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Fotini Koskolos

Mutual Suffering

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

The train was sweltering. We were traveling from Vienna to France, although this particular train would only take us as far as Germany. Along with our group of 25 and many other miscellaneous travellers, there was a group of 15 or 20 girls. These girls were the catalyst for what I now dub the worst train ride of my life.

For one, they were loud, very loud. As they yelled cheers and sang songs together, I wondered if the consequences for murder were as severe in Europe as they are in North America. They also had no consideration for other people on the train, as they sprayed hair spray and painted their nails in the very confined train that had no openable windows. Luckily none of them sat next to me, instead I was with a different man who’s name I never caught.

We didn’t talk much, maybe 10 words all together, but the bond we formed on that train was one or true suffering, one I will remember for the rest of my life. Misery loves company as they say. It started when the girls sang their first song together; we shared a look of annoyance and both rolled our eyes as our ears were assaulted with multiple high, cheery voices. As the train got hotter, we shared sighs of torment as we fanned ourselves for dear life. When our ears popped from pressure changes, I offered him a piece of gum, the only verbal interaction we had.

In the end I never got his name, I never even learned what language he spoke. Yet in that moment we understood each other; we were comrades in agony. Suffering is universal, regardless of your background, and that day I discovered that you do not need to understand a person’s language to understand them.

Discovery

By | 2016, Asia | No Comments

When I was on the 14 hour flight going from Toronto to Seoul and I was getting hot and cold flashes, I discovered a love for that little fan vent in the ceiling of the airplane. When I was throwing up in the Korea airport and there was a line outside the only working stall, I discovered a loathing for out of order signs.

When I was sick for my first three days in Chiang Mai, sleeping all day on a bed as soft as plywood, watching while everyone else was out exploring an entirely new and different world, eating new food and seeing amazing sights; I discovered a deep longing for my home, for my family, for a hug. When I finally felt better, just in time to move into my homestay, when I managed to eat a plate of my homestay mom’s food and I didn’t throw it up right after, I discovered a sense of gratification, of relief, that I could eat her food and see the smile on her face when I told her it was aroy (delicious)!

I discovered my vulnerability while sitting in a songthaew, watching as the perilous traffic moved around us and scooters zipped in and out of any space they could find. I also discovered bravery (or stupidity, I haven’t quite decided) watching those scooter drivers zip through traffic with no regard to their safety.

Wonder was discovered as I walked around thousand year old ruins and temples, as I looked up into the eyes of a 15 meter tall Buddha statue and felt so small in comparison. I discovered disappointment when I discovered the muffin I’d been waiting all day to eat was already being eaten by an army of ants.

I discovered true friendship every day, when we were out listening to live music and having fun but also when we were stressed and knew we could lean on each other. I also discovered a strength in the others and myself during that time; when we were on a bus for 12 hours, all car sick and grumpy but still holding on, still there for each other.

I discovered God on that trip too; in the busy market full of people shopping and vendors selling food; in the people I met who were so genuinely kind and compassionate. In the biggest and most busy of cities and in the remote jungle with no internet or phone signal. In Thailand and in Laos, I saw Him everywhere. I discovered a lot on my trip, but most importantly, I discovered myself.