GoNOMAD Book Excerpt:
Over Sand and Sea
by Patrick Pfister
Pfister’s insightful and comical style of writing takes his readers onto an adventurous trip, visualizing the destinations with the great details and meeting his random acquaintances he’s made along the way.
Over Sand and Sea is a great read about a traveler’s experiences from getting from one place to another, as well as befriending others. Below is an excerpt of one of the places Pfister’s was visiting and how he had met a depressed woman, whom he was determined to help her through her misery out of his kind heart.
Offering at the Gate
That night I had dinner at a vegetarian restaurant down the street from Canderi’s. There was only one other customer, a woman at the next table, and she was crying. Her back was to me but her spinal cord shook as she sniffled at her meal. She was the woman with the tattoos, nose ring, dreadlocks and infected feet, the one I had seen hurrying down Monkey Road, growling to herself, the day I waited for the Kuta bus. She bent her forehead into her palm, then raised a tissue to her nose. The waiter brought her a salad, glanced nervously at her and scurried away.
Twice I started to say something but then stopped. This was serious crying. Sometimes when we are in tears we need a hug; other times we need to be left alone. Besides, I had little to offer. I was still exhausted, still split. Even under the best of circumstances it’s hard to help others. At the same time, there’s no telling where actions may lead.
A Man Named Oscar
Once someone I had never met, a man named Oscar – the friend of a friend – asked me to send a postcard from a journey I was about to embark on. Oscar had once roamed about and wanted to receive a card from a far-off place. I agreed and regretted it as soon as I hit the road. Keeping up correspondence with friends and family was difficult enough, never mind strangers. But every time I opened my address book there was Oscar’s name. Grumbling, I finally sent a card.
Much later, via our mutual friend, I learned that Oscar was manic depressive and had gone through a black period which had pushed him to the brink of suicide. My postcard arrived the blackest day of all and pulled him back. Oscar said just knowing that someone on the other side of the planet cared enough to dedicate him a few minutes renewed his life wish and gave him hope.
But sending a postcard over to the next table was no solution for this situation and eventually the woman’s sobs overruled both my fatigue and her own right to privacy. A human being was in agony and, like it or not, I was nearby. I excused myself and asked, rather lamely, if anything was wrong.
She turned around, looked at me, and in her burning brown eyes I saw a broken and devastated soul. She shook her dreadlocks. “No, nothing,” she answered, “I just can’t stop crying, that’s all.”
Living in a Cave
I joined her at her table. Her name was Sylvia. She was from Switzerland and she had just spent the last five months living in a cave in northern India. There had been neither electricity nor water and, walking around barefoot all day, she had contracted a fungus infection, for which she had been taking medication.
She had spent her time in the cave reading metaphysics by candlelight or in meditation under tutelage of a local guru. Every so often a snake or rat paid her a visit, or another devotee from a neighboring cave. Months passed and then her visa expired. She had arrived on Bali two days ago, had taken one look at Kuta Beach and had been crying ever since.
In her mid twenties, Sylvia had some animal grace and surliness. She was tall, elegant and spoke in a voice so faint, it was almost a whisper. “I’m lost,” she said, “I don’t belong here.”
“You mean, here on Bali?” I asked.
“I hate it!” she spat back. “It’s nothing but a supermarket.”
Cave dirt encrusted her cracked fingernails and tears still flowed from her desolate brown eyes. As she chain-smoked, cigarette butts amassed in the ashtray next to a stack of crumpled tissues. She couldn’t sit still for two minutes but I had the impression that she had learned the silence in her cave. Extremely bright, I thought, probably far too bright for her own good.
For the next hour she talked non-stop and I began to have the feeling that I was in the presence of a first-rate mind. She was ravenous for enlightenment, dog-hungry for satori; she wanted illumination, heaven, nirvana, the whole experience right now. Duality made her crazy. She never would have left the cave, never should have left her guru or India. “I just want peace inside me,” she said. “I want the war to end.” She stubbed out another cigarette, reached for another tissue.
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