Saturday, April 26, 2008

Another bus story

I know I usually make these posts about someone approaching me, but this is about a conversation I started on the east bound 12 last Thursday afternoon.

Catching the bus at the top of 4th usually means getting on a nearly empty bus and having my choice of seats. But Thursday the bus was already full. As I went to the back to make room for others getting on, a fellow at the very back moved over and signaled me non verbally that there was room. I sat down, thanked him and started annoying him with conversation. He works at OHSU and is from Ethiopia, he has been here for one year. I asked him what was his mother tongue (we were having a hard time understanding each other, which is probably why he wasn't overly eager to talk to me.) He didn't really answer me except to say that they spoke a lot of english in Ethiopia except that is is "english english" he explained that they finished thier words out in front of their mouths so that one could understand, but that in america we talk inside of our mouths which makes it hard to understand. I told him that several years ago I met an older Ethiopian man who spoke Italian, this man told me that many Ethiopians spoke italian because of the occupation. (I was hoping to speak italian with him) he didn't know what I was talking about. Then a fellow sitting in front of us said, it was Mussolini who invaded Ethiopia to avenge the humiliation of an earlier Italian attempt that failed, but then the British came in and pushed the Italians out.

I was hopeful that this fellow would join our conversation, but he didn't and I suddenly became very self conscious and embarrassed that I'd been bugging this guy who was just trying to get home from work. So I uncharacteristically shut up!

What happened next was lovely. "Facil" seemed to understand what I was feeling and introduced himself to me. We carried on with a much more two sided conversation. I asked him how he happened to end up in Portland, I couldn't understand what he was saying, it sounded like, "like" or "life", and then he said, like powerball, AH I said, like lotto like chance, like life! He said Yes! and we both cracked up- it doesn't sound that funny, but maybe you had to be there.

This was my best ride all week.

An update...
Francesca and I went out canvasing for Obama (really just making sure registered democratic voters had received their ballots and were aware of the time line to turn them in- obviously if someone was undecided we were happy to give them some information.) We were assigned to a very scattered collection of houses out by marine drive (an area I was completely unfamiliar with.)

One house we went to the woman was undecided, and we had a pretty interesting conversation. After the politics were over she offered up that she was from Ethiopia. I said that I never meet anyone from Ethiopia, but had met someone else just last week. Turns out she knows Facil, and was happy to pass on my hello. This was a great thing for my daughter to witness


Sunday, April 20, 2008

A little help from my friends!

As I mentioned in my last post I had a gardening injury over spring break which put a damper on my plans for not only our vacant lot improvement project but also my own project of turning my front patch into an "edible estate". All of the plants for the vacant lot were perennials I dug out of said front patch, and it was left in a big muddy mess with nothing but the weeds left for a couple of weeks! Last Friday (my finger splint free and mostly healed) I decided to dedicate three days to finishing the project. I had a good 8 hours of it on Friday, it was heaven, and then I was at it again early Saturday until I found my self on my knees in the mud, I'd thrown my back out errrgH!

Monday night at Marie Watt's lecture I met David Cook (a visitor from the Art Institute of Chigago), and Tuey Burns, recently back in town from Arizona. They agreed to work on my "estate" so the last three days they have been doing my dirty work, and I now have a terraced front patch ready to receive seeds. These guys did a lot more than just help me with my garden, they stimulated me with great conversation on topics ranging from clocks and time, to our shared love of words. They also made the suggestion that since I didn't have enough paintings to cut up for the whole retaining wall and we had to use some plain scrap that we write something on it. Franny always has a lot of random facts in her head, so we asked her for one. She said "43.5% of all percentages are made up on the spot." So that is our message. Tuey has invited Francesca and I to apply to be part of her Chinese family!

Ralph and Steve pitched in by taking some more plants over to the vacant lot and planting them.

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Geurilla Gardening in SE Portland

On the evening of March 28th, some of the troops came out to start the transformation of the vacant lot at 24th and SE Ankeny (sp?) There is still more to be done - due to a small gardening injury progress has been postponed, however the transformation we made in one evening was pretty profound! We hauled quite a bit of really skanky garbage out of there too!

Special thanks to: Amber, Ralph, Laurel, Bethany, Hollis, Shelby, Sean, Juliet, and Sam!

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