My last few weeks have seem colored by two prayers: “Dear Lord, help me” and “Thank God that worked out.” While many say this in passing vainly, they were real prayers when I encountered the stress involved in visiting friends and meeting up with family in Europe.
Since the very start of the planning for this semester in Austria, I was talking with my friend in Romania about when I could visit him. My mission, so far, has been building community. Usually, it is with the Gaming community. However, I have also made it my mission to visit my friends in Europe.
It started in Liverpool and continued in Timişoara, Romania. On my way there, I really started saying that first prayer. Turns out that the trains in Europe can have separate parts going separate destinations. Basically, a few cabins will—after one or two stops—set out for another location than other cabins. On my way to Timişoara, that really threw me for a loop. However, if I know anything, I know that the workers want any stressed or belligerent passengers off to somewhere else as soon as possible, making me someone else’s problem.
However, to even find people who can help or where to go, one must be focused on being attentive. For example, when I arrived in Budapest, I was stressed over my inability to find a ticket kiosk or the train schedule. Turns out, the ticket kiosk was in a corner I neglected.
Also, the schedule was a huge board right above me. While it may seem ridiculous that I would miss it, not only was everything in Hungarian, but I was so accustomed to seeing many scattered on the walls, not towering over everyone. To survive—and not miss any trains—be ready for each place to be different.
While some workers were very nice and some less so, I eventually made it to my final train to Romania. Being fairly late at night, there were hardly any people in the cabins, and I had a section to myself. I was very happy I brought things to entertain myself in that dark room. For example, Netflix’s ability to download films and episodes onto an iPad is immensely useful, especially in the radio-free zone that seems to be Hungary. When I want to feel productive, I also have e-books available to read, including both a nice fiction novel and the Divine Office.
When I made it to Romania and my friend found me, I could finally make that latter prayer: “Thank you, God.” That weekend, I was able to enjoy my time with him, and I met his incredibly kind parents. We saw the different Catholic and Orthodox churches and cathedrals in the city. We attended an Easter market with its delicious breads and treats, and we even called our friends back in the United States to, in a way, have the guys together in a special way.
I was able to understand a different aspect of Europe: a more eastern, dirtier, gypsier and more fun side. Through my visit, I realized that while the stress and risk of traveling through strange stations and places is real, it is always worth it. When I made the trip back to Austria, I was still a bit concerned. However, having a knowledge of most of the stations, I was able to more easily navigate them again.
Right after that crazy trip, I was blessed to have my parents visit me in Austria for Easter. Instead of Parent’s Week, my parents wanted to continue the tradition of spending Easter together. However, this year, we were going to do that from Munich. It was when traveling with my parents that I realized how enjoyable traveling from train to train can be when with others. We decided to pass the time both on the trains and in Munich by playing Hearts, Spades and 45s.
In Munich, besides exploring the city, we found a good way to spend Easter. On Holy Saturday night, we went to a Vigil Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church, a Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which received permission to use pre-1955 holy week. It lasted over three hours long. While this may make some people think I am some sort of traditionalist, in reality, I just do not like German. For those who do not want to go through a Mass without being able to pronounce the responses, I highly recommend finding a Latin Mass. For my parents, since I come from a Protestant family, they found an evangelical community where we worshipped on Easter Sunday. Together, we realized that our bonding would not be found frantically searching for the next event, tour or destination. Instead, our journey together IS the destination.
Through it all, even with my family, I had times of stress or uncertainty. While the former prayer can mark the most memorable moments, I make an effort to enjoy the moments and remember them where I pray: thank you God for bringing me so far.