In April of 2013 I took part in a welcoming ceremony for Surin Project volunteers, lead by the local shaman. He and the mahouts each blessed us and marked the blessing with a string tied around the wrist, a symbol of good luck in the coming year. We were told that if a string fell off, to store it overhead to ensure that good luck continues. With a serious sense of superstition and a propensity for following rules, I’ve been amassing a collection of small whisps of string atop my bathroom mirror since my return. And I must say, it seems to have worked.
That string got me my job. Well, it didn’t get me the job, but it certainly gave me a solid boost. As I sat in the interview room at the company where I am now employed, waiting for the final—and most important—interviewer to arrive, I was surprised to see the same piece of string on the wrist of the woman who entered.
Me: “Where did you get your bracelet?” Holding up my wrist with the final three strings that remained.
Lauren: Looking a bit taken aback, “From a monk at the top of a temple in Sri Lanka. You?”
Me: “From the local shaman in Surin, Thailand where I was volunteering with elephants. They look exactly the same.”
Lauren: “Yes they do… huh…”
I now know that in Lauren’s world “Huh…” translates to “Really? Well that’s interesting and I’ll have to think about that some more” and that the bracelet “didn’t hurt [my] cause” (her words several months later). Our experiences thousands of miles from home brought us together that day. Maybe there’s something to this string theory.
Since returning home from SE Asia last June, I’ve been the recipient of some great luck—family and friends in good health, a well-adapted dog, a super tall boyfriend who adores said dog and tolerates me, the new job—and yet I’ve struggled to find a sense of balance. I miss traveling. Every day. In an effort to reacclimate, I threw myself into work and was left with little time for friends and family and even less time to volunteer, something I vowed to do more of upon my return. I haven’t felt compelled to write, even about a work trip to Australia, because it wasn’t my own. Along with all of the good luck, came a few challenges, and I admit that I lost myself a bit.
Last week I looked down at my left wrist and the final string was gone. My heart sank and I checked all of the clothes that I had worn recently to see if it was stuck inside. I never found it. While the string may have brought luck (who am I to denounce the powers of a shaman?), it was, more importantly, a daily reminder of a very special time in my life. In losing it, I realize that I need to get back to what makes me truly happy, even if for just two weeks—travel. And so here I am, in Nicaragua, ready to share the experience. Now, off I go…