This past weekend, Sophia and I made a trip to Amsterdam to meet up with her mom to do some sightseeing. We boarded an international train and were on our way, until there was an “emergency” and we had to switch trains three times. At one station, security guards kept swarms of people away from the platforms for a solid fifteen minutes, telling us that there was another “emergency.” We never figured out what caused all of the disruption. Our way home wasn’t any better. The train that was supposed to take us back to Cologne was cancelled, so we ended up waiting in a train station for two and a half hours. Eight hours later, we finally made it back to our apartment.
From these stories, it may look like I hate public transportation, but I’m really in love with it. The world has never been so easily accessible for me, a young woman without a car. My team mates and I live in the outskirts of Cologne but getting around the city couldn’t be simpler. Trains, buses, and trams are just part of our every day.
One of my favorite things about public transportation is the space it provides for reflection. I love when we are headed home, and I can listen to music or laugh about the day’s events with my team. Sometimes, we hop out at stops and race to the front of the train, one car at a time. It’s also a perfect place for people watching. We even see certain people regularly, from the Greek woman that we had the same conversation with five times in a row because she can’t remember us to the group of young guys who play football (also known as soccer) every Tuesday night. There’s a rhythm to riding the trains, a comfort in knowing that they’re always running, always carrying people somewhere.
This is part of what I love about European culture, that there’s space for pausing even amidst the business of everyday life. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that none of the missionaries we’ve met here have a car. There’s a certain ministry to embracing the differences of another place, of riding the train alongside everyone else. It isn’t a perfect system, but it’s got plenty going for it.