The first day of my trip did not really go according to my plan. I finished work around noon time and right before I got on my train, I had a massive argument with my manager, which I ended up overthinking the whole day and night. That in turn sparked up my anxiety which turned up my nerve pain. “That’s exactly what I needed”, I thought to myself as I landed in Thessaloniki. The night was quite rough, as expected with my pain flaring up.
The following morning, I met some locals whilst promenading alongside the coast. They were not your typical kind of locals though; they were the more controversial type – immigrants. I was first approached by a man who called himself Franklin. He told me he was from Jamaica and invited me to a Jamaican party that was happening on a tourist boat nearby. I didn’t really believe him as he seemed to be a regular street hustler, yet I humoured him and went along with his story. Eventually he got a bracelet out and wrapped it around my wrist. “This will give you many blessings brother. I will pray for you. Are you Married?” he spoke quickly in a succession of questions to which I nodded. “No? I will pray then for a happy and prosperous life and a wife who will love you for ever. You will live a long and happy life” he said staring into eyes with his dark yellow ones. I reached out in my pocket and gave him all the change I had. (about 2.80 EUR)
Little did he know he completely changed my day. He told me exactly what I wanted to hear and for some reason hard to understand, I was comforted. It was like I was being sent a message that universe that everything will be OK. Maybe it was the universe, maybe God, or maybe it was just my mind choosing to believe what it wanted to. Whatever it was, it worked. And maybe I don’t really want to know what it really was because I am aware of my limitations. So instead of theorising of what or how that happened, I chose to instead be grateful for it. Grateful to Franklin for having brightened up my day for only 2.80 EUR.
After a few minutes I was approached by another young black man, whose name was Stefan. His attitude completely changed when he saw the bracelet I had bought from Franklin, because he was selling the exact same ones. “I like your choice” he told me. “It wasn’t really a choice”, I replied, “Franklin chose it for me.” He asked me where I was from, and I when I told him I am Romanian, his face completely changed. I can’t even remember the last time I told someone I was from Romania and their face changed in a positive, excited manner.
He even knew the small town I was originally from and plenty others because his wife was also Romanian. Stefan was Nigerian and had met his wife, Raluca in Thessaloniki a few years back. As I had a pretty good knowledge of Nigerian culture, we had a nice chat for about 20 minutes about the cultural and culinary differences and similarities of the two countries. We shared in common many things, I told Stefan. Both Romanians and Nigerians are pretty much everywhere you go, and both bear the same stigma of dangerous people. He told me that his Nigerian friends warned him before going to Romania and that he was really nervous when he went there to visit his wife for the first time. However, he got accustomed to the culture very easily. He told me his favourite Romanian dishes and I told him how much I hate the smelly Nigerian fish soup that I had to bear for almost a year living with Nwachukwu, my old flatmate back in Nottingham.
This banal occurrence completely reset my mood and day. The pain slowly subsided and I managed to re-focus on the purpose of my trip and leave the anxieties of the past behind.