Yesterday morning we boarded the train to leave Munich and take on Interlaken. I was thrilled for the train ride, as I looked forward to reading, blogging, and napping. The first leg of the trip was fantastic: I took a much-needed siesta, listened to music, and stared at the beautiful countryside. While I was abruptly woken up by a group of men celebrating a bachelor party, it was a terrific morning. We departed the first train in a surprisingly calm manner and hung out in the train station. I ate some McDonalds (30 cents for ketchup??) and boarded the next train. Unfortunately, the train was packed so I grabbed a seat away from the rest of the group. I started reading my book, which is great by the way (comment for details), and settled in nicely. A very mixed group surrounded me, and I kept to myself and didn’t say much, assuming that they didn’t speak English. A few hours into the ride, I dropped my water bottle. The ride took an incredible turn.
The woman sitting next to me picked up my bottle and I thanked her. She was shocked that I spoke english and I was shocked that she spoke it as well. Just an hour earlier she spoke in German and told me I was in her seat. We sparked an instant connection and talked for the rest of the ride. I learned all about her unique story. She grew up in Afghanistan and moved to New York when she was seven because her father was a diplomat. She went to school at St John’s University and went on to work and live in Qatar and, now, Germany. She works to help refugees get internship opportunities. She was on the train to visit her son who goes to school in Geneva.
We talked for a bit about American politics and then went on to deeper topics. We discussed her citizenship and connections to all the different countries where she has lived. She described herself as a global citizen and shared that she takes the best aspects from each country to add to her character and outlook on life. She was very impressed that we were traveling through Europe, as it helps us understand the world and learn and grow as individuals. We then went on to talk about religion. She explained that she grew up Muslim but no longer considers herself religious. While she is no longer connected to the traditions of the Muslim faith, she prays everyday and is extremely thankful. I told her about my faith and relationship with Christ. Despite our differences, we were able to understand each other and appreciate each other’s faith. It was also interesting to hear her negative take on people who claim to be “religious” yet don’t live out their faith and throw it down other people’s throats. This was especially intriguing because this year I’ve learned a lot about myself as a believer and have striven to have an intimate relationship with Christ, not centered on traditions or religion. One unique aspect about the Christian faith is that we no longer have to try to reach God through good acts because Jesus came down to earth to save us. By this, I want to do good deeds, not because I’m afraid of what God will do if I don’t, but because of the insane amount of grace that God gave me by sending his son to die on a cross for me – an unworthy sinner. I try to love because He loved me first.
It was amazing to see how, despite my different age, culture, gender, and faith, I had so much in common with this woman. I loved learning about her unique story as a global citizen and woman of faith. I hope to one day be like this woman in my world knowledge and travel experience – learning new things in new places whenever and wherever I can. I also hope to partner with Christ to love and unite people, not tear anyone down. I hope to be spurred on by His kindness and grace, not tradition, comparison, or striving. I look forward to talking with more locals and hearing their unique stories on this trip and beyond. It’s amazing how many people have amazing stories to tell. All it takes is some courage and a bit of awkwardness and you may find a new friend. Trains are cool. Let’s seek to understand.