We all have this bad habit – forming an opinion about someone in 60 seconds after looking them up and down for a short moment, sizing them up. Or by just listening to their voices/accents. Staying at a backpackers affords one the opportunity to meet a lot of fun people, and at minimum, if one is not into ‘socializing’, one can at least overhear a lot of interesting conversation in accents and languages unfamiliar. Bruce/I enjoy listening to other foreign-tongue (and let’s face it, a thick Kiwi accent can be akin to a foreign language; twice now at the grocery store checkout counter Bruce whipped out his passport when paying thinking the checkout girl asked for it, when all she generally was asking was whether we had some small coins of some sort to help round out the bill! Lost in translation at it’s finest). And we generally have some disdain for other Americans; I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because we know Americans are world-famous for being loud, rude, and obnoxious and we’d like to not ever be lumped into this category. But, sometimes after traveling for a bit, one yearns to speak to someone from the ‘homeland’, to have the ease of conversation without straining to interpret subtle nuances, to basically just have a nice familiar chat.
So there I was one morning in the backpackers kitchen, making my breakfast, not talking to anyone and just observing goings-on around me. Three young Americans must have arrived the night before and now were chatting among themselves. I don’t know why, but my instantaneous thought was ‘Oh, young Americans’ , but after six days of not speaking with any homelanders, I felt the need for a chat. So I started with the usual “Where are you guys from?”, knowing that our voices would establish the mutual connection. “Oh, Vermont, Iowa, and something, such and such” they replied. That’s nice, I thought, young kids traveling abroad for the first time together. “Oh, did you all come over together as friends?”. “No”, one replied, “We met and became friends when we worked together on the Ice”. Ice as in Antartica. These kids, I swear they looked like they were still in their late teens, but they must have been in their early twenties, had just spent five months working at the McMurdo base in Antartica. One had just finished her second season. I was in awe. One of my favorite books that I read last year is called “Ice Bound” and I quickly started asking them all sorts of questions about ice living.
So. Lesson learned: Don’t be hasty to judge. Interesting people come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities. I know this, but sometimes you need a good ol’ swift-kick-in-the-pants reminder.