Friday, June 24, 2016

Three men in a van ... and a woman too!

The whiteness of where I live is such a contrast to the multi-tonal mosaic of Southern California.  Heck, some of the whites are so tanned that they look even darker than me!

A view of downtown Los Angeles
from the daughter's apartment
The shuttle van driver was on time.  As he started driving, of course, I began my small talk with him.  It is so wonderful to understand life from the perspective of one whose daily life is very different from mine.  The small talk quickly revealed that he, too, had an accent that indicated he was from somewhere else.

"Hey, is that a little bit of an Iranian accent in you?" I asked him.

He smiled.  "No, Armenian."

"I was close. Neighboring country." I ought to know, given that I am tenured in the geography department ;)

He came here when he was a child, when the family immigrated just before the USSR came tumbling down.  I didn't ask him if they would have stayed back in a free and independent Armenia.

"I hear there are white supremacy groups in Oregon.  How do they treat you when you are a person of color?" he asked.  He was so articulate that I was sure there is a backstory to why he was being an airport shuttle van driver.  I didn't ask him that either.

We reached the hotel where he was picking up more passengers.  Two visiting Germans.  This kind of a spontaneous and serendipitous mixing of people from diverse parts of the world is one I miss in my life in Oregon.  The foreigners that the friend introduces me to, when they arrive here for short work visits, are welcome additions.

Other than the Germans occasionally struggling to think about the correct English word, we four had a great conversation the rest of the drive.  The driver talked to them about German soccer clubs.  "We are not into sports" the German male politely replied.  Vintners, from the Mosel region, who were here to market their wines.  He gave me his business card and asked me to check out their wines if our stores carried them.  Though I don't drink, I wonder if I should buy a bottle and then email him about it.

"My family still has vineyards in Armenia and they make their own wines too" the Armenian-American said.

"Ja, ja, Armenia is one of the oldest wine regions of the world" the vintner said.

I had no idea about Armenia's wines and history.  I had to later read up in Wikipedia in order to get an idea of what the German and the Armenian were talking about.  I tell ya, if only people realized how little I know about this world!

"I went to Varanasi.  I have never seen a place like it" she said.

I am from India and was born in a faith that cherishes going to Varanasi, yet I have never been there.  And, with personal connections to the city.

"The traffic in India is crazy" she said.  "There are no rules but everything works like magic" he jumped in.  "It is synchronized driving, like synchronized swimming" he added with a smile.  I like that characterization of India and its traffic conditions.

Like how the Passover Seder ends with a prayer of "next year in Jerusalem," I wish for a Varanasi visit some day soon.  For now, I will continue to observe life from here in Whitelandia!


Ramesh said...

I wonder what you will do if you ever visit Varanasi. A holy city - you'll be repelled. The city of death - you'll be fascinated. Complete chaos - you'll run. Ancient city - you'll explore. A zillion plus people - you'll watch. Filthy and dirty - you'll run again. The mighty Ganga - you can't but be awed. The most polluted river on earth - You'll cry

Next time you come to India, I would love to take you to Varanasi and simply watch you :)

Sriram Khé said...

I have no illusions at all about Varanasi ... I agree with you that I will be terribly, terribly ill at ease ... but, it is all a part of my quest to understand what it means to be human.
Now that I know you will take me there, and underwrite the expenses too, I am a tad less ill at ease ;)

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