Half a World Away is Right Down the Road

Out of the comfort zone

The clinic I worked at yesterday is twenty miles and half a world away from my home.

Thirty years ago there was a Catholic hospital downtown, and when I worked there we saw most of the recent immigrants to the city. I expected this shift would feel like my old job except that the demographics have changed. Spanish has been joined by Asian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European dialects. Some of the languages spoken are so rare we don’t have professional translators.

I drove past a Middle Eastern market and turned into our parking lot where a food truck was doing a brisk business dispensing early morning caffeine. Rats, I didn’t bring my coffee cup. Oh well, next time for sure.

And into the world

One of the few white girls in a sea of brown faces, my silver-ish hair was in stark contrast to black tresses and head scarves of all colors, prints and styles. The women and children outnumbered the men two-to-one and I tried not to stare. It was exotic. A world bazaar in our white-bread state.

Interpreters were everywhere and we also used online interpretation via iPad. I thought we looked like a Star Trek episode but without the snazzy uniforms.


Captain Picard and iPad-like device-a world away
I saw some of the interpreters I hadn’t seen in a long while (that was fun.)

I heard someone get chewed out in Nepali (now that doesn’t happen every day.)

And mostly I remembered all over again how lucky I am.

What happened to these people? Why did they leave their homes and come to a country so unlike theirs in climate, food, culture and language?

I hope they are doing as well as can be expected. I hope they are safe and their kids can be kids. I hope yesterday I made it a little more OK for them.

But most of all, I hope that this place can be their home, too.