Howard’s Ah Ha Moment


When I told my friend Howard Hardison that Sherry and I were going on this 40 day cruise, he said I should look for the “ah ha” moments - the times when I truly understand an event, a custom, a moment in time. Ah ha moments are moments of great clarity.

In Spanish there are two verbs for the English infinitive “to know.” There is saber which means to know a fact or to know something. For example “Yo se la pelicula es de españa" - I know the film is from Spain.

Then there is conocer which means to know someone or some place. For example "Yo conozco tu amigo Juan” I know your friend John or "Yo conozco Santiago” I know Santiago - because I lived there for two weeks.

Howard, my ah ha moment occurred this afternoon as I took the shuttle bus back from Adelaide to the ship. Sherry and I spent about 6 hours there, walking around the downtown area and taking a tour of a historic house. The difference in traveling by cruise ship and visiting 20 different ports in 40 days and traveling to a place and spending a week or two in one area is the difference between knowing (saber) a city or a country or a people and knowing (conocer) a city or country or a people.

As I look back on my experiences in all the countries we have visited they mostly run together. With few exceptions I can’t tell you in which city we visited which building or place. With few exceptions I can’t tell you what conversation I had with what native in what city. But if you ask me about the time I spent in Spain or Chile or Costa Rica or Peru (all places I visited in the past), I can tell you about the librarian I met in Cuzco and how we helped her, or the mother I met in Santiago who gave me directions in English, or the Spanish teacher from Costa Rica to whom I taught the word coed.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been memorable moments on this cruise. But they have been memorable because we had private tours with local tour guides or we met a shopkeeper and were able to share stories and thus to know (concocer) them, to know their stories. 

There was Andres, our 20 something guide in Easter Island whose missionary parents came to Easter Island from Chile and stayed there to raise a family.

There was Robin our guide in Tauranga, NZ who taught us some Kiwi slang - hooligans (juvenile delinquents) are lericans and umbrellas are brolios

In Melbourne there was Fernando, our bus driver with whom I had a 5 minute conversation. He emigrated to Melbourne from Argentina in 1974 because the political situation there was dangerous. He was a dentist in Argentina but a bus driver in Melbourne. He has two children who are bilingual and who are professionals. 

Also in Melbourne I met Lisa who, along with her mother, owns and runs a doll shop. A life long resident of Melbourne she will be traveling soon to Pittsburg to  visit a male friend whom she met online and with whom she has been skyping for 7 years.

I now have memories of these places and the people who live there  (Yo las conozco - I know them) which I will never forget, but the other places  we visited are a blur, and it is difficult to  distinguish one from another.

The cruise has been a marvelous experience. I have met several wonderful people on board the ship and we shared our stories and have become good friends and I have experienced many beautiful places and seen wondrous things. But what I treasure the most about the ports we visited are the places where I have made a personal connection. What is important is not how many different ports I visit, but rather the connections with the people who live there that I make. And that Howard, is my  grand “Ah Ha” moment.

© Surveyor of the Passing Scene