A Different Kind of Life

I don’t know if you will agree with me but I think that sometimes it can be the little things in life which make most impact.

A new smell or taste, a familiar face in an unusual setting or a feeling of being very far from home are all the sorts of things which can be enough to make me realise with a start that there is more to life than the same old 9 to 5 routine and getting the bills paid on time every month. Here are a few of my favourite “whoa, hold on a minute” moments.

1. Street meat. I had recently arrived to South America and was in the chaotic city of La Paz. It was early in the morning and the ladies were setting up their market stalls for the day. I saw a woman spread a brightly coloured rug on the pavement but leave it sort of falling onto the road. Then she put a blooming dead pig on top of it, about three inches from where dirty, unhealthy vehicles were whizzing past its lifeless trotters. I turned around and saw that the whole street was now filled with pigs, chickens and a sort of beef jerky they call charque, all lying on the ground. I confess to having a small panic attack at being somewhere where selling meat off the ground is an accepted business practice.

2.Irish samba. I have seen a few carnivals in my time and when I went to Belfast around the time of their carnival I was expecting something pretty conventional. However, as I stepped out of the public library I was astonished, not to say flabbergasted, to see that a group of middle aged Irish women were dancing samba in the middle of the road. This should not be allowed on so many levels that the image remains ingrained in my “try to forget” section next to lumpy school custard and, well, a lot of things really.

3. Breakfast shocker. I have to take you to Buenos Aires for this story. It’s turning turning into a bit of a globe trotting article this week, isn’t it? This was a couple of months after the street meat incident and I was now a more rounded citizen of the world. I swaggered to my breakfast table, nonchalantly poured some coffee and then froze in horror at the plate of brown stuff before me. What on Earth is that and what type of medical ailment does it cure? I peeked at some of my fellow lodgers and saw that some were foolishly spreading it on their bread. I did the same and was blown away. Dulce de leche had a hold on me and I had somehow lived three decades without even having heard of the stuff before. I now realised that there were to sabores latinos than meets the eye.

4. The more things change….Ok., so we’ll nip back to my home town in Scotland for this one. After I had seen the meat carnage, the Irish dancers and the breakfast treat I felt a different person. After so long away from my home town I didn’t feel like it was home any more though. Anyway, as I stood browsing at some magazines I saw an old school friend I used to fly paper planes with. That was a long time ago and I hadn’t seen him since but there he was looking at model airplanes in the shop and all of a sudden I felt myself transported back in time to a time and a place I had almost forgotten about. It had taken me a lot of travelling to work out that I had a place in the world after all.

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