30 Day Travel Series: Contest for the Cutest Person in the Universe

As I watched him from behind my camera, I could feel my heart melting.

Julian ran around town getting shoes, suits and shirts made. It was really fun. We had originally planned to stay in Hoi An for one night and then go to Da Nang, the town where we were holding our workshops, but the fashion horse was too into getting clothes made, so we stayed in Hoi An.

When we showed up in Da Nang, Julian was dressed to the nines. The host suggested we start the workshop at 7am on Saturday so people could make the most out of their day. The room we had rented had white-tiled counters; it was a science classroom at a university. There were tiny muffins and instant tea and coffee on the counters. There were 20 young people who had traveled from around the region to participate; we guzzled coffee so we could be awake and alert and put our best foot forward.

As soon as the music hit the first note, the room was filled with giggles. We start every workshop by dancing around the room; it helps lighten the mood and open people up. Everyone danced around, giving each other high fives. As soon as we started the life map process, I was overcome with inspiration. It was only the second workshop we had done abroad, and when I saw people take their pens out and start mapping their lives, I felt so moved. There is just something so human about it. Most maps include a heart somewhere, usually a sad face, some have really dramatic drawings of military men with guns, some have exam scores, some have big fresh water lakes, some have wedding dates, others have pictures of people in hospital beds. The lifemap process makes me realize that we are all just ourselves and gives me an overwhelming sense of being alive every time.

Our lunches came in a reusable plastic container with a lid on it, like a big TV dinner Tupperware. There was rice, chicken and cabbage. It was so good. After lunch, though, the room was heavy and people were not ready to get back to work to share their stories. Julian had an idea. We went outside. It was hot but it had just poured rain so the humidity had broke.

Giggles and hysteria erupted as Julian led everyone in a game sort of like musical chairs without the chairs. In the game everyone stands side by side in a circle, and one person, who is “it,” stands in the center. The people around the circle, without using verbal communication, attempt to dash and switch places with another member of the circle. The trick is that it all has to happen without the person in the center intercepting and taking a spot around the circle. "You're out!" People screamed, and then they laughed so hard some of them fell to their knees.

He had his blue striped shirt tucked into his blue slacks with a beige belt. His hair was parted and that morning he had put in his contacts. I was glad the clothes horse got to stay in Hoi An an extra night. He looked so sweet. As I watched him from behind my camera, I could feel my heart melting. I wanted to call a time out on the game and take a vote. I pictured jumping up on a bench and yelling to the group, "Raise their hand if he is the cutest person that you have ever seen." I am sure every single one of us would have raised our hands.

This is one of 30 untold stories of launching a global project (with my boyfriend, Julian) about love, story telling and connecting change makers.

Read all 30 days here: http://www.smithmag.net/community/people.php/HBOX

Throughout Vietnam, South Africa, and Uganda, we engaged with 650 everyday people working to make the world a better place to share their stories. Inevitably, there were parts of our adventures we couldn’t tell while on the road, because we were a start up trying to prove our merits as a serious social change project or because of nervous families monitoring our journey. But the truth is while we worked passionately to bring our dream project to life we also had an adventure of a lifetime. Here are the stories behind the stories of the Million Person Project: http://www.millionpersonproject.org.


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