In August 2000 I left for a year of studying abroad in Lancaster, England. Before getting to campus I had a 3 day orientation with other students from the University of California chain of schools. While at orientation I found my future Lancaster friends and started getting acquainted with my new ex-pat community.
Between orientation and when the dorms were open for us to show up in Lancaster we had three days with nothing planned. For many, this was thrilling. For me, I was terrified. I resolved myself to take this opportunity to use the phone number my grandmother had given me of family members who lived on the west coast of Scotland, somewhat conveniently located between Edinburgh and Lancaster.
So, from a pay phone I called and asked if I could come to their house and even bring a friend, a friend of all of two days. They obliged and we planned our trip. We took about three different trains, progressively more aged, out of the cities and into the sublime countryside along the Irish Sea. When we disembarked from the train, a young woman, my cousin Sharon, greeted us and drove us to her home. Once there her mother made us tea and sandwiches and sat us in the kitchen. Only well into our lunch snacks did our lovely host, Georgina, sit down, lock eyes with me and say "now how are you related again?"
This to me, was one of the loveliest of all things that I'd ever experienced...to be welcomed into a home and treated so well without even the person 'knowing me'.