It’s nights like tonight that keep me on the road. Unfortunately it often takes a goodbye to kindle the kind of emotion that reminds me why I do it. Life passes fast when it is broken into segments; two months at home, three weeks in Nicaragua, two and a half in Duisburg, three weeks in Thailand, etc. etc. The fortunate part about this is that with each end and each goodbye you are forced to reflect on these most recent of relationships and situations in which you found yourself. There is no time for complacency. No time for the mind numbing monotony that often leads to years of dissatisfaction. No. You have to take an active role in your life. You have to be present in it all and address the emotions that come with saying a goodbye to someone with whom you deeply bonded but may never see again.
I still haven’t figured out if it’s getting easier.
Ina and I said our goodbyes to the rag tag group of internationals that reside in her building. She’s been here for two months and I for three weeks. During this time we have shared cheaply made meals, brief encounters, hard won (but mostly lost) ping-pong matches and deep conversations. And tonight it all culminated in one last gathering of food and stories; even the poor grammar and thick accents were incapable of building a communication barrier.
We were just caught up.
We sat there, 10 people from 8 different countries, laughing and telling stories from home. You hear the good and the bad. Lives unfold as the conversations bounces from ethnic civil wars to Isis forcing a father and son to flee to different corners of the world to the nightlife in Belgrade with beautiful girls and cheap drinks. All of this before being serenaded by a Serbian and his accordion.
It hit me, abruptly, as it often does on the road. We aren’t Americans, Syrians, Turks, Germans, Iranians, Moroccans, Argentinians, or Sri Lankans. We aren’t our governments, our politics, or the stereotypes we see on TV. We aren’t the problems our media portrays or the enemies we are told we are. We are just people… living in this world, trying to find our way, to find connection, to find meaning, to find purpose and to find relevance. We are just people; not separated by our differences but united in our similarities and celebrated through our diversity. In times like these the only value to be found in our borders and nationalities are those things that can be shared with one another.
It always hits me.