Sunday, August 19, 2007

Around the World in 8 Hours

The day started innocently enough: I took a few photos of some recently completed knitted gifts for a new arrival. A former student of mine just had a baby girl and The Princess and I intended to drop by to see the new baby, drop off the gifts, and then let the new mother catch up on her sleep.

The baby is beautiful--under a mass of silky black hair her eyes were bright and engaged. I met the husband and two brothers as well, all very genial folks who were friendly and kind and maybe just a bit nervous at having The Teacher in their home. This young woman has a number of male relatives around as well as a younger sister but no one experienced with babies. The young men all seemed quite tickled with the baby and took turns holding her and cooing at her, but the mama seemed anxious and kept asking me questions about her daughter's desire to nurse and be held constantly which I assured her were completely normal. I find it sad that she has no support system and I know she's lonely when the apartment empties out as everyone heads off to work and school.

I held the baby and she slipped into a sweet sleep. I had planned to make our exit then so mama and baby might take a nap together but suddenly The Princess and I were told to wait on the couch--mama was making us lunch! Now the last thing I wanted was for this very tired young woman to be making me lunch only two weeks after a c-section, but she insisted. She flipped on the TV for us and despite poor reception I was able to recognize a Bollywood megastar dubbed into Arabic and beamed in from Dubai. Hindi movies are a weakness of mine but this was the first I'd seen which included both polo and hang gliding..and I have no clue what it was called.

I was served a delicious cup of Somali style coffee which was rich with spiced milk and continued to hold the sleeping babe as my offers of help were repeatedly refused. Lunch included a delicious savory rice dish, home made fries, and some kind of beef which was very hard to chew though The Princess and I gamely took our "politeness bites".

After lunch, one of the brothers, recently returned from Alaska, offered to show me an informational DVD about the fishing boat on which he worked. Happily, the film wasn't too long, but what absolutely killed me was the music that went along with the seemingly endless scenes of fish gutting and packing. I believe the first selection was classical Spanish guitar followed by a Spanish language hip hop number. Then I swear it was Zap Mama doing Gershwin and then a couple of rollicking old-timey banjo heavy numbers. I was truly amazed by the variety and context of the music but I think the wonder was lost on my Somali hosts. My viewing was repeatedly enhanced by heavily accented commentary on the fish processing business which only added to the surreal experience.

I admit to a feeling of relief when the new mama's eyes started to droop, giving us an opportunity to slip out. My head was spinning as we stepped out into the bright light and fresh air. I dropped off The Princess and picked up The Spouse to run some errands and eventually we ended up at Pho Van (because I hadn't had enough culture shock for one day) where we enjoyed some delicious Vietnamese food along with a Latina lady with her children switching back and forth between Spanish and English behind us and some jovial Russian speaking men nearby. Oh, and the music? A sort of twangy Asian surf mashup. Incredible--I felt like I'd been to 4 or 5 different countries by evening. No wonder I'm tired tonight....By the way, if anyone is interested in the knitting: a basic yarn over, garter stitch baby blanket, a vine lace baby hat, and the baby kimono from Mason Dixon Knitting which was a breeze to knit and a total pain to seam. Also I think the ties are not placed well and I'm going to position them differently for the next one. Yes, there is a next one because I have another pregnant student who'll be needing a baby gift any day now.

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