My work at a local backpacker’s hostel has allowed me to interact with individuals from all over the world. I would like to share some of what I’ve learned or experienced while talking to or dealing with them. This is PEOPLE STORIES:
I. The Artist
When we travel, we meet many people along the way. We forge a connection through daily conversations or hellos. Though some of them stay, others have to say goodbye. There are also those who simply leave marks on our doors in the form of lessons or well wishes. But he left neither when he finally packed his canvas.
He seemed so convincing the first time he arrived. He introduced his art as his life. But as days passed, he hardly talked. And if he did, it would always be about the downside of living in this country or the fact that no one seems to be interested in what he thinks he does best. He once argued with an inebriated traveler, insisting on the high-value of his masterpiece – a series of lines conceived by Sharpees on a cardboard – his representation of Metro Manila- a land of triangles.
“This is my art, man! What the fuck is your problem?!”
I once told him to connect with other local artists but something held him back. One afternoon, he took out his cellphone and dialed the number of his mother. After a few minutes, he put his phone down and said to me:
“I can’t believe that my mom is not answering her phone. I’ve been trying to call her. She hasn’t returned my emails too. I even told her that I’m already dying here but she hasn’t said a word.”
A colleague said he left a few days ago with his suitcase. His destination – and whatever’s on his mind – is something I will never know.
II. The Fortune Teller
I’ve learned not to trust people who are willing to see my future for me.
Years ago, fresh from high school, I entered the university with utmost curiousity about everything mystical / unknown. I had my palm read and was told that I would lose something important. That something important was initially unknown to me until my school bag went AWOL inside a McDonalds.
Since then, I shun off all offers, even if they were free. Though some say that it’s just mere guidance and nothing more, I still believe that with guidance comes influence and once its implanted in the mind, it becomes part of one’s daily actions. In other words, I have learned to stray from knowing my fate and have allowed life to take its course.
So when the fortune teller knocked on the hostel’s door and offered me a free reading, I politely declined. He was too kind to leave after inquiring about a short term stay, but before he left, he said to me:
“You’re a very happy person on the outside, but inside you are sad. You’ve been helping people, but you’ve not received the help you greatly need. But don’t worry, by the end of this month, you will receive a good news.”
Indeed, two days ago, I received a good news.
III. The Father
The most important lesson I’ve learned from a man trapped in dogma is this:
True love entails respect.
Women have no place in his country – India – but he loves his wife as much as he loves his son. One afternoon, he came up to me and showed me a picture of a one year old who had his eyes. He said:
“I would like to stay here and maybe find a job so I can be with him. I just applied for a visa extension. My wife doesn’t want to go to India because she doesn’t like the food. I respect that. I want her to be happy. If she wants to stay here, then we stay here. If she doesn’t want to be a Hindu, it doesn’t matter. If you respect your wife, she will respect you.”
Sometimes, the people whom you least expect to change are those who ultimately create the most impact.
He said goodbye a few days ago, carrying his 3 month old son, with tears in his eyes. He never got his extension.