I needn't have packed food for my train to Montenegro.
My cabin-mates were a group of four Grandmothers and one surly looking young man. I sat in the line of fire of a social interaction that transcends cultures: a gossip circle. But, as my position became more awkward, I “relented” and offered to swap spots with adjacent lady in the window seat.
I’m so gracious.
Of course, now I was a legitimate conversation topic and target. My Serbian was non-existent at this point, but one of the women spoke a few words of English. Between hand signs, small words, and my woeful but rapidly expanding phrasebook, we exchanged stories. The ladies were all returning from visiting their respective families. And, the woman who spoke some English had learned it to teach her son, who was now living abroad and doing well for himself— in part— thanks to her early tutoring.
Eventually, I stopped being interesting, and we resumed our former activities. The Grandmothers chatting over their knitwork. The surly young man and I watching the countryside descend into breathtaking mountain passes.
I alternated between dozing and counting tunnels. On their walls were white Charlie Brown zig-zag patterns. The base of the waves were inset cubbies I decided were for emergencies.
The Grandmothers were clearly veteran riders. Every couple hours, they would reach into their bags or stowed luggage to produce sandwiches. The first time, I took this as a reminder to munch on my own dwindling leftovers. But, I was surprised in short order by a proffered meal!
For the remainder of the trip, I was forcibly stuffed like a piñata. My adopted family had decided I was too helpless to be left to fend for myself. And, after bidding farewell to each woman at her stop, the last and I disembarked and hugged partings at Podgorica.