IMPORTANT NEW NOTES FROM JUSTIN:
US Tour Day 98: Feelings About Hot and Cold
It's sunny and warm today by my standards—which means that it's kinda cold for a Florida native. I think it's funny how the same temperature can feel so different to two people.
It reminds me of the time I stayed in the Treetops Hotel in Kenya. The slender hotel was built up into a tree in a wild game park. Because the old tree was an integral part of the hotel's structure, guests were limited to only one piece of small luggage to keep weight to a minimum. Once inside, visitors could watch lions and elephants and other big, supposedly scary but actually mind–bogglingly boring and stupid animals from their balconies thirty feet above the ground.
At 65º F, it was particularly cold by Kenyan standards our first night there.
One of the waitstaff asked me if I would like I hot water bottle. I looked at him a bit confused. For what? To warm your sheets, sir.
I'd never even seen a hot water bottle before, except in cartoons, and I remembered wondering what they were actually used for in real life. Warming sheets at hotels in trees? It seemed a very narrow market to me. I imagined all the hot water bottle factories in China sending shipload after shipload of hot water bottles to remote game parks in Africa. The boxes would be labeled: Happy Family Nice Quality Emregency Shete Warmer or something else with lots of misspellings.
I thanked the nice man in the hotel uniform and told him I wouldn't be needing a hot water bottle. I'd be warm enough. He looked at me like I was crazy—his eyes wide with disbelief. Are you sure? The guy was a hot water bottle pusher! I should've known! He was probably trying to get me hooked on hot water bottles, but playing it off like he was doing it for my own benefit. I assured him I'd be fine without one and he left—looking confused and disappointed at the same time.
I slept with two thin blankets that night—the second one came from the extra bed in my room. It was the coldest night I'd felt in my month in Kenya. But, it was hardly what I'd call cold. In the morning I met my guide Dadi for breakfast. I could see on his face that he was excited to talk with me about something that happened last night. But, in what I gathered to be the Kenyan style, he approached the conversation very indirectly.
"So, how was your room?"
"It was nice. And big! I had two big beds in my room! So, I was thinking I would take turns sleeping in a different one every night just because I can."
"Ah." He paused politely, grinned, and then continued. "I had three beds in my room last night."
If his locker room talk about whose room was more well–endowed in the bed department was meant to make me feel one–upped, then it sure worked. But, this wasn't the point of his conversation. This was only the lead–in.
He leaned in closer to me, expectantly. "So, how did you sleep last night? Were you..." The way he leaned in closer for dramatic effect at this moment made me expect some ominous, dramatic musical cue—a little something letting the viewing audience know that this was the big part. He continued, "Were you warm enough?"
Um, ok. I was a little confused why this line of questioning involved such an emotionally charged build–up. "Yes, I was warm enough. The blankets here are pretty thin, so I used the one from the second bed."
The interrogation continued, "Did you get a..." dramatic pause again, "hot water bottle?"
I'd really trusted Dadi up until this point. Never once had I been eaten by a lion or stomped by a hippopotamus while in his care. But my trust was suddenly challenged—was this man getting kickbacks from the Chinese–Kenyan underground hot water bottle mafia?
"I used the blankets and sheets from all three of my beds, Justin! And I had room service bring me three hot water bottles to put under the blankets to keep me warm! And I slept with all my clothes on! Yet, still I was shivering and shaking all night long!" He wrapped his arms around himself and shook to illustrate what he looked like last night laying in his blankety den of hot water bottle hedonism.
I wasn't sure what the appropriate response was supposed to be in this case. Should I have told him that I was just kidding and that I was, in fact, freezing all night long? Or, was I supposed to simply acknowledge his coldness? Or, was this some sort of pissing contest to see who could bear the horrible, freezing nights of equatorial Kenya?
I think I said the wrong thing, because he looked defeated afterwards. "Yeah, you must have been really cold."
His voice got a bit more animated and louder, like someone does when they don't believe you or are mad about something. "You weren't cold?"
"Well, not really. Why?"
Getting really excited now, "Justin, I had three hot water bottles. How could you have not been cold?"
"It's a lot colder where I live in the United States. To me, this is not very cold."
He lowered his eyes like one who had just lost a great race and at the same time looked confused and disappointed like the man had the night before when I refused his hot water bottle. And then I got it. Dadi wanted me to share the feeling with him—he wanted me to relate to the cold like he did. And, when I didn't, he felt this pepper medley of defeat, confusion, and disappointment.
If you think about it, we've all felt this way about something before. Maybe your friend didn't think the chicken was as spicy as you did. Maybe your friend doesn't think your new tsatsumo orange essential oil smells as amazing as you do. Maybe the girl you brought home didn't have as many orgasms as you did that night.
We all experience things differently. What does it mean? Nothing. It carries no meaning except that which we attach to it. Yet, we let ourselves feel confused, defeated, belittled, sad, or maybe even joyous, victorious, or any number of things because of these meaningless differences in perception. Nerve endings and synapses and a messy spider web of stuff in between play ping pong with electrons all over our nervous system and all of a sudden we wake up in Kenya in a bed full of hot water bottles from China.
All I know is that today feels pretty damned nice to me, so I'm going outside without a jacket.
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