Sunday, February 23, 2014

Always talk to strangers

   A couple months back I went for a walk in the next town up from me.

   I always love looking at peoples' yards, especially when they have gardens. This seemed like a pretty poor part of town, and this one house had a lot of creative stuff in its garden. 

   As I was walking along the path by this house, I passed by a man who was leaning against his truck, looking out at the river. He said hello to me, and when I said hi back, he called me over to look in the back of his car. Since it's Japan, and he seemed friendly, I went over and took a look. He showed me a bunch of beautiful photographs of birds that live in the river. He's been watching and photographing them for ten years, he told me. He knows where they nest and where they like to hang out and look for food. He told me about the way they dance when they're mating. Unlike humans, he said, the males are more beautiful than the females.  Before I left, he gave me one of his photographs.

    Some people like to stop and chat with me here, and I've noticed it tends to be older people. They tend to give me something before they say good bye. One old man who was sitting next to me on the train asked me where I was from, told me a folktale about the shrine in the tiny town we were passing through (which unfortunately, I barely understood), and then gave us some postcards he and his girlfriend had painted. He told me about other people he had given cards to - they were all foreigners.

   Another time, a friend and I were on a train, holding a bunch of cooking supplies, and a really nice old lady with trembling hands gave my friend a safety pin because she was worried that the handle of her tote bag would break from the strain of all the pots and pans inside.

   There was also an old man who chatted up me and a friend of mine right after we descended that hiking trail from the castle. Somehow we got talking about American movie actors and he asked me if I had ever met some random actor, maybe Clint Eastwood. 

   Another day, I was walking along a river and I fell into step with an old woman who was walking at a brisk pace. "Do you know how this river got its name?" she asked me. When I said no, she proceeded to tell me the story, which involved a German man who used to live in the area.

   And once when some friends and I were in a bookstore in the city, a young guy came up and talked to us in English for a few minutes. He told us he was studying English at university, but had a hard time finding foreigners to talk to. "Japanese people don't usually talk to strangers in bookstores," he told us. 

   I really like the random people who talk to me and my friends. 

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