whale. I will hunt them to the ends of the Earth. One day… one day…
– The other disc is just the couple on safari in Kenya. It is unclear when this is, either part of the same trip, before or after. However, Jesse appears a little older, so if I had to guess I would say it was a following vacation, either late 80’s or early 90’s based on the clothes.
– Jesse is a terrible cameraman. When his wife has the camera, she does a wonderful job narrating. When my boy Jesse has it… well… let’s just say most of the safari is shots of grass.
– Julie is amazing. Why?
Moments like this…
I have uploaded the complete content of the DVDs on YouTube in the chapters as organized on the discs. There were a couple large scratches and some of the chapters were unconvertible (the last couple chapters of the safari), but a wealth of enjoyment is there.
What I love about this find is the snapshot of 1980’s Americans on travel in the East, during the Cold War. They talk to their tour guide in Beijing about China being communist and what it’s like. They meet up with another couple on the ship and the husband tells Jesse about how a Russian cruise liner cut them off and later the camera zooms in on the hammer and sickle of the CCCP liner in Osaka Harbor. After visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, they take their tour guide to the world’s largest KFC. In Kenya, they record an impressive amount of animals, but sadly one of the coolest is a black rhino in the wild. Fast forward a few decades and this is an extremely rare site. Fast forward a couple more and this may be an impossible experience to have again. Although Jesse films a large amount of driving in China, it is amazing to see how undeveloped it was and what daily life and traffic was like. I sat there mesmerized by what was captured in such tedious fashion, yet incredible depth decades later. Even the KFC is surrounded in dirt and developing construction, which has surely been replaced now with modern skyscrapers. Jesse films the TV at one point and even watching Japanese commercials is an incredible experience, glimpsing into the commercialism of 80’s Japan. There is so much to love about this home video find.
It’s sad to think about why these videos came to be in the thrift shop in Orange, CA. Most likely, they moved from Hawaii and came to California. More than likely they passed away and the contents of their possessions where cleared from their home by people unaware of these digital memories. These moments in time were unknowingly tossed away, but thankfully a curious individual with a quirky interest in culture and humanity found them before they disappeared forever.
I hope you enjoy the lives of Jesse, Elene and Julie through their trips around the world in 1988.