How to Win Friends and Travel the World

By Not Dale Carnegie

Well pretty much the exact opposite of Dale Carnegie.

By an 18 year old kid travelling the world about as gracefully as a fish climbs a mountain – bravely (stupidly) venturing where no fish, or any species this low in the course of evolution for that matter, has gone before. I’m probably learning some things a fish shouldn’t, like how to tie a bowline knot with my dorsal fin and flop up a boulder. I’m also probably missing some things going on back in the ocean.

So why did I decide to climb this mountain, you ask? Well, for the halibut.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Quincy – I swear to God…*

Discontinuing the fish-mountain metaphor from here on out (you’re welcome) my point is that I’m doing a strange thing at a very vulnerable time in my life – and I’m not exactly in my element.

But I’m killing it.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not bragging. Like I said, I’m graceless: I’m a clumsy goofball and I’m always screwing up travel logistic and very common sense things like failing to bring sun-screen on a desert trek. But I am doing really well at traversing these strange lands with all these strange people and that’s because I’ve learned this one important thing – these people aren’t really that strange.

I’ve been from the Outer Banks up to New York through the mountains of Virginia and the farmlands of Carolina – I’ve been to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar of East Africa – I’ve been to Delhi and Rajasthan and Mumbai and Kerala – all in the past 9 months.DSCN0223.JPG I’ve seen a lot of things in the past little while, but you know what I haven’t seen?

An alien.

I haven’t seen someone that doesn’t get sad sometimes. I haven’t seen someone that was completely not understandable.

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So what does this mean?

I had a revelation by way of public transport.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: C’MON*

One late night of travelling I chose to grab a discount sleeper bus going from Tirupati to Bangaluru. I hopped up the steps of the 11:00 bus at 10:58 grinning at something or another while every other passenger of the bus grimaced.

As I walked down the aisle my head grazed the ceiling of the darkened bus interior and an observable dread seized everyone with an open seat near them. I chose a seat near the middle of the bus beside a decently pleasant man just as the bus bounded out of the station.

It was about 11:20 p.m. when the lights turned out, consequentially plucking the passengers from consciousness, one by one. Then the man directly in front of me attempted to recline his seat and thus the revelation began.

I knew it was going to happen. It couldn’t not happen. Inevitable, really.

His chair his my legs with a bang. BANG. He tried again. And again, and once more. BANG BANG BANG.

Each time more forcibly than the last, his frustration obviously building. At this point I was just sort of announcing the word ‘Ouch,’ each time the seat down and nervously laughing in hopes that this man would realize the futility of his attempts and stop.

He persevered.

By propping his feet up on the chair in front of him and squat thrusting my poor knees into a twisting, gruesome submission, he managed to recline comfortably. I let out a small yelp of anguish before tapping him on the shoulder and saying, “Hey,”

“do you mind moving your seat up a bit? I’m pretty tall.”

Like a snake ready to strike he turned around and spat, “So, what!?”

For a moment we looked at each other in the darkness.

All I could think of at first was how much I wanted to put my fist through his head. So, what?! I thought. So I can feel my bones cracking right now.

But then the bus passed a string of street lamps on the highway. The dull yellow light blasted in through the window like strobes for just a couple fleeting seconds – but in those seconds is when it happened.

I saw his face. Really saw it.

He wasn’t handsome; his curved nose protruded from a short curtain of salt and pepper hair like a grandiose actor that loved the spotlight a little too much. His features were grim, angular. Sharp lines and stubble interrupted his brown skin which hung especially loose beneath his dark eyes. He was tired.

For all of a second I understood completely. I glanced at his shabby briefcase, at his stained dress shirt. I saw his thin frame, just a few hours before, working in an unfamiliar office with unfamiliar people, walking down unfamiliar streets – not having had a conversation all day long. I remembered back to my loneliest moments between Delhi and Mumbai, how raw I felt all the time. I think I’d be pretty rattled, too, if something had gotten between me and the precious sleep I was counting on on the sleeper bus back home.

He seemed to say with his eyes, one soul to another, “It’s been a very long day. I need to sleep”

I smiled.

“Okay,” was what I said before I turned to the shorter man next to me in the aisle seat and asked him politely if he’d change seats with me.

Having noticed my splintering femurs he said, “Sure.”

I slept happily that night with my feet out in the aisle. Just before I fell off into dreamy oblivion I looked over at the guy, he was sleeping like a rock.

When I woke up for the fifth time that morning, (the four previous times a result of roller suitcases of early stop passengers flattening my feet in the aisle) I watched Tired Guy, now Rested Guy, get up, grab his case, and hop off the bust to embrace his waiting wife and children under a street light in the outskirts of Bangaluru.

It didn’t really register, what I saw, until I got off the bus myself about an hour later. He had picked up his child with as much love as when my grandfather used to pick me up after I got off the bus from school. Just a couple hours before that I wanted to punch that guy. Why, again?

This guy is just an example. It could be your mom telling you what to do; a professor failing your essay; a child asking questions; a friend lying to you. Ask yourself a question – why do these people do the things they do?

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Now the hard part, what would you do in their situation?

Not just the immediate situation – think deeper. The entire situation. With all of their context, and all their background. If you were born like them, brought up like them, and treated like them, wouldn’t you be pretty much the same as them? Wouldn’t you be doing and thinking pretty much the same that they’re doing and thinking?

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The reason I referenced Dale Carnegie in the title of this post is because I get this idea from an Abraham Lincoln quote and another piece called Father Forgets that I found in his very famous book.

Father Forgets is a story about a father who – get this – forgets that his child is a child. He treats him like an adult that should know better than to do these childish actions. When he realizes he’s wrong he states, “I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.”

The yardstick that we measure people by is always our own, even when dimensions differ. Even if a person is obviously a glass of water, we will try to measure them with our yardstick. I don’t think myself a genius but I know that this does not work. If you’re a hundred meters, could someone measure you with a thermometer?

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I think of it this way: humans are all the same machine. Sort of like Model-T’s, if you will. We all have different jobs, however, different handlers, different loads. If a Model-T carrying bricks through the mountains has a lower gas mileage or worse performance than you – leisurely putting through the countryside – are you going to judge it harshly?

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If a person born in the slums, working 3 jobs, struggles to feed their children – are you going to judge them or blame them for asking for help? That’s a radical example, but the point is made.

Here’s the Abraham Lincoln quote – my favorite quote of all time, and the theme of my gap year:

“Don’t criticize them: they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”

People.

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We’re all the same thing. We’re all just flesh and bones and minds that work very similar to each other. We’re all thinking the same things. We all have fears and anxieties that play on repeat in our heads – we get caught up in them, we get lost and forget this one truth – we’re all of a kind.

I’ve learned to see things from people’s point-of-views, in their contexts. Doing that dissolves any judgement I may have on their intentions, on their motivations, on why they do the things they do.

We’re all fighting battles. Let’s be allies.

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4 Ways to Laugh Around the World

They say what goes up must come down – my jokes disagree.

They never land.

*Confusion*

But even when the sun was blotted from the sky by the cloud of my unlanded jokes – soaring high over the heads of everyone who didn’t watch season 6 of It’s Always Sunny or doesn’t know who Joe Pesci is – my laughter still carried and my confidence in my delivery was never damaged.

Because every once in a while I got a couple of chuckles from the homies.

That was in America, though, where knowledge of trivia and references became necessities to salvage our minds from the boring lack of real problems to talk about. Then I left the States and the very few people that actually knew what the heck I was going on about were no longer there to guffaw for the Flawless Guffaw-less. (my nickname.)

At first I didn’t care. This didn’t stop me at all from assuming that everyone everywhere would understand everything I said in perfect context and that I’d be Emperor of Funnytown and also the rest of the world.

Besides some stiff competition from Donald Trump, I knew I was the perfect candidate, but unfortunately for the citizens of Funnytown that didn’t happen. In Tanzania and India no one laughed at my American jokes because:

A: They were very American

B: The tone of speech got lost somewhere in the lingual no-man’s-land, so people didn’t know if                             I was being funny or having an aneurism.

C: I’m not actually funny (unless you consider my physical attributes, in which case I’m about as funny as a sad clown.)

I also didn’t understand any of the jokes told to me. I’d be in a conversation with a friend and their jokes always seemed like a prom that nobody came to because there was never a punch line.

This time it was their joke that didn’t land, cluttering the sky even more.

So I went on telling jokes in a foreign country to blank faces and crickets. But as that inevitably lost its appeal, I also lost my voice. Nobody got me. Once again I was misunderstood – the voice that I too recently found in high school was gone again. I saw that laughing with people was something I need – a form of communication that no words spoken can take the place of. It’s a subconscious exchange of information like ‘I like you,’ and ‘you’re cool to hang out with,’ and it’s a necessary practice for fulfilling relationships and even individual contentment.

Without laughter the world is blank, a forgotten coloring book left to the moths. We must color it in. Unfortunately I had only the colors of red, white, and blue to fill it out – colors that look great to some, but lacking and out of place to most. So through hard work I completed my palette by understanding universal humor, and here I’ll let you peek at my paint stash.

This is how to laugh round the world.

  1. Be dumb.

Good laughter is actually pretty difficult to come by in America. Unless you’re dumb, that is.

Sure, people chuckle politely at colloquial garnishes and exhale sharply through their noses at the irony of the latest Facebook meme their mom just shared or at lucidly self-aware blog wit. (nudge)

But they don’t laugh.

There’s just too many rules and people taking themselves too seriously to dance around for real laughter in the real world. The only way you can achieve the real CRUqsVlWIAAxm3nbone-shaking, cheek-burning, gut-clenching, silent convulsions is on an apartment living room floor at 11:00 p.m. by biting a raw onion like an apple or in the backseat of a beat-down Sedan flying down the highway over a well-timed fart. Dumb laughter.

And I may not know a lot of things, but I know how to dumb.

I had made it too complicated. It’s not about making jokes at all – laughter isn’t that narcissistic. Laughter is recess from the classroom, a chance to bond with those around you by just going with what you feel. It cuts through all the ropes in your head that you dangle from, that bind you – and lets you fall free into an oblivion of simple understanding.

In Tanzania it’s so easy to be dumb, especially for an American. There’s no margin for action that isn’t practical – and, boy, are we impractical.

Wasting precious energy by going for a run? That’s dumb.

Being on time for things? Dumb.

I can be dumb there without even trying!

Once, in boredom, I began skipping rocks in a nearby lake. Out of nowhere a very angry man approached me, chewing me out in Swahili. My Tanzanian friend was quick to jump up and apologize for me. The man grimaced and stalked away before an avalanche of apologies gushed from my mouth like projectile vomit.

“What were you thinking!” my friend laughed. Tears were collecting in his eyes like dramatic irony in the situation.

“What… I – huh?” I was trying to organize myself when a boulder emerged near the shore of the dark green water, which only confused me more because according to my previous experience with The Entire Physical World, rocks don’t float.

My friend grabbed my arm and hustled me away swiftly – shaking with laughter the entire way. Eventually he suppressed his fits long enough to point out a sign that literally said, ‘No Throwing Stones’

“That’s a nationally protected Hippopotomas lake, you idiot!” he managed through seizures of laughter. My head drooped a bit under the weight of the pieces falling into place, “Oh… oh… ohhhh…”

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As he laughed I just sort of stood there, not knowing what to make of the situation. Then slowly I felt it bubble up under my skin, into my throat. Another wave hit me and I couldn’t help but be swept away by it. We both stood on the hill laughing till our bodies ached. I am an idiot, I thought.

Which transitions me smoothly to my next point.

  1. Laugh at yourself.

So you think you’re dumb, huh? I wanna hear you say it, “I’M DUMB!” Scream it to the world – “I’m dumb and it’s clutch!”

Now that I proclaim that I’m an idiot at least half a dozen times a day my quality of life has improved significantly. Honestly, I can’t see myself ever not being an idiot, either. It’s just too fun.

If you’re not laughing at yourself you’re missing one of the greatest comedies ever written.

In my experience these are the three funniest things in the universe:

-Roasting the boss behind his back

-Children saying the darndest things

-My own misfortunes

Oh, and that thing where you connect your sleeves, put one hand under your shirt, and pump. Forgot about that one.

It’s important to accept our own faults and to find humor in unfortunate coincidences that find us. Why would you let it beat you up if you could obtain knowledge and laughter, the two greatest currencies ever bought or spent, from it? It’s your payment for living life.

  1. Let them laugh.

In Delhi I made the observation that city-life is tough. So many people living amongst one another makes them hard like the sidewalk they walk down. We go through the metro station, past each other again and again with all our defenses up. What’s the point?

You get the bad parts of people over and over, the fearful parts, the apprehensive parts – completely bypassing all the things that make them great. Their smiles, their humor, their tone of voice when they speak of their passions – all hiding like words in a pen.

So I asked: What would happen if I let those out? If I put down my defenses and let myself be free, what would happen? Would my flight inspire their own?

I experimented with this thought and I found something incredible. From the seed of a smile blooms a smile. From the ripple of a laugh, several more crash on the shore.

All I did was risk showing the light within myself to people, and found that they would do the same if I just gave them a reason to.  Suddenly I had a superpower – I could make people present their best selves to me just by going first.

Here’s a secret: People want to laugh, LET THEM!

Number 2 and 3 were put to the test in Cochin by the antics of a black bird.

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My audience was ripe:

If you’re as ghostly and giant as I in India, you can bet that everyone and their grandmother will be watching your every move, (especially the grandmothers.) So in Fort Kochi when a crow dropped a slimy fishtail smack on my forehead with a sickly splat and then immediately peed on me while I was walking through the park, everyone in the area caught a broomstick in their spokes and turned to see the grand show of my reaction.

I could practically smell the popcorn as the spectators took their seats – or was that crow pee?

In that moment I realized the important difference between humility and humiliation. I also realized that everyone was going to laugh whether I was with them or in front of them. So I decided I’d be with them.

Quickly, I peeled the soggy fishtail off of my dome like a misplaced strip of paper mache and pretended to take a bite out of it.

“Thanks for lunch!” I shouted up into the tree before I threw my head back and laughed until I nearly became even more saturated with urine.

Yeah, it sounds really dumb, but that’s the goal. (See point 1)

People met my eyes with looks of sympathy, I met theirs with nonchalant shrugs of laughter. One of the aforementioned grandmothers who saw this folly approached me in a ‘you-poor-thing’ sort of way, with laughter in her eyes and a clean wash cloth in her hand.

Everybody in the park laughed along with me and I think I had about 50 new friends by the end of the day, each of which I hung out with later, creating indefinite branches of experience that I never would’ve had had a bird not treated me as a garbage disposal and a toilet in the same instant. Those people remembered how I made them laugh, how I made them feel.

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I don’t know why it’s such a secret that the effect we have on people is the most valuable thing we own. A feeling you give someone is something that’s never ever, ever forgotten, so give good ones.

  1. Not to be funny, but…

Don’t be. Just let it happen. To give you the truth of it, most of the time that I laugh and see laughter is the result of laughter, not the result of something funny – life just brings up laughter like bubbles in a glass of pepsi.

I’ve laughed the hardest I’ve ever laughed when life just seems too good to me. When I was standing under a waterfall on Mt. Kilimanjaro; when I was flying down a curvy jungle road in the mountains on a bike; when I was cheering on a lion as it pounced on a gazelle in the Ngorongoro crater; when I was standing on the highest peak in the Ghats and seeing the world sprawled out below me. I swear I almost cracked a rib when I watched the kids use a slip-n-slide and ride a camel for the first time – the joy in their eyes made all the beams and bolts that assemble me lose friction and slide apart.

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It’s the precious moments that’ll never happen again that shake us up the most. It’s spontaneous as an avalanche – a sudden gasp of direction, a glance at color in the everyday gray. It’s locking eyes with the nearest person in a blurry moment of high passion and experiencing a fleeting connection strong as the Golden Gate Bridge.

When we laugh with someone, I don’t know how it happens, but it’s as if we’re plugging ourselves straight into their brain, undiluted. That’s why it’s so important. We’re getting the direct output of who they really are deep inside. The brick walls of our brows smear into singularity while the empty spaces between are filled with the limitlessness of converging souls, leaning on one another, leaving no space for acoustics to amplify the echoes of anxieties and misunderstandings.

For just a moment you’ll feel yourself bursting from the back – your skin will be trampled underfoot by dancing blood, rioting at the end of a millennia of uselessness. Veins will hit the air like baseball bats. Eyes will shimmer like a river against blacked out pines in the setting sun and life will know meaning…

then it will end as quickly as it happened.

You don’t know who you’re asking but you are begging – do it again, like a dizzy child on a swing.

 

***BONUS ROUND***

These are just a few of the things I’ve found funny on my gap year, thought I’d share.

Kaka means ‘brother’ in Swahili

We made the connection that if you were getting in the way of 2 guys becoming friends then you were effectively ‘kakablocking’

***

I drilled a particular Lynyrd Skynyrd song into the orphanage conscience by having it be the grand finale of my nightly concerts for the kids. If you’ve read my other blog posts you probably already know which.

When it was time to go to bed, the children would chant for one more song, and I would do my best Van Zant voice, “What song is it you wanna hear?!”

Collected from the broken homes in the villages of rural Tanzania, sitting on a muddy orphanage floor – in this moment these kids were instantly squished up against a stage barricade on some farm in Indiana in the early 80’s extending their arms and voices out desperately for their favorite band. Every child in the building, without fail, would scream at the top of their lungs, “FREEBIRD! FREEEEE BIRD!!!”

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I did it every night for months, never got old.

***

The Danish language

***

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Guy on the left: Which country?

Me: U.S.A.!

Guy: Ohmygodohmygod. Oh. My. God. I LOVE EMINEM! Here’s some sunglasses – Dude, quick, take a picture of us!

*Gives me the sunglasses off his face while pulling out another pair of sunglasses*

*Just before picture snaps*

Me: Oh… Dude, are you sure?

Guy: *while putting on sunglasses* Don’t worry, Chicken Curry.

***

Dala dala’s are the main form of transport in Arusha. They are small buses with 2 operators – a driver and a ticket collector that yells things.

The entire time I was in Tanzania I was looking for a ticket collector named Bill that yelled ‘y’all’ a lot, for… reasons.

Near the end of my time there I was afraid that I’d never find him. I mean, what are the odds, right? Kinda silly for me to even be looking for him. I had become hopeless, then one morning in Dar es Salaam, I heard a distant, “Y’all!” flying down the highway…

“No… it can’t be…”

I flagged it down and as I was going whoknowswhere I asked the guy for his name.

“William, rafiki.”

I couldn’t believe it… There he was…

Dala dala Bill, y’all

***

When two guys from America came to Tanzania to volunteer in Arusha and live in the same house as Iddi and I – we found it compulsory to teach Iddi the ways of “That’s what she said.”

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He couldn’t quite get it at first,

“What she says?”

“She said that!”

He slowly got a grip on the concept and over the next few days he made many feeble attempts to set himself up for the one-liner that ruled our middle school careers.

“Hey look at that building, it’s pretty big, right?”

“Wow that hole is pretty deep, right?”

“What’s your favorite part of an Oreo?”

And so on.

Seeing through these, we neglected the setup – to teach our prodigy to do better. Eventually it was forgotten. Months passed, the Americans left. It was time for to leave as well.

Iddi came to the airport to see me off – it was a heartfelt moment. Iddi had been my best friend, my kaka and kakablocker for the past 3 months. I didn’t want to leave him.

“Bye dude. Thanks for all the good times you’ve shared with me. I really love you, man – you’re my kaka. I hope one day I can return here and see you again.” I was holding back tears.

“You’re going to do big things.”

A moment passed where he stared at me, his own emotions were surfacing. He took a shuddering breath, looked me dead in the eye and said,

“That, she said.”

I laughed all the way to India.

Journals from India: Delhi to Agra

The following are my unedited personal memoirs written during the time of my traveling from Delhi to Agra. Though written in instances of mental and emotional strain, perhaps vulgar and short-sighted at times, I feel that they are a measurement of personal growth of which there was plenty. This is part 2 of 6.

November 21, 2015

I’m here in Agra now, staying like 0.2 km away from the Taj Mahal. The train ride was good.

The countryside between Delhi and here wasn’t all that interesting, but I sat beside a Hindu girl from Ukraine that was saying some real profound and beautiful shit that it was way too early for. Her name was Anukzishna, and she moved to a village in Uttar Pradesh to become a publisher of Sanskrit texts for her beloved faith. I watched through glazed, and crusted eyes while she told me about different Hindu beliefs.

“There are 3 layers of Chakra: Animal chakra in the gut that all living things have. Creative and action chakra in the chest. And mental or spiritual chakra everywhere above the heart,” she said.

“There are about 140 interpretations to the Hindu faith,” she explained, “each one like a spice. They work together to embellish the food of life.”

She told me a few different Hindu tales, one in particular struck a chord with me. Shravankumar who carried his parents around the world in a yoke because they asked him to. What have I done for my parents? Hinduism makes a lot of sense. It’s what a religion should be. It doesn’t work out of fear, it works out of true self-betterment. It’s all about beauty and humans and this weird questioning we have.

She left me on the train when she jumped off at a small station in the middle of nowhere, not using the platform but hopping down directly onto the tracks and into the small patch of woods beside, careful not to snag her silks on the branches.

I napped for the rest of the way, then took a rickshaw to this hotel by the Taj gate. I think I’ll have a cup of coffee and explore a bit.

***

I just got back from seeing Agra today. I was alone for the most part. I think this will prove to be the hardest part of my gap year. Part of me just wants to get to Kochi to make friends and settle down, it’s just becoming difficult to convince myself that India was worth it, I think I just left the best thing I’ve ever known in Tanzania.

There’s some serious character development going on in the story book of my life right now, though. I decided that I was tired of being mopy and having a headache, so I made myself make friends.

I walked a long way to the ticket booth to get my entry ticket for the Taj Mahal. When I finally got back I walked in the gate and there it was.

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The Taj Mahal.

I really don’t know what to say about it. Beautiful, magnificent, divine – all the things that have been said before, but when I saw all the people with their friends and families enjoying an experience worth a lifetime at one of the wonders of the world, all that marble turned to dust. To be honest, I was kind of miserable.

I had to get out of this maze of bad thoughts, or I knew that I would kick myself every day for not really seeing the Taj Mahal when I was here, so I went to the side-museum walked up to the first dude I saw and said, “Hello.”

Immediately a million times better.

We started a conversation. Then his friend walked over. I made a joke and we all laughed. Then I walked outside and took pictures with a family of strangers.

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Inside the Mausoleum I began speaking with a German girl about her travels. She was on her way to a wedding in Mumbai.

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Then when I walked back out I really saw it. The floral pattern of eternal paradise, the sun striking the snow white marble while the green river behind churned slowly with veins of yellow light.

All of the people around me were as amazed and speechless as I was – what sort of love had inspired such a creation?

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Happiness found me after all, and as I walked back to the ticket counter cloakroom to retrieve my stuff I ran into Ben and Kyle, the guys from America that I met in Delhi, just walking down the street. Put yourself out there and see what happens.

They were psyched to see me, as psyched as I was to see them. We had lunch, and then walked around the Agra Fort and down a road through the forest by the riverbank till we got to a huge Bazaar. As we walked we passed bands rehearsing in fields for the next festival, as well as monkeys and dogs scavenging for food in the streets.

The Bazaar was an intricate web of streets stretching for kilometers in every direction, every block lined with shops from corner to courtyard selling plastic recreations of gold necklaces and toys and packaged sweetbread. Every road was a flowing canal of people enveloping entire temples. Monkeys ran along the powerlines while children screamed ‘HELLO’ at the top of their lungs. It looked how I imagine the Mall of America on Black Friday would look, minus the sanitation and also the white people.

After a few hours of exploring we covered about an eighth of the entire thing, but the sun was going down so we took a rickshaw back to the hotels and I said goodbye to my friends. I got some dinner at a café across the 8 ft wide dirt street for less than $2, then fell into my bed exhausted.

You know, I’m here to find myself, but what happens if I don’t like what I find? Not saying that that’s what’s happening, but if it did, is one capable of fixing themselves? Could I disassemble myself at the elementary level and iron out the despicable things?

Or is that what I’m doing now?

November 22, 2015

Today when I woke up, I was pretty sure it was going to be garbage. Nothing planned, no one around. I was afraid of the thought that there’s no one, no friend, no embrace at the end of my travels. I’ll be just as alone at ‘home’ as I am here. Not much to do.

But contrary to the shit heap of outlook I was sitting in, I had one of the best days of the trip so far.

I got up, texted my mom, and worked out on the hotel room floor. I always feel better after I exercise, I just have to muster the initial motivation it takes to get started, which can be difficult. I felt really good afterwards, though.

I keep thinking of myself from a third-party perspective. Traveling alone, sleeping alone, eating alone, and from that different perspective I say, “Wow, he must be sad.”

“How does he do it?”

Yeah, it’s fucking hard. It’s that view that provides my greatest fear right now: that I will fall mentally to the level that a weaker person would be at.

But I’m not weak. I don’t fall.

I do it, and I live, and I smile big, and I laugh hard. I eat whatever I want, I meet whomever I want, I sleep however long I want. I sing. I see the most beautiful things in the world, and whatever sadness or adversity threatens to diminish my kickass existence, I conquer it and continue.

I forged the date on my ticket for Agra Fort and dropped my luggage at the hotel. I started to walk, but my hips and knees felt like peanut brittle because I’ve walked all day of every day since I came to India, so I took a rickshaw instead.

I ate bananas and cookies in the lawn beside the fort for breakfast, where many of the Agrans were sprawled across the shady grass expanses enjoying their morning chai or grabbing a few Z’s before their afternoon shift.

I explored the explory parts with the rest of the tourists for a few minutes and discovered that it was essentially the Red Fort reskinned, so I found some shade by a pillar in the huge courtyard and read The White Tiger for a little while.

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While I was reading a few groups of Indian guys approached me, asking for a photo. Some weren’t so courteous, and just began pointing their phones at my like I was a fight in the cafeteria. I’ve taken so many photos with so many people in so many places. I wonder how many phone backgrounds and fireplace mantles I’ll make…

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There must be a significance to meeting a foreigner here, because they treat the photos they take like a pretty big deal.

My stomach wasn’t feeling the best, so I just had plain naan at a restaurant down the street then came back to the hotel. In just a few minutes I’ll leave to catch my train.

***

I made the train, but barely. I went to the wrong station first a little late as it was, my heart jumped into my throat when I showed a station staff my ticket and he started laughing. I was really convinced that I was going to miss it.

The rickshaw puller that I found was the homie, though. He got me all the way across Agra in 10 minutes, through India traffic. He was killing it.

When I got to the right station I found my platform and jumped on the train just as the whistle was blowing. Thank God, for that auto rickshaw driver. He was so cool.

As I talked to him I realized that the rickshaw drivers are just people with jobs. I’m ashamed to say that I was annoyed by their persistence.  I’m focusing my thoughts on the grievances experienced as a tourist rather than the experience and problems faced by a person living in the place I’m visiting, so actually I’m learning nothing and will learn nothing until I change that.

These are just train journey thoughts.

In the obscurity of darkness outside and the glare from the whitelights on the inside of the train, one could look outside at the passing flat countryside and the closely packed stores all lit with a single yellow burning bulb, and think he was in Tanzania if he had a motivation to do so.

I talk to the people I meet about Tanzania a lot.