For the city that hosts the congress of nations, Deqla looks surprisingly uncrowded to the eye. The streets are all relatively wide, letting in plenty of sunlight and allowing sufficient of room for bicyclists and pedestrians to coexist with public transport and delivery trucks, while only a handful of buildings cap out over ten stories tall. It was a city that was designed by people who knew what the future would look like, and had plenty of budget to make whatever was needed to further Aramaia's status on the world stage to visiting diplomats and dignitaries happen. Further away from the congress and the local universities, the work is rather less extravagantly maintained, but even the side streets are well lit and relatively clean to help keep crime statistics down. What they don't have is a lot of people in them on early weekday afternoons, which makes the fact that her appearance is completely unobserved a bit less unusual.
Potatoes, onions and garlic are a good start for commonalities. She'll help out with the ones she knows.
"Those are some nice knife skills. Did you ever work at a kitchen or did you pick those up on your own?"
Sophie blinks at the question, then looks down at the difference between how much they'd each chopped so far.
"Ah, I guess I've just got a knack for it? I don't think I did anything special, just practice a lot, but I guess at some point I got pretty good at it. The misfits - ah, that's the friend group Karen and I are in - can get pretty competitive."
"Well, I'll do my best to keep up without injuring myself or your lovely potatoes."
She returns to her work.
Then the two of them can finish up pretty quickly and, after adding it to a broth in a large pot, set it to cooking. Sophie winds up a little clock that seems to be in use as a timer.
"Do you mind if I put on the news?"
"Normally I don't watch it because it stresses me out, but for getting my bearings in a strange country I would love to hear it."
Then they can be treated to a newscaster talking about instability in the kingdom of Metaxia due to the recent health issues of their king and what this might mean for their neighbor Semdal's rubber exports. Throughout the topic, there's quite a bit of subtle - and some not so subtle - disdain from the anchors for the fact that the country in question is so backwards as to have a monarch, and discussion of how likely it is that Aramaia might need to send peacekeepers to prevent a humanitarian crisis if he passes. The latter speculation is accompanied by a surprising (or perhaps unsurprising, depending on your priors) lack of attention for the actual people that this crisis would be effecting if it materialized compared to the political impact.
Interesting. So there are still a few surviving monarchies. It seems like this whole place is around vaguely the 80s or something? She doesn't remember when the last monarchy fell on Earth and it just became dictatorships instead.
It's definitely a different planet at this point.
It's good to see that rubber's around. The cars were a big hint but this has brought it more to her attention.
None of the rest of the news seems to get as much focus and speculation from the anchors, but over the next three quarters of an hour she can hear about the weather (raining this evening starting a bit before sundown, and then clear for the next 3 days before some fog and a light drizzle is expected), what the expert odds look like for Deqla University’s woman’s swimming team winning winning regionals (not incredible, but good enough that they shouldn’t be counted out), and a scandal where a deputy department head was caught taking compensation in exchange for approving some potentially undertested technologies for sale, the last of which produces a possible exaggerated shudder of horror from the reporter relaying it.
Then there’s a sound of a ringing bell.
”Sounds like the food’s done!”
That last one sounds like it could be a problem for her with her alien phone and all, if that's the kind of thing the locals think about technology.
"Wonderful. I'm excited to try it."
The food is approximately as advertised; it tastes noticeably different from its earth equivalent, but not so much so that you couldn't imagine it just being an unusual recipe or a regional cuisine.
Unless Amaranth signals that she's in the mood for conversation, Sophie will try to oblige her with just some companionable silence, though about halfway through that decision will clearly start to break down and she'll start making some small talk about her classes at university.
"It's fine, no need to be quiet for my sake. I don't have a lot to say but I can listen fine."
Probably her own field of education is a little too fraught to bring up, but she can talk about the myths her old college had about the library sinking from not accounting for the weight of the books and its local sculptures and so on.
Judging by her responses, Sophie's never heard that particular chestnut, and she's pretty good at being an attentive listener. With Amaranth's permission acquired she can share some stories from her own school as well, like how their mathematics department spent decades at odds with their peers from the capital over who first solved the cubic equations only for archeologists to find proof that the ancients had discovered it most of a millenia before either of them and used it in their engineering.
That's cool! She can listen along and make appreciative noises.
She should probably check out a local university catalog, seeing what fields and courses there are might be helpful to her. Not that she says that.
What she does say is that she should plan to continue her education eventually - how can she get a hold of a copy of the local university's calendar, do they have a registrar's office she could go to?
"I don't have a copy of the academic calendar on me; they hand them out every year, but I always end up losing mine. Uh, the fall semester starts in about a month but I'm not sure how far in advance you need to register for it, I assume it's probably still possible because I have three more weeks to change my classes if I have to before I need to pay a fee? And sure, we can stop by admissions tomorrow. I'm not sure what hours they keep on weekends but probably if we drop by around noon they'll be open pretty much no matter what it is."
Oh no, Sophie's being helpful when she only has half the context. Lindsey kind of wants to disappear.
"I doubt I'd be able to register, but it'd be helpful for getting to know the country at least."
"I'd say that reminds me of Gemma, but really what she'd do if she wanted to get to know another country she suddenly found herself in would be bury herself in a library deep enough we'd need excavation equipment to get her back. Education would definitely be the second priority, though.
"On an only tangentially related note, do you usually eat dessert after dinners where you're from? I don't exactly have an amazing selection at the moment, but there's at least cookies or ice cream."
She ducks her head. "Usually that's a special thing with my family, but I could definitely use something sweet after the day I've had."
Then Sophie can get Amaranth her choice of snickerdoodles, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate chip cookies; she takes one of the first herself.
"Normally I also have chocolate ice cream but someone finished it off last time they dropped by and didn't tell me, so that's going to have to wait until I go shopping."
She'll take a chocolate chip cookie, then.
"Said someone being Karen?"
"That's the one, yes. Sometimes it's Jaron but it's always one of those two and she stops by more often. I take it you've seen her eat?"
"We went out to a - I forget the name of the cuisine, spicy seafood - place before I came over here. I never saw her take a single bite and yet somehow her food disappeared mighty fast."
"Well, now you know she's always been like that. We always used to joke that anyone could do the impossible, it just required too many calories, but these days I'm pretty sure they're unrelated."
"She does impossible things often, then?"