In a quaint coffee shop on an obscure street in the Hague, where a healthy, regal, pure black cat was sprawled on a table at the entrance as if we were all here specifically to pet her:
Barista: What will you be having? – the Dutch are largely plagued with the curse of direct translation, an inevitable effect of being multilingual. We were the only clients in the early morning Sunday chill, so he and his partner took particular care in crafting our selections.
“Where are you from, you have an accent.” his partner pointed out to our trio.
We all shared a look because we were thinking the exact same thing, his accent was tainted with some Arabic sounding spice, as was his hair.
“Kenya.” We said unanimously.
“Oh!” Some realisation crept onto his now animated face. I thought he was going to tell us he had a friend in Mali he’d like us to pass greetings to. I truly misjudged him.
“The runners!” he said, looking at his friend, but addressing us. He said it in an almost smug, boastful way. He said it as though he had a one up on his friend for knowing this particular fact about us and our people. It was particularly funny to me because I only run when there is a life or death emergency that requires me to change a strut into a sprint, in which case, I can get my Kemboi on…otherwise…
“The runners.” We repeated.
“From the North or South?”
“The East.” My companion responded. “Mombasa?” she posed it as a question, as a trigger word. He didn’t seem to know what she was talking about.
We moved to our table and they followed us. We were soon to discover these men were originally of Moroccan descent, but had grown up in the Netherlands. Also that they were determined to learn more about the motherland – and three friendly, chatty Kenyan girls were an ideal connect to the narrative.
The cat, now feeling ignored, stretched itself out in a way only an expert yogi or a cat can, bore it’s tiny teeth, licked its lips, and paraded across the room to come and settle where we had gathered, unwilling to be left out.
“Excuse me, we are trying to get to Amsterdam sir.”
Our first night in a cold and unfamiliar place, yet we were determined to make it to the city lights. It wasn’t easy to get here, to be honest. We were staying in the deep green of a village bordering the Hague, our destination, nearly sixty kilometres away.
Seven is the number of completion, I cannot be more convinced. Seven girls – nearly twenty four hours of flights and layovers in – walked an hour through streets none of them had ever seen before, in temperatures were unaccustomed to dealing with, wait for it….
To reach a bus.
The bus would take us twenty minutes away to a train station, where we met the kindest, random stranger…
“How many tickets to Amsterdam?” he asked us.
As the eight of us boarded the train which he directed us to because luckily he was on the same mission, a few of us gathered instinctively to sit around our kind saviour, even fewer bothering to carry the conversation beyond a ‘thank you.’
Those of us who did discovered that his kindness seeped into who he was as a person. He turned out to be a refugee agent, whose entire workday consisted of settling refugees into the Dutch culture, finding them homes, schools and jobs, teaching them the language…
He was an integrator. He had somehow managed to integrate us and made our lives a little easier.
Our angel on our way back was an intimidatingly tall, brown haired lady who found us huddled together at the last stop of the train station, looking for a taxi home. As we approached her, her face broke out in such a welcoming smile that transposing to basic, repetitive English for a necessary conversation didn’t seem like too much of a task.
“Where are you off too?” she asked us, proceeding to have a two minute long conversation in Dutch with our trusted steed to be (the incoming taxi driver).
Within minutes we were on our way home, tired but toasty, ready for the rest of our adventure.
Every memorable interaction we have is inseparable from the conversations surrounding it. This is how we enter the worlds of those we may otherwise have no connection to, how we connect.
Every lifelong friendship and the deepest bonds, are all built on good conversations.
For those who are willing to ask, but more importantly, for those who have the discipline to listen, there is always something to gain.
For #FEATURED FRIDAY, Tasha Teyie ‘s mind is a Gold Mine!