If you had to pick five crucial moments that completely changed the person you are today, which would you pick? The day you were born? A near death experience? Your first kiss? The day you lost someone dear to you?
Yesterday, I introduced my concentration (individualized major) to a group of professors by highlighting the five most crucial moments in my academic career that ultimately shaped my interests in urban planning and environmental development.
In this blog post, I will highlight five moments abroad that made all the difference to me:
- Drinking beer in Peru with a man named Sergio: He was a worker at the hostel I was staying at in Cusco and after making acquaintances, he spent all his spare time speaking to me. The evening I was supposed to catch a bus to Arequipa, he treated me to traditional Peruvian drinks at the bar. He made me a shot of fire (literal fire) which burnt my throat as I tried to gulp it down in one breath (I hate shots). He also made me a glass of chilcano and two glasses of pisco sours because they were my favorite Peruvian drinks. That night, I got drunker than I had ever been my entire life but I was happy. We sang along to old Peruvian classics (I didn’t know the right words for the songs but I got the hang of it after a while), we drank beers, and we danced together until morning. I missed my bus to Arequipa that night but I was happier than I had been in a long time.
- Ronda, Spain: In the south of Spain, there is a mountain in the town of Ronda. During my time there, I stayed with a kind man (his name escapes me) who took to my liking. I had no phone (I was robbed in Paris) and no camera; only disposables. One afternoon, he packed up a picnic into his car and took me for a drive. We went up the mountain until we reached a lake. There were no other people around for miles. He set down the mat, took out some wine, and we just sat and stared. We chatted for a while and then both fell asleep under the shade of a tree overlooking the lake. It was the first time I felt at peace in my soul.
- Cold in Poland: Poland was a rash decision. At the time, I had no money and no phone and so I stayed in Warsaw with this sweet woman named Anna. We spent a whole afternoon conversing about life and travel and love. That was it.
- Smoking in Casablanca: Under a sign that read “do not smoke”, myself and a stranger I met in the airport shared a cigarette. I never got his name.
- An angel in South Africa: In front of Mandela’s house, I met a young man who was holding a cigarette. We started to talk and then he asked me if I wanted him to sing for me. In front of everyone, he began to sing in his native language. I had to hide the tears on my face; I had never heard anything so pure in my life.
Bonus moment: Traveling China was hard for me because I was heartbroken, black (I will explain this someday), and I did not speak any Chinese except for hello, thank you, and please. At midnight on my last day in Guilin, I went out to look for some food since I had spent all day in bed thinking. I found a barbecue spot right down the street and asked for some meat and beer (with google translate). The store was manned by some teenagers who sometimes sold grilled meat and beer just for the fun of it. They started to talk to me (via WeChat translations) and offered to cook dinner. I couldn’t eat the noodles they made for me because it was too spicy but we spent that night drinking and laughing and taking pictures. It was the cutest night and it is quite a shame I will never see them again.
Do you have five moments that changed you?