slowly surely + xyz : a journey of (re)discovery

I AM. Changed

By InspiredJourney

 

Off to meet my date ramen, I am once again locating LA bus stops to reach my destination.

The Dash bus is very late.

I stand, constantly questioning myself and any person walking by, for confirmation I’m at the correct stop. More than a few passersby haven’t a clue, stating they drive and aren’t familiar with public transit.

The bus finally comes.

I hop on, riding to the transfer point of the next bus, driven by a woman who I share an inspiring exchange with. For simplicity sake, let’s refer to her as Barb.

The conversation with Barb begins with my asking the best way to use the transit card Fiona had loaned to me, without being wasteful. This, led to her asking where I am visiting from, which in turned led to her shock when learning I had embarked on open-ended travel to any place I felt to roam.

As per usual, and as most perpetual travelers encounter, Barb was simultaneously, stunned, frightened and inspired by my story.

Of all things, she asked if I were “on a scavenger hunt”?

Though an odd question, I soon understood.

She told the honeymoon story her husband had loosely planned (read: didn’t plan) years prior involving, ironically, a Mega Bus trip to San Francisco, that she labeled as a ‘scavenger hunt’.

During this trip, Barb found herself going along with her new husband, but eventually not enjoying the spontaneity of it all.

While explaining to this was not within her comfort zone to hubby, she citied having to take the reins to salvage and ultimately book their travel back to Los Angeles. It didn’t go well.

However, given the present-tense reference to her husband, it was safe to assume the marriage survived.

Winding through unfamiliar streets, stop, go, shifting myself and backpack around and out of the path of on boarding and off-boarding passengers, Barb and I chatted our entire ride together.

There were so many questions behind the non-judgmental and inquisitive, yet puzzled look on her face:

Barb: You just left?! To travel?

Me: [Smiling to mask the loudest burst of laughter wanting to come forth] Yes.

Barb: You’re not afraid? What do you do [for work]…bu-but, and where is your son?!

Me: No. Artist. Senegal.

Barb: [Nearly snaps her neck looking to my direction] Senegal?! Why is he there?!

Me: He’s at the midpoint of a gap year volunteering.

Barb: And you’re not worried? Is it safe there? My god. How do you do it? Where is your family?

Me: No. Yes. I just do. My son is my family.

Feeling Barb was overwhelmed , we continue with my electing to not sharing much more beyond my travel hacks and ultralight minimalist packing strategy.

Stating she could never do such, she complimented my bravery.

I thanked her and we spoke about the location and popularity of Daikoku.

At the end of my ride, I felt emotions of sadness, cheer and gratitude for the exchange. It was one more experience that made these seemingly surreal steps real.

That I set a long-held intention, and am living it, is validating.

The warmth in my heart nearly prompted tears, but I juuust avoided that, knowing it might have been a very public ‘ugly cry’… lol.

We wished one another well, and said goodbye.

Goodbyes are always hard for me.

I know the root of this. But have accepted I’ll carry these emotional memories with for the remainder of my days, and not work to undo them.

I get to the next stop, have a look for the arrival of the next bus, and decide to walk it.

I walk.

Ten minutes later I arrive, greeted by the line waiting along the sidewalk.

My initial response, typical and not wanting to be on a wait list.

But then, I remind myself I have no hard schedule or deadline to meet; that I can relax into simply being.

I relax.

I enjoy the realization I am actually living my desires.

Again, I am grateful.

I move towards the door, ‘bowing my head’ avoiding the lung  sign written in Japanese characters.

I enter, and see bustling waitresses zip by with bowls in hand.

In front of me stood a tiny round-top table with clipboard, paper and pen. I see the list and follow the format of filling my name and number of persons in my party: Kay. One.

Kay is my go to name used in situations like this. It’s quick and simple.

I sit with other hungry soon-to-be noodle slurpers in a far corner.

We sit.

I watch some checking and double checking the lists, as other parties are taken to their seats. Some, contest the seating as they have missed hearing their number called.

You see, the woman controlling the list spoke in a heavy accent. It was difficult to understand her system. It took for me to inquire with others more familiar with the system, to realize she didn’t identify a party by their name listed, but by the corresponding line number printed on the sheet of paper.

Upon realizing this, I too was on my feet to check the list for my number, as I hadn’t noted it prior.

Having watched several numbers ushered to their seats, my number comes up: “Number 14.”

With enthusiasm, I hop up from the pain inducing concrete slab seat. I am seated at a diner bar, on a stool between the same two people who were waiting for tables., or in our case, seats at the bar.

We sat, perfectly perched birds on a wire waiting for to sing the praises of very satisfied taste buds and tummies.

Feeling familiar, I speak to both.

They are on lunch break and not that friendly, but ‘respond’ … lol.

Feeling a bit pressured by the lunch rush crowd, I am prepared and quickly order one the waitress shows.

The neighbor to my right was half done with her meal. I strike up a small conversation about the reputation of the place, and her choice of sushi.

She responds. But it’s obvious she’s feeling weirded by this stranger speaking with her.

I find it curiously sad when humans tend toward being guarded and closed. I resume sitting, propped on this tiny stool looking at hand written signs taped to the short wall just beneath the glass separating the cook, wok and me.

I resist grabbing my cell phone to busy myself. Being the very sensitive visual person, I do my very best to not see the build up of grease and grime one finds in very ‘established’ mom and pop type establishments as this one. I wanted to not be put off eating my food once it arrived. It worked.

My neighbor to the left is served.

I’m sitting, trying to not be awkward and stare, but am curious. Looks good.

I wait.

Success. A very large bowl is placed in front of me.

I sip a spoonful of broth.

De-lish.

I have to be careful, because at this point I am treading in territory that is and has been long foreign to me: I am mostly raw vegan and long stopped eating pork in any form, and having traditional Japanese ramen for the first time in life.

The broth is hot, rich, and delicious.

I slurp.

I chopstick some noodles.

I chew.

I slurp.

Since starting this trip I have been cold and/or wet, so this hot soup was much-needed and greatly appreciated. But, I start to sweat … lol.

A lady sees me, suggests I take off my jacket.

I don’t because that’s too much trouble.

I make some polite response, and continue.

I cut and sample the whole marinated boiled egg.

I chew.

It’s tasty, but riiiich.

I have a moment.

I tell myself I will not become ill and will finish this ramen. Because: it’s on the list of must experiences.

I towel the sweat from my forehead and upper lip.

I fan myself.

I slurp.

Alas, I finish the noodles.

I know I am changed. But I’m okay. Ha!

I drink the lemon infused hot water to clear my palate.

I am done and waiting for the bill. It comes, and I place the money to pay.

I wait.

And wait.

My neighbor to the right has just left. My neighbor to the right is still eating.

I comment he is doing very well to not splatter his very clean white shirt with broth. He smiles and agrees.

It took a bit longer for waitress to return, so neighbor and I chat a bit with my inquiring about the best way to get to my next destination. And gain, true to LA resident form, he doesn’t know. He too drives and never takes public transport.

He asks where I’m from, and gives the confirming nod most often given when one says San Francisco. That nod was followed by a curious stare as I stated my plans to continue south of the border to Mexico.

He mentions something about a bit of turmoil, and disruption at crossing points, citing the border had been closed intermittently. He also curiously questioned why go there if I had been before?

I can only assume the experience that prompted his response, as he mentioned having emigrated from Mexico. His appearance gave the impression he had attained some level of success. His reaction spoke of a desire to disconnect from that which he came.

Because his energy was more guarded, I looked for the waitress, and offered a mint while we wait. Though his energy was not very trusting, he accepted.

Not wanting to continue the uncomfortable interaction, I desperately look around again, rose from my stool, found someone to give my money too, and exited stage left to the restroom.

Done. I walked to collect my change and leave the ghost of a waitress a tip, and noticed my neighbor was gone. I was a bit sad I hadn’t personally wished him well going forward. However, I did convey that and my thanks for the ramen experience to the universe as I headed for the exit.

Next up: Border Run.

 



4 responses to “I AM. Changed”

  1. […] More about my ramen experience. […]

  2. Elle says:

    Such an interesting read and a fascinating story! Can’t wait to read Border Run!

  3. Aiza says:

    Sweet! I could taste the ramen! :’)

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