Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Close Encounters Of A Special Kind




Maybe it could only happen in Washington DC, that self-styled bastion of international cognizance.
Dutiful volunteers assisting a State Dept. funded program bringing young people from former Soviet Republic countries to live for a year in the US are listening to a feisty woman student from Romania say that one of her favorite memories of Albuquerque, New Mexico, had to do with rugby.

Of all things. Maybe the audience expected to hear about the glories of the sunset.

It had to do with her playing rugby on a high school team and what that taught her about teamwork. "It's not about being rough," she says emphatically. "You learn skills."

Maybe no one even imagined that rugby for women was being offered today in US high schools. In any event, it was easy to see that the sturdy well spoken  self-confident woman had taken full advantage of her time in the US.

She also learned a lot about this country, she said,  from taking a class in American feminism (how many knew it was a subject?) when asked what else inspired her to advocate for women's rights so publicly on returning home  to Romania? She ended up being nominated by the U.S. Embassy for a 'woman leader of the year' award.

Which she didn't dare tell her parents about, and almost didn't tell them at all about many of her other empowering activities on her return, even though she still lives at home. Maybe she will and maybe she won't.

"Well, you have to understand I come from a military family. Very conservative. They may not understand." Her family didn't even know until the last minute that she had won the scholarship to live with an American family of strangers in the West. She worried they might think it was dangerous since for them, there was a war on everywhere and probably that was happening in America too.

"When I tell them, they have to agree that it was a done thing."

She had first been  exposed to such @metoo ideas from the  galvanizing women's march of 2017 that brought women together all over the world to stand up for their rights. Back home she was attacked and vilified; the backlash against her efforts was strong and even extended to her family.

She stood firm, unruffled, and decided on  a pragmatic tack. "Well from the bad comes the good. I got a lot of publicity out of it and that helped what I was ultimately trying to do," she said.

Sometimes a person can learn more about his or her own country by listening to a foreigner living there.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Check out Folger Theatre in DC this month for a comedic escape

The latest work on this stage is an energetic reenactment of the life of 17th century heroine  Nell Gwynn, a new role model for our time.
 Move over, Nancy Pelosi.
"Heroine" from Webster: 'a woman admired and emulated for her achievements and qualities..." Also a "legendary woman ...having great strength or ability."
 Recall, if you will, that this woman was famously a prostitute and later an actor who became mistress to a king of England. She was also famously perhaps the first woman of her time to perform female roles on stage previously all done by men. Actors at the time were considered lesser folk all around. The talent and spunk - there can be no better word - of ingenue Nell provoked a revolution. Her antics were legendary indeed. She succeeded through her wits and wiles to be a decisive influence on England in that long ago century.
Playwright Jessica Swale and director Robert Richmond have turned her story into a comedic romp: the acting is uplifting in every sense. The performance provides a perfect escape from the dreary politics of our time and the performance of Alison Luff as Nell will lighten your heart.
True, Speaker Pelosi's rise to prominence came up through a far different route. She was an educated  woman,and some might say' indoctrinated' into politics by her mentor father.  Whereas Nell, if history books are to be believed, was a 'My Fair Lady' find - diamond in the rough discovered on the streets of London by a member of a leading acting troupe. Both women, I bet, knew early on how to get the best of men. As the Folger drama shows, gestures matter as does a subtle mind at work conniving for advantage. And sometimes broad vaudevillian antics play well, too.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

January 1-4/ 2019

Keep  habits alive, stay alert, sleep as  much as possible.
Such are the fulminations of a lazy time between the religious and the civil winter holidays.
Conversation and  interaction with people seem ever more important in a politically uncivil time.
Walking out with a new pair of leather shoes on my feet, testing their feel and adjusting them to my gait, is important, too, and even moreso when it could lead to any spontaneous chat I might originate. Say, talk to the 'shoe dogs' when I go back to the store to find out what ergonomic inserts I need in my stylish new pair that looked just fine but didn't quite yet offer the comfort I wanted.  A side glance at  some ornately packaged socks that turned out to be compression socks brings  a confession from one of the clerks how his job depended on wearing them. Keep chatting in a lighthearted way and I come away with two pair.  The toes were nicely padded so my nails would not break through - so annoying in today's consumer throwaway world. The wool promised breathability -  no smell. Handsome footwear has it all over a new hairdo in long-range satisfaction.

Focus on a stranger's most attractive feature and let the words flow.
Ms. Yvette at the local post office came to work this week with her long sharp nails done up in a strikingly colorful polish: sparklers almost, to match the generous collection of gold bracelets on her wrists that dangled in time to the large thin metal hoops hanging from her ear lobes that swayed with each  practiced motion she made attending to a customer's wishes. A small comment, maybe an ordinary one, but she said thank you, have a good one anyway. We had time to exchange a few sentences in spite of the long line waiting behind me. The price on the envelope was preordained I learned because a skilled clerk such as herself knows the ready price set for anything below a few ounces. Standard rule around the country. $3.50 and no more until the ounces turn into a pound plus and then cost is calculated according to a zip code.

At the bank, too, a Customer Service Representative seated up front had a moment to enlighten me with further valuable information - as if you never needed or wanted to know. How each U.S. Treasury bill has in very very fine print the date of its creation - by year. And how many clients insist on only having bills in their possession above year 2009  because, when traveling, many countries using  or handling U..S. currency will not accept them, consider them to be of less value either because they are old and withered or out of some insistent prejudice that the money is worthless.

So that leads onto another quest: why -  and what countries are they? Unfortunately, I forget to ask.
Walk anywhere on city streets and a wealth of impressions emerge. Such as the strangeness of seeing so many strangers with what appear to be cigarettes sticking out of their ears. Digital tricks to 'keep in touch.'  Is that a way of plugging into the world or escaping out of it? Who would dream of striking up conversation with someone who was already shielded himself (mostly men) from it.