We made a new friend today and probably won’t see him again. I want to remember him here.

Yesterday we traveled for a solid 24 hours. This morning we woke in Narita, flew to Sapporo, and took the train into the city. At every step we’ve had uncertainty, new things to figure out, a language barrier, and stress. Any step that doesn’t succeed could derail the rest.

To reach the hot spring hotel, our first real destination, we had reserved a shuttle bus from Sapporo. We hiked through the city to it, rolling suitcases behind us. But at what we thought was the appointed place and time, there was no such shuttle. So of course we’re on high alert.

We asked two parked strangers if their vehicles happened to be the shuttle bus, and in each case they went out of their way to figure out our problem. The first stranger was driving an unrelated shuttle bus and ceded when the second got involved. The second stranger was taking a break from work, and he believed we needed to be several blocks in the other direction, back at the train station where we started. He took us there in his car. He said he designed structures, waving a broad paper chart. I that took to mean he was an architect or structural engineer.

When he dropped us off, the bus had already gone. We were ready to just figure out another way to get there. But our mystery man showed up again, having parked around the corner. He called the hotel. He called the bus service. He drove us around the block to the main city bus terminal. He quizzed a driver about which bus we needed and where it was parked. A few minutes later we were on the right bus going to the right place.

Sometimes you don’t know you’re among friends until you need one.