December 10, 2010

The fog began to lift as the morning slowly awakened. Though somewhat hindered by the rain, it still managed to greet its residents with a sluggish grin.

Later, I tugged at my hat, feeling my soaking bangs cling to my scalp, not sure how much was sweat and how much was rain. I had been walking for a while. Vancouver is not a place to get lost in—well, I take that back. It is very much the place to lose your way and then discover it again, three hours later after a train ride through magnificent fire-red trees or after a morning winding through the city streets filled with commuters, trendy hipsters and starving art students to find yourself swinging on a swing set over clear ocean water as sail boats weave in and out of the harbor.

But all too easily, this evening, I found myself in a noisy, unfamiliar neighborhood filled with undesirable sights and sounds. My hotel, I felt sure, was just up ahead. But I had said that an hour ago; I glanced at my watch uneasily and prayed for invisibility.

Like any big city, Vancouver has its good, and it has its bad. My hotel overlooked the water, serving as a convenient location to jump the unassuming ferryboat to Granville Island, with its artsy shops, its daily fresh market and its lush beauty.

My feet reminded me of how much ground I traversed today. With an early morning jog to arrive me at the doorstep of a local coffee shop, frequented by in-the-know locals and a few imports such as myself. I gazed at the illusive French sayings scrawled across my paper cup, accompanied by their English counterparts—looking so very drab in comparison. I stopped to sip my foamy latte and listen to the many accents floating around me; that’s when I felt my eagerness for knowledge and adventure grasp hold. All I wanted to do was find an intriguing stranger, sit down for another latte and listen to him.

We all have such stories. I sometimes fool myself into thinking that I have some interesting tales to share around the campfire, but, really, as I pause to listen to others, I find I have so little to contribute. Yes, I feel like I’ve lived, to a certain extent, in my measly 26 years; and yet, my story is only one small story.

What about the student in Bolivia who, although never having been out of her country, speaks two languages fluently, plays and teaches piano and violin, spends 70 hours a month teaching the Bible and lives in a close-knit, supportive family? Or what about the young mother of two who knew how to ride a horse before she could walk and feels more comfortable herding cattle than she ever could in a shopping mall? Or the grandmother who dreamed of travel and college but could never afford them, and, instead, received her most precious desire: to raise a family in a loving, nurturing home.

Everyone has a gripping, inspiring story—no matter how large or small we think our lives to be.

The important thing is to realize it’s there and, then, look for more.

My wandering mind wandered no further as I gratefully crossed the street to my comforting hotel. My day of discovery and reflection ending as my head hit the pillow. With only my journal to share my secrets, tomorrow will bring more learnings, more inspirations, more potential journeys.

The finding will only stop when I cease to look.


the triumph of borders

March 25, 2010

I can’t say I blame the guy who flew his plane into the IRS building. You don’t have to live long to realize that government will make you crazy.

If you let it.

And right now, I’m letting it.

I am currently fighting similar destructive sentiments regarding the Bolivian government.

Have you ever tried applying for a Visa? You might as well try to pass a health care bill. Obama’s takin a cake walk compared to the hoops I’m jumpin.

Traveling used to be an adventure. An enviable event the family would anticipate months leading up to its arrival.

Nowadays, if you want to fly cheap, you pack two outfits and a toothbrush. No checked bag for you. And forget shoelaces on those tennis shoes. Velcro all the way for quickness and agility. Perfect for maneuvering through slow-moving security lines.

Nowadays, international travel requires more than a backpack and cash. It requires documents and confidential personal records readily accessible for intense scrutiny at any moment. It requires working knowledge of the every-changing governmental entry requirements into this country or that one.

You want to travel the world? Sure, no problem. We’ll just need a copy of your birth certificate, add to that a swab of saliva, fingerprints, a lock of hair, proof of citizenship, record of every residency you’ve ever held, your dog’s paw print, $1000 cash only, high school GPA, a fingernail clipping, your credit score, favorite perfume fragrance. And lastly, your hereditary line starting with Adam.

Once you have these, you may enter our country.
Thank you. Come again.

I think this is the proper place to take a moment and honor all of those special people responsible for the incredibly high level of security precautions in our world today: the terrorists and various hate groups who can’t see beyond their own selfish desire to be placed above everyone else. In effect, creating the over-protective, jump-through-hoops, security-ridden, paranoid world that we see today.

And what a delight it is to live here.

Thank you. It wouldn’t be the same without you.