Other travelers, cards, beer make for great conversation

Meet Steve, a wandering Brit, who beat me at everything we tried — Rummy, Scrabble, Nomination Whist and Hearts. (I challenged in Scrabble and Hearts, but couldn’t quite come through.)

Steve is a 24-year-old former science and math teacher who spent the last months in Africa, climbed Kilimanjaro, headed home to England last night and will head to South America next week. He uses the phrase “cool beans” repeatedly  and describes many things as “cheeky.”

He taught me a fantastic drinking game — Tell Her — and a great new word: Fitty (no, not slang for fifty).

(Steve, by the way, if you read this, “zoot” is an adjective used to describe a particular kind of suit. I’ll keep my 26 points.)

My days so far have been filled with Steves — fellow travelers at some point in their journey. Good (not necessarily expensive) hotels attract them. Most of us get along oddly well, which I imagine is some combination of outgoing nature and desire for interchange in your language.

Steve and I discussed Kenya and the developing world (the plight of beggars weighs on the conscience), universal healthcare (in England, Steven can get appointments for most anything within a week or two and emergency care is always available), American politics (the differences or lack thereof between the Democratic and Republican parties), British politics (Gordon Brown’s charm or lack thereof) and more.

Steve merited a blog post, if for no other reason, than his comment on America’s penchant for indulgence and excess.

“It’s the land of the bit too free, isn’t it?”

I’ve also now met a half-Scottish NGO worker living in the bush, an Irish master’s student who had safari tips, a Canadian couple who find America’s obsession with guns odd, an Irish Rugby player who explained everyone’s indifference to Northern Ireland, an Australian couple bound for Egypt and more.

I even met some Americans, which is always a bit of a surprise to other travelers as we don’t make it out and about much.

Such encounters are a fantastic benefit of traveling the world. We inevitably end up in long conversations about everything and nothing. There are few of the social barriers we erect around ourselves back home. And for solo travelers, conversation with strangers is a must; or you don’t talk to anyone.

The good conversation is also a side effect of being in a place where most of us don’t speak the local language. Talking as much as you can to locals is necessary for a good trip. But it’s difficult if not impossible to replicate the type of discussions you’d have with someone who speaks your language fluently.

(In India, for example, I’ve met some people I would call friends. But we don’t have the relationship or the language abilities to contemplate free will or describe drinking games/misadventures in detail.)

Hence, the absolute pleasure of a discussion last night over many Tusker beers that went until 2 a.m. We covered topics ranging from the commonwealth of the United Kingdom (I desperately want the Queen to go nuts and dissolve the parliament), Scottish clans, Irish pubs, India’s social boundaries, bureaucracies the world over and Vegemite (I was forced to eat some).

The only downside is the morning headache I have now.

(More later; I head for Kisumu this evening by train to meet up with Shannon.)

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3 Responses to “Other travelers, cards, beer make for great conversation”

  1. JC Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Cool beans!

  2. Sara Says:
    September 8th, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Are you sure I didn’t make you try Vegemite at some point before? I brought some back from Australia with me. Nasty stuff.

  3. Royal Says:
    September 8th, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Never thought I’d be on a blog, link to your stuff, stealing your work. Sam Zell, look at me! Owoo-ohwoo-oh (yeah!) Never hope I see the day…when all the newspapers all go away! Believe me when I say, I’d be %^&*#@ sideways!!!

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