Monday, March 6, 2017

An introvert abroad - day 3

Day 3.

Yesterday I thought that I wouldn't write something every day. I thought I should wait until something spectacular happens (whatever that means).

Then I asked myself why I was sharing it here: why not just write for the sake of it, squirrel it away for later? I read a friend's Facebook post about social media being bananas for the monkey mind and thought: hmm, maybe I'm just banana-hunting. After finishing this paragraph I wanted to delete it.

Then today happened and I couldn't help noting down more moments, more thoughts. Too many to cram into one post here, although I have to tell you about Sheila.

On the intercity train I sat next to an elderly English woman. Her stories and commentary were so fascinating that introverted little me didn't mind that she filled the better part of 2 hours with her chatter.

She's been in New Zealand since 1964. Her husband died on holiday in Norfolk Island less than 10 years later. He had to be buried there, because she couldn't afford the then $28 000 to hire a plane to bring him home.

Sheila hates the way people say her name in Australia, and reminds them that hers has a capital S. Together we wondered why it became a colloquial term for a woman. Sheila thinks Australia is amazing but can't stand the heat and the deadly critters.

Sheila thought it was better that I'm single rather than settling for an unhappy marriage, like one of her granddaughters just had. She followed it up by telling me I still had time to find someone nice, in just the right grandmotherly-but-worldy-wise tone that didn't make me bristle.

Sheila owns a bach overlooking the beach where Captain Cook landed. And as we spoke, she was on her way to ticking off a few items on her bucket list.

Meeting Sheila led me to a wish that I had understood the significance of family histories before my grandmother died. I've catalogued the painful parts, the bruises passed down the generations. But what about the delights? What about the miracles that are threaded through into the life I call mine?

Like one story my mother tells occasionally: how my great grandmother survived a train bombing in the war because she went to check the post office for a much-awaited letter. There was no logic to it, as she'd already been earlier that day. If she hadn't though, I wouldn't exist.

I wonder if this is what people mean when they say they travel to find themselves. Everything here eventually leads me back to myself.

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