A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
Written 17 April 2013
I checked my email over the next few weeks. When I saw nothing, I checked my bank account as well – from open networks in hostels around Vietnam – not a thing I prefer to do. No activity.
I added credit to call back to the hostel, to my friend who still worked there. The first call through confirmed that the box was still there but they’d just been busy. Subsequent calls were ignored. Messages were not returned. Then the phone was disconnected. Stress levels rose. I usually followed up an attempt at contact with a glass of local beer. It was refreshing and provided a social distraction from the saga.
Once I got home I dropped it. It was a couple weeks to Christmas and shipping anything wasn’t going to happen. My mom suggested that she would like some art to hang up to replace a painting she had been holding onto for a family member. I told her that I had gotten some for her as a birthday present, and that if she was patient she wouldn’t need to get something else. The box would soon arrive.
To keep Australia net positive, I emailed friends I had made while traveling. Those for whom I had contact info with me, since a decent amount of the information was in the box. I checked in with people in Sydney and Queensland and South Australia and Melbourne. I updated them on my life and asked about theirs. Maintaining connection is something I’ve previously failed at and I wanted this time to be different.
In the new year I renewed my resolve and started working on the shipment again. My friend who had worked at the hostel had quit and moved. I didn’t get the impression it was on particularly great terms. Her phone (the number I had been calling) had been returned to the hostel. She had no inclination to get in contact with them again. She had no other contact info to give me. All in all, it was a dead end.
Sam was still in contact. And I’d heard back from Queensland and SA. But nothing from anyone in Melbourne. And still no word from the hostel. As far as social responses had gone, Melbourne might have been destroyed in a very localized apocalypse. It was sad, given that I liked the people I’d met there. And I really had made some friends I thought would have carried over into my life beyond the town.
I was out of ideas, short of getting on a plane and going to personally take the package back and replace it with a string of expletives and punches. My last line of hope was Sam, who was at least on the ground in the right country, if still 700km away.
She put out a call a friend in Melbourne, a great guy who seemed to know everyone I had met in town through different courses*. Though busy, he agreed to help when his schedule allowed. Given his location, his usual routes of transit, the location of the hostel, and his schedule, I was happy to have his word and would be placated for a month of silence.
And one day, magically, I received an email. It wasn’t from the gentleman with the hat, but from the co-manager of the hostel. My dapper friend had paid them a visit. And she was writing to confirm that the box was still alive and well (and taking up floor space in the office). That when my friend on staff had left, she had taken my phone number, my credit card info, and any manner they had of contacting me with her. It helped to explain the silence and conveniently put it all on the one person. That I still had an outstanding balance for my last few nights (which was true). And that if I called them we could sort everything out.
That the box was still intact and in the possession of someone other than the landfill was a surprise to me. There is something in the managing of expectations. When I arrived home I was furious the box was not in transit. Now, three months out, I was just happy the box was still in existence, even if on the other side of the world.
* This one man was Sam’s college roommate, known to one friend for his presence in the AFP scene, known to me as Top Hat Guy, known to another friend from her dance classes, and known to yet another friend as that guy he had met and spoken with on the tram. There are small world stories aplenty, but at the same time there do seem to be social hubs in various locations that increase the rate with which they occur.