I am strange. Everyone in my family knows it. In fact, once, in the backyard of my sister’s house, she had asked me, “When you stay with your friends when you travel, how is it exactly?” Maybe she has never stayed with friends is what I thought. Then she said, “Oh, of course, since you are strange, I imagine, you have strange friends as well.”
Actually, I just put “strange” in there even if that wasn’t the world she used. Strange somehow just sounds better.
I have strange friends, artist friends, musician friends, writer friends, film maker friends, LGBT friends, tattooed friends, friends who are interested in living off the grid, vegans, friends obsessed about yoga, acro yoga, alternative medicine, friends who live and thrive in the alternative lifestyles they have chosen for themselves. And I love them all. We all embrace our strangeness even if they are all at different levels.
That being said, nothing still has prepared me for the strangeness of the village that is Nimbin, nestled in the middle of the mountains of northeastern New South Wales. In fact, I told Fabio that I wish he had told me where we were going so I could have looked it up beforehand and prepared myself for the shock of finding such a strange strip that is Nimbin.
The street starts in the middle of nowhere and ends abruptly. It is colorful, lined with emporiums, strange shops, and filled with people that in other places might have been shunned. One old man with unkempt long white hair and an equally long shaggy beard actually just dropped in the middle of the sidewalk after Fabio spoke to him, and some locals rushed to give him first aid. A father and two kids jumped out of their truck, all barefooted, and walked into a nearby shop. A lady with a nearly naked baby sat in a stool next to a shop door. A tattooed, emaciated-looking woman whispered almost to no one, “Cookies? Brownies?” as she walked by while a man sprawled on the pavement looked up to us and said, “You need anything mate?”
Needless to say, I was shocked. And too embarrassed to take photos. I did anyway. As furtively as I could. Nobody said I could not take photos but still I could not help but feel a little bit scared being in the middle of all of it.
I was very much amused any how. I walked in and out of the various shops looking and found so many things I would have loved to buy and take with me except that in our travels, we almost never buy anything because we travel light.
I did take a coffee at a bar.
It didn’t look like a bar. It had some dirty cups and mugs on the rack at the back. A little refrigerator with bottled water and soda stood along the wall. Another bearded man sat behind the counter, working on his computer.
“Do you have coffee?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said without even looking up.
And that’s it. I stood there not knowing what to do.
Another guy came in and asked me what I wanted. I said coffee of course and he proceeded to make me one. I sat on a stool on the other side of the counter while waiting and browsed through a local newspaper.
The guy making my coffee started talking to me and I recognized a French accent. “I am French but I have lived here many years,” he said to me.
I took my coffee outside, out a little back door, into a littered garden. He followed me, asking me how I like the weather in his town. What a strange topic I thought to myself. “Does it always rain?” Because I am best at strange conversations.
“Oh it’s like this here. We only have two seasons. Rainy and dry. And now it’s rainy.”
“Like my country,” I said.
“Where are you from?”
“I have never been to the Philippines. But my friend’s wife is from there,”
I wasn’t born yesterday, I thought.
Fabio then came and whisked me away. He says, “What is it with you and these French men?”
And I laughed.
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