Today I'm thankful. Thankful for serendipitous moments in the middle of seemingly normal days that bring a smile to my face and happiness to my heart. I miss my students and families in Prague everyday. I miss the people I met- the bus drivers, the fellow passengers, the tour guides, the locals. I miss the accents and miscommunications that come with English as a second language. I miss the connection you feel when someone tells you about their home and in doing so invites you to love it even half as much as they do.
Today i didn't have to miss it. Somehow, today, in the middle of the weekly grind, I found the connection back. And it all started with furniture. Yeah, not the most magical opening line but it's true.
Once upon a normal Wednesday, we were expecting a furtniture delivery when in walked a man in a wool coat. As soon as he spoke I knew his accent sounded oddly familiar. But before I could pinpoint exactly what accent he was sporting he was back out the door heading to his truck to unload. I met him outside our warehouse in almost freezing temps. He brought me a couple of massive boxes before directing me, "You. Come here. Bring dolley." I contemplated how to ask where he was from without sounding rude for maybe half a second, if I'm honest, before blurting out, "Where are you from?" on our short walk from the warehouse to his truck. He smiled and again I heard that accent that seemed familiar somehow although my only guess was he came from some part of Eastern Europe. "I am from here." He laughed and went on, "I am from Bosnia. Do you know it?" (Quick geography lesson - Bosnia and Herzegovina is tucked in between Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia in the southeastern Europe.)
Although I couldn't see myself, I'm sure my face lit up possibly more than it does when someone mentions Czech Pilsner or when I see an additional 40% off clearance sale. I couldn't contain my excitement and shot out a quick, "I've been there!" He returned the uncontainable excitement and we started a conversation that went something like this-
"You've been to Bosnia?!"
"Yes, only for a short trip though."
"What did you think of my home?"
"It was so beautiful."
"Yes, very beautiful. You have beautiful eyes."
"Well, thank you!"
"What cities you see in Bosnia?"
"Ah, beautiful city. More beautiful before the war. You see Medjugorje?"
"Yes, it's an interesting place."
So, there I was chatting with my new friend on a street in little old Jefferson City, Missouri. My friend, who must be in his mid to late 50s (at least) jumped back into the truck to bring out a few more boxes while I stayed put on the ground. I told him how I had lived in the Czech Republic for a bit and he quickly quizzed me about why I didn't stay there. I didn't really have an answer and he joked, "You didn't find man to marry?" I laughed and said that I didn't find any rich men. He grinned and said something to the effect of "terrible American girl". I told him I was joking but based on his reaction he was still trying to judge for himself whether I was a gold digger or not before he could take my word for it. He said I needed a nice man not a rich man and asked -
"You are married?"
I have no idea how this delivery ended up with a truck driver I'd never met asking if I had children, but it did. And I loved every minute of it. I didn't mind his bluntness or personal questions. It seemed to me, as it has with many people I've met on my travels that he simply wanted to know me because we shared this connection. I knew his home and shared only a small bit of love for it in comparison to his but it was still a love.
My Bosnian fairy godfather got a little deeper talking about wealth in his country and that many of the people who are rich there are criminals and that things were very corrupt. He said I shouldn't go for the rich men since they're criminals (solid advice in my opinion). 1 point to the Fairy Godfather. And then he told me that before the war things were very good for him. He said he had 3 cars, multiple apartments, and a house. And now he is here in the U.S. and works 14 hour days. But he said he didn't come to the US to be rich. He came to have a life. If I didn't already love this old man, I did now. I won't get into politics but there's a reason so many people want to come to America. For many the American dream is still a dream even if there's no white picket fence or big house but instead simply a safe life and long work days and hope.
But then my friend one upped himself with even more solid dating advice than to stay away from criminals. He told me to go back to his home and find a nice man. And then bring him back here.
"Man from my home don't have big wallet. Have big heart."