Maybe not when you’re five 🙂 but my life would be a lot poorer if I hadn’t learned how to talk to strangers. And I wouldn’t have an obsession with crawfish 😉
As my regular readers have learned to accept, we are time travelling again – and using geography as a tool to tie together disparate experiences.
So I am writing about New Orleans sitting in the airport in Panama City drinking premium rum (12 year old Abuelo – definitely a discovery!). And crawfish is on my mind because I finally had some at the airport in Houston.
That is the beauty of travel. I wasn’t planning to be in Houston last month when I was in New Orleans. But, while I was trying to find a decent glass of beer and hear some jazz, I was eavesdropping on a lively conversation between some exuberant locals and guy with a questionable haircut and a hard to place accent.
But I mostly hang out in bars for the entertainment value – and chance to engage in lively discourse and meet locals.
I am very quick to smile and that gets people’s attention. The mystery guy turned out to be Finnish and he was eating oysters from the Gulf.
I keep trying to love oysters but so far I remain on the fence. But I have a lot of great memories that involve oyster eating so I think they ARE special 🙂
The Louisiana guys were making the poor Finnish guy feel bad that he had overpaid for his gulf oysters while they consume them by the sack for practically nothing.
What was more interesting to me was the discussion about crawfish. Apparently it was crawfish season in the gulf and I determined that I should have some even if I didn’t exactly know what they were 🙂
I did manage a crawfish étouffé while I was in New Orleans but my time was too limited to seek them out again and really confirm exactly what a crawfish tasted like. (But I did manage to engage in a lively conversation with the Finnish stranger about multiculturalism and the virtue of speaking lots of languages…)
Life is full of serendipity! So there was a proper seafood restaurant in the Houston airport right next to my gate.
I think I got a few tourist points when I asked the server if it was still crawfish season. It was!
They were deep-fried (welcome to the south :)) but I still got a much stronger impression of their flavour and texture. And – if you share my fondness for shellfish – they are a great addition to your repertoire.
And I’m still not 100% sure how to describe them. They are bigger than a shrimp, smaller than a prawn and not at all like a langoustine as I had imagined from the bar conversation. The thing they most closely resemble is a spot prawn – a short-term delicacy of my home region. Both are really worth trying, more fragile and succulent than ordinary shellfish.
I talked to lots of strangers in New Orleans. It has become my new modus operandi when I travel. My ten year old self is still in shock!!!
I think it’s a great example of how any human is actually capable of change. I certainly support the proposition that you can’t change someone and should never enter a relationship with that as one of the goals in your five year plan.
It is a setup for disappointment – and conflict. I have left all my relationships because I knew I couldn’t change the other person – and he wasn’t open to any modifications.
I have learned that is the norm. But it’s kind of tragic. When you get born into the world, no one says, “wow, I hope I will get parents and teachers and bosses who hold me to an almost impossible standard and constantly critique me ;)”
But, people, it has its rewards 🙂 It keeps you off balance. It makes you strive. It quells any opportunity to get arrogant before you have really achieved anything.
I continue to evolve. I have conquered a lot of anxiety and I have become almost fearless. But in a great way that relies on geek-worthy risk assessment and self-confidence borne out of life experience.
So… not only do I talk to strangers… strangers talk to me… I engage with the locals everywhere that I go. AND I meet other travellers. And hear their stories. And am inspired to further explore the world…
Talking to strangers requires some finesse. It needs to come from the right place. You want to make sure it is a genuine interest in other people, not some lonely, needy gesture that makes the other person worry you might be a stalker 🙂
One of the highlights of my trip to New Orleans was making a new friend while were both perusing the menu at the Red Fish Grill. Neither of is pushed it too fast so by the time we had both decided independently it might be far more enjoyable to dine together than alone, the choice was easy to make.
And what a great decision! I met a fascinating man with a personal history to rival mine. We talked about the arts, travel, the various cities and countries that had left a mark on us.
It was my first experience of Bourbon Street. As previously noted, Bourbon Street definitely not a total class act – but, luckily for me, I explored it with my new friend who embodied the concept of a Southern gentleman so he gave even the low rent aspects of Bourbon Street a borrowed sense of decorum.
It certainly gave tacky Bourbon Street a halo it hadn’t earned and etched yet another classic cinematic evening into my memory. Those are the moments when I am so happy that I learned to talk to strangers 😉
I raise my glass of delicious 12 year old rum to everyone out there who talked to a stranger and came away with a special memory…
Hopefully I will finish the New Orleans stories before I get on the plane to Lima… 🙂