Last Sunday or so, the prompt over at Sunday Scribbles was "How I met my ____". I immediately thought of the time both Gabe and I answered this question when asked how we met each other. Instead of posting it as soon as I thought of it though, I decided to wait until today. I've known Gabe for six years today.
How I met Gabriel by Alix
It was 3 years ago. I had decided to do my second year of university abroad. My school had a program called a Canadian Year in Freiburg, which was an exchange to Germany. I had been taking German for several years, and the opportunity to live in Europe was very appealing so I applied and got into the program.
The program works through 4 of Canada's major universities, so in total about 20 Canadian students from across Canada arrive in Freiburg each year on the program. All 20 of them (no matter if they are from Vancouver or Newfoundland) take the same flight over to Germany.
A couple of weeks before our flight, we started to exchange emails with the group - introducing ourselves before we met in person. I forget what my introduction email was like, but I remember Gabe's. Now, without disclosing his last name, I'll just say that his name is distinctive if you know popular TV culture. So, that caught my eye, as well as the fact that he frequently made typos. The email itself ranged from explaining how a lightening storm had fried his modem, to admitting that he knew we'd make fun of his name, to describing his physical appearance so we could recognize him at the airport. Needless to say, the email made me laugh, and I pictured someone who was far from ordinary. There were also other emails, a Bermudian girl that sounded strange, and a Quebecois, who I couldn't tell if they were a guy or a girl (damn french names :p)
So, the day came where we all arrived separately at Pearson airport in Toronto. It was September 9th, 2002. My sister, who lives right close to Toronto, came to the airport to say goodbye. She brought her 1 year old daughter and her newborn son along too. Now, my niece must have sensed that I was going somewhere, because she refused to let anyone carry her except me. So, there I was standing in line to check my bags, carrying a kid that kept pulling down the neckline of my shirt, while I could see the other students arriving behind me or waiting after being checked in.
I saw a student wearing a black hat walk by, and I knew that was the fellow named Gabe, because of the email he sent. He was talking to a very Scandinavian-looking guy. He didn't see me, but I immediately thought that he was much shorter than I had pictured, and also much more normal looking.
I lost sight of the other students for bit, and then I saw a friend of mine who was also doing the exchange, he was standing with Gabe and the other guy and he waved me over. (my sister held my place in line). So I went over, still carrying my niece, and my friend introduced me to Gabe and Lukas. We shook hands, but because my niece was getting restless, I couldn't stand there for long (plus she kept pulling down the neckline of my shirt and I was worried it would get embarrassing.) I explained that she was my niece, so they wouldn't think she was mine...and then I returned to my sister.
Now, it's important to explain that I have a very distinctive laugh, so when I laughed when we were introduced, Gabe thought I was nervous...he discovered soon after that I just always laugh like that.
So, after checking in, it was another hour or so before I went through the metal detectors after saying goodbye to my family. As I was going through, I saw a Gabe and another student behind me in line, so I waited until they passed through the metal detectors so we could walk to the departure gate together.
The other student quickly walked ahead of Gabe and I, so I soon found myself walking with only Gabe. Gabe told me it was his first time going to Europe. I said that I had been there once before, so if he had any questions, I might be able to help him out. Then for lack of anything better to say, I told him that this was going to be the longest time I had ever spent away from my family (since I couldn't come home for Christmas). Gabe put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Don't worry, I'll take care of you!"
How I met Alix by Gabe
It's interesting to see how Alix's saw her side of the story, especially since some things were similar for me.
Alix also has an interesting, unconventional name that might confuse others as to whether she was a guy or girl; but that was cleared early on when the group sent e-mails before leaving for Germany.
I also imagined Alix differently, more of a wild girl with coloured hair and loves to party. I was sure in for a surprise
When I arrived in Toronto, I was the very first to be there, so I ended up wandering around a lot waiting for the others. I wasn't very concerned because I wear a black bandanna under my black hat, which sort of looks like what Zorro wears (but mine isn't as wide). Thus, I expected others to spot it and act as a beacon to gather the others.
The first to meet me were these two tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed guys from Vancouver. Needless to say, I felt very short around them, but at least the group was getting together.
When more of them showed up, eventually one of them pointed out a group of the others waiting in line. That's when I saw Alix with a baby in her arms. When they were called over, we made quick introductions, and I actually tore my trench coat pocket when I tried to take my hand out too quickly to shake hands with Alix. I don't think anyone noticed, the airport was fairly noisy. Anyway, Alix looked so much quieter and serene than I had imagined, despite how nervous she seemed to me at the time. I assumed it was about the flight...it was, after all, the first year just after 9/11, and we were flying on 9/9...
Eventually, people who were leaving from Toronto (I had left from Moncton) said their goodbyes to their families and hopped into the security checks. Alix had waited for us and walked with us to our gate. I don't have much of a good memory, and don't remember what we talked about on the way, but I do remember when Alix was walking next to me and admitted that she hadn't been separated from her family for very long before. I already thought she looked pretty nervous, then saying something like that, I wanted to make her feel relieved. So, with a big smile and a light tone, I told her: "Don't worry, I'll take care of you!" Trying to be knightly, you know?
And that's how I met Gabe. I find a lot of people don't understand our friendship, but I assure you that I think I'd be a much worse person if Gabe wasn't around. He actually DOES take care of me - mostly by keeping my head on my shoulders. At this point though, if someone doesn't understand our friendship, I don't think they ever will. They'll either have to take my word for it or just learn to keep their mouth shut. We're nothing if not loyal to the friendship.
I should point out that Sept 9th/10th, 2002, was also technically the first day I met Amy and Max (who were the strange Bermudian girl and the Quebecois guy), but they didn't make an impression on me until the days that followed - that first day they were just faces with names.