How an Andalusian fortune teller didn’t change my life (Final thoughts from Spain)

Posted by Chloë Lai & filed under Travel.

Fortune teller in Granada (Credit:
Fortune teller in Granada (Credit:

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It’s been twelve days since a retired cruise ship doctor taught me how to buy a train ticket from the vending machines at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Bajaras airport. Since that day, I’ve slept an average of four hours a night; there’s just too much music to dance to, too many people to meet and too much beauty to be in awe of. At this point, I’m running on fumes and Spanish sunshine.

It’s time to go home.

But how can I leave Spain, a country so full of unexpected adventures? Case in point: After my wonderful morning at the Alhambra, I was accosted in the street by a woman who pressed a handful of fresh rosemary into my map-holding hand. A fortune teller! Pointedly ignoring my discomfort, she grabbed my free hand (while I, at the mercy of years of Canadian socialization, stood perfectly still and murmured “No, thank you”) and unleashed a stream of Spanish words so rapid, it felt like I was trying to listen to a rap song in fast-forward. Based on her one-handed gestures (the other hand being used to pin me in place) she mostly seemed to be telling me how beautiful I was. At the rate she was going, I figured she’d be done soon. The easiest thing to do would be to wait her out.

Fresh sprig of rosemary. Just add magic. (Credit:

Fresh sprig of rosemary. Just add magic. (Credit:

Then she switched things up.

Gazing over my right shoulder, which is presumably where the mysteries of the future were being projected by the president of the fortune-tellers’ audiovisual club, she started circling her left hand over her belly in ever-larger circles. Her eyes locked onto mine and her voice grew louder. I suddenly recognized the words “bebé” (baby) and “fértil” (fertile). She was predicting a pregnancy. Her hand gestures grew more exuberant. Maybe several pregnancies. Triplets? My imaginary maternal instincts kicked into gear: Anyone who’s ever read Rumpelstiltskin knows it’s a bad idea to let total strangers have anything to do with your unborn children.

Throwing my head back, I said “No, THANK YOU” as firmly as I could, returned her rosemary and fled.

Back in the safety of the hostel kitchen, a quick Google search of Andalusian fortune tellers turned up a heart-warming anecdote from Canadian author Aga Maksimowska. Standing on the very same cobblestones as I, at about the same age, she too was approached by a rosemary-sprig-wielding fortune teller. Like me, she dismissed the woman’s predictions. Unlike me, however, she actually understood what the woman was saying…so when it came true a decade later, a believer was born (as was an enormously adorable baby girl).

The cobblestone streets where it all happened. (Credit: Chloë Lai)

The cobblestone streets where it all happened. (Credit: Chloë Lai)

As you know, I don’t speak a lick of Spanish. This language barrier had already gotten me into an interesting situation at a Madrid nightclub a few days earlier. What I didn’t realize was that it also meant I’d be deprived the magical experience of knowing whether my fortune teller’s energetic game of Charades ever came true.

Will my someday-child be a girl or boy? Will they have the expected number of fingers and toes? Will they be ginger? Only the fortune teller knows.

Or maybe she doesn’t. For all I know, she was complimenting my fertile imagination and my bloated post-snack ‘food baby’ belly. Anything’s possible.

Falling asleep on the bus back to Madrid, the first of many steps on my road back to Vancouver, I found myself thinking about the fortune teller again. Her firm grip, the intensity of her gaze. The look on her face when I turned away from the answers she had offered. Answers that may very well have been accurate. I would never know. I closed my eyes and smiled. The greatest thing about traveling, and life, is the not knowing. Who will you become? Where will you end up? Who else will be there?

Like all the other people who have ever read the last page of a novel first, or found out what their Christmas presents were before December 25th, I know that it’s always more exciting to let things reveal themselves in their own time.

It’s only an adventure if you don’t know how it ends.

About Chloë Lai

Chloë Lai
Chloë is a Vancouver-based writer who has lived and worked on several continents. She has degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing, because it seemed like the best way to emulate James Herriott without becoming a country vet.

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