I recently reconnected with a dear friend who I've not seen in many, many years - like nine? Wow. My sweet friend Wanida and I had very little time together, but God knit our hearts in a special way and I'm thrilled to be back in touch with her (thank you Facebook!) Wanida and I attended Baylor together and met our sophomore year when we were a part of a touring group of singers. We travelled all over Texas and a few other southern states singing and worshipping the Lord together. At the end of that year, our group did a two week tour in Spain - totally amazing! The first semester of my junior year, I packed up and headed off to Ukraine for four months. Wanida left with a group doing a semester long backpack through Europe. About midway through our semester's abroad, I got a message that Wanida was going to skip part of her group's time in Poland to come stay with me in Kiev. We had a blast for those few days, romping through the streets of Ukraine, hopping Metro's, exploring cathedrals and museum's. We even sang together in one of the Metro stations just to see if anyone would throw money at us. I think we got a couple of kopeks. It had been two months since I had contact with an American and I was so grateful for that time. A couple of weeks after that I decided I wanted to meet Wanida and her group in the Czech Republic. Thus began one of my greatest and most terrifying travel experiences ever.
My host family bought my train ticket to Prague and assured me that it was an express train that would deliver me to Prague in 12 hours. They were wrong. Just in case you're wondering, there is no such thing as an express train in Ukraine or Russia for that matter. After a fairly decent night's sleep on the rocking train, I packed my stuff up and looked out the window, only to feel my heart plummet. The signs at the station we were stopped at were in Ukrainian. This was when I began to suspect I was in for a long trip. I stopped the conductor, a very jovial fellow with rosy Ukrainian cheeks and asked him how long until we got to Prague. He informed me that it was actually a 36 hour train ride. I had not brought any toiletries with me, figuring I'd just borrow Wanida's and I had no snacks and was now completely famished. To make matters worse, they put a young Iranian man in the small compartment with me and he kept trying to get me to sleep with him. Literally, all he could say in English was "I love you," and "Will you sleep with me?" Oh and "Kelli, come down please," which he said over and over in the hopes that maybe I would change my mind and hop in bed with him. Creepy little man. After fighting off his wandering hands for about an hour, I climbed up onto the top bunk and parked my butt there and did not get down for another 8 hours when I thought my bladder would bust. When we finally arrived in Prague he tried to kiss me. I managed to turn my head fast enough to only get a bunch of slobber on my cheek. Then began the adventure of finding Wanida and her group. I had no way of contacting her. But first things first, I had to buy some food, toothpaste and shampoo. I purchased the items and went into the bathroom of a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the heart of Prague and washed my hair in the sink. I've never felt better! Long story short (or shorter, at least) I finally found the group after a full day of wandering, being accosted twice more by foreign men, one who forcefully grabbed my butt (jeez!) and had the time of my life running through that magnificent city for a week. The train ride back was less eventful as the woman in charge of my car was more sympathetic and let me have the room to myself the whole time.
After that semester, Wanida did not come back to Baylor. At least not for school, she did come to visit. But God had a different path for her. And now, she is on another journey with her husband of four years and I am so in awe of what they are doing - that's why I've shared all this - well, that and I've been reminiscing. Wanida and Joe left the US in Feburary and have been travelling the globe, searching their hearts, feeding their minds, chasing their dreams and pursuing God. They have now settled down for a little while in Amman, Jordan. You can read about their journey on their blog, In The Company of Humanity. I would encourage you to visit it and be blessed. It's really cool what they are doing. Wanida, I'm so grateful that the Lord gave us precious times together. I can't wait to see you again someday and hear first hand all the things you are learning!