A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
Written 25 April 2013
The introductions were weird when I made the call. I was tucked in a corner of a room containing sporadically excited people. The hostel manager took a second to process who I was. And then we navigated the sea of, “It’s been a while, I hope you’re well, and I am interested, but we have more pressing business to deal with.”
The box. It was fine. But in these low-stakes hostage negotiations, it would be my move first – to settle my debts. Two nights of accommodation. With some verbalized digits and an expiration date that was taken care of. As for shipping the box? They were busy, and they could ship the box if I really needed them to (translation: it may get taken care of in the next three months) but it would be better if I sent my friend back. Not exactly the most productive of hostage hand-offs. Then again, it was at least still there.
I really don’t like situations like this. I work hard to have everything fall into two categories. Things that I have control over and Things for which I do not have an investment in the outcome. This time around was neither of those. I was trading on favors, karma, and the benevolent will of a friend of a friend. Yes, it was the close friend of a very close friend. But still, it was leveraging favors.
The negotiations over the next month were slow and incremental. Bank account numbers were exchanged. Money for shipment was transferred. And once that was done, the final steps were decided, though the timeframe was still open.
One morning I awoke to find an email. It was from the man in the top hat. It had a picture of a receipt. I was poorer. A large chunk of the money was now gone. But along with that money transfer went a package. A box that I could only hope was the right one, that hopefully had not been opened or tampered with, not crushed or rained on, one with sufficient insurance to cover the contents. One that would arrive and allow me to answer the intermittent questions that could only be answered by perusing my journal. One that would finally get my wall space covered.
I could only wait. Wait and pretend I wasn’t waiting.
One day I returned home to a “While You Were Out..” notice. My roommate asked what it was about. I sputtered words that vaguely came together into a story. My eyes started to water. He just looked at me. “I … I just can’t believe it finally might be here.”
The next day I stood at the counter at the post office, box in hand, with the man who had retrieved the box asking if everything was alright. I just stood there in stunned silence for a minute. Awe. It was finally here. Finally in my hands.
Once at home I started the final process.
The box was covered in labels, customs tags, addresses. Under all of the recent additions was my handwriting, a note taped to the box detailing the shipping requirements along with my email address if there were any questions. The hostel had lied. I wasn’t overly surprised, just disappointed. This could have all been resolved a long time ago. They chose not to get in contact. Accept. Internalize. Move on.
Inside the box were the things I remembered. Styrofoam cut into pieces to fill the space. Peanuts. Bubble wrap. It was a mess. But nestled within all of it were the items I had left for future me.
Camera lenses. The majority of the value of the box. Still alive and not visibly damaged. And not needing to be replaced. And a tripod. Night shots were again an option.
My tent. My camp cook set. Now camping wouldn’t require borrowing nearly as many items. And with the weather warming up, it felt good to have the freedom of trip back in my hand.
My journal. My hat from my job at Luna Park. My postcards and brochures and programs. The posters I had gotten for myself and those I had as a gift.
Things I didn’t even remember putting in there. Small gifts for others. Jeans. A shirt. Gloves bought for me as a birthday present by someone dear to me. I put them on and started to tear up again. Marks of my connection with a distant land and a far off soul. Things I would have preferred to have earlier – when the weather was cold, when I was visiting the people for whom I had bought the gifts. But things I cherished to hold now.
This was the last part of Australia. There are unpublished blogs. There are pictures to sort through. There are stories to be rehashed over and over again. Future writing will focus on the continent and my time there. But this was the last of the truly unfinished business. No more debts. No more outstanding items. For better or worse, the year there was finally over.
I slowly put everything in its right place, integrating the life that I once had there into the one I now have set up here. Piece by piece they will slowly add to something.