Friday, February 5, 2010

Visitor

I had just arrived that morning and had fought my way through the Underground with an especially cantankerous suitcase that weighed more than me, and I hadn't eaten anything since the night before other than some shortbread cookies that came with my morning airplane "snack" . Mark, the friend I was visiting had patiently waited in his garden while I rinsed the travel off my skin and tried to conceal the jet lag that had written itself all over my face.

Anyone who has ever traveled abroad understands that you have to make yourself stay up all day if you ever want to acclimate yourself to the new time zone, and that's why Mark, a former tour guide, intended to take me in all my "resplendent" glory around his North London neighborhood called Southgate.

We meandered our way through and around his neighborhood and got blissfully lost. We found new alleyways that contained "lost relics" - "spastic" Christmas gift labels from before the time when "spastic" was not considered offensive hidden in a hole in a fence, for example, and a soapstone statue of a bird we found on top of a wall.We didn't know what these objects meant so we assigned our own meanings. We visited a church, entering through the back door while the choir was practicing for evensong and found some incredibly beautiful stained glass done by an artist named William Morris . We smelled flowers and had tea at a place we called "Napoleon's" as there was a huge velvet painting of Napoleon over the counter.

We dillied and dallied and chatted and laughed, but the place that stood out the most that day was a tiny shop and its showcased hodgepodge - randomly arranged hats, shoes, scarves, jewels, coats, umbrellas; things that remained un-perused, other than maybe a handful of items around the door. I had the feeling that this was its usual cluttered state. I glanced around, uncomfortably at first, because I knew that I was one among many travelers who had stepped in for something other than shopping, and yet there was a familiarity about the place that made me smile.

That's where I met a woman named Ronnie, the proprietor of the shop. She hugged us as we walked in and set about the task of putting out small folding chairs that took up most of the floorspace in her establishment so that we could sit and visit. She introduced herself as a Jewish Israeli and her vibrancy was amazing, her stories magical. Did you know, for example, that she has a friend in El Paso (my home town) who trains horses to dance? She especially wanted to visit him and loves the warmth of the Texas heat. She herself was a dancer in her younger years, something we had in common, but she found herself in London, somehow, even though she longed to be in more romantic places like Morocco, Spain, or Italy. Yes, there were men in her life (sigh) and they tended to follow her around (as would any man, I mean look at her, Mark noted), but then men are men, and people are people, no matter where one lives, and the world would be a much nicer place, don't you think, if Jesus came back?

As we bounced and floated around various topics as bizarre as dancing horses and as profound as the Israeli/Palestine conflict, Ronnie leaned over the counter and waved hello to passersby and gestured for them to come in. Many of them briefly stepped in to say they would come back for a chat later. I'm convinced that they did go back. Ronnie's charm is magnetizing.

As I search my memory for exactly what made things so marevellous that day, all I can come up with is that everyone we encountered in that community opened their arms to me. I fell in love with them. It is this type of experience and these types of people - ones who are interested in who you are and who immediately take you into their hearts - who blur the divides. Yes, I was a visitor that day, but that night as my head hit the pillow, suitcase stored in the corner, I was a local.

This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Visitor or Visitors, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

7 comments:

Grannymar said...

Days and visits like that are to be cherished.

Rummuser said...

What a wonderful story. The kind of people that you had the good fortune to meet are rare to come by in these mad rush days and the way you have written about them shows what an impact their behaviour had on you. I wish that all of us have such pleasant memories about which we can blog. I have some and now that you have given the idea, I shall indeed write a series of them over the next few months.

gaelikaa said...

In this post, you're the visitor. I am so glad you shared this with us. Visits to London are always magical...

Maria said...

Times like that make me feel like I have met the person sometime before perhaps in another life. I love instant friendships and the warm kind of people who form them so easlily. I think you hit it completely when you said, "It is this type of experience and these types of people - ones who are interested in who you are and who immediately take you into their hearts - who blur the divides."

K a b l o o e y said...

This is precisely why I used to love to travel by myself -- I always met the most fascinating people and felt the same way, as if I was adopted by people and places.

Conrad said...

Great story, especially the summation, the value of being made to feel like a local. You've captured the perfect essence of hospitality.

Anonymous said...

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Visitor

I had just arrived that morning and had fought my way through the Underground with an especially cantankerous suitcase that weighed more than me, and I hadn't eaten anything since the night before other than some shortbread cookies that came with my morning airplane "snack" . Mark, the friend I was visiting had patiently waited in his garden while I rinsed the travel off my skin and tried to conceal the jet lag that had written itself all over my face.

Anyone who has ever traveled abroad understands that you have to make yourself stay up all day if you ever want to acclimate yourself to the new time zone, and that's why Mark, a former tour guide, intended to take me in all my "resplendent" glory around his North London neighborhood called Southgate.

We meandered our way through and around his neighborhood and got blissfully lost. We found new alleyways that contained "lost relics" - "spastic" Christmas gift labels from before the time when "spastic" was not considered offensive hidden in a hole in a fence, for example, and a soapstone statue of a bird we found on top of a wall.We didn't know what these objects meant so we assigned our own meanings. We visited a church, entering through the back door while the choir was practicing for evensong and found some incredibly beautiful stained glass done by an artist named William Morris . We smelled flowers and had tea at a place we called "Napoleon's" as there was a huge velvet painting of Napoleon over the counter.

We dillied and dallied and chatted and laughed, but the place that stood out the most that day was a tiny shop and its showcased hodgepodge - randomly arranged hats, shoes, scarves, jewels, coats, umbrellas; things that remained un-perused, other than maybe a handful of items around the door. I had the feeling that this was its usual cluttered state. I glanced around, uncomfortably at first, because I knew that I was one among many travelers who had stepped in for something other than shopping, and yet there was a familiarity about the place that made me smile.

That's where I met a woman named Ronnie, the proprietor of the shop. She hugged us as we walked in and set about the task of putting out small folding chairs that took up most of the floorspace in her establishment so that we could sit and visit. She introduced herself as a Jewish Israeli and her vibrancy was amazing, her stories magical. Did you know, for example, that she has a friend in El Paso (my home town) who trains horses to dance? She especially wanted to visit him and loves the warmth of the Texas heat. She herself was a dancer in her younger years, something we had in common, but she found herself in London, somehow, even though she longed to be in more romantic places like Morocco, Spain, or Italy. Yes, there were men in her life (sigh) and they tended to follow her around (as would any man, I mean look at her, Mark noted), but then men are men, and people are people, no matter where one lives, and the world would be a much nicer place, don't you think, if Jesus came back?

As we bounced and floated around various topics as bizarre as dancing horses and as profound as the Israeli/Palestine conflict, Ronnie leaned over the counter and waved hello to passersby and gestured for them to come in. Many of them briefly stepped in to say they would come back for a chat later. I'm convinced that they did go back. Ronnie's charm is magnetizing.

As I search my memory for exactly what made things so marevellous that day, all I can come up with is that everyone we encountered in that community opened their arms to me. I fell in love with them. It is this type of experience and these types of people - ones who are interested in who you are and who immediately take you into their hearts - who blur the divides. Yes, I was a visitor that day, but that night as my head hit the pillow, suitcase stored in the corner, I was a local.

This post was inspired by the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a small and feisty(!) global community. We write weekly on a common topic (Visitor or Visitors, this week) and post responses - all of us together, simultaneously, from all over the world. (Lovely!) Please visit Anu, Conrad, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria and Ramana for other wonderful posts.

7 comments:

Grannymar said...

Days and visits like that are to be cherished.

Rummuser said...

What a wonderful story. The kind of people that you had the good fortune to meet are rare to come by in these mad rush days and the way you have written about them shows what an impact their behaviour had on you. I wish that all of us have such pleasant memories about which we can blog. I have some and now that you have given the idea, I shall indeed write a series of them over the next few months.

gaelikaa said...

In this post, you're the visitor. I am so glad you shared this with us. Visits to London are always magical...

Maria said...

Times like that make me feel like I have met the person sometime before perhaps in another life. I love instant friendships and the warm kind of people who form them so easlily. I think you hit it completely when you said, "It is this type of experience and these types of people - ones who are interested in who you are and who immediately take you into their hearts - who blur the divides."

K a b l o o e y said...

This is precisely why I used to love to travel by myself -- I always met the most fascinating people and felt the same way, as if I was adopted by people and places.

Conrad said...

Great story, especially the summation, the value of being made to feel like a local. You've captured the perfect essence of hospitality.

Anonymous said...

check this page out
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