A commonly used adage is "The less one has to give, the more generous they are’".
This may presume that material possessions are a gauge of how much one has. Or that giving is a sign of ones kindness. I prefer to think that generosity in the form of helping strangers does not require any form of wealth other than human spirit in the heart. Along our way, we have been touched by the kindness of strangers. It fills me with hope for the future and, in the short term, a warm glow, protection and reassurance for our continuing journey.
We grew up with clear instructions from our elders never to speak to strangers. Whilst we often remain wary of many people, a large part of this experience is about immersion and putting trust in the people we meet.
Our bicycle tour around the world has now taken us through 12 countries and I'd like to pause and say thank you to some of the people who helped us when we found ourselves in sticky situations or just went out of their way to be friendly and welcoming.
Sardorbek and the other field workers just outside of Bukhara, Uzbekistan who let us get some shade under their apricot trees in the 40 degree heat that we just weren't prepared for on our very first day of the tour. They then gave us a huge bag of delicious apricots to take with us for energy.
Dildora and her family in Gazli, Uzbekistan who, when we asked if we could pitch a tent in the shade near their property, instead insisted that they make up beds for us in their air-conditioned living room and then laid on an almighty spread of food in typical Uzbek style while refusing any money for the accommodation or food.
Islomjon and Dilmorod, the General Motors truck drivers who picked us up on the side of a desert highway in Uzbekistan when Niamh was really sick from heat exhaustion and just couldn't cycle in the sun anymore. They put our bikes on the back of the truck and let us lie down on the bed behind the drivers' seats to rest while they drove us to the next town and would only let us buy them some tea at a highway rest stop as a thank you.
Abdulrahman who repeatedly welcomed us to Kyrgyzstan while buying his cup of vodka in the local shop, went away, came back 5 minutes later and presented us with two delicious ice-creams and a big smile.
Sultan, the little boy on the donkey in Kyrgyzstan who helped us to find a good spot to camp on the side of a mountain pass when it was starting to get dark and then came back later to give us two bouquets that he had made from wild flowers and which we adorned our bicycles with the next day.
Axel and Claudia, the German couple in the 4x4 in Kyrgyzstan who spared us a couple of litres of drinking water when we underestimated just how remote one section of our trip was.
The Russian family who picked us up when hitch hiking to Charyn canyon in Kazakhstan and to the group of Turkish men who picked us up on the way back.
The family in Khorgos who, on our first night in China, were extremely helpful in finding us the best restaurant and food in town and later came to check that we were happy. One of the best and cheapest meals we had in the country.
The mechanics in China who tried to fix Matthew's chain (but made it worse) and then helped us to organise transport for us and the bikes to the next town where it could be fixed while feeding us energy drinks, tea and beans.
Coco, the woman in China who went out of her way to take us around to all the travel agents in town when we thought it might be cheaper to buy our flights home for Christmas that way. Turned out it wasn't and we just bought them online, so she had completely wasted her time on us but didn't mind at all and wouldn't accept anything but a thank you in return.
The doctor in Laos who gave us a lift back from the hospital to our hotel on his motorbike when we were too sick to walk and who then checked in with us to make sure we were ok while we recovered.
The family in Cambodia who let us camp under their house when we got a bit stranded in the dark on impassable paths and gave us a ball of rice and some coconut milk to drink when they didn't have much themselves (we gave them some money in return).
Meow's family in Thailand who's hotel we stayed in. They had all just flown in for their sister's funeral but, despite the sad occasion, were determined to make us feel welcome and said that their sister would want them to take care of us. So we had a lovely evening of chatting, photos and delicious food.
Asad, The Pakistani man in Malaysia who made us feel so welcome in the town canteen and cooked his native dishes with such pride and passion.
Mr Nager Zer, the manager of the Amadeo hotel in Duri, Sumatra, who took us to an English class to run a Ted Web workshop with his students and then treated us to dinner.
Randy, who when Matthew met him in a ropey laundry place in Indonesia, happily offered to take him around town on his motorbike to find a better place and then to his family's cafe to get some tasty local food and coffee. He also guided us through the busy streets out of town as we continued our journey and hooked Matthew up with some great meds from a doctor friend of his.
We will look back fondly on these memories and remind ourselves of them in the future if we start to doubt that:
PEOPLE ARE NICE!
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