Wow, it’s been forever! As you might or might not know, I’m now living in Austria, not traveling, which might explain the absence of new posts. They are not directly travel-related, but I really want to share a few things that recently happened to me.
Times are a-changing (but hey, they always are, aren’t they?). I don’t know how you’ve been coping with the current world situation, but I find it hard sometimes. All that hatred. All that violence. All that information. BUT sometimes, little things happens that warm my heart and put a big smile on my face for a while. Cheesy but true. I will give you three examples that happened recently, just after I give you a bit of background info: a few months ago, I became friends with a (refugee) family from Afghanistan. One mum and her several children, aged 3 to 18. They are the cutest, brightest kids ever. Not without challenges at times, but just like… lovely children.
At first they, they stayed in emergency shelters, one of them a re-purposed scheduled-to-be-destroyed building in the centre of the city. That is where I first met these children. After a while and with the help of the organisation supporting them, they found a flat. I’m not rich, but I did everything I can to help them out at the beginning, showing them how to find cheap second-hand furniture on the internet, serving as an intermediary, an interpret sometimes, well, helping as well as I could. Then I just ended up visiting them every week, playing with the children, going to the park, drinking tea, eating delicious afghani food and helping preparing it. That’s for the background.
Little Thing #1
The Family had just moved in. I visited them, and luckily, a friend of theirs was here who could do the translation Farsi-English. So I seized the opportunity and ask the mum: “If I could help you with one thing, what would it be? What do you really need?”. She paused for a while then said “I could really use a clock. I never now when I should wake the kids up and send them to school!”. A clock. Who would ever think about that, all over-connected that we are? They did have one smartphone for the all family at the time, always in the hand of one of the teenagers.
So I did a quick search online to find an affordable wall-clock not to far from me. I was hoping for something around 3€, but the cheapest I could find was 10€. I wrote a message. I tried to bargain, considered for a moment if I should throw in the refugee part or not. Well, why not try it? With a little bit of luck, this other person is kind and no fascist (we do have some of these around, unfortunately…)?
So after getting in touch and arranging the picking-up time for the next day, I wrote this:
Fingers crossed. The same evening, I got this answer:“Hi, if this can help, I can throw in another few things like a Benetton winter jacket size 36, a frying-pan, a strainer and pair of shoes. And the clock, I can drop to 7€. Would that be helpful?”.
I was so thrilled upon reading this! It turned out the next evening that this girl was moving out and happy to donate these items, which helped her clear out the flat. The little things…
Little thing #2
After the family was all set up, the teenage daughter started telling me how they would love to have a computer. Financially, buying a computer for them was waaaay out of my range… Until someone reminded me that before leaving for Australia, I had set up my old computer to give it to my flatmates’ grandma. Sadly, she died while I was away – which meant no one was using the said computer. I got it back, spent a few hours setting it up again. Simultaneously, I started looking for softwares to learn German – with a computer, it was going be easy, right? WRONG. It’s very easy to find free resources to learn German IF:
- you already speak English, which they don’t
- you have an internet connection, which they don’t
I did find one little software that looked like fun for the children and would run without internet, but it cost something like 35€. I was rather disappointed. My search had been so unsuccessful. On the right of the page was a contact form titled “Would you like to know more?”. Again I thought “Why not try it? Nothing much to lose!”. So this is what I wrote:“Hi,
I’ll just try my chance: would you be willing to donate one software (KidSpeak) to a refugee family in Austria? I try to help them as much as I can but my own resources are very limited. Someone donated them a computer, and I think some appropriate games for learning German would help them a lot! I know that there are a lot of free online resources, but they don’t have an internet connection. There are 5 children who could benefit from one software. If you could help them out it would be amazing!
I hope you will at least consider doing it .
Looking forward to hearing from you!”
And the next day I got this:“Hello E., Thank you for contacting Transparent Language. We can definitely donate a CD copy of our KidSpeak Multi language pack which includes German as one of the languages. We can’t send you a download version because it would require internet. With the CD it will run the program from the CD itself. What name and address would you like us to ship it to? Kind Regards,
Thrilled, again! I can’t even start to describe how happy I feel when something like this happen. I usually can’t calm down until I have rung up a few friends and told them the story and the good news THERE IS STILL GOODNESS AROUND! Well maybe I’m easy to make happy. But still. Thank you so much Transparent Language . The software did arrive in my mailbox after a few days:
Little thing #3
And lastly, today, this happened. I went to the newspaper store to play the lottery (because yes, that’s my fail-safe strategy to get rich – shush, don’t say anything!). Next to the till, in evidence, was a sort of mandala-bookset, with colouring pen, the whole thing for 1€:
“It’s the one from the ad!”. It took me a few seconds to understand what the women behind the till was talking about: a TV-ad. “It’s very soothing to colour things” she added. “And for just 1€!”. “Well, it wouldn’t be for me, but for some refugee kids. Sure, 1€ is nothing, I’ll take it!”, I said. And while I was looking for change to pay for the colouring book, she suddenly bent down, disappearing under the counter, from where she asked: “Boys or girls, the kids?” and then “What age?”. When she finally straightened up, she had put all these little toys in a paper bag in addition to the colouring-book!
These are the little toys that come with magazines. They surely fell off or something. But still, she didn’t have to do that. I don’t even go there enough for her to know me*. And yet she happily gave these away.
These are the little things that warm up my heart. Little unexpected acts of kindness like these, just because, just like that. Actually, I think the reason why they make me so happy is that they remind me of all my traveling. When you’re on the Road, you’re more likely to be the recipient of similar gestures. And you’re always deeply touched and grateful, because there is often not even a shared language involved. It just… one human being to another.
*my plan is to win the lottery, but I’m not a complete idiot – I know my chances are thin, I don’t play that often!