Caleb, did you ever hear the definition of “good luck” as being in the right place at the right time? Of course, the more places you are, and the more times you’re there, the more likely you’ll bump into “good luck”. Same with getting to know locals when traveling I think, the more times you smile and try to strike up a conversation, the more likely you’ll find a friendship. Of course, language is important. For most of us, it’s much easier in English-speaking countries than it is in countries where we just know some basic tourist phrases. Having a common language can be important.
As I think about this, I remember a time some years ago in the boonies of Guatemala. A couple of American friends and I were at a small restaurant, waiting for our food, and there was a group of 4 young adults also waiting at another table, two young ladies in Mayan textiles, and two young men in westerns jeans and shirts. Fortunately the three of us travelers all spoke some Spanish, although of course no Ixil, the local Mayan language. I was the one who broke the ice, in Spanish: “Excuse me, but we’ve been told about a local dish called “beach ball”, do you know, is there a restaurant here in town where we could try this dish?” “Oh” they said, “you mean boshbol, you probably won’t find that in a restaurant, but if you’d like to try it, come to our house for lunch and we’ll make boshbol for you!” (It’s actually written boxbol.) Turns out the two young ladies were sisters, a teacher and a social worker, and the younger fellows were their brother and a friend. We made a plan, and sure enough the next day at 1:00 pm, after we returned from the market in a nearby town, the brother was at our little hotel to led us on the long walk out of town to the family home, where the two girls and their mother were working away making the boxbol lunch, the dish being sort of a cornmeal mash, cooked inside of squash leaves, with a delicious squash and tomato sauce. Served with Pepsi Cola! It was a wonderful time, the oldest girl took us into her bedroom and closet, and shared her special Mayan clothing, huipiles for her graduation, for her hope chest, and on and on, and then the two women I was traveling with began trying them all on, with traditional skirts and sashes and all that, and taking photos. We all went back to town and caught a little bus to another tiny little town where about 8 of us hiked into the evening. Quite a remarkable and memorable spontaneous travel experience! This was in an area that had been really off-limits during the civil war in Guatemala, because of all the violence of the government forces toward the Mayan towns and people. The older sister in “our family” was telling us how horrible those times had been, and how their town had even been attacked by helicopter. Quietly, she added, almost in a whisper, “you know, those were your helicopters.”
Maybe meeting people is easier in small towns and rural areas, especially where visitors are more of a rarity.
A rich memory from years long past, thanks for listening!