Allons-y

Two years ago today, I waited in the airport for my flight to Quebec. The night before I hadn’t been able to sleep, probably a combination of the lightning dancing across the walls and anticipation. The idea of traveling to a whole new country terrified me. The thought of being late for my flight frightened me more. So there I was, all alone probably 30 minutes earlier than the group was supposed to meet by the check-in.

Making friends is not my strong suit. I’d sit in the corner and just people watch if I could. The only person I knew going on the trip was my teacher, so I was anxious about that. In fact I was anxious about everything. Looking back, I don’t know how I talked myself into going.

But that scary step led me to one of the greatest adventures of my life thus far. When I stepped on the plane, I had no friends with me. When I returned, I had 10 new ones. Farrah and I still talk at least once a week.

After a brief stop in Detroit, we arrived in Quebec City. The city around the airport could have been anywhere. Everywhere were the bright lights and new buildings that have come to be associated with big cities.

But soon we were in Vieux-Quebec, or the old city. The history of the Quebecois vibrated off the high walls marking the entrance to the historic neighborhood. Cannons still stood from the fight against the British during the Seven Years’ War. The Plains of Abraham where the British defeated the French in 1759 still stand as a park.

Just up the way from our hotel stood the boardwalk. It was always bustling with activity, and nothing could beat the view. Sleep was not an option during our trip, and some of the best memories were watching the sun rise over the river.

There was a little shop around the corner we went almost everyday called L’Epicerie. I think we annoyed the cashier because, as Farrah always pointed out, we were always louder than anyone else. But it didn’t matter, they knew whether or not we were Americans without us saying a word.

I remember toward the end of our trip sitting outside L’Epicerie eating a sandwich. We were exhausted from exploring as much of the city, culture and history as possible. There were about five of us, but for once no one was saying anything. Then a little boy, maybe about 7, walking with his parents, started pointing at us shouting, “Americans a gauche, a gauche!” Which translates to “Americans to the left, to the left.” We immediately started laughing. The boy’s face made it clear he did not expect us to understand him, but it’s funny how even at his age just our mannerisms gave away our nationality.

One weekend, four of us traveled to Montreal, which is a lot more bilingual than Quebec. While there, I was talking to a native of Montreal, and he asked where I was from. I answered, “Mississippi.”

“Oh, that’s the hospitality state, right?” he immediately asked.

I was taken aback, but I quickly affirmed it. So while we may have poor rankings in many categories, our saving grace is that good ole Southern hospitality.

There are a hundred other stories I could tell you. Some I find hilarious that others don’t. When Farrah and I get to talking about our trip, our other friends just start rolling their eyes.

Farrah loves adventure and trying new things. She grew up in the Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and moved to Huntsville when she was in middle school, so maybe she’s been conditioned for it. I, on the other hand, like stability, but that trip was turning point for me. While I’m still reluctant about a permanent change, I learned that some of the scariest things you can do lead to the best memories.

And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

Julia V. Pendley is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. You may email her at julia.pendley@dailyleader.com or mail a letter to her at Julia V. Pendley, Lifestyles Editor, P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0551.

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