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Three recent cross-cultural observations: 1. I had a bunch of…

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Three recent cross-cultural observations:

1. I had a bunch of errands to do at lunch the other day, and the route had me ending up near a Subway so that became my plan for lunch.

When I walked in, there was a group of female students, about ten of them, who I would put at high school age or maybe college freshmen, all wearing traditional abaya and head coverings. They were with two male teachers, or maybe grad students, and as I was eavesdropping on them (duh) they were all speaking French. The two guys had that sort of young Gallic athlete look, like Jean-Claude Killy, like they're going to eat at Subway and then maybe sprint up Mont Blanc.

As a group, they all seemed so chatty and happy, and hmmm, maybe I am making assumptions about assumptions, but I feel sometimes like there's a belief out there that Muslims as a universal group don't value education for women, or would refuse to allow young Muslim women to be in contact with male persons under any circumstances, and I wished there was a way of giving the world (or, more specifically, the American heartland) this reminder that Muslim people can choose to be traditional in things like dress, and still go to school and take school trips with teachers and have fun in Subway.

Then of course, things took a turn for the horrific when it became apparent that this was their first time in a Subway, and that the teachers had to translate what every option was (and the teachers themselves are not native English-speakers and had to ask for clarification from the Subway employees for a couple of things). Because they are high school girls, it didn't occur to anyone to listen when the options were being translated to her friend, so essentially the teacher had to run down each step of the choices for each individual girl. But even with the ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF TIME THIS TAKES WHILE I WAS WAITING TO ORDER MY SANDWICH, I was still trying to be very zen about it, and appreciate that the two dudes working at Subway were extremely patient and pleasant for this entire process. Way to be an ambassador for America, Subway!

2. On the subway, I saw a Chinese woman, maybe in her 30s, with her parents sitting with her. And her dad had his subway map out, and was matching it up to the subway station diagram on the wall, and asking questions and trying to point things out to her, which she was politely nodding along with and then ignoring. None of this was in English, but dads are gonna dad, and it was clear that her dad was figuring out the NYC subway system on his own and letting her know the BETTER way of taking the train to wherever they were going. The DAD way. And this lady had the thousand yard stare of a person whose parents are visiting NYC for a week, and she's made it to Day 5. I sent her invisible sympathy.

3. The cutest. Also on the subway. Huh, all of these stories have involved the subway, or Subway, which is so odd because I probably go to Subway (the fast food place) once a year. Although of course I take the train almost every day. ANYWAY, this was a family of Chinese people -- a grandmother and grandfather, a mom, and a little girl, about 6 or 7, who was the most adorable little kid, who was talking in an extremely animated way to her grandparents, in English, all about Littlest Petshop, and what happens on Littlest Petshop, and how the best episode is when Blythe has a reality TV show about a dog pageant and how the next best episode is when Russel gets lost at the high school because he was hiding in Blythe's backpack, and the next next best would be the episode where Blythe goes to the International Pet Fashion Expo, and how she has gotten Zoe, Penny Ling, Sugar Sprinkles, and Pepper in blind bags, and for the next blind bag she gets, she first hopes she gets Minka, then next best would be Sunil and then next next best would Buttercream. The mom cut in a few times, to remind her that her grandmother and grandfather don't understand English ... but the grandma just waved her away and continued beaming and smiling and fussing over the granddaughter. So cute, right? She was just so taken with watching this sweet little girl, obviously so bouncy and excited to be telling her grandmother all about one of her favorite things, I think the grandmother was perfectly content seeing the little girl be so happy and enthusiastic. Also, no one actually wants to hear about Littlest Petshop, so dodged a bullet there by not speaking English.
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