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.’