Friday, January 11, 2013

Diversity Under Cover

Rural Skagit Valley seems very white. It is very white.

And like yesterday, I'm often pleasantly surprised to uncover, by happenstance and casual conversation, the deep connections to the larger wider, less white, world.

I'm a prime example, walking around here looking like I fit in, me and my pale skin and my complex colored background (checkered past?) spending my formative years in countries much less white than this.

Yesterday, in a room filled with pale skinned people again, I uncover the hidden diversity. All seats taken, just a few on the squeezed against of the walls of the room are open. Skagit Valley Writer's League meeting. A woman squeezes in next to me. She is smiley and turns out as we chat to be Anne, gives me her card. I glance down at it quickly during the meeting. "Horticultural Professional & Therapeutic Gardener. Alizetti Gardens." I smile inwardly, that she likes plants, that I like her title, the possibilities it contains. I muse on the possibile actualities of "Therapeutic Gardening"  -- what she means by it versus all the things that could mean.

A lull in the meeting and I glance down again. In teeny less-than-6-point type at the very bottom of the card, I squint to read,"Alizetti: Swahilli for Sunflower from Kenya, East Africa - where our family took root..."

Initially I miss the comma after East Africa. It's the size of a dirt speck. Swahilli... hmmm. Not a common reference, really. During the meeting break that includes chocolate cake with plastic-y frosting that I do not eat, I ask, Why the Swahilli? A stint in Peace Corps in Kenya, and then she meets her husband so they stay a few more years after that totalling seven. Again, I smile and get excited. Kenyan husband, I wonder? Awesome. She explains, second generation white Kenyan. She describes his heritage as "colonial." I call him TCK.

We connect more. I mention, likely in a low mumble she doesn't catch, that I'd love to meet him, that I'm a TCK too. I don't think she heard me. As usual these days, I downplay this part of me. Though it always lives, in shimmering excitment at the news of someone else maybe a bit like me, in this part of the world.

[photo credit: Alizeti's flickr photostream]

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