They say that in life, you are bound to have life-changing conversations. I find this statement flawed; how does one instance change you with such absoluteness? I abhor objective deals but I find that in Munich, I really did encounter a life-changing 4 hour conversation.
His name is Aarron – this is not a misspell – and is a Canadian who has just graduated with a second degree from Law school. We met in our hostel room, both of us hiding from the rain that seems to define Munich at the time. His bed is next to mine and being backpackers, we do the customary introduction – who are you, where do you come from, where are you heading to next, how long have you been travelling and how has it been going so far. We talk and find out we could actually click, so there we are, sitting on the wooden table in the middle of the room figuring out which beer market to go to. I suggest walking to Marienplatz; they should have at least one decent café or pub there, yes?
With my white-winter coat and his checkered shirt(I am indeed amazed at his ability to brave the cold) we head out in strange comfort. We find a café right beside the square and little would I know that we would be drinking 3 pints of beer at the end of our conversation. He is breathtakingly honest and open. I remember his blue eyes and blonde hair; he is a towering 6 feet over and he comments that I am tall for an Asian; I laugh and whispers furtively, “I am a giant among the daintiness that is Asia, don’t you know?”
He actually chortles, “You are not at all big in our eyes”. I am not surprised. The land of the white makes me feel like a child in my 22 years-old body. I often wonder how the other Asians feel – we have to make an extra effort to be heard and seen. I speak my thoughts aloud and tell him, the conspiracy of this world being a white man’s one. He nods – he understands the privileges his skin has brought him and for once, he is grateful for them and not snotty.
We talk about anything and everything. We dice through the impersonals and delve into the personals; we exchange life stories and listen without judgment. The eagerness that holds two strangers together in a moment that is punctilious seems to permeate us – we are impatient to speak but we are also willing listeners and minute after minute, we discover the differences that define the Western and Eastern sphere. His individualistic tendencies overshadow my personality that wants to be individualistic, creative and subverting but instead remains subdued and filial to the social system I come from. He shakes his head, “This is your life, you should be able to do what you want, be who you want”.
I can’t help but think that he makes it sound so simple. “You are an Asian girl travelling alone! I don’t see what you can’t do if you set your mind to it. Why are you denying your own happiness?”, he chugs on. I smile. Of course he is right, I know that. I have been giving myself excuses.
Do I really care what people think about me? Should I care? Why should I? It doesn’t make sense – and in that instance, he made me understand what I refused to make known for months, years even. We continue drinking, our 5th pint and I, still standing, allow him to introduce their national sport – ice hockey with all its theatrics and inter-state rivalries. He amuses me. The weather in Munich has been unkind and I have this impression I would, ironically, frizzle from the lack of warmth. It is through him, I find a ballooning warmth and ever since then, I have been meticulously keeping it warm inside of me. I will never let it die out, I should never let it die out.
And it is because of him, that I will always, remember Munich as the city that changed my life.