Melting Pot or Mosh Pit

We celebrated the 4th with Mexican beers and California limes in Koozies probably made in China.

It made me reflect on the multicultural mosh pit that we find ourselves in today. We’re all dancing in different ways here to the same music of life. Sometimes there’s hugging, more often pushing and shoving.

My wife is half Ukrainian and half English. I’m a Scotch-English-German-French hybrid. I’m generations removed from the other side of the pond. She’s one generation removed.

Her mom arrived at Ellis Island as a child. The eldest sister of a large Ukrainian family of World War II refugees. They were arranged to be taken in by a farming family in the Midwest. They were put up in a dirty old chicken coop and put to work on the farm. None of them spoke English. Alex’s mom, then just a scared little girl, learned enough at grade school to tell someone about their poor living conditions, and this kindhearted person helped them get into a better place.

I’d guess that without that person’s help, things may not have worked out the way they did. Alex’s mom probably would not have gone on to get a degree in microbiology from Indiana University, where she met Alex’s dad, also a microbiologist and the English half of her. Fast-forward to many years later, and I wouldn’t have ever met this beautiful American-Ukrainian-English girl who’s now my wife.

Hopefully, America can get back to being a melting pot, but in the meantime, I want to say thank you to everyone out there who finds it in them to help someone navigate the mosh pit of life as we now know it.

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Lost in Translation

I lived in France for a year and speak and read the language pretty well, but it doesn’t do me much good here in America. Sure, I can order the heck off of a French menu, or translate the tasting notes off the back of a Bordeaux (which by-the-way is unnecessary, since I have yet to find a Bordeaux I haven’t liked) but I really can’t put it to proper use here.

Spanish, on the other hand, could have saved me loads of time and money and embarrassment over the years: time trying to explain things to a multitude of gardeners, pool guys and construction workers; money trying to negotiate with said workers; and embarrassment, well…

Here in Georgia, I walk out while my lawn is being done to tell them to be more careful around the bushes, or not cut the grass so low, and it’s a real crapshoot as to whether or not the guy I’m talking to gets me. Part of the problem is, it’s almost always a different guy. I guess I could start with “habla ingles?” but is that rude? So I just start by speaking English and try to read them by their nods and responses. I’m out there making giant hand gestures, while my neighbors must think I’m practicing to be a mime.

Back in LA, it was almost a given that my revolving lawn guys didn’t speak English. They also didn’t seem to know the difference between a weed and an herb. My wife was getting more and more angry with them with each herb they destroyed. “Can you talk to them again? I really don’t want to lose my rosemary too,” Alex said to me after her precious thyme had been obliterated by a weed-eater. “I have told them in plain English not to wack our herbs,” I said, realizing how stupid it sounded as it came out.

Alex is not one to just give up, however. The next time the gardeners were due to arrive, she had written out a missive in Spanish. “Can you put this out for them please?” she asked me. “Sure, but what does it say?” I prodded. “I found a Spanish translation site and they say it reads: ‘Please do not cut down our herbs with your weed-wacker.’” I shrugged and taped it to a tree right next to our herbs.

We came home later and found the gardeners having lunch under the tree. When they saw us they elbowed each other and snickered. Later I retrieved the note and read it again. Now, as stated, my Spanish is pretty much nil, but French is a romance language and somewhat similar. I went back in the house. “What were they laughing about?” Alex inquired. “I’m not certain, but I think we just told the gardeners not wack off on our herbs.”

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