July 8, 2005, [MD]

I wrote this in an email to a good friend of mine in Toronto, and after thinking some, and having even more great experiences, I decided to post it online.

…I am just thinking about how incredibly privilegied I am … how many people around the world have taken me into their homes, their families, and shared their lives with me! Its an amazing gift. and my stay in Mexico, although quite different from what I envisaged, has provided me with a lot of new perspectives and thoughts on different things.

I wrote this after meeting some great people on my travels - old friends and new. Although I was not even planning to go to Mexico this summer (Russia was the plan), and I never thought of having much connection to this country, since I’ve been here I’ve met:

my best friend from Norway, working in Mexico city

the little sister, and family, of a good Mexican friend living in Toronto

the boyfriend of a friend I met in the project where I am working

a Mexican friend I shared an apartment with for half a year in Norway

the Hong Kong friend of a friend in Guadalajara

a Spanish/Mexican girl from HospitalityClub

and a number of nice cab drivers/taco stand owners and the truck driver who gave me a ride for 1000km from Mazatlan to Mexico city!

Travelling in different countries, and being open to people’s hospitality, these are only the latest in a series of times when people have taken me into their homes, into their lives, and given me new perspectives on lives, and often times some bread to go with it. Here is what I wrote on another site, after quite another trip.

To us, this was an amazing trip in so many countless ways. But what made it the most amazing were the people we met along the road.

To the farmers in Kazakhstan, who sent their kids over with apples to the strangers sleeping in their farm.

To the urban Chinese tourists from Guangzhou, who saved us from a horrible fate in the desert. Never has a melon tasted that good!

To the Chinese shepherd who invited us into his cave, and gave us tea. And the Kazakh farmers, and Iranian villagers - you did not have much to share with us, but you shared it with dignity and pride.

To the Iranian truckers who came running after us with a walnut - a small symbolic gift that meant: Welcome, friends.

To the Kazakh lady we asked to use her water pump, and she promptly ran into the garden to give us tomatoes and chillies. To the Uzbek market ladies that would not let us pay, the Chinese runaway girl who shared her thoughts with us, the staff that helped me escape from a brothel where I was not even a customer, the Turkmen railway worker who let us store our bikes in his back yard, and treated us to a royal feast.

Everywhere we went, we met nothing but friendship and hospitality. We came as guests, humble and eager to see how other people live, they welcomed us and shared their lives.\

So thank you. To all of you who has ever invited a tired backpacker/bicyclist/wanderer into your house. I hope I will be able to do the same to you one day. And I am glad to see that great services like Pasporta Servo for Esperantists and HospitalityClub for everyone, are growing every day.

A stranger is only a friend you haven’t met yet.


Stian Håklev July 8, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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