Today I work an outdoors art fair in a nearby Ivy League college town and ended up having my first conversation with someone from Bangladesh.
The woman, dressed in an orange and purple salwar kameez, approached me to ask if she could rest a while in one of the chairs under my organization’s tent.
Of course I said yes and in between visitors to the booth I asked her if she lived in the area or was just visiting.
Her English was a bit hard to understand and she was very soft-spoken, but I learned not only that she was from Bangladesh, but that she was visiting her daughter who was studying at the medical school.
She told me her other daughter was a pharmacist in Austin, Texas and that she was visiting here for a week before making the 24 hour flight back to Bangladesh.
Once we had covered her life, she started asking me questions.
After I told her I had grown up here, she asked if I had children. When I said no, she asked if I was married. Again I answered no.
She then asked if I had ever been married.
I smiled and shook my head.
“Boyfriend?” she inquired.
A concerned look came over her face. She started talking rapidly, saying that if I have lived here all my life and don’t have a man yet, then I should move someplace different where I could find one.
At least I think that was what she said. Between the language difference and her low volume, it was hard to make out.
I told her that I was happy, but she didn’t look like she believed me.
Luckily someone stepped up to the booth at that moment and I didn’t have to continue the conversation. When I turned back around, she had dozed off.
She woke up a while later and told me that it was Ramadan so she was fasting, maybe to explain why she had fallen asleep.
She left a few minutes later.
Even though I don’t think she approved of my lack of a husband, I rather enjoyed my brush with another culture.
Life in Northern New England can be fairly homogenous, although we have gotten a bit less white over the years, so it’s refreshing to have a conversation about Ramadan and day-long flights.
It also made me feel strangely patriotic.
Not in the red neck “God bless the USA, love it or leave it” sense, but it made me happy I live in a country where a 40-something career woman can be content to be single.
It sounds like I’d be far less happy with my lot in life if I were from Bangladesh.