March 16, 2013

The amazing people you meet by chance

In posting today, I found an old post I had written in January. I remember the internet was down and I never got around to uploading this...

Whether it be on my travels, sitting at a bus stop, in a pub or through a friend - i am forever grateful for the amazing people i have had the chance to meet.

Dinner tonight was no exception.

I am currently in Toowoomba teaching a course in Wearable Jewellery at the McGregor Summer School. The lifestyle of the course is very inclusive. You stay on campus in student accommodation, eat breakfast, dinner and lunch together with other tutors and students. There is something always going on during the 10 day course.

Tonight at dinner, a bubbly woman sat next to me. I had met her before, only briefly, during Sunday night's trivia quiz. She was on my team of 8 and assisted in us coming second with her correct answer to 'where does Lego originate?' (Did you know it was Denmark???)

By chance this lady sat next to me at dinner tonight. She proceeded to compliment me on my mater mother's sculpture and the slide show I presented the previous day. I enjoyed her honesty of not liking my symbiosis masters work but she got what I was trying to do with it, she said - but it just wasn't to her taste. Fair enough, I thought.

It was only a brief chat over mashed peas, cauliflower, corn and steak. I found out she was from Poland and I was so excited to tell her of the places I had travelled in her country. I mentioned Zakopane, Krakow and Auschwitz. It was almost immediate when she looked deep in my eyes and said in her thick polish accent, 'no, no I have never been to Auschwitz and I believe I could never bring myself to go.'

Her eyes instantly filled with tears and emotion.

All I could do was look back and touch her hand with comfort. We both agreed on the importance of transparency in history and the significance of such a museum for the education of future generations. I understood through her eyes, she had been significantly affected during WW2, when she must have been only a child. She couldn't talk any more on the matter and I simply continued on how magical I found her country - especially in winter. This brought a smile back to her face whilst we finished our meal.

It was only a brief encounter with yet another stranger on my travels through life - but her honest emotion moved me and reminded me of how grateful I am to not have lived through what she must have.
(this is the only photo i could bring myself to take at Auschwitz in 2009)

Grandma's Hands

Tomorrow marks two years since the woman who taught me a lot about life and love left this world - in the physical sense.

Travelling and being exposed to the way many people live their day to day around the world - something always struck true - the importance of family and never to take people's love for granted. I have never had to live through war, famine, and prejudice like so many of my generation whose stories i have come across in Europe. For this I am grateful. I have met 4 generations of family living under 1 roof in a small villages in remote island of Greece - and they still eat dinner most nights and talk. They discuss dreams, what is important to them, what makes them happy. And they listen!

Not everyone is blessed with the perfect family. In fact, I am confident no family is perfect. You only need 1 person to understand you for the 'idea' of a family bond to be true. What you miss out on from perhaps one parent or family member can be substituted by another - even a person who is not connected to you by blood.

Family is what matters. However the idea of relates to each person and their life. I always knew this but 5 years abroad, this is one lesson I have learnt that has sunk in. They are the ones who will always be there and their love is never judgemental - even if in the day-to-day they can be frustrating! Travelling, I have adopted many family members to my little bubble, always letting them know they are appreciated.

This beautiful woman left her country of Greece at 16 and did the best she knew how for her new life in Australia and taught me about the respect of family. I remember her this week with a road trip north to light her candle. Her magic and energy surpasses any church. She deserves warm sunshine, and an endless horizon.

There are too many things I miss, but what I miss most are our greek coffee sludge catchups with flowers in our hair and the smell of her cooking coming from the kitchen. She would always read my coffee cup with an optimistic vision of my future.

Someone I met last year around the this time gave me a live album by Bill Withers. His heart felt introduction to this song and honest lyrics would resonate with anyone who had a close relationship to their grandmother.