Military

It’s The People We Meet That Makes The Difference

It’s The People We Meet That Makes The Difference

 “One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.” — Edith Wharton

Travel enriches our lives, but it’s the people we meet that makes the difference. It isn’t where we go that makes travel so enriching, it’s the people we meet that bind the places together with the fabric of life, that makes us richer for the opportunity to go beyond our tiny corner of the globe.

It’s The People We Meet That Makes The Difference

My recent trip to Seattle wouldn’t have been as enriching without the people encountered along the way. So many of the wonderful people I’ve met in my travels would have remained strangers if I hadn’t found a way to talk to them. Everyone has a story to tell. Luckily I seem to have a knack for finding a way to start a conversation with just about anyone. And I have formed many new friendships because of it. A comment here or there opens up the world, but also makes the world a much smaller place in the process.

it’s the people we meet that makes the difference

Louis from Brisbane

While having breakfast at the Cheesecake Factory, 700 Pike Street, a young man was ushered into the booth next to me. I could hear his conversation with the waitress, and since I’m fascinated by accents, I was tuned into his – slightly English – with a touch of Aussie. When you are a long way from home, an Aussie accent is the golden thread that links you with the homeland you are missing. When he finished his discussion about the menu, I had to ask, “Where are you from?”.

Where Is Australia?

As usual, an Aussie’s initial response when travelling is simply, ‘Australia’. It’s a big place, and for most Americans, ‘Australia’ is usually enough. Even those less travelled Americans have a reasonable idea of where Australia is, or at least they’ve heard of it. With a little more probing I discovered that my dining-neighbour was actually from Brisbane. Now that’s a little closer to home, given that I live about 100 kilometres south of there, and it is my nearest major city. Louis’ fascinating story of life in a military family resonated with me – having spent many years ‘married’ to the Australian Defence Force, and the travel involved in a military lifestyle. Louis was on his way to Las Vegas, but needed advice on the best means of getting to the Airport.

Giving Directions Like A Local

Feeling more like a Seattle-local than I deserved to, I knew exactly how to get to the Westlake Station and that the Airport Link was probably the easiest, and least expensive way to go. Whether he needed it or not, my travel-buddy and I took Louis under our (collective) wing and walked with him to the station, helped him buy a ticket, and bade him farewell as the train approached. He seemed genuinely appreciative, but I’m sure he would have made it on his own. After all, he seemed like a very capable young Aussie who had followed in his father’s military footsteps.

it’s the people we meet that makes the differ

David Montague entertains travellers at Westlake Station Seattle

Local Talent

Once Louis was safely on his train to the Airport we made our way back to street level, but as luck would have it, a musician had taken up a key position mid-way. And in true travel-friendly style, we stopped to listen. My travel-buddy is a classical music fan and the instrument David was playing was a little unusual – or at least – the way he was playing it seemed unusual. A lengthy conversation ensued, culminating in my travel-buddy being given a CD of David’s unique music. A few extra dollars found their way into David’s instrument case in appreciation, and we continued our journey to higher ground. We had just made another American friend to add to our growing collection of global-friendships.

it’s the people we meet that makes the difference

Olga, from Belarus

Olga From Belarus

And who could forget Olga! When we stepped into the Cheesecake Factory that morning, Olga was our waitress. When we left at the end of the meal, we felt like Olga was an integral part of our Seattle eperience. Olga is the kind of waitress who takes an already good meal and turns it into a great dining experience. It’s no wonder the Cheesecake Factory is such a popular place for Seattleites to dine. Great food and even better service from outstanding staff.

it’s the people we meet that makes the difference

Lyn – a great ambassador for the Cheesecake Factory

And The Beautiful Lyn!

The reason we decided to have breakfast at the Cheesecake Factory was Lyn. We had ventured in for a late-night snack the night before and were greeted, and taken very good care of, by Lyn. Before we’d even studied the menu that late night, Lyn arrived with a basket of absolutely delicious bread samples. It made the task of exploring the menu so much more enjoyable –  there were so many choices. Because we weren’t overly hungry, having eaten much earlier, we apologetically settled on a milkshake. Lyn understood completely and was back in no time with our fantastic shakes.

Lyn Was More Than Just A Waitress…

she beamed happiness! It seemed that making diners feel comfortable was her mission in life. And her mission was accomplished when we promised to come back again. Breakfast at the Cheesecake Factory was sealed for the next day. You can imagine how we felt at seeing Lyn pass by our table the next morning. She remembered us, and stopped to say hello. I may have asked her if she had slept there the night before, but she assured me she had actually made it home for a few hours sleep.

That’s What Makes A Great Dining Experience!

And just to reinforce what a great place the Cheesecake Factory is, Lyn’s two daughters work there as well. That says a lot about a restaurant. The Cheesecake Factory is high on my list of places to eat in Seattle – in fact – anywhere in the US that is lucky enough to have this great chain as a dining option. I can’t guarantee that other places have staff like Lyn and Olga, but I look forward to hearing from travellers who have experienced the Cheesecake Factory in other cities. Does Seattle have the best staff? I’m hoping to test the theory every chance I get in my future travels across the US of A.

And It’s What Adds The ‘Enrichment’ To Travel

It’s about the people: the Louis’, the Olgas, the Lyns and the Davids of this world, who contribute to the richness of our travel experiences. The buildings and landscapes of foreign places will live on through the photos we take, but the people we meet make a lasting impression because of the way they made us feel. Many will become friends that we stay in touch with.  Others will be thought of from time to time, rekindling the same warmth we felt when we met them.

From The Heart – I Thank You!

To all the beautiful people of Seattle, and especially the ones I’ve mentioned in this and other posts – thank you. It might have been just a kind word or gesture, but it created a lasting memory of a city that cares, especially about travellers with strange Aussie accents, like me.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 3 comments
Crossing The Border

Crossing The Border

Okay, we didn’t cross it, but we did get to see some European and local travellers, loaded up with backpacks and luggage, who were making their way across the border in one direction, or the other.

Let me go back to the beginning so this makes a little more sense.

One of the highlights of the trip to India was our attendance at the Wagah Flag Ceremony, between the India and Pakistan border, at sunset. Even though the ceremony takes place every day, apparently thousands of people cram into the stadium each time to witness the event.

The flags of each country are taken down simultaneously at sunset and secured for the night, but not without a theatrical performance by each army on both sides of the heavily armed, razor-wired fences that divide the two countries. To say the routine was spectacular is a gross understatement. The thousands of spectators on the Indian side shouted their national pride in chants and cheering, egged on by a white-shirted man at the front of the stadium.  The patriotic atmosphere was felt as well as heard. Behind me, a young boy spontaneously led the chant at one point; just a small single voice ringing out the cry, to be followed by thousands.

The roads were choked with traffic as we approached the border. All modes of transport ferried the crowds in: buses, pedal-power, horse-driven carts loaded with families, Indian version tuk-tuks, and tractors. If it was capable of moving, it was fully laden, with bodies packed in it, on it, or behind it.


As guests of the Bishop of the Amritsar Diocese of the Church of North India (CNI), we were very lucky to be given an escort into the parking area closest to the ceremony, and seats in the first few rows,  giving us an ideal opportunity to witness the event up close and personal.

As we sat patiently awaiting the ceremony, the awe of being on one side of the border, watching nationals on the other side just as patiently awaiting the same event, struck hard. We were in India – they were in Pakistan.  The pomp and ceremony began. The Indian soldiers marched quickly across the parade-ground towards the border gate, in pairs and/or individually, at a very fast pace, and finishing with a high-kick that brought their well-heeled boots in danger of collision with their fan-shaped headgear. This was followed by a shake of fists towards the Pakistan Army in a movement reminiscent of the Haka that we are witness to at any international sporting event involving our Kiwi neighbours from across the ditch. The process was replicated on the other side of the fence by the Pakistani’s, in similarly costumed uniforms. The Indian Army wearing red turbans or black berets, and red fan-shaped headwear – the Pakistanis wearing dark blue. The process was drawn out, to the delight of the crowd who cheered uproariously from the Indian side at each step of the way. The spectators on the other side of the fence were a little more constrained in their show of appreciation of their Army, or maybe it was just that there were fewer spectators.

When the moment came for the flags to be brought down from the top of the very tall flagpoles, on opposite sides of the narrow patch of middle ground between the gates that I assume is neutral territory, the show of pride by the Indian spectators was indescribable – you just had to be there. Caught up in the moment was every other nationality privileged enough to witness the amazing event. Something as simple as lowering a flag had flamed the national pride of a nation.

This well-trained dog joins the cast of Military Personnel in the ceremonial presentation and takes a bow towards the stadium.

The flags are finally lowered and respectfully marched into the enclosure for safe keeping until the morning, when they’ll be raised again at sunrise, albeit, without the ceremony of the previous evening.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Amritsar, make the Flag Ceremony a priority on your itinerary, but make sure you book through a reputable tour group. Going solo isn’t a viable option for this event if you want a seat, and trust me, you want a seat. The sun was beating down, the dust was thick and the ceremony was long and drawn out. You will also need a hat and water bottle, although roving vendors provided some relief with the sale of water, soft drinks and ice-creams. A fan might also be a useful addition but there will be no shortage of fans, hats, flags and umbrellas thrust at you by hopeful entrepaneurs as you arrive at the venue in whatever means of transport you choose. There were many deals struck through open windows as our bus made its way through the traffic on the way to the gate.

The Flag Ceremony will remain etched in my memory forever and I owe a huge debt of thanks to Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy and Mohinder Singh for making it happen, and for being there with us.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments