Friday, October 29, 2010

Culture Shock in the Melting Pot

It was the most mellow sound I had heard in years.  A slow ballad backed a smooth trumpet melody and accompanied the delightful five minute interval between my descent into the Boston T-station and my entrance onto the red-line train.

My hearing wasn't the only sense stimulated by an everyday event everyone else was accustomed to.  The diversity of the soon-to-be passengers both entertained and confused my vision.  "Where am I?", I had to ask, despite the fact that I knew I was in melting-pot America and more specifically Quincy Massachusetts - only 5 subway stops from the heart of Boston.

Quincy is classic Boston in more ways than one.  Named after John Quincy Adams, it's a city, but a suburb, urban, but historic, diverse but united by its appeal.  The same could be said for Salem - our residence during my final year of college and the most popular place to celebrate Halloween in America.

But the point isn't Quincy, Salem or even Boston.  I'm reminded of the Sunday School song I sang as a kid; "He's got the whole world in his hands".  To take nothing from the Lord's omnipotence, the American City has the whole world in its grasp.  Red, yellow, black and white, urban America is a refreshingly beautiful sight - at least for these sore eyes. 

Take your pick - Pakistani restaurant, Dominican hair-salon, Bosnian night-club or Boston sports bar - it's all here.  The teenager in a burqa who served me coffee this morning instructed her Mexican co-worker how to blend it.  A blind African-American woman asked a second generation Asian student if she could help her find the entrance.  The pipe smoking, thickly bearded Caucasian walked quickly, not noticing the kaleidoscope of skin he passed.

He didn't even think about it because it's home for him.  Home for representatives of every country in the world.  Home for me - even if it's only for three months.  Because even though I'm visiting from another part of the world, I'm among other visitors whose distinction is becoming less about their skin color and more about their decision to stay.

The trumpeter feels at home too.  Or at least that's how the perfect balance of melody, rhythm and acoustics convey itself as it settles ironically into a space originally developed solely for transportation.  The foreign sounds fit in perfectly.

Suddenly a jumpy bossa nova beat interrupts my thoughts and introduces the approaching train.  Off to other sights and sounds.  Off to another diversely united city of America.

Off to another place I could call home. 

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