In two months, I’ll be leaving Seattle to go backpacking through South America. While I travel, I’ll be keeping a blog so friends at home can follow along with my wanderings. I’ve never kept a blog before, so I decided I’d need a bit of practice for the many demands of keeping a travel blog: pretending to have self-indulgent epiphanies that I discover by leaving my comfort zone, making broad generalizations about entire cultures based on very limited exposure to them, and of course, making pretentious observations about the human condition while desperately trying to sound profound.
As practice, I decided to accept an invitation to Redmond, Washington to meet a young man by the name of Albert. I would then blog about the experience, being sure to include all the forced realizations and condescending observations I hope to include in my real blog posts. Let’s begin.
I met Albert (or “Al” as he is known by the locals) at an eatery called Coho, named for a type of fish that has historically been important in the region.
The waiter must have been able to tell that I was from Seattle, as he immediately addressed me in English. I was impressed by how flawlessly he spoke the language with barely a hint of his native accent. I ordered a dish that Albert told me was popular with the locals. Its name literally translates to “Chicken meat that has been grilled and placed between bread chunks.”
The meal was delicious. As we ate, Albert and I discussed his life in Redmond. Our lives are so different, yet somehow… the same. At one point he even made a passing reference to the TV show, Seinfeld. I guess it’s made its way out here, too. Ha! Al described to me a traditional game that is popular among men in his town known as (not sure of exact spelling, just typing out phonetically) Starkraff Tu. From what I could deduce, the game holds great cultural importance and can even determine a man’s priority in choice of a bride.
As he spoke, I couldn’t help but marvel at Albert. Here was a person denied all of the privileges and opportunities I take for granted in Seattle, and yet somehow, he finds happiness. I had to wonder whether these “privileges” I had in Seattle were privileges at all. Maybe little Albert was onto something with his simple, quaint Redmond lifestyle. And maybe that’s I was meant to discover on this journey all along.
I didn’t have time to convert my cash to the local currency beforehand, so I paid for the meal by credit card. When I got the receipt, I was amused to see that the waiter had used a “Seattle-style” receipt that included a space for gratuity. As seasoned travelers know, in other parts of the world, tips are not customarily given to restaurant waiters. I realized this waiter was attempting to take advantage of the cultural divide between us, but I couldn’t blame him. If the roles were reversed and a wealthy, extremely handsome traveler came into my restaurant, I can’t definitively say that I’d be able to resist the temptation to try to prey on his ignorance. I paid the bill and bid Albert a farewell, grateful to him for immersing me in his town’s humble, yet vibrant culture.
Stay tuned for Mike’s Travel Blog: Real Edition. Note that I’ll be writing the blog entirely in Spanish to capture the authenticity of the experience, so if you don’t already know how to read Spanish, please spend the next two months preparing so that you don’t fall behind.