Friends in Unlikely Places

Travel stories from my Peace Corps experience in Ukraine:

It’s the middle of summer and I am getting ready to leave my friend’s apartment. He lives in a remote village in Crimea, the south of Ukraine, and I have already been in his town for a couple of days. At the time I had no place to live, since I was backpacking and working at summer camps throughout the country,  and I was caring two years of my life on my back in the form of two huge backpacks.

I stumble off a hot and overcrowded bus that has entered the station. By this time in my journeys…. I had already become accustomed to carrying all of my belongings with me, saying good-bye to friends and riding buses and trains across the country.

This particular bus station was like the others in Ukraine. It was old, hot , and it felt like you were back in the Soviet Union once you walked inside – a nostalgic feeling that crosses cultures. I was going to catch a bus to this small port town to meet up with some old friends. I buy my ticket from the sale’s window and I go outside to wait for my bus to arrive. The sun was high in the sky this day and it was hard to hide from its rays. I looked for shade, but there are already people squeezed into the shadows.

Usually I don’t talk to people when I am at the bus station unless something compels me to do otherwise. I had practiced my spanish a couple of weeks before I made this trip and my eye followed this colorful sticker. It was the Mexican Flag, but what was it doing in Ukraine? I then noticed the man who owned the bag with the sticker, and I realized that he could be Mexican. I asked him if he spoke spanish, or so I tried to ask.  He replied by saying, ” Dude… I speak English.”

This is the day I met my new friend Juan Carlos Guerra.  In the most random of places on the planet. Juan Carlos happened to live 5 hours from me in Texas, and we were riding on the same bus. During the course of the next two days and nights Juan Carlos and I got to know more about each other. He is one of the coolest and most interesting persons I know. We managed to sail on the Black Sea, get a couple of dates and take them out dancing all night, and just have a good ol’ time.

It is difficult to find a good traveling buddy and I found my traveling buddy while traveling.

I ended up meeting with Juan Carlos later in our own separate travels in the capital, Kyiv, and we went to a huge music festival.

This story does go against my theory of propinquity that I wrote about yesterday, but whats a theory without its caveats.

This story is for you Juan Carlos… You rock!

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~ by Joseph Garza on October 7, 2009.

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