In 2012 we vacationed to Colombia. Columbia is beautiful. I don’t think people realize just how beautiful. Obviously the cartels scare plenty of people away but that has died out quite a bit and I think that Columbia’s biggest deterrent is that people are reserved and petty crime is still high in the cities.
Upon arriving at our first hostel, the first person we met was freaking out because the previous day (his first day in the country) he’d had everything pick pocketed. He was without documents or money. Throughout the trip we only met a few local Columbian’s we’d describe as friendly and welcoming.
In 2013 Bri and I traveled to Morocco and welcoming would not describe the vibe we felt upon arriving. Before the end up the trip Bri had her passport and all her cash stolen. Filing a report lead us from one unnerving situation to another. It was, to say the least, a trip to remember.
In 2014 we moved to Thailand and have since decided that Thailand’s two largest natural rescues are the natural beauty of its geography and the friendliness of the local Thais.
Without Good People, You’ve Got Nothing
The “power of people” is a mantra repeated within business all the time. The power of good customer service, of hard working, internally motivated people, immeasurable. It should come as no surprise that humans react strongly to how they are treated by other humans, yet it has never been so clear in my life just how powerful kindness is.
Last Friday Brianna’s car wouldn’t start after picking up the laundry. In many other countries, this would be the beginning of a nightmare that ends with getting ripped off. Instead, the laundry guy went and got his friend who popped the hood and was able to get it started. He refused to take a dime for his help.
The next day, Saturday, the car started up so we tried to drive it to a nearby repair shop. It died in the middle of the second intersection. We were close to the laundry place and the same guy who helped before saw us broken down and came over to try to fix it again. He tinkered for 15 minutes before he noticed the gas was low, grabbed an empty canister, had me hop on the back of his scooter, and drove me to a gas station to get gas to bring back. We tried this without any luck.
His next attempt was driving me to his friend’s house. His friend had a makeshift driveway repair shop and, after they talked in Thai for a minute, the guy followed us to the car and tinkered around until deciding our coil needed to be repaired by a shop nearby. All this was in the most broken English you can imagine without imagining someone speaking no English at all. He was able to tell us the shop was closed and to bring it Monday. The original guy helped us push the car in front of his house. I think Asia is the only continent where I’d feel okay leaving my car with a stranger for two days. We brought them beers later that night to say thanks and didn’t return until Monday.
On Monday I showed up on my lunch break, put the car in neutral, and started pushing it down the street and steering at the same time. Within 30 seconds a Thai guy I’ve never seen was behind the car and motioning for me to get in and steer. A minute later another Thai guy was behind the car pushing. As we approached the shop there was a small hill and the Thai guys started yelling at a guy driving by on a scooter. Maybe he was their friend, maybe he was a stranger, no idea, but a third Thai man was suddenly behind the car pushing it up the incline where the mechanic rushed out and helped get it into the shop. Again I pulled out my money and offered it repeatedly to each of them. Not one even paused to consider accepting it.
This shop owner spoke not more than 5 English words but he called a friend to translate and they special ordered the part from Bangkok after explaining it was almost half the cost to order instead of buy it locally. Two days later I picked the car up running perfectly, total bill was $80 USD.
We’re half way around the world from where we’ve lived all our lives and the power of this kind of kindness cannot be exaggerated. It should come as no surprise that humans react strongly to how they are treated by other humans, yet it has never been so clear in my life just how powerful kindness is.