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Interviews, Travel

Community Matters: Daniel Myers on Washington, MO, Life Abroad and Appreciation

It’s not a secret that I love coffee. But what I love even more are coffee shops. The ones where you can sit for hours with a friend and chat. The coffee/tea is just a bonus. Mannwell’s downtown is sadly missed, but we are lucky to have another coffee shop in town: Cafe Tinto, that I still need to meet up with the owner and blog about. When you frequent a local place, you get to know the staff. So that’s how I got to meet Daniel, and when he mentioned something about leaving for Mexico soon, I decided he’s an interesting person I need to interview for the blog.

Daniel and I met up at the Riverfront park on a Monday afternoon and had a very nice chat about Washington, MO, life and travel.

Daniel and I met up at the Riverfront park on a Monday afternoon and had a very nice chat about Washington, MO, life and traveling.

How long have you lived in Washington, MO?

My family has been living in Washington since 1998. We moved here because of my dad’s job and the school district. Washington is one of my favorite places, I love the town.  It’s in the middle – near the country and near the city, influenced by the East, West, North and South, and it offers a little bit of everything.

I gather you have traveled a bit. Tell us more.

I have been to Canada, Mexico and China. My favorite city is Vancouver – it’s a port to Asia, very interesting and diverse. In China I did some non-profit work when I was younger. I helped start a coffee shop, working through an organization called North Star Aid, which helped open a rice and noodle factory there and also taught English to the locals.

Daniel sent me a wonderful selection of 72 photos from his travels. Here is what he said: "Here are pictures from Asia and Mexico. :-) Pick and use as you would like." So I did.

Daniel sent me a wonderful selection of 72 photos from his travels. Here is what he said: “Here are pictures from Asia and Mexico. 🙂 Pick and use as you would like.” So I did.

I was in Mexico from 2008 until 2012, working with Niños de México at children’s homes for abandoned and abused kids.

The importance of fitting in. When he went to the first time in Mexico, Daniel compared everything to life in the United States. The second time, however, he choose to immerse himself in the culture and experience it fully and completely.

The importance of fitting in. When Daniel went to the first time in Mexico, he compared everything to life in the United States. The second time, however, he chose to immerse himself in the culture and experience it fully and completely.

He learned how to dance salsa.

He learned how to dance salsa.

He also learned how to play soccer.

He also learned how to play soccer.

And he indulged in some local food.

And he indulged in some local food.

What provoked your travels and your desire to work for non-profit organizations?

I grew up in a Christian-based family and I was the black sheep. I got kicked out of schools, I did a lot of stuff I wasn’t supposed to, and I was always searching for more. When I turned 18, I decided to be come a Christian and to get involved with people. We know of the existence of the poor and the sick, but until we see it with our eyes, it’s unreal to us. Many people are in need of help, and I decided I wanted to do that – to help people.

Helping people can be rewarding and fun.

Helping people can be rewarding and fun.

Helping people in other countries will help you experience views like this one.

Helping people in other countries will help you experience views like this one.

When I was growing up my parent’s farm house was always full of people and families/people in need would come to stay with us. One of the most important things I tried to teach the children in the orphanages in Mexico is that they are good people and they matter. Our goal was to educate the kids, teach them practical survival skills like sewing, cooking, construction, but also to make them realize that they can make a difference by practicing hope and love.

It's the little things we do that show other people they matter.

It’s the little things we do that show other people they matter. Sometimes, making somebody smile is enough.

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." Leo Buscaglia

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Leo Buscaglia

What made you come back to the USA and get a job at Cafe Tinto?

I came home to spend some time with my family, to save some money and to be with the woman I love. I’ve grown up in the United States, but I grew up as a person and became an adult in Mexico and China. I even experienced a little bit of a reverse culture shock when I came back.

The reason I got a  job at Cafe Tinto is because I love to be with people. I enjoy the community aspect that comes from working at a coffee shop. An interesting cultural difference is the custom of splitting the check here. In both China and Mexico, people don’t do that. Usually one person pays the bill, and the other one gets it next time. It’s a fine “me” versus “us” distinction, palpable only to those who travel.

Community matters.

Community matters.

Share some more differences you have noticed between the United States and the countries you have visited.

When I came back to the US, I really enjoyed how clean everything was: the parks, the streets – no stray animals, no smells. I appreciate being able to go fishing anytime here – in Mexico the waters are very polluted and there are virtually no places you can fish unless you go to the ocean.

However, I miss the street life. Here not very many people walk outside, and most places don’t even have sidewalks. I miss public transport and being surrounded by people.

Walking on the street and being surrounded by people, eve if you don't know them, gives you a sense of belonging and completeness.

Walking on the street and being surrounded by people, even if you don’t know them, gives you a sense of belonging and completeness.

The concept of time is a very interesting one also. The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. Developing cultures focus more on kairos, where the events matter more than the exact time when they happen. For example, in Mexico if church starts at 10am, the service does dot actually begin until most people are there, so it might start at 10:15. In the United States, however, if church starts at 10am, the service begins at 10am sharp. We are more focused on chronos. 

People are a little more wasteful in the United States – if something doesn’t work, we simply throw it away. On the upside, our police officers are better here, more reliable and trustworthy.

Eat.

Learn new customs.

Work.

Work.

Eat.

Eat.

Play.

Play.

All in all, what have your travels taught you?

Traveling taught me to appreciate what I’ve got. We tend to take so many thing for granted, that many people dream about and wish they had. All people are human, and we are here with a purpose. I try to approach life with love and compassion and help others in the ways that I can.

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Dream. Discover. Explore.

Dream. Discover. Explore.

Daniel is leaving for Mexico in a week, but he can usually be found at Cafe Tinto. he loves talking to people, so go see him 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Slava

I am a twenty-something Bulgarian girl in the USA, re-discovering the world through the lens.

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