Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Do you ever try to reconnect with someone in your past?

I had coffee with a friend tonight and we ended up talking about sketchy train stations in Europe.  It reminded me of a story in Italy ages ago.  I was 21 then and my partner was 19 and he was obsessed with designer stuff so naturally, he wanted to see the outlets.  We took a train to this little town outside of Florence and we thought for sure, there'd be tons of people getting off the train with us and we'd have no problem finding this outlet.

We got to our stop and only three people got off the train.  It was us two and this blonde girl.  We walked out to the street and it was a ghost town.  There was no one around, no traffic, no life.  I ran up to the blonde girl and asked if she spoke english. She did indeed.  She also spoke italian, german, and her native russian.  She too was looking for the outlet so we decided to go ask for directions.  We finally walked up to this building with a red cross on the outside.  We walked in to some senior centre and literally every head turned to look at us: a very blonde russian in a tight revealing top, a young white guy with frosted tips, and an asian guy with dyed brown hair.  It literally became completely silent as they just stared at us.  Good thing Katja spoke a bit of italian because she managed to find us a taxi and got us to the outlet.  We spent the day shopping and eating and it really was such a wonderful memory.

It's been over eight years and I can't believe I remember that day like it was yesterday.  When people make an impression, I guess it stays with you for a long time.  If you happen to know a russian girl named Ekaterina (Katja) Ossipova, let me know.  I tried emailing her today but her email address is no longer valid.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pineapples and ice cream anyone?

I travel to Hong Kong as often as I can.  Reason is simply because I feel a very personal connection to the city. I was born there after all.  Funny thing though is that I spent all of my school life lying about my birthplace because I didn't like being made fun of for not being born in Canada.  Kids are cruel as we often hear.

I planned a trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong this past August.  Being an experienced traveler, I really should have paid more attention to my passport expiry date because I knew that many countries around the world require at least 6 months validity. Long story short, I had 3 months left on my passport and was forced to cancel the Taiwan leg.  At the time, I was extremely upset because my heart was set on visiting Taipei. However, as I always believe, things happen for a reason.  And as I have discovered, Taiwan didn't work out because I was meant to be in Hong Kong my entire trip where I ended up meeting someone who's changed my life.

Never did I think I'd travel 12 hours by plane to my homeland only to meet a "local" who is actually a Kiwi.  I also never thought I'd ever enjoy eating pineapples and vanilla ice cream together which was his dessert of choice.  What was beautiful about that weekend was that it was so unexpected.  I know people say that often but this really was so unexpected that it slapped me so hard that it's mangled my face.  It was so unexpected that there is a dramatic part two which I may or may not talk about later.

What is most important that I learned though is that it's never easy.  If things are too easy, it isn't right.  It has really forced me to examine things and fight if it is something worth fighting for.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

So what if you don't speak the same language?

I find that I often get along very well with Latin cultures.  I've always been lucky enough to meet ones that are warm, friendly, compassionate, loving, and generous.  Very recently, I was able to connect with someone who now holds a very special place in my heart.  After a year of online correspondence, we were finally able to meet when he decided to come to Vancouver for a couple months to study english.  The first night we planned to meet for dinner, he was late.  The only reason he was late though was because he forgot the gift he had brought for me from Brazil so he had to bus back to where he was staying to get the gift.  He got me a bar of natural soap from Brazil which smelled like cinnamon and it makes my bathroom smell awesome.

My favourite memory of this person is the way we were able to communicate with each other despite a bit of a language barrier.  I guess that's what's so amazing about finding a connection with the people that you are supposed to meet in your life.   You don't always need words to communicate.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Have you ever met your "twin"?

As you may have heard by now, Apple's Steve Jobs passed away today.  Indeed, it's a sad day but it does remind me of a story that happened almost a year ago now.

My friend and I, both in our late 20s, decided to spend thirteen hours at Disneyland.  We were lining up for Space Mountain when my friend noticed a guy that looked exactly like Steve Jobs.  I am totally not a tech geek but I at least knew what Steve Jobs looked like.  But then this guy was with a family including a very frumpy blonde woman and a couple of kids. My friend wasn't sure what his wife should look like either and we were at the front of the line by now to get on the ride so we couldn't google her.  Somehow I didn't think it was him and he certainly wouldn't have gone to Disneyland on a weekend. I do admit though that the resemblance was uncanny.

Anyhow, the whole ride my friend kept whining like a little girl saying how much he wanted a picture with Steve Jobs.  So we got off the ride and I was standing there looking at those pictures that they take of your hideous face while on the ride when "Steve" stood right next to me.  By now, I've had enough of my friend's whining so I went up to the guy and said, "Hi there, sir if you don't mind, my friend would really like a quick picture with you. He's a big fan of yours."  This guy stared at me as if he was saying, who are you and what the hell are you talking about.  He kept staring at me and I could feel my face turn red.  I thanked him and apologized for bothering him and left.  Clearly it wasn't him.  Again, why the hell would he be at Disneyland on a Saturday? On the other hand, he did have on New Balance shoes.  Man was it an awkward situation.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why is Europe so romantic?

Sometimes people have such an impact on you that you can recall every detail from that encounter as if it had happened yesterday.  My experience happened in Barcelona last summer and it was truly the most romantic time of my life.  It all started with a red bicycle that came towards me.  Riding it was a tall, dark, handsome guy with one of the most beautiful smiles that I have ever seen.  This person really is the most beautiful person that I have ever met.  Though he was obviously attractive to me on the outside, there aren't enough words I can use to describe the warmth and love that came from his inside.

We spent time together as if we had known each other for a long time.  We laughed like old friends would when they reminisce about the past.  Then we also parted ways, only the way it played out was like a movie script that I never could've written myself.

He had offered me his place to stay on my last night in Barcelona.  I certainly didn't hesitate to accept the invitation even though I had already paid for a night in a hostel.  He was at work the day I arrived so he left me his key with the bartender that worked in the bar below.  I walked up the dark stair case to his suite and found a note on his door that basically said hello you found it.  It was such a cozy apartment.  It was simple and I remember it was white just the way he liked it.  It had character. It was warm.  The only thing that wasn't warm was the water.  It still makes me laugh today when I think about how he likes to shower with cold water all year round.

I couldn't sleep as people were out on the streets till at least 3 or 4am.  While people laughed and talked outside, I slept alone in the bed with my thoughts.  I didn't understand why I felt so comfortable in a foreign place, let alone a foreign place without the resident who actually had to work until the bars closed.  The noise was finally dying down and it probably wasn't until I heard the doorknob turn that I was finally able to fall asleep.

I woke up to the sunlight that shone through these large curtain-less windows.  I woke up thinking that this was exactly how I wanted to wake up every single day only I knew that I was waking up to catch a flight home.  He walked me to the train station that would take me to the airport.  I stood on the train while he was on the platform and he kissed me as the train was to depart.  I walked to a seat and I cried.
It was difficult to hold it together.  Even when two german women asked me at the next stop if the train was headed for the airport, I still couldn't hold back the tears. Why should I have held back anyway? I acted upon what I felt.  And what I felt was so much sadness.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How much of the world have you seen?

I thought of this post today when I was walking Jenga in the rain this morning wearing my blue jacket from the time I volunteered during the Winter Olympics.  I was a driver for the Olympic family which included basically anyone who was involved with the next summer and winter Olympics.  It was an incredible experience that allowed me to meet people from all over the world.

I don't care if you were for or against the Games because what I loved most about the experience was that for two weeks, we celebrated more than just talented athletes, we celebrated humanity.  It was emotional for me because it was a break from the everyday.  I had the opportunity to connect with people from a different background, language, culture, history, personality, mentality, yet they were all there for the same reason.

Being a humanitarian at heart, I always feel that if people had the opportunity to connect and understand other people that are so different from themselves, then the world would be a better place.  Why don't people want to experience another culture?  Why do people judge the way someone lives when they were brought up in a completely different society? Why must some people think they are superior to others?

It sounds like it's too simple of a solution to make this world a better place for everyone to live in.  But maybe it really IS that simple.  People often over-complicate things when all they really need to do is take a step back and think.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How do you find peace?

I don't know why but I thought of her today so I am writing about it. I mentioned before that sometimes people enter and leave our lives all too quickly but no matter how long or short that period of time is, there is always some significance.

I also met her in Montreal when I was 22. She from Toronto and me from Vancouver. We had met through a mutual friend in the language program and again, the connection was instant and the friendship didn't take long to develop. At the time, I was in a serious relationship with another significant person who had planned to join me in Montreal at the end of my trip. His itinerary included a stop in Toronto just prior. I was young and in love while my new friend was home sick (yes only a 4hr drive away) despite having moved pretty much her entire bedroom into our tiny dorm rooms. Impulsively we both bought some pricey train tickets and headed to Toronto for a weekend. Her parents picked us up at the station and took me to dinner. Then gave me a place to stay overnight. They treated me like I was a long time friend when actually, I had literally met their daughter maybe two days ago.

To this day, I always think about her generosity, their generosity, and how hard it must be to now live without a daughter who had left too soon. I remember hearing the news like it was yesterday. I found out the night I had returned from a trip to Hong Kong. Now two years later, I still think about her and I cry.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Who wears short shorts?

As I say often, I travel alone quite a bit and I enjoy it.  What I don't enjoy however, is dining alone when I'm traveling.  I was in Barcelona last summer and ended up meeting a lot of wonderful people.  Unfortunately, I also had probably the worst experience meeting someone online.  I was figuring out dinner one night when this British guy messaged and asked to hang out.  So I thought why not since eating alone meant McDonald's while with some company, I could have a proper meal.

He told me he was coming from the beach and I thought that was strange.  At least have the courtesy to go back to your hotel and shower right?  As I waited in front of a Zara, I saw this dude walking towards me in the tiniest swim shorts and I thought please don't let that be him.  Of course this moron looked nothing like his online picture. The online picture of him also didn't have "pompous bitch" written on his forehead.  Don't get me wrong, short swimwear on a guy is pretty sexy...but not if your skin is transparent and you barely tip the scale at 100 lbs.  

Awkwardly we had to go pick a place to eat.  He didn't offer any suggestions but only complained every time I suggested one on Las Ramblas.  I was aware that restaurants in touristy areas were a rip off but I didn't care at this point because I was so hungry.   Throughout dinner, this moron insulted my ethnic background and told me how he disliked Canadians. Then when my bill came, he yelled at me "See I told you not to eat here!" because my glass of coke turned out to be like $8 Cdn or something.  I thought, why the hell do you care, you're not even paying for me.  I have never eaten so fast in my life. As we exited the restaurant, he asked what else we were doing.  I said, "I'm going home, you can do whatever the hell you want."  I literally turned and ran down to the subway.  As I was turning, I could see that he had held his hand out to shake mine. In my mind I thought, shove that bitchy hand back into your booty shorts and go back to London!

the Cranberries - No Need to Argue. Do you have this cd?

Sometimes when you meet someone, the connection is obvious and immediate. Sometimes it takes a little longer to build.  The next thing you know, you become really close friends and people start taking pictures of you two in pirate costumes on the street.  Nothing in life is more wonderful than having someone who makes you laugh anytime and anywhere.

I met her almost five years ago now.  Definitely didn't expect us to become such awesome friends but funny things happen when the stars are aligned.  You know someone is meant to be in your life when you so often unknowingly communicate telepathically with each other.  Have you ever sat down with a friend and then suddenly blurt out a word that happens to be something they are also thinking of right at that very moment?  Have you ever texted a friend a random word related to a funny story and then right at that moment, she happens to be telling that funny story to someone else?

It feels like so much time has gone by because so much has happened in the past five years.  Rough times and good times, we seem to find a way back to each other's lives which is pretty amazing.  The best part is that I can always look back to our favourite memories and remember every detail like it was yesterday.

All the things you said to me today,
Change my perspective in every way.
These things count to mean so much to me,
Into my faith, you and your baby.

It's out there. It's out there.
It's out there. If you want me I'll be here.

I'll be dreaming my dreams with you.
I'll be dreaming my dreams with you.
And there's no other place,
That I'd lay down my face.
I'll be dreaming my dreams with you. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is that a Vietnamese sub?

I've always enjoyed traveling and exploring on my own.  When I did it in my younger years, it was as if I needed to prove to myself that I was mature enough to be independent.  At 22, after graduating from UBC, I took part in a government-sponsored program where you travel to another part of Canada to learn one of the two official languages.  My journey took me to Montreal where I met one of the most important people to ever enter my life.

I remember carrying my backpack and walking towards the residences at the University of Montreal.  Coming from the opposite direction were two girls and one of them looked at me and said, "Is that a Vietnamese sub?"  I don't actually remember what I was eating but it definitely wasn't a sub because at that point, I've never actually had one.  Ever since then though, upon hearing "Vietnamese sub," I always think about how I met such a beautiful, talented, creative, loving, and kind-hearted soul.

Do you ever think about how you met your friends and why you think they are a part of your life? I never really did until now.  Friendships often fade without reason and it's something I have experienced far too often.  But because I live my life believing that things happen for a reason, I am able to look back and appreciate that contribution and move on from it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What are you wearing?

Sometimes the littlest things make your day, right?  I was at Staples on Sunday buying some supplies and while I was paying, the cashier blurts out, "What are you wearing? You smell so good."

I was wearing Acqua Di Gio which I had bought duty free on the plane on my way back to Vancouver from Hong Kong last week.  I had two $25 gift vouchers and this bottle was the only thing that I could afford.

I like when people brighten my day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Who is the most ignorant person you've ever met?

I am going to keep this post within Australia.  So it was the end of my school term at Wollongong and I decided to travel around the country before going back to Vancouver.  I was in Cairns where I stayed in a hostel for the first time.  I walked in the room and thought, what the hell, there's like 8 beds in this room.

Anyhow, I went out to dinner with two people I had met at the hostel.  One guy was probably around my age then from Nairobi and the other was a man from England...I'd say late 50s to early 60s.  I was bored out of my mind.  The younger guy didn't speak much while the old man asked me the most ridiculous questions. He even insulted me by saying that I can't be from Canada because I am Chinese. Then no joke, he asked me something that I'd never forget.  We were having a conversation (and I use this word loosely because I did more eye-rolling than talk) comparing Canada and England.  At one point, he looked at me with a straight face and asked, "Are women allowed to drive in Canada?"

I have never felt like punching anyone in the face, let alone an old man.  But at that point, I really could have.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Have you ever traveled almost 24 hrs to get to australia?

I think this post is appropriate since today is September 11's ten year anniversary.  I was 20 years old and on my way to Wollongong, Australia to begin my student exchange program through UBC.  It was 5 months after 9/11. You can imagine what it was like to travel then.

10 years ago, laptops were also incredibly expensive, meaning I couldn't afford one. I kid you not.  My dad packed my desktop tower into my suitcase and sent me off down under.  I know what you're thinking, no there was no monitor. I bought one in Australia.

Did I mention it was Feb 2002? 5 months after 9/11? What do you think happened when they scanned my suitcase at security on my Hawaiian stopover?  Immediately I was pulled aside and searched.  The Hawaiian security officer lady pulls out the tower along with some underwear I'm sure I used to cushion it and asked me what it was. After stupidly explaining to her why I had that, she looked at me with the saddest eyes and said, "It's ok, I understand.  I have four kids. Sometimes, things just get too expensive."

The rest of Australia was a wonderful experience.  Have you ever had an admirer leave a random note on your table while you were lunching alone in the cafeteria? Then this same person leaves you a movie ticket in your mailbox to watch Amelie at the university theatre? Then you go on and have a relationship with this person and have them show you what it feels like to be loved by someone?  I was 20 years old, if only I knew how to appreciate it back then. However, I still remember it at 29,  so I can appreciate it now.

What is this?

My name is Brian and I love people.  I also love traveling...alone...and so this is how I meet the most interesting and memorable people. So one day, my friend Sophia and I were chatting on the beach when the idea for this "blog" came to us.  We thought, why not share our experiences with everyone else?  The reason the word blog is in quotations is because I am getting tired of reading blogs.  I wanted this to be a place where people come to hear stories about the people I meet...just as my friends do with me over a dinner or a coffee or a drink.

When I say "people I meet", it literally means people I meet.   It can be from a vacation, a horrific date, the guy that serves my morning coffee, a neighbour...you get what I'm saying.  Life is designed so that every person you meet serves a purpose...sometimes significant, sometimes it "seems" insignificant.  People enter our lives for a reason, season, or a lifetime.  I read that recently from another special person I met.  We will eventually get to that post.

As this is just the beginning, my posts (for a while anyway) will be many trips down memory lane.  I will write about the people I remember from the past first.  As I get caught up, going forward, I will write about the people I meet in the present.

I will of course keep all posts anonymous.  Even if you recognize yourself in the post, please refrain from revealing your identity.