Travel - Europe

The Symbols and Signs

21. Milan, Italy

(Actual Trip Date: September 25, 2010)

I didn’t get to see much of Milan due to several different reasons. Here starts an epic story and an epic ending to our midterm break.

Upon arriving at the Milan train station and saying good-bye to my cousin, we realized we didn’t have any solid directions to our hostel. Deciding to take some random buses to try and get close to the location, we ended up in sketchville. With the night becoming late, we started to panic, especially since none of our phone calls were going through to the hostel. And to add to our unfortunate situation, most of our phones were dying.

Fears were escalated and people starting to feel like they needed to break down. But we couldn’t because panic could only send a situation in a downward spiral.

Something happened that night that I haven’t seen since a peculiar scene in the library during my freshmen year of college. God spoke to us in actions that night.

As the bus settled to a slow in sketchville and then completely stopped before turning off its engines, deciding it was done for the night, we noticed another bright yellow bus across the street flashing the words of the train station. All we wanted to do at this point was get back to the Milan Central Station for lucky for us, it was quite a lively and illuminated area.

Hearts racing wildly and minds racing through options, we landed back at the station running into every obstacle possible. Buses were sketch. Taxis would split our large group apart. No one, even the police, really knew what hostel we were talking about. Everything was chaos as our hands trembled. Ambling back into the train station and depositing ourselves in a large, restless heap of backpacks and tired bodies near a shop, we sat and thought about our options.

Our other friends weren’t picking up their phones and at this point, we could not get internet or any solid directions from anybody to get to our hostel. The night was turning late and we couldn’t trust the buses to take us anywhere at this point. We came to the conclusion that we could possibly be sleeping at the train station that night. As we sat there, dwelling internally on the pros and cons of β€œsleeping” at the train station and taking turn as guards throughout the night, God spoke to us again in an unusual sign I never saw coming.

A mere two feet away from us we watched a ragged-down man reach over and grope an elderly lady happening to be passing by. It was definitely more of a groping action than a pickpocketing action, and we gaped in shock as we saw the lady fall down in utter disbelief before righting herself, point an accusatory finger at the man, before gathering her graces and walking away. The man held up two gullible yet innocent hands, eyes wildly darting left and right before ashamedly walking away. It was as though some spirit had come over him to provoke him to such vulgar actions and he was barely conscious through it.

At this point, one of my friends decided it was time to get any hotel. It was not safe to stay in the train station. I continued to gap at my backpack, utter disbelief at what I saw shattering in my mind over and over again. It never truly registered to me to get out of the train station until my other friend pointed it out that the last train left around midnight and by then, the station would be deserted.

Emboldened suddenly, we grabbed our bags and headed towards the nearest hotel. As some of my friends went inside to figure out the price and book the rooms, I stood outside looking forlornly and reflectively back at the train station where we almost foolishly stayed at.

And right then and there was when God confirmed it all. When he reassured me that we had made the right decision and this was where he wanted it. The moment was amazing, unexpected, unbelievable, odd, peculiar, but eloquent.

As I continued to blink at the train station, the same groping man walked by me, gave me a blank, swift but deep glance before disappearing around the hotel’s street corner. The rapid move startled my heart into a jumpy rhythm. And as my friends came out to tell me that everything was booked and everything was going to be okay, and as I handed them my bags in order to start operation-sneak-myself-in, I couldn’t help but replay that scene over and over in my head again.

We were safe. We were fine. This was where we were supposed to be.

And so many minutes later with warm McDonald (only thing close around) food swirling in my stomach, clean, hot-showered body in fresh (well not so fresh from a week of traveling) pajamas, and my dark brown tendrils wet, drying against my shoulders and backs, I leaned against the window, looking from the fourth or sixth floor of our hotel at the slowly deserting station. It was a miracle we were here.

I joined my hands with a couple friends in a thankful prayer and climbed into a soft bed, awaiting complementary breakfast the next morning.

I have to say I have never been more proud of the other six girls in my group that night. We all played our part so well in this situation of panic. After a week of traveling and pent-up stress, all of that managed to wash away in a time of crisis. No one blamed each other and everything somehow managed to flow smoothly despite the trouble we had. People stepped into the game and kept others who are normally calm, well, calm. We gave each other meaningful, comforting looks, chanted prayers, placed comforting hands on each others’ shoulders.

It was trust, patience, and love coming out to play. Those qualities I addressed some days ago in Florence. This was the test of the strength of our friendship and we passed with flying colors.

To my six friends who traveled with me in Milan and kept everyone up right and strong, all I have to say to you now is that I am forever and more grateful to have you all as my beloved friends.

Nothing will ever change that.

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