A brief encounter


A personal story from Adrienne Fuller.

It was four in the morning and I was sitting on the floor of an airport in Toronto, carefully placed so as not to land on any of the carpet stains around me, hoarding a free electrical outlet on the wall.  I was on leg 3 out of 4, coming from the middle of the Caribou Wilderness in British Columbia, from my cialis-discount-coupon.com/ college roommate’s wedding, on my way back to the middle of nowhere, Virginia.  Travelers stepped over my bags as they tried to get past and into the gate.

A girl my age walked up to me and asked me if she could borrow my charger.  See, she had just come in from two weeks in Spain and her phone was completely out of batteries, but her charger was in her checked luggage.  She just needed to tell her sister she was back in the states and her flights were on time.

“No worries!” I said and she immediately plopped herself down next to me on the dirty blue carpet, and I handed her my plug.  As we got to talking, I discovered that she lived in El Paso, Texas, and is a school teacher.  She discovered that I am the wife of a butcher, and I live in rural Virginia.

I explained to her how my husband and I work with farmers every day, helping them to process their animals and reach more customers locally.  But sometimes, it’s a tough job to help farmers change their business model.  A lot of them want to just ship their cattle somewhere else to be finished, and even though it’s less money, it’s less headache and it’s less business strategy for the farmer to worry about.

“It’s hard to get people to change, even when it’s for good,” I said.

“Tell me about it,” she said.

She went on to tell me about being a Mexican-American in El Paso and working in a rural public school with few resources.  A lot of her students don’t have books, or even desks.  She funds many of her classroom projects and supplies herself.  Many of her students don’t speak any English at all, let alone rudimentary English.  In fact, she was hired at this particular school precisely because she is fluent in both Spanish and English.

“We don’t speak a word of Spanish in my class.  If the kids don’t speak English, they are here to learn it.  If they want to go to the bathroom, they need to ask in English or they are not going.”

Wow.

“The principal jokes that I’m a hardass, but she supports and understands it.  I became an American to have better opportunities, and those opportunities are only going to be available to us if we can communicate with the rest of the country.  If I speak Spanish in school, then the children go home to their Spanish-speaking households and don’t make any progress toward the American dream.”

She then went on to tell me a story about the teacher who won the Teacher of the Year award for their school that year.  They were both in the hallway, ushering kids toward the cafeteria for lunch.  A group of students walked by and he said “Hola” to them and called out their names.  They replied with “Hello, Mr. So-and-so.”

He answered,  “So what, are you too good for Spanish now?”

She was livid.  “I wanted to just ream him out right there, but I bit my tongue in front of the students,” she said.  “We need these kids to be comfortable speaking English.  Everything I work toward everyday is trying to teach the children that being bilingual and learning English does NOT take away from their heritage what-so-ever.  In one sentence, this teacher undid everything I try to do daily.  The point is that we are not taking Spanish away from them.  We are only adding English, and it needs to happen if they want to progress.”

Wow again.  We were from two completely different worlds, committed to two completely different types of progress.  But somehow I felt like we were kindred spirits.

When she had enough batteries to call her sister, she got up and went to her next flight, and I stood up as well to head to my gate in the opposite direction.

“Well, keep doing what you’re doing,” I said.

“Same to you and your husband.”  She replied.

I realized later that we never even exchanged names.