Unexpected Connections in Kuala Lumpur
From a social standpoint the monorails of Kuala Lumpur are like the subways of New York. They are strictly a transport mechanism. Rarely do people talk to one another.
Not following the implicit societal standards, I made a comment to a stranger "that's a cool shirt". This simple comment led to a friendship I couldn't have imagined.
Bob Wani, is 24, and a refugee from South Sudan. A lover of soccer, an intellectual, and a man with a big heart man. He is desperately trying to get to America to work in the petrol industry. His long term goal is to make enough money to reunite his currently segregated family in the states. With no connections in America, his work permit application seems hopeless.
Becoming good friends with Bob, I've made a promise to help him in anyway I can. It's a promise I plan to keep whether it's through helping write revised applications, serving as a contact person, lending a couch to stay (if I have the means) , connecting with a job, or just general friendship.
But it's also partly why I'm posting this here. I'll be out of America for quite some time and have no real knowledge of the refugee process. Friends and family who have more knowledge on the matter, how can I help Bob? And please, reach out if you have any opportunities for him. I've already contacted some local orgs to see if they can help.
We ended up trading more than friendship, and stories. After buying him a book to help satiate his hunger for learning, Bob told me he'd see me before I left. He came to KL Sentral (main train station of Kuala Lumpur) to send me off, where he gifted me with an African shirt that is originally from his village in South Sudan. Funny enough, that is the same shirt that I remarked upon a week ago, which was the doorway to our friendship. It's this type of spontaneous connection which has made this travel fellowship so rewarding.
A little bit of insight from this experience. All it took was a small comment as a gateway to break down societal standards and form a deep relationship with another. Engage in your surroundings. Whether that's being a silent non judgmental observer or an active participant. Engage with the environment around you, and not only with story going on in your head, or the distraction of your phone. If you have something nice to say, say it. Talk to strangers, listen to their stories without your own stories and expectations getting in the way. Even the seemingly smallest interactions can make the biggest difference. You may change someone's day and in turn your own.
On that note, off to Borneo where I can hopefully live with a remote jungle tribe!!