my week of nations

You never know who you’re gonna meet once you start talking to him or her. My week was looking like a travelogue of nations united.

Megan is my go-to person for all things related to painting fingernails and toes. I paid her a visit one Monday morning. We got to talking about business, customers, how long she’d been there. She recalled an incident where a customer’s English got lost in translation. She chuckled as she told me she needed to step in as translator. I assumed she was Korean as I believed the staff to be. My assumption was incorrect. Megan is Mongolian and so are some of her co-workers. She picked up some Korean working with her fellow Korean co-workers.

“Mongolia? Do you ever get back home, to visit, to show your kids where you came from?”

“Nooo,” she said emphatically, “it is very far away and very cold and really there is
nothing there,” she continued in halted English.

“Do your kids speak Mongolian or the dialect from where you lived?”

“Little bit, we speak mostly English. The kids are very American.” I knew what she meant – pizza, baseball, hanging out, movies.

Off to the gym Tuesday morning. My visit was two-fold. I was going to work out and work on a feature essay on first-time runners for a local magazine. I needed to talk to Lee, who with her husband, head up the local Runners Club. Both are Korean as well as the Club members and participants of an early morning exercise class for runners.

Wednesday night a few of my neighbors got together after work to say goodbye to a family who were moving. There’s just a handful of us left who have been living on our short street for 15 years or more so when one of them moves, we feel compelled to get together to say goodbye. Present at our cocktail hour(s) were a Japanese wife and her Persian husband, a Korean husband and his Iranian wife, and an Eastern European couple I had only met once before. After some conversation I felt it rude to ask where the Eastern European couple were from. I was afraid my inquiry would come off as suggesting they were aliens from the planet Krypton. Perhaps I would ask another time when I would be able to speak with them again.

Thursday afternoon I happened to catch my letter-carrier. My usual guy, Darryl (with 2 “r’s”) from Boston had switched routes and I wondered if the new guy was temporary or permanent.
“Hi,” I said, “Are you are new guy? Are you permanent?”

“Yes, I am. I will try this route and see.”

“And what is your name?”

“I’m Gino.”

“Gino. Italiano?”

“No, Persian.”

I later learned from the Persian neighbor who is married to a Japanese woman that Gino’s wife is Bulgarian.

On Friday afternoon, I was going to see my regular gal for relief of muscle stiffness, sore neck and shoulder crick. Diana, my massage therapist, is all smiles, white teeth punctuating her round face, apple cheeks and clear blue eyes. Her full black long mane of hair is usually tied up with plumes of wayward wisps sticking out. She is friendly and chatty with a great spirit. Her talk is also heavily accented as I concentrate on her fast conversation. I felt we were good friends, comfortable enough for me to ask her where she was from. “Lithuania,” she said. She came to this country to go to school and to pursue her requirements and licensing for massage therapy. She is also a vegetarian. I found this interesting. A vegetarian Lithuanian? Maybe she decided this after being in this country for a while? When I checked out, I gave my money to the owner of the spa, a striking middle-eastern woman with big, deep-set eyes, ink black short hair and cheekbones that made her onyx eyes sparkle, adding to her already chiseled face. I don’t know where she and her family are from who run the spa. Another time.

Friday night and my husband and I were off for tapas for dinner. Little plates from Spanish cuisine sounded delicious as an end to my week of nations.

What I learned is to talk to others more. In discovering who they are I saw their country in their eyes, their story in their speech and their happiness to be in America. What a happier, more understanding, tolerant country we would be if only we’d talk to more people where our daily life is the united nations.

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