Are you one of those people with those "I have this one friend" narratives where you know you will impress people with the coolness of your not only interesting but true accounts? I am. Except I have about 1000 "my one friend" stories. Since coming to Uganda I have managed to pick up a few more and after thinking about it, I thought I would share by devoting a post to these types of people and my usual struggle to comprehend how I have had the fortune to meet them.
Interesting person #1 “Once I had to smuggle a scroll out of Tibet so Amnesty International would be able to document the atrocities committed against the Tibetan monks.” Me: Once I “smuggled” extra Splenda out of a Starbucks because I didn’t have any in my apartment so we’re pretty much the same.”
Interesting person#2 “Well I never went to college but became a self-made millionaire with my own construction company. Then for retirement I had to choose between racing cars or doing volunteer work.” Me: “I went to college and majored in business only to quit my first job to teach English so we’re pretty much the same.”
Interesting person #3 “Oh weird, we will be in Dublin at the same time? Hmm I am from Ireland, let me give you an amazing tour of the city and you just tell me what you want to see and we will do it!” Me: “Wow thanks! Well I’m from the ‘burbs of Detroit so if you ever make it that way, I will give you a free walking tour also! Our half-day tour will encompass numerous identical houses and lawns, several fire hydrants, the (historical?!) Beaumont Hospital and Woodward Avenue. Keep your eye out for oversized cars and Hummers built for the overland destinations but driving on paved cement cement instead…It’s pretty much the same.”
Interesting person #4 “Oh you have a layover in Dubai? Weird, I live there! Why don’t I just pick you up from the airport and show you the city and you can shower and eat at my apartment! Oh, you land at 12:30am and I wake up for work at 4:30? No problem!” Me: “THANKS! Oh, you fly through Detroit? No? Oh ok well enjoy your trip! (Pretty much the same)
Interesting person #5: "Right after high school I moved to Madrid and now I am fluent in Spanish. Now as a flight attendant, I travel the world as part of my job!” Me: “Hmm after high school I took a semester of French and I know people who speak French sooo....we're pretty much the same."
Ok you get the point. And so do I. I am not really (read: not even close to) the same but that’s not the important part; Not only is traveling amazing for the sights you see and the people you meet at your destinations, but the people you meet along the way! I have cometo believe that if you really think the best of people, it will be easy to find the best! These are just some of the people I met while traveling and one person I was reacquainted with after about 12 years when she babysat my brothers!
Traveling lets you do that. I have to be honest and say that while I hope my future career involves traveling to reach places where I can help others, I would be lying if I didn’t say one of the best parts is meeting people along the way. Usually, my best stories are really second-hand stories where I never even EXPERIENCED the event! For example, I can only dream of something so exotic and exciting as photographing Bedouin tribes or living in Dubai but I get to hear of other people’s adventures and imagine myself able to do it one day! I could be famous for “my one friend” stories. If only I told them half as well as they did!
I’m only 25 so I don’t have a lot of advice to impart to others but if I thought I was capable of any type of “wisdom” I have learned it would be this; Never be closed-off to anyone regardless of age, gender or eccentricities on first meeting them. Ask a billion questions or maybe it’s wiser to say ask questions until their face looks like you asked a billion and finally, if at first they come off as rude or impolite, always assume it’s just a bad day. There have definitely been a few instances where after getting to know someone who first seemed awful turned out to be amazing. After looking back at it, I probably just smelled. Seriously.
Here are my favorite quotes (that I remember at this moment) from people I have met while traveling;
“I speak Farsi so it’s fun to watch Ahmadnijad on tv because I understand what he says”
“I am working with 30 Ugandans and then it’s me. I used to work for the U.N and (fill in a million other cool jobs). Now I live as an expat here and love it!”
“Hmm I think this month I will save baby turtles in Costa Rica. I’ll be back in the U.S for _____(don't remember; it's some race that I find unimportant with cars and motors and stuff) and then I will be hiking Macchu Pichu”
“I was in Ethiopia and took a photo in a dark room where hundreds of people were sleeping on the floor. When I looked at the photo after, I noticed hundreds of eyes staring menacingly at me. I realized we needed to get out of there.”
“Oh this? This is my permit to drink in this area. Since it’s a Muslim country you need a license to drink but it only permits me to do so in this specific area of Dubai.”
“I'd like to visit the U.S but I can't imagine leaving my kids!” (spoken by an 18 year old director of an orphanage and street ministry program)
I may be biased but I think I have possibly met some of the coolest people EVER!
With nothing I can think of to compare, I have decided that my role can be to be “that friend,” the one who you tell others about and then they are aware of something they might otherwise not be so here is my “that friend” fact; When arriving in Uganda I had to use the bathroom which I knew would be a squat toilet. I was pointed towards the outhouse and had no idea what to expect so while confused, used a bathroom with a plastic floor and drain. Walking back upstairs, I was politely informed I had just used “the shower” and the toilet was next to it. I am that friend.