Friday, 2 June 2017

Real People, Real Life

I remember some time ago having a conversation with Ali, back when we were living in the house. He would have been about 17 and I can't remember how it came about but I said something typically placating and really-wise-and-adulty along the lines of that other people's opinions didn't matter, particularly on the likes of Facebook.  'Opinions are just that - opinions', I told him.  'People can think what they like!  Doesn't mean they are right, or that you have to care'.  Heaven knows it took me well into adulthood to learn that, with plenty of heartbreak along the way; the least I could do was help my beloved offspring to learn it earlier.  His response however really shocked me. 'No Mum, you're wrong,' he said.  'Social media determines your social status, your physical status, your emotional status - everything!'  This was no nonchalant statement either; those words were said with genuine belief and passion.  For once in my life I was absolutely lost for words.  Call me biased but Ali is one of the most intelligent kids I have ever met.  His perception and depth of thought is mind blowing.  Is that really how it is for young people these days? It's no wonder depression is so horrendously common.  How is anyone supposed to live up to their own, or everyone else's idea of perfection? How is anyone supposed to see the beauty in the world and in themselves, when they're constantly bombarded with negativity and being told via a screen what they should and shouldn't be doing, what they are lacking and being forced to compare themselves with others?  It made me incredibly sad to think they live with so much pressure.

Real life - get out and experience it!

It goes without saying that we're a different breed, us road dwellers, travellers and nomads.  We're different in so many ways I can't even begin to count them all.  For starters we are not bogged down by so many of the things the rest of society considers important or stresses about.  We don't know a lot of so-called celebrities these days; we don't know their names or faces, their songs or their TV shows.  We don't know what scandals we're 'missing out' on, who is sleeping with who, what sort of clothes we should be wearing this season or which 'must-have' things we're supposed to want.  We're so busy just living life plain and simple that we are simply unaware.  I wish that everyone had the chance - or should I say - I wish they gave themselves the chance to live this way.

Sunrise and gypsy caravans - a wonderful sight to wake up to!

A little while back there was a Gypsy Fair in town and a whole bunch of them came to stay at our campground.  I loved having them around, with their beautiful, ornate wagons and exotic clothing.  A lot of people don't, however.  'You'll be glad to see the back of them, won't you?' someone asked Bevin the caretaker when they had gone.  'Did they give you any trouble?'  'Trouble?  Hell no! They're the best kind of campers you could ask for!'  Bevin replied.  'They take nothing for granted, they appreciate everything they have and they know the real value of a dollar'.  And that, I think sums up most of us travellers perfectly.  I appreciate things so much more now because I only buy or am given have the things I need.  I appreciate people so much more too, because I have more time and opportunities to interact with them and see their kindness.

I'm blown away all the time by how lovely people are.  Like the day a few weeks back when a woman we had never seen before shyly came and knocked on our door.  She is the sister of one of our dear friends from back in Te Kauwhata and took the trouble to drive around Gore and track us down so she could invite us round to dinner with her and her husband at their home.  We hadn't had a proper home cooked meal in a house for almost four months!  Not only did we enjoy a wonderful evening of warm hospitality (as well as some of our favourite foods that we're not able to cook ourselves such as roast potatoes!), we made some lovely and much-valued new friends who we will continue to keep in touch with.

My free herb garden.  This photo was taken on the first day, it's
grown so much already!

Sometimes the people we meet are little more than a fleeting encounter but they leave a lasting impression, such as a lady I met the other day when she was hanging out washing and I lent her some of my clothespegs.  Later on that afternoon I noticed someone had dumped a pot of parsley by the refuse station.  I figured nobody must want it but didn't want to simply take without asking so plucked up courage to ask the lady if she had put it there and if so, could I possibly have it?  'Yes, of course!' she replied.  'Would you like some mint and rosemary as well?'  I was delighted enough to have the parsley - after all, Gareth and I had first met when I was buying parsley and we were both heartily miffed when a possum dug up our special plant at the start of our travels in Warkworth!  Still, I didn't want to say no, so followed the lady back to her bus for what I thought were some cuttings. Imagine my surprise when she insisted I take two enormous tubs of mint, rosemary and thyme back to the van!  'Are you sure you don't want them?!' I asked in disbelief.  'No, I've carted them all over the country this past year and am going back home to Cromwell now, I'd love to find them a new home', she insisted.  I was over the moon - I don't even know this lady's name but she gave me a garden!  The plants are all doing great too, I hope one day I'll run into her again and be able to show her.

One of the things I love best about the people we meet on the road is that age or nationality or background is no barrier to friendship.  When you live in a regular house, living a regular life, you tend to only mix with people who are the same sort of age and have similar interests, or social circle, or life experience to you.  Living on the road, people couldn't be more different.  We chat, we smile, we swap stories, it doesn't matter who you are.  We were walking back from town recently when we got chatting to an elderly couple walking into the grounds at the same time.  The woman was a Gore resident and was off to her spinning class - by that I mean wool spinning, not the exercise!  She asked us how we were enjoying Gore and other general niceties when she said 'Hang on, are you the lovely couple with the dog?  I thought I recognised you!'  It turned out we had indeed met them before a week or so earlier.  They were walking past with their disabled adult daughter Jane, pushing her in her wheelchair when she spotted Minnie.  Jane was so excited to see our dog that Gareth took Minnie over to see her and Minnie, who normally isn't particularly co-operative when it comes to meeting strangers, sat patiently and let everyone make a fuss of her.  Jane has Rett's Syndrome, which is sort of a cross between autism and cerebral palsy and she is one of only 30 people in NZ who has it.  They were so touched that Gareth took the time to go over and say hello, they gave us their address and invited us to pop in and have lunch with them any time.

One way or another, we meet so many wonderful people I don't think we'll ever go hungry!  Just a few days ago we were supposed to be going to a pot luck dinner to welcome all the incoming campers for the Gold Guitars festival this long weekend.  Unfortunately we were both feeling under the weather and had to pass on our contribution to the caretaker to take along with him, as well as our apologies to everyone for not being able to make it.  We thought we had missed out - but far from it! Still feeling none too special I dragged myself up the next morning to make us both a huge pot of chicken soup when there was a knock at the door and there was Bevin bearing an enormous amount of food.  'Couldn't have you two missing out!' he grinned and promptly presented us with a huge stock pot FULL of roast meat and roast potatoes, pumpkin and kumara (this alone turned out to be enough for four meals for the two of us!) plus two different salads, chocolate cake, berry crumble, lemon meringue pie and a big bottle of cream!  What amazing warm hearted people we have had the pleasure to meet - although I couldn't help but wonder to myself if the 40 or so motor homers who had provided the glorious spread hadn't insisted they 'give it to the poor homeless couple in the wee van!'  I'm sure many people don't realise that we live this way by choice!

Us, no doubt covered in mud and in need of a shower as usual
but ridiculously happy anyway!

To me, these are real people, this is real life.  Genuine good people, who ask for nothing more than your company and are not interested in what you can give or do for them in return.  Life is so much more beautiful when you're living it for real, rather than vicariously through a screen. The people we meet are so much happier and more relaxed, and so are we.  I don't know if I've changed all that much these seven months but I truly believe that living this way has made me a better person.  Some of you may remember me talking recently about a lovely young couple from Ireland called Jake and Tasha, who adopted a puppy on their travels which grew into an enormous, boisterous and very lovable dog.  They have been travelling almost four years and the three of them live very happily crammed into their 4x4, with no desire to change.  Like us, they know that not everyone 'gets' how we live but that's fine, nobody else has to.  I think the proof was in the pudding when Jake and Tasha went back to Ireland last year and not one single person or family member said 'God you guys look terrible, you need to stop doing what you're doing'.  Quite the opposite, nobody could believe how well and happy they looked and encouraged them to keep on living just the way they were.  I hope when we see our families again they will say the same about us!

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