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Kindness of Strangers

In late April 1980, I traveled to France to begin a year studying the French language. I flew to England and took the train/ferry/train to Paris (I was poor) where a friend was to meet me. On the train, I had made acquaintance with several people, one of whom was a young Japanese man who had just finished his studies in Germany and was travelling before returning to Japan.

My friend, unfortunately, was confused as to the date of my arrival and was not at the train station to meet me, as I had expected. When I called his home, his mother, who spoke no English, answered. She understood who I was, but I didn't understand where my friend was. My new Japanese friend refused to leave me stranded. He got out his well-used copy of Europe on Ten Dollars a Day, in Japanese, and helped me find a hotel near the train station, and even went with me to make sure that it would be OK. I don't remember his name and I never saw him again, but he was a Godsend!

The people at the hotel were kind enough to call my friend's mother back and give her the telephone number at the hotel, and my friend came the next day with many apologies for having been out of town when I arrived. This experience turned out to be the beginning of a great adventure for me: I studied for a year and liked France enough that I found a job there with Petroleos Mexicanos and worked 2 more years before returning to the US in late 1983.



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