I awoke Monday morning before the alarm went off with a strange sensation; energy. I had slept well three nights in a row, and was experiencing a clarity of mind I hadn’t even realized was missing. I was focused and productive at work, I understood almost all of the Dutch that was thrown my way, and I was pro-active when I got home. I finished customizing a flyer my friend Antara had designed for my book Green and headed downtown to drop it at ABC Bookstore in The Hague where multiple copies of my novel GREEN are now sitting on a shelf, waiting for their new owners to come fetch them.
When I stepped outside, my energy increased exponentially because the sun was shining! When you grow up in an area of eternal sunshine, you don’t miss the sun or even realize it’s impact on your mood. You take it for granted, get annoyed with it, even, for it’s unabashed persistence in warming up every day. I always wondered why I saw so many lobster-red German and Dutch tourists in my home state of California. Now I know why they’re not on board with the sunscreen concept; sunshine is a rare commodity in their daily lives. It’s like they think a good sunburn will make up for all those overcast days when the sun was just as intangible as world peace behind the cloud front.
For once, I was happy the tram wasn’t coming for 10 minutes. I leaned against the edge of the tram stop, my hands in my pockets, my face tilted upward toward the sunshine.
When I got on the tram, I sat next to two women with beautiful brown skin more fit for a sunny climate. They spoke in a fluid language that was at once familiar and foreign. I couldn’t help myself.
“Welke taal spreken jullie?” (Which language are you two speaking?) That one question launched a friendly, inspired dialogue that happens on occasion among strangers in a big city. They spoke Portuguese and had been in The Netherlands for over a decade. Although I’ve heard Portuguese, my exposure is limited to a few CDs of Brazilian artists. I soon learned they were from Angola, not Portugal or Brazil. Angola has a long colonial history with the Portuguese, and Portuguese is the country’s official language.
Before our short tram ride was over, the women were opening their purses and looking for something they wanted to give me. Ah. A pamphlet on the power of God. I took it with a smile and waved goodbye.
Rejuvenating sleep put me in the right space to be open to experiences. The sun gave me a physical jolt of warmth and this simple conversation with two Angolan women on the tram emphasized the importance of human interaction.
As I walked toward the ABC Bookstore to drop off my flyer, I noticed that people were smiling at me.
Why? I had a smile on my face, and I guess smiles can be contagious, especially if the sun is out and your energy is just that much more open from its warmth. The ABC Bookstore was closed, but the employees were busy conducting a store wide inventory. I slipped the flyers under the door, hoping the woman who I’d spoken with about the flyer was working that day. I placed a few more flyers in other locations and headed back to my neighborhood, thinking about the Angolan sun.