Around this time five years ago, I sat alone in an Austrian hostel, full on good schnitzel but empty on ideas of what to do next. I had left my nonstop, action-packed world of being a college junior to spend a term working in Switzerland on my own, and which was a big leap of independence for me. I had even upped the ante for myself a step further by flying out two weeks before my internship in Zurich was to start, with vague ideas of playing squash in Eastern Europe. This was as adventurous as it got for me.
All those ideas sounded good on paper, but as I sat with my bags in the hostel lobby, the reality of being alone without a plan started to sink in. As I putzed around on the public computers in the hostel lobby, hoping that Facebook would give me an answer of what to do, Kim Taylor and Rachel Capizzi sat down next to me.
Kim and Rachel were New Zealand natives both teaching at an international school in Germany, and had just begun their Easter vacation that night in Vienna. They were headed to Slovakia the next day and then through Hungary en route ultimately to Romania to see a friend in Brasov.
I was in desperation mode and saw my opening about thirty seconds into the pleasantries that that started with something like, "hey cool computer screen what's your name are you on Facebook I'm from America can we be friends?" I stepped it up a notch with the Hail Mary and casually suggested we combine travel itineraries (mine was nonexistant, so it wasn't going to be hard).
Kim and Rachel took a chance on me (worth noting that "Taken" was still a couple years away from being released in theaters) and the next two weeks would become the highlight of my term abroad, and of my junior year, for that matter. When we ended in Bucharest, Romania, I found a Communist-era court in the basement of a hotel and after a few games, was asked by the gym manager to stay and coach the local squash community for a few more weeks.
My answer stuck with me for the years since that day- I had to say no, given my program in Zurich starting the next day and my big "junior summer" internship on Wall Street coming up after that. But I told myself then I would find a time later on to put myself in a position where I could say yes to coaching in Bucharest, or just saying yes to whatever random thing it was that came up.
I'm finally in a position to say yes to coaching in Bucharest, and when I moved to Auckland the other day, I reached out to Kim to say thanks. I vaguely remembered she was back in New Zealand, but we hadn't been in touch since 2009 so I wasn't sure.
The kicker of the story is that when we connected, we learned that Kim is indeed back in New Zealand, and lives in the same city, Auckland, that I'm based out of this month. Within Auckland, Kim lives in the same neighborhood, One Tree Hill, as me. As it turns out, Kim lives down the street (literally) from my current homestay.
My new neighbor came by and showed me around the city tonight. I thanked her again for letting me tag along when we met at the computer terminals in Vienna five years ago.