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Things I Learned in Europe: Part 5–New Friends

September 29, 2009

Katie and I were walking around in Jericho (a region in north Oxford–unfortunately, we did not make our way to the Holy Land) one morning, and these two younger looking students, a guy and a girl, walked by us. I have a bad habit of seeing random people and thinking that they are either people that I know or famous people; I have a similar bad habit of noticing really weird things about people, so I’ve learned to keep these thoughts to myself. I looked at this girl, and I thought, “Oh, hey, it’s Susan from Narnia,” and kept walking. As soon as these people passed, Katie turned around and gave me this unbelievable “Did you see who I just saw?” look. By the time we realized we just passed acting royalty, they had already turned the corner and were out of our sight.

So no, we did not meet Susan from Narnia. Even if we had, would either of us have been able to form an intelligible sentence, other than, “Hi Susan, um, er, we liked your new film. How are Peter and Edmund and Lucy?” Can’t see that going over too well.

In part 3 of this series, I talked about a new, enriching type of travel that I have rarely experienced–basing travel destinations around relationships rather than landmarks and hotspots. There’s so much of the world that I haven’t seen and want to stake a visual and experiential claim to, which is one of the reasons that I wanted to go to Spain. Katie prefers visiting places that are familiar and have poignant memories and stories attached to them; Oxford is valuable to her because of the intertwining of archaic, holy history and contemporary culture and self-sought relationships. And in my third visit across the pond, there are people that I look forward to visiting as well, such as Simon and Jacque and Mike and Katie’s ’07-’08 roommates.

Oxford (and other relationship-based travel destinations ) are like my favorite CDs. I have about a dozen CDs (of my 14.5 GB in my musical collection) that I’ve listened to more than 20 times. There are favorite songs that I have, and I’ve listened enough that I beat along with the drum cadences and whistle to the guitar riffs. But each time I listen to these CDs, I notice something different; I make a new connection and relationship with the music. During my third Oxfordian trip, I made several new relationships that I’ll look forward to enhancing my fourth visit.

I’ve mentioned Jacob and Lara before in previous posts, but I’m incredibly grateful for the willingness of this couple to host a girl that barely knew and a guy they had never met before for four days. They are Americans–actually, Jacob spent part of his childhood in Garland, my hometown; our first conversation consisted of sharing Garland stories. We had an interesting encounter with an inebriated Scottish guy, but after dodging him, they treated us to a cup of tea and continued to bless us with a balance of hospitality and privacy for the rest of our stay. They made us feel like their esteemed guests, finding and entertaining us at a dance party (more on that next post as well) and inviting us to a birthday dinner for one of their friends.

Katie continued to show me new parts of her Oxford experiences, from cultural statements to the lives of her friends. One afternoon, we had coffee with her friend Sally, who shared with us some of the difficulties and joys she’s experienced over the last year. Another afternoon, we joined Owen and Laura, a very musical, ministry-0riented, 20-something couple, for a Middle-Eastern lunch at their apartment; Pete and Michelle, another young couple (Pete, Michelle, and Owen are all employed by the church), came as well, so we spent the afternoon laughing and swapping stories concerning solely Oxford and stories that can happen anywhere, such as camp pranks.

I haven’t spoken much about our Spanish adventure yet. I’ll elaborate more on this in a future post, but after spending a week in a familiar culture with similar customs and language, five days in a new country with a new language and rhythm to life was quite disconcerting. The language barrier was especially difficult; I can speak Spanish pretty well, but when the locals began speaking back in (rapid) Spanish, I was lost and didn’t have the humility to say “Mas despacio por favor”. We were thrilled to meet Trent, an Aussie who’s around our age, in our hostel in San Sebastian. Aussies, I’m told, have a fascination with worldwide travel and seem to encourage their young people to explore the world before settling down in a career path. Trent was our roommate (in hostels, you sleep in bunk beds), and our first night, I discovered him reading a book about new age psychology. We chatted about all kinds of psychological topics for the next hour and a half or so, and the next evening, he joined us for dinner and a walk through San Sebastian’s evening. On one level, it was refreshing to have somebody speak our language and be as clueless about the native customs as we were. But on another level, Katie and I made a fascinating new friend in an unlikely location.

This will not be our last European trip; Katie and I have decided to make domestic and international travel a priority in our marriage. In one way, it adds to the amount of adventures and the diversity of stories we get to share with each other. In another sense, we want to partly define our marriage and family through global sensitivity and networking. We laugh at our friend Loren and our mentor couple the Danleys, because it seems like every person that we watch them meet, they know similar people or people from that region or town. We want to be like that. We don’t want our social bubble to end at exit 288 on I-20, but we hope that the boundaries to which we get to know the world–God’s Kingdom–are limitless. One new relationship at a time.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 1, 2009 9:16 am

    Well said, love. How I enjoyed exploring with you.

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