Yesterday, my friend Mark got his new car and wanted to drive somewhere. So, he picked me and Mike up and we went to Ala Moana. Our plan was to go to dinner, and we opted for the food court of the mall. Honestly, I know that sounds bad, but you can’t believe the yummy food available in this food court. Mark and I had kalua pig with rice and salad. Mike had roasted chicken with rice, mac salad, and green beans. Amazingly good local-style food at a mall price.

After dinner, we decided to go to T&C Surf Company for Reef slippahs. Mark is still new here, but he needs Reefs. Soon. Reefs are awesome. They cost a lot for a pair of flip-flops ($25-$40), but they are great. Arch support (I need that) and comfy cushiony bottoms (unlike cheap slippers that you can get for a couple of bucks in any ABC store or K-Mart). After we finished looking at Reefs (not as big a variety as Nordstrom carries), we strolled through the mall, carried on by the scent of the Honolulu Coffee Company. They have a great big roaster in the front of the store. A guy was dumping in buckets of beans at the top and then letting them out into a big centrifuge-like thing that swept the beans around and around.

Also, in the category of small world, Mark ran into someone he knows from Pennsylvania who now lives in Honolulu and works at this store. Frank got us a couple of cups of Kona blend to sample (100% Kona is better, but more expensive than blends). Mike abstained since he wanted to fall asleep easily at bedtime. I don’t usually drink coffee in the evening, but I did this time (and I had no problem falling asleep later). We sat down near the roaster and watched the guy dump beans into the big funnel at the top, empty the roasted beans into the centrifuge, and sweep his hands through searching for twigs and other small detritus (Mike will so tease me about using this word–it’s a joke with us).

Mike is amazing in that he can strike up a conversation with anyone and they actually like talking to him. The somewhat surly man at the roaster turned out to be a very friendly Italian from Sicily once Mike got him going. We discussed Italy, the places we’d been and loved, the awesome food, the Italian friendliness, the la dolce vita of Italian life. Our new Italian friend lives in Honolulu for a combination of reasons involving marriage to an American and compulsory military service in Italy. I didn’t get the whole thing straightened out in my head before it was time to leave.

We said goodbye to the Italian and to Frank and popped back into the coolness of the night air flowing through the open-air mall. The coffee shop was hot, the roaster going at a steamy 400 degrees, and I was glad to feel the breeze again. After a trip to my favorite mall store–Williams-Sonoma–we headed to the parking lot and back home again.

Not a big adventure for a Monday night, but one that reminds me how small this world really is sometimes. You can always find a way to connect with people, whether it’s shared experience or a shared want. We are all alike. Humanity crosses borders. Nationalism does not. In the words of the Dalai Lama:

Whenever I meet people, I always approach them from the standpoint of the most basic things we have in common. We each have a physical structure, a mind, emotions. We are all born in the same way, and we all die. All of us want happiness and do not want to suffer. Looking at others from this standpoint rather than emphasizing secondary differences such as the fact I am Tibetan, or a different color, religion, or cultural background, allows me to have a feeling that I am meeting someone just the same as me.

We want to connect with others, I think. The Italian wanted us to know that he thought America was great. America has military bases around the world, he said, but Italy has the Catholic Church. There is a piece of America in many countries, and a piece of Italy too. He thought that was cool. Our two countries share an experience, though America is far greater in might. He didn’t seem to mind that thought. When we left, he was singing along with the Andrea Bocelli song coming over the speakers. Indeed, I envied him that. I can only enjoy the sound, while he can enjoy both sound and meaning.