We are able to suspend our parking passes for four months at a time. I meant to do that last year, but somehow forgot to, but this year I got it together in time to get myself out of the lot. In the summer, street parking is plentiful since faculty and students are gone and it’s just us chickens rooting around the building. Obviously, too, I will appreciate not spending the money and getting a few more steps into my day.
My favorite place to park is one that most others have not found, on the opposite side of a building that houses visiting missionaries. This mammoth building has a shady side where there are plenty of spots and not too many crazy drivers racing through and taking my side view mirrors in their wake. I was glad to see that “my” spot was waiting for me there today, my second day out of the lot.
I like the walk in from this spot. I pass the genteel missionary building, with the manicured lawn and red brick solidness. I have been inside that building many times and I know that the calm exterior hides the Babel-like existence inside. I’m told that it is not uncommon to have citizens of 40 nations living inside those walls for a brief respite.
Past the missionaries are the married student apartments. I guess technically they are just called graduate student apartments anymore, but the truth is, only married students live there. The vast majority of these students come with spouse and child(ren) in tow, and sometimes parents, too. It, too, is a beautiful chaos of sound and accent and smells. At night the dinner smells remind me of walking on a New York city block–curry and rice and cinnamon and goat and chicken nuggets all muddled together–exploding out of tiny kitchens onto the sidewalks beyond. Families leave their various bicycles, tricycles and big wheels out on the communal lawn, and someone always has clothing up to dry. The children sing in many tongues while they push each other on the small swingset. Squabbles and joy both come in equal measure and both transcend the language barriers.
In the evening, when I drag my empty lunchbox to my empty car, I pass a parade of strollers, each led by grandmotherly figure, dark in hair, shy in smile. Yesterday, there were 8 of them–strollers that is–some held two children, I guess.
“Hello, Hello. You are United States? I am Burma” calls one of the stroller pushers.
“I am from the United States. My name is Susan. What is your name?”
“Oh, I am mama, too.”
“We are the same, United States and Burma.”
“Yes, yes we are…both mamas”
“I am glad to meet you.”
“I am glad to meet you.”
“Goodbye, Susan from United States.”
It was an awkward exchange. I have had many of these on that block, though. I cannot imagine how isolated these women are, up on the hill, surrounded by others who often do not share their language or culture, but simply share their aloneness. For the next few months, though, I will see them every day, walking their babies and trying to meet the United States of America.