Friday, March 03, 2006

International Relations

So. I went to get lunch yesterday at the Indian food cart. It's so good. Sooooo goooood. You can get a veggie or meat lunch special for $5, including naan. I get the veggie special (or my favorite, channa masala) and make it last two days, cutting the expense to $2.50 per day. Sooo goooood, and cheap!

As I was waiting, two young men walked up to the cart. They turned to me and asked if I was in line, which I said no, I had already ordered. How nice of them, I thought. They were very chatty. And young. Probably college-aged, not more than 19 years old. They were talking to one another in a language I couldn't place, and were asking for certain foods - and food equivalents - from Sandu, the Indian food cart owner who, by the way, is awesome and nice and gives me free samples of tea sometimes and also calls me "friend" because I have frequented his food cart so often.

Anyway, so the two guys: One mentioned something about "where I come from" and something about how hot it was. "The sun here is nice," he said. "It doesn't beat down on you like where I come from."

"Oh," I said. "Where is that?" He said, "Guess."

Oh great, I thought. I am terrible at guessing games. Like the game where people ask you to guess their age? I hate that game, and not because I never get it right. I hate it because there is no way to win unless you are very, very lucky. If you guess the age as being too high, then you are an ass. If you guess too low, well, that's insulting, too. So I guess I do hate it because I rarely/never get it right and usually end up offending the other person who, let's be honest, is an abject risk-taker to play that game with me in the first place. I am not going to lose sleep over offending adventurists who ask me to guess something like their age over which they may be offended. Now that that's settled...

I was afraid I would offend these nice men who were so polite to me, and not like a politically correct way but in a basic, common sense kind of way. So I said, "No, I have no idea. Please just tell me." *please oh please oh please oh please!*

They were like, no. I reluctantly said, "Okay, it's an Arab country, right?" Because they had said something about how Arab food is, and how they hadn't found much here as an equivalent of what they were used to. Lebanese food is close, as is Indian food, but each was way more spicey and not quite the same thing.

"Okay, uhhhhhhhhhhh................... *breathes, says prayer asking for an inoffensive answer - not politically uncorrect but just basic, human-decency-factor answer, and also quickly drawing a mental map of the Middle East, which frankly, wasn't quite complete, which was why I said*


"No, but you're close."

"Oh. Iraq?"

"No, but it's very near there."


"No, okay we'll tell you. (You poor thing who we are torturing with our guessing game!) Saudi Arabia."

(Holy shit! That's where women are less than dirt and stuff, and like, that doesn't happen anywhere else. But they are being nice to me and not treating me like dirt. Does this mean that not all men from Saudi Arabia treat strange women badly, except maybe to torture them with guessing games? Hmmm. I'm thinking my world just expanded a tiny bit.)

This is where I tell you that I had a friend at my last place of employment who went to Saudi Arabia for a job she held previously and was part of a group staying and working for a few months. She said it was awful trying to work with the men there. She told me about how she had gone to the front desk and asked them to fax something, or whatever, and they had completely ignored her. This experience was my only exposure to someone's personal experience of that country, the rest I know was learned from the teevee.

Just then my food was ready and so I said goodbye, nice talking to you, enjoy the sun, and have a good day. They each shook my hand, introduced themselves, and then also said goodbye.

It was an interesting encounter, because I think about the path that brought those two to that food cart that day. They traveled a lot of miles to get there. I was in a city that I've never lived more than 45 miles away from, much less moved to a different country to attend college (I assume they were here for college, anyway). Thinking about that was pretty cool. The world is so big, yet small. (No, I will not now begin a rendition of 'It's a Small World'.)

Another thing was this morning, and the beautiful Asian woman who made my caramel mocha. I was admiring her shiny black hair, and the artful way she had made her ponytails. They were not little-girley, but grownup ponytails. She had two down her back, with several red holders at short intervals. It looked very sleek and cool. I liked her hair and also the way she put caramel sauce on top of my coffee without my having to ask, even though she was the only barista making coffee and they were busy.

It's true that odd things can really bring people together, like food, caramel sauce and hair. And other things, but those are my offerings.

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