New personal project #2: the lunchtime missions

12 Sep

Right so I just posted about my new personal project #1: being a tourist in my own city. The second one overlaps the first: the lunchtime missions.

Today, after picking up my annual pass to the South African National Gallery, I saw down on a bench in the beautiful company’s gardens to look at the pamphlets I had gotten with my card, and to chill out in the sun a bit.

A man approached, and after my standard momentary thoughts of “I’m about to get murdered”, he asked if he could sit down. I grumbled that it’s a public space so he could sit wherever he wants (I don’t like people- I’m a terrible person so judge me all you want, but I’m being honest here). He then started talking and I admit in my mind I was going “urgh, really?! Leave me alone! What about me says ‘I desperately want to spend my lunch breaks talking to a random man’?”

He tells me I look German. His name is Daniel and he’s in final year of mechanical engineering studies. He’s looking to do masters at UCT as he knows it is international recognized. I tell him he must be very smart, and he says studies are tough but he’s happy with his makes right now. He’s from Angola, and speaks Portuguese. His sister lives in Portugal. He tell me my name is Portuguese. He’s traveled a lot, and tells me about brazil and how people all walk around casually with guns in parts of some cities. He tells me how friendly people were to him in Rio, and that people from Madeira have funny accents. He’s going to France next year to learn French, and naturally I suggest some places for him to visit. I tell him France has the best food on earth, and he wants he may never come back, in that case. He says Cape Town is expensive, and if you’re earning less than R1000 a month you just can’t survive. I gulp when he says that, and count my bloody blessings. He’s been to Ohio and Houston, but really wants to visit New York City. So do I. He asks me where Prague is, and marvels at the fact that I speak five languages. He says he’s going to leave in a few minutes to go cook himself some lunch, and I say I should probably get back to work. We say goodbye, and I wish him luck with masters and being an engineer.

I walk away smiling, and immediately call SC to tell him about Daniel. I guess technically there isn’t much to tell, in a way. It’s not like I met Daniel and he turned into a Unicorn, or told me the answer to the most difficult question in the world. But somehow meeting this stranger has made me feel happy, and (and I can confidently say this hardly ever happens) eager to meet more strangers! I’m eager to hear their amazing stories, to find out how I can help the people I pass on the street every day, even if it is only to recommend the best hot chocolate in town (where is that, by the way?). I’m eager to meet people I want to run into again, exchange numbers with strangers, and meet the kind of crazy people I never want to see again. I’m eager to just have a nice chat with someone, which may never amount to anything more than a ten minute talk about arbitrary things, because that is a far better way to spend lunch than sitting at a computer!

So I’m going to try “mission” as often as I can during lunch break. Whether that is to meet a stranger, go see a new shop or gallery, or just sit in the park and read, I’m going to try get away from spending lunch time at my desk, staring at a computer screen, reading something that isn’t vaguely enriching or educational. And of course I’ll be reporting back on the weird and wonderful things that happen on these “missions”.

Any idea for lunchtime missions in town?

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