Monday, January 22, 2007

Visitors, windstorms and the tornados of Jupiter

This past week our apartment on Ye Old Fishmarket Street became the headquarters of an ex-Rwandan International Aid Effort reunion, as my friend Anna (centre) popped in on a visit from the Increasingly Democratic Republic of the Congo where she is working for the UN. Arriving with her were her Dutch friend Babet (right) from Maastrict and Daniel (left, obviously), another Canadian working in another part of the Congo who came via Paris. All three had met in Kigali a couple of years ago, and continue to be heavily involved in international development work. However, last week they were here: Don’t they look happy? You too can be that happy if you visit!

Never one to pass up an opportunity to boss people around and lecture, I gave them what quickly revealed itself to be a way-too-elaborate tour of Strasbourg – from the Euro-zone to Petit France - which, lacking as I am a car, had to be accomplished entirely on foot and took the better part of a day and a half. I won’t give away any details here (for that you’ll have to visit and take the tour yourselves) but suffice to say the massive windstorms we had in Northern Europe added considerably to the “Strasbourg’s ghost stories” portion of the tour.

The most memorable part for me (aside from being able to hang around with some very accomplished and fun people) was at the restaurant the day we left. Amynah and I took them to a Thai-Laotian place not far from our apartment. We’d been there once before and remembered the service as “pretty good.”

This time, when the waiter (an older Thai man) came to take our order he was immediately entranced by the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual nature of our table. Now, I'm relying on my poor French comprehension here, but it seemed to me that after rubbing Daniel’s belly and telling him he was too thin, he started talking about how we were the “people of the future” and that they would be sending people like us to outer space.

In a bit of lateral thinking, he then started talking about how space was kind of dangerous, because they have big tornados on Mars. Amynah said that she thought it was actually Jupiter, at which point he agreed, and started doing a little twisty “tornado dance.”

That brought him back to the space mission, and he started talking about how much fun it would be to dance in the zero-gravity environment of our multi-racial, inter-stellar party ship. I was tempted to invite him along on the journey, but I’m afraid that it would be a non-smoking flight, thereby keeping him off whatever groovy herbs was on.

In any case, he was so pleased by us he actually chased us outside in the rain after we had paid our bill to shake each of our hands. Amynah and I have been doing “The Tornado Dance of Jupiter” at random intervals and collapsing into giggles ever since.

The food, by the way, was excellent, and the restaurant is now on the “can’t miss” sights of Strasbourg for future visitors.

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