Friday, April 25, 2014

My own little United Nations

Let's talk about Maria. She won't mind.

Every day at lunch, I pepper Maria, the planning officer at the company I work for, with questions. She is from Russia, about a 2-hour flight southeast of Moscow as she describes it. I asked her if it was in the countryside, and she said, no, a small-ish city.

Maria is in her mid-twenties, married to an American. She's one of the tiniest women I know, and I bet size 0 clothes are too big for her. She says she sometimes shops in the girls' department. She wears a size 5 shoe.

The other day at lunch we were all talking about the "eat local" movement,  and knowing the source of our food, growing a garden, etc. She began telling us about her growing-up years, and how there wasn't much in the stores and they had no money anyway, so if they wanted vegetables, they had to grow them. She worked in the big family garden every day after school and on weekends. She said growing potatoes was the worst because of all the digging and you would come in filthy, but that's what it took to have food. And this girl is only 25. Can you imagine? Our view of Russia is this modern country where people live like we do here. Not so. Much of the country has very little.

Now let's talk about Clarisse. She is in her early 50s, like me, and she's from Central African Republic. (I work with some pretty interesting people.) She is the CEO and CFO of the company, wife of Jean-Paul, who runs the place. (He's from Belgium, but we'll save him for another day.)

Clarisse's first language is Sango, then French, then English. She has a beautiful, exotic accent. At this same lunch conversation, we were talking about not being able to get truly fresh meat, and she commented, "In Africa, we would never buy a dead chicken. You don't know how long it's been dead! Only live ones. Then you know it's fresh."

She is mildly disgusted with the nicest grocery store I've ever been in (Wegman's) because the chicken is not fresh enough. Who knows when it was killed?

I love working with such a diverse group of people and hearing the perspectives they bring to the (literal) table. The countries represented there are CAR, Russia, Belgium, South Africa, Holland, Mexico, and me, the token American, the only one who speaks just one language. I couldn't have asked for a more interesting job.

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