Three Short Expat Portraits

2 December 2018

This letter, the last in the “Crossing Paths” series, is a bit unusual in both its form and content. Rather than the standard single portrait, I present the short portraits of three atypical expats that I met early in my travels. Although these characters are unrelated, I feel that there is an element of common weirdness and even humor that runs through them. Unlike my previous portraits, these ones mainly concentrate on a single feature of each character that stood out during our brief encounter.

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15 November 2018

We manage to hold simultaneously many conflicting ideas by keeping them in separate compartments in our mind. Our mental worlds are not, as many of us like to believe, nicely ordered, self-consistent, clean and settled. But it is not just ideas – beliefs, views, opinions – that we compartmentalize. We also hold contradictory emotions about people or situations. We even have contradictory desires. And of course, as a result of all this, many of our actions are contradictory.

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The Spiritual Cannibal

3 November 2018

We had just finished traveling through the Deccan Plateau in the Indian summer heat. We had taken a small boat across the Narmada River to visit the holy town of Omkareshwar, situated on a small island that has the shape of the word “Om” as it is written in Sanskrit – hence the town’s name. The town and its main temple are dedicated to Lord Shiva and are among the most sacred sites in India. It is therefore a pilgrimage area for many sadhus – the wandering holy men dressed in orange robes that have abandoned all material comforts to seek spiritual enlightenment.

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The French Sinophile

20 October 2018

A Frenchman speaking Chinese in a French accent in one of the remotest regions of China accompanied by an equally strange Cypriot traveler making all sorts of grimaces – this is what I call a truly odd couple, behaving oddly, in an odd place! 

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Arjuna the God

6 October 2018

“Come on, my friend,” I insisted, “this is definitely not a house! It’s not even a mansion. It’s a hotel of some sort. I have seen many large mansions in my life, but this is ten times larger than the largest house of a big Hollywood star in Beverly Hills! How can this function as a family home? How will you spend time with your family if you need to walk ten minutes to get from one room to another?! You are pulling our leg!” 

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Mr. Irenaeus

2 October 2018

I couldn’t believe my luck! It was my last day in Rio, and I was forming my travel itinerary for the south of Brazil, Argentina, and the rest of the continent – so he was a God-sent gift. What was most surprising is that what interested him and what he judged as important were the same exact things that I also loved and appreciated.

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The Colossal Traveler

7 September 2018

Doris is a world-traveler in a league of her own. She has been to 180 countries, many of them multiple times. Most shockingly, for the past twenty years, she has been traveling for about half a year every year. She is the female equivalent of Ibn Battuta, the greatest traveler in history, the only difference being that he traveled continuously whereas she does it piecemeal. 

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The Drifter

24 August 2018

I was crossing paths with a kindred spirit whose life lay at the extremes of my own endeavor, at the very end of the spectrum of freedom. For a moment, I felt that because of this special yet invisible connection between us, I was given an honorary glimpse into his unorthodox and unique life.

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© 2024 Nicos Hadjicostis