Saturday, May 01, 2004

Kindred Strangers

This is a fascinating apartment complex. Some 600 apartments spread through a vast acreage of New Hampshire woodlands and streams - set out as a mock Tudor village complete with beams and round turrets, winding roads, some along high restraining walls. Squirrels and chipmunks scuttle around the place. It's all quite charming. The buildings are just three-storeys tall. We are in a middle floor apartment with a wee balcony which gets next to no sun but manges at least to grow impatiens in pots during summer.
Today, with the sun at last out, I was playing my favourite Chieftans CD, rather loudly, and there was that wonderful anthem, Long Journey Home. Suddenly various pennies dropped - as I thought of how far away was my other home. And I glanced out the window and saw two strapping young Brazilian men with pails and mops, coming to wash the laundry. They are far from home, too, beginning at the bottom for a new life, I pondered. They were talking in Portugese. Just as the Latino groundsmen who swarm around the property with fertilisers and leaf blowers seem only to talk in Spanish. None of these workers seems to have any English at all. Unlike the Indians who live in most of the apartments. Their English is exemplary, for India is the last bastion of English at its most correct. The Indian women swan around the compound in vivid saris while their high tech PhD husbands are at work and tantalising scents of curries waft onto the apartment landings. And they, too, are far from home. As are the Chinese and Taiwanese who also live in this complex. And the few Swiss and Germans. For, indeed, this is the truest form of multicultural community. There are more foreigners than Americans in this bit of America. We are all far from home - strangers in every sense of the word, for we don't know each other more than to nod on passing. And yet, in many senses, this is American grassroots - for the country long has absorbed the people of the world in mind-boggling numbers. There's one helluva lot of people here. Actually, it's a pretty mind-boggling place.

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