During my six months in Amsterdam living in De Pijp, I frequented the coffee house (not to be confused with the coffeeshop) across the street from my apartment, Mr. Bean for their delicious iced coffee, iced chai, bruschetta and sandwiches. One day I had the pleasure of being served by Mr. Bean himself, Khalid Gaddur. While I waited for my drink and sandwich, Khalid struck up a conversation.
Hi, how are you today? Where are you from?
To avoid this conversation,
my answer to anyone asking me this in Amsterdam had become, “I was born in South Korea, adopted when I was 5 months old, grew up in the States and have been living in Amsterdam for work since April.”
Khalid shared a story of his friend who was also adopted from Asia and had recently found his birth parents in his adult life. A casual conversation while waiting for a coffee turned into a rather deep conversation about the benefits and fears of an adopted person meeting his/her birth parents, a conversation that strikes me close to home. After a few minutes of talking, I told Khalid I wanted to start a blog about people’s travels and cultures coming together over food and that I wanted to interview him. He got excited and introduced me to a girl, Vera who had been quietly sitting by the window with her computer. They shared the excitement that they had been planning to take a trip with another regular guest, Gurian, who they knew from Mr. Bean to visit his home country, Colombia and visit Khalid’s home country, Morocco. They intended to shoot a documentary about their travels and the people they meet on the road in their used Alpha Romeo.
In my mind I am thinking this is one of those moments where paths are crossing for a reason and then Khalid says to me, “It’s like fate how we all meet.”
I ran home to get my computer and camera and we sat for hours talking about their trip and how they came to meet. We talked about potential titles for their documentary and potential titles for my blog. We talked about how hard work and a “cozy” coffee house atmosphere can connect you to the world, even open doors for you. We talked about Morocco, Dutch culture, the inner beauty of Thailand, and what inspires us to see the world. As we are talking, another regular customer comes in and Khalid tells me he is also planning a road trip and so we spend some time talking travel also.
Since this was the first time I felt inspired enough to start actually documenting these conversations that I have been having with fellow travelers and friends who share the same wanderlust and fascination with the world around us, I felt it best to return to Mr. Bean months later to catch up with Khalid and his family and take some pictures for the header image of my blog.
As usual, the warmest welcome from Khalid and his wife, who were tidying up behind the counter and conversing with the customer as he paid for his coffee. I obviously have a closer connection to this shop than most other shops, but there is always something to be said about the owners of any establishment making their guests feel so at home. First names all around and we settled into the back of the shop and waited for our iced coffees and sandwiches. I had my usual caprese sandwich with pesto. My friends had chicken sandwiches with tuna sauce. We ordered another round of food for the table to take pictures. Bruschetta with arugula and pesto (my favorite), another chicken sandwich and an avocado salad. The bread is fresh, soft and crisp. The sandwiches are exactly what you would expect to come out of a family run cafe who nurtures such a warm and welcoming environment to its guests. Perfect.
Khalid and his wife joined us at the table for the shoot, striking up more talk about what brought us here, how we all met, travel…and then somehow we ended up back at adoption. Every time I talk about adoption with someone, I hear something so fascinating and become more inspired to find my birth parents. Are our paths crossing again for a reason? The story that Khalid’s wife told about her friend returning to her birthplace, Brasil for the first time as an adult after being adopted in her infancy has definitely stuck with me. As an adult, she must have had all the curiosities that I would have and never expected that when she stepped off the plane in her birth country for the first time, she would recognize the smell, as if it had been with her her entire life. And so the questions in my head continue…
We finish the shoot and say our thanks and good byes and I come home to work on the image and publish my conversation with Khalid. In reading through the end of our conversation, we wrap up by talking about the difference between Morocco (where Khalid is “from”) and Holland (where Khalid is living), and I ask him, “What is your message to the world?” He responds:
In morocco, everyone says “Salam Alaikum” (peace be with you). They try to greet you, but in Holland, it’s not like that even though everyone is dying to speak. No one says hello anymore. Look what can come out of a simple hello. Everyone should be talking to each other.
I couldn’t agree more. To read the full conversation with Khalid, click here.