Amanda poked at her pasta with a fork, the first course of the pilgrim meal. The little bits of ground meat mixed into the tomato sauce worried her; this was not something she would eat back home but she was hungary in the same way that camping creates a hunger that makes anything taste delicious. She dug in.
Amanda was seated at a large round table with eight others. To her, it was like a staged sampling of white people across the globe, there was the couple from Denmark, the guy from Australia, two older men from france who were elegantly slender and seemingly gay, the loud blonde woman from South Africa, a stout German woman with a crew cut, and young girl from the Netherlands. Amanda was the twenty-something girl from the United States, although she hoped to defy all stereotypes her european company concievably held against her but maybe less so now, she thought, than compared to the Bush years.
The table spoke fluent english to one another, and occasionally the foreign couples would breakout into their native tongues, which seemed sneaky and suspicious to Amanda as though they were violating some de facto law. She only spoke English since her foreign language studies were devoted primarily to Latin as per the direction of her parents who thought it would be advantageous to Amanda´s medical profession. Amanda convinced herself that the English was spoken out of courtesy to the South African woman who seemed more like the kind of American Amanda was expected to be -loud, boisterous, lacking a general self awareness, and certainly mono-lingual. This diposition coupled with a British-sounding accent made South Africans seem intollerable to Amanda.
After the main course of head-less trout and translucent french fries came the dessert, a little plastic cup of chocolate pudding. Amanda liked this; she loved these as a kid, often bartering her chocolate milk from her hot-lunch with the kids who brought packed lunches to school, all of which seemed by default to include pudding snacks. Amanda was a hot-lunch kid because her mother didn´t have time to make a packed lunch and her father calculated that the schools lunch was a cheaper option than buying grocery store junk. So for eleven years, until Amanda got her driver´s license, she ate mostly pizza, tater-tots, vita-pups, and milk in small cartons.
"So where do you come from?" The South African asked Amanda as she had done with half the table already.
"New York, I´m from New York." Amanda said.
"Ooooh..." the woman said delighted. "New York must be wonderful, and you came all the way here for the camino! How lovely!" Amanda nodded without words and looked into her desert cup as she cleaned the walls with her spoon for the last bit of pudding. "And what do you do in New York?" The woman continued.
"Um, right now, nothing. I just graduated from college." Amanda said.
"Oh, where did you go to school?" The woman pressed.
"I went to a small college out East, you probably haven´t heard of it."
"Oh that sounds wonderful, and what did you study there?" She asked.
"Psychology" Amanda said as though she were asking a question.
"Well, I guess you can tell me.." The lady leaned over her plate closer to Amanda "..will all this walking alone make me go crazy?" The woman aksed.
Amanda smiled a conciliatory grin. "Maybe..maybe."
The South African woman turned her attention away from Amanda and addressed the table generally. "I find the trail to be so lonely at times. To think, I walked for an entire day without saying anything more than Buen Camino is preposterous! Thank goodness for these pilgrim meals." The lady said as she broke into a self-induced chuckle. "Let us raise our glasses...and may I remind you to drink up." She elbowed one the gay frenchmen and whispered "The wine is complimentary, you know?" She spoke up again. "Okay, here is to a lovely Camino with friends from all over the world! Salut! Prost! Cheers! What else do you all say?" Everyone swayed their glasses in the air and looked around the table at one another and drank.