After a long, last day at Disneyworld Mike and I sat down at table of the restaurant/bar at our hotel, New Orleans Resort French Quarter, to have a late dinner. When one of the ladies on the next table spilled a drink on herself, much to her disgust and the amusement of her friends, we were pulled into conversation.
These four ladies were nuns, based in different orders around the country now but together again to celebrate, belatedly, a 60th birthday at Disneyworld. Nuns at Disneyworld; it blew my mind in the best possible way.
We talked about Australia's recent military involvement around the world and the role of religion in American politics, the decline of religiousness in Australian society and the impact that has on developing communities, and Mike was quite open about being an atheist. I was a bit apprehensive about that - who tells a nun they're atheist!? - but he was respectful and they were fascinated. They had never met an atheist before and wondered how we could still be such good moral people.
Chairs all pulled together, we had one of those great conversations that make you sad when it's time to say goodbye. And when we eventually did, they offered us a blessing before remembering Mike's beliefs and repeating the sentiment in secular language.
I can be somewhat cynical when traveling, often treating a greeting from a local with caution and a check of my pockets and bags. But while that reaction does have a place, genuine interactions with locals have resulted in some lovely travel memories. From the Egyptian toilet attendant who put a cold compress on my forehead when I had heatstroke to the Japanese gentlemen who all but grabbed my camera and hustled us into a better position for a photo to four American nuns at Disneyworld, sharing kindness and conversation can be wonderful.