Thursday, January 8, 2015

How A Language Exchange Request Turned Into New Years With A Great Friend

Before we get too much farther into the new year, I wanted to share a story about how coincidence has blown my mind so many times this year, and some of the crazy things that led to me bringing in the new year in Seattle with a friend from Greece... as well as how opening oneself up to letting these things happen can bring so many wonderful things into one's life.

It all started with Couchsurfing. My (then at the time unknown) friend was searching for native English speakers with whom he could practice his English while they were in Athens, or who may be willing to talk on Skype and look over some short essays. I just happened to be the first person on the list of travelers, and I also happened to be from Seattle, Washington. His goal was to attend a university in Washington state, and after speaking we learned it was the same university I attended for some years. What are the odds??? (We learned later he was the only Greek applying for that university that year.) We chatted a few times on Skype, I corrected some essays, and we arranged to meet for a coffee a few days after I arrived in Athens.

Kostas and I arranged to meet at the metro station in Peristeri, a suburb of Athens in which he lived. We got a coffee, and shortly thereafter I ordered a souvlaki... well, Kostas ordered me a souvlaki (the cafe workers here didn't all speak English as they do in the center). I was still so jet lagged I could barely eat half of it (for which I later got teased mercilessly), and after I choked the souvlaki down, we wandered through a little park nearby his home. His dog was at his parent's house, so we stopped by and got her to come walk and enjoy the park with us. And enjoy we did! Walking, talking, and playing with the dog consumed our afternoon until my jet lag had me feeling so terrible I had to go home and rest a while. Despite feeling like crap, I had truly enjoyed my day. 

Kostas' dog (she wasn't a puppy when I met her)

First meeting at the Peristeri Metro station


I was leaving Athens in a couple days, but we arranged to meet for one more coffee before I left. This time we met near the Acropolis and wandered around for a few hours until I had to leave, again enjoying the conversations immensely. There was a connection between us, and it felt like we had known each other for months as we chatted animatedly until the last possible second before I was leaving for Nafplio. I was excited to see him and continue our adventures and conversations when I returned to Athens. 

Over the next 9 weeks, I spent a good portion of my days and nights with Kostas. We met his friends (and eventually I met his family), went to hidden little tavernas, partied at cool rock bars, wandered around the city's parks and alleys, ate and cooked wonderful food, and became practically best friends. We discussed family and dreams, and joked about everything. He saved my ass when I had nowhere to stay (repeatedly), sent me to an island paradise where I got voluntarily stuck for two weeks, as well as introduced me to many of his friends that became close friends of mine. You probably wouldn't even believe me if I told you about all of the crazy experiences and coincidences I have had with Kostas.

Chilling in Parko Tritsis

During my last week or so in Athens, Kostas learned that he had gotten accepted into the university in Washington. Although I didn't have a home at the time, I assured Kostas before I left that I would meet him at the airport, find somewhere to stay, and get him to his university (about 275 miles (450 km) from Seattle) to help him get settled in. 

When I arrived back in Seattle I was seriously stuck in some post-travel depression. Luckily I had found a car and somewhere to stay for a few weeks while I waited to start working again and get my own place, although I still spent the majority of my days drinking copious amounts of beer and staring at the wall while listening to music I had discovered on my trip. Kostas arrived in Seattle less than three weeks after I returned only to find a completely different girl than he had met in Athens. I had turned from a positive, open, very happy person without a care in the world into a stressed, miserable, grumpy lump of a girl. 

We spent ten days together, and we were both unhappy and stressed for most of this period. I was depressed, Kostas was stressed about starting school and finding a place to live in time, and neither of us had any money. We were so lucky that we happened to find an AMAZING Couchsurfing host who took us in at the last second, and provided us with beer, food, and great company for five days. There was money on its way to both of us, but it was late. Had we not met that unfailingly kind and generous couch surfer we would have been reduced to fighting over dollar store biscuits that we bought with change scrounged from the depths of my car, as well as being beerless and out of tobacco.
Being taken out by our amazing host in Pullman

So, we survived the ten stressful days, both of us coming out the other side feeling slightly better, but still quite frazzled (when I had to leave to go back to work, he still hadn't gotten his money from Greece, nor a found a place to live). The important part was we were still friends, and still there for one another, even though we may have been slightly sick of each other.

Time marched on (or flew by, as the case may be) and we talked usually several hours a week on Skype. One weekend in November, I decided to hitch hike to go visit him (you can read a bit more about that story here). It was not until after this trip that I finally came totally back to myself again from my post-travel depression. We had a great time and it was nice to see him when we were both back to being in a positive place. I had to leave too quickly, but we assured each other we would meet again sometime over the holidays. 

Kostas arrived the Monday before new years, and we had a really nice week together. We spent the days relaxing or exploring, and stayed up until almost dawn every night drinking wine and talking. Talking about things that have passed, and things yet to come. Talking bullshit, and having serious discussions. The one topic we spoke on perhaps most often, however, was how neither of us could believe the situation we were in. Who could EVER have imagined the hippie girl and this random guy who met at a suburban metro station in Greece 7 months ago would become great friends and bring in the new year together on the other side of the world?

These amazing coincidences, and the great friendship, only came about because I opened myself up. I met the stranger. I let whatever was going to happen, happen. And some amazing experiences came out of it. So I hope this inspires you to take a chance, and let life happen for you, so that you, too can have some wonderful stories to share.
Dorky picture that almost perfectly summarizes our friendship

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