Une rencontre fortuite // A chance encounter

Meeting people from different states and countries has always been one of my favorite things. I’ve found that working at different bars over the last three years has afforded me this experience without having to go far from home. The idea of travelling and experiencing a new place intrigues me, even when I am not the one doing the travelling. Giving out-of-town customers insider advice on the best places to eat and visit was one of the best parts about working at sports bars and restaurants in a college town. I would even go out of my way to talk to groups that weren’t at my bar rail or one of my tables if I found out they were visiting from another state or country. Taking part in the first-time discovery and exploration of a foreign place appeals to me. The thought that I could run into this person again in some other place at some other time is fascinating.

I didn’t realize how much I missed that type of interaction until the first time I ran into someone in the Vielle Ville of Nice that I knew had to be from elsewhere. I spotted a guy wearing a Michigan shirt and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with another Michigan fan in France. My attempts at speaking to him in French failed, but luckily he spoke English as well. It turned out that he was from Germany and had done an exchange program in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was then that he got the Michigan shirt and went to a game at the Big House. This was the first time I was able to talk football in France while the other participant was actually interested in and knowledgeable about the conversation at hand – so refreshing! I walked away from this encounter surprised but happy.

The experience that inspired this post took place this morning on the train. While waiting on the platform for the train to arrive, a couple walked up to me and asked if this was where the train to Antibes would arrive. I had this sense that they spoke English better than French so I responded in both French and English. They were delighted to find that I spoke English as well. The wife is Austrian and the husband is German. We spoke about our families, their children and grandchildren, our time in France, their travels and so much more, all during our short encounter lasting less than 30 minutes. The couple was amazingly kind and I was ecstatic to be able to help them out and offer advice on what to see and where to go in Antibes. It left me wondering if by some chance I might see these people again someday, or perhaps run into their daughter who married a Baptist preacher from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Meeting people who share a desire to experience the world in its entirety is always a memorable and enriching experience. Hearing this woman speak about travelling to Syria years ago was enthralling and heartbreaking all at the same time. Many of the antiquities and cultural landmarks she experienced alongside people she described as some of the most generous and kind she had ever met have been destroyed by years of war. I am sad that I’m unable to experience so many of this world’s former wonders, yet overjoyed that I am fortunate enough to be able to experience as much as I have.

Never be too busy to meet someone new.


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