Of course, just an hour later I came back to the hotel to find a group of my students waiting next to an ambulance. Um, not okay. Michael came back from Salzburg Sunday night real sick and hadn't been able to keep any food or liquids down for two days. Dehydration led to the hospital. So it happened that two of his good friends and I hopped in the car with Hotel Theresianum's Employee of the Year, Florian. What a guy. In every way, to every student, he goes out of his way to serve and care for us. Today, he works the night shift starting at midnight, but just so happened to be in the area, so he took it upon himself to spend the better part of the afternoon showing us to the hospital, acting as our translator, and making sure everything was set up for Michael in his room. Unbelievable. Michael already looked better from the IV and should be released tomorrow morning.
Now, it is dusk and a gentle rain just joined me out on the patio--shelter is nearby. But that's just today. And we need to go back and recount some other agreeable moments.
This past weekend was our first free travel of the semester. There were groups to Venice, Munich, Salzburg, and Poland. Poland proved to be a little tricky, humorous, and altogether annoying for the group involved. Cameras, money, and ipods were taken from the train ride, their hostel was shady and unnerving, and the only thing they did there was go to Auschwitz--the Nazi's deadliest concentration camp during World War II. All in all, they weren't the most chipper kids when they came back. But they came back.
As they all got on their separate trains Friday after class, the worried mother in me (ha) convinced myself it would all be okay...and hopped on my own train...to Cheb, Czech Republic to reunite with a friend from Hong Kong days, Sarah. Working the train system is a little bit like riding a bike or getting back into my car after months away, but there is still that subtle sense of urgency to make sure you get off at the right station, transfer to the right train, and not sit in an angry German's reserved seat. Everything went smoothly across Austria, into Germany, and finally to the border Czech town of Cheb.
I finished my first Bill Bryson book while I sat next to a young Austrian professional reading his own comical novel. Goodness gracious, I have never in my life seen someone laugh so hard while reading. Three times he had to place the book on his lap, remove his glasses, and wipe the tears from his eyes. At first it was endearing, but by the second stop when he departed, I was glad to see his humoured self go. Nothing can be that funny--maybe Dave Chappelle.
I love trains for the people watching (the bigger picture is that I love Europe for the people watching), and after my obnoxious Austrian laugher left, I fixed my gaze on a elderly couple sitting opposite of me down a few seats. They looked like they had lived a long life together through World Wars, communism, recoveries. And as I watched the woman's hands they reminded me of my grandmother's hands. One of my last days in Memphis before I left, I spent some time next to her while she slept in her bed fighting the grogginess of pain medicine. When she awoke from restlessness she looked at me and said, "Hey, sweetie pie." I sat softly on the bed and grabbed her hand. My grandmother has large hands for her size (larger hands than my own) with large knuckles that I stroked while I prayed. And they were warm. The kind of warm I felt during our sleepovers in that same bed eighteen years ago. The kind of warm that makes you think cold never existed. I am thankful for the ways God reminds us of himself, of those we love, and even those we don't love. I am thankful for the old woman's hands on the train.
cheb town square
some more czech graffiti
me and sarah drinking some eastern european pop
the birthday party surprise
walk in the woods