Feliz Navidad from a stranger


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At 5000 metres above sea level yesterday I stood by an icy lake – on the side of Pastoruri. Thunder rolled above me and snow pelted down. It stung my nose, it covered my jumper, and it froze my fingers when I took my gloves off to make a snowman.

My first snowman. It was lame and small and not what I imagined it to look like. But I don’t care. Because this is the first time I have ever seen snow.

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It’s such a cool thing to be able to tell you about this on Christmas Eve (or more accurately to many of you across the world it would already be Christmas). Feliz Navidad! I hope you’re having a wonderful day.

The bus took two hours along a dirt road to get to the base from where we walked. By then I was sick and struggling, but all the coca leaves I could suck on were keeping the headaches away, only just. I slowly puffed my way the last 90 minutes along the path to the icy lake and at some point the snow pelted down. I hated the snow; I loved the snow. DSC_4098At some point at the top I watched one of the guys on the tour take his shirt off and pose for the camera. And that was it. I had to join in too!

DSC_4146And before you know it, we were mates!

At the end of the tour when we made it to the bottom and were at a restaurant, and I was feeling really sick, the guys joined me for a conversation in limited English/Spanish. They wanted me to come out late that night to party, and I thought about it, but I undoubtedly had some altitude sickness, and I was hungry, and tired, and lonely, and these are terrible combinations when you’re in a foreign city.

I went back to the hostel, and I know this is sort of a depressing tangent to take when I saw friggin snow for the first time, but I wondered how much better it would have been to be with people I knew. It occurred to me then, once I saw snow, that I was going to be alone for Christmas, in a hostel and undoubtedly on this computer. It’s not that nobody cared about me, it’s not that I didn’t want to be around anybody, and I am happy I am doing what I’m doing. It’s just that at Christmas and the New Year we can look back at the year that was, and what currently is, and decide if this is what we want for ourselves.

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Is this what I want for myself?

Yes.

And no. What’s the point of having all these cool stories you did by yourself when you aren’t physically around anybody you relate to.

This sounds like I’m really feeling sorry for myself. I know, I know, but actually, while I’m being sentimental this is more enjoyable than last Christmas (in which I wasn’t doing what I wanted) or the Christmas before (in a motel room on my own). I’m actually a really lucky guy. I have so much going for me and my flaw is to overthink it all. I’m reflecting because I’m sensing a pattern with my Christmases, and know I could do so much better.

As I was eating pizza and drinking beer by myself the other night, I saw three other tables that had people sitting there. There was a family including a man who was smiling, and two women, and a little girl. And sitting alone at three different tables were three men, about the same age, listening to music and on their phone. I was thinking ‘what the hell is wrong with us? Why aren’t we like that man at the other table?’ and I wanted to go up to one of the guys to talk to, but he had his headphones in. And that stopped me.

Today as I walked through the main streets searching for a bus ticket to get back to my friends in time for Christmas (which I couldn’t quite manage), and passing increasingly irritated police holding riot shields and standing in the middle of impatient shoppers, I found myself in a restaurant. And it was there I ordered the best hot chocolate I ever tasted. I do not say this lightly and my compliment must have pleased the waiter so much, that he brought me out a piece of cake that I’ve seen sold everywhere. It was delicious and his kindness made me happy.

I continued to enter bus stations (do you have a ticket to Trujillo? Christmas 10pm? No, that’s okay) and had just given up when a man on the street who heard my last request directed me to one last station. I thought maybe I was getting my Christmas miracle (Trujillo! Tonight? Seeing my friends on Christmas morning? Yes!) and while I didn’t, it was the thoughtfulness of a man talking to a foreigner who didn’t know his own language that made a difference. It made me begin to see the kindness in the people around me, and knowing that I could find these special moments in anyone and anywhere. That’s what I needed, and it was here all along.

Holy shit I got deep didn’t I? 

While we look over this year that was, and we celebrate Christmas, and we smile at our own adventures, maybe we (or just me) could reflect on those times in which we unknowingly put up a wall and kept away our friends and family from sharing the special times with us. But maybe, too, we should know that the special times shared with the strangers still have meaning too. We are not as alone as we might think. There could be a person at the next table wanting to talk to you, if only you could see it.

Merry Christmas amigos.

3 thoughts on “Feliz Navidad from a stranger

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