I think every traveler’s shining moment is when someone asks you for directions.
It’s the pivotal turning point where you step out of the role of wandering tourist and into the hidden wardrobe of wise native, clothed in the aura of knowledge of all local whereabouts. Bronte and I, two girls trying to take pictures of the palm trees in Barcelona’s Parc Ciutadella for this God forsaken photography assignment, must have somehow given off this native impression. The stranger came up to us asking where Antonio Gaudi’s famous Parc Guell was. We explained that the park was kind of far away, somewhere a few stops on the green line—Fontana or Passeig de Gracia or something—we weren’t sure. He asked us if there was anything of Gaudi’s closer to where we were. Gaudi’s architecture created the imagination of Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous cathedral, was just two blocks away. Walking in was as if you were being engulfed into God’s sand castle. The colored glass reflected into this marble rainforest of life like a rainbow over the horizon. I expressed that personally, I liked it better than Parc Guell.
Bronte turned to me, “Really?” She asked. “You like La Sagrada Familia better than Parc Guell? How?”
I was about to offer my rebuttal when the man looked at us both, grabbed our hands, pulled us to sit down at the nearest bench, and draped his leg over ours to establish as much “energy connection” as possible. He then started to read our palms. He expressed how Bronte and I were part of the same soul, just opposite halves.
Regardless of our shock to his bold actions, for some reason, our interaction immediately felt sincere. I haven’t had enough experience with pseudo fortune-tellers to know what distinguishes a bogus palm reading from a genuine one, but I could tell that he wasn’t the weird, trying-to-tell-our-future, trying-to-beg-us-for-money guy. After five months of being in a new country on my own, he gave off this parental aura that evoked back a forgotten sense of comfort. He started telling me how the one line in the center of my palm signified family; my attachment to my family was what was still anchoring me back home. He explained that Bronte’s line was shorter, more headstrong and independent, deducing that her passion for her career would change the world. He turned to me, stressing that I would make my impact through my enthusiasm and interaction with people. He was this uplifting life-force. As he was talking, he expressed his belief in Abraham Hicks, the power of positive thinking, and “ask and it is given.” My jaw dropped. That book shaped my mom’s life. And then it hit me why he felt so familiar.
There he was. Right before me was a male version of my mother, halfway across the world from her. They had the same optimism and awe-inspiring presence.You felt their genuine fire for life and couldn’t help but be entranced by it. For the next hour, I felt like we were conjoining spirits—Bronte, this stranger, and my mom—as he told us about our personalities, our fears, and our lives.
That encounter made me late for my French class, fail my pop quiz, get lost on my way to dinner, have my friend spill wine on me, and proceeded to be one of those days where everything seems to go wrong. His infectious spirit was probably the only positive thing I experienced that day. But he was this larger reminder that I am who I am, not what happens to me in one afternoon.
I called my mom and told her about this guy that I wished she could have met because they would have had so much to talk about: He read Abraham Hicks, believed in optimism and the universal manager, and loved exploring and riding bikes. I wanted to tell her how he would have fulfilled all of her desires to deep talk about the topics that thrill her more than my feigned interest can satisfy. But their connection was too extreme for her to understand through a telephone and me. And so it was lost.
There was something melancholic about the fact that regardless of their aligning passions and energies, my mom could never meet this person. He was over here, riding his bike through the passageways of Barcelona, stopping to look at the fountain next to the Arc de Triumf. Regardless of their spiritual connections, they themselves were untranslatable. Separated by a foreign language and thousands of miles of ocean.
And then I wondered, what aspects of life are truly lost in translation? A language, a culture, a person, a soul mate? What if my counterpart is out there too? Our distant lives are too untranslatable to ever be conjugated.