Last Sunday, I spent the day alone, wandering aimlessly through Prague, sitting for an hour on sunshine-lit steps, cheering the marathoners, subwaying to a modern art place... thoroughly wearing myself out before heading to the train station.
Whilst I sat on the bench watching for my train track number to be assigned, I noticed a tall guy with a Kelty backpack and Teva sandals. I decided he was Canadian. Kelty was something my Canadian friends had owned and he was decked out in travel attire.
My train finally appeared on the lightboard. I stood up and headed to track five. The Canadian guy was there also. I asked him, "Are you Canadian?" He said, "No, I'm from California." Damn, I was wrong. We chatted and I discovered Kelty was from Colorado.
Next, we hopped the train and sat in the same compartment with a red-headed 15 year-old Czech boy and were joined by a red-headed Czech girl.
We all started talking (minus the shy 15 year-old). Discovered the girl was a pharmacist and the guy from California was a college student doing a double major in Film and the Bible, an interesting combination.
Conversation topics covered everything from our living arrangements, to school required to get certain degrees (6 years for pharmacy in Czech), to the question of whether life is directed by fate or chance. We shared photos and did a sound check for the California guy, who was making a documentary in Ghana.
The Czech girl was living with her parents in a small village outside of Plzen. She'd returned home after getting her pharmacy degree because she didn't want to live alone and she was single. The college student was attending school in Arkansas, but had just come off a three month study in Greece and was on his way to Ghana after a three week European train interlude.
She was the first to get off, along with the Czech boy in Plzen. Just before she left, I wrote my email on a receipt that I had in my purse. I asked, "Do you ever go to Germany?" She said, "I have not had much reason to." I said, "If you do, let me know," and wrote down where I live there, and my name, thinking she might think I was crazy, but who cares. Life is living, right?
The rest of the train ride I spent talking to the California guy whose last name was Ruecker. As I got off, he wished me a good life, and I wished him safe travels.
It was an experience. I decided I need to hop a train at least twice a month. Alone.
Just now, I opened my email and there was one from someone I didn't know. Ivana.
It was the Czech girl, writing the sweetest letter in her broken English. Inviting me to join her and her friends when they go on weekend trips in Czech. She also said that she had never met anyone from USA personally before, and then two in one day! :)
The world is small. Friends are everywhere. I hope to remember this next time I look at a "stranger."