Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Strange Encounters: An afternoon in Frankfurt

I boarded the plane in Denver, CO already weary of traveling, knowing I had barely started the almost 48hr trip I had in front of me. I hate planes. The stale air, the bad food, the person in front of me who inevitably leans their chair back the second they sit down and never moves it the whole flight, making the whole eating experience that much more adventurous.
From Blogger Pictures

After finding my window seat, I watched first with skepticism, then with dawning hope, and finally, sheer joy at the realization that the seat next to me was empty! The flight attendants were closing the overhead bins and everyone had boarded and yet the seat remained miraculously, blissfully empty. With giddy thoughts of stretching my limbs out and actually sleeping, I started to move my bag onto the seat when a body abruptly dropped into the space and a gratingly cheerful voice said, “I hate middle seats! You don’t mind if I sit here do you?”
For a moment, I thought I’d actually shed tears, the frustration was so overwhelming, but somehow managed to stay in control. “No,” I replied. Not the most welcoming, but I was proud of myself.
For the first hour, I stayed quiet and kept to myself. It had been an unreal fantasy anyway, I assured myself. Not one to hold a grudge for long, I was eventually able to push past my bitterness and introduced myself. On his way back home to Kuwait, the man was friendly with unexpectedly lively and engaging conversation. We both were able to sleep on and off and at one point he turned to me and suggested going into Frankfurt together as we both had long layovers. He knew the best place in the city center to get crepes.
I was reluctant. Strange man, strange city and I tend to worry excessively when it comes to traveling. Even though I had an almost twelve hour layover, unexpected things happen and I didn’t want to risk leaving the airport and missing my flight. I thanked him, but said no and managed to sleep another hour. When I woke up, I realized I was developing two cold sores on my lower lip, both my legs had started to swell, and my stomach hurt due to my unfortunate tendency to get constipated during long flights. The thought of leaving the airport suddenly sounded like an amazing idea.
Soon, I found myself standing on a train station with my new Muslim friend trying in vain to read German and figure out how to buy a ticket into the city center. I heard familiar accents and turned to see two American girls standing with their big backpacks in front of the ticketing machine looking just as confused as I imagine we did. Deciding to join forces, the four of us put our heads together, but five minutes later still unable to read German we all boarded the train ticketless figuring we could plead ignorance if need be. The girls were from Oklahoma and were hostelling it across Europe. Friendly and enthusiastic, they made good companions as we found our way across town where we parted paths.
[The train station]
From Blogger Pictures

Walking with my newfound friend, I heard shouting and the loud noise of a large crowd gathered in the streets of downtown Frankfurt. Signs written in Arabic and waving Pakistani flags greeted us as we turned a corner. We struggled through waves of Pakistani people, who had gathered to appeal to the German government to stop the Israeli attacks on Muslim countries. I thought it was pretty nifty that I had my very own translator who was able to discover what was happening.
From Blogger Pictures

This sparked interesting discussions between my companion and myself. We talked of Jewish and Muslim relations and of the Bible and Koran. He told me what it was like to grow up in Kuwait and I told him of my own upbringing.
From Blogger Pictures

We never did find that crepe shop, but we found an amazing Middle Eastern restaurant and I discovered a new favorite food. I know we made an odd couple, but I enjoyed myself immensely and was so grateful to be given the opportunity to learn more about a culture that had basically been a mystery to me. I said yes to an opportunity I normally would have turned down and I think God is teaching me to move past my fears and experience all He has for me.
[Warning: I'm not saying it's okay or even advisable to go into strange cities with strange men.]


Jen Price said...

Well, look at you! I didn't know you did that!

John, Carla & Rae Shaw said...

Brit, how cool! What a gret adventure. As a mom, I'm betting your mom had a few moments reading this thinking, "No!". But it's cool that you had a wonderful experience. Glad it worked out good & you were able to rest on your next flight! See ya soon!

Megan said...

Brittany...you are truely amazing friend. It's so exciting for me to see what an amazing transformation Jesus is doing in you. I look back to when you and I first met, and you are truely a different creature. I am so thankful that I have seen this beautiful thing Jesus is doing in you and through you. I love you. Megs