Monthly Archives: March 2012

Perfect Strangers

Good things happen when you meet strangers.  -Yo-Yo Ma

I have written several times about the kindness of strangers and of the instant friendships I have made on this adventure.  However, I have to reiterate how amazing it is to meet so many wonderful people.

After spending time in different countries with various cultures and social norms, I have come to the realization of how conservative and judgmental America really is.  I remember most people being concerned with what other people are thinking.  I definitely remember worrying about this fairly often.  Especially working in the service industry where many times I would be talked down to or belittled in some way.

I know how hard it can be to let go and let everything be ‘easy,’ as our Eazy Bar buddies say, but once you do let go, you find all the numerous gifts life has to offer.

There are many accreditations to how I learned to ‘let go and let God.’  Of course my family is a huge aspect but New Orleans cannot be forgotten either.  My first year at University was difficult but in the end I found irreplaceable people.

One of my favorite stories was during my first week at Loyola.  I was working at Touro Hospital for my Music Therapy class.  I did not have a car or bicycle and so I took the streetcar down to the hospital from school.  One day I finished work and decided to walk back to the dormitory from the hospital.  A few blocks down Pyrtania street I saw two guys playing a drum on their porch.  As I walked by they said hello and I replied.  They asked where I was going and I told them I was walking home.  The next thing I knew I was inside their house playing an upright piano.  Later they took me to their friend’s BBQ, Drangon’s Den, a club and bar near Frenchmen Street, and after everything drove me home.  These new and unexpected friends gave me a fast track into discovering the New Orleans that I came to love so much.

I have come to a point where I do not know how to give credit to these blessings.  Before, I have said thank you to my ‘luck’ or thank you to the Universe.  However, sometimes you have to give YOURSELF credit.  Everyday I practice putting myself out there and this has only made the adventure more substantial.  I mean I talk to EVERYONE.  On purpose.  I never thought I could be so extroverted.  I was horribly shy when I was younger!

Traveling has opened a door for me.  I have learned not to be afraid of people and to ask for what I need or want.

Yesterday I had lunch with my Burmese friends, One and Yao.  Yao was telling a story of how his father gave him a cow.  One day Yao tied the calf to a rock and went to play futbol with his friends.  When he returned he found that the calf had freed itself from the stone and was nowhere to be found.  When he returned home to tell his father what had happened his father hit him.  When Yao said this, One and him burst out laughing.  I was shocked.

‘Why are you laughing?”

“Yes, I know tourists don’t like this.  It is different for you.”

And they continued cracking up.

They didn’t need to explain to me WHY it was different for me because it was obvious.  This is the point.  We all grew up in incomparable worlds.  What I have learned, especially from my friends here on Koh Tao, is that even with all our cultural/personal differences we accept and love each other.

I’ve never met anyone who is as accepting as these guys are.  Their entire outlook on life is so relaxed and tolerant of everyone and everything.  They don’t care about skin color, religion, or money.  I experienced the same generosity and compassion at the Burmese Refugee Camp in Nupo.

I’m not trying to say that these experiences do not happen in America but I can see a blatant difference in the way people treat each other in daily life.  When I think of other countries I have visited the same discrepancy exist.  Many strangers I have met, whether through Couch Surfing or in a bar or on the street, have become lifelong friends.  It is a rare thing in America to meet some one on the street and have them instantly become a friend.

This is what traveling did for me.  This is what it does for many people.  It has taught me to be fearless and never to be afraid to be myself.  It taught me to take risks that result in incredible stories, adventures, or new friends.

Good things DO happen when you meet strangers.

Stephanie, Mr. Yeap, and I in  Penang, Malaysia.

Mr. Yeap is the father of a friend of Todd’s who we spent time with on my first time through Penang.  He was absolutely the best host anyone could ask for.  I called him up when Stephanie and I came through Malaysia for our Thai VISAs and he took us to the Chinese food stall Mecca of Penang…in the rain.  One of the most generous persons I’ve ever met.

Yao, One, and I playing on the keyboard I bought in Malaysia.  They have been playing/practicing constantly.  Our friend Thura practices the C scale I taught him everyday!

Stephanie, Sydney, and Thura enjoying the view on ‘the swing.’

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-CHANGES!

After hitchhiking in Turkey, riding the Trans-Siberian, freezing on a bus for 72 hours across Mongolia, conquering mountains in China, discovering amazing food in Malaysia, and many Thailand events including beautiful beaches, squat houses in Bangkok, elephants, a Burmese refugee camp, cockroach filled night buses, and driving a badass chopper bike on winding roads through the jungle I said ‘goodbye’ to my travel companion who is going to use a work holiday VISA in Australia.  Of course it is difficult when you say goodbye to a friend.  Especially one who has shared such experiences as this trip brought upon us.  Even though things are different and I miss my friend, the Universe continues to be unyielding and has provided me with more than I could possibly imagine.

At this moment I am sitting at Eazy Bar, with my friend Stephanie and cousin Sydney who are traveling with me, where during my last visit to Koh Tao I befriended an incredible group of Burmese guys who run the bar.  They have made my return here special and reminiscent of when a person comes home to a group of old friends.   This goes for a few of the divers at Sunshine Diving too.  Everyone has welcomed us with open arms and would do anything to help us out with whatever we need.

So, what I have found in this time of change has not been despair, fear, or loneliness but kindness, excitement, and love.  I am blatantly being reminding of all the amazing people I have come to know in my life and that are STILL a part of my life.  I cannot fully grasp the fact that Stephanie and Sydney are actually HERE!

We have taken full advantage of the term ‘vacation’ with our days spent exploring, swimming, laying on the beach, and hanging out at Eazy Bar at night.  Stephanie and I attended a Couch Surfing meeting last week where we met a great guy, Kiro, from Bulgaria.  With only a few words we convinced him that Sunshine Divers was the best as well as the accommodation, Eazy Bar, etc.  The next day he came by and signed up for his Open Water course.

My favorite thing so far has been that every time I go out, I see at least one person I know.  Whether someone is driving down the road or is on the beach or at the bar I always seem to find someone to chat/hang with.  The girls and I have completely integrated ourselves into this community.

Yesterday morning my friend, One (pronounced Juan), who works at Eazy Bar took me to Hin Wong, a beach on the other side of the island.  Koh Tao only has one main road and the majority of roads on the rest of the island are unfinished or inexistent.  We made it on a scooter about a tenth of the way to the beach.  There was NO way this bike was getting us the rest of the way.  The distance to the beach was long and rocky through the jungle.  We hiked for about 30 minutes and once we reached the beach we were lucky enough to find one Thai pharmacist who was fishing and had a bottle of water that he shared with us.  He was the only person we saw all day in this cove where an abandoned hotel had been decaying for what looked like several years.  The whole adventure made me love this island even more.  It seems as though there are undiscovered or forgotten places all over.

On a side note, one of our friends, Thura, resembles a very adequate Rufio from the movie Hook.  Sydney made this connection and it is very suitable in the sense that the rest of the group could easily be the Lost Boys.  One night, in return of all the innumerable kindnesses the Lost Boys have shown us over the past week, Stephanie, Sydney, and I cooked them dinner.

Evidently, this was the first time anyone had done this and their appreciation was overwhelming.  We were happy to do it and even more so being given the chance to spend time with the women in the kitchen.  These beautiful ladies spend most of their time cooking, cleaning, and chatting.  The Lost Boys say this is the best job, staying in the kitchen and cooking all day.  None of the women ever come to the bar so this was the first time we got to know them.  I really don’t know what we would have done without them because Stephanie and I were having a hell of a time cutting up the fish for the ceviche!

Last night we celebrated Win’s (the manager) last night in Koh Tao before leaving to visit his wife and four year old son in Burma.  Win has not been home since his son was born.   Obviously, he was very happy last night.

We celebrated with them all night long and felt like family as we sat around and listened to them play guitars and sing Burmese songs.  You can even hear the ocean waves in the background…

Life continues to be amazing with all our new friends here in Koh Tao.

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