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Tuesday, 25 December 2018

This Christmas – and every single day –, wherever you are, be kind!

Today I was saddened – it is hard for me to understand why people act, play roles, react with malice when it is in their power to do good. It can only take 2 minutes to reply with a kind gesture to a question, yet it is easier to profess one’s ‘love’ for Christmas and blame the related stress.
The flip side came out of nowhere after walking the streets of Braşov with tears in my eyes. A guy who was about my age and seemed a bit drunk started heading towards me and fell. The sidewalk was empty at that point – eerie. I went to him, not even realising that he was hurt, until I saw the blood drops gathering on the pavement. I panicked, called Marcel and then dialled 112. One more woman stopped to help me, but she was in a hurry so she couldn’t stay for long. However, three other people, genuinely worried, stopped, helped the man reach a nearby bench, while an older couple stopped me to ask about the man’s state of health. We all waited for the ambulance to arrive. It felt good. And you will probably understand even more why I love Romanians so much! Sadly, I am pretty sure that this whole situation wouldn’t have had the same outcome in all corners of the world. Been there, done that.
I walked away, felt the rain in my face and the tears burst. I cried and cried and cried and all bad emotions gathered inside were gone.

I thought a lot about the topic of today’s piece. What could be more suited at Christmas than talking about kindness? I always say that this is the main element I seek throughout my travels: good/helpful/genuinely kind people.
This year was full of deeds and events that uplifted me and gave me strength to go on fighting to change the world.
I wrote and talked a lot about Colombia and its people, about how much I ended up loving them and my time there.  

9 is my lucky number, so here are 9 more reasons for the happiness felt during my 2018 travels.

Bezhanovo
Simion – Romanian mother, Bulgarian father – welcomed us with kindness and immediately befriended my father, who was in need of a new jolly connection in his life. He lifted his spirits, had a drink with him (or more), and even invited him to his birthday party in 2019.
I couldn’t have been able to ride through the Bulgarian countryside that morning alongside Marcel had Simion not woken up at 6:30am and inflated the bicycle tyres.
P.S. Simion and my Dad still keep in touch.


Astana
After a very late dinner, some Almaty guys in our hostel helped us plan the following day’s trip to Semey. I was impressed: the scariest day of the trip settled in no time. They made calls, connections, and even helped take our bags to the car the next day. Without them, the trip would have taken a different turn, right from the start. Hope to see them again someday in Southern Kazakhstan.  


Rubtsovsk
We had barely entered Russia and the big hearts of the people – the way I remembered them to be – were obvious: our bus to Barnaul was leaving at 16:19 and it was 16:16. The guard of the bus station asked the lady selling tickets to hurry up and explained what we wanted to do, the people queuing let us in front, and the other passengers even held the bus for us.
There are so many preconceptions in the West as far as Russia is concerned. You know what? I could have written this entire article on the acts of kindness we encountered in this country alone.


Barnaul
Twice.
First, when we checked into our guesthouse, our host called us a cab and instructed the driver to take us to her favourite restaurant in town, which actually became one of my personal favourites. And she even accompanied us to the taxi.
Secondly, our waitress was so delightful and kind to us… that it made my heart melt. She even wrote us a note and, of course, made sure that we got into the right taxi.
Anastasia and I still keep in touch on Instagram.


Artybash
Lake Teletskoye should have provided our day of rest and relaxation. It was, however, hectic. We caught the last bus from Gorno-Altaysk to Artybash and arrived rather late, without any of the taxi drivers called by our bus driver available (we were staying 5 km away from the village). What did our driver do? He took us there. And my heart was filled with joy. I would have never had the relaxing time I did gazing at the lake had he not dropped us straight at our accommodation.


Kosh-Agach
When she opened the door to our shared ride, there was an instant connection. A couple of hours later, I would find out that she was born on the same day as one of my closest friends. We talked about travelling and dreams. She even invited us to her brother’s wedding.
Unfortunately, we were due to cross into Mongolia that afternoon.
In return, I made a promise to Asyl: that I will surely be there at her own wedding. To be continued.


Ölgii
Having reached Ölgii and having realised that several people had been scammed by West Mongolia Travel – the undersigned included –, I was furious, tired, shocked, and hungry. At once. Far from downtown Ölgii, without local currency, and after dark, I was very close to starting to bang my head against the wall.
And then, there was a knock on the door. Three cool and kind Russian travellers – Elena, Jules, and Vadim – invited us to have dinner with them (they had an impressive stock brought over from their native Novosibirsk). We said ‘Yes’ and we are still close.
In fact, we even met at the end of November in Budapest while they travelled through Central Europe.


Bayannuur
We followed the course of Khovd River, in our attempt to reach Ölgii via Bayannuur, but couldn’t cross over, because there wasn’t any bridge.
In the end, because of difficult terrain and our haste to get back to Khovd (we should have left on a 38-hour ride to Kazakhstan the next day), we had a flat tyre. Long story short – two lovely people (whose names I don’t even know) helped us with a jack, got creative and ended up with dust on their coats while trying to figure out solutions to help us get the car back on track. We did! In the end, we got hugs, traditional cheese, and a hot cup of tea in their ger.


Astana
I went full circle – I like that –: Marcel and I were back to Kazakhstan after our Mongolian saga.
Post-mid-October snowstorm in Astana, we needed to get back to our hostel, grab our bags, and leave to the airport.
The bad weather had left us spending the afternoon in Khan Shatyr, the neofuturist entertainment centre/mall of the capital city. That’s where we also grabbed a bite and our waitress – Stacey J – got us a cab via an app and then, asking the permission of her boss, went down two or three floors (I can’t remember exactly) with us and found our taxi driver.
Without her help, we would have had to walk to the hostel, frozen.
We still follow each other on Instagram.


So, not only at Christmas time and not only because you are probably going to be repaid, irrespective of gender, race, religion, level of studies, or bank statement, be good.
You are human and I am human. I know that we are different, but let’s try to get along. 

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