19. Stranger

You know when you grow up and people teach you to be weary of strangers? Your first hear that from parents, then you learn in political discourses, then scientist give you the evolutionary reasons that would have selected for us to have an in-group bias…I have been living fighting these generalisations and trying to be more empirical about people and things.  I try as much I can to go to the houses of those of groups we hear are so different than us. Every single time I go I feel over and over again that if you are respectful, if you try your hardest to be respectable… People know. You obviously always screw up, and break rules that are invisible to you because you have not been socialised in that system but I feel that people always know when you are trying and they are always more generous in forgiving strangers for these transgressions than they are to their own. Of course, we are in these situations like children who do not know.  I have never felt so strongly than now that strangers are the kindest people ever. I feel it is not simply a matter of attributing responsibility. What I mean is this: in many places people feel that people cant be responsible for things they do not know. This is surely true but somehow I feel that we are kinder to strangers because it is so easy to be. It is easier to not attribute to them a secret meaning or motivation for a given action or word. In fact, I think it is the people who are close, those we let in our deepest and darker places who are the most dangerous of all. Those can hurt you like nothing else. But yet we must always open ourselves otherwise what kind of life would we live?

I have been in silence for a while. i always am when the stories that are surrounding me are more mine than others. I always feel they are too boring. Too secret.
But when you end up living a public life like I am doing now I get messages who come from all corners of the world when I disappear for too long.  I feel thankful for each one. and i apologise for having been gone for so long.

I am on my way back. After an open hand and knee, a bus accident, hearing a man die, saying many painful goodbyes, hearing many difficult stories, after breaking lots of things inside, after many dangerous roads, many bus rides, rickshaws, bikes, planes, trains, steps, taxis, cars…Through the hands of a total stranger who took care of me when I most needed help I am making my way back. Strangers always surprise me, and even when i loose this enormous faith in the path, through the help and love of once strangers who are now friends I know I have to keep going. People ask me why ? What am I searching for?  And I have no clear answer. I guess I am here to hear and tell stories. The stories of these strangers.

I was rescued by a sweet stranger these days one that has done more than I could have ever asked for. This stranger took me to a doctor, helped me with bureaucratic situations, gave me food and shelter when I most needed. This stranger gave me a feeling of home with mother and brother and sister, and dog and cat. And when finally this stranger dropped me to fly away as if all of that had not been enough he gave me a little gift.

” It is nothing much. But it has a meaning.”

I open my hands and I see a little anchor. I smile.

” You can keep going and when you need you can use an anchor. You will find many anchors on your path. I am one for you.”

And like that with my wounds licked by dogs and cats. Like that with messages of support and love coming from all continents I hoped in the plane to make my way back to the land of smiles. Just like that I flew to the land who is supposedly under water to float again in the Mekong. From the world of Tibetans, Indians, Kashmeres, and Israelis back now to the world of Palestinians and Thais. And I who felt so lonely in the past days feel a glimpse of joy in the Horizon. I was going home. My home in Asia. I was after years coming back to the border of Thailand and Laos.

I look at the stranger who now is a friend. And I say thank you. He tells me I should not thank him. I insist. ” Does it give you a good feeling to say it?” I explain that it does as gratitude is something so beautiful. He smiles and thanks me for giving him the opportunity to be kind, to be better, the opportunity to feel good.

And like this we agreed that whatever it is that it happens people like us will always encounter each other.

As I walk away I remember my yogi friend who dresses up like an angel in a certain week of the year and gives messages and flowers to strangers. Once in the tube in England he gave a flower to an old lady who broke out in tears and told him her son had just died and that she had not left home since then. That morning she asked for a sign to keep going, she asked God for one sign that life was worth living. My friend dressed in angthat day that sign.

Is there any metaphysical reality to that? Who knows? Does it even matter? As I am pondering about it as I walk the airport I remember another thing. When I had just left hospital I joined a yoga camp.  The first thing we did in that camp was to write our names in a piece of paper and pile them in the middle of the room. Then each one of us took a name. It was decided this way that for that week we would be the secret guardian angel of that person. always paying attention whether he/she was ok. In that playful and lyrical way everybody was being taken care of.

While I walk the airport I realise it is not important whether there is any metaphysical reality to it. We just have to keep going and helping strangers along the way. Maybe eventually this way we might even become malleable, compassionate and flexible enough to also be gentle, and kind to those who are so close.

I land in Udon Thani and as I get out of the gate I see an old friend. he screams ” Welcome Back”.  I feel enormous joy. Yes I am back. I drive with his sons, and friend back to Nong Khai. I am coming home. There is a room being set up for me. I realise that I do not even remember how good it is to have one stable place for you. I recognise some Thai old familiar faces. At night I make finally my way back to the Gaia the boat that floats in the Mekong. I see the river pass. How many years had I dreamed of being back? And now I am here. ” julieta, how long are you going stay for? We ask people to stay for at least 3 months when they coming to work. is that ok?”. And inside of me I can say without hesitation that it is ok. That it is great. I finally do not want to run away. I want to learn the inner secrets of a guesthouse that lies in front of the Mekong. I want to learn the stories that are behind Thai and tourist smiles. I want to see the strangers pass in this border town, be their anchors when they need one.  As my new sweet English friend who also works here and I are organising our little house I feel this enormous joy. I know in my whole body that yes I am back.

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