A sunny though bitterly cold March day precluded our usual walk. I decided to tidy the closet by the entry instead and smiled when I discovered them. Our travel umbrellas were at the back of the shelf, there since our last trip several years ago. The compact devices, perfect for tucking into a bag, delivered much more than expected the last time my husband and I used them.
The temperature was different that day in late spring. We had spent the day in Budapest, exploring the city, including a tour, sightseeing on our own and trying some delicious food. We were ready to head back to Vienna, an exciting place in itself. Meanwhile, the skies had opened and it poured but we had umbrellas.
We stood under the eave of an old building although it was raining so hard our feet were soaked from the water pouring off the overhang and the umbrellas. Meanwhile, a young Muslim couple came and stood in front of us, getting soaked as they waited with the group. I tapped her on the shoulder and invited them to share our umbrellas.
They accepted the offer and we conversed with them while we waited for the bus. The eventual ride back to Vienna became more interesting than any tour could provide. They were a young Kuwaiti couple; he was a student of engineering in Cardiff, Wales and like us, they were in Vienna on vacation, taking day trips to neighbouring cities. She put her career on hold while he completed his degree.
Luckily for us, there was a huge traffic jam that day and the trip back to Vienna was much longer than scheduled. This gave us more time to talk which was great. We learned about life in Kuwait, how it compares to other Arab countries and the couple’s experience in Cardiff. My husband and I had been to Cardiff the previous year so we shared our experiences as well. We talked about life in Canada and our part of it, Newfoundland, at that time.
Our lives were similar. While our cultures, religious beliefs and environments were different, it soon became evident how much we had in common. Family was as important to them as it was to us. They valued Art, Music and Literature as well as Science and History like we did. What made us similar was so much more than what separated us.
Borders meant nothing to us. Politics and religion weren’t an issue. Learning about each other's lives was all that mattered. The world expanded for us through the lives of two wonderful young people who accepted the offer to share umbrellas. We would share them again in a heartbeat.