Wednesday, 4 August 2010

It's the Journey that counts!

Last night I had an adventure.

I was fresh from Eclipse (MY EYES MY EYES) and going home on the S-1 train. I was standing at Potsdamer Platz underground, playing with my darling new iPhone4 (christened Odin because of the one-eyed camera thing. Geddit? GEDDIT?) when a person spoke quite haltingly beside me.

"Excuse me?"

She (and her family) were lost, having come over from a whirlwind tour of London that morning and heading to Prague the next. They'd checked out Brandenburger Tor, the Mitte, and were trying to make their way back to their hostel when the train system simply became too much and they were shattered. Considering English wasn't their first language (or even their second!) they were doing pretty good.

So with a train coming in I thought I'd help them. If I could figure out exactly where they wanted to go.

"We...Sudkreuz? Schoneberg?" Her English was halting and very finely pronounced. The German terms were something else altogether.

"Yeah, get in this one, go to Schoneberg and then up the stairs, get in the ring s-bahn to Sudkreuz."

"?" You could see my English had been too fast, and my directions too much. Tourist exhaustion had set in. It was just o-ver.

So I sighed. It was right by me. I'd just accompany them to theirs and then get to mine. I shoved my iPhone in my jeans and made a universal gesture of 'come on'.

"Let's go." The train was there and we all piled in, making fake smiley faces and half-head bobbed bows. As the train left we shared a little information back and forth. Basic names (the younger one said, "You can't pronounce it." I said, "Try me." She did, and I smiled and said, "You're right. I can't.") Where they had been. Where they were going. Why German train systems were so damn complicated.

Then I looked up and cussed under my breath.

We were on the s-25. NOT the one we needed to be on, the s-1. I get very confused on trains and her talking to me when added to my iPhone fun had been too much for my brain.

"We gotta get out." Yorckstrasse is a stop I know well; it's on the s-1 train schedule too. We'd just get out and wait for it.



So there we were, in the lamp-lit darkness of a little-used train station, standing now and making extremely stilted small talk while we waited for the s-1. But it got better.

After 10 minutes we were talking about the differences between South Korea, America, the UK and Germany. The father pointed out the beautiful, clear night and the mother the Big Dipper that hung so low above us. The younger daughter admired my iPhone and it was passed around, everyone commenting under their breath. The older daughter, Jane, asking how it felt to live somewhere like Berlin, and if it was weird to listen to them speak Korean together - and then being ALL confused when I said "nope, you'll hear every language here in Berlin if you walk around long enough".

We finally piled in the train and were making our way to where we needed to be. I'd just called my hubs to check on Loki and so they wanted to see pics of her and oohed and aahed over them properly. It was very gratifying.

The train station was coming up and the mother dug in her purse and pulled something out. She whispered to her daughter Jane and handed it to me.

" have it. She...make it?"

I opened it up. It was beautiful. It was for me when it had been hers just moments before.

"For you. A friend." She smiled. I smiled.

They explained the writing (the mother did all the calligraphy herself!) and we all hugged, made friends one night on a Berlin train. We took pictures, roping an innocent German guy into helping us.

The fake-ish smiley smiles had been replaced with real ones, and handy (cell) numbers and all were duly noted.
They got out, and I made it home...a bit more certain that every human interaction has its reason, a bit more content that at the bottom of it all, we just want to get along.

And that the journey (writing, life, what have you) is more important than the end result.

Have a great time in Europe, guys.


Heidi Willis said...



Once I was lost in D.C. Crap, I grew up there... how could I be lost?? But I was a new driver on a one way street going the wrong direction and an hour late meeting the guy I hoped would be the love of my life... and I ended up in the Pentagon parking lot, where civilians are not welcomed with open arms. And the most amazing Navy officer saw me distressed and tried to tell me directions to get me turned around... and then finally told me to follow him and he would get me to my turn off.

I've never, ever forgotten him.. and it's been 22 years. The gratitude, even now, is overwhelming.

And that picture you took? Priceless!!

I love you so much for this! :)

Merrilee said...

There are not enough stories like this. Good on you, Jen!

Jemi Fraser said...

Lovely! You've got a beautiful heart :)

That fan is glorious too!

Patti said...

You must have been a godsend for those people. Having been a lost tourist in London and Dusseldorf, we were very appreciative of the people who guided us.

Alison Stevens said...

What a fabulous story!! Hate that S-25/S-1 thing. Confuses me, too. (did you go see Eclipse again?) ;)

Kerri said...

What an incredible story. Those are the bigger moments in life!!!

JKB said...

You guys are adorable. <3 !!! Sometimes I forget to look around me, and this awesome family was exactly what I needed to slow down and inhale.

Joanne Brothwell said...

That is so sweet! Thanks for sharing.