Minsk. “How is Belarus different from Australia?” they asked me at the weekly couchsurfing meet up. There were 40 or so people at the event. 5 were foreigners. I feel like a celebrity. They want me to tell them about the rest of the world. What is it like out there? They want to know about my work history. My salary. Our retirement age. My opinion on the refugee crisis. “How is Belarus different from Australia?” Can I think of one way in which they are the same?
We were in Kaula Lumper last week, out for lunch with an ex-college of Jurek’s. Long before we met, Jurek worked 8 months for an IT firm in the ugliest building in the KLCC precinct. Passing through KL this time around called for lots of catching up with friends unseen for years.
This particular friend asked questions I hadn’t been asked for a long time, with a directness that demanded answers, and something I at first mistook for aggression. “So travelling is great, but at some point you have to stop and get a job, what are you going to do for money?” I reacted. Fell into the trap of defensiveness. Fumbled to justifying myself and voiced thoughts about potential development work, courses I may or may not take and other ideas I’m carrying round in my pocket. Answers I’d pull out for a worried grandma.
Later, it appeared the question was masking something quite different, given away by a flippant comment delivered in the same masculine tone, that almost had it slip past me unnoticed. “Yeah, I really hate this company since that happened. But I don’t want to leave until I have the next job lined up. I’m not the type of person who is okay with not having a plan. I mean, I can’t just do what you guys are doing.” A convoluted, backhanded compliment. On surface glance, I’d thought it a stab. A dig that we’re free wheeling hippies who are going to have to give up these idealistic dreams at some point and suit up to an office for a salary like the rest of the world. But this wasn’t it. I examined more closely. The bravo was a cover up. This was about his own fear.
Too sold on the collard shirt, sitting across the table in the nice restaurant in the swish new mall that commerce built, I nodded and the conversation continued without missing a beat. I kept the peace but I missed the opportunity.
Well, there’s a different response I’d like to give to this comment. A turn I’d have liked the conversation route to have taken. I USED TO BE A PERSON WHO NEEDED A PLAN. I’ve sat in that chair. In my mind, I’ve rationalised away the hopes and actions of those who are brave enough to be living out their dreams. I’ve been judgemental of those who actually seem to be genuinely happy. I’ve even been the person asking those questions that pull these people back down to earth from the higher place they’re acting from. All of this because I was scared.
Thursday, 9th of April 2015
At 5.17am Rita knocked on the door and asked us to have a tea. The rice was already cooked, boiled eggs and some tasty noodles were also waiting for us. The sun was rising and ayams (or chickens) were getting crazy, echoing through the whole town. Rita didn’t have to shout through the door as the house’s roof hangs above the walls with no ceiling, allowing for the hot, humid air to circulate throughout the building. Still very sleepy, drinking the sweet tea, Wendy told Rita ‘Wow, pagi-pagi tapi sudah ada nasi, terima kasih! Kakak tidur bagus?’ (So early but already have rice, thank you! Did sister sleep ok?) ‘Cukup’, enough, replied Rita smiling humbly.
We took a shower, sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent, packed our bags and quickly went along the street full of banana trees to the main road. We had to catch a bus and it was already after 6. We were in Larantuka, East Flores, heading to Maumere after a wonderful week there. Rita had just started her CouchSurfing profile and we were her first guests. All of us were really excited to meet each other and we felt sad saying goodbye.
Finally, after two months long preparations, we are officially opening Drop the tension’s blog! We have written a couple of posts in November, but it is now when the blog has most of the software configured, pictures up, texts verified and the approval of its authors, ready to keep you posted 🙂
A lot will change in the coming weeks. Our project is just starting to get in shape, it was quite abstract to us until recently. At the moment we’re finishing working on the software part (there’s probably some mess below the post) while ideas for new posts are cooking. Our wonderful Effy has been working on brilliant graphics for the blog. Get ready for our spiffy new look but most of all, keep reading 🙂
Lots of love,
Team Drop the tension
I was apprehensive about hitch-hiking. On my departure from home, with skeleton plans and no car, my mother, who’s no whimp, asked me not to do it. Her words and the stories of Ivan Mirlat, ‘backpacker serial killer’ of the 1980s, nagged at the back of my mind. But I was traveling with Jurek Lubinski now. And hitch-hiking is his favourite sport. After hitching in places like Romania and Tajikistan, telling Jurek “hitch-hiking can be dangerous”, as we walked to our hitch-wiki suggested point of suburban Sydney, seemed a bit lame. We stuck out our thumbs at the side of a freeway entry ramp and within 5 minutes we were away!