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We meet new people all the time, but there are always a few that you will think about for the rest of your life. Well, I met one of those people, and I have a story to share.
I was on a train from Arezzo, Italy (a city in Tuscany) to Milan. It was a train that stopped frequently in almost every major city between Arezzo and Milan. The seats were organized in “pods,” where automatic doors opened and there were 6 seats. I sat in mine, the one near the window. As the train kept moving, more people got on. In my “pod,” two elderly women walked in. As a foreigner with too many bags, I was catching funny glimpses from them. They were speaking in Italian (not about me thankfully) and I was just minding my own business.
One of the women started talking with me, and I had the interactions all my Italian textbooks taught me: “Where are you from? Why are you in Italy?” Once we got on the topic of language, the woman applauded me for attempting to speak to her in her language. She said she was learning English.
The woman proceeded to tell me that she loves to travel. In fact, she was traveling alone just to get out of town. She said she has been all over Europe and considered herself well-traveled, as her and her husband traveled a lot during their retirement. Her husband spoke English well, so she never had the need to know it. She informed me that her husband has since passed. The woman explained she’s learning English in a night class so that she can travel the world, just as she did when he was alive. She said speaking English reminds her of when her husband would talk on their behalf when abroad.
The woman pulled out a piece of paper and a small “English for beginners” book. She said, in English, “I have homework next class.” She had a small reading and some questions to answer. She asked if I could help her pronounce the words correctly. For about a half hour, we went through the reading, and I explained in Italian as best I could the words she couldn’t understand. Here we were, a young American guy and an Italian women at least in her late 60s, talking and laughing as if we knew each other our whole lives. In that moment, I realized these are our purposes on earth. These kinds of heartwarming stories are what makes us human.
The train started to come to a hault in some part of northern Italy. It was dreary, dark, and foggy. The woman said, “Questa è la mia fermata, era davvero un piacere.” “This is my stop, it really was a pleasure.” She did introduce herself, but I didn’t write her name down. I would give anything to remember. For the next hour to Milan, I thought about how the next four months were going to go. If I learned a fraction of what I learned talking to this woman, I’d be lucky.
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A presto (See you soon!),