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First of all I have to admit something: I can’t read a calendar.
You may have noticed that this week’s update is Week 38 but last week’s was Week 33. Well, that’s because I finally realized I should be counting every Friday, not the 1st, 7th, 14th, and 28th of each month. Because some months have 5 weeks. Oops.
In the last week we’ve been to three countries in two different continents. After 6 surprisingly fun, beautiful days in Singapore (there is a ton to do in this small country, and it really is as clean as people claim!) we flew 10 hours to Gold Coast, Australia. We spent just under 36 hours on the Gold Coast beach, then it was off to our destination for the next three months: New Zealand.
A lot has happened in these last 7 days, but I want to focus on one thing I continue to learn as we travel around: People are inherently good.
We heard that people in Singapore were nice, and it’s true. They have every reason to be. They are living in a beautifully planned and maintained country surrounded by world-renowned shopping, food, and things to do. They learn an average of three languages to communicate with their families and the world around them, they are surrounded by the best in modern architecture, and the weather is perpetually warm. I admit to being super skeptical, but Singapore really is a great place and the people really are wonderful.
We met some very thoughtful and interested people during our week in Singapore, but one experiences tops the rest.
We were riding the MRT subway from downtown to our AirBnB, Ben standing and I sitting with Whit on my lap. It was a 30 minute train ride after a long day of walking and sightseeing, which tends to wear me out. When our stop was called I reluctantly stood, slipping my backpack from the floor to my back and waiting for the doors to open. As I started to walk out I felt someone grab my backpack. I’d just read a thread on a Facebook travel group about a girl’s wallet and passport getting stolen in Barcelona, so I was immediately defensive, assuming someone was trying to tear my bag off my back. When I started to turn around, however, I was met by a young woman who pointed out that I’d left my phone on the seat. It must have fallen out of my pocket as I shuffled Whit around to stand up!
I was shocked for a number of reasons. First, I can’t believe she was even paying attention. Most people riding the train are catching a few Zzzzzzs or staring at the floor, but this girl was aware of her surroundings and acted quickly to get my attention. Amazing. Second, she could have ignored my phone, kept it for herself, or any number of other options that didn’t involve her jumping up from her own comfortable chair. But no. She got it back to me as quickly as possible.
Guys… How awesome is that?
It would have cost around $600-$1000 to replace my phone, and I wouldn’t have gotten back the photos, videos, and notes I’ve had stored since my last backup. I live for those memories, and I’m so glad they aren’t lost. Not only would it have been a financial and personal loss, it would have ruined at least 1 day, possibly 2 as we tried to figure out how to replace the phone asap, and potentially impacted how I viewed Singapore. I’m so glad none of those things happened!
The second incredible show of human kindness was in Gold Coast.
I’ve heard “The people there are the nicest in the world!” in just about every country we’ve visited, but it may actually be true in Australia. Again, these people have every reason to be happy and embrace the laid-back beach vibe they’re famous for. It’s a wonderful place to be on a daily basis, and that sunshine must just sink into their souls.
I didn’t sleep on our overnight flight out of Singapore and our hotel room wasn’t ready as early as we’d agreed to, so I was walking around town in a pretty annoyed mood. You don’t want to mess with me when I’m either tired or wronged, so if it’s both- watch out! We walked across the street from our beach-front hotel to a strip of coffee shops for a proper breakfast as we waited for our room. We checked the pastries and baked goods in one shop, which prompted the store owner out of the back to help us, before I noticed that Ben and Whit had wandered somewhere else. I rolled my eyes in apology to the baker and headed out to find my boys in the small market next door.
We decided to go to the bakery for breakfast, after all, and I was a little embarrassed to be walking in and bothering this woman for a second time. When she approached the counter with a smile on her face I said, “I’m sorry about before. We’re ready to order now.” to which she replied very sincerely, “No worries! Everything is great!” It was such a small thing, but in my sleep-deprived state I thought I was going to cry. It was the reminder I needed not to take things so seriously, and not to assume others are constantly judging or angry.
But here’s the kicker….
Later that day Ben convinced Whit to come with him into the water as I took a quick nap on the beach. They had a great time jumping over the waves before coming back to tell me all about the surfers they watched. I asked Whit if he wanted to play in the water some more or go in for dinner, to which he happily yelled, “Let’s go back in the water, Dad!”
I smiled as they ran back to the waves hand-in-hand, then ran toward them when I heard Whit scream bloody murder a moment later.
As soon as they hit the water a Portuguese Man of War (or Blue Bottle, as they’re known in Australia) wrapped his blue stinger thingamajig around Whit’s and Ben’s hands. Whit bore the brunt of the attack, and was in tremendous pain. He’d never experienced anything like that and had no idea what was happening to him. As Ben carried him across the beach to the paved walking path in front of our hotel local beachgoers came from all directions to check on the child screaming for his life. Upon seeing the trademark white bumps against Whit’s inflamed hand they all agreed it was a Blue Bottle sting and advised us to put it under warm water.
One family went so far as to settle us on a bench in their yard as they brought out a dish of warm water for Whit. Husband, wife, and teenage daughter came out to talk to us about this vicious creature and the best ways to help our son feel better. They called (rang) the pharmacy (chemist) to ask about treatment, and office to drive us there and loan us cash! None of that ended up being necessary, but I was so incredibly touched that they, and so very many others, were concerned enough with Whit’s anguish to go out of their way to make him feel better. I could easily have heated up water at our hotel 2 minutes away, but this family didn’t care. They saw someone in need and found a way to help without even thinking about it.
We haven’t had any angel experiences in New Zealand yet, but I’m sure they’ll happen. Because people are good.
Here’s my plea for the week: If you see someone in need please try to help them. A smile, kind word, encouragement, or even helping them find something they’ve lost or medical help could go further than you may realize. It might be someone like us- far away from any friends, family, or familiarity, running on culture shock and no sleep, just trying to survive the craziness.