This is the story of how two kind strangers helped me get home to Ireland for Christmas. It was a while ago now, but I remember it all so clearly (mostly because I wrote it all down after it happened - I keep records of everything important that happens to me, and my diaries are goldmines for content now!).
My story begins in Heidelberg, Germany, in 2013. I was working as an au pair for a German couple, caring for their little daughter. Living with someone else's family can be difficult, and my relationship with this couple was strained. Simply put, we had nothing in common, and none of us were happy. They decided it would be best if I didn't come back after my trip home for Christmas.
So there I was, on December 21st, leaving Germany for potentially the last time. I felt desolate. I'd lost my job, I had no plans. I just wanted to get home. I was flying from tiny Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Dublin. To keep my bag under the weight limit, I threw on 6 layers of clothes and set off by train to Frankfurt main station. I arrived at 5pm, with plenty of time for the next stage of my journey. So far, so good. But then things started going wrong...
Outside the train station, I could not find the bus going to Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, which was nearly 2 hours away. I found a sign saying "Shuttle Bus to Frankfurt-Hahn" and stood under it, desperately checking the destinations on every bus that passed me by. No luck. Eventually somebody stopped to tell me this was an old sign. I was in the wrong place. It was past 6pm by then and the bus was long gone. I have problems with anxiety and in these situations, I just break down. I began panicking and crying hysterically. I couldn't go back to my host family! I just wanted to go home!
A passer-by told me I could just get a train to Frankfurt-Hahn airport. I was quite sure this wasn't the case (if there was a train I would have taken it in the first place!). I went into the station to try and figure it out. As I dashed around in a panic, a girl came over to ask what was wrong. Her name was Maureen, she was from Ireland, and she immediately took charge. She helped me and my bags back to the correct shuttle bus stop, as my suspicions were confirmed: there is no train going that way. It turned out the next shuttle bus wasn't for another hour, and was going to arrive at Frankfurt-Hahn at 9:15pm. The gate for my flight was due to close at...9:15pm.
Maureen encouraged me to wait and get the bus anyway. "They'll be used to this kind of thing, they'll know what to do, and you won't be getting any flight if you stay here," she told me. This is not a conclusion I would have come to on my own, in my panicked state. After some hugs and with her phone number in case I needed somewhere to stay in Frankfurt that night, I finally stopped crying and caught the next bus.
On the bus I called my dad to let him know what was going on, and suggested that maybe "if I cry at them" I would still be allowed on the plane. The girl in front of me laughed at this, and we got talking about my predicament. She was only going to Frankfurt-Hahn to be collected by her parents - she was also going home for Christmas and they lived nearby. She decided to go into the airport with me first to help out with the German-speaking bits. She insisted I could stay at her family's house if I wasn't allowed to fly. I couldn't believe my luck. Within two hours I'd been offered two places to stay. I felt much calmer. These girls had my back!
The bus arrived on time and we rushed into the airport to find all the check-in desks were empty. I was about to panic again, but the girl found someone in a little side office who made a few calls for us. I was told it would cost 60 euro to check in a bag late, which I didn't have. But then it emerged that my plane had been delayed by an hour, due to strong winds in Dublin. This meant the bags weren't on yet, so mine could be added without a charge. A label was slapped on it, and off it went, without even being weighed (I wore 6 layers of clothing for nothing...).
I was accompanied to security by my bus friend, who turned out to be called Carol ("your Christmas Carol!") and seeing as nobody else was waiting and it's a tiny airport I was quickly through to my gate. I got to call my dad and text Maureen with this good news, and boarded the plane at 10:15pm with everyone else as if nothing had happened. I was exhausted from all the emotion of the evening, but I still couldn't stop smiling all the way to Dublin.
So there you go. Christmas miracles can come in unlikely forms: those of Maureen, Carol, and adverse weather conditions. Thanks to all three, I made it home! I have never forgotten the kindness of these two lovely young women, and I hope some day I can help a stranded traveler in the same way.