28 July 2011

spur of the moment can work {running of the bulls, part II}

This whole trip to France and Spain had been Amie’s idea. She’s a flight attendant for United, which means she has travel benefits and can fly free anywhere—she just has to fly stand-by. This “I’m never sure if I’m going to make it on the plane” thing works well for Amie, who is the most spur of the moment person I’ve ever met.

For example, the first time we met was in Barcelona in 2003. Her younger sister, Katie, and I were studying together in Aix-en-Provence, France, and the two of us had planned a trip through Spain for our winter break. Amie was based in Paris then, so she used those travel privileges and hopped a flight down.

“Kate, I have the most amazing idea: let’s go to Morocco.” I remember this as the first thing out of her mouth after we were introduced—after we got all of those “So nice to meet you” pleasantries out of the way.

“Morocco?!? That’s awesome! Kamiah, do you want to come?”

Here are the things that went through my head before I answered:
  • Can you just pop over to Africa? Don’t you need some kind of paperwork?
  • What about our hostel reservations in Madrid?
  • What about my strong desire to eat churros, that fried Spanish breakfast treat, every day for the next five days?
But Katie and Amie were already discussing the ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar and where to stay and how amazing it would be to go to Morocco. Just think! Casablanca! Spice markets! Camels! A new continent!

And before I knew it, I couldn’t say no. I was sucked into their enthusiasm and their belief that it would all work out—and you know, it did.

Sure there were some anxiety-producing moments, such as when Amie, with her big American grin and ability to strike up a conversation with anyone, managed to get us suckered into a personal tour of Tangiers with a man who had seven teeth. He kept taking us to shops owned by his cousins (so many cousins!), including a rug shop where we were ushered into a private viewing room. The cousin served us mint tea as hand-woven rug after hand-woven—in intricate designs of reds and blues and green—were rolled out in front of us.

I turned to Amie, “How did I go from a girl with a plan to eat churros every day to someone drinking mint tea—this tea could be drugged; did you consider that it could be drugged? And why do I suddenly want to pay $300 for a rug? I live in a dorm!”

Amie whispered back, “Just drink the tea! We can’t refuse their hospitality, so drink!”

Now, eight years later, Amie and I laugh about that trip, and she holds it up to me as proof that things always do work out. We stayed in a four star hotel. We bought pottery in the market. I had lamb couscous for the first time, and I’ve been trying to re-create the recipe ever since.

Spur of the moment can work. I remembered this Moroccan lesson when Amie called me in late May. “Kamiah, I have the most amazing idea. I’ve been thinking about going to Provence in early July to see the lavender in bloom. And I thought, while I’m so close, I could swing into Spain and see the running of the bulls in Pamplona. You should come!”

France! Recently, my Francophile heart had been overrun with French nostalgia and memories from when I had lived there. Lost in everyday life in the Chicago suburbs, I dreamed of pain au chocolat, tiny cups of espresso in cafes on flower-lined streets, and even of French television with its plethora of political talk shows.

Before I knew it, I’d told Amie I would come. To France. In a month.

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