Thanksgiving – Maltese Style

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This is Thanksgiving week, so I wanted to write a little something about some of my experiences of Thanksgiving that I have had in my life abroad.

Growing up in the US, I have been a part of normal Thanksgiving practices for most of my life.  You the ones – the turkey, the trimmings, the occasional drunk relative that you end up having to listen to for hours as they regale you with stories about their teenage years, which, in case you weren’t around for them, were the best years in the history of the world, and gee, don’t the kids these days miss out on all of the fun that could be had “back in the day”?  Yeah, those.  Oh, and the memories of my father putting so much sage into the stuffing that only he liked the end-result.  My brother, mother and I would endure a few mouthfuls, to be polite, and then relinquish the rest to my father.  Thankfully, I have always been a fan of Stovetop stuffing anyway, so I wasn’t really expecting much from that stuffing in the first place.

Back to the point:  A Maltese Thanksgiving.  Well, the one that I experienced, anyway.  Which wasn’t exactly Maltese, but really more of a dinner that we American students in the international student’s flat complex decided to throw for anyone and everyone that wanted to participate.  It started out as a somewhat small affair, from what I can remember.  All of the international students, everyone from Nigerian nursing students to Indian engineering students to myself and another American there for the archaeology courses, lived in a large complex surrounding a rather dodgy pool that ended up giving a couple of the Canadians eye infections at one point.  I myself only dangled my legs in that water, and never swam in it, much to my relief when they each came back from the local doctor with nasty infections and hefty prescriptions.  Instead, I swam in the open water, on the rare occasions that I got a chance to swim, that is.

Anyway, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, a few of us American students were talking late one night and decided that it would be fun to do something for it.  You know, it would be cultural.  Something to demonstrate to the other students as an American tradition, and one that didn’t discriminate against race, religion, political inclination or anything else.  It was just all about the food.  We each agreed that we would bring something distinctly American, or at least something that we thought would represent something that we grew up eating.  So, mashed potatoes, corn, lefse from one girl (who managed, by the way, to make a really good mock-lefse, giving that she was using potato flakes, a dodgy stove and warped cooking pans – I am still impressed to this day).  I don’t actually even remember what I brought, to be honest.  Something silly, I am sure, like corn or something.  I was enough of a foodie at that point that by not remembering it, I know that it must have been something lame and uncreative.

Before the night of the dinner, though, which was to be held in the *enormous* dining room of one of the larger flats, we started hearing from other people in the complex that wanted to join in, and on top of that, they wanted to bring their own cultural foods to include in the repast.  Well, if you know anything about the first Thanksgiving, then you know that Pilgrims also accepted foods that were native to the tribes that joined them in the feast.  So, who were we to turn that addition?  We gladly welcomed it.

On the night of the dinner, then, to the sounds of CD’s playing everything from Italian rap music, so the popular techno tunes of the day (late 1990’s), literally dozens of us gathered in that dining room to join together in what turned out to be one of the best, and more memorable meals that I would have in Malta.  Copious amounts of cheap Maltese wine was drunk, Indian and Bangladeshi curries mingled with the lefse, mashed potatoes, turkey breasts (that someone managed to locate somewhere, although I can’t imagine how much they ended up paying for it, since turkey in Malta is rare indeed), not to mention the cookies that someone brought, fresh from the local Balzan bakery (remember them, from an earlier post?), the Russian dumplings, the Nigerian breads, and so many other things.  So much that no one was able to really eat everything, but we – every one of us – tried very hard!

After the food, and when the wine started to really take its effect, we moved the table back, and cranked up the music and began to dance.  People showed off their cultural dances and mainstream dances alike.  I did a rather serviceable Irish ceili dance, if I do say so myself.  Someone started to do a little Bollywood style dance and everyone enjoyed the night, well into the wee hours of the morning.  Somewhere along the line, I am sure that the flatware from several flats disappeared into the one hosting the dinner, never to resurface again.  Several chairs were broken, and at one point a few nights later, someone got the bright idea to take one of the broken chairs, dismantle it and use it as a bonfire.  Actually, it made a great bonfire that we used for cooking the Iranian chicken skewers that a friend made.  I can still taste them – a little funny-tasting, since the varnish from the wood on the chairs must have permeated the chicken a little bit, but they were still good.

All in all, that Thanksgiving was one of the best that I have ever had.  No one fought.  There weren’t any people there fighting over who would get the last crescent roll, or how best to make stuffing (do you put it in the bird or not?) and in the end, everyone went back to their respective flats, full, drunk, happy and dead tired.  I can still hear the music, see the dancing and taste the wine.  And I hope that I never forget it.  I have lot contact with nearly everyone that took part in that dinner, but as I eat my Thanksgiving dinner this year, like I have done every year since that night, I will raise my glass just once in their honor and say that wherever they are, and whatever they are doing, I am forever thankful that they were once a part of my life, and will forever be a part of my memories – some of the best of my life.

Being Sneaky in Paris

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You know, when I was little, I used to stay at my grandmother’s home when my family would go “up north” to visit our relatives every winter and summer.  The rest of my family got to stay at my uncle’s house, but I stayed with my grandmother.  I credit that with a lot of things in my life, from my love of cooking and more especially baking, to my fear of ever having my home be so warm that it melts candles (another story for another time).

One thing that I really remember, more than a lot of others, is the fact that I was raised as a Lutheran, much to my grandmother’s chagrin.  You see, my mother’s side was Lutheran and therefore so was I.  However, my father’s side was Catholic (mostly lapsed, now), and my grandmother; well, she was Mother Superior, in every sense of the word.  While the rest of my family was in my uncle’s house watching movies on Saturday evenings before we would meet for dinner, my grandmother would take me to Saturday night Mass at her church.  Even though I wasn’t Catholic, and really, even though I was too young, she would always tell me that I could go up to the altar when it came time for the sacrament and tell me that I could take it, because really, they didn’t know that I wasn’t Catholic, and honestly, God probably wouldn’t mind.  Secretly, I always thought that she just really wanted me to be Catholic and would try anything in her power to make me one.

Flash forward to my holiday in Paris a couple of years ago.  On one of my last days there I decided that it was time to go to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur in the Montmarte area of the north of the city.  I walked all the way there; all the way up the stairs, in the beautiful light of an early spring evening in Paris, with the birds singing and the other tourists flashing their cameras as they took photos of each other in front of the church and on the surrounding lawns that yawned out from all sides.

I hadn’t realized that I actually arrived right at the start of the nightly Mass there, but following in my grandmother’s footsteps and feeling that a) she would love to have been able to be in such a place at some point in her life and b) God wouldn’t really mind, I walked up front, in front of the tourists and those that were illegally trying to take photos with their cameras (it was forbidden to photograph inside the church itself, unlike Notre Dame).  I walked all the way to one of the first rows and sat next to a beautiful woman of some African decent.  She was deep in thought and prayer, on her knees while the priest spoke.  I tried not to disturb her, but she noticed me sitting down, flashed me a huge smile and gestured for me to join her on the wooden pew, third row center.  Although I had no idea what was being said (not only do I not know the traditional Catholic Mass, but I know it even less when it’s in French, since I don’t speak the language at all), I tried to imitate her as much as possible.  I knelt when she did, I crossed myself when she did, and when it came time for the sacrament, she gestured enthusiastically that I should join her when she went up for it.

Now this was a little forbidding – this was not just a small Catholic church in some small city in the Midwest in the US.  No indeed.  This was La Basilique du Sacre Coeur!  In Paris!  Now, those not familiar with Christian sacraments or denominations might not really understand, but the sacrament at Mass (the wafer and wine) are sacred.  Lutherans might allow others of the Christian faith to partake, but the Catholics don’t play that game.  if you aren’t Catholic, you can’t partake.  You can walk up and get a blessing from the priest, but not the actual wafer or wine.  At least in theory.  And I felt uncomfortable going up there, but this time, with this lovely French / African woman gesturing for me to follow her, and me not knowing nearly enough French to tell the priest that I shouldn’t be receiving the Mass, I walked up in the shadow of the grand, awe-inspiring dome of the Basilica, covered in a beautiful mural, with angels and saints watching me, and I stood before the priest, hands in a prayer (which is typically used to indicate that one is not taking the sacrament) and watched as the priest handed me a wafer.  And then the golden goblet in which was the sacred red wine.

There are times in life when one should follow the rules.  Certainly, when you are in Tunisia, you shouldn’t take photos of the police.  That’s not only frowned upon, but generally, well, it’s illegal.  However, it’s not like me taking the wafer and wine was technically illegal.  And the brief thought in my head said to me “I am sure that God won’t mind and has much more important things to think about than whether or not a Lutheran partook in the sacrament.”  So in a moment, I opened my palm to take the wafer and then found myself taking a sip of the wine, and suddenly turning back around and walking, solemnly, back to my seat, next to the smiling, now praying woman.

The Mass lasted only a few more minutes, and in that time, I felt flush.  Flush with a slight feeling of deviancy, but also of, well, I don’t know.  Not holiness, but something more akin to companionship.  In the community of the church, of the French, of belonging to a group, if only for an hour.

And as I walked around the inside of the church following the service and then out into the slowly waning light and rising moon, I felt somehow whole.  Somehow reminded of the love of my grandmother when she and I would go to Mass.  Reminded of a greater love that so rarely manifests itself, deep in one’s heart.  And for however brief a time, I couldn’t stop smiling.  And the evening air, the walk back to my hotel for dinner, the lights of the city turning on for the night – it was all beautiful in a way that I had only barely noticed before.

I love Paris.

Things That I Don’t Understand – Round One

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1.  Mayonnaise on Pizza (see:  Budapest teenagers on their way to the subway trains snacking on slices of mayo-covered pizza slices while trying to simultaneously walk down steep staircases to the platform).

2.  Remote Controls for Toilets (see:  Tokyo hotel toilets that I never did figure out.  At one point, I pushed a button and it started to play music, and another button apparently engages that uber-flush, but I never did figure out the other, oh, thousandish buttons that apparently all controlled that one single device that in China wasn’t even available, as they basically still used the good old-fashioned hole in the ground with a couple of small footholds on either side.)

3.  Kinnie (See:  Malta – Wow.  Who thought that the idea of a “soft drink” with the advertised flavor of “bitter oranges and aromatic herbs” was a good idea was obviously smoking something and whatever that something was, I certainly never want it).

4.  Umbrellas in Ireland – Honestly, the winds are so strong (gale-force, really) that umbrellas are no match for them.  You could always tell those people that used them from those that didn’t; not because you saw some people actually using them, but rather because when you got into the classroom at the university, there were those people that were soaked head to toe (those without) and those that were soaked only from the waist down, since they tried to put the umbrella facing the wind, so that it wouldn’t get pushed inside out.  Really.  At some point, whether all of you is wet or only part of you, just acknowledge that you are still wet, still cold, and that the umbrella was a waste of money.  You would be better served just downing copious amounts of tea to compensate for the chill that inevitably consumed you for a good ten months of every year.

5.  Cars / Taxis in London – I once spent about a week in London with a relative on vacation (I had been living there for some time already and really knew the ins and outs of London by that point) who always thought that everything was so far away from everything else and for the first few days wanted to take the atrociously expensive black cabs everywhere.  I tried to remind her that there is literally *no* place in London that is more than a couple of blocks from a tube station.  Literally.  You just needed to turn a corner, any corner – just pick a corner – and you would find one right there.  Why do people bother sitting in endless traffic, and potentially spending enormous amounts of money just to travel a few blocks, when the tube can get you there for pennies and in minutes?  I will never understand that.

6.  Cars in Malta – You can *walk* from one side of the country to the other.  Seriously.  Just give yourself a couple of hours and you have done it.  You could probably even do it in heels.  Try it, it’s fun!

And that’s just a start….

Coke v Pepsi

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I was reminded of this because I recently had a conversation with a colleague of mine in Canada who mentioned that she would never, even under the pain of death, deign to drink Pepsi.  She was a Coke (specifically Diet Coke) fan for life.

This reminded me of my most recent journey – to Finland and Denmark  – and the stark differences between the two in terms of their soda consumption.

Normally, most countries are like the US; there might be a general preference for either one or the other, or, like in the case of Malta, a third option altogether (in their case, Kinnie, whose appeal I never understood).  You might have a somewhat hard time finding one or the other, but it’s possible and even easy in a lot of places, like the US and Australia.

Not in Finland or Denmark, though.  In Finland, although I generally prefer Diet Coke, I was forced to basically drink “Pepsi Max” (otherwise known as diet Pepsi) whenever I wanted a soda.  First, they don’t, like more European countries, offer any non-caffeinated versions of soda, at least that I have ever really found.  But beyond that, there was no such thing as Coca-Cola anywhere outside of a small display in one of the local grocers.  And even that wasn’t stocked every day, so there were a few times in which I went there, only to find that there weren’t any Cokes in sight.  I couldn’t believe it.  Never before in my life have I ever been in a place so thoroughly sold to Pepsi and their other products.  I mean, Coca-Cola is the largest, most widespread brand in the world, and yet, here is a country entirely committed to Pepsi.  Amazing!

Then, I went to Denmark for a couple of days as a side trip.  It was the exact opposite.  It was as though someone from Coca-Cola came and said the the entire country “Hey, you want to be cool like the rest of the world and not backward, like Finland?  Come over here, and let me show you something really great.”  And at that point, the salesman opens his jacket and displays all of the varied (except for the aforementioned non-caffeinated) versions of Coke products.  Every vending machine, from the ones in my hotel to the ones in the train station, offered only Coke products.  It was as if Pepsi never existed.  Simply amazing.  And not a bad thing, if you ask me, since I generally like it more than Pepsi (Pepsi is usually to sweet and not bubbly enough for me).  But still, coming from a country so single-mindedly devoted to Pepsi, it struck me right away.

Nothing else seemed to be like that.  They both carried chocolate products from all over, from Mars and Cadbury to their own local varieties.  They both carried other consumer products from a wide range of companies.  But when it came to their soda preferences, it was just unique and utterly fascinating to see two countries, so close to one another, so at odds over a simple thing like soda.

Interesting.  Very interesting <insert character from Laugh-In here>

How do you say Merry Christmas in German? Or, how I spent a lot of down-time in Germany

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I love my parents.  I really do.  They always mean well, even when things don’t go quite as I think that they plan.  Case in point, the time that I spend a Christmas (sort-of) with my older brother in Germany.

I wanted to spend some time in Italy over the holidays with my friends that I had met while in Ireland, and in order to do that, my parents said that perhaps I spend Christmas itself with my brother, while he was stationed in Germany in the military.  Again, I am sure that they had the best intentions.  I am sure that they thought that he and I would spend a of lot quality time together bonding and driving around the countryside and generally having a lovely holiday, and for the most part, they were right.  They did, however, not take into account a couple of key factors:

1.  They gave the money for the trip to my brother, the person who thinks that if he has check blanks then he has money.  By the time that he picked me up in the rental car, I saw where most of that money went – the backseat, in the form of a few CD’s that he had recently purchased. And,

2.  No self-respecting 20-something guy wants to spend a ton of time with their kid-sister.  Ever.  No matter what the circumstances.  But especially not when they have a reputation of coolness to protect in the military.  I mean, honestly, I get it, and I agree and can’t blame him a bit. But,

That means that, after we spend some really harrowing hours driving on the autobahn (and by we, I mean that he was driving and I was praying that I would survive the trip in Germany and make it to Italy alive – he likes to use the accelerator, that’s for sure) and visiting a few of the really great highlights of Bavaria (including Neuschwanstein Castle and the Nurnberg Christmas Market) he would drop me off at my teeny hotel in a teeny village that had only one hotel.  Usually by five in the evening.

This village, by the way, was so small that there was nothing to do, especially since it was the Christmas season and everything was closed.  Not to mention that I didn’t have my own transportation to travel around in the evening and didn’t speak enough German to really get along.  This means that I spend a *lot* of time in the hotel, and specifically my hotel room, itself.  What did I do for that time?  Well, not a lot, really.  You see, back when Kindles weren’t around and people actually read real books, I wanted to save space in my luggage for souvenirs, so I brought only one book.  And this was the start of my trip, so I didn’t want to read the whole thing in the first few days.  So, i tried to ration it out and instead watch TV.  Except that the television only got about four channels, all of them in German.  Including MTV.

Did you know that apparently, even in Europe, MTV only rotates about five videos all day and night?  Yup, that means that I saw the same five videos (including J-Lo’s “Jennie from the Block” and something repulsive from Brittany Spears) about a thousand times.  I finally got a break by watching Evita (yeah, that one.  The one with Madonna), only because since it was a musical, it wasn’t dubbed into German.

It’s truly amazing how long a few hours can seem when you are sitting in a tiny room, as the lone guest in a hotel in the middle of nowhere in southern Germany with nothing to read and nothing to listen to (I left my CD player in Ireland) and nothing to really watch on TV either.  But, if you really want to make sure that you get your vacation time’s worth, I suppose that the fact that it feels like forever means that your vacation might seem longer?  Sigh.  Well, not better, right?  Just longer.

Meanwhile, I know that my brother was back at the base having a lot of fun with his friends, while I was stuck in the hotel.  I was still in Germany, which in and of itself was great, and while I was with my brother, I had a great time.  Walking in the woods around the castle, eating great sausages in the local restaurant nearby and walking around Nurnberg in the evening light.  Simply amazing (more on those parts later, I am sure).  But still, it was a little lonely in that hotel room.  Just sayin’.

The Guessing Game in Papua New Guinea

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I was inspired to write this following a recent (trying and frustrating) experience trying to order and receive a package for a birthday.  Sometimes, no matter how much you plan and how carefully you try to make sure that things will go well when sending things through the mail or other delivery service, things just don’t work out the way that you would like.

This was especially true in PNG.  Part of the reason that I was there (other than the obvious, which was to experience something genuinely new and amazing that other people would never get a chance to experience in quite the same way again) with Glenn, my colleague and potential PhD supervisor, was to determine if there was enough human skeletal material in the area to base my PhD thesis on.  In order to do this, and to do the other archaeological work that Glenn was trying to work on, we needed out equipment.  Now, obviously, with the amount of equipment that were going to need (including buckets, shovels, gloves, levels, et cetera) we weren’t going to feasibly be able to just other another seat on the plane on which to plonk those pieces of equipment on for the flight from Australia.  So instead, Glenn very wisely (or optimistically, as I like to now refer to it), decided to send all of it ahead of us via the shipping giant, DHL.

Now, under normal circumstances, this would be a perfectly good idea.  Indeed, DHL ships millions of pounds of everything from skiis to foodstuffs all over the world, every day of the year and rival FedEx and other major companies in their ability to get things to their destined locations on time, and in good condition.

Except for when they try to get anything to Papua New Guinea.

Why, you ask?  What could possibly be the issue there?  Well, on top of the fact that you have to assume, when sending anything to PNG, that someone, somewhere along the line might assume that it’s “cargo” and therefore pinch it entirely, there is the ever-present issue of weight.  As in, how much weight can be placed on their teeny, tiny, itty, bitty little planelets that they use to ship things around the main island, as well as a few of the larger outer islands that make up the country.  This is even more important during the time of the year that they harvest all of the vanilla pods, which quickly go rotten in the heat and humidity once they are harvested and need to be transported very soon after they are harvested.   Guess what time of year Glenn and I were in PNG?  Go on, guess.  If you said, “vanilla bean harvesting time,” you are right!  We happened to be there right at the height of the season, which meant that, one of the tasks that we got to do on a daily basis, and which actually provided at least a little bit of a break into an otherwise long and boring from the rest of the day on the mainland, stuck in a small hotel (more on that in another post, I am sure), was to travel to the small, inadequate airport, on the off-chance that the gear that we needed had made it onto the plane.

Most of the time, the people packing the plane would likely have taken one glance at our gear, another at the vanilla pods, densely packed into their crate, weight how much value each one had (vanilla being one of the main exports and sources of money for many people there) and not even given our equipment a second thought.  Onto the plane the vanilla crates would go, and for days on end, Glenn and I would wait hours to in the heat, the humidity and the crunch of unwashed, barefoot, eager people, only to be disappointed to see that, after all of that, our gear was somewhere still in limbo.  Where?  Honestly, I think that it’s best not to dwell on that.  For all that I know, it could have been sent to Siberia.  And it didn’t really matter.  All that mattered was that, having to wait for that equipment meant that it delayed and further delayed our trip from the mainland (Wewak) to Koil, the small island on which we would be doing most of our work.  It took almost a full week to finally get all of our gear.  By now, we were losing serious time and Glenn’s attitude was getting more grumpy by the day.  Couple that with the horrid, stifling humidity and the lack of anything decent to eat at the hotel after a few days; having depleted their stock of soda, pineapple, bananas and other tasty foods, and long having been left with almost exclusively papaya (and if you know me, you know that that is one of the few things that I cannot bear to even think of eating, so much do I dislike it), and the mood among our small group was not a good one.

So, it was with no cheer that we realized that, after all of that effort and waiting and hope, we (and by we, I mean Glenn) had remembered to pack the cigarettes (for himself and for bribes, I didn’t smoke), some rice (a real treat on the outer islands, where it wasn’t grown), and indeed, even the kerosene lamps…but no kerosene.  None.  Not even one container.

It’s amazing what you miss when it’s not there; buckets for sand and dirt for when you are digging; decent food at a remote hotel in the middle of the South Pacific; and light.  Any light.  Did you know that in the South Pacific, on outer islands, where the inhabitants have never even heard of electricity, when the sun goes down, it means that everyone and everything is immediately and completely thrown into total blackness?

What’s the lesson learned?  If you need anything in PNG during the vanilla harvest, it’s probably worth it to shell out for an extra ticket on the fight from Australia, rather than rely on DHL being able to stop the local PNG airline baggage handlers from prioritizing their vanilla over your theodolite.  Also, if you pack the kerosene lamps, just make sure that you *also* pack the actual kerosene.  Otherwise, they just make for very interesting “gifts” to give to the local kids on those outer islands, since they don’t really have any other uses.  At least, none that I ever figured out.

Good Company on the Train to Austria

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I was on a trip through parts of Europe, including Eastern Europe a few years ago, and at this point in the trip, three countries in, I had experienced both wonderful things and ones that I would rather forget (all of Hungary, for instance – I think that I might still be traumatized by that whole experience).  I had seen people eating mayonnaise on pizza, and others that introduced me to the wonderful baked delights of Croatia.

I was on the train from Slovenia to Austria, through the most picturesque landscape that I had seen in years, filled with lush valleys, rugged mountains and the cutest, quaintest villages of colorful houses that I have ever seen this side of Norway.

The trip itself was only a couple of hours, and I thought that I had the car to myself, since I had gotten there early and no one had joined me in the four-person car in almost half an hour.  Suddenly, outside my window, I see a grandmother with what appeared to be her daughter and toddler granddaughter at the station platform; the older woman bugging the two younger ones and waving and blowing kisses as she walked toward the train.  A few moments later, she appeared in the doorframe and walked through, sitting opposite me.

She didn’t speak a word of English, just Austrian-inflected German, as I quickly found out when I said hello to her.  She almost ignored me totally at first, too busy waving goodbye over and over to the little girl outside the window.  She smiled at me, and continued to wave, all the way to the point where we could no longer see the station or the little girl and her mother.

She settled in to her seat and smiled at me again, giggled a little bit and said something to me that I couldn’t make out.  Whatever it was, I could tell that this was a person that I wouldn’t mind spending a couple of hours with, happily just staring at the passing countryside, anticipating what I would encounter in the next country (Austria).

I had managed to snag some extra green grapes from my final breakfast at the hotel in Slovenia and brought them out to munch on a few.  I offered some to the woman, and although she demurred at first, a little nudge was all that it took for her to join me in finishing them off in a matter of a few minutes.  She took a few, then a few more, thanking me and again giggling and saying more things that I couldn’t quite make out.  I managed to understand enough to know that she was telling me a little about her granddaughter and that she asked me something about myself, but all that I managed was my name.  She told me hers, but as I have never been great with names, I can’t recall it.  I did manage to take a photo of her enjoying the grapes, though, smiling and with the same glint in her eye as my German-American grandmother.  Actually, she reminded me so much of her that for a moment, I almost thought that my grandmother was with me on that train.  It was a very comforting feeling.  We then spent the next couple of hours just enjoying each other’s quiet company and watching the countries, the villages, the houses, slowly change from one to another; the sun shining and a slight breeze moving the trees in the distance and creating ripples on the water of the lakes that we passed.  It was a truly lovely experience.

When the train arrived at my station, I said goodbye to her and thanked her for being such a lovely travelling companion, and then waved to her as I walked by her window.  She actually smiled back and waved to me as I left the station to find a cab to my new hotel in Vienna.  She, most likely, was off back home or somewhere equally comforting.

I have no idea what ever happened to her, and I likely never will.  But, I have a photo of her to remind me of her giggle, her smile and that delightful trip through the mountains and valleys of Slovenia and Austria.

Thank you, kind woman.  Whoever and wherever you are.

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