I’m not very good at small talk, and getting to know new people is a challenge for me. I can manage, but I always feel a bit awkward. (Luckily, Ken is completely the opposite and can strike up an easy conversation with just about anybody.)
I realize that becoming nomadic, or even semi-nomadic, will necessitate making quick friends, and chatting with as many locals and expats as possible to figure things out quickly and absorb the collective experiences of the community. Planning ahead, I thought I would take advantage of our pre-Phase Next Belize vacation to work on this skill. I’m actually a pretty good interviewer and I thought that skill could factor into my strategy. So instead of hanging back, I am trying to ask questions and learn from everyone I meet.
But how do you go from learning from someone to becoming social buddies. I’m not sure, but I think that Marly, the serially loyal dog who watches over all at the house we are renting in Placencia, Belize, has something to teach me.
Marly, a docile mid-size mixed breed, attaches herself to each new set of guests who come to stay with her. On the property are two guest houses, and homes for the caretaker and his family, and for the groundskeeper. While we were there, the owner of the property (and, according to her, probably Marly’s owner as well) and only part-time Belizean, moved among 3 of the homes, depending on which was vacant at the time. It didn’t seem to matter to Marly where her owner was staying. She was more likely to park herself on the porch of one of the guest houses if someone was inside, at their feet if the guests were relaxing at the beach, or she would trot along with them on beach walks. Marly was quite loyal to a family at the guest house next to us until we arrived. Then it seemed to be our turn to be the recipient of Marly’s friendship, loyalty, and protection (Marly barks when strangers walk along the beach in front of her house, but never at all the strangers who live in them).
What have I learned from Marly? Be there. Don’t ask for anything. Don’t offer your assistance, just assist. If someone shows you a kindness, show them how much you appreciate it. And when your friends move on, don’t waste any time mourning them–just sidle up to someone new and be there again.