While sitting in the hostel restaurant and joking around with the staff, I overheard a guy tell the waiter that he was from Columbia.
“Ahhh,” I thought to myself. “I haven’t spoken Spanish in a month!”
I strike up a conversation and we chat away for a while. The Columbian accent is pretty funny for those who haven’t heard it. It rises and falls in a melody and accent – just like a song. We talked about Thailand, Southeast Asia, Columbia, Australia (where he’d been living) and stuff like that. I was wondering why the hell he wasn’t asking me where I learned Spanish. Usually people look at me in amazement and are really curious about it.
“Una pregunta: de donde en Espana eres?” he looked at me inquisitively.
I checked to see if he was joking. I did a quick scan to see if he was the flattering type. He didn’t appear to be. He had just asked me where in Spain I was from.
“Ehhh, California…” I replied with a half smirk.
He was in dismay. It made sense though. The accent wasn’t quite South American and I sure as hell didn’t look Spanish (but there are always exceptions – like half the rich people in Bolivia who look whiter than me) and although I was using a lot of Spain Spanish words, I wasn’t using much slang.
A German girl came and sat with us and he looked at her. “This guy speaks Spanish like a Spaniard!”
Now, I probably don’t need to emphasize how happy that made me. I’ve tried for two years now to ditch the retarded sounding gringo accent and it seems that I’ve finally been able to pull it off. And with time, I’ll only get better. It’s funny how you can play on people’s ignorance of the other accents and the fact that lots of South Americans and Spanish people look white to your advantage. A Spanish guy would never think I was from Spain. A South American would never think I was from his respective country. But they can’t pin the accent – and that’s fine by me.
We spent the rest of the evening joking around and playing pool. It was a fun night.
Now I’m in a city called Ayuthaya. I took the bus in the evening after picking up my ticket for Nepal and eventually arrived around 9:00PM. Once there, I met a Canadian chick and we chatted for a while and made arrangements to visit the temples the next day (this place has lots of really old Angkor style temples throughout the city) and I was telling her about Laos (where she was thinking of going). I told her about the bus ride from Luang Nam Tha to Thailand and how horribly fun it was and how a guys chair actually broke after we were thrown in the air with a huge bump. Just then, the guy whose chair broke walked up to me and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Do I know you? I think I’ve met you somewhere.”
He then joined our conversation. Think about it for a moment. I meet a guy a month and a half ago and then randomly bring up a conversation and bring him up at the exact moment that he walks up to me (he didn’t hear me talking about him). Weird. He had quite a few funny stories about his time in central Thailand and we all eventually went to bed. The next morning, Av (the Canadian chick) and I rented a motorbike and went out to visit the temples. Although they weren’t anything like Angkor, they were pretty cool and fairly impressive. The heat eventually got to us and we went back to the hostel and rested – and I pet the hostel dog for a few hours. She really reminds me of my old dog Patches and a few years ago got ran over by a motorcycle and lost some teeth so her tongue permanently hangs out of the side of her mouth.
After a nap, I took the motorbike out alone and visited a few more temples, an elephant park (where it was quite sad to see all the elephants chained up and stuff) and an old Portuguese settlement where they had excavated a bunch of skeletons and stuff. That evening I went back to the hostel and checked out the market. And just kind of hung out. I’m bracing myself for Nepal.
I’ve thought a lot about how I’ve changed over the past year and a half. I’ve been gone for quite a while and although I’m ready to come home, I still want to see so much – and will stick with this until I’m done. It’s funny the things you miss. I miss my dog. I miss having dinner on Sunday at my dad’s. I miss having dinner with my mom on Friday night. I miss hopping in my truck or on my motorcycle and riding to Alex’s house and having a few beers with my friends. I miss (god forbid) working. But, like when going to university, you see that finishing something like this is much better for you in the long run. Cramming for tests and getting up early every morning isn’t fun, but you have a degree at the end of it. Traveling and being in a strange place and constantly meeting new people and doing things all day can be quite draining and demanding – but you see that you know a lot more and have quite a bit more experience by the end of it. When I started this trip, I liked to think that I was going to be this hardcore traveler and never miss anything. But it’s just not human nature.
I’ve noticed how much better I can navigate places. You could throw me in the middle of a country with a compass, a map, and a few bucks and I could get around just fine (After all, I kinda do it everyday). I can strike up a random conversation with anyone about anything and carry it on for quite a while without any problems. I can end conversations smoothly and efficiently (and leave the person thinking that the conversation just ended naturally).
I’m a lot more confident in what I’m doing and where I’m going. I know myself really well as I’ve passed quite a bit of boring times pondering aspects of me and why I do, did and have done certain things. I’ve seen tons of cultures and talked with people from lots of different countries and I’ve got quite a bit of input as to why they do certain things and what they believe. I’ve even learned a bit of Chinese.
I think I’ve learned more in this past year and a half than I would have learned in 20 years back home. It’s been an incredible time…
It truly has.