This is a story about the people you meet when you travel. Their faces etched in photographs vainly attempting to capture one moment forever. A desperate attempt to hold on to people and places that you will likely never see again. They are fleeting moments and encounters — a glimpse when all is set and done.
When we travel, we run into memories that we hope to remember when we’re old and done with life. We hope to remember the people who were kind to us, who loved us despite not knowing why they shouldn’t.
Amidst the poverty, I have seen no despair. I’m afraid to lose the stories about the people I have met. I’m afraid to forget the faces, the words.
Mrs. Margaret was an older lady who worked at the Whim Plantation. Her hair was tightly wrapped in a tall, white scarf. The scalding heat of midday prompted me to walk inside the plantation house after a tour and ask if there was anywhere I could get water — maybe there was a water fountain inside. Free water, because I have been spoiled by first-world conveniences, I suppose.
Mrs. Margaret said there was no free water, but bottled water could be purchased from the gift shop. “Eh,” I said, dismissively. “I don’t have any money.” The heat not being as debilitating as to make me part from money. Yet the comment was all that Mrs. Margaret needed to offer me a dollar to buy the water. So there I was, mortified that I had unintentionally created a situation in which I, the tourist, the traveled American, was receiving money from a local woman in St. Croix. My cries of refusal fell on deaf ears. The more I declined, the more she insisted, reproaching why I would so adamantly refuse her money. What was wrong with her money? Why should she not offer it to an overheated, apparently poor student? She argued that she was a mother and grandmother, and she understood.
I took her $1.
She wished me a Happy Easter. Along the way, I’ve found people capable of uncompromising kindness to strangers who have no right to receive it, as I had no right to receive Mrs. Margarate’s $1. Yet I did, and when I thought about it later, I wondered about the zeal behind such actions, the dutiful faith to a being that has promised eternal salvation for a lifetime of kindness. Is religion what moves the wonderful people I’ve met? With a predominantly Catholic population, the Caribbean people are incredibly religious. Almost every building in Samana, Dominican Republic, had devotional writings painted on them, like “Christ is good. He is coming,” and “Christ is love. He is the reward.”
This is just one example of the stories I’ve thought about, remembering the people who I have met. There are so many.
I did not get a photo of Mrs. Margaret because I had to leave quickly, so she wouldn’t see me crying.
Here are my humble attempts at remembering people who I’ve met and places I’ve seen.