I love today’s prompt, because it’s so often the case that random encounters make for great experiences. I don’t have just one example, but a bunch of them. All of them random.
The neighbor – I have had my fair share of Bad neighbor experience lately, and I hope I’ll never have one again. I hate it. So when we were just spending time in our new home’s garden because the weather was awesome this afternoon, I panicked for a millisecond when the neighbor – whom I had never met – started calling for us from his balcony. My first immediate inner response still is: ‘what did I do wrong’. It turned out that this neighbor was actually a very nice guy. He cured meat and made sausages as a hobby, and he offered us a bunch of special self made pork delicacies – which he threw at us from the balcony. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but when it’s quality stuff and prepared with passion, I will not say no. A random first encounter with this neighbor, but a good one for sure.
The stay with me guy – in 2016 we traveled through Oman, a beautiful country that I can totally recommend. It’s fine to camp wherever you like, which we did all the time. Oman has a couple of good diving spots, and we wanted to explore them. After inquiring in various places, we discovered that there was one hotel that offered dive trips. It was just that this hotel looked closed, and like it had not been open in a while. We walked around ir a little, and then from the beach side, found a way into the premises, a bit after the sun had set. In a corner in the back we saw light, and people sitting around a couple of candle lights. We figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask them. It turned out that these were cleaning staff that didn’t speak English and one or two dive instructors that told us that the dive shop was closed for the season and that the hotel would open after renovations. Almost in the same breath, one of the instructors, a guy from Pakistan, told us he would take us home, and we could stay with him. We were a bit perplexed, and there was little room for negotiation. We didn’t know what to do or how to get out of this pact we had sort of involuntarily gotten ourselves into. He politely demanded (I guess that really is the best description) that we followed him. Half shivering in fear we did what the guy asked. We were certainly going to be lured into a scam or a robbery, or whatever. But we sheepishly followed the car. He stopped after several minutes next to a collection of ramshackle buildings (many of Oman’s buildings look like that, it can be anything from a shop, to a restaurant, to a car dealer to a home). This is probably where he would collect his gang to kill us and take our rental car and belongings. We waited, because we are dumb like that. After five minutes, he returned with two kebabs for us, and one for himself, and told us again to follow. Another short ride followed, and we were led into a walled property, with a typical semi fancy Omani style house. We had seen many of them. Now we wouldbat least get to see one from the inside, before we would be gutted, wrapped in carpet and buried in the dunes of the empty quarter. The house was interesting, with bright blue tiles everywhere, and interesting and somewhat uncomfortable couches along all the walls. No tables anywhere. The most expensive and huge electrical appliances, from TV to huge refrigerators. Arabian style ornaments on the ceiling, and fans and AC everywhere. A typical Omani interior, we heard from our soon to be killer. We had our last meal with him. Delicious chicken kebabs. During the meal, he started making his demands. He knew my wife was German, and he would really like to learn and speak some German with her. He actually had German language course books and all. As a dive instructor, his main audience was German and Austrian, and he did his very best to be able to stay in Oman. We learned that he had worked in the Emirates under conditions that we don’t recognize in the west. He made it clear that Oman treated its guest workers a lot better. To be able to stay, he had to stand out by offering an extra language. Suddenly it all made sense. We had a fantastic evening chatting about life in Oman, and part of course in German. He decided not to kill us, and let us go the next day. Sleeping on the tiled floor under cold AC was no luxury. We would certainly have slept better in our tent. Still, I’m glad we sheepishly accepted our fate. We got to see more of Oman through this random encounter. We learned here that most people are actually okay and mean well.
The tandem hippies – as we were checking in in a camping ground in Lisbon, dressed in cycling outfit, two hippies in their late fifties followed us in. ‘Come stay with us, we’re right over there, and we’re making dinner. You’ll recognize the tandem bike.’ It wasn’t a question. You guessed right. We set up our tent right next to theirs, and did exactly did what they ordered us to do. When we were ready, the couple had just returned from a supermarket, and we’re happy to share food and wine. They were at least twice our age, but had stories to tell. They had cycled everywhere, and had had particular interesting adventures in China and Myanmar in times way before everyone had access to these countries. We could not get enough of their stories. As we got a bit tipsy with the wine, and the food was gone, we crawled into our own tents. The next morning we each went our own way, but when we returned in the evening, we were hoping for a similar evening. More wine. More food. More stories from the road. Another lovely evening followed. I just love meeting people with similar mindset and an instant click. Age doesn’t matter. Randomness doesn’t matter. They were good vibes. I know they still cycle around somewhere, and I hope that we’ll one day run into them again. Who knows what stories they will tell.
On our trips, we have had countless experiences like this. Random encounters, where we had the chance to say yes or no. In a past life I would have said no to every one of them. Now I know better. Just say yes.