Gazing out of the window as I sat on the train, I started to let my mind drift off into the magical, snow-covered terrain of the rural Czech Republic. The entire car smelled like coffee and wet snow boots, and faint mumbles of quiet conversations meshed with the sounds of the train as it flew over the seemingly endless tracks. As the train gently hummed and I leaned, face pressed against the window, I found myself dozing off in thoughts of Narnia and other fairytales. But suddenly, the strange sounds of American English graced my ears and I awoke immediately, surprised at such a familiar accent in such unfamiliar territory. Having been surrounded by foreign languages for days at a time, hearing my own language in my own accent felt somewhat like a breath of fresh air.
It was a man’s voice, deep but projected. I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying, but finally I figured out that the voice was coming from the seat directly in front of mine. Debating whether I should stand up and introduce myself, I flipped back and forth for what felt like hours. My heart was pounding, but why? It’s not like I’d never heard English before, but something about this voice made it seem all too familiar to me.
Finally, when we stopped at a small, rural station, a tall man and his pretty, blonde seatmate stood up to get something out of their bags. I took a deep breath and decided to speak up, not really knowing what I was going to say.
“Hello!” I said in my American English accent, and frantically searching for words, I turned towards my camera, “would it be alright if I took a photo of you?”
The man looked surprised, as if maybe I were some kind of oddly-colored alien or a talking penguin. But then he grinned warmly and replied, in perfect American English, “Only if my wife can be in it too!”
Of course, we both realized quickly our mutual trait – being American. After I snapped a quick photo, he and his wife came to sit with me and we introduced ourselves. Quickly, the three of us got to talking about our lives, and I found out that the man, Johnny, lived within driving distance of my family’s home in Virginia. It’s conversations like these that make you realize not only how small the world is, but also how fate brings people so similar together in the strangest of ways.
Johnny and his newlywed wife, Barbora, exemplified this statement as they told me the story of how they met years ago. He saw her for the first time in a coffee shop, he told me, and thought to himself, This is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. They became friends, but because Barbora was working as an au pair, she had to go back to the Czech Republic after some time. However, the two kept in touch over many years, and eventually she came back to the US to visit Johnny. At this point, they decided to be together, and just recently, they moved to the Czech Republic and got married.
Barbora and Johnny are the most beautiful couple I have ever met. They are both so friendly and happy, and in that dreary, snowy day in December, the two of them radiated warmth and sunshine that I’ve never quite experienced before. And, after talking to them for the short train ride we had together, I knew their impression on me would be a lasting one.
The train’s horn sounded and it slowed to a stop as we approached Wien Meidling station. As we said our goodbyes and retrieved our bags, I asked them one last question – “So what brought you guys back here to Europe rather than staying over in the US?”
Johnny replied with a growing smile and a twinkle in his eye.
“We flipped a coin,” he said quietly, “because sometimes you just have to leave things up to chance.”